Category Archives: Technology and education

Awake at last

OK, back on the blog. I’m finally getting into my new routine and feel that this blog might indeed help me formulate my studies, now that I’m doing a PhD…yipes.

And it is difficult. I’m back in England now, after 9 months in Austria. Settled. New flat. New teaching job. New weekly schedule. Same old, same old…

Wow, it is strange to motivate oneself to study independently and know you’re on the right course – that is, especially when your supposed supervisors become incommunicado.

But I will continue herein, describing the everyday (once a month) and sharing what I learn or consider about the world of social media and learning – since this is the subject of the PhD.

As well as trying my best to be cantankerous along the way…but, golly, it’s difficult to be moody when you have a wormery to keep you busy, new albums to excite you (Baxter Dury my latest discovery) and so much too read (including a new bio of Henry Miller by Brassai, Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich, and We Think by Charles Leadbeater – but the best book I read recently is James Yorkston’s tales of life on the road as a touring musician – a classic, chortle aloud tome)..

So, more of the same from old me…will try and make it entertaining…though I am currently going crazy trying to understand what exactly my PhD is about – this is two months after starting the course…

 

 

 

 

 

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Dumb Angel

I’m writing about questions here.

I’ve been thinking about The Shallows and Nicholas Carr’s assertion that the internet stunts out intelligence. We are all getting dumber and dummer and we is dummin down…but I don’t really believe that. Maybe in the culture, but not in educational approach.

Surely the internet enhances inquiry? I mean, despite research being processed through sub-standard search engines, which tend to standardise responses – I believe kids are developing a sincere curiosity about the world which is being fed and filled by their devices.

The internet is an extension of the human brain, as McLuhan might have said (with it’s networks and routes, memes and memory, associations and links – and overloads). The internet answers everything you need to know (sometimes predicting the questions you wish to ask long before you get to typing a key word). Everything is known.

So, a kind of game I used in a language lesson this week. Given the question device words, what does Google predictably (and by trend) throw at you – and let’s try to reach some answers here please!

Firstly ‘WHO’. This extracted the following curiosity:

WHO KILLED FRANK FOSTER? Any thoughts anyone? Further searching informed me that Frank Foster is either a Tasmanian or Australian politician, or a Coronation Street soap opera character. I’m going with the first. So please tell me. I have to know now or bad things might happen. Make up your own answer to this if you don’t know. It’s all a bit of fun.

Secondly, ‘what’….the possibilities are endless in leading with this word. But I go here with what Google gave me first and foremost: WHAT DOES YOLO MEAN? This is definitely a really, really important question. One that would have many leading academics scratching their heads and pontificating. Just think: the most powerful search engine known to man, capable of answering or searching anything, that works on previous leads and predicted sentences. You enter the word ‘what’, anticipate the scope and breadth and depths of what could be summoned by previous users. And this is what appeared.

It’s not one that’s kept me awake at night before, as I only learnt that this word existed a few minutes ago, but now it might. So let me know, or I won’t sleep.

Thirdly, Which. This was problematic, because there’s a magazine that’s colonised this word, so it offers rhetorical enigmas like ‘which mobile, ‘which car’ and ‘which blackberry‘ (definitely the ones that grow on the South Downs in late summer, for me). So I prompted with another word and have come up with WHICH WAY DOES THE EARTH SPIN? a perfectly wondrous query, and one I’m sure I should know the answer to.  Maybe I do. It seems it’s normal to know something vital like this. Answers on a postcard below.

Now to when, which resulted in a bit of  blank from Google, but ‘when will’ gave me four strong choices. I’ve lumped for ‘WHEN WILL THE WORLD END?‘ No reason why, I just prefer it to the rest of the options. And I need to get some washing done before the big day. And I’m a cantankerous man.

Where, oh where…you presented me with the worst possible predicted questions. I had to probe a bit to get away from some simple-minded questions. I’ve gone with ‘WHERE IS THE LOVE‘, which is certainly not answered with the words Justin Timberlake, as I believe this question is more of a philosophical search (than an answer on the worst songs ever recorded). I might also have asked ‘where did the titanic sink‘, but quite frankly I couldn’t give a toss.

How results in a variety of possibilities. It could be: ‘did I meet your mother’; ‘deep is your love’; ‘is acid rain formed’, and – curiously – ‘how is Robin Gibb’. I’ve manipulated the search a bit here and am posing this, because it’s got a real ring of perplexity about it: HOW CAN SHE SLAP? How indeed. I think we all want to know.

Finally, the ultimate question of all – the one that we all ask each and everyday:

I’m gonna have to make a list here because so many tantalising quandaries were raised that have got me well and truly stumped.

WHY ARE MANHOLE COVERS ROUND?

WHY DO WE YAWN?

WHY ARE THE KARDASHIANS FAMOUS?

and WHY IS IT (oh, so many great configurations arose…tough choice) CALLED SCOTLAND YARD.

I know that the internet/Google knows everything and I could easily find the answers in 0.14 seconds generating 143,000 results but I just want to muse on this, so indulge me – and pray tell, otherwise I may well be a dumb angel forever.

Also, I’m really interested to know if there are really any questions (of perhaps a more tangible than ethical or philosophical basis) that t’interweb really cannot answer. Like ‘why are you so unpopular with the chicago police department’ (this also exists through Google, and is a question I often ask myself).

Other choices I liked from Google included ‘what happens when you die’, ‘when is saturday night live on’, ‘where did a t-rex live? when is my MOT due? and – of course – ‘why are all caravans white?’

“questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for oneself” (lovely quote from the Prisoner – but one I don’t agree with).

OK, time to do something more productive.

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Survey for students on new media

I will be in a school in Cambridgeshire next week to conduct the research centred around my thesis on digital media use in schools (particularly the application of blogs as an asset for reinforcing curriculum awareness, and acting as a learning check). My research also aims to explore the teachers role in mediating learning through the use of these tools, yet done so invisibly in order to enhance student-centred independent work, and creation of and responsibility for their own educational resources (i.e. the class blog they have created).

My research will be done by interview and analysis with teacher and students. As such, I’d be interested (if anyone’s following me) in recommended lines of questioning (in view of this here blog, both sarcastic and serious suggestions will be considered).

Greetings and appreciations

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Blogging like a beginner – a tour of Salzburg by iPod

Apropos of an essay on this here blog format…

I am trying to post according to students, to be on their end of things – as if they were being instructed to use the form.

From Fielder (in Downes): “These tools offer a new and powerful toolkit for the support of collaborative and individual learning that adheres to the patterns of contemporary information-intensive work and learning outside of formal educational settings.”

So, I decided to take my iPod out into the city and record my everyday environment in image form. I’m not sure what my intention is, but I’m interested in Herr Bachmair’s lecture where he took the kids out with cameras. I’m wondering how I could do something similar with students, to incorporate learning outside formal educational settings. What value does this have? I’d better act like one.

Well, I also want to try to evaluate whether what I am doing meets any of the new skill sets outlined in Confronting the Challenges (MacArthur Foundation)…so it’s a little experiment and I’ll see where it goes, and try to draw dynamic educational values from the activity. I’d appreciate any feedback, or reflection on supposed ‘educational value’ of merely uploading images.  Firstly, I’ll give you a wee tour of Salzburg.. by virtue of the CTC paper, I imagine this activity can be linked to skill sets such as ‘simulation’, play, and – tenuously perhaps – distributed cognition.

I have done this in an arbitrary and  spontaneous way, so it may not be particularly meaningful – however, I am fairly sure of how students at  BTEC levels would respond to a similar instruction to ‘go out and record your environment and interpret it’…and this is the task I’ve set myself…

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On Selwyn – Digital inequality – and the Pirate Party

I find this paper by Selwyn very interesting: insightful, pragmatic and honest. I’m reading a lot about the subject of digital technology use by students and the youth and it’s useful that someone writes candidly without idealising the subject – as he shows is typical.

In many ways, he brings the aspirations of the advocates back down to earth and some of his arguments remind me of the fascinating Austrian Priest/philosopher Ivan Illich, who criticised schools for instutionalising the young into economic systems (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Illich#Deschooling_Society). Of course, Illich advocated – with caution – the use of technology to educate, yet we have yet to see (as Selwyn shows) that technology makes any meaningful or significant impact or effect on youth education.

I am curious in how the digital apparatus these essays describe empower the youth as well, and appreciate Selwyn’s honesty in claiming that they don’t necessarily do so. However, parts of the essay remind me of the Pirate Party in Germany – which seems to have gained popularity and credibility, despite operating with a slim mandate – namely, endorsing file-sharing and highlighting concerns about data-protection and censorship. That such a political platform could engage so many as to gain seats in Germany’s party proves that technology and its related issues are central to many voters’ perceptions of the future. Or does it prove that democracy is regarded as a bit of a joke? Either way, whoever you vote for the Government always gets in (as Dylan said)…and whatever starts out as subversive eventually gets recuperated within the system….just as Facebook founder/market strategist Zuckerberg asserted with his recent justification of floating Facebook on the stock market, wherein he called he and his cronies ‘hackers’ and described them in the rhetoric of revolutionaries. The clown.  This is deconstructed quite irreverently in the column on this BBC link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16859526

Pirate party: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/18/pirate-party-germany-berlin-election

and a Facebook fan page about Ivan Illich, with the top post being an appeal to close itself down:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ivan-Illich/15424593598

There doesn’t seem to be a fanpage about Neil Selwyn; consider this one.

 

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