Monthly Archives: February, 2013

EDCMOOC – Artefact – Final Assignment

I have decided to embed my artefact on my blog as I have all my reflections for Digital Cultures and E-Learning here. This way I can keep everything in one place.

I am looking forward to your comments.

View on Prezi

Transhumanist values or are they?

The more I read and watch, the more questions I seem to have. 
While reading Transhumanist Values and Transhumanist Declaration, I kept on wondering whether we are going to become some form of a robot. Do we really want to be viewed as species that can be “remold in desirable ways”? I don’t really think I want to. Why do we need to apply medicine and technology to overcome our basic biological limits? Aren’t these limitations what makes us who we are? Are we trying to become superheroes or something? Isn’t this going to create more problems for us than solve any? If we all start living longer or dying later (which is the same thing), where are we all going to be living? I am not really sure but, I think, transhumanism raises more questions than answers any. The idea of “uploading our consciousness onto computers and leaving our body behind” is terrifying.   
Now if we view Robbie in a transhumanist sense then we can say that it/he (nor sure which one) is more human than non-human. But is it/he really? So, it/he feels lonely, it/he misses his friends, it/he wants to ‘die’ on Earth (motherland). Does this make it/him human? It/He has a body of metal (basically, not made of meat) and a metal mind. Is this what we are going to become in the future? Robbie wasn’t born, it/he was made/created – that already doesn’t make it/him human, does it? It/He claims it/he made a choice of religion, but why would it/he choose religion? Possibly as a gratitude to its/his creator(s) who perhaps was(were) a Catholic? I don’t believe that it/he could have made the choice consciously. The interesting part for me in the film was Robbie made-up world, where it/he invented friends of its/his kind and they together fix things and learn from each other. An AI understanding the importance of collaboration and learning from others – that’s amazing! Not all humans understand that, so is Robbie better? 

                   Robbie – A Short Film By Neil Harvey from Neil Harvey on Vimeo.

Now Gumdrop is a bit different because she doesn’t have the metallic voice of Robbie. If I was just listening to the film, not watching it, I would have thought that it was a human being being interviewed.

 Ok we may have new kind of species living around us, but I still wouldn’t say that they are human beings. Well, for me they are not. We will have to learn to live with them and treat them fairly as stated in the Transhumanist Declaration. But will we be saying that they are human? Gumdrop is funny with a great sense of humour, but she is still a robot. I would like to befriend her, but I am afraid with the appearance of her species, many people would want to enslave them.

The next film actually made me depressed.

TRUE SKIN from H1 on Vimeo.

As far as I understand, there are more problems with the idea of transhumanism in this video than solutions. “Nobody wants to be entirely organic (oh, really?!), or get old, or die”. In my opinion, it is OK to use transplants if one lost a limb and needs a replacement to be mobile, but using artificial legs or arms because they are non-organic is beyond my understanding, I am  afraid. Are we going to make artificial ‘spare parts’ fashionable and continue the present trend of judging people by their possessions? But it is not simply some gadgets, it is going to be parts that people have installed? What is better about that?
It is interesting or depressing to see that even in this transhumanist vision of the world, there are still homeless and sick people who do not seem to have a hope for a better life. Does that mean that even in this new world we are not going to address these serious problems?
“…for whatever you can afford” – which, to me, means that not everybody is going to be able to afford these parts which will widen the gap between the poor and the rich even more. In addition, people in this society look horrifying and utterly unreal to me, so are the ones who decide not to have these implants (possibly because they want to be ‘organic’) going to become outcasts? That doesn’t sound like an improvement, does it? Or is it just me?
The ability to “back up your memories and implant them back into new you” may be useful in education because many things that we learn at school are forgotten if not used and the ability to remember what you have learnt may be good. But that sounds very much like a computer which backs up the data to restore it if it crashes. If we are going to live forever, can’t we study the same subject again?

Avatar Days – World of Warcraft has been one of the most popular  games for quite a while (it aparently surpassed 10mln registered users in 2011) and, I think, many people play it to escape the reality. One of the players actually says that he is the same in the game as in real life, but some others I think would choose to act differently from what they do in real life. The other players in this video talk about making decisions that they are unlikely to make in real life. So maybe this is what they want to experience and the game gives them that chance.
And it’s not just that. There is also a mention of recognition and reward which are so rare in real life. And this is true. Games provide this opportunity thus making people want to play more and more. They also seem to allow people feel better about themselves. Although I am not really very keen on non-stop gaming, I think that playing a bit a day will not do any harm.
Jane McGonigal actually believes that if we play 3 hours a day, we may be able to make the world a better place. Her talk is really thought-provoking and she claims that it is possible to save the world by turning the task into a game.

I would also like to share Seth Priebatsch’s talk because he talks about the application of game dynamics to life situations, such as schools. Accrding to him school is a game but it’s not very well designed.


The game layer on the top of the world

I would like to believe that if well thought-out and thoroughly planned education will be possible to improve to cater to the needs of modern children by making it more desirable for them. I hope that it would also help to eradicate bullying  and stop favoritism. The system wouldn’t favour one kid over the other. It would just give fair rewards and progression. 

E-Learning – Utopic or Dystopic?

To be honest, I didn’t really see any connection with education in Toyota’s Real Deal advert. An avatar buying a car, or whatever he is doing, from another avatar doesn’t look very real. “There is nothing real in this town, just pixels, pretends…” What is he then? Is he real? Didn’t look real to me, just like anybody else who is supposed to be unreal.

E-learning doesn’t really have to be that. Can we really expect a schoolchild to be disciplined enough to study fully online? Not many will, I think. If we are talking about school education, then what is wrong with flipping classrooms? I use technology to enhance my learners’ learning experience and to provide them with some extra activities that they can do if they choose to. In many cases they do because they feel that it helps them to improve their grammar and vocabulary, their writing, listening and reading skills. They feel that there is individual approach because there is always a message from me, their pages bear their own names, and we meet 3 times a week. So what is wrong with that? Yes, there is a mixture of technological and natural, but I simply don’t see it as a negative development. In contrast to what Lowell Monke claims in his article The human Touch, I see a great improvement in my students’ writing skills.

In the second video, Heart to Heart, Adam’s need to talk to his wife face-to-face about something important is re-asserted here, which matches what Steve Kolowich discusses in his article The Human Element. However, I think, there is some information missing in the article. What level of education is the drop-out level high? Is it about free courses or paid ones? The drop-out level seems to be high in free online courses, because many people register just out of interest, they don’t really warm up to the course, or they can’t manage their time effectively enough to complete the course. What I would really like to know if the drop-out rate is high in distance MA courses. Many people who choose the online option do so because they need the degree and they either work, or cannot afford the ever-increasing fees of universities. Do they really stop the course having paid for it partially or in full? The notion of building online presence has been around for quite a while and I agree with that. It is always nice to hear your tutor’s voice or see what you lecturer looks like like it would happen in a classroom setting where you also get to know what your tutor/lecturer/professor likes or dislikes: little human things about a person who teaches you. And this can be done in an online course through Social Forums or Google Hangout, etc.

The film made me go through an array of emotions from happy to sad. Do we say that technology has manipulated my emotions? As human beings we do react emotionally to what is happening around us, be it technological or real.
The man’s loved one is in a life-threatening condition and he is dreaming about things he would do for her if she survived whatever has caused her condition. Isn’t it what we all do when things go wrong? Don’t we all dream about things we would do if they were different? Doesn’t it make us feel different? So why call what the man does emotion manipulation by technology if all he does is he dreams but using holographic tools.

And the last clip They’re made out of meat made me laugh to be honest. If we view the aliens as iPhones and iPads, then it seems that aliens are some of the meat’s dream. Now the question that wasn’t of interest to the aliens was that animals are also made of meat, does that make them human too?

 “Have we always, sometimes or never been human?”
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines human as

If we think of ‘human’ in terms of the adjective then it seems that anything with a human trait could be defined as human. And this is how I think Prof Fuller sees it – just as an adjective. What do we do with people who behave in an inhumane way? Do we brand them non-human? Many people do horrible things, but what shall we call them? Aliens? Isn’t that in itself a form of discrimination? Maybe we could classify them humanity into kind and unkind to make it easier to define human?

Wouldn’t ability to feel, to love, to hate, to laugh or to cry be human only characteristic of humanity, especially the last two? Isn’t it biological enough evidence not to claim that the Bible is the only reason we know we are human and that there is no biological reason for this? As far as I remember from Biology classes at school humans are the only species that walk upright. Isn’t it a reason good enough?

I believe that technology can help us fight against discrimination. Since the day I started using Facebook and taking online courses, I have made many friends from around the world and am more aware of their real problems and worries than ever before. News is biased or it is not what really happens, the Internet helps us connect with others, network and get to know other cultures.

Wikis, blogs and playlists – DNLE Assignment 1

The tools that I decided to evaluate are wikis, blogs and playlists. I think these are most commonly used tools in education.
There are a few blogging sites: wordpress, blogger, edublogs, posterous, etc. All of these blogging sites offer free accounts as well as paid ones. Blogs are online diaries which can be used by educators and students to write their reflections upon what they have learnt or what they have taught and what could have been done differently. However, the use of blogs is not limited only to that. Posterous and Blogger are probably the easiest ones to set up but if one has trouble with it, there are a lot of video tutorials on Youtube which teachers and students can watch to overcome the problems in setting up the blog. As the tutorials are freely available online, I don’t think there is a need for special training. As the content of blogs is user-created, educators should first check it for credibility and accuracy before referring their learners to it.

Positive aspects:

  • easy to set up and use;

  • there is a lot of support available on the Web in the form of video and written tutorials;

  • they can be made public and private, which is a great fetaure in education;

  • they can improve the blogger’s writing skills.
Negative aspects which can be overcome and turned into positive ones:

  • pages on blogs are static and all the posts go to the home page;

  • posts and comments are not moderated before they are posted so there is always the risk that someone will post something inappropriate and only the administrator of the blog can delete the post, which means that offensive comments will be visible until the administrator sees them;

  • the teacher will have to decide when to delete a comment as this may be viewed as abuse of freedom of speech by the learners.
As with blogging sites, there are quite a few sites that offer free wiki spaces for educators. These are pbworks, wikispaces, wetpaint, etc. The content in wikis is also created by users but in contrast to blogs, wikis are mainly used for collaborative writing. Wikis are not very difficult to use and there are online video tutorials available. However, it may be a good idea to conduct a short training course on how to create a wiki for educators so that they are comfortable with creating one.
In terms of pricing and school logo inclusion, schools can choose the wikimatrix site to choose the wiki that is most appropriate to their needs.
Positive aspects:

  • great tools for collaborative writing;

  • page history is available so teachers can reverse a page back to previous times;

  • as many pages as needed can be created.
Negative aspects:

  • pages can be deleted by mistake;

  • when doing team writing, an individuals ideas are incorporated into one whole and success is down to the team not the individual, which may demotivate the individual who came up with most ideas;

  • if a not hosted wiki is chosen, then a special training is required for the person who will be responsible for wiki hosting and maintenance.
I cannot find many sites that offer playlist creation services. The only one that I know of is MentorMob which allows users to create playlists of subject-related video and articles and to create quizzes related to the content. The playlists and embeddable and can be embedded into a blog or a wiki that schools or educators run for their learners (a mentormob playlist). The tools is free and the support from the team is great. They respond to email within one day and are very helpful. However, educators have to watch the videos and read the articles they add to the playlist to make sure that content is reliable and accurate.
Positive aspects:

  • easy to create;

  • can be embedded into a blog or wiki;

  • learners can add content to it too.
Negative aspects:

  • quizzes sometimes are not saved the first attempt and created questions are not saved so users have to write them again;

  • playlists are collaborative and any user can add content to it which may not be reliable. However, this can be deleted;

  • if a playlist is long, users may become demotivated and may not want to go through it.
In my opinion, every digital tool has advantages and disadvantages. If handled with thought, the tools can add value to education.
This work was chosen to be among the best for the first week. 

On Utopias and Dystopias – Part 2

In the introduction to this week’s activities we were warned that “some videos were evocative and sometimes disturbing” but I couldn’t imagine how true that was until I watched the first one.

The advert displays very utopian visions of technology, in my opinion. Some parts of it seemed worthwhile to me, but some looked quite daunting.

 In terms of education, I think, this should work. We can see how involved and engaged the children in class are. To refer back to last week’s reading Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, I am prepared to accept the fact that if technology is correctly incorporated into an education system, we may see better results in the future. Currently many kids complain about Maths, Chemistry, Physics, etc being boring. However, with the help of technology studying these subjects could be made more interactive and informative. I personally believe that this is a positive development. What makes me especially happy is the fact that teachers are not left out of the learning process even in such a technologically advanced world. On the other hand is it going to be possible for everyone to have these devices or the majority are going to be left out?

Another thing is environmental concern. I am not so sure about this kind of development being good. The solar panels on the roof of the school are good, but what was in the forest/park before the glass for educational field trips was installed? Are we going to cut out more trees to improve education?

I went on to watch the next video in the series A Day Made of Glass 2 Unpacked. As the explanation of the advert is given by a Corning employee, it is very utopian and does not address problems such as deforestation and technological disruptions. The questions that I had when I was watching the first video still stand: What happens when the Internet connection is disrupted? How is the glass wall installed? Will more trees be cut out to install it? What happens to the environment or the animals?

The next film, although with beautiful views and lovely colours, made me think that this is not a very good prospect for the future.

People even interact with each other through technology. I mean they can just ask the person next to them instead of sending information requests or ordering something. A child communicates with her mother via technology. She seems to be happy. But is this really what children want? Do they really want to have digital mothers or fathers?

And then the translating glasses. To me it seems that the message in the film is you won’t need to study a foreign language because technology will translate any for you. I hope in the future we are not going to rely on our devices to do everything for us. Otherwise we will end up learning only how to use our gadgets. If the first film really appealed to me, the second one made me think that this is a world that I wouldn’t like to live in.

However, I do have a question regarding both films. What happens if the Internet connection is bad or if the city is hit by some sort of natural disaster and there is no electricity? Do we stop living until all that gets sorted out?

The next film to watch was Sight which I had already watched for the Gamification course on coursera as a task to identify game elements applied in gamification. So when I watch this film, it makes me think of gamification. This is just a made-up world where people wear lenses which allow them to see through the other person, look up their profile, give scores, get virtual coach advice, etc. However, I see a fault in this vision. Before we play a game, we learn the rules of it. Especially, in computer games we mainly follow the stages of onboarding, scaffolding and then mastery, but the woman in this video does not seem to be aware of any of this happening. An unfair game, don’t you think? The ending is especially unpleasant. How comes that the man can stop and rewind a situation and the woman cannot? To me it’s simple – the man is playing a game only he knows about which is already not a game but is some kind of fraud.

Points, badges, feedback (part of gamification or computer games) have their own role but I don’t see this to be applied to real life. Again the same artificiality as in the previous two films.

Charlie 13

This film looks more like Big Brother to me or maybe Orwell’s 1984. In a way this is a bleak representation of the future. However, it also gives a glimpse of hope that there will be some people who will resist and fight for their freedom. At present we have people who, to protect their privacy, do not set up an account on Facebook or any other social networking sites, which in itself seems to be an indication that people understand that, apart from having benefits, technology presents a threat to people’s privacy and sense of autonomy. In a way, I think, there are people like Charlie now too.

Plurality

We seem to be going through science fiction week. Another film and another reminder of Big Brother (the poster says “Beware Big Brother Bentham” ) but this time with some time travel involved.
I do understand that many of the technological devices that we have nowadays are invented thanks to science fiction films. However, I hope that time travel is not going to happen.
There have been a lot of talks that certain agencies keep a tag on people using social networking services and collect their data, it is also believed that social network providers, and not only, store user data for infinite period of time and that even deleted messages or profiles are not really deleted: they are there in the cloud. The same seems to be true about information on our mobile phones: phone call and SMS data appears to be kept by certain organisations.  This all is, in a way, present-day surveillance in action. Recently I read an article about women in Saudi Arabia being monitored through their mobile phones and if they are trying to leave the country without their husbands, the latter receive an alert. I thought this was appalling  but  this is the reality we are leaving in. It horrifies me to think that the same can start happening in other parts of the world. Another article discusses surveillance at schools and states that we have become fixated on crime, security and violence. We try to fight for freedom, human rights, etc but can we ever really gain those? For some reason, I don’t think so anymore.

Now the next talk was more related to e-learning, in my opinion.

The idea of opening education appeals to me a lot. New form of education is emerging and as it is new, as it is opening, there will be problems and faults obviously, but as the time passes, it is possible to improve and develop and give many people a chance to study in collaboration with each other and be in control of their own learning. It is believed that we can learn better when we collaborate, because we learn from each other. Isn’t it what many of us try to achieve in a classroom setting by dividing students into pairs or groups to complete a task or to discuss something? As Gardner Cambell says in his talk: “My network is helping me to learn”.

After such a depressing set of films (apart from the last one) watched this week, I still would like to hope that the education system could benefit from a certain amount of technology constructively incorporated into a curriculum.

Sources:
Kevin Werbach – For the win

On Utopias and Dystopias

The first week of the course started and I already feel that I am learning a lot. It’s not that I didn’t know much about the subject, it’s just I feel that I am having what I thought about confirmed.

Digital culture and digital education have often been described as utopian, i.e. creating highly desirable social, cultural, educational effects; or dystopian, i.e. creating extremely negative effects for society, culture, education.

It seems to me that both these claims are extremes to a certain extent. In my opinion, although there are negative sides to digital cultures (not so sure about negative effects of digital education), the advantages still outweigh the disadvantages and we should try to use technology to our advantage. I do understand that this may become an obsession. However, this is not just true for digital technologies; it can also be applied to any non-digital aspect of life.

The films that we were assigned to watch and discuss mostly represent dystopian views. However, I do have some arguments against.

Film 1 – Bendito Machine III

There are quite a few environmental problems due to our obsession with technology. We always want the latest gadgets even when there is nothing wrong with our ‘old’ ones. The biggest problem with this is the issue of recycling and air pollution, but I hope that at some point in the future it will be possible to recycle or re-use all parts of devices thrown away b people. (Too optimistic? Maybe)
The social implication is the lack of interaction among people. In this film, for example, although they sit together in front of their new TV, they do not seem to communicate with each other because they are too busy watching the programs. The TV has become their God and they worship it but do not appear to care much about people being killed by broken TV, etc.
I wouldn’t say members of the tribe have any choice in terms of selection of their TV set: they just get what they are given. But they could choose not to watch it, for example, and spend more time together, but they don’t. So what they possibly would want to be able to choose, they cannot; but what they could choose to do, they don’t seem to want to.
The characteristics of the piece of technology presented in the film seem to match the ones in our life. The device is getting bigger with each model, it is becoming more complicated to use, some unnecessary features are added (Do we really need to drive a TV?), and it also sees to become easier to break. Basically what we have today is the same: too many things that can go wrong with our tablets, phones, notebooks, etc.

Film 2 – Inbox


I wouldn’t necessarily call the relationship between the film characters utopian or dystopian as I don’t think it is highly desirable or extremely effective. Their relationship could be both positive and negative, depending on what happens afterwards.
The red bags are representative of Facebook chat to me which is hated by many but also loved by many others. The bag in this film shows ease of sharing, which could be a utopian account but could be a dystopian one as well. This would depend on what is being shared and how desirable that is for the recipient. In this case it is obvious that the girl really wanted something magical to happen which would change her life. And when she got what she longed for, she went for it.The meeting in the shop possibly was not part of her dream, that’s why she ignored the guy first.
To conclude, I could only say that if used in the right way this could be utopian, but if abused/misused could also be dystopian.

Film 3 – Thursday


In this film the message conveyed about technology is that its work is easily disrupted by natural forces and that because of technology people have got completely separated from nature. We seem to be depicted to become helpless when technology fails us and even our free time is spent in a “technological” way. We appear to have lost the ability to interact and enjoy simple things, such as a walk in a park. I think the loss of the birds, who, in my opinion, represent nature in general, has been the greatest as they have lost their homes and the environment they were used to. I think the birds have the agency in this film as they seem to be able to act in the world regardless anything whereas people are completely helpless.

Film 4 – New Media


NEWMEDIA from MOLI on Vimeo.

This film actually reminded me of a Doctor Who Episode called The Rise of Cybermen in which people are shown to have a new digital device which is attached to their ears and enables them to download all the news from newspapers into their brains. People are controlled by this device but do not know it.
Just the same as in this film. People live completely surrounded by technology. Technology is their religion just as it is in the first film Bendito Machine III.
Quite a dystopian account, but I don’t think this is likely to happen to us to the same extent as in this film. I hope that people will be able to understand that obsession is a negative state to whatever object that obsession is directed.

To follow the suit of mainly dystopian views I have found another video on Youtube: Doomsday: Lost Home

This film again expresses the dystopian view that technology has an extremely negative effects for society. It is thought that we will be defeated by technology created by us. But in my opinion this is a very far-fetched scenario of our future. I mean look at the state of the environment in this film. Environment is not as polluted now as it is shown in the film but we are already trying to develop sustainable ways of living. Are we really going to stop doing that? Are we really going to completely forget about nature? I have faith in human beings. I don’t think we will. What do you think?

I understand that we are worried about our future in the world of technology, but it doesn’t have to be as bad as presented in some of the films above, right? I think if we can incorporate technology into school curriculum (as I am in education, it is easier for me to refer to this field) as some universities have already done, we would be able to meet the needs of modern children and teenagers who grew up with technology and are used to it.

As Ignacio Estrada said: “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they can learn.”

Sources and Further Reading:
On Utopias and Dystopias
Technological or Media Determinism
Towards Non-Reductionist Methodology
Technology is the answer
The automation of Higher Education
Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants
Agency