The Truth is Out There

I’ve been thinking about some of the ideas and aspects of what it is to “be human” in this week’s edcmooc activities. Whilst doing that, I was prompted by a tweet on Edison’s birthday:

edison

I don’t know if you know about Edison. He is often, as the tweet suggests, regarded as a visionary man who worked hard to achieve his ends. The record shows him to have been an utterly ruthless man who went to extraordinary lengths in a battle of competing technologies to win, regardless of what the cost to other people (and animals) may have been. I leave it to you to find out how he tried to discredit Tesla’s AC power solution by, inter alia, publicly electrocuting dogs, horses and even an elephant and by inventing the electric chair as a means of human execution. You might say that the technology corrupted his sense of decency to the point where his behaviour can only be described as inhuman. Is this about technology or about being successful in business? Anyway…

Another world, just below the surface

We might see ourselves as somehow separate from the technological world with which we clothe ourselves, or at least, those of us rich enough to do so, do. The Toyota video suggests that there’s a “truth” beneath the veneer of the ordinary lives we lead, Matrix-style, that we can break out of. Kris Marshall’s Adam seems aware that his chance of retaining the modern family unity intact is going to be enhanced by phoning, rather than FakeBooking Jane.

binit1One of the reasons I like technology tools is that I can walk away from them. Take the mooc, for example. If I were enrolled in a traditional course, I’d have all kinds of logistical imperatives to keep me attending, not least the cost implications of dropping out. It’s hard to stop attending if doing so has a penalty that’s not easy to pay. The mooc, however, is easy to walk away from. If I were to do so, I would incur no cost, no embarrassment, no challenge to explain. No penalty. It’s like I could just close the browser, shut the lid and go for a pint or paint the bathroom. If push came to shove, and I felt the need to break out, my iPhone and everything else would go straight in the nearest bucket. How liberating. Why are my palms sweating? Anyway…

Retention and the emotional dynamics of video

Taking the Hersh article, then, there are what seems to me to be false arguments about why students accessing learning through a LMS like Blackboard or Moodle drop out so easily in comparison with those who have to drag themselves into lecture theatres. Video is offered as mitigation against this but I don’t think that’s it. Sure, retention might be improved by increasing social interaction but you can still walk away. Is it because the virtual learning experience is less real than the one that requires your physical presence? Is it so evidently a false experience that when the expectations aren’t realised, we can just “switch it off” with impunity? The idea that the “illusion of non-mediation” through the “emotional dynamics of face-to-face” is created by making videos of yourself is frankly ludicrous. Even people who shout at the TV know the difference between “real” and “video”.

I was told once that chess was developed as a game of battles so that real battles wouldn’t need to be fought. I’m not so sure, having experience of Uckers in the Army. Here, what’s real and what’s the analogue are hard to distinguish once the chaos of the end-game apocalypse begins. Anyway…

Asynchronicity

One of the rushes I’m getting at the moment is the realisation that this information renaissance we are living in now is transforming education, kicking and screaming. The transformation is coming about because we are beginning to learn how to cope with the contradictions of information flow in the new age. Let’s take this mooc as an example. We are all accessing the same information which are resources we all should view, read, or whatever. Because we are so diverse geographically and socially, we can’t all do this at once, so we do so asynchronously, at our own convenience and on our own terms. The tech allows this. But the mooc isn’t 40,000 (or however many are left) people independently doing the same things in isolation, it’s a community, or rather, a community of communities of shared experience who interact with each other. One of the ways we are interacting is synchronously through twitter chats and Google hangouts. These move very fast indeed and keeping up with the pace of discussion requires not only appropriate technology but also all the wits you can muster. It’s like a new level of consciousness. This is the new sh*t. New education not only is spawning new channels for students to access learning, it should be spawning new stimulus from educators (after all, that’s their role) for learners to cope with the emergent properties of these new channels. Anyway…

I’m going to abandon the technology for a couple of days and go immerse myself with a friend up in the real world at Loch Rannoch. The truly amazing thing about it is that this is a world which made itself in all its complexity and beauty out of Hydrogen. A lot of Hydrogen and a lot of time, but it did so with no engineer or designer or World Builder. That’s the truth.