Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media: An Opinionated Digest by George Siemens - July 12 08

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If you look at the fast changing media and at new emerging technologies you may be endlessly enchanted by the new ideas, capabilities and traits that each one integrates. At the same time, the more you closely follow such change without taking critical and analytical distance from it the more you risk of never being able to capture the essence, the wave, the overall emergent pattern shaping its direction and character.

Photo credit: Rudat

George Siemens, connectivism guru and respected scholar of the effective use of educational technologies and social media, takes you in this weekly digest to places, writings and people that can help you explore, chart and understand these critical grounds in a serendipitous, explorative fashion.

My personal advice is to follow George in his wanderings as the pointers and resources he shares are always of the greatest value.

eLearning Resources and News

learning, networks, knowledge, technology, trends

by George Siemens

Internet Users 50+ Are Rapidly Closing the Digital Divide with Booming Online Activity


Not really surprising, but a bit of a push back to advocates who suggest a rigid age-based divide between generational use of the internet: Internet Users 50+ Are Rapidly Closing the Digital Divide with Booming Online Activity "The perception is that Americans over 50 only dabble on the Internet, but we are finding that they are increasingly spending time online becoming involved in robust Internet activities, such as online communities...

In specific areas, there is often little difference in use of online technology between older users and some of the youngest users."

The Future of Online Learning Ten Years On


Stephen Downes delivered a presentation about The future of online learning ten years on. I've reviewed the slides, but haven't had time to listen to the audio (personal whining; my laptop, ipod touch, and other such devices were stolen from my car a few weeks I'm lacking my usual routine for listening to presentations while I travel).

Stephen offers an interesting look forward by looking back at predictions he made ten years ago. He was quite accurate on many accounts. He mentions (on slide 49) that personal learning environments will replace learning management systems. I hope this is the case. But I'm not sure. Education is a process with multiple stakeholders with dramatically varying needs. To date, those who are served by the existing architecture of LMS' have been dominant in getting their interested addressed (administrators, IT).

The concept of PLEs raises the profile of learners...but until PLEs are able to include the organizational and administrative needs of other stakeholders, they will continue to be marginal.

Blogging Research: Attribution and Ownership of Ideas


Lilia Effimova appears to have completed her PhD research and is actively blogging. She provides a thoughtful and critical voice to online communication. In a recent post she tackles the key challenge of attribution and idea ownership in blogs. The fluid exchange of ideas online means good ideas can be adopted and adapted quickly.

The origin of ideas can be challenging to trace, which obviously makes attribution difficult when the idea has morphed a few times. An idea is like opening a door. Once someone walks through, it's difficult to trace their subsequent activity.

Social Media Starter Kit


Social Media Start Kit is a useful resources intended to "build a toolkit and instructional guides about how social media strategies and tools can enable nonprofit organizations to create, compile, and distribute their stories and change the world."

Weekly modules are still in development (looks like they're up to week two), but it looks like a valuable resource.

Shifting Value Point of Content


I've been harping on this for a while - content is no longer a value point in itself. MITs OpenCourseWare and numerous other open educational projects reflect this reality in the education market. In music, news, and other media, a trend of content as a conduit to new value points is evident. Artists are giving away music and hoping to capitalize on live performance and merchandising.

MIT has increased its appeal and reputation by giving away educational resources. Journalists, authors, and theorists share thoughts online (i.e. blog) in order to increase reputation and consulting opportunities.

Will Thalheimer discusses the trend with a focus on elearning - All media will be sold for cheap: "The new business model will involve selling ancillary services or products. This will not only produce a profound shift in how the world works, but it will affect the learning-and-performance industry as well."



We can, with only slight abuses of history, say that the 18th century was the era of mathematics, the 19th of chemistry, and the 20th of physics. The 21st will be the age of nanotechnology (he says without bothering to qualify the statement). Nanotechnology, like technology generally, impacts and alters every field it touches. The production of pharmaceuticals, materials, and plants is significantly impacted by developments within nanotech. Applications to humanity suggest a tremendous revision of what it "means to be us".

A recent British Medical Association publication on cognitive enhancements suggests two views of brain alteration: therapeutic (for when something is wrong) and enhancement (when all is well, but we wish to extend the limitations of our mind).

In a similar sense, Visions of our Nano Future offers an intriguing (frightening?) glimpse into what we will likely be able to do with nanotech in only a few years to improve the frailties of the human mind and humanity in general.

Google Lively


Google has announced Lively - an avatar and online room/chat combination.

I just started playing around with it, so it's a bit early to say exactly what its role will be in the world of emerging technologies.

A quick initial reaction
: it's Second Life distributed. Or as one commentator suggests: "Google is looking to create a massive distributed virtual world, where every Google account can have its own avatar that can be used wherever a Lively virtual room is present - for example, on a blog, a social networking profile, or a Web page".

Second Life has the elements of a learning management system (LMS), i.e. you go to the site to do what you want to do.

Distributed technologies allow individuals to use a variety of tools and approaches, all of which can be integrated into their own environment. Consider YouTube. I watch most of my YouTube videos as embedded elements in a blog. I don't go directly to YouTube. Same with Slideshare.

The key idea these sites have grasped is that we shouldn't need to go to data/information. We should be able to experience it in our environments (such as blogs, wikis, or even LMS'). At first glance, Google seems to be trying something similar with virtual worlds - namely, have the world available where you want it, rather than forcing you to go to a certain space. Or, as Google puts it: "It's integrated with the Internet. It's not an alternate destination. Our intention is to add to your existing life".

Meeting the Future by Doing More of What Worked in the Past


Times of change have an interesting impact. When foundations of tradition are threatened, we see a common response of increased conservatism from certain sectors of society.

The Roman Empire, for example, had numerous failed attempts at reform before finally sliding into obsolescence. Reformers walked a line between doing more of what worked in the past and trying to innovate to meet the reality of a changed world. Occasional glimmers can be seen - such as with Constantine - where change appears to bring back glory days. Such glimmers are fleeting.

So what is an educator to do? Do we do more of what worked or do we change the system to embrace new realities? What do we keep? What do we discard? These are the foundational questions we are facing. And for each successful innovator or conservator in history, we can see many failures of reform. The design of our systems needs to match the reality of the condition. As Kaiser Maximilian's opponents discovered, mismatching strategies for a particular age can have disastrous effects.

Determining the reality of today's system and extrapolating to future trends (while maintaining the essences of humanity - peace, dignity, equality, tolerance, etc.) is the vital starting point. Most reforms are a blend of drawing from the past and anticipating the future.

Ken Robinson recently delivered an interesting speech on models of how education can/should respond to changes (via Ewan McIntosh). I enjoyed the talk - a call to change based on the intuitive creativity of all humanity. Missing, however, was the acknowledgment of the current systemic elements that need to be preserved.

Experts and Organizations Are Losing Trust


Trust is tied to reliability and consistency. The "big institutions" - government, religious, corporate - that were the object of trust in the past have, in the last century in particular, been revealed as flawed.

While people still pursue religious activities and subject themselves to government, the authority of these institutions is being replaced (is augmented a better word) bys personal networks of trut (see, for example, the notion of networked, social, personal spiritual networks in contrast with organized religion).

I'm trying to find an analogy that best summarizes the shift from trust based on authority to trust based on personal relationships. The social best I can come up with is that of a food critic or restaurant reviewer. Every major newspaper has the token food expert that reviews restaurants incognito. These reviews are valuable and can significantly hamper or improve a restaurant's chance of success. But I rarely base my dining decisions on the review of an expert. I typically turn to friends or colleagues. Their opinions of "wow, that was an excellent dining experience" play a much greater role in where I dine than do reviews in a newspaper. Where authority and personal relationships differ, relationships receive greater weight and merit.

People trust people
. It's not really much of a surprise that organizations whose appeal is to authority, not relationships, are experiencing some stress - Experts and organizations are losing trust: The Web is about the informed, skeptical society. There is a break developing between this skeptical society and its experts, institutions and organizations. The organization can't just say: "Trust us. Follow us. We know best".


Originally written by George Siemens and published as weekly email digest on eLearning Resources and News. First published on July 10th 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 Giovanni Panasiti on Saturday, July 12 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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