Thursday, 4 December 2008

Opening keynotes

Well the first session is just over.  Michael Wesch gave an excellent presentation and his style of delivery is very pleasant, gentle but authoritative. He gave a similar overview to his talk to the Library of Congress earlier in the year, but with a little diversion into his parallel work on the cultural and social anthropology of remote communities in Papua New Guinea, showing how the advent of literacy and a national census has impacted on daily lives, including the physical realignment of houses, the adoption of personal names, etc, reinforcing the old Marshal McLuhan truisms about media shaping society. The implications for learning, or rather the opportunities to focus on the key aspect of moving students from being knowledgable to being knowledge-able were the focal points of his message. The issue of 'serious play' and the strength of weak ties in networking were brought out in the following presentation by Prof. Norbert Bolz of the Berlin University of Technology who spoke on the transition from knowledge management to identity management.

The session was concluded by the usual ad from Roger Larson, the boss of Fronter, a Norwegian VLE supplier and also a 'platinum sponsor' of the conference. At this stage, many who had heard the 'ad' before turned to their laptops and mobile devices, exactly as Andrew Wesch had described students in lectures!  One of the issues, for such a tech-savvy and new media group as this is that the Fronter slides and screen grabs looked so dull and unimaginative in style (not that any learning management system looks fascinating these days - how quickly they have become part of the basic infrastructure/furniture and how few people have hangups over particular products - the debate has moved on as more and more users and institutions become somewhat platform-agnostic, which in itself is an interesting development). 

One point made though was important and that was to stress that openness and the 'web 2.0' freedoms are fine in principle but in practice when you are dealing with students formally enrolled in programmes, especially those still at school (a big market for Fronter's products) then personal confidentiality is not only vitally important but also a legal requirement, so there still by necessity need to be those 'data silos' which protect the individual and which store the educational products, reports and signs of progress, feedback and development of individual students and school pupils.

Anyway, time for a quick coffee before the next session...

photo (CC) by wrubens at flickr, oeb2008

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