Sunday, February 24, 2013

EDCMOOC postnote: The RealValue of mooc's

Justin Ferriman of LearnDash has posted a blog titled 5 Reasons Why MOOCs Provide Little Real Value

I took exception to the title and decided I needed to respond, so following Justin's format here are my responses.

1. Free isn't always a good thing

Who says that the free moocs are expected to be `better than' the paid thing? Interestingly people have complained very loudly when one course ran into problems. I have received extraordinary value from the ELearning and Digital Cultures mooc presented on Coursera by Edinburgh University over the past month. I have learnt a vast array of new digital skills, I have communicated with educators from all over the globe, I have had my own thinking challenged, and best of all I've had fun and re-discovered my own passion for learning. `Free' has been a very good thing for me and thousands of others.

2. No one really "gets it" yet.

"wandering aimlessly through a spattering of random courses. Professors are probably more confused, likely thinking: “Oh, I’ll just put up a video from my lecture in 2004 – sure the textbook we were discussing is about 18 versions old, but it’s good stuff…and hey, it’s FREE!” … before you know it, the poor teacher’s assistant is trying to answer 12,000 forum posts from confused participants trying to fully understand the dated content."
Gets what? The fact that course material prepared by university professors is being made available to anyone with internet access for free? I don't think that professors are uploading just any old material. If they are, then I don't think that it's because they are loading it for free. There has always been a problem with educators presenting old material and not updating frequently enough. I remember this from my last Masters course in 1998 face to face with lecturers! Don't blame the medium Justin, blame the system that expects educators to place more value on administration, research and responding to university politics than on preparation and presentation of great materials.

3. Grades and/or feedback carry little to no weight.

".. if you have a passion for the topic, then you probably would take on that five page writing assignment. But would you cancel your plans to get it done? If your peers are reviewing your work and they slam you for it being all wrong – do you think you would try to understand “why”, or would you become defensive? At least in formal institutions, there is an incentive to understand your mistakes on poor grades and feedback. MOOCs lack this, so when does the real learning take place?"
`Real Learning', are you serious Justin? What is it you have forgotten about intrinsic motivation and the questionable practice of teaching only what is to be graded? Real learning is demonstrated in the workplace or in applied situations where the knowledge is put into practice. I have rarely seen anyone's university grades looked at in the job recruitment & selection process, other than to see if they actually passed. 

4. Badges will never replace Diplomas

I haven't yet researched the Mozilla Open Badges, however I do agree that badges and certificates that are not verified / validated by organisations against some sort of standard, are unlikely to be wholly acceptable to employers or to other institutions when seeking credit for courses. I think that the question of validity of certification is going to be the major parameter of how much change open learning brings about. If we are to achieve true change, we need to re-think the separation of learning and assessment. The use of recognition of prior learning in the vocational studies field is now an established practice in Australia. Can it be extended to Higher Education and what sort of model should be adopted? Who should the ultimate arbiter be? Should there be Assessment Centres with standardised assessments - agreed to by cohorts of the providers? How would the financial transactions work? Or are we simply going to accept that some organisations run great courses and their `badges' are acceptable?

5. Support infrastructure isn't mature enough.

"I feel bad for the administrative personnel behind MOOCs. It literally is a monumental task to support hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people asking the same questions. The teams behind MOOCs simply aren’t large enough, and they probably can’t realistically become big enough either. The end result is that some people will inevitably become angry and frustrated – and they’ll likely blame the user experience."

Yes, you're right there, Justin.  However I think you're waving your own flag here for LearnDash.
I think this will largely resolve itself as the Instructional Design product and the facilitators experience of eLearning environments mature. It's the same old story. My peer teachers and I would spend all summer preparing the information for new students so that on orientation they would receive all they needed to know about attendance, assessment process, grading, resources, course outlines, local fast food outlets, buses, trains etc. This would be delivered to them face to face, in writing and with illustrations, maps etc where necessary. There would always be at least one student who came knocking on the door with a questions such as "How many hours of study do we need to do?" or "Where's the local bus stop?" and so on. Part of the mooc experience is about building the virtual resources, student networks, peer groups, traffic direction and so on.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Education is a Political Act

Education is a political act. The integration of technology with education is only allowed because there is political will to do it. Basically paying for the expenses of technology that can extend the capacity of the human being, will also be a political act. Capitalism is a national expression of politics. The ability of technology to be used for all or only for those who can afford it is a political action or expression made by the culture that allows it.

The people who have enrolled in moocs are mostly from places in the world where their culture is still politically open enough to allow them to take part in a global discussion. For some, the act of engaging in a mooc will be an act of political defiance. 
.... and therefore the question of how humans and education will be affected by digital technology and digital culture is not really a question of technology and education, but a question of politics and culture.

Friday, February 22, 2013

EDCMOOC End of week 4

As those of you from Australia, who read my posts, will know, my background is in what is commonly referred to here as RTO-land. The acronym stands for Registered Training Organisation and represents those companies both public and private that subscribe to the Australian system of vocational training.  Australia uses a competency based system of training for training supplied to workplaces, apprentices and others preparing to enter the workforce. The system is based on a quality framework, the Australian Quality Framework (AQF) which describes qualification levels and, on a set of standards of governance, the National Vocational Regulations (NVR) which proscribe how quality can be attained, measured and evaluated,  and utilises National Training Packages (NTP) which comprise standards of competency to be attained at the various qualification levels within various industry groups. The intent of this system is that it is transparent and transferrable. If I attain a qualification or a competency standard at any RTO in Australia, then it must be recognised by any other RTO within Australia. An employer should be able to reference the competency standards that I have been awarded within that industry's set of standards and know the level at which I can perform those competencies.

Why am I stating all of this? Because this will have a bearing on my interpretation of the learnings from this edc mooc, and the way in which I present my artefact for assessment.

The questions that are beginning to form themselves in my mind are around the application of technology to work places, particularly within the `traditional' apprenticed trades and what this means for jobs, apprenticeships and workplace learning.
How much and how fast are our industrial workplaces changing? Can training keep up with the pace of change of technology at work?

Will technology save us?
It's 3 years since I first saw the Patti Mae MIT lab sixth sense presentation on TED  In those 3 years, our smart phone technology has allowed us to seamlessly integrate internet capability into every aspect of our lives. Yes we can use Qreader to scan digital barcodes and get product information, yes we can quickly check our flight details, however it is still a device separate from our bodies. Patti's teams research seems to suggest a deeper integration. I think we may well be on the edge of an integrated smartphone / sixth sense technology. (Just read media release about Google Glasses ).
Since 2009 there have been massive advances in bio-tech. Will the speed of research into bionic eye development, DNA memory storage and patenting of DNA strands, 3D human cell/organ printing challenge our humanity? What will this mean for the workplace? What will this mean for the possibility of thought control? What will it mean for legal safeguards? Will the right to independence of mind become enshrined in law?

Would the loss of independence of mind / thought be the point at which we decide we are no longer human? If you control someone's every thought, are they human?

Has my thinking about `Being Human' changed?
I still think that there are innate qualities to being human. The first quality is that of The Seeker. The restless need to explore, to know, to find out. Not every human exhibits this quality strongly, but I believe we all have it and I believe that it is not the same drive as that which drives other animals to seek better food. The second quality that we seem to have is that of needing to believe that there is some being greater than ourselves, and that we have a relationship with this being(s). Stephen Fuller presents evidence of this in his `Intelligent Design' theories. In essence he believes that the hand of god is visible through science.
Is it possible to be spiritual without being religious?
After watching the Google Books story (Storyville BBC, thanks Andy Miller) I thought that yes, the other thing that really defines us as humans is greed. The opposing force to seeking and having a spiritual belief is that of greed. This too appears to be primarily a human quality.

Is there a point at which we are no longer human?
This depends on whether we define being human as physical, intellectual or spiritual. Is the quality of being a seeker, simply an emotional reaction driven by the endocrine system, or is it part of our spirituality? Is the quality of greed purely driven by instinct to hoard, control and secure resources for one's own survival, or is it a product of warped spiritual belief that one had the right to control others & benefit from them? (I am the son of god!)
I am choosing to define being human as a spiritual quality in which humans collectively believe that they have some kind of relationship to a higher order. Unfortunately I keep thinking of `wild' children, those rare occurrences when human children have been found raised by wolves etc., and this ruins my definition.
So this then tells me that the notion of Being Human is one that has been constructed by our developed cultures and that it is not a natural occurrence.
It then follows that if `Being Human' is a cultural construct, we will be able to remain human, no matter what we do to ourselves as we will simply modify our cultures to cope with it.

Do I now believe in a utopian vision of the future or a dystopian vision?
Neither, I believe that we hold the power to create the future, but that it is those human qualities of greed that have the potential to create a dystopian future and of seeking that have the potential to create the utopian future. Again utopia and dystopia are cultural constructs, and have been opposing forces throughout known history.

Will my grandchildren's education be better than mine, worse than mine, or just different from mine?
The Seeker drives us to learn, the Greed drives us to control others. Education is a political act. It can be used to control or to free people. This MOOC experiment is tipping the scales towards the Seeker. I'm pretty sure it will get reined in by the Greed fairly soon. (just look at Google Books)
I know that most of the discussion about moocs in higher education circles, revolves around the question of `how can we make it pay?' and `we can control it by with-holding the issue of certification unless there is payment'. This will become the limiting factor for moocs.
Technology will improve the access to information and the ability to share, collaborate, communicate and create as we learn. It will not change the instinctive need to seek, to find passion in what we do and learn, to make meaning of our world. Culture is the change agent for those aspects.

What does Being Human mean for Education?
The Seeker strives to find enlightenment and this often leads to the notion of `Greater Good', in this instance that education is for the `Greater Good' of the people. The principles of Instructional Design encourage us to `engage the learner', to elicit interest and stimulate enquiry, analysis and evaluation of information. The Seeker uses education to empower all humans. The Greed utilises education as dogma to enslave, restrict free thought, refine automated response and disempower others.
The need for a sense of spiritual connection can be used to activate the seeker and pique their interest.

What do the new technologies that challenge the current culture of Being Human mean for Education?
I think the biggest influencers of the new technologies will be Memory technologies and  communication technologies. The body altering & enhancing technologies are less likely to affect learning capabilities. The most extreme future I can think of, (& I know this has been proposed in science fiction) for education is that we will have memory encoded DNA implanted in us at a young age, that will hold all knowledge that we need to access, and learning will be confined to learning how to recall, catalogue, analyse & evaluate the information at any given time, in any given situation. Learning will be all about problem solving, action planning and implementation. Our DNA memory will KNOW that 1+1 = 2, but will it know what to do about it?
In a Utopian vision of education, knowledge will be free, learning how to apply it will come from the ability to use enhanced communication technologies to seek collaboration and cooperation on all learning problems.

What have I learnt over the past 4 weeks?
That the human is (still) a social animal
Being human is still a topic of discussion
If you can imagine it, it can be created, (eventually)
There appears to be almost universal belief that Total Social Control = Dystopia, however I could also ask "is this just ratbag social leftist university environment & propaganda?"
Freedom of thought = Utopia, (as above)
Eugenics is still alive and well, and
The relentless advance of technology continues to tempt people to believe that they can use it to create their own version of the perfect world
The eugenics debate goes back to the `us & them' culture.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

EDCMOOC Mish mash of weeks 2 ,3 & 4

How old is old?

Johnston, R (2009) Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet. First Monday, 14(4). 

Johnson summarises the four main metaphorical themes of physical space, physical speed, destruction and salvation that emerged in her research. As with Technological Determinism, I think this research again demonstrates human propensity to attach emotional value to something that intrinsically has no emotional value.  
The whole way through that article I was thinking "but, the internet is not the cause of all these things it is being accused of. It is simply a tool. If there is a shift in social values and if discussion is being abbreviated and is becoming more superficial, it is not because of the internet, it is because we (humans) are allowing this to happen."

What Johnston's research shows us once again, is that collectively, we like to refuse to responsibility for our actions and to seek ways in which to shift the blame. (Another human trait?) Destruction and Salvation reside within us. Not within inanimate tools.

Being Human the central theme to all our musings. I'm finding myself chasing the themes of desire and seeking that arose in last weeks (2) videos, and that lovely word, `sentient' which has arisen this week.

having the power of perception by the senses; conscious.
characterized by sensation and consciousness.
a person or thing that is sentient.
Archaic. the conscious mind.
1595–1605;  < Latin sentient-  (stem of sentiēns,  present participle of sentīre  to feel), equivalent to senti- verb stem + -ent- -ent 

This week, I thought I was a Digital Human, connected 24/7 to my insulin pump implant and constant glucose sensing monitor, but now I think I'll be TransHuman .....

Regarding `Transhumanist Values'
Nick Bostrom poses the question of whether as full posthumans we will be so far removed from our original selves that we can no longer be called human. "it could be that certain modes of being, while possible, are not possible for us, because any being of such a kind would be so different from us that they could not be us." I think that the transitions to this state of posthumanism will take so long that they will become evolutionary and our definition of human will evolve along with the transitions. 
The discussion is entirely subjective basing the supposition of becoming transhuman then posthuman upon the current state of being human. It won't happen that way. 
The statement that "There are limits to how much can be achieved by low-tech means such as education, philosophical contemplation, moral self-scrutiny and other such methods", is predicated on current knowledge and methodology of these methods of social constructivism. Where is the allowance for the impact of greater communication of social and educational effort in a technologically enabled world?
The fact that "150,000 human beings on our planet die every day, without having had any access to the anticipated enhancement technologies that will make it possible to become posthuman." not only begs the question about the opportunity to become transhuman, but about the first steps of health and education, that in global areas of wealth and power are creating the basic conditions to support the movement toward transhumanism. While the primary threat to the transhumanist project is the `Existential Risk', the global effort must be to stabilise power and support human populations everywhere. 

The right to choose - Enhancement technologies - considering that we can't even agree on the right to choose birth control, I think this is going to be a big one!

I've been holding onto the news last week of the discovery that a piece of DNA can be used as data storage, promoting the thought that this is going to be basic technology for the ongoing development of Artificial Intelligence and of transhuman mental capacity enhancement, but then I thought to myself, "Well, it's all very well to have massive memory storage available, but what about the cognitive processes (selection, analysis, evaluation, decision making), necessary to make use of it?"

and finally regarding this paragraph..."Since we are still far from being able to halt or reverse aging, cryonic suspension of the dead should be made available as an option for those who desire it. It is possible that future technologies will make it possible to reanimate people who have cryonically suspended.[10] While cryonics might be a long shot, it definitely carries better odds than cremation or burial." I think I'll decide to believe in the concept of `deja vu' and being born again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Video Review Week 2 - So What's Different?"

A Day Made of Glass 2 and Productivity Future Vision
Beautiful work, but .... such a sanitised version of `modern life'!

These videos promotes seamless education, seamless integration between work and home, and a heavy reliance on internet technology. I love the technologies being depicted, but I feel it is `all too beautiful' (Itchycoo Park), and as in Itchycoo park, they might all skip school and go and get stoned on some substance. They probably wouldn't be able to discern the difference between reality and being stoned anyway. The interactive holographic visions depicting communications between work colleagues, family & teaching leave me cold. Notice the way the father walks past his child who is asking a question about the school bake-sale and instead of engaging with her, heads straight for the visual screen on the fridge door?
Utopia or Dystopia?  I'm voting Dystopia on this one as I can't begin to imagine that this sterile living environment will provide the tactile, immersive experience that we all need as part of being human. 

Sight raises questions of internet security, privacy and power. Intentionally dark and thought provoking. At the most superficial level it asks the question of what happens when the net crashes. At a deeper level it raises the question of how much of our perception of reality is visual, and deeper still the issues of Identity theft or manipulation and mind control via internet technologies.
On the theme of reality vs virtual - I think that we (humans) will mature in our reactions to our experiences with internet tech in the same way that the generations of viewers of TV have matured in their reactions to film. Our children are able to distinguish TV virtual reality from real life, quite efficiently by their early primary school years and are able to discriminate in their responses to what is presented. Current generations are learning this with Social Media. In 20 years we will be adept at it from a very early age.
Once again a dystopian view of the digital revolution coated in utopian gee whiz technology.
*I have to say that as a female I don't like the connotations of the female as victim of someone else's fantasy. Story telling is so full of casting women into the role of victim. I'd like to see a sequel to it where she resists the mind control and has him arrested for assault.

Charlie 13
The human need to explore the world - once a  long time ago I heard a Psych talking about kids that get into graffitti and tagging, doing so because they need to create their own space - build their own world. I'm also thinking about the way in which people get into games such as the SIMS, Warcraft or get hooked on  book series such as Game of Crowns and Twilight. Charlie needs to create his own reality and interpret the world his way. He needs to construct his own reality. Is this a defining human trait? Where does that sit within Maslows hierarchy? Is it just part of the self-actualisation level or is it something we haven't otherwise catalogued. The need to explore. The need to explore arises not just when the other needs are fulfilled, but often as a response to lack of fulfilment of basic needs. It's instinctive.
What is the tagging project offering - safety? If it's offering safety, why is there still a need for police?

A story which asks the questions of "By whose definition does this represent the `Greater Good'?" As in Charlie 13 once again someone has decided that the only way to create safety is through total control.  Ghengis Khan, Chinese Emperors, Ancient & modern warlords,  Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Guevera, PolPot, all attempted to practice this.  In this futurist version of utopia, control is aided by digital and bio technology. This future view rehashes old storylines of behaviour control through identity control, group think, promotion of a fear culture through portrayal of the `other' as different and dangerous and big brother is watching/knows best.  Definitely dystopian.

So - "What's different?" It's the same human stories told with the aid of digital gadgetry, and as in story telling across the ages, these stories present a morality tale to spur us into taking up a cautionary position.
Finally each of these stories seems to be saying that Technology will determine our future, yet each of them ignores the fact that we are all reacting to the available technology in typically human ways.

Week 1 review

During the first week of my EDCMOOC experience one of my two hens I bought myself in December, has turned into a rooster! Is this a visual synonym for how I feel about the MOOC experience?
Week1 EDC MOOC 2 days ago 1 1

Friday, February 1, 2013

EDC MOOC Utopia or Dystopia?

Having left my `study’ until this evening, owing to work commitments, I diligently refused to read anyone else’s blogs, tweets or postings on the topic this week, so that I could have an unpolluted view of the films and readings tonight.
What did I find?

Bendito Machine
I don’t think this film is actually about technology, I think it’s about the human need to find `god’ in something.
I think it’s about that frailty in humans – the need to perceive something as bigger & more powerful than themselves, to believe in something that is all seeing, omnipotent, until someone questions it and goes searching for a new `god’.  I think the film creator just used technology as a vehicle for the story.

A pictorial translation of online dating, including the letdown when the technology fails!  - A lesson in overcoming our `human-ess’ in which we hide behind anything we can find, yet still display our very human need to be playful, to flirt and to connect.

Chatter Thursday – lifes hard when you’re a blackbird
Even within the techno hum of the big city, humans still connect in a spiritual moment when viewing their town from `space’. The film’s defining moment is when baby BB hits window & eyeball connects with the human – representing the transcendence of soul across species and the human emotion of compassion.

30 years ago I used to read SciFi. I don’t think this piece necessarily is talking about technology utopia or dystopia. To me this is about aliens – war of the worlds, day of the triffids stuff. It doesn’t suggest to me that technology has created this situation. Perhaps it speaks about the distinction of humanity as opposed to alien life-forms and the survival of humanity.

The Machine is Us/ing Us
First time I’ve seen this and I love it as it starts to get at the heart of some thoughts that are slowly percolating in my mind as I partake of this massive social experiment. I’ve been thinking that this internet technology and all the aps and interfaces we are experiencing, are shifting cultures globally. However I also think that our humanity is becoming ever more evident through the use of these tools. I don’t believe that the technology is shaping us, I believe we shape the technology. A very simple example of this is the uptake of internet technology. We have constantly sought to produce tools which are smaller, more integrated, and portable, able to almost become part of us physically.  (and this will be the next generation of internet interface). This has led to Smart Phones.  Smart phones aid & support two of the greatest human needs. To access information and to communicate.  We want to be able to do this instantly, in the same ways that our minds instantly recognise, interrogate, analyse and compute data from all around us, we now use technology to expand that capability.

We have the capability within Smart phone technology to combine and use it to solve international problems. What do we do? We use it to further our own personal needs in whatever sphere we live/work in.  In politically stable countries, we excuse this behaviour by referring to the confines of our socio-cultural and political systems. In countries experiencing massive upheaval, we use the technology to shape pleas for international human help.

Notes on Chandler’s Technological Determinism 
Regarding the comparison of 'technology-push' theory rather than a 'demand-pull' theory -  I would argue that the current state of technological expansion is demand pull rather than tech – push. What the people want the techs will work hard to deliver – case study apple….  People want to `know’ and to communicate….

In presenting Leslie White’s example, (in the chapter, Reductionism), declaring that 'We may view a cultural system as a series of three horizontal strata: the technological layer on the bottom, the philosophical on the top, the sociological stratum in between... The technological system is basic and primary. Social systems are functions of technologies; and philosophies express technological forces and reflect social systems. Chandler gives me something to argue with! I believe that social function is the determinant of the cultural system. Our need to protect, thrive and survive is more likely to determine our development of tools to support that need.

Chandler’s use of the quote from the biologist Rene Dubos, 'the mechanical definition of human life misses the point because what it human in man is precisely that which is not mechanical' (Dubos 1970, p. 132), again gives support to my growing belief that humankind constructs society to ensure survival and that technology has multiple interfaces with the need for survival.

"The notion that technological developments arise to 'fill needs' is reflected in the myth that 'necessity is the mother of invention'. It presents technology as a benevolent servant of the human species. But as Carroll Purcell puts it, 'many modern "needs" are themselves inventions, the product of an economy that stimulates consumption so that it can make and market things for a profit' (Purcell 1994, p. 40)."
I have already stated that I believe Humans have two defining needs, one is to `know’ (seek information) and the other is to communicate. These needs serve the basic purpose of humans and all animals. That is to survive as a species. This also leads to the exhibition of many primal emotions including the need for power, (insert `money'), which is evident in our continuing lust for the development of technology.

In Technological Autonomy -  Wonderful wonderful wonderful – I love Paul Jennings resistentialism!

Certainly when it comes to cars and humans, we see the Technological Imperative in action! 

Some of the arguments such as Postman’s seem valid, however I still think that the values that technology assumes are still the values we put upon the technologies. Without the human interface they are value-less.

The alignment of advances in technology with `eras’ is a theoretical construct with little to recommend it other than being a handy way to chronologically tag various advances in technology. 

I need to further explore similarities in the social & cultural reaction to accessible information that came with the writing, printing and now the IT communication revolutions (think Egypt and Syria). This is about the promulgation of philosophies and inter-cultural concepts across the globe. Technology may allow the transmission of ideas, which influence social & cultural concepts, but I don’t think it changes the nature of what it means to be human. When we watch footage of the brutality of war in Syria, Mali, Palestine, Egypt the (victims) are as outraged as we are. 

Actually `progress’ to me would be the cessation of war, and the provision of food, shelter, medicine and education for all. This could be achieved without any further technological innovation.