Educational Trends

Graphic representation of 2010 Horizon Report key trends

A Wordle representation of the 2010 Horizon Report key trends

In this week’s session we continue to explore the ways in which the networked web enables previously unimagined communities of practice and how this impacts us as learners and educators. This past Saturday many of you had the opportunity to participate in the Classroom 2.0 Live! session with scores of educators from around the world as we learned about the upcoming Global Education Conference. In last week’s post you all raised provocative questions about the teacher/student role, how to assess and validate online resources and the extent to which this new environment may change the ways in which we relate to each other and our environs.

Given your experiences thus far, did Michael Wesch’s The Machine is Us/ing Us resonate with you and if so, how?

If it is true that our roles as educators and scholars are changing, with its attendant focus on new modes of scholarly authority and student engagement, what kinds of opportunities and challenges might these emerging technologies present to you as young scholars and educators?

During our face-to-face session I’m going to ask you to work in pairs to explore various open content resources and then give a short in-class presentation on your finds à la Educause’s 7 Things You Should Know About series, for example:

  • what it is
  • how it works
  • why it matters for teaching and learning

This will be in preparation for next week’s session in Elluminate where we continue our conversation about trends in higher education.

And here is our LearnCentral event on Open Content. At the bottom under ‘Other’ you’ll find the link to our recorded session.

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9 Responses to “Educational Trends”

  1. carsten01 Says:

    In The Machine is Us/ing Us, Wesch tries to make us understand what significant impact digital text and hyperlinks can have on the way we acquire and distribute knowledge. Following one idea or thought, one can find myriads of sources, different perspectives and information about how something was “absorbed” and resonated. As these possibilities are fascinating and valuable, yet it is necessary that we understand the risks which are imbedded in them.
    When want to gather information about a certain topic, we use tools to get to these information. What sorts of tools we use depends on the person’s skills and approach. But I think there are certain tools that are broader used than others, e.g. Wikipedia or Google. But these tools filter information and do not access “all” the information that is out there on a specific topic. To access certain types of information in a digital media context, we rely on such software. We have to be aware that between “us” and “the information” there is a metrics. This metrics is designed/programmed, to let some sources through and some sources not. In my opinion the question of “Who has (academic) power” and thus determines what exists and what not shifted from the print age to the digital age only altered in appearance but not in content. In this sense we “feed” what Wesch calls the “machine” but to what extend do we really organize it, when access is filtered? We have to be critically aware of this. And we have to make sure that those we teach are aware of it as well.
    As educators, in my understanding, we have to stimulate primarily two modes of thinking among our students. First, critical thinking about the resources used. Second, critical thinking about what is intended to be researched. This is right what the 2010 Horizon Report talks about. Digital media is strong and coming, and we need to know and to teach how to use it. Just an excellent example of what I mean is the documentary “Digital Nation” which clearly shows the pros and cons of the influence of medias on teachers and learners.

    • Barbara Says:

      It is interesting to consider how a particular medium privileges certain information, or as Marshall McLuhan declared, “the medium is the message. It seems to me that his work did influence Michael Wesch’s video. Here is a nice interview where Professor Wesch shares what prompted him to create this video. It includes a nice Q & A exchange with readers of the post.

      Carsten, can you expand a little on what or who filters access to information? Do others in our class see this, too? Is it a question of digital literacy on the part of the user? The kind of network access they have (e.g., based on socio-economic factors, the form of government)? Is there a particular section of Digital Nation that you could point the class to?

      • carsten01 Says:

        An example of such filters are search engines. When searching certain terms, they might not be found with a particular engine. An example here can be Google and China. Although Google managed to not comply to the restriction of information, they did for a while. Furthermore, search engines might not/do not search certain “areas” of the web such as databases. (deep-web vs. visible-web). The good thing is that one seems to come around such restrictions, but one first has to realize that such restrictions exist.
        A second example for filtering information can be seen during the eruption of the volcano on Island. Scientists developed a metrics to analyze vast amounts of information.(and I see this as similar to search engines) This information had to be ranged and filtered and resulted in closing major airports. The metrics’ data was preferred to “hand-on” research. David Gelernter, Prof. of Computer Science and Chief scientist at the Mirror Worlds Technologies, gave an interesting report on that in a news-article that I don’t manage to find yet. (Maybe the info is filtered out…)
        The particular section in Digital Nation I had in mind in reference to digital literacy and critical thinking talked about a student preferring to get the content and reflection of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from Spark Notes, instead of reading the book himself. As he argued, it would save him time and all the information are already there. Thus it would be not necessary to think for himself, and with that contribute his individual perspective to the discourse on Hamlet. The individual perception on a certain topic is unique and it is on us to teach our students that information on the web might be similar, but it cannot replace one’s individual approach.

        • ntrax84 Says:

          Carsten is right when he says that search engines and other websites filter information today. Students need to learn how to deal with this and acquire “digital literacy” as Barbara mentioned above. But, to be honest, I do not really see this as a problem of web 2.0. Information were also filtered before the world wide web existed. In the past we worked with librarians and professors who guided us to trustful resources. We relied on them as we rely on google today. But because we can access all information from our computer today we need powerful tools that manage the huge amount of data. So yes, the question “Who has the (academic power)?” has to be asked in our digital age.. but who had this power in the past? Weren’t we even more limited with the possibilities/tool we had before? Wasn’t it even easier to control the information flow?

  2. melinaanne Says:

    The last thirty seconds of The Machine is Us/ing Us particularly resonated with me, as that final segment truly illustrated just how far-reaching new technology really is. It goes so far beyond the typical learning environment that we as scholars and educators are, it seems to me, at its mercy. I had an interesting conversation with a student last year after I had admonished the class for sending text messages during the lesson. He explained to me that, for his generation, texting was equivalent to a face-to-face conversation. Therefore, ignoring a text or not responding right away was tantamount to ignoring the person as if he or she were standing in front of you. He did—rather sheepishly–acknowledge that, in answering a text during class, he was in fact ignoring the instructor—something I’m not sure many students are self-aware enough to realize. The point is that for his generation the norms are different—and this will continue to be true, with changes that will likely be ever more dramatic with each passing year. I feel that, to a certain extent, it is not we who will truly make the decisions about open content, mobile computing, and everything that Web 2.0 has to offer but they, the students, who will dictate how they want—or demand—to learn. I agree with Carsten that our role as educators will shift to one of guidance and a focus on critical thinking that, given the vastness of the Internet, is more important than ever. Students may be more adept than we are at making technology FUNCTION, but they still need our help in identifying quality sources of information and truly USING the Internet as an academic and research tool. In this scenario, we become less responsible for relaying information to students and more responsible for instilling in them a process of accessing the information themselves.

  3. Karen Zook Says:

    It’s hard not to get excited about all the open-source/free/interactivity-based learning communities emerging through digital media.

    The NY Times article “Don’t Buy That Textbook, Download It” had a random quote in it that worried me a little, though.

    It seems that we must, as educators, walk a relatively fine line between open-source collaboration and economically-sustainable production; that is, this is our job, and we need to get paid for it. We’ve talked before about the use of free content to establish oneself as an authority, who can then earn a living in ways that are somewhat tangential to paedagogy (being paid to come speak to a group of teachers, for example).

    In the article, Professors McAffee and Baraniuk describe why they decided to offer their textbooks for free on the web. My worry is that these sorts of projects will become both expected and sidelined; that is, they’ll become a normal part of the job (and therefore expected), without providing the instructor with any additional compensation; so, they actually end up detracting from the potential to earn a living. Does that make sense?

    And then, if it’s a sidelined/undercompensated part of the job, does it remain a priority in the same way that publication does now? That is, is it realistic to expect the same amount of attention to be devoted to this sort of project? There’s always the wikipedia model–an unbelievably huge number of contributors each adding tiny portions to the overall knowledge-base–but there’s a reason wikipedia is questionable as an academic source. I’m not sure what the answer is here, just expressing some concerns I’m having.

    I can see where the free-content model would be beneficial on the level of the “publishing house” (whatever form that takes), but I worry about the individuals producing the content.

    (All that being said, I’m 100% on board with this as the future of educational resources, and it’s undoubtedly a good thing. These are just doubts that have been niggling in my brain while we developed Operation LAPIS, and the quotes in the NY Times article really helped solidify my concerns in my own mind.)

  4. Eleonora Boscolo Camiletto Says:

    I totally share Karen’s concerns about the problematic free/open-source materials situation, its future development and its consequential impact on the job market. We need to RETHINK (and here I believe Prof. Wesch’s video makes a good point) ourselves, we need to rethink the way we gather information and the way we distribute it.

    As for Digital Nation, and the specific part Carsten refers to, I think it is important, in the process of rethinking, to (re)educate to the use of this free information. We can allow people to download Shakespeare for free but we can’t allow them to skip the primary texts in favor of summaries that others posted online for free. If we let this happend, then we will end up summarizing even those summaries, and so on until instead of having more and more specific free information (articles, books, etc.) we’ll have more and more general and “watered down” information.

  5. jarcastillo Says:

    As Thomas Friedman was concluding his presentation, he said something that struck me: “Change your leaders not your light bulbs.” While speaking about “green energy,” Friedman made me think about the use of technologies in the classroom. Ever since I took the methodologies course what feels like a lifetime ago, we were encouraged to implement multimedia technologies in our classrooms. Why wouldn’t we? I often thought. However, it is more than simply wanting to. I have taught in all possible places on campus, from air-conditioned high-tech classrooms to barn-like classrooms where we were lucky to have a mobile chalkboard. Also, even though we were instructed in our methodologies class, we were never really taught how to (at least the semester I took it). I took it upon myself to learn by taking courses for the Graduate Certificate in College Instruction; something not everyone in my section necessarily thought was important (some even commented it was “wasting time”). A few weeks ago, during a conversation with someone high in the food chain of our department, I mentioned how this course was a great way of connecting the pedagogical instruction we all were required to take with the practical way of using technologies in the classroom. Their response, not surprising, was that technology changes so fast and therefore it would not be practical to make this course a requirement. “Change the leaders and not the light bulbs.” My section started using an online workbook last fall semester. As expected, there were glitches with the system, but the biggest challenge seemed to be a lack of training. Frustrated, some minimally used it, others avoided it all together, and a few went out on their own to learn how to make the best of the technology. As graduate students, I think part of our training/education should also entail how to be instructors that can be relevant with the new ways of learning. I am aware that some of us simply want to focus on the research component of academia, but the reality is that most of us will still have to teach to make a living. If the “leaders” are not always encouraging, how can we do more than just “change the light bulbs” by meeting our program requirements?

  6. aljarrash Says:

    Regular classes get students bored of the class and from teachers as well.When a teacher is lecturing all the time ,even if you ask students to share and participate ,the class will not be as if you use multimedia products and networking sources.They help creating another atmosphere in the class and get more attention from students.
    In The Machine is Us/ing Us, Wesch wanted to say that digital texts and hyperlinks are easy to be used and more flexible .You can edit ,add and share easily with others .It is faster to give and get. Anyone can use all different tools or the ones he is able to get the information which is looking for ,but all what is done should be done with the connection of the internet.It means you have to be connected all the time to the net or you will not be able to text or use the hyperlinks.This brings a question,what’s the benefit for a teacher who studies all these and goes to teach in a regular class with no internet.The class may has computers but with no internet connection.Can we ask students to go to the internet cafes to download something and bring it to the class and can we teach them something and ask them to apply all what they took in class at home.I am saying this because I’m studying networking to use it in my teaching and I’m asking myself how can I use what I studied for my students with the lack of simple things like internet.Here,all I can use and maybe students have more knowledge in networking than I have but I can use properly with the subject and manage it in to a limit which helps me developing my skills and helping students ,too


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