Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I've been Elluminated

It seems like I'm constantly being exposed to programs that open up the world of possibilities to me. For the last three Tuesdays, I've been 'attending' an EC&I 831 class with Alec Couros through the power of Elluminate! I'm not even really sure who everyone in the class is because it is an open class; that is, anyone in the world with access to the Internet can participate. Today, we had people on from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Luxembourg, and yes even Canada, including someone from Toronto; I believe we had 32 participants today and many of the visitors contributed valuable ideas to the discussion. It was a powerful demonstration about the power of a Synchronous ("Live") Session and highlighted the idea that we can learn from anyone in the world if we can arrange times and forums in which to meet. Elluminate is one such forum that gives learners a place to meet with teacher guides; it also is one program that proves you do not need mortar and bricks to have a place to educate people.

Tonight, our session was on an Overview of Connectivism (George Siemens). Siemens made the point that people are interacting differently because of technological advances. He also made the point that Web 2.0 is just another advance in a long line of technological improvements. It was a good connection to last week's session on the history of technology in Education that can be found by clicking on the link Introduction to Educational Technology (Richard Schwier & Jay Wilson). However, as good as the formal presentation was, the idea I heard tonight that I am most interested in came from an Aussie, 'rhysatwork', who wrote about the idea of the 'attention economy'. It intrigues me because I sometimes wonder if the world wide web is little like television; I mean televison is very good at commanding attention but often for meaningless programs while educational programs get little attention. Is this the Internet today? Programs like Facebook and Bebo grab a lot of attention as people share often insignificant details of their daily lives while the opportunity to learn meaningful lessons like the one we had today are largely ignored by the masses. It seems to me that those who are able to grab attention are those that influence popular culture and even political opinions!

I'm not sure we are at the point that George Siemens suggests we are; that is that 'people' are communicating differently and the PR spin campaigns are no longer controlling opinions as they once did. I think we need to qualify people with the word 'some'. I believe there is a movement, perhaps a significant movement, of people headed this way, but at the same time I know there are still Luddites among us and many Internet users who are just seeking information. They are non-participants in the exchange of ideas on the web. I know this because I was one of those people who lurked but held back. Maybe the day will come when it changes globally; right now I believe it is mostly a western world phenomenon that excludes people living in totalitarian countries, those who are poor, and those who are disadvantaged. Though the numbers of participants on the web continues to grow, we need to emphasize that only some people are buying into the world of Web 2.0 at least for now. I do agree though that it is only going to grow and the influence of Web 2.0 is going to change life as we know it today. For some, the change has happened.


Ed Webb said...

Interesting questions. I was one of those who dropped in last night to the Siemens/Couros discussion (I'm a transplanted Brit, teaching in the US). Two comments:

1) Many who live in authoritarian countries are embracing the read-write web as an alternative forum for social and political interaction - look at the hugs numbers of bloggers in Iran, for example, or web-enabled activism around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of course there are higher barriers and risks to such activities in less democratic societies, but the potential rewards are also huge, and that is why people pursue them, I think.

2) Part of our role as educators is to help spread the kinds of literacy and fluency that will enable people in our own societies to become less passive in their online activities. Of course we cannot force anyone out of the role of couch potato, but we can certainly show them the potential to do so much more, not least by modeling it ourselves.

arieliondotcom said...

Hi. I was at the Elluminate session, too, and think that if you consider that, and that because of a note by Alec Couros on Twittee I found your blog, George asiemens was right. It is a brave new world of communicating, connecting and cooperating and our concepts of learning & education must at least acknowledge that. The true "braveness"/courage will be to embrace it as both "teacher"/student, each always learning/sharing/connecting. It turns out you were right when you were a teenager. You DO know everything...or at least have the potential to...not in your skull but in the network of your (potential) connections. I invite you to study our stuff from #CCK08 by visiting my blog/class project (http://www.arieliondotcom.wordpress.com) and others by Googling #CCK08.

Enjoy your course and get ready for a wild ride!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for your thoughtful sharing. Attention economy is indeed becoming a common phenomenon and the attention-spans of our students seems to be getting shorter. Just a thought: Educational technology drawing from Web 2.0 does not help these students who are digital natives to have longer attentions, as the interactive and customized content of these technologies focus students' attention on stimulation. If students are not stimulated by the technology, no learning?

Jim said...

The older I get the less I know! I enjoyed reading your post. I do think communication and information access is changing. The center of information and connections is the Internet. My newspaper (the 6th largest Sunday paper in the US) is going to only have home delivery three days a week. I'll have to buy it at a store or read it online. They are changing do to more people getting their news online.

Professionally, I have many "friends" who I have never met. I feel like I know them. I hear about them on Twitter, read their blogs, and hear their podcasts.

You are right to be concerned about the "have not's". I worry about students who don't have access. Do they have the same opportunity for success in school as others. I don't think they do. We will have to do something to help them. We can't leave people behind.


Deirdre said...

In the last three years since I got into Web 2.0, I have made friends with a young Hungarian doctor who is rapidly becoming one of the top experts in the world in Medicine 2.0. I've joined a network of Europeans who want to change Education. I'm planning an online conference that originated in India. I Twitter with about 25 doctors from all over the world. I write a blog with readers from every country except Russia, China and some parts of Africa. Is connectivism a reality? It is if you want it to be.

Deirdre said...

You might be interested in my Blog to see a map of readers http://activelearningcarnival.blogspot.com/

Don't worry this is my education blog not my medicine blog. Smile!

RhysatWork said...

Thanks for your mention. It gives me a real buzz to know that I have stimulated your thinking, after all that is a key facet of Connectivism. The opportunity to participate in that session was a stroke of luck for me.

As far as 'attention economy' goes I just want to be certain that people know it is not my idea but rather a concept I have been studying for a course at Open University Australia on internet communications (it seems to me like you'd fit in well with the group that has developed in that class). I too have found this concept to be of particular interest and I see that there are many different ideas as to what this concept means to many people.

Your thoughts on web2.0 are in some ways sobering and ring true.It is sometimes easy to get caught up on the web2.0 wave but we need to look at all sides the sides of a Rubiks cube to solve the puzzle. Sure not everyone is on board with it(web2.0), but even the ones who are using it to share family photos on facebook or to throw sheep at their mates are still making or cementing connections. They probably don't know it is web2.0 but does it matter?

As far as online learning is concerned, ideas and theories are all well and good but as you (and all my net11 pals) have found it's the participation that gets things moving and shaking......

I look forward to hearing and reading more.chi

jackie said...

Stephen I really need to disagree with your statement about FaceBook and insignificant details. Some people use Face Book to keep in contact with loved ones and friends. Some of my contacts on Face book post very intersting videos, it is a social network.

SKing said...

Thanks all for your comments. You all have valid points to make and I thank you for your efforts to expand my own thinking. Ed Webb I have to confess I know very little about what is happening in authoritarian countries and the internet, but I am hopeful that we are in a time when authoritarian governments cannot stop the flow of accurate information or ideas that are in opposition to them!

I also believe that teachers need to teach these new literacies. I also want to stress I am not against these technological innovations. Indeed, I embrace the world of Web 2.0 and the changing way people can communicate; I just hesitate to talk about the changes as a global change that has occurred. I see more as a change that is beginning.