Tuesday 26 February 2013

Digital Artefact

This is my digital artefact
It is a video of a series of wordles which are visualisations of the words that make up the themes and ideas of the EDC MOOC course.
 They show the perspective from the 'course' side, the 'YOU' side and
compare with the 'participant', the 'ME' side. 
The themes, each of which represent a week of the course, move from technology at the beginning of the course to human and education at the end.
The density of the words and colours used is a reflection of the complexities involved in being part of a MOOC and trying to make sense of the learning experience.

Creating a Digital Artefact #edcmooc #MoocsAndMe

The assessment for the EDC MOOC consists of creating a Digital Artefact.
The artefact has to be published on the web so that others can view it and give feedback.
It should consist of two of the following - text, image, sound, video, links."The theme can be of ‘utopias and dystopias’, or on the theme of ‘being human’. You should use your assignment to express a question, an idea, a problem, a hope, a worry or a provocation that the course has raised for you. Consider how you can express something of your own context as an educator, student and/or technologist. Try to build your artefact around a specific topic or question of interest to you". 

What I would most like to create is a digital artefact about the idea that technology is positive and good and also that it does not have to be fantastical - it can be every day life.  Some of the best technology applications and uses are those that people can embrace in every day life and in education.  I'm not sure how I'm going to do this yet.

I have one other idea which I might do first.  This is to make a summary of the topics and readings of the instruction page on the EDC MOOC and then compare that with the blog posts that I wrote about that task or topic.  I'm going to do them in the form of wordles which should visualize the words and themes.  This should show the similarities, the differences and the shapes and patterns of the text.

Redefining the human #edcmooc

Week 4 is about how 'the human' is a flexible category, one we can change and re-make in the interests of a fairer society.  
I read a little bit of 
Bostrom (2005) ‘Transhumanist values’ reproduced from Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 4, May (2005)http://www.nickbostrom.com/ethics/values.html
"The enhancement options being discussed include radical extension of human health-span, eradication of disease, elimination of unnecessary suffering, and augmentation of human intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities. Other transhumanist themes include space colonization and the possibility of creating superintelligent machines, along with other potential developments that could profoundly alter the human condition". 
Such ideas and developments are, in equal parts, exciting and scary   That's it, that is the only way I can think of describing it.  

So what about education.  I read a little bit of 
System upgrade: realising the vision for UK education (2012) EPSRC Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme. http://tel.ioe.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/TELtaster.pdf
I think that education needs technology otherwise it won't be able to advance and develop the opportunities that people need and deserve.  Technology needs education in order to enable people to reach their potential and realise visions.  And to make life better.  

I watched one of the recommended films for the week.  It is called Gumdrop and was fascinating and appealing.  It is a robot with a very human voice.  The words and the way the story is told is appealing, it's as if it's a 'real person'.  And that's the point - we can distinguish between what is real and what isn't and I believe we will always inherently know that what we should be doing is engaging on a human level.  Hopefully.

Humans and technology #edcmooc #MoocsAndMe

Week 3 of the EDC MOOC is 'Reasserting the human'
Some more films to review but now using my filtering system of less than 3 minutes, I watched the first two.
The first one was the Toyota GT86 'real deal' advert.  The opposition created here is between the digital technology as 'unreal' and de-humanising and the natural world as authentic and living.  What is real? As if everything is a fantasy world, which it isn't.  The good thing was that you broke out of the fantasy world with the technology so you can have technology in a real world.  The second film was the BT heart to heart advert which is obviously manipulating emotions to sell the product - they want to sell voice conversations.
I read today on twitter that the media does not have as great an impact on voters voting preferences as you might think it does so I'm hoping that the same holds true for technology i.e. that media and advertising don't have as great an impact on perceptions of technology as the media hope.  It would be poor state of affairs if everyone believed that technology creates a fantasy world and that we are all going to be living in it as unreal characters.
I then watched a video recording of Steve Fullers TEDx Warwick Talk - 'Humanity 2.0 defining humanity.  It lasted 24:08 so obviously my 3 minute rule doesn't apply to interesting and inspirational speakers.  The talk outlines the ambiguity of our notions of what is 'human' and that it is difficult to define what it is to be human.  Humanity is artificial in a positive sense and goes beyond what is required to survive and reproduce. The 'project of humanity' through the ages has not necessarily been good for everyone but it could be a collective project.  From the late 18th century there was a movement to raise the level of all humanity - concern for the poor, welfare, education etc.  An obligation to bring all into humanity.  There are many arguments against humanity and promoting the project of humanity and it would be easy to write it off and move on because it is too difficult.
How this relates to technology and MOOCs is, I think, that there is a moral obligation is to treat education and online education as a humanistic project in order to offer equality of access and democratization.  MOOCs do offer an opportunity to make information and learning open to all and I think this is their greatest benefit or at least potential benefit.  But is it learning that is accessible for all?  Or is it access to information?  

Saturday 16 February 2013

Good, Bad and Ugly - Videos in MOOCs

I've not had a chance to do much Moocing in the last week or so due to being busy at work and also having friends to stay and generally being out and about doing interesting things.  This way of engaging with learning suits me quite well as I like to be able to come and go as I please.  I don't think it's the best way but it's one way.  So I'm now trying to catch up with EDCMOOC - I didn't know which week was the current week or where I was up to so it is very useful that there is a clear table of what is happening each week with dates.  

Last week was week 2 and focused on future visions of technology and education.  The future of information technology as 'always on', ubiquitous communication, embedded in and with us.There are a number of videos to watch.  Video clips are tricky to get right for learning purposes for a number of reasons. They have to be of good quality.  This is not difficult these days as equipment and devices are sophisticated and can produce good videos.  The only instances when it doesn't matter is if it is impromptu and the audience is part of the context e.g. if you were filming something very quickly as part of a lesson or group activity and you needed to play it back immediately to point something out to offer immediate feedback.  However if the video is going to be shown to a wide audience and kept for a period of time then it needs to be good quality.  

The first film recommended in the week 2 resources was Film 1: A Day Made of Glass 2. (5:58)Corning and the second film Productivity Future Vision (6:17) Microsoft.  
I 'liked' them both, typical advertising videos as they're perfect.  Everyone is clean and calm and healthy.  As far as the technology is concerned, everything works (first time with no hitches) and is smooth and white and clear.  I love the touching and gestures and wish everything was like that so you could pick things up out of air and move them about - that would be great.  But it's not reality despite some of the things being real and others no doubt will exist quite soon. It's appealing but you know that it's advertising so it quickly becomes bland and boring.  (One thing I would like to know is what do those children need to take rucksacks to school for anymore - what do they keep in them? Surely they just need one beautifully portable device to do anything and everything?) 

But the videos are too long and this is my main objection to many video clips - 3 minutes is surely the optimum time, if you can't show or tell it in 3 minutes then you have to take on board that people are going to switch off - unless it is absolutely amazing.  The next video clips were Film 3: Sight (7:50) - a person lying on a rug on the floor pretending to sky dive as part of a game.  Ok, fine then it moves to preparing food and how cutting up ingredients is part of a level of a game.....boring.   And there's more than 7 minutes of this with a person with weird eyes....Next film Film 4: Charlie 13 (14:20) 14 mins about a teenage boy and a bleak future....I'm really not that keen on watching this...... Film 5: Plurality (14:14) so for the finale 14 minutes of something with strong language and offensive content - thanks but no thanks.  There are millions of videos out there about technology and education and society - why have something with offensive content?  And why more than three minutes? Yes, I'm being picky but after all, I am the audience and indeed the learner. In a learning environment where there is a massive amount of available content being produced rapidly and continuously, it has to be short and sweet to be successful.

Next two blog articles about MOOCs.
First is 
Shirky, C. (2012). Napster, Udacity and the academy. shirky.com, 12 November 2012.http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2012/11/napster-udacity-and-the-academy/ 
I found this interesting, I don't agree with it all but I appreciate the comparisons with music.  A live concert or performance is not the same as a recording and we don't expect it to be.  A live conference is not the same as an online conference, face to face / campus education and learning is not the same as online learning and we shouldn't expect it to be.
 “The possibility MOOCs hold out isn’t replacement; anything that could replace the traditional college experience would have to work like one, and the institutions best at working like a college are already colleges. The possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled. MOOCs expand the audience for education to people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system, in the same way phonographs expanded the audience for symphonies to people who couldn’t get to a concert hall, and PCs expanded the users of computing power to people who didn’t work in big companies”.

This blog article was in response - yes, MOOCs are better than nothing, anything's better than nothing so let's wait and see.

Bady, A. (2012). Questioning Clay Shirky. Inside Higher Ed, 6 December 2012.http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/12/06/essay-critiques-ideas-clay-shirky-and-others-advocating-higher-ed-disruption
"MOOCs are only better than nothing and speculation that this will someday change is worth pursuing, but for now, remains just that, speculation. It should be no surprise that venture capital is interested in speculation. And it should be no surprise that when academics look at the actual track record, when we try to evaluate the evidence rather than the hope, we discover a great deal to be pessimistic about". 

The final part of the week was Responses which included digital artefacts by students currently participating in the longer, Masters-level course that has inspired this MOOC: E-Learning and Digital Cultures.  I enjoyed watching and reading them.  They were all interesting and as ever the simple ones were the best.  Amy Woodgate's "Learning to Listen" video was very clever - about noise and not being able to hear everything but listening out for interesting bits.  Gina Fierlafijn-Reddie’s “Education of the very best sort” used Pinterest and I liked the format and layout as it was a great way to display a lot of interesting information.  I also liked Candace Nolan-Grant’s “A day behind glass” which had some very good parts but I'm not sure that prezi did it justice especially the embedding of the video clips.  

Sunday 3 February 2013

Using Facebook as a Filter and Funnel for MOOC interactions #edcmooc #MoocsAndMe

When I started to take part in the #edcmooc I made the usual social media / networking connections between the course and my accounts i.e. twitter hash tag, Google+ community, blog.  There is also a Facebook student group which I joined and then immediately had second thoughts about.  I disabled the email notifications for each time a post is made to the group but then I thought I’d leave it for a day or two and come back to it.  As I mentioned in a previous post I'm taking part in the E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC #edcmooc in a purposeful way as I want to engage with the activities and the assessment.  This is a slightly different approach to my participation in the #oldsmooc where I realised early on I wasn't going to be able to do everything but still want to participate regularly.  Different again to the #etmooc which I have dipped into when passing but without any commitment or defined purpose.
I have completed some activities for the first week of the #edcmooc which has involved reviewing videos and articles and I have started to develop some ideas of what I am going to include in my digital artefact.  But I haven’t as yet interacted with many other people who are on the course.  This was deliberate to start with in order to avoid being overwhelmed but now I want to look at what everyone or at least some people are doing.  I have been following the twitter hashtag #edcmooc and have read some blog posts from participants which have been very interesting and commented or retweeted some. 
However I then thought back to the Facebook group and wondered whether this was a way of looking at the middle ground – not right in the middle of the course looking at everything and yet not in the wide open MOOC twittersphere.  I don’t necessarily want to post to the Facebook group but it might be a way of seeing the video resources that people are sharing and also to quickly scan through and like some posts.  Also I wondered if, as it is a #edcmooc student Facebook page, whether it would give interesting insights into how participants were feeling about engaging with the MOOC.
It’s not possible to look at all the posts or activity but I picked one day i.e. 30th January which was the Wednesday of the first week as I thought that  people would be starting to engage and getting used to the course but still fairly open to the new experience.  People would have had time to look at the activities so there would be some focus not just all ‘hello and welcome’ etc.
I looked at 97 posts which were posted during the 24 hours of 30th January (there are 4676 members of the group).  As the participants are from countries across the world there are posts at all times throughout the 24 hours.  I didn't count the number of comments on each post – some posts had no comments, some had numerous, I would say that the average was 2 or 3.  Some posts had lots of likes and comments and these were ones where help or clarification was being offered.  There was one post which provided a link to a EDCMOOC Google doc presentation which had 183 likes and 47 comments.  There wasn’t many requests for help, only 4, but help that was given especially links to study rooms, how to manage material, passwords etc. were popular.  As were links to twitter chat resources and general MOOC guidelines. 
There were still a fair number of ‘hello I'm from ......’ posts including Argentina, Belgrade, Manchester, Malawi, Kenya, Canada, Columbia, Brazil, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Hungary, France etc.
There were 16 links to individual blogs i.e. blogs by participants about their experiences of the blog so far and what they have done or thought about.
There were 7 links to documents and articles.
There were 33 links to videos – examples of the topics for discussion in week or similar.
In general the group is very helpful and positive and upbeat and participants are willing and keen to help and comment.
But does it help as far as filtering and funnelling?
It does filter in that all the information in the group is about the edcmooc or related activities. But even in one day on one platform / forum there is too much information to look at for the time and effort that most people would want to dedicate to the course.  So then some more ‘funnelling’ – would it be possible to pick out 5 videos a day, 5 comments a day and 5 blog links a day to look at and review.  That’s the only way I can think of to make good use of the resources.  Plus 5 random likes for things you like.......

Friday 1 February 2013

Utopian v Dystopian #edcmooc #MoocsAndMe

The #edcmooc task for Week 1 is to look at some resources i.e. videos and articles and review whether they represent a Utopian or Dystopian view of technology.
Utopian claims of Information Technology are intrinsically democratizing, neutral as democratizing global forces of information creation and maximize public access. Dystopian claims are that Information Technologies have anti democratic properties, that hardware/software ownership equals anti democratic control etc. etc.
First video - Bendito Machine - the characters treat technology as god like and have no choice but to follow.  It has a certain dark, satanic feel to the film but it was mainly a mixture of weirdly funny and negative 'same old same old' sort of feel, fantastical.  Dystopian.
Second Video - Inbox - funny in a soppy way. I don't think I would have considered it in a technology way although it was about connecting.  It would be great if you could just put an object in a bag and it went immediately. Or a person, teleporting.  Utopian
Third video - New Media - dark fantasy? Purpose? No idea. Dystopian.  
It is easy to make technology seem evil or dark because you can portray it as exerting control or power but I'm not sure that I buy into this view.

Chandler, D. (2002). Technological determinism. Web essay, Media and Communications Studies, University of Aberystwyth.
Technological determinism is the view that technology is seen as the only cause of change in society.  Reductionism / holistic - I usually consider technology and society from a holistic or mutually beneficial point of view but it was interesting to consider it as less advantageous.  It is interesting to think about philosophy and technology - it is a long time since I studied philosophy and then it was religious philosophy.  I hadn't thought that I should stand back and think about technology as a philosophical issue or concept so I'm glad that I read this as it has given me some direction to explore further.
One of the other articles suggested for reading is the infamous Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9/5.
I'm hesitant to revisit this but I know that I should.  The 'digital native' phrase / idea / concept has become so well known not just in learning technology arenas but in common education circles and beyond that it is hard to consider it objectively.  In my opinion, and from the situations I've worked in, the digital native doesn't exist or more accurately does not exist as a clear and distinct entity.  It is not as simple as saying that a certain person born at a certain time when certain technology or digital devices existed is a 'digital native'.  I know from teaching ICT and from managing eLearning and libraries that all people, especially young people approach technology differently.  It is not the original article or research that is the issue, it is the fact that some people who know very little about learning technologies with the best intentions just blurt out the phrase as if it's a fact.  So tomorrow I'm going to read and consider the original and subsequent research again....objectively.