I love EDCMOOC and I want to focus on this experience. I'm learning so much about tools, teaching approaches, connectivism and constructionism (we are really doing it here in edcmooc) and also some new insights into digital culture and teaching through the content for week 1. I love my frainger buddies and my other moocing pals. What a good MOOC, what a huge success for the team in Edinburgh. Makes me proud to be a Scot (well not really, but I thought I'd put that in.
Some good blog posts this week:
Ryan: The Equation for Change: http://bit.ly/XD8JoD
Ary: Digital Immigrants and Natives: http://bit.ly/XDczhD
Ary: Benditto: http://bit.ly/XDd4YW
Amy: Technological Determinism in our Pocket http://bit.ly/XDbg2m
Amy Thinglink: http://www.thinglink.com/scene/354424764787326978
Amy : Digital Vikings: http://www.thinglink.com/scene/354424764787326978
Emily: Strategy http://bit.ly/XDdluU
Chris TweetChat 1: http://bit.ly/XDb6I8
Chris TweetChat 2: http://bit.ly/XDaUsk
Cikug Brian's Tweeting Birdy http://bit.ly/XD9cr5
Andy: EDCMCHAT in a minute http://youtu.be/pyVLQtfZJ08
Tweetchat 1 Tags Explorer http://bit.ly/XDfkzp
Emily's film Festival ; http://bit.ly/XDfHtT
A favourite Article: http://schoolingtheworld.org/blog/occupy/
My Creative Effort For the Week, Collaboration between me and Ary: with a little help from our friends.
#edcmchat Survey by angelatowndrow on GoAnimate
Animated Presentations - Powered by GoAnimate.
Resources and notes
This week we will do two things: first we will have our opening ‘film festival’ in which we will look at some short films which represent - in very different ways - the theme of utopia-dystopia which is our main focus in this block. Then, after doing some reading which gives us a useful theoretical perspective for understanding how utopic-dystopic visions inform our relationship to technology, we will look back at some early examples of writing on e-learning, dating from between 1998 and 2002.
The aim here is to take something of an historical approach, and by looking back at debates that have been formative for the field of online education to throw some light on their relationship to popular digital culture, and on the debates we are currently having around the current and future state of digital education. Throughout this first week, ask yourself: what echoes or suggestions of current educational debates can you see and hear in these resources? What has changed?
Many strongly utopian or dystopian arguments seek to explain social, cultural or educational change in primarily technological terms. This is known as ‘technological determinism’, and you will read about this in the ‘ideas and interpretations’ part of this week. This perspective says that technology is not a ‘tool’ - it actually drives change and creates society, not the other way around. Even if you haven’t tried to identify determinist positions before, we predict that, by the end of this week, you will start to see these lines of thinking cropping up in all sorts of places!
Film 1: Bendito Machine III (6:35)
Film 2: Inbox (8:37)
This animated film tells the story of technological development in terms of ritual and worship - the characters in the film treat each new technology as god-like, appearing from the sky and causing the immediate substitution of the technology before it. What is this film suggesting are the ecological and social implications of an obsession or fixation on technology? Do the film’s characters have any choice in relation to their technologies? What are the characteristics of various technologies as portrayed in this film?
Inbox is a quirky representation of the ways in which web-based technology connects people, the limitations of those connections, and the nature of communication in a mediated world. Depending on how you interpret the relationship between the two main characters, and the ending, you might argue that this is a utopian account, or a dystopian one - what do you think, and why?
Film 3: Thursday (7:34)
Film 4: New Media (2:21)
Watch on Vimeo
Thursday depicts a tension between a natural world and a technological world, with humans caught between the two. What message is the film presenting about technology? What losses and gains are described? Who or what has ‘agency’ in this film?
A very short, very grim representation of the effects of technology on humanity. There are definite visual echoes of “Bendito Machine III” here - what similarities and differences can you identify between the two films?
Finally: There are many utopian and dystopian stories about technology told in popular films from Metropolis to the Matrix. Can you think of an example and describe or share it in the discussion board, on your blog, or on Twitter?
Ideas and interpretations
Chandler, D. (2002). Technological determinism. Web essay, Media and Communications Studies, University of Aberystwyth. Download as PDF.
(Please note that this reading is a web essay, but people have been experiencing access problems, so we are providing it as a PDF. An alternative, web-based version is available via the Wayback Machine.)
Chandler’s web essay explores the concept and history of technological determinism, which he defines as ‘seek[ing] to explain social and historical phenomena in terms of one principal or determining factor’ - technology. Chandler calls this theory ‘reductive’, and points out that as a way of understanding social phenomena, reductionism is often criticised as being overly simplistic. This is especially the case when determinists become ‘technocentric’ - ‘trying to account for almost everything in terms of technology'. He introduces concepts such as ‘reification’; ‘autonomy’; and ‘universalism’, as elements of technological determinism. Importantly for our purposes, he also indicates how we can identify when a determinist position is being taken, even if an author or speaker doesn’t make it explicit:
The assumptions of technological determinism can usually be easily in spotted frequent references to the 'impact' of technological 'revolutions' which 'led to' or 'brought about', 'inevitable', 'far reaching', 'effects', or 'consequences' or assertions about what 'will be' happening 'sooner than we think' 'whether we like it or not'.
The resources below contain some language like this, and you will probably start to notice it elsewhere. The relationship between technological determinism and utopian and dystopian accounts is one we’d like you to consider and discuss as you engage in the readings and films during the rest of this week and next week.
Dahlberg, L (2004). Internet Research Tracings: Towards Non-Reductionist Methodology. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 9/3. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol9/issue3/dahlberg.html
Now that you know more about technological determinism, you may find it useful to explore two other perspectives that are common in discussions about the web and e-learning. Dahlberg describes three orientations towards the internet:
Uses determination: technology is shaped and takes meaning from how individuals and groups choose to use it. Technology itself is neutral. An example of this way of thinking can be seen in the educational mantra: ‘The pedagogy must lead the technology’.
Technological determination: technology ‘produces new realities’, new ways of communicating, learning and living, and its effects can be unpredictable. This is the position Chandler explores in detail in our core reading.
Social determination: technology is determined by the political and economic structures of society. Questions about ownership and control are key in this orientation.
Which of these perspectives do you lean towards in your understanding of the relationship between technology and pedagogy? Can you point to instances in society or in your own context where this stance is necessary or useful?
Dahlberg argues that none of these perspectives, on its own, is enough to explain everything that needs to be explained about the internet. Each is useful, and each is overstated. Depending on the questions we need to answer, different approaches may be necessary. The same could be said about e-learning - that we need more complexity, more nuance, than any one determinist position can offer us. It’s therefore extremely useful to be able to identify these positions, and in particular to know what we are dealing with when grand narratives are told about how great, or how terrible, technology is.
Perspectives on education
Daniel, J. (2002). Technology is the Answer: What was the Question? Speech from Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 27-29 May 2002.http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=5909&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html
In this decade-old speech, Professor Daniel, at the time the UNESCO Assistant Director for Education, offered the view that ‘in all parts of the world evolving technology is the main force that is changing society’ (a model technological determinist position, you’ll observe!). He argued that, despite popular opinion, education was not exempt from these changes, nor should it be. Indeed, technology could solve the three most pressing problems of education: access, quality and cost. His praise of open universities directly prefigures the current fascination with MOOCs, and you will recognise many of the same arguments about economies of scale at play. He asks his audience to be critical in assessing the claims that are made about educational technology and what it can accomplish. Using Daniel’s four “b”s - bias, bull, breadth and balance - what observations can you make about his utopian arguments about education? What currency do they continue to have in this field?
Noble. D. (1998). Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education. First Monday 3/1. http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/569/490
Noble’s piece, still a classic 15 years on, shows just how long debates about the consequences of digital education have been circulating. In contrast to Daniel’s speech, the orientation here is clearly dystopic. Where Noble frames ‘administrators and commercial partners’ as being in favour of ‘teacherless’ digital education, and ‘teachers and students’ as being against it, these divisions have never been clear, and they certainly aren’t now. Why does Noble say that technology is a ‘vehicle’ and a ‘disguise’ for the commercialization of higher education? How can we relate this early concern with commercialism to current debates about MOOCs, for example? And how are concerns about ‘automation’ and ‘redundant faculty’ still being played out today?
And there’s more....
You may find it interesting to return to two very well-known pieces of work which have been, in their way, highly influential in the field of online education, and think about them again in terms of the perspectives we’ve been looking at. What kind of determinist position do they take? To what extent are they utopic or dystopic visions of the future? Why have the ideas they represent been so readily taken up and distributed within all educational sectors?
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9/5. http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/prensky%20-%20digital%20natives,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdf
Sparking extensive debate, while working its way into common usage, Prensky’s metaphor of the native and the immigrant is one of the best-known accounts of the effects of the digital upon education. Offering a narrative of ‘native’ young people’s seamless integration with technology, and the revolutionary changes that information technology has brought, Prensky warns ‘immigrant’ teachers that they face irrelevance unless they figure out how to adapt their methods and approaches to new generations of learners. When reading this paper, try to identify the strategies that Prensky uses to make his argument - how does the language he uses work to persuade the reader? Who are ‘we’ and who are ‘they’? What associations do you have with the idea of the ‘native’ and the ‘immigrant’, and how helpful are these in understanding teacher-student relationships?
Wesch, M. (2007). The Machine is Us/ing Us? (4:33)
Watch on YouTube
You will likely have seen this video many times - it’s a now-classic representation of the difference of the digital and the history of the web. Whether you are watching it for the first time or not, try considering it again from the perspectives we’ve been exploring. What is being left out of the story of the internet here, and from what position is this story being constructed?