Category Archives: Block 1 – Cyberculture

TWEET: Are cyborgs set to become a reality?

Taken from BBC Radio 4 website description of the programme:

“Diagnosed with early deafness aged 25, Frank decided to turn his misfortune to his advantage by modifying his hearing aids to create a new sense. He documented the start of his journey three years ago on Radio 4 in ‘Hack My Hearing’.

Since then, Frank has worked with sound artist Daniel Jones to detect and sonify Wi-Fi connections around him. He joins a community around the world who are extending their experience beyond human limitations.

In ‘Meet the Cyborgs’ Frank sets out to meet other people who are hacking their bodies. Neil Harbisson and Moon Rebus run The Cyborg Foundation in Barcelona, which welcomes like-minded body hackers from around the world. Their goal is not just to use or wear technology, but to re-engineer their bodies.

Frank meets the creators of Cyborg Nest, a company promising to make anyone a cyborg. They have recently launched their first product – The North Sense – a computer chip anchored to body piercings in the chest, which vibrates when it faces north.

Of course, the marriage of technology and biology is commonplace in medicine, from pacemakers to IUDs. But now ‘citizen hackers’ are modifying their medical equipment to add new functions. Dana Lewis from Seattle has created her own ‘artificial pancreas’ to help manage her Type 1 diabetes and released the code online.

To me the prospect of being able to hear wifi connections doesn’t sound particularly appealing, especially if the sounds are similar to those that will be familiar to any of us who remember listening to their modem or fax machine attempting to modulate a connection.

But I’m considering this situation as one whose hearing is relatively ‘normal’.  To those whose hearing is impaired, being able to hear more than their fellow humans could be a tantalising prospect.

I know from experience that hearing loss can be a much more isolating experience than, for example, sight loss.  Some years ago the mother of one of my colleagues suffered almost total sight loss as the result of an illness.  My colleague’s father suffered from chronic degenerating hearing loss that could not be restored with hearing aids.  Her mother was able to continue to be as involved in everyday life as she had been previously, if anything the amount of activities she was involved in increased, thanks to the support of the numerous groups for the blind and partially sighted that she joined.  Her father became increasingly introverted, separated from even his close family by his inability to follow a conversation.

There are numerous sci-fi movies / TV series where the protagonist’s hearing is amplified to superhuman levels (Superman, Heroes, Robocop, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  In the film Lucy, the lead character suffers Hyperacusia,  as everyday sounds bombard her from every direction.  However, (and here is the key to all this) she learns to filter and process her new abilities and use them to her advantage.

There are some similarities here to one of my earlier posts on play and playfulness.  Individuals hacking their medical implant and prostheses might sound alarming, or even dangerous, but who knows what new applications, new senses, or even new ways of learning, might be born out of such experimentation

TWEET: Play and playfulness

via Twitter
February 01, 2017 at 01:09PM

This is one of those news stories that at first sight appears to be about expending valuable academic resources on trivial matters.  However, as with other areas of research there will be spin-off benefits in fields that perhaps have more benefits to society.

As the article points out Prof Sandholm said that the algorithm could be transferred to a range of other uses.  This is not just about poker,” he said. “The algorithms can take information and output a strategy in a range of scenarios, including negotiations, finance, medical treatment and cybersecurity.  Now we have proven the ability of AI to do strategy and reasoning, there are many potential applications in future.”

This playful approach to research can yield unexpected dividends and, as such, it would appear that the approach can be as important as the outcome.  The early research into Graphene at The University of Manchester, by Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov is a story of playful experimentation.  “Andre and Kostya frequently held ‘Friday night experiments’ – sessions where they would try out experimental science not necessarily linked to their day jobs.”  The first time Graphene was isolated, their basic technique consisted of removing  “some flakes from a lump of bulk graphite with sticky tape”.  Today “Graphene is a disruptive technology; one that could open up new markets and even replace existing technologies or materials. It is when graphene is used both as an improvement to an existing material and in a transformational capacity that its true potential could be realised.”

Play and playfulness takes me back to the IDGBL (games) course and the work of  Johan Huizinga (1995) and Caillois (2001).  In Huizinga’s classic work, ‘Homo Ludens: Man the player‘ he defines play as a key building block of human civilisation’.  He shows how play can be seen in the arts, poetry, philosophy and even in the law and in war.  Caillois’ typography builds on these theories and categorises various forms of play, which have proved useful in many contexts, including in education.

I can’t remember whether it was in IDGBL that we looked at Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work (1990), but he defined an optimal state of being in adult humans (flow), that also seems to have a lot in common with play and playfulness.  Flow in this context is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”.

So the lesson is, perhaps, that we shouldn’t underestimate the power of play and playfulness or dismiss them as trivial or frivolous activities.


Huizinga, J. (1995). Homo ludens: A study of play elements in culture.  Boston: Beacon press

Caillois, R. (2001). Man, play and games. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. (Preptint edition; original work published 1958)

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: the psychology of optimal experience

It matters because…

This post might come across as something of a ‘rant’, and is perhaps more relevant to the communities and algorithm blocks of this course, but it’s where my reflections have got me to over the past couple of days and therefore, in my opinion, relevant.

The last time I studied humanities as a subject in its own right (and here I use the word ‘studied’ in the loosest sense of the word) , was as a high school student in the early 1970s.  I am willing to admit that I didn’t really know what ‘humanities’ meant back then and it’s only since I’ve started to consider some of the bigger societal questions around technology through this course that the proverbial light bulb has turned on.

It’s not that I have been blissfully unaware, people and particularly their attitude toward technology are a crucial aspect of my job and I have strong opinions on some of the more worrying aspects of our interaction with automation and artificial intelligence, such as the privileging of certain information, ‘fake news’ and the altering of history.

On this latter point, and pertinent to the question of education and digital cultures, even the origin of the phrase ‘history is written by the victors / winners / conquerors’ (which is particularly apt in this context) has multiple and varying narratives.  The phrase is firmly attributed to Winston Churchill on many websites, to Walter Benjamin on others, George Orwell, Niccolò Machiavelli, Ramzi Haroun on others, and so on.  The phrase is also frequently attributed to William Wallace thanks to a version of it being included in the script of the movie ‘Braveheart’.

A more recent version of the phrase is ‘history is rewritten by the Internet’ and not only does this neatly sum up the issue, it points to a wider problem that everything, not just history, can be ‘rewritten by the Internet’.  Relatively recent examples of this phenomenon in the UK are highlighted in this article from Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media:

Social media icons
Just a few of the many social media channels from

‘The word’ has always spread, with both good and bad intent, whether as knowledge passed between individuals, folklore, marketing or propaganda.  The difference today is, as Viner refers to in her article, that everyone is a publisher and everyone ‘has their own facts’.   As Viner’s article points out, quoting legal scholar Danielle Citroen, “people forward on what others think, even if the information is false, misleading or incomplete, because they think they have learned something valuable.”

So this matters in almost every context I can think of, but to bring it back to education and specifically to my own professional practice , it matters because trust or distrust in information provided, or perhaps more importantly, the skill or inability to critically appraise information, are crucial to belief and trust in the products and services we provide.  For instance, in the current climate will individuals be more or less willing to accept scientific evidence if it is funded by the company that developed the product?  How trusting will employees be of the company they work for when ‘fake news’ stories are circulating about it on social media?

Fortunately it seems that the issue is starting to be picked up by governments, the media and scholars, although it is my belief that this is an issue that, ultimately,  can only be resolved by the same means it is being perpetuated.

TWEET: How wearing slippers at school could improve perfomance

“Prof Heppell researched the topic for more than 10 years in 25 countries.  Shoeless learning has been carried out in schools in Scandinavia and New Zealand and learning centres in other countries.

“Mrs Tichener said: “We are noticing that the children seem more relaxed and calmer than usual, we hope that in time we can measure their progress and see if it has made a difference in their achievements.”

I wonder if there are some parallels here in gamification of learning, informal versus formal style of e-learning etc. in that they might also provide a more relaxed environment.

Week Two Lifestream Summary

I’m now starting to get a feel for how the course structure can work for me and to home in on some of the core themes, after the initial excitement of getting to grips with this experimental format.  At first, I found the sheer volume of interesting information and links that the relatively small number of students on this course manage to generate a little overwhelming.   It wasn’t until the beginning of this week that I began to realise that it was OK not to read every linked article or watch every linked video. Firstly most of the linked content isn’t going anywhere and I can take it in at my own pace and secondly, I’m getting a feel for what will be most helpful to me and which links I need to follow and bring into this blog.

As well as, by inference (and possibly unintentionally), setting an expectation that the students on this course will have an “all singing, all dancing, expertly curated Lifestream” by the end of the course, Jeremy, our tutor, has helpfully summarised the key themes as:

  • sentience
  • almost human
  • memory
  • divisions between technology and humanness
  • the preservation of the authentic human
  • the Utopia and dystopia of technological intervention
  • enhancement
  • centring of the desiring human subject

I think two of my more recent and longer blog post have clear links to a few of the above themes and I will look to expand my thinking in those areas in the final week of this block and over the remainder of the course.

The technology enhanced teacher

I’ve been giving some thought to Sian Bayne’s paper “What’s the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning’? ” (2014) and the many issues that are encapsulated in this simple, three-word phrase.

Can technology enhance our ability to ‘learn’ in the same way as it can enhance the capabilities of our bodies to lift heavy objects, travel at speed, survive in hostile environments,  or fly?   Bayne suggests “it makes no sense to see ‘learning’ as open to mere ‘enhancement’ by the operations of an externally applied technology ‘solution’”.  However, I’m interested in finding out if there is any evidence to indicate that (to paraphrase Daft Punk) learning can be faster / deeper / stronger with technology.   For example as an optician I’m interested in finding out whether e-reader and tablet PCs are conducive to quicker reading and improved comprehension (through easier access to Dictionary and Thesaurus look-ups for instance).  From an optical standpoint the increased contrast of back-lit displays should be beneficial, particularly to older readers, but the first few papers I’ve found on the subject indicate that there is a lot more at play beyond the factors one might expect, such as resolution and contrast.  I’m still researching the topic and when I have looked at more of the evidence I will summarise it in this blog.

I do agree with Bayne’s premise that what technology actually enables us to do is enhance the way we teach.  In this respect, we have always used the technologies of the day as teaching aids, whether that is moving on from word of mouth sharing of knowledge to recording it in written form, or disseminating through other new media technologies such as image capture and projection, or audio and video recordings.

Bringing together the points Bayne raises and the wider definition of bodily enhancement covered by Miller, V (2011) perhaps we can take Bayne’s argument one step further and state that rather than ‘technology-enhanced learning’, what we are in fact referring to is ‘technology-enhanced teachers’.

After all, today’s teachers can  use technology to aid learning in ways that would have been considered science fiction only a few years ago:

  • They can slow down and speed up time to show learners processes that would be impossible to see without the aid of technology, either because they happen too quickly or too slowly, or because they would be too dangerous for a human observer to be close to.
  • They can enable learners to see the impact of their own actions in real time through rich simulation of anything from basic fractions through to complex economic and mathematical modelling – for example Utah State University has been building a library of ‘virtual manipulatives’ since the late 1990s*.  Similarly electronic or mechanical sensors can also be used to demonstrate physical, chemical and biological processes in real time.
  • And they can overcome barriers such as time and distance, allowing learners from different parts of the globe to experience each other’s country and culture, or earth-bound classes to take part in experiments conducted in space.
Teacher using technology in the classroom.
Teacher using technology in the classroom. From (Boston college)

These teacher could already be considered to have ‘cyborg properties’ through their physical connection to the technology as they control it through input devices such as a keyboard, mouse or presentation ‘clicker’.

So perhaps rather than ‘technology enhanced learning / teaching’, or as I would prefer ‘Technology assisted learning’, we should be referring to Technology enhanced teachers.  This centres the technology firmly with the teacher and, rather than technology threatening to replace them, it would differentiate them from those who are not ‘technology enhanced’.


RSS feeds

In the interests of keeping an eye on emerging technology and specifically educational technology I’m experimenting with adding some appropriate RSS feeds to the content bar.  By their nature these are transient but it could highlight stories that are worth following up and may contribute to future blog entries.

Boy holding RSS feed logo


I have a new follower on Twitter!

I think these notifications of new followers are relevant to the community cultures topic, but to tidy up my Lifestream I’ve copied them all to this page.  I’ve also indicated the date and time each one was posted and whether or not the new follower is a fellow student:

Published on: 26 Mar 2017 @ 04:46

Crochez is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Researching #historyofeducation and #sociologyofeducation
Also into #oralhistory #yarnbomb #homeschool #skiing #vegan #crochet #tinyhouse (11091 followers)

 Published on: 25 Mar 2017 @ 08:06 – a ‘bot’ I presume is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Free listing allow buyers and sellers to locate or advertise products and services to and from other businesses. (52417 followers)

Published on: 18 Mar 2017 @ 05:40 – another bot, this one was a result of the Tweetorial posts

MuleSoft is now following me on Twitter! Bio: MuleSoft makes it easy to connect the world’s applications, data and devices. (59039 followers)

Published on: 18 Mar 2017 @ 00:35 –  probably another bot, this one was a result of the Tweetorial posts

Pyramid Analytics is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Bridging the gap between business and IT user needs with a self-service Governed #Data Discovery platform available on any device. #BIOffice #BI #Analytics (6729 followers)

Published on: 17 Mar 2017 @ 22:30 

Kevin Yu is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Co-founder & CTO @socedo transforms B2B marketing with social media by democratizing #CloudComputing & #BigData. Husband of 1, dad of 2, tech and sports junkie. (68521 followers)

Published on: 17 Mar 2017 @ 22:10 – fellow student with a sense of humour and quick on the draw.  One of my favourite followers 🙂

Cheese Lover is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Lover of #cheese and interested in #education (0 followers)

Published on: 17 Mar 2017 @ 10:41

Ben Williamson is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Digital data, ‘smart’ technology & education policy. Lecturer @StirUni (1621 followers)

Published on: 17 Mar 2017 @ 10:41

Dr. GP Pulipaka is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Ganapathi Pulipaka | Founder and CEO @deepsingularity | Bestselling Author | #Bigdata | #IoT | #Startups | #SAP #MachineLearning #DeepLearning #DataScience. (19910 followers)

Published on: 16 Mar 2017 @ 21:26

Michael J.D. Warner is now following me on Twitter! Bio: CEO @ThunderReach ⚡️ #socialmedia #marketing + VIP digital services ➡️ • ig @mjdwarner • ✉️ ⚣ #gay 📍toronto • nyc (98298 followers)

 Published on: 16 Mar 2017 @ 20:42 – another bot

Featured Heights is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Elevating your #brand with creative websites & engaging marketing. Sharing #marketing, #webDev, #design, #ux & #socialmedia resources. (2281 followers)

Published on: 16 Mar 2017 @ 18:41

Lisa 🐥🐦🐤 is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Social media, Twitter trainer, blogger, marketing specialist, content marketing, real estate, news, nature photos, pets, wanna be meteorologist from RI (20802 followers)

Published on: 16 Mar 2017 @ 16:44 – another bot?

Lumina Analytics is now following me on Twitter! Bio: We are a big data, predictive analytics firm providing insightful risk management & security intelligence to large, regulated corporations & government clients. (10786 followers)

Published on: 12 Mar 2017 @ 23:01 – fellow student

Diego Rates M is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Tweets about Design, Science, Art, Community issues. Student Msc Dig Ed, U. Edinburgh. Founder: Pixel Learning Open Project: (649 followers)

Published on: 8 Mar 2017 @ 22:41

Joyce Weber is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.  (18 followers)

Published on: 7 Mar 2017 @ 00:43 – my nephews partner and a friend of a fellow student.  Serendipity doing its thing.

Jo Alcock is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Freelance trainer, researcher and coach with a background in librarianship. Passionate about helping others develop. (4642 followers)

Published on: 25 Feb 2017 @ 17:28 – fellow student

Linzi McLagan is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Encourager. Storyteller. Life is short. I am determined to make it great. (136 followers)

Published on: 21 Feb 2017 @ 13:10 – wasn’t aware I had ‘followed ‘It’s a fabulous life’

Its A Fabulous Life is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Thank you for following Its A Fabulous Life (751 followers)

Published on: 20 Feb 2017 @ 19:50 – fellow student

Myles Thies is now following me on Twitter! Bio: (27 followers)

Published on: 20 Feb 2017 @ 17:25 – fellow student

Cathy Hills is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Tech, education, lifelong learning. Curious and interested. (98 followers)

Published on: 20 Feb 2017 @ 13:10  – fellow student

Stuart is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Learning/Assistive Technologist & MSc Digital Education student (120 followers)

Published on: 17 Feb 2017 @ 06:10 -…it’s taken a while but my social life finally merges with my academic life!

DANCERS DREAM EVENTS is now following me on Twitter! Bio: The UK’s Best Dance Socials, Events & Holidays (83 followers)

Published on: 15 Feb 2017 @ 17:00 – Tutor

Jeremy Knox is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Lecturer in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh.
Posthumanism and the MOOC: Contaminating the Subject of Global Education (1534 followers)

Published on: 14 Feb 2017 @ 10:20 – bot?

Belbin Singapore is now following me on Twitter! Bio: The World’s GOLD Standard in Team Profiling! To find out more about the team roles, visit: (374 followers)

Published on: 7 Feb 2017 @ 19:40 – fellow student

Clare Thomson is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Educational technologist in #meded, #CMALT. Currently learning to think like an assemblage – posthumanism at Uni of Edinburgh: (392 followers)

Published on: 5 Feb 2017 @ 01:48 – fellow student

Renée Hann is now following me on Twitter! Bio: MSc Digital Education student at Edinburgh; educator & dabbler in the growing of food (46 followers)

Published on: 4 Feb 2017 @ 23:48 – fellow student

Helen Walker is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Edugeek (518 followers)

Published on: 4 Feb 2017 @ 17:58 – needs no introduction!
Sian Bayne is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Edinburgh University. Professor of Digital Education. School of Education. (3064 followers)

Published on: 4 Feb 2017 @ 17:58 – fellow student

Philip Downey is now following me on Twitter! Bio: MScDE student at Univ of Edinburgh; Conservative and will respectfully defend your right not to be, but will respectfully exercise my right to call you on it. (70 followers)

Published on: 1 Feb 2017 @ 12:39 – seriously no idea who…or why!

Amanda Brown is now following me on Twitter! Bio: (289 followers)

Published on: 30 Jan 2017 @ 09:54 – or this one

Roxane is now following me on Twitter! Bio: (13 followers)

Published on: 28 Jan 2017 @ 22:45 – fellow student, sorry Dirk your photos won’t show for some reason

Herr Schwindenhammer is now following me on Twitter! Bio: Educational Scientist, Philosophical Oddball and Senior TV Professional (33 followers)