Open Social Learning Bits I

Finding the right title for noting down some of the ideas arisen during any seminar is difficult. Finding an unique title for summarizing some of the key aspects of George Siemens’ and Alejandro Piscitelli’s presentations during the VI International Seminar of the UNESCO Chair in e-Learning about Open Social Learning seems me impossible, specially when my intention is to collect some personal ideas and relations their speaches have suggested me rather than writting a proper report about the event. In short, this is the reason why I’ve decided to name the posts about the seminar under the label “Open Social Learning Bits”…

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?