End of Course Reflections #edcmooc

After four weeks of reading, watching, listening, blogging, tweeting, commenting, learning and all round enjoyment I want to get my thoughts in order to start creating my artefact. So with gut instinct I quickly entered all the words that came to mind into Wordle and now I think I am more panicked than before I started but hopefully it will start to clarify in the next couple of days.


View on Wordle

The Human Element #edcmooc

This article on our list, Perspectives on Education, encourages the use of video in online courses, but specifically video of the teachers themselves in order to retain higher numbers of students. One of the main reasons stated is:

But communicating solely via text is also alienating, says Hersh. Weighing the theoretical advantages of purely textual discourse against the demonstrated engagement benefits of presence-oriented teaching, the latter wins, he says.

On the whole I agree with the article and indeed professionally we incorporate video of the instructor for the first slide of a recorded lecture to provide the student with a ‘human’ to connect with and then let the remaining slides flow with audio only to keep the file size to a minimum. However, I disagree with the premise that ‘communicating solely via text is also alienating’ in that I believe it is how you use text that can be engaging or alienating.

If I were to enroll today on an online course only to find that the entire teaching content consisted of Word or PowerPoint documents I would not even make it through to tomorrow. If on the other hand I discovered that the content was provided around blogs, tweets, discussion threads in addition to the Word and PowerPoint files I would be much more likely to stick it out to the end. For me, the method of the textual communication is the important element, if a human is speaking to me directly as in a blog I will engage with that content but if it is a lengthy article written in the third person then I am much more likely to drift off.

I want the instructor to speak to me as a fellow human, whether that is via video, text, image, discussion, podcast or a mixture of these I honestly don’t mind.

Where did the week go? #edcmooc

Here it is! Friday again! Home and work commitments have only allowed for a minimum interaction with my MOOC. I have only managed to watch last Friday’s hangout and this week’s trigger videos. So much still to do, watch, read and write – all before applying some creative thought to the competition. Let’s start small then.

During the Week 2 hangout I was struck by the conversation around the concept that humans instinctively approach new or existing technology as something negative. This triggered a memory of an advertisement highlighting the human capacity to follow all things shiny and well presented (albeit by another manufacturer of shiny, bright objects). The ‘following’ of the brand regardless of whether or not it has been improved upon functionally comes across as absolutely ludicrous but nevertheless is true on a vast scale. So if so many people have an instinctive negative attitude and conversely so many a ridiculous ‘slave to the new’ mentality, those of us left in the middle must do what we can to ensure that manufacturers and designers focus on products which are both aesthetically pleasing but enhance our lives. I hope the video sparks a smile at the end of a busy week.

Week 2 Videos: A Digital Tomorrow #edcmooc

I love technology but I loved this film. It was such a welcome contrast to the hellish, shiny, sparkly utopia of A Day Made of Glass 2. It wasn’t filmed as a dark and dirty dystopia it just presented the daily frustrations of technology intruding in our day to day lives. A car is fantastic when the lights and the wipers work automatically but when the battery goes flat in the keycard and you can’t even open the door without taking it all apart is the flip side. A dishwasher that beeps to alert you when the cycle has ended on the surface is useful, when the intermittent beeping persists through your favourite movie however drives you insane.

I think the video is a lovely reminder that we are in constant danger of integrating technology into our lives just because we can, not because it is truly going to make our lives easier. If it is quicker and more reliable to put a key in the ignition to start the car then let’s stick with that.

Yet again it is all down to people and personalities, people are perfectly capable of choosing their own clothes and having a one to one conversation across a table without technological intervention. I hope the future maintains a sensible balance between the two, but, would my idea of balance differ from others? Technophiles versus technophobes??

I leave you with this little image of the future classroom:


Week 2 Videos: two video advertisements #edcmooc

The first two marketing videos present a utopian future with technology fully integrated into our lives, at home, at work and in education. However, two major issues stand out for me which shatter the utopian dream. Firstly, cost – cost of the products and cost to the environment. In these financially difficult times for the majority of countries, schools and public bodies have great strain on their budgets and even if they were able to find the money for the initial outlay for all the hardware and software it is highly unlikely that they will be able to provide support (infrastructure, bandwidth), maintenance, 3D printer materials and training.

The latter brings me to my second issue, staff training. In both videos the educators are highly skilled and confident in using the products but from the many articles I have read over the years much of the hardware and software is gathering dust as teachers do not have the confidence or knowledge to incorporate it into their teaching (a quick Google search reveals many articles and opinions: http://www.educationrethink.com/2012/07/11-reasons-teachers-arent-using.html, http://edcetera.rafter.com/why-arent-teachers-using-more-technology-in-the-classroom/ , http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2013/06/idaho_researchers_teachers_don.html , http://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/training-key-to-embedding-technology-enhanced-learning-08-sep-2008 )

Apart from these practical problems from an educational perspective is the problem of style over pedagogy. One of the course questions posed is: how is education being visualised here? what is being learned and taught? To my mind education is portrayed as highly shiny and very pretty but ultimately superficial. I was quite unclear as to what was being taught in A Day Made of Glass 2, students finding online photographs which matched their chosen colour, the lights being dimmed, words floating around in circles on the board and simultaneously on their tablets. In Bridging our Future the topic is clearer but seemed to involve a significant amount of self-directed learning by very capable looking students. Also would engineers be available as and when a student called them for a web video call? What would the classroom sound like if all students started web calls simultaneously? Technology enhanced learning surely has to actually enhance the learning.

After I had watched the videos I found a tweet to an article which summed up what I wanted to get across about the modern trend to ‘consume’ rather than create, watching videos, reading tweets, being up to date in social network sites.  In the article, Russ Shaw reiterates that our curriculum needs to change (here in the UK) not the technology to truly prepare students for the future and the workplace. Currently, the focus is all on using software to produce presentations, use spreadsheets and copy and paste content from the internet whilst ignoring programming languages, multimedia creation and many other IT skills required to contribute to the economy. We need to focus on enhancing education not just on the ability to change the colour of a car dashboard remotely.

So in conclusion the utopian viewpoint of the first videos can only be brought to fruition with the involvement of people. People are the educators, technology a method of delivering learning, albeit a potentially powerful one given the correct circumstances.

Initial thoughts on week 1 videos #edcmooc

Having watched the four very interesting videos listed for week 1, the one that stood out for me was Bendito Machine III which reminded me of one of my favourite songs by the Gorillaz, Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head (have a listen below). To me they both sum up the human trait of being incapable of existing harmoniously, our greed whether it be for riches or for increased knowledge/power ends up getting the better of us – we become slaves to our own creations and destroy/waste valuable resources in the process.

The people in the song were happy with their lot in life until they explored outside their town and found caves holding great riches. The they then dedicated themselves to mining these riches knowing that it would lead to retribution from the Monkey and destruction of their world.

Continue reading “Initial thoughts on week 1 videos #edcmooc”

Getting started #edcmooc

Having returned recently to work after a career break the biggest buzz around, both virtually and within my own institution, was on the topic of MOOCs. This term has been in circulation for a while now but I previously had not given it more than a passing thought. However, after reading this Guardian article I decided to take action and enroll on the E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC ‘at’ the University of Edinburgh. After all as an eLearning developer I feel that I need to have experience of being a student on a fully delivered online course.

In addition to the experience of participating in an online course I also want to learn many other skills along the way – the first is creating this blog. My experience to date of using blog sites is simply to create web pages rather than as a true blog. Then I will attempt to link it to the course blog, tweet along the way, participate in the discussion forums and most importantly expand my knowledge and experience of technology and how it fits in our world today, personally and educationally.

Already, we are a week in and I am only getting started putting pen to paper but all the resources gave me much to think about over the weekend. I hope that I will be able to keep up with my fellow learners, all 22,000+ of them, and catch up with my posts over the next few days. The amount of content is definitely overwhelming at this stage.

Good luck everyone