EDC Week 6 Summary

A recent article about the use of Googles Cloud Vision API and a series of interactions on our collective Tweeting has provoked some thinking about how technology is potentially going to change the way we carry out learning and assessment even more radically that we think.

The article in Forbes magazine describes how the Googles Cloud Vision tool was tasked with analysing over a quarter of a billion images published by online news outlets from all countries around the world to see what kind of narrative developed. It documented and collated data on faces, people, places, OCR, to name a few, at unprecedented levels and to a degree that would simply not be possible by  humans alone. This deep learning analytics process has brought a new visual aspect to the process of analysis and which is different from the normal data based approach.

This story, combined with our conversation this week on the alternative uses of MOOC’s other than for their primary intended purpose (I have a significant bunch of learners on my open course that I am sure are using it to practice their creative English writing skill) leads me to believe that a future in which high functioning learning analytics combined with new forms of continuous, iterative (and perhaps even micro-iterative) assessment could provide us with the ability to use single learning artifacts for multiple purposes and possibly even in combination with ones that have no currently viable connection. It may develop in to a matrix of knowledge and assessment that is so hugely complex  that AI’s would simply have to manage all the connections. The plus side though, is that it could result in the creation of specializations and competencies even more vastly different from that which we have today or has been previously posited through the use of technology before.

Engineering and social sciences combinations, geology and human resources, economics and space travel, who knows. The possibilities are probably limitless..

EDC Week 5 Summary

I’m pleased to say that this weeks ethnography piece has been progressing quite well since I made the decision to jump form my original open course on Learing Analytics to the entirely  different subject on the power of colour through the Future Learn MOOC platform.

In comparison to the first course the new one on the subject of colour, its interpretation, physical characteristics, the way humans perceive and its application in design and living has been explosive. From the very get-go the subject has fostered a multitude of commentary, feedback and activity beyond just the topic of the programme which has provided a proverbial smorgasbord of ethnographic angles upon which to base this mini study.

Being an intrinsically creative subject the interaction has been expressive and, well, colorful.

What has been especially interesting is that, due to the ethnographic angle I have undertaken with this course, I feel much more the observer than the participant.  This is my 10th MOOC and my 6th on Future Learn  but never before did I pay much attention to the backgrounds of the participants, the frequency of comments made or the emergence of dominant voices which have the ability to present and lead a topic. Some of Boyd and Ellison’s work as alluded to in Lister (2009)  as well as inputs from Baym have provided a unique angle to view the progression of the MOOC from. I found myself particularly enamored with the comment ‘typing oneself into being’!

Another emerging observation is that this MOOC is not necessarily taken by people to learn about the subject it self. Some participants, its appears, are taking the programme to improve their written English, and are using the community aspects to practice presenting questions, responding in kind or trying to develop conversation. How this puts a spin on the use of the OER!

What has also emerged, and what reflects what was highlighted in the Lister reading, is that much like Wikipedia, much of the interaction and commentary is driven by a small number of very active users (the 80/20 rule).

I’ve still not found evidence of any kind of greater community or one that is even emerging but their is mostly certainly evidence of micro-communities who have found common themes upon which to interact.

The study continues….


EDC Week 4 Summary

Palapye, Botswana

Its been a another eventual few days of travelling for me this week, this time to a small town, just barely!, called Palapye which is situated an hours flight away from my home base of Johannesburg to Gaborone, capital of Botswana, and then a three hour drive north on the A1 highway, Botswana’s busiest transit route, to the north eastern interior. Apart from a small university (BIUST) there is a coal mine and an exceptionally large power station as well as single hotel (but with very poor wifi) so what little viewing, tweeting and commenting I could do was inevitably slow or did not in effect work at all, even after several attempts to reconnect.

I was however able to access the very detailed readings on the next phase of our programme. Kozinets (2010) and Fourniers (2014) insights have provided some excellent background on the ethnographic task ahead and the detail they have provided as a background to the process will make for a far easier study on the chosen OER.

I’ve decided to review a MOOC that involves Learning Analytics, partly due to my ongoing interest in the topic, but, also for the fact that I have some familiarity of the subject matter which will give me, in my opinion, the opportunity to study the communicative, collaborative and knowledge development and provision aspects more closely, separated from the subject matter itself. After a comment to this effect on Twitter one of my fellow students proffered if this was the right approach and if this could potentially skew my judgement? Hard to say really, time will tell but I don’t believe this will be the case. Ready to dive in~!

EDC Week 3 Summary

Much of the beginning part of this week was spent wracking my brains and annoying my partner trying to come up with a suitably creative and exemplary way of summarizing all the aspects of our first three weeks of Education digital Cultures. The creative process can be hard to start and I think I speak for some of my fellow students in acknowledging that the task set for us required a fair amount of thinking. As stimulating and visually exciting our first topic has been its been a challenge to tie all the concepts presented in posthumanism, transhumanism and the lingua franca of technology enabled learning that is distorting the most beneficial aspects of our charge towards a new world of learning.

However the results have been outstanding and Im overawed by the talent that surrounds me. It really feels like we are developing in a true community of learning as we collectively become more adept and communicating and functioning in this ‘new’ medium. Its something I sure will grow as we become ever more mature online students and mirror the best traits of Salmons Five stages. In my experience this level of community of learning is rarely achieved, even where it is planned for. The ingenious design of the programmes designers must be lauded  – thank you!

But this leads me to a question: How much of an influence does the culture of the participants on a programme such as ours play a part in creating successful collaborative learning experiences? To add further, to what degree do individual personalities have an effect on the success of digital learning? These and other questions will be good to explore in our next block as it provide a new angle from which to analyse a large scale learning exercise. I may go back and re-read some of IDELs week 6 prescribed readings on open education for this one…


An entry for the EDC Week 3 playlist and a Cyborg sideline.

For any serious gamer there are few seminal titles more influential than Halo. The flag ship FPS (first person shooter) that accompanied the launch of Microsoft’s XBOX gaming console in 2001 was a major reason that the platform became so successful and has become one of the most popular gaming devices in the new millennium.

Anyone who’s played Halo: Combat Evolved will recall the haunting theme tune that accompanied the main menu and provided background to many of the cut scenes,  large scenic segments and the ending credits. Thoroughly rooted in the past , the early parts featuring chanting monks provided an atmosphere of both mystery (thinking armor clad knights and the crusade) and reverence to a game that was all about vast empty space and a strange, quasi religious experience involving alien covenants and rites of passage for the main character. The later parts of the score inject urgency, power and flight.

Given that many humans would love nothing more than to emulate the Master Chief (the main character and hero of the story) its interesting to note the it is never revealed throughout the entire series whether he is truly just a man of extreme martial ability or, more likely, an augmented meta human gifted with godlike bionic capabilities to achieve his incredible feats of survival and combative prowess. However, the price paid for such a ‘gift’ seems to never be really acknowledge but it is somehow projected? But no doubt,  if such a possibility existed then I dont think there would be any shortage of volunteers! A lesson for would be cyborgs perhaps?


The Histography of Cybercultures – Is Visual the only way to experience technology?

Jonathan Sterne’s chapter in the recommended reading  Critical cyberculture studies. (pp.17-28. (ebook)) has been somewhat of a revelation since reading it. In a world obsessed by image, visual stimulation and sight based impact its clear to me that we are effectively missing most of the potential messages and mediums to explore, experience and provide expression with technology. As technology grows ever more capable and inventive we really do need to try and involve more senses in the delivery of ideas involving cyberculture.

Image result for blind robots

(Image: RobotsandAvatars.net)

Week 1 Summary

(Image: Deviant Art)

So it really feels like I’m getting out of the staring gates very late indeed and wel after everyone has passed the first corner. Being away from my normal environment for a week with a heavy dose of international travel has thrown me quite a bit particularly with the EDC’s alternative method or participation and assessment. Additionally it appears that any of my fellow students are the proverbial ducks and are producing some rather incredible lifestream content by the minute. My aim this week (we’re already in week 2) is to catch up and match the standard (if I indeed can!)

Having dived into the first set of videos, some recent conversation and picking up a similar theme from some of the tweets and comments throughout the course Im developing a rather strange sense of….darkness?

Much of the sentiments revolving around some of the initial content has been quite dark. Dark in the sense that future technology, in it various forms and imaginings (whether it be stoic, blood spattered androids on roof tops in the driving rain, cyborg humans suffering devastating breakups or even disappointed desktop travelling desk toy bots), is overwhelmingly seen to ultimately end up in a melancholy way. Even my discussions with colleagues around the ultimate use of tracking by internet companies was negative. I even watched Snowden (2016) on the plan back from Lisbon which was even more unsettling.

Im now perplexed by the different ways that the use of technology and the advantages its brings is only really separated by time and familiarity. All our fears of killer AI cyber punks developing from our creation of smart robot assistants in years to come may just end up being as boring as the television now is. When it first appeared TV was portended to end whole societies and family structures. And it seems to go with a lot of new ideas that way. Thanks Phillip K. Dick, your work is now complete here!

Even one of first readings is titled ‘Whats the matter with ‘technology enhanced learning?’ (Bayne (2014)’. Heres hoping the themes turn more positive soon 😉

Getting to it…

Image: Softpedia.com

Its taken me some time to get up to speed contributing as  I’ve been attending a conference in Lisbon, Portugal this whole week. But I’m finally getting a chance to come up for air so here goes it for my first post on this blocks topics.

Over dinner on Tuesday night with my colleagues and an excellent bottle of Portuguese vino we started discussing how very clever technology around us has become. It was prompted by our remarks that Google and any online experience we were all currently having was being geo located for us while in Portugal. I was being shown offers from local Lisbon shops, restaurants and website without even asking for it! For me this is somewhat annoying. Yes, its good to know whats immediately around me but wheres the sense of discovery from being in a new place? To my surprise I found that I was almost entirely alone in thinking that this localized, doctored feed of information and tracking is somewhat concerning. In fact some there were even were rather happy that Google knows exactly where they are all the time, tracks their every move (in the virtual AND physical world), purchase and buying habits and that it can also suggest suitable music for them based on passed playlists. I was told that I was the weird one for not thinking this was wonderful in all manner if ways.

I labelled them all sheep and carried on drinking but it really floored me that most thought this was ‘quite cool’. Are we really becoming that comfortable with tech at this level that we’re not even gona question its motivations?

This s a bit of a weird subject to kick off my first blog but its been topical so far. More relevant ramblings to come…