Week 11 Summary: “Gone Fishin’!”

This past week I have basically “gone fishing.”  This is a term many people use to describe their state of mind when circumstances are seemingly out of order a bit and they are fumbling about for a course of action or train of thought. This past week, I have spent quite a bit of time fishing: reading postings from my classmates, and offering some of my own, all in an attempt to narrow down what and how my final assignment will look like.

I suppose to be more specific, I want to go back and discuss themes we covered in Block 1.  These themes of digital culture I found quite intriguing especially now as there is more and more focus on the integration of technology into the daily lives of people.  As I was discussing this with friends at lunch, the tentacles of technology (good or bad) are now reaching beyond the laboratory or “drawing room” and are now on display as we watch TV, listen to our iTunes, even as we talk about medical issues with our physician.  I read an article I posted about on Twitter that humans are moving into a new form of slavery as we allow technology to influence and even control almost everything we do.

I also find so interesting the concept of human-cyborg-robot integration and the benefits/ramifications of that.  Looking over my postings over the course, I reviewed Frankenstein, I, Robot and other “fictional” characters that would seem now to be not so fictional.  What really grabbed my interest however was not so much the technology involved but the subjectivity of the posibility of when these machines achieve self-awareness, or sentience.  What does that mean for humankind?  Will humans as we know them to be now eventually cease to exist?  How far has technology come that machines can not only be made more human, but can be made to BE human?

Of course, as always, I shift around and focus on what this may mean for education and the pedgogies we use in the classroom.  I am not sure it should be a difficult question but I am finding it to be just that.  How will we teach in the future?  How will we LEARN in the future?  Back in the days of the original Buck Rogers and The Twilight Zone these questions were basic entertainment.  Now, I believe this are very real and legitimate issues that are standing right on front of us, right now, today.  I would love to take, or even lead, a course dealing with just this issue.  I regret we only had a couple of weeks to bat this about.

And of course, what medium will I use to pinpoint my fianl assignment and make it coherent and not to out of the box?  I used Lino for my Netography and that turned out fairly well, I think.  I am leaning to that again.  I will of course ook at other platforms to see how creative I can be yet not over-extend my presentation so it seems too busy or unorganized.  In short, I want my final assignment to reflect the fishing trip I went on and came back from, and not reveal the fact I may still be gone.


Week 10 Summary: An Alternate Reality or An Impossible Dream?

This week we have looked at Learning Analytics, for which I have posted my analysis here http://bit.ly/2nD5DI3.  In this analysis, I, in a nutshell, went somewhat off on a tangent and looked at the exercise as a statement of why we do analytics and not necessarily how analytics reflect what we do.  I summarized the positions of Verbeek (2011, 2013) and Foucault (1997) who assert that we need to be affirmative actors not only in the use of technology but its creation and declaration of purpose.

As usual, and characteristic of Blocks 1 and 2, the class engaged in discussion regarding the ethical and moral ramifications of technology.  This discussion was perhaps more prominently in Blocks 1 and 2.  What I did see more so in Block 3 was a diverse range of analytics and the types of data sought to be measured and ultimate use.  Perhaps I missed some things, but I failed to see much reference to the initial programming of the applications themselves, e.g. how was the the Google Search algorithm programmed and how could it be changed or modified and by whom?  The Twitter algorithm, in my view, was not so much about quality but of quantity, unless of course you purposely measure quality by quantity itself.

My readings took me through Knox, Verbeek, and Foucault primarily, and some others such as Braidotti.  The issues I found myself circling back to are displayed in the following video clips.  In short, we have technology and we know what it can do.  The real questions we should now focus on are why do we need these technologies and how can we be involved in establishing their purpose to begin with?

Are we seeking an alternate reality or an impossible dream?  Or neither?  Either by choice, chance, or force, the algorithms we use to move into the next realm of our evolution can be influenced by our own sense of purpose.  And what if, and when, technology evolves its own sense of purpose or the ability to change its fundamental programming?  These are questions for future, ongoing discussions.

http://bit.ly/2nDh6XS  The prisoner resists the insertion of technology into his life in order to alleviate loneliness and give him a new sense of purpose.

http://bit.ly/2nDaqJg  The Man of La Mancha creates a purpose for himself yet sees the impossibility of fulfillment; yet he strives on in spite of it all.

Week 9 Summary: Changing Direction Can Give You Whiplash

This week we looked at algorithms and how they influence us not only in our private lives but in our vocational situations.  While much of our study of algorithms seemed to focus on the inclusion or exclusion of search results in Google, Facebook, and other social media or news platforms, I tried to look at another facet in how we determine what information is relevant to us as teachers, to our students, and how we use that information to refine our definitions of relevance.

For me this was most poignant as I use algorithms in some form almost every day.  One major concern I have is that of the five high schools in my district, three use different curriculae in any one content area than the other two.  Therefore, what is being tested in our common assessments may not match up with what is being taught or tested at any other school.  In general I believe this makes algortihm use in testing student proficiency invalid and basically a waste of time.  Is this fair to the students?  Is this fair to parents who are under constant pressure to be more involved?  Some of our Tweets this week addressed these issues.

I began to fully realize the senselessness of our testing cycle after reading Gillespie:

“The algorithmic assessment of information then, represents a particular knowledge logic, one built on specific presumptions about what knowledge is and how one should identify its most relevant components.”

Also, I read several posts and the underlying readings supporting them which kept taking me back to our studies in Block 1 of digital cultures.  I am now thinking more of how algorithms determine, or at least influence, the social, and professional, paradigms we adhere to and how we go about trying to predict the outcomes of our day baesd upon preconceived perceptions of people, behavior and circumstances.




Week 8 Summary: Are We Really That Transparent?

This week we have been looking at algorithms and how they work and what effects do they have on our lives.  As a teacher, I am always on the lookout for a better way of doing something, and doing it more efficiently.  So, this week I looked more specifically at student academic behavior and what algorithms we use to not only predict academic success but do explain the lack of academic success.

I looked at a few algorithms based upon desired outcomes.  One was the solving of Rubik’s Cube.  A simple algorithm but inherently infuriating to follow to success (at least for me).  The algorithm follows a straight-forward precept that if you do this then this will happen.  There is no human element involved if you don’t account for patience and perseverance.  http://bit.ly/2mfTMvU

Mudeen wrote an article, which I have referenced in a previous post on my Lifestream.  A guest at a school was asked to analyze a student’s academic performance.  The guest’s analysis was incorrect based upon the fact that he failed to consider the human side of the student such as socio-economic status or motivation to succeed.  I find this to be true in my own teaching experience.  A teacher cannot always predict what a student will or will not do, by looking at a previously determined set of rules or certain biases of one sort or another.

And then of course there are the algorithms used by Facebook. YouTube, Pinterest, and others, that offer me articles and visuals in the same genre as what I have viewed previously.  But again, algorithms cannot seem to consider the human element.  What if my interests change?  What if while reading through offerings on a particular subject matter, I wish to see an opposing view?  An NPR study found that search algorithms are unable to adequately deal with that type of deviance from what algorithms predict my behavior should be.  http://n.pr/2mfRgWp

Mubeen, J. (2016) Humanizing Education’s Algorithms. EdsurgeNews, June 10, 2016

Week 7 Summary Revised

As James noted, my Week 7 Summary really did not address the themes of the week.  I realized this when I wrote the previous Summary, but wanted to present what took some of my time during the week.  On reflection I could have simply made a different entry and title but I didn’t so . . .

As for the theme of Block2: Community, looking back again at the midpoint posting by James, I see how the themes of the prior weeks are moving, or have moved, together.  We started off the course trying to figure out this crazy thing called IFTTT, which some are still having issues with.  Then we moved into space, presence, and community.  A good portion of the feedback received this past week from James was focused on my use of apps or tools to make my presence more pronounced not only in my blog but on the net overall.  James encouraged me to use other forms of media and programs in order to expand my opportunities to connect with others.  I see the value in this and I have been working to get more apps and platforms set up for that purpose.

So far, the tools I have used have been Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Lino, Instagram, Tumblr, and YouTube.  New apps I have looked at are Bitly, Padlet, Flickr and Reddit.  I am sure there will be more but for now I am trying to get how IFTTT fits them all together so they work correctly into my Lifestream.  One aspect I have to incorporate is the use of video in my Lifestream feeds.  So far, I have inserted pictures, images, and some vide from YouTube.  I will have to work on using other forms of media in order to fully experience the connection in community our themes have explored.

Week 7 Summary: My Contribution to my MOOC (sit down before reading)

My Summary this week is to just reflect on my MOOC experience once again, perhaps a bit more specifically.  As I have mentioned before, I lived in Cascadia for a number of years and have done some extensive travel in the region.  It is just a wonderland of treasures from beaches to mountains to rivers and lakes to plains and canyons.

While I was completely mesmerized by my classmates ethnographies, I am especially proud of mine because I found, admittedly unwittingly, a MOOC that touched me in personal ways.  I truly felt again the meanings of space and presence in this course.  I realize also will be going way over the word limit for a summary, so I will ask simply I be indulged in this instance.

In closing and, per James’ request, here is what I wrote, or rather scratched out, as my contribution to the Innovative Poetry of Cascadia MOOC.  I give this simple caveat:  I am NOT a writer nor a poet. But one thing I did learn from this MOOC was that it really doesn’t matter.  The participants in this MOOC and others like it just express feelings as they are experienced and write them down.  So with that, I give you…..this….

Meanderings by Philip Downey

Looking down from the cliffs at the meandering Columbia

I wonder where such an amount of blue comes from.

To the East I see where the gorge narrows

Where each drop of water fights against the others

In its struggle to reach its Western ocean home.


In front of and below me the water meanders by

As it makes its way through a flat plain.

Today however, the wind has brought the surface

To a raging froth of foam and spray

Upon which a rainbow of color plays and moves,

Some against the wind and others riding the air currents

As they bounce and swirl among the waves.


I find myself feeling jealous of the journey

Of those countless drops of water.

The course they are in will take them to their home

In the distant depths of the sea

Where forces of nature will once again capture them

And deposit them perhaps in some faraway place

Where their journey will repeat and then repeat again.


I wonder, as sometimes I do about myself.

Where these drops came from and where they will go

On their endless journeys to places unknown.

Perhaps one day, some day, I will know the secret of their travels

Sharing in them as I move through eternity

On an endless journey of adventure and discovery.


Week 6 Summary: Self-Reflection is Clearer in Still Waters

I have spent this week being more involved in my MOOC.  I have also spent time reading through the blogs and twitters of others as we discussed the ideas of community.  The more I have read and written, the more I am convinced that community has definite connections, and parallel contexts with, space and presence.  Classmates have offered a variety of statements about the MOOCs they are participating in, from surface involvement to deep embedding of themselves into the course structure and activities.  While it is true that the deeper one goes into an activity there will seem to be the building up of a foundation of a community; the more investment is injected which results in more enjoyment or fulfillment being taken away from it.  I certainly found this true in my own experience.

Although many of the postings in my MOOC from others are somewhat dated, there are a few lingerers still posting and using the MOOC as a springboard into the Cascadia community.  The commonality of the MOOC participants is not determined by geography, although that helps in terms of having a point of reference. The common core of this MOOC’s strength is the forging of common interests and the willingness to share those with others of the same mind.  There seems to be no shame or pride in what is posted, only the expression of real feelings and sentiments about the people and culture of the Cascadia region.  I do not recall a single post or offering that was created in anger or derision.  Perhaps this is an anomaly, but it was certainly refreshing.  All in all, I enjoyed my experience in The Innovative Poetry of Cascadia, and hope it helped me to realize that self-expression outside my personal “box of experience or expertise” is not something to be embarrassed about.

Week 5 Summary: Which Came First, Community or Technology? (I bet you look at the chicken and the egg differently)

This week I have looked at readings and many, many postings, and many, many websites that have to do with community.  It has also been interesting reading what other classmates have written about the concept of community and how they are finding different variations of that theme not only in their own readings, but in the MOOCs they have chosen to enroll in.

Applying an interesting definition of web technology, Knox (2015) described it as “. . . the invisible means to connect people.”  I found this definition could be taken in a number of ways, especially when considering the format of my MOOC.  Artists and poets use technology to be sure, but their sense of space and community seems to be founded in the “invisible” forms of nature and the spirit of the fauna and flora of that space.  Kozinets (2010) addresses the idea of how culture is formed by stating, “With our ideas and actions, we choose technologies, we adapt and shape them.”  In each case it seems clear that mainly, technology is merely a tool to describe the communities in which we naturally find membership.  Technology, in a sense therefore, does not alter or create the community; technology simply makes the community more accessible, more relative to others, or easier to describe.  So, is community created in spite of technology or is technology developed in spite of the culture it is applied to?  Interesting questions, I think, reminiscent of the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Knox, J. 2015. Community Cultures. Excerpt from Critical Education and Digital Cultures. In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. M. A. Peters (ed.). DOI 10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_124-1

Kozinets, R. V. (2010) Chapter 2 ‘Understanding Culture Online’, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online. London: Sage. P. 22

Week 4 Summary: MOOC Sign-up…WHAT have I done now?!

I just signed up for the MOOC for my Block 2 Mini-ethnographic study.  I went through several MOOC platform choices, EdX, Coursera, Canvas, etc., and finally settled on a course offered through Cascadia College in Western Canada:  Innovative Cascadia Poetry.  The course description, quoted from the MOOC site, is thus:

“This interdisciplinary course delves into the geography and poetry of the Cascadia bioregion, exploring the area’s physical landscape, its cultural roots, and the innovative poetry produced there.”

I chose this MOOC for a couple of reasons:  it offers some kind of discussion board activities as well as individual assignments and, it is outside of my personal, professional and geographic exposure radius.  I did consider MOOCs that played into my role as a teacher or graduate student, or might have enhanced my professional skills as a teacher, but I chose this basically to add a facet of learning to my academic and personal tool boxes.  There are no robots or AI.  But in terms of what we want to evolve into we must include how we view where we have come from and where we are now.

As far as how does this fit into my readings for the week: I have been thinking about community quite a bit and know that literature is a vital and rich source of how and why and where people are. Even in the last block, when we watched a variety of videos, in each one there was at least one reference to a piece of literature that provided a foundation for the impetus or motivation of the primary characters.  I am hoping this MOOC will allow me to delve more abstractly into the arena of community.

So, off we go . . . yahoo!

Week 3 Summary


Last week we discussed AI: Artifical Intelligence.  This week we were asked to consider music a part of our journey through the theme of cybercultures.  As I have been wondering about the term “artificial intelligence” I have concluded, perhaps later than others, that AI simply refers to intelligence that is created outside the holder of the intellect itself.  That intelligence is then inserted somehow into the recipient, activated and implemented.  I know this is not profound but I have to go through my process here.  The real question I have been struggling with is how does the robot or cyborg, as an “intelligent” entity, grow?

I looked at clips from a variety of films and other posts submitted by classmates.  Most notably and what I spoke in our Google Hangout session, was the societal parameters robots/cyborgs will be expected to live by and, will artifical “beings” be able not only to mimic human emotions but understand the subtleties those emotions must take in given circumstances.  Music can be one of the areas that may be the most difficult to measure in terms of intelligent application.  Robots, like Data in Star Trek: The Nest Generation, can mimic thousands of musicians.  The question is however, can he “feel” the music he is playing?  Composers will tell us that music is felt and it is emotional.  Hence we come back to the question of whether robots/cyborgs can really assimilate or be able to produce, in and of themselves, emotions.


WEEK 2 Summary: Will AI Change Who and What We Are?

The one overarching theme I that really took hold of my attention and my imagination this week is the use of machines as tools to reach academic and personal objectives.  As I have read others’ blogs the issue that seems to have grabbed is the confluence of human and machine in terms of using machines or applications as educational tools. I am not sure why this issue has hit me so hard; perhaps I see in the world today real progress (or some would say digression) toward the expansion of the human experience, especially in terms of education.

A powerful sub-theme has been the physical and intellectual integration of machines and humans.  In The Manifesto for Cyborgs, Haraway (2007) states, “we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machines and organisms” (p. 35). Haraway uses the cyborg as the metaphor for blurring of boundaries between man and machine.  Many of my posts have addressed this very issue.  For the most part, the cyborgs and androids we have seen from Hollywood have been a mix of malevolent and the benevolent.  In most, not always, there is a common absence of human emotion that would determine the actions of good or evil, depending of course, on the desire of the creator or programmer.

In The Transhumanist FAQ, Bostrom (2003) states, “No threat to human existence is posed by today’s AI systems or their near-term successors.  But if and when superintelligence is created, it will be of paramount importance that it be endowed with human friendly values” (p. 24).  This, I believe, is a very telling statement.  If we continue to develop AI for our use, might we be in danger of creating ultimately, sentient beings that have the capability of self-thought and self-realization?  And what does this mean for us as educators and how we approach learning? In fact, what will learning even be like say, 100 years from now?

I know I have gone over my 250-word limit but believe me, I can go on and on.  I will post later a clip from the movie Forbidden Planet.  I think this movie could be the ultimate in what we could face in AI development.

Bostrom, Nick (2003). The Transhumanist FAQ. World Transhumanism Association, pages 1-56.

Haraway, D. (2007). A cyborg manifesto. In D. Bell & B. M. Kennedy (Eds.), The cybercultures reader (2nd ed, pp. 34–65). London ; New York: Routledge.

Week 1 Summary: Transforming Integration or Is It the Other Way Around?

Moving through the readings for Block 1, I was struck by a comment made in one of the first articles I read.  This comment made me re-think how I have viewed my presence in the digital world and what influence I wish to have on not only my personal space but on the spaces of my students.  Yes, I realize I am hearkening yet again to the space-presence theme, but I feel this theme is a foundation platform of what my digital legacy should look like.

In The Historiography of Culture, Jonathan Sterne (2006) describes advertisers that have presented “digital technologies” as “. . . commodities to be integrated into everyday life rather than as epochal forces that will transform it.”  This simple statement forced me to look at how I use digital technologies in my classroom especially, and whether I use such technologies to transform my classroom or just integrate them into what we (myself and my students) already.  My answer to this question is both.  I fully understand classroom application is not the focus of this article however, I try and see if anything I read has some value in terms of how I present information to my students and how they can best receive and comprehend that information.

As I teach in an inner-city school, the range of technology devices and uses among my students runs from non-existent to all-reliant.  Some students, not many but enough, really have nothing more than a simple cellphone that allows them limited internet access at best.  It is very difficult for them to use it for anything beyond texting.  Other students seem to have the latest devices that can do anything and everything on the net from texting to phot applications and beyond.  We try and equalize everyone by providing classroom use of Chromebooks or laptops.  Even then, there is sometimes a distinct difference between students who are mind-numbingly adept at technology and students who do not have such skills because of the lack of access.

It is within this context I find both the transformation and integration concepts at odds with each other, yet willing to assimilate themselves within the context of academic achievement.  One the one hand, I am transforming the lives (hopefully) of students by exposing them to advanced technology and providing them opportunities to use that in ways they have never tried before.  It is a trial and error journey that has been both frustrating and atmospherically jubilant as students explore their personal digital space and discover how they may further express themselves within it.  For other students, technology is the simple integration of digital platforms they use already; now they are learning how each platform can be coupled with other platforms that allows further expansion of their own digital footprints.  The photos above are representative of the range of technologies used in my own classroom.  The achievement and engagement difference between the traditionally passive “sit-at-your-desk-and-listen-to-my-banter” method as opposed to student-driven and student-centered learning where every student is actively engaged in the learning process is massive.

In all of this presence in space is enhanced, in one fashion or another, as students (myself included) reach beyond the borders of the paradigms we have set for ourselves about the spaces we occupy.

Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28. (ebook)