Some final thoughts on #edcmooc

Firstly a thank you to the anonymous peers who evaluated my final piece for this course.  I appreciated all your thoughtful comments and am humbled by your generous grading.

So our official five weeks have passed and I am wondering what life will be like without EDCMOOC.  I am sure I will continue to check the social media pages set up by my fellow students and hope to continue to learn from them.  I have enjoyed the formal part of the course and it felt good giving my brain a work out.  I was surprised at the academic level of the course and most of the participants and found this both challenging and stimulating.  There was no doubt that I got most out of the connections and collaborations of the MOOCers (I can even see a point to Twitter now!), a method of learning that I had not personally experienced before and one that I hope to have again and also pass onto my work.  In a Primary School setting it will not be possible to use the exact same tools as those used here but I know there are similar things out there suitable for young children and now that I have experienced the value of this type of learning I will be promoting it.

Thanks to this MOOC I have learned to think more deeply about e-learning and digital cultures and to ponder the impact of technology on society in general and education in particular. I have also gained confidence in the use of digital tools and gathered insights into the part social media can play in education.  Overall a very valuable exercise.

By helenjhodson

#edcmooc Week 4 Redefining the human

Popular culture

Film 1: Robbie  Although it would seem that Robbie regarded himself as pretty much human, and expressed many of the emotions we would usually equate with humanity, I think it was clear that the humans did not view him as such.  It seemed a little like when your big brother lets you tag along but you are not really part of the gang.  So if you are not treated as human by others does this mean you are not human?

Film 2: Gumdrop In contrast to Robbie, Gumdrop is treated just like another person and neither she nor the humans in the film draw any attention to her physical being.  This is highlighted when she is asked, and refuses, to do a nude scene.  If you were to listen to this and not watch it I doubt that you would perceive Gumdrop as anything but human.  So does that make her human?

Film 3: True Skin  I had technical problems with this video, it kept freezing (even on more than one viewing), so I am writing this from memory of my initial fractured view. I think the key issue here was the memory backups rather than the body enhancement, and did these make the body potentially redundant. It is seeing the human purely in the mind.

Film 4: Avatar Days  This was a nice documentary humanising online game play. The games world of the players is just a part of their life, although they do talk about their avatars in the third person which suggests they do not see them as themselves, and presumably then not as human. They are part of their life but still separate.

Ideas and Interpretations

Bostrom (2005) ‘Transhumanist values’ reproduced from Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 4, May (2005)

To quote Tom Lehrer “we all hate poverty, war and injustice” , and that was the feeling I came away with in reading this article.  It was a thorough run down of what transhumanism entails with a very positive spin.  Reading it made me long for his utopic future but I was also a little sceptical. I think we probably will get close to his ideal and I hope we are able to overcome the risks he touches on.

Hayles, N K (2011) Wrestling with transhumanism. h-wrestling-transhumanism

This presented a more balanced view of transhumanism and our possible future.  I have read a lot of science fiction and these transhuman ideas are often tackled in the genre. I did not know all of the work quoted in this article but have read about all the themes mentioned.  Studying these cautionary tales is an excellent way to address issues of transhumanism, technology and society.  I really do wish SF did not get such a bad rap with much of the general populace.  I really hate it when people proudly say “I don’t read Science Fiction” implying it is somehow an inferior genre, when so much can be learned from it.

Perspectives on Education

System upgrade: realising the vision for UK education (2012) EPSRC Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme.

This taster gave a nice run down of what might be.  It recognises the potential of technology use in education and also the need to invest in both the hardware and the infrastructure.  Money needs to be spent on research and consultation with educators if we are to get the most out of the digital world.  I hope it all goes ahead but I have to admit to being a little cynical, having seen many such reports being written in the past and then ignored.

Carr, M. (2008) Is Google making us stupid?

Is Google making us stupid? I certainly hope not but maybe there is a case for google and the internet changing the way we think. Fears of new technology making us stupid are nothing new. I suppose we have to look at our output too see if there is any truth there. We also need to ask does it matter if we no longer remember lots of facts when we have ready access to them. We still need to work at understanding for without that facts will get us nowhere.  Change is happening, and happening quickly, the internet is here and we will just have to deal with it.

#edcmooc Week 3 Reassserting the human

Popular Cultures

Film 1 Toyota GT86: the ‘real deal’ advert  A curious ad.  The breakout from the artificial to the real is entirely via technology.  Maybe what we can take away from this is that even though technology may enslave us  it can also be the means of our salvation.  From an educational perspective I can certainly see how this can be the case, with the wise and balanced use of technology in the classroom the opportunities to explore the ‘real’ world are increased and enhanced.

Film 2: BT: heart to heart advert  Another ad where they appear to criticize the very thing they are trying to sell.  The human contact is achieved through voice, even though the couple are still apart.  But is just voice that much different to text with emoticons? I suppose emotions are harder to hide when actually speaking – it is easy to add a smiley face when you are not feeling particularly smiley but it can be difficult to put on a smiley voice.  Bold type in an educational setting can be used to emphasize a point but hearing someone change their voice at a particular part of lecture may alert the listener more readily.

Film 3: World builder I found this ambiguous film a little disturbing.  I am unable to decide if the built world really was for the woman or only for the man.  I wondered if the woman was just another construct and was unable to actually access the world.  The hour countdown I also found disturbing.  Why did he only have an hour?  Maybe that was all he paid for?  His emotions were being manipulated by the simulation, particularly if she was never really there.

Film 4: They’re made out of meat    A great little film.  Clearly being human is being meat!

Ideas and Interpretations

Humanity 2.0: defining humanity – Steve Fuller’s TEDx Warwick talk (24:08),

In this talk the notion of humanity is considered an artificial construct, going beyond the physical and the basic survival needs.  The role of education in this construction of humanity is critical. We learn how to be human and have to strive to reach our human potential. Our success at humanity changes with our definition of human.    The historical definitions of humanity appeared to succeed at the time because those who did not live up to the humanity standard were readily considered something other and less than human. If we are to see all people as human there needs to be equality across race, gender and the political divide.  Equal access to education is essential and MOOCs are at least attempting to address this issue.  The realisation of this version of humanity is difficult if not impossible to attain but it is important to work towards.

Badmington, Neil (2000) Introduction: approaching posthumanism. Posthumanism. Houndmills; New York: Palgrave.

Badmington appears to herald the demise of humanism with the coming of post humanism. I struggled to find a point with this reading, maybe the nature of it as an introduction to many articles meant that there was not a cohesive point.  Having just read it  for the third time I am still unable to clearly see the difference between the two.  Post humanism seems to me to be merely an extension of humanism, still asking the same questions and arriving at the same type of answers.

Perspectives on Education

Kolowich, S (2010) The Human Element. Inside Higher Ed

Now this article I did understand and more or less agreed with, although I certainly would not advocate replacing all text based learning with audio visual.  It is nice to be able to put faces to names and hearing a point being delivered can help clarify it but I would be loathe to lose the text.  I like to be able to reread and concentrate on difficult sections and I do not think that a purely audio visual presentation lends itself well to that. I think the reasons for the drop out rate of distance and on-line courses are far more complex than just not being able to see or hear the educators.

Kolowich, S (2010) The Human Element. Inside Higher Ed

The main issue I have with this article is Kolowich’s opinion that bringing technology into schools means getting rid of all other ways of learning.  This is just not how schools work.  Teachers strive for balance in their teaching and will use all manner of tools to get that. I think this article shows a basic ignorance of what is possible with this new technology and how it can be used to compliment more traditional methods of instruction. “Or is it simply a luddite view which fails to ‘get’ the new ways of being human that technology makes possible?” I think Yes.

By helenjhodson

#edcmooc Week2 Part 3 Perspectives on Education

This week’s perspectives centred on MOOCs and open education and the seemingly fierce debate this digital revolution has prompted.  I had not thought much about this prior to enrolling in the course, beyond “what a neat idea”, but have certainly been bombarded since.  I was surprised at the debate as it had not previously occurred to me that free and open education could be anything but good and the arguments that I have encountered have broadened my thinking on this topic.  So to this week’s readings.

Shirky, C. (2012). Napster, Udacity and the academy., 12 November 2012.

Shirky opens with the story of MP3s and the record industry by way of a cautionary tale for higher education. He is an advocate of MOOCs seeing in them the chance to offer high quality tertiary education to those unable, through economic and social circumstances, to access such now. He posits this will result in the end for all but the most elite of universities.

Bady, A. (2012). Questioning Clay Shirky. Inside Higher Ed, 6 December 2012.

Bady questions Shirky’s optimism in the transformative power of MOOCs and online education, and their likelihood of delivering a quality education. He is also wary of the for-profit grounding of some MOOC providers.

I am not especially convinced by either of these arguments (and they do seem to be talking only of United States education).  I do not believe MOOCs spell the end of tertiary education as we now know it but I can see them fulfilling a major role in it. There is a particularly robust discussion of this  in the Discussion Forums and I am not going to try to duplicate that here, but here is what I think. I enrolled in this course because I thought it might be fun and hoped it would be useful for my work.  I liked the idea of getting a certificate at the end but that was never part of my consideration. When I first heard of MOOCs I thought it would be a great way to bring education to the masses, to people from many different cultures and backgrounds. I see them as a compliment to traditional formal tertiary education, where you could dabble in something that interests you and maybe use it as a stepping stone to further study.  The idea of life long learning is paramount.  I have been surprised by the level of education of many of the participants of this MOOC and wonder if this is the same for other MOOCs.  I was expecting more of an undergraduate cohort and have to admit to feeling a little out of my depth with my 35 year old undergraduate degree and 10 year old post graduate certificate. Not that I have received anything but exceptional support from my fellow MOOCers, particularly during the pre-course phase. It has been a pleasure working with such passionate learners and teachers.  While I doubt MOOCs will ever replace face to face teaching and learning I believe they have the potential to help bridge the educational gap caused by circumstance and geography.

Campbell, Gardner (2012). Ecologies of Yearning. Keynote at Open Ed ’12, October 16, 2012, Vancouver BC.

I enjoyed listening to this talk but I have to confess I am not entirely sure I get his point, but maybe that was his point. I have copied this post by Neil William Bergmann from one of the discussion forums about Campbell’s speech

“Open education isn’t about cost, about ubiquity of access, about elearning or on-line learning. He prefers “opening education”, by which he means that education opens the student to higher levels of learning, ie. beyond simply repeating remembered information, beyond answering specifc questions, into a space of ideas where students identify the questions as well as the answer, effectively guiding the student as they explore strange new worlds (of ideas) and boldly go where no-one has gone before (apologies to Star Trek).”

and  “Opening education is when learning itself becomes the goal, not the assessment at the end of the subject, or the award at the end of the degrees. Opening education is when the goal is to gain new knowledge, learn new skills, explore new mysteries, rather than to get an “A” in the course.”

I think this is where MOOCs may flourish.

#edcmooc Week 2 Part 2 Ideas and Interpretations

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

When I first saw that we were looking at metaphors this week I thought “Oh no I am too literal, I don’t get metaphor”, and then I read this article and my fear disappeared.  It seems I do get metaphor (yay!) and found it interesting thinking about the way we visual the internet, so much so to the extent that we do not realise we are using metaphors all the time.  And it seems obvious now that the type of metaphor we use, or have foisted upon is, will influence the way we think about the internet and technology.  I like that I have been made aware of this and can now consciously be aware of those things that inform my opinions. To that light I have made a very quick video of some of the things I “see” when thinking about the internet.

Internet metaphors video

Newitz, A. (2011): Social media is science fiction. Google I/O conference, 10-11 May 2011, San Francisco.

I read a lot of Science Fiction so these ideas are not new to me, but they are still interesting.  And yes “You can’t stop the signal”, so it is important that we become aware of the possible dangers of the technology without being too scared to reap the rewards.

Bleecker, J. (2006). A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things.

Mmm, Bogjects. I guess we are talking about networked information gathering here and the possibility of it taking on a life of its own.  I think I struggled with the anthropomorphizing and have a better understanding of what Bleeker is saying if I ignore his idea of things blogging and just consider automatic information gathering and dissemination.  This seems to me to be tied in with the concept of Artificial Intelligence arising from increasing connections.

#edcmooc Week 2 Part 1 Popular Cultures

Popular Cultures Videos

A Day Made of Glass 2 and Productivity Future Vision

My initial reaction to these two visions of the near future was “I want one!”, but maybe that was  my instinctual reaction to how clean it all looked.  Education is visualised as being exciting, fast, interactive and mobile, with the technology being an all encompassing, integral part of everyday life. However one suspects these videos were not done by today’s teachers as the methods of instruction varied little from that of the last century – very fact driven with little  experimentation and questioning on behalf of the students.  Of course the big question in both of these visions is one of access and equality.  The chances of these technologies being available to  everyone everywhere are slim.  I marveled at how quick it all was and wished my internet connection was like that.  Others in the discussions forums and on their blogs have also pointed out the lack of physical interaction with nature portrayed here and I find that a particularly interesting and valid point.  Maybe it goes with the cleanliness aspects but we really do all have to get our hands dirty sometimes.  So an initial utopian view of the future begins to look a little tainted on closer inspection.


This film was quite frankly creepy and I can see why the man needed a dating app.  He lives entirely in the virtual world, the technology is part of his physical self and his busy digital environment is contrasted starkly with the bare physical environment. There is a need to get points for all aspects of life, life is a game and the technology is running it.  The girl, too, was being controlled by the technology as illustrated when she got lost when her Sight was down.  Her ratings were considerably lower than the man’s ensuring her manipulation by the technology was even greater.  I felt the degree of control exercised by the man was enhanced by his position as a software engineer in the Sight company and wondered if the general populace would have been as connected as he was.  In the end he was in control and as an extension the company was in control.  Clearly  a dystopian view of the future.

Charlie 13

Taking this film at face value and not as a metaphor for adolescence as suggested in the forums (a valid suggestion I might add and one that got me thinking about this in a totally different light, but I have decided to stay more literal), this is a dystopian view of the near future. Even on the surface though it is coming of age film and Charlie is forced to make a decision that will change the direction of his entire life. I found it interesting that the fence dividing the society was so easy to breach, the implication being that few wanted out and those that did were best removed.  Nature resides behind the fence and safety within.  As a mother I appreciated Charlie’s Mother’s desire to have Charlie chipped and safe but the rebel in me wanted him to escape.  And escape he did, making this not an entirely dystopic view.


This film reminded me of “Twelves Monkeys” and “Looper’ (perhaps we should invite Bruce Willis into the discussion), with the authoritarian bad guy ending up in the same position as the person he is chasing. The surveillance method was all encompassing and there was initially no way around them.  I liked the introduction of time travel as a  means to circumvent this control and to suggest at the end (with Foucoult being the next interloper) that there is more going on than the law enforcers initially think.  I really enjoyed this film but I am struggling to see the educational implications.

#edcmooc Week 1 Reflections

I have enjoyed the first week of this course but I have found some parts challenging.  Maybe that shouldn’t be a ‘but’ as one of my objectives here was to get out of my comfort zone.  The films were entertaining and somewhat thought provoking and I liked the pace of the readings. I felt I was eased back into academic reading, something I had not done for nearly 10 years, and essentially given a reminder of how to approach it with the ‘Ideas and Interpretations’ section.  The forums and links posted by other students on G+, Twitter and Facebook were very helpful in getting my head around the analyzing of the films and articles but I have decided it is time to stop following them for this week.  The 3 to 5 hours a week was spent on the first day and I am back at work now so time is becoming an issue.  I am learning how to dip into the social media and grab things that sound interesting without feeling the need to read everything (an impossibility), though this throwing away of my completest view of study is taking some getting use to.

A brief reflection of the films.

The two that I enjoyed were Inbox and New Media. But we weren’t here to enjoy them as such. Bendito Machine III  is a heavily dystopian and technologically determinist view of technology. I actually found this film annoying and obvious.  Technology was the big evil, creating waste and isolation, stagnation of thought and indoctrination.  In contrast to this Inbox presented a utopian, feel good, happy ending film with the hint of a balanced take on technology (when the bag breaks and the man thinks he has lost his new love). Here technology is seen as a tool, making connections possible but not negating the desire for face to face contact. Thursday seemed to me to be most balanced of the four.  Although is was essentially a view of all-encompassing technology verses a persistent nature, the final message was one of a least co-habitation if not actual harmony. I found  New Media difficult to watch at first but ultimately liked this mood piece.  The landscape was very reminiscent of The Matrix and I liked the way it built up to exposing the human character.  A dystopic and post apocalyptic view certainly but I had the feeling of it happening far away in time and space and as such was not threatened by it. A possible future maybe but not a vision of today.

Ideas and Interpretations

I spent a lot time reading these essays and I believe it was time well spent.  For me these were an introduction to sociological reading and a reminder of how to read and think critically. Without this background I would have found the second part of the readings even more challenging.

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. 

The questions for this article were “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?” I have to say I pretty much agreed with most of this article (and one would hope that a UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education would have some valid views on the subject) but Daniel himself tells us to be wary of others claims in regards to ICT and education. His own bias is found in his technological determinist position however his broad definition of technology in respect to education allows him to include a social and political stance. Bearing in mind that this is over 10 years old and written at a time when social media was still pretty much in its infancy I think this is still a useful and insightful piece.

Noble. D. (1998). Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education. First Monday 3/1.

While I can appreciate this 15 year old dystopic view of technology and education, the fact that we are still asking many of these same questions shows that Noble’s bleak, pessimistic view of the future of education has not yet come into being.  We do need to be critical of new educational technology and not risk throwing the baby out with the bath water, but I do not believe that technology, even then, created a ” battle between students and professors on one side, and university administrations and companies with “educational products” to sell on the other”.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9/5.,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdf

I loved this article and enjoyed reading the genesis of the Digital Native and Digital Immigrant terms so often used today. It is hard to argue with a lot of his observations about the differences between the young and old in their approaches to technology,  but he certainly generalises heavily and I think is too harsh on both parties.  I do not believe young people need to be tricked into learning nor do all older people struggle with adapting to new technology.

Wesch, M. (2007). The Machine is Us/ing Us? (4:33)

I enjoyed this video and thought it was a nice little history lesson.  Certainly may aspects of the web are not included, particularly many of the commercial and political uses, and we probably don’t have as much control as this video suggests.

Overall week 1 has been enjoyable and thought provoking. I realise my take on technology is largely utopian, as is my view of the use of technology in education.  It is important, however, that we critically review our implementation of new technologies and do not fall into to trap of thinking that just because something is new it is good.  Conversely not all old ways are the best ways.

Connect, consume and contribute. #edcmooc

I have been inspired by Angela Towndrow’s blog post to reflect about my own learning journey and the significant changes that have occurred over the years.  I began very much in the era of “Chalk and Talk” and this persisted through to my undergraduate studies.  Learning was listening, note taking, reading and writing (not even really much thinking).  Studying for exams meant memorising.

Fast forward to today and you see a very different learning landscape.  Cooperation and collaboration abound.  Primary school children learn in groups, at their own pace, and even get to direct some of their learning.  The curriculum allows teachers to tailor their lessons to their own students interests and needs (well, maybe not all the time but at least the days of “today is Tuesday so we are on page 23 of the lesson book” have gone – just hope the new Australian Curriculum doesn’t bring them back).

The world of tertiary learning and beyond has changed almost beyond belief. When I started at university the way to ensure a passing grade was to buy the professor’s text book and learn it.  You didn’t even have to turn up to the lectures then because he just read from his book himself.  Any further reading was prescribed and meant heading over to the library to try to secure a copy put on short term loan.  Access to information, and in particular up to date information, has  grown exponentially.  But even more than that, the cooperative and collaborative nature of education means students can now find out about things without having to wait for the teacher.

The tools of learning have changed too and this ever growing list of new tools is what brought me to this course in the first place. The many new and varied ways of self expression enable students and teachers alike to demonstrate, illustrate and explore new ideas in new and different ways.  Computers have facilitated the development of these tools and the internet has made them accessible.

So, how much of this change is due to changing technology? E-learning and digital culture?  I suspect there was a shift in attitude to education possibly prior to and certainly independent of technological advances.  The idea of learning how to think and learn, rather than what to think and learn.  Those inventing computers and more specifically the internet (if you can say the internet was invented, maybe evolved would be a better term) did not do so with this change in learning culture in mind.  The general human populace has taken it and run with it – this EDCMOOC group is a microcosm of that.  Technology has spurred the change along, enabling us to easily connect, consume and contribute.