Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media: An Opinionated Digest by George Siemens - July 19 08
Learning and understanding how things work is for many, including me, the end goal of this unique journey called life. When you look down to it, no matter what your ideals or character inclinations may be, having the ability to learn and get better by extracting the best from each one of your experiences is really the greatest asset one can maintain in a lifetime.
Photo credit: zoid
Educational technologists and connectivism evangelist George Siemens takes you once again into a small journey into key tools, issues and trends that are transforming the way we think, learn, engage with others, as he has found them in this last seven days.
eLearning Resources and News
learning, networks, knowledge, technology, trends
by George Siemens
I'm not a visual person. Ok, not totally true. I'm a visual person, but I lack skills to express myself visually. I love concept maps. I thoroughly enjoy level images. I even signed up with Gliffy in a desperate bid to improve my ability to create visuals (I've been using Fireworks, but I don't have the time or patience to perfect it).
I've tried to increase visuals in my presentations over the last year. And I appreciate Robin Good's injection of images and organization of text with my newsletter. See this edition, for example. I'm convinced of the value of visuals.
I just don't usually take the needed time to communicate well in visual manner. It is, after all, easier to simply state the facts than tell a story, or to write a paragraph than to create an image.
The difference, however, is that "stating the facts" has a short life span. It's not very memorable. A story lasts far long. And images can communicate far more effectively. Which is why I enjoyed reading this short article on Visual Literacy and Visual Thinking.
You might as well start a new tag on your del.icio.us profile for cloud computing. It is the terminological heir of web 2.0. And it's meaning is equally vague.
Cloud computing means many things right now - ranging from a way to move data and applications around (or to scale them) without impacting quality for end user...or to applying supercomputing to the masses and the web (using a mesh network instead of only supercomputers)... or to purchasing computing power on demand...or to fluid data exchange and interaction regardless of devices. Basically, it's about the web. Everything on the web. Usable by any device. Or platform. With the complexity and technical challenges being managed without end-user awareness.
The mess of different devices and distributed data don't inconvenience the end user. To a degree, it's an attempt to make technology more transparent and data access more flexible, reducing computing to utility status.
Nicholas Carr equates cloud computing with spice trails of centuries gone by offers this lovely quote by Eric Schmidt: "When the network becomes as fast as the processor, the computer hollows out and spreads across the network."
Cult of the Dabbawalas
Dabbawala's are a 5000 person collective involved in the complex delivery of meals in India. They are renowned for extreme efficiency in their work and organization, with an error rate of only 1 per 6 million deliveries. And they do it without technology. The cult of the dabbawala looks at this organization from the perspective of management on organizational effectiveness.
An important concept: "Most of our modern business education is about analytic models, technology and efficient business practices...The dabbawalas, by contrast, focus more on human and social ingenuity".
I'm not sure why people find it surprising that dabbawala-level efficiency is possible without technology. Technology serves largely to augment and extend humanity. And it does so on a technical (duh) and conceptual basis.
The conceptual basis of this extension, however, has existed in numerous forms long before computers. Tablets, pencils, paper, and machines have been a focus of philosophers and theologians for thousands of years. Yes, technology makes certain things possible, but, as Postman states, it gives and takes away. Human and social ingenuity is involved in a reciprocal relationship with technology - both forming and being formed.
SocialLearn is an innovative project to "move beyond web-feed based interoperability and visual clustering of apps on the webtop, with SL-aware apps communicating via the API, so that the learner's profile can track and intelligently manage the flow of information and events to support their activity:"
Martin Weller - one of the leaders in this initiative has kindly agreed to provide a presentation on the project. His presentation - SocialLearn: Learning about new ways of learning - is open, no charge, and will be held on July 24, 2008 at 11:00 am CST (time zone conversions and the link to the presentation are here)
Future of, Well, All Kinds of Stuff
e-Horizons is a project from Oxford "focused on critically assessing competing visions of the future of media, information and communication technologies and their societal implications." As part of the project, they have hosted a variety of talks/interviews on the future of, well, all kinds of stuff. Predicting 50 years into the future is largely a fool's game, but it's still fun (after all, in 2057, we'll need something to look back on and mock). I'm reminded of the failed predictions of artificial intelligence.
Obviously, that hasn't happened. But perhaps the statement of "overestimating short term impact and underestimating long term impacte" of technology is valuable as a guide here. Still, the e-Horizons videos are worth viewing simply as a mind-opening exercise.
CBC explores information overload (the link is on the bottom half of the page), featuring a few representatives from the newly formed Information Overload Research Group and an author exploring the challenges of distraction.
Most of the conversation is fairly common sense - i.e. manage email, each email we send is an interruption, seeing our personal role in impacting the work of others. An interesting point: people lose up to 28% of their work time do to interruptions (and the recovery time associated with interruptions). Of course bloggers also get blamed for part of the information deluge. One speaker emphasized more use of technology to solve the problem. I think this is partly right - though as the host says, technology created this overload, how will more technology solve it? The challenge is largely social, however.
I've found that I need to accept information as a flow, knowing that I'll never encounter it all. At any point, I'm missing a good chunk of what I need to know as the world moves along while I eat, sleep, or whatever. Accepting the perpetual state of not-knowing is an important start.
User Generated Context
Harold Jarche offers important comments on User Generated Context: "Creating good content on a platform that lets users (teachers & learners) add context may be the the real killer application in education. Content developers and institutions have been so concerned with protecting their content that they don't see where the real value lies. Letting others add more context will only increase the value of their content."
Value points in education are certainly shifting. As recently as ten years ago, content was often seen as the important aspect (hence, copyright and locked down content). More recently, academics have suggested it's the interaction with faculty that is the key point of value. That's increasingly questionable as we have the ability to have global conversations and interactions.
Experts are still important, but not as important. Where then do we find value in education today? For learners, accreditation is high on the list. As is the ability to take learning content, faculty and student interactions, and use those as a basis for makingsense of the colossal changes in the world.
The increased fragmentation of information raises the importance of each individual assuming responsibility for makingsense of trends and assessing incoming information against their personal context and the context of their work.
Random Readings and Research Findings
I've shifted the focus on my University of Manitoba research blog to move more toward analysis or exploration of published research findings.
This week's presentation is now available: Random Readings and Research Findings. If you'd like to grab the audio file only via iTunes, search the iTunes site for "George Siemens" and you can subscribe to the podcast.
Originally written by George Siemens and published as weekly email digest on eLearning Resources and News. First published on July 17th 2008.
To learn more about George Siemens and to access extensive information and resources on elearning check out www.elearnspace.org. 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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