Mark Bullen – Digital learners: Rethoric or Reality?

Digital learnersThe title of this speech it’s a clear allusion to Prensky’s definition of digital natives and digital inmigrants. Obviously Prensky isn’t the only one who has approached this issue, but have been really constated that those persons named as the net generation (that’s to say, those ones born after 1982) are experts in multitasking, needing fast feedback, prefering teamwork and collaboration, experienced learners, social, ambitious, career-oriented, willing fro freedom and customization?

Rather than making strong strong statements, what Mark Bullen faced during his talk was the lack of rigor of many studies in the academic world. What methodology have they followed to arise that conclusions, was the sample really significative or just by studying 100 students who already use technology are they making assumptions for a hole generation? Who is financing the study? These were some of the questions that he introduced before taking any position.

Really, I must confess how, step by step, he build a devastating and well-sustained criticism about studies and research in the academic field. I couldn’t avoid smiling when he mentioned the name of the blog in which they publish the results of their research about digital learners: netgenskeptic.

In relation with the dilemma already raised in the title, mainly what he said was that there hadn’t been proper research to define what students need. The assumption that immersion in digital technology is making net generation fundamentally different has to be reviewed. The use of technology isn’t just a generation issue. It affects all age groups as the use of technology is growing. Therefore, it can be considered that educational institutions are facing the consequences of a social change rather than a generation one.

Innovation days + Laurence Johnson’s presentation at UOC

Last Friday, I attended to the “Innovation days” organized by the Innovation office of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. During the morning, there were several innovation projects’ presentations. They were grouped in four categories: Tecnologic Resources Development, Educational Use of ITC, Educational Metodology and Processes and Institutional Quality.

As the session was organized in corners, presentations happened simultaneously. Here, I must confess that, mainly, I attended to the projects selected for they Educational Use of ITC.  In short, I would summarize the main topics in: content organization, communication (development of an annotation tool), image (hipervideo and machinima) and simulation.

In the afternoon, Laurence Johnson presented the Horizon Project. Seven Ways Technology isUnfolding, Everything We Look. Again, main points of his presentation can be summarize in 3D visualization, use of games in education (concretely: serious games), development of new interfaces which are no longer seen as technology due to its intuitive and friendly use, user content creation, collective intelligence, ubiquitous networks (people can connect wherever they are) and cloud computing. He also notted that internet is becoming a third place, that’s to say, people is using the net as place to socialize.

Of course, this a very short summary, but as further information about technologic trends in education can be found in the on line Horizon Project, I prefer to just make the link and note down some of my impressions after the talk.

First of all, oks we are living in each time more tecno-society , or whatever you prefer calling it, but…what happens when there aren’t the condition to use all that online applications that are changing the way we learn, work, socialize? What happens for those who don’t have fast broadband or just can’t pay it? There’s no alternative to avoid “that phenomena” called “digital divide”?

Second question is quite related to the first one… are these trends really global? As far as there are many different contexts, it’s a bit strange that everywhere can be applied same trends (even in some cases, to guarantee a general access to technologic developments can be quite far in time speaking terms).

Finally, technological developments can’t be understood aside cultural/social aspects. What I mean is that for the normalization of a new technology is necessary some social measures/attitudes that ensure the future of that technology. For instance, nowadays, collaboration and mash up seem to be keywords of web 2.0 phenomena. However, strict copyright laws can difficult the work of those who “mash up” content. May be, strict laws won’t stop individual acts, but certainly they will, at least, make the generation of mashed up content much lesser than if it was completely allowed.

Thus, how are technologic developments affecting the social sphere? What kind of societies are arising as a consequence of the introduction of these tools?

Collaborative anarchy vs. controlled individualism

Does it make sense to talk about authorship in collaborative environment? Should all web 2.0 knowledge builders be anonymous? What’s the value of authorship?

These are some of the questions that started to arise after reading a post in zephoria’s blog. Here I copy the part I consider resums the key issue:

“Since Knol launched in beta, folks have been comparing it to Wikipedia (although some argue against this comparison). Structurally, they’re different. They value different things and different content emerges because of this. But fundamentally, they’re both about making certain bodies of knowledge publicly accessible. They just see two different ways to get there – collaborative anarchy vs. controlled individualism. Because Knol came after Wikipedia, it appears to be a response to the criticisms that Wikipedia is too open to anonymous non-experts.”

Collaborative anarchy vs. controlled individualism, is that what we should consider at the time of developping collaborative environments for knowledge building? Does authorship guarantee the credibility of a text, or any other material?

wikipediaObviously, wikipedia seems to be “the” Example of collaborative knowledge production. However, isn’t the critical mass of editors as well as other measures of control, a guarantee for information veracity? At this point it’s useful to take into account the following

“a controversial study by Nature in 2005 systematically compared a set of scientific entries from Wikipedia and Britannica (including some from the Britannica Web edition), and found a similar rate of error between them.”

Possibly, the next question I should ask myself is… What determines our level of trust at the time of evaluating information? Quite probably, in many contexts Britannica seems more trustful than Wikipedia when, from my point of view, we should keep the same levels of skepticism in both cases. I don’t know why, but it could seems that “collaborative anarchy” can easily get associated with chaos and lack of rigor. And really, after reading a bit about wikipedia history I’ve realized that information posted there is much more supervised and can be corrected more fastly than any other online encyclopedia. Obviously, scalability in collaborative knowledge production environments is a problem or, at least, a difficulty to overcome. However, if it succeeds it brings an additional value: the consolidation of a digital identity. We don’t know who are britannica redactors nor wikipedia editors, so authorship can always be a non answered question. At this point, I would say that, possibly, wikipedia can have a stronger digital identity than many other online encyclopedias.  Anyway, the issue behind authorship is closely related with responsability. Who will accept responsabilities (legal, economical…) in case someone feels offended by false information?

I don’t want to underestimate responsability in everything I/you can say, write, post or just reproduce, but I’m not sure if the solution is an economic or legal penalty. Wikipedia has develop its own mechanisms to avoid/solve errors and its corrections are the result of a public debate. This it’s more effective than simple posting a note accepting the mistake as many media do.