Tuesday, 12 February 2013

E-Learning and Digital Cultures: Week 2 Reflection #edcmooc

Interactive White Board of the future
We're already in week 3 of #edcmooc, and I'm behind. I have some train travel ahead of me tomorrow, so that should give me a chance to catch up on materials. But before that, I'd better write up some thoughts from week 2.

Week 2 continued on the theme of Utopias and Dystopias, this time looking to the future - of society and education. Looking at the materials, videos and readings, a lot of thoughts went through my head. I'm not really sure what this course is all about, and I don't have a lot of time to devote to it, so I find myself relating the materials to my own professional life working in academic staff development, as well as to my own experiences of education as a parent.

I did watch all five videos in the film festival. Two of these (A Day Made of Glass and Productivity Future Vision) are video advertisements, offering a very sanitised possible near future. I say sanitised because everything, every surface, looked so clean and shiny. I know what my iPad looks like if I've been using it all day, but evidentally this grubiness won't be a problem in the future.

The description for Productivity is particularly amusing:
Watch how future technology will help people make better use of their time, focus their attention, and strengthen relationships while getting things done at work, home, and on the go.
Technical determinism (see week 1) or what?

The next 3 videos offer more unsettling visions of a possible near future. In two of these (Charlie 13 and Plurality) surveillance of the general population has become the norm and there is evidence of some higher power that is dictating and controlling the use of technology. Sight, on the other hand, demonstrated a particularly nasty side of gamification.

Some thoughts on these and the readings:

Technology does not change education
The image of education in the future, and the classroom scenes in Day of Glass (pictured) in particular, still has the teacher at the top of the classroom, using a fancy Interactive White Board (IWB). So, even the advertisers at the fancy technology company don't have a vision for how their technology might transform teaching and learning.

In the last 5 years, a lot of money has been spent putting technology (such as IWBs and Classroom Response Systems) into classrooms. Parents (myself included) have put huge efforts into fundraising for the latest technologies, and governments have been berated for not providing resources. The truth is that we can make the classrooms as high tech as we want, but it won't make any difference until we can put the resources into changing the way we teach. Technology won't do that for us.

This is a very good example of a general belief in Technical Determinism.

Technology does not change society
From the two advertising videos, it would appear that better technology in the future will not only improve lifestyles, it will make us better people as well. We'll all be quite happy to entrust our personal data to anyone (via personal devices), and nobody will abuse that trust. Ahem?

Sight, in particular, shows us a more likely scenario. The young man in the story is nasty from the start, and he's still nasty at the end. Technology can't change human nature, and humans will use technology to amplify their behavioural traits.

Another thing that struck me from the videos was the clear digital divide. In the two advertisements, it's obvious that all the gadgets and technologies are expensive and it's reasonable to assume that only the affluent will benefit. In Charlie 13 and Plurality, the divide is not between rich and poor, but between the general population (the Proles) and those in control (the Inner Party).

The Technological Imperative
I was reminded, via the film festival and the Bleeker reading on the Internet of Things, of the notion of the technological imperative, which I enjoyed so much in week 1. To complement Bleeker's paper, this video from IBMSocialMedia explains the concept well.

In my mind, this demonstrates exactly the idea that the "ubiquitous technozealots" will continue to develop the technology, because they can, and because it's bright and shiny. Taking a dystopian view, this will inevitably lead to increased surveillance and embedded tracking devices. And society will always find a use for them.

Perspectives on Education
This leads us on nicely to education, which is always an easy application domain for the technozealots.

I had read the Shirky article (Napster, Udacity, and the Academy), and some of the responses, when they first appeared. I don't think the Napster metaphor is particularly helpful: it identifies education as a commodity, to be bought and sold or given freely via MOOCs. I think that Shirky has some good points, which are getting lost in his determination to stick with the metaphor. In particular, I agree that the future is inevitable, and MOOCs, for better or worse, are part of that future.

However, MOOCs will not revolutionise education, in the same way that technology cannot change education. I think that we (the universities, schools, colleges, places of education) need to take ownership of MOOCs and not leave them to the technozealots and the marketing guys. MOOCs could be a catalyst, forcing us to rethink teaching and learning and assessment, and even community engagement. But I'm not particularly hopeful. I'm thinking of a local school, with 16 new Interactive Whiteboards and a bank of 30 laptops, with which the children are learning how to use PowerPoint.

The above ramblings are completely my own. I'm tired and have to get up early for a 6:30 am train. I'll start the week 3 readings then.

Bleecker, J. (2006). A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things. http://www.scribd.com/doc/14748019/Why-Things-Matter

Shirky, C. (2012). Napster, Udacity and the academy. http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2012/11/napster-udacity-and-the-academy/

E-Learning and Digital Cultures: Week 1 Reflection
Being Human
E-Learning and Digital Cultures: Week 3 Reflection
E-Learning and Digital Cultures: Week 4 Reflection 


Larry Cuffe said...

I'd agree on the lack of vision for the future of education, and MOOCs are not going to replace most traditional courses.
However I think MOOC's may fit more into the conference space where a group of researchers in a field are exploring current work. George Siemens has written a lot about this.
All the technology in the world wont transform education, unless we learn how to teach most effectively with it. There remains a dearth of good research in this with a lot of commercially sponsored anecdotal evidence filling the vacuum.
I like your blog on the course, and await your reflections on what it means to be human!

e-purser said...

great post - really enjoyed reading (though sorry, in a hurry, didn't spend as much time as I'd like to!) - thanks also for sharing the video link, looks like a good one, both for info and fodder for critique :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Larry,
it is interesting to see the evolution of MOOCs and I agree with your comments about where they might have the most use.

As for being human - I'm currently struggling with the term post-humanism and what exactly it means. Hopefully I'll be able to string together a few thoughts by the end of the week.


Unknown said...

Hello e-purser,

thanks for reading my musings!

I did find the video useful, it clarified a lot about the readings for me.


Jeny said...

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