Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media: An Opinionated Digest by George Siemens - July 1 08

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Sense-making is the extraordinary new unconscious effort the Internet avant-garde has moved into. After an initial phase of discovery, experimentation and pure exploration, web publishers, bloggers and educators are gradually turning their efforts into looking at what they have learned and making it accessible to everyone.

Photo credit: V Ribakov

This is why you see such an explosion of screencasting and presentation tools, story-building services and video publishing venues. We have now understood how important it is to stop, explain it in simple, easy digestible terms, and get more people on board this new fantastic communication infrastructure which is the Internet.

Connectivism guru and educational technologies expert George Siemens takes you, into his weekly journey around some of the fascinating changes and discoveries taking place around you. If you want to expand your technologies and media horizon by learning from highly varied and diverse viewpoints, George has got the resources, research and articles to keep you busy and interested.


Open, Connected, Social


Alec Couros has posted a paper - Open, Connected, Social - Implications for Educational Design - for an upcoming conference based on his successful (and distributed) online course. He's onto something important (and as I acknowledge here, has served to inspire some of my thinking for our upcoming connectivism course). Alec explains his philosophy, methods of assessment, tools, acknowledges the challenges of managing the distributed conversation, and provides student reaction.

Distributed Learning Environments


Writing in the Digital Age:

"In the conversation over distributed learning environments, it is important to begin by recognizing that the question is not IF our learning environments can be or should be distributed but rather HOW...Students' learning experiences are shaped by these distributed networks, and our pedagogies circulate through these networks. This may seem self-evident, but our discourse on emerging technologies in teaching regularly makes the error of situating the choice between a new "distributed" environment and an existing cohesive one (and in the case of face-to-face teaching, even an imagined "immediate" environment)."

The author makes a point I've been whining about for awhile: traditional classrooms "pre-make" too many of the connections for learners. Learners, in my own humble opinion, do not need their connections fully pre-formed. A bit of stress, a bit of ambiguity, and a bit of confusion are healthy contributors to learning. As long as we have a feedback loop where learners can contribute and faculty can respond and adapt, we have the basics in place.

Connections are the starting point of all learning. It's so obvious...and therefore so often overlooked. We really need to think about types of connections learners have with each other and content...and ways that we can extend the learning experience by critically analyzing and forming those initial connections.



Google announced a new mobile operating system and development platform called Android in late 2007.

Wired provides a fairly coherent overview of Android, its development and its future potential. The mobile world is huge - far exceeding PC/Mac numbers worldwide. Apple's iPhone has raised the profile of smartphones significantly. Overall, innovation in this space has been lacking. Google has now opened innovation to "network effects", allowing others to assist in innovation, while simultaneously strengthening Google's position in mobiles (sounds a bit like Windows in the 90's).

The biggest payoff for Google: if people are online, regardless of devices, they are searching. And if people search, Google sells ads.

The Petabyte Age


Wired has an interesting online resource detailing massive changes in data - The Petabyte Age. A broad range of topics are reviewed that reflect how massive data abundance creates new challenges and opportunities. Included: data visualization, tracking airline fares, commodity prices, tension/conflict, etc.

The articles are unfortunately placed under a grand theme titled: The end of theory which makes the bold Google-love-in proclamation based on correlations revealed in data exploration:

"Correlation supersedes causation, and science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all.

There's no reason to cling to our old ways. It's time to ask: What can science learn from Google?"

Um, yeah, ok. Google is all about science, innovation, and exploration. Simply being able to do different things with data does not eliminate the need for rigor, research, etc. Doing things with data - at any level - is founded in some type of theory. As stated here:

"Correlations are a way of catching a scientist's attention, but the models and mechanisms that explain them are how we make the predictions that not only advance science, but generate practical applications."

Learning 2.008


Learning 2.008 in Shanghai is one of the more interesting conferences I'll be attending this year. Eight keynotes (if that's the right word) have been invited, but from the proposed layout of the conference, I think keynotes will take a back seat to conversations with attendees (which is exactly how it should be). I've been requested to present/attend a series of 8 presentations/workshops/conversations. The opening night will have all keynotes deliver a short (7-minute) TedTalks style presentation to get people motivated.

Learning 2.008 breaks up conference routine and pushes conversation from the podium to the conference floor. If you're interested, a short podcast about the conference is here.

Brain-based Learning


I suspect most educators have heard of brain-based learning (I read a particularly dismissive article on the subject recently where the author questioned what the alternatives are: Liver-based learning? Is that like butt-based sitting? Oops, off topic).

Brain-based learning theories are often accepted without critical reflection. For some reason, however, perfectly normal, sane human beings accept all kinds of statements when prefaced by "neurospeak", as detailed in the Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations (.pdf).

When we hear certain ideas expressed in non-neurospeak language, we are often quite good add evaluating bad information. When similar information is presented in neurospeak, our commonsense judgment seems to fade and we accept bad information. A short video (8 min) video on Brain based education: Fad or breakthrough.



Multitasking as a concept is being called into question (well, it has been called into question for several years, but the commentary is moving mainstream).

The Myth of Multitasking is the most recent article on the subject. Research on this front - like with so-called millennial learners - is still in the early stages and we'll continue to see reports both validating and denying the concept. John Medina at BrainRules offers a short discussion on the error of multitasking.

I personally, will continue to enjoy my high rate of distractedness and continuous partial attention as I email, blog, search, listen to podcasts, etc. Quite simply: most things I encounter on a daily basis aren't important enough to warrant full undivided attention. When these moments arise, however, I focus and discontinue multitasking (or task switching). I wonder if the criticism of multitasking isn't partly misplaced...i.e. perhaps we just have much more noise in our world today (video games, TV, podcasts, blogs, youtube) and the key task is one of knowing when to experience multiple information sources and when to focus.

Creating Powerful Presentations


I'm moving into the somewhat reflective stage of summer. My thoughts over the last few months have been focused on how I deliver presentations, how I use slides, and how audience members interact with ideas put forward.

About 3-4 years ago, my slides were heavily text-based. Over the last year or so, I've tried to rely more on images. But I'm not satisfied with how the ideas I'm trying to present come across. Have you ever attended a presentation and the speaker, by her charisma/energy/passion/style, just "blew you away"?

I've seen several examples recently of individuals who focus more on stories and less on explicitly defining ideas. Memorable presentations need to do more than just make us think. They need to make us want to do something/be something different. They need to draw us together with others, with "big ideas".

Anyway, as I'm trying to figure out ways to more effectively communicate, I came across this: Creating Powerful Presentations: "You gotta do what you gotta do to make the media you're using effective".


Originally written by George Siemens and published as weekly email digest on eLearning Resources and News. First published on June 29th 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 [ Read more ]
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posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, July 1 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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