Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media: An Opinionated Digest by George Siemens - Mar. 8 08

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A new modelling method for instructing online, social media before it became what we see today and interesting thoughts on the science of experience are just some of many worthwhile topics pointers on new technologies, media and education selected this week by guest contributor George Siemens.

Photo credit: Franziska Richter

In his untiring effort to help you discover, become aware and informed about new technologies, media and education George Siemens provides not just another set of interesting links and pointers but the key added value of his understanding and vision for what may really be important to pay attention to.

Alec Couros and Modeling What Educators Ought To Do


Alec Couros has been modeling a method of instructing online that others should consider. Visit his site for the course - Computers in Classrooms. He has a list of sessions by invited speakers (a useful archive for future courses and profs from other institutions), tech/learning/education videos, tutorials, etc. He has been streaming the elluminate presentations in ustream, so non-class members can attend the lectures.

My only suggestion: record the elluminate sessions with Camtasia (for higher quality archives) and export to audio files for people who prefer to listen to podcasts instead of watching a screen. A great example of how to use technology to increase the effectiveness of student learning and to knock a few holes in the rigid concept of "a classroom".

Experts: The Science of Experience

Photo credit: TIME

Hmm...some interesting thoughts on's not just time, but deliberateness of practice that creates experts.

The science of experience: "Experts tend to be good at their particular talent, but when something unpredictable happens -- something that changes the rules of the game they usually play -- they're little better than the rest of us...

Ericsson's primary finding is that rather than mere experience or even raw talent, it is dedicated, slogging, generally solitary exertion -- repeatedly practicing the most difficult physical tasks for an athlete, repeatedly performing new and highly intricate computations for a mathematician -- that leads to first-rate performance.

And it should never get easier; if it does, you are coasting, not improving.

Ericsson calls this exertion "deliberate practice," by which he means the kind of practice we hate, the kind that leads to failure and hair-pulling and fist-pounding."

Social Media in the '90s

Photo credit: Copybrighter

I've been having an ongoing discussion with a colleague on "what has really changed". so much of what we do today has its roots in what was done "yesterday". For example, how are links on the web different from citations in journal articles? Or how is our manner of collaboration today different from collaboration in guilds in Europe?

My argument against "it's just the same" is somewhat anemic still, but generally centers on: technology has enabled new affordances of interaction with others, the pace of information growth and flow, and the scope/scale of conversations.

While we today may be learning in a similar manner to what was done even a generation ago, the point of departure will become greater as time goes on.

The impact of Descartes and Luther, for example, was not felt in their own generation. They marked a departure, but the full implications still ripple today.

Similarly, social technologies for creating and sharing information, making sense of our world, and creating small-scale global networks don't seem to be a significant departure from 20 years ago. But talk to me in a few decades :).

Anyway, this post (via John Connell) provides an indication of the similarity of previous methods, but the point of departure already reveals a different tomorrow: Social media in the 90's

Google Docs vs. Microsoft Live Workspace

Icon credit: Read Write Web

I started playing around with Microsoft Live Workspace yesterday. It has the typical clunky feel of a Microsoft offering, but has promise.

A detailed review comparing Google Docs and Microsoft Live Workspace is available here.

In a recent presentation, I was talking about using RSS to manage content flow...and setting up Google Reader. I received blank stares.

So I asked, "who has Outlook 2007?". Many hands go up.

Well, there is the audience that will find value in getting RSS feeds directly into Microsoft Outlook. With growing sense of information weariness that I encounter with faculty, any tool that has additional functionality, but doesn't require developing new habits (such as checking Google Reader), is immediately more desirable.

A World without Courses

Photo credit: George Siemens' presentation

Do we still need courses? I mean, we have the tools and processes available to learn in alternative (distributed) means. And yet, we still push new learning opportunities through the course model.

I've been reflecting on this recently, and put together a short presentation on A World without Courses.

The function of education - in serving its stakeholders and in how it creates value - can be duplicated in a distributed manner.

We're still missing the final piece of accreditation (though we're making progress on that) and we're missing the piece on how we will tie these pieces together.

But, I imagine that will be on the horizon shortly. (with tying together, I don't mean tying content together - we can do that with RSS, PageFlakes, etc. I mean a conceptual tying together so we can say, "yes, Susan has achieved those learning targets").

Treat it as a conversation starter, not a declaration of belief. Appreciate any thoughts/feedback.

PLE Nominalism?...

Photo credit: Yuri Arcurs

Words are a pain. Especially when they obscure underlying concepts of value. Take Personal Learning Environments (PLE) or Networks as an example. When PLEs were first advocated by a group of edubloggers, the concept was largely in reaction to learning management systems (LMS).

A concept, after all, is defined by the context in which it originates and how it is related to other terms. PLEs in this case, were a push against the structure and lack of learner control evident with an LMS.

That has changed.

Many people now have personal experience with blogs, podcasts, Facebook, wikis, etec. The concept of a PLE is less abstract; and as a result, more critical discourse occurs. Chris Lott expresses his frustration with the tools, concepts, and misunderstanding of PLEs (can we apply the notion of nominalism to PLEs?)

Tired of PLE Flak
: "The majority of educators have no idea what resources are available to them and never leave their email client or their default MSN page. Thus, I have found it useful to sit people down and model for them the tools and techniques for networking. This often includes holding them by the hand while they sign up to follow and participate in particular groups and networks.

Many people have absolutely no idea that their network can extend beyond their email box and their passive browsing."

I'm not interested in the PLE
: "All a PLE is, to my way of understanding, is a particular, personal selection of tools, contacts, and methods. Many of us are still at a stage in our evolution that we can learn much from knowing what tools others use, how they use them, and who they make contact with."

People Who Read This Article Also Read...


A few weeks ago, I posted on second-tier information (information that we create indirectly through our actions, such as clicking a link. First tier information would consist of more intentional activities such as writing a blog post or creating a podcast).

Second tier information has significant value, especially when we have access to what our friends and peers are doing. Consider Amazon's referral system: "people who bought this also...".

Facebook has raised the awareness of the value of information in personal networks, such as the addition of a new application or new friend.

By making second tier information explicit, we are able to benefit from it as we make our own choices, or perhaps more critically, as we try and make sense of a rather overwhelming abundance of information.

Applying second tier information to how we manage and make sense of our world (and thereby cope with abundance, stay current, filter information, etc.) results in a network-model of learning.

The concept is discussed here - People who read this article also read... - from the perspective of reading news online. In an educational sense, it would be useful to have a referral system that allowed similar evaluation, i.e. people who watched this video on chemistry also liked this article or blog.

Viral Professional Development

Photo credit: Chief Ingredient Blog

I spend a fair bit of time talking to educators about how to use technology for learning. Courses, workshops, consultations, etc. In the end, impact is uncertain. Did they use the tool? Was it successful? Did it help students learn? Ah, the internal angst of determining the value of ones contribution to others.

With a mild sense of simmering dissatisfaction of how educators adopt and use technology, I found this concept worthwhile to explore: Viral professional development here and here..."I call my strategy, "Viral Professional Development," or "VPD," because it is based on the popular definition of "viral," that refers to a technology, tool, or teaching strategy that is quickly spread from one person to another."

Building a Web of Influence

Photo credit: NY Times

Networks seem intuitive (as Dave Cormier indicates in his opening of rhizomatic knowledge). When we say suitably vague and ambiguous things like "personal learning networks" or "networks of influence" the terms seem to make sense. For many people, however, the discourse on networks is not a key consideration. Instead, they want the outcome - the benefits - of networks. They have limited interest in power laws, hubs, small worlds, etc.

Optimally structured networks, in the eyes of more practically minded people, are ones that yield personal results. To that end, I found this article - Building a web of influence - useful in providing the practical overview of networks.

Implementation rather than theoretical.



I've spent a bit of time looking at a new service (in beta, I'm guessing) offered by the Boys of Elgg. It combines the profile/social networking opportunities of Facebook, with the channels option of Jaiku, and the intent of Twitter: ElggVoices.

While the site has a few bugs (periodic log outs, took me a while to figure out how to post a "shout out", etc.)

I like the clean interface and ability to create networks (once the channel feature is available), which would be ideal for keeping in touch with students in a particular class. The mobile phone integration looks useful as well.

While I suspect a few people may be a bit reticent at first in relying on the service due to how the EduSpaces shutdown (i.e. lack of communication with members) was handled, I can see it becoming a useful educational tool.

50 Ways to Tell a Story

Image credit: Alan Levine

I've linked to Alan Levine's site 50 web 2.0 ways to tell a story before. I just listened to a presentation that he delivered on ustream (it takes a minute or so until the audio starts). The first time I came across his wiki, I was focused on the tools themselves.

But, listening to Alan's presentation, it dawned on me that this model could be a great approach to curriculum development for faculty (or trainers) who might not have access to instructional designers...but are wanting to incorporate different technologies into their teaching.


Originally written by George Siemens and published as weekly email digest on eLearning Resources and News. First published on March 8th 2008.


To learn more about George Siemens and to access extensive information and resources on elearning check out Explore also George Siemens connectivism site for resources on the changing nature of learning and check out his new book "Knowing Knowledge".

George Siemens -
Reference: eLearnspace
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posted by Robin Good on Saturday, March 8 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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