The interesting thing about all this social media is that users are starting to mix and match – consume it on their own terms.
Anyone who knows a teenager probably already knows about Bit Torrent – they can download their preferred shows and watch them when they want and on their own terms. In the music space iTunes and others have done the same thing. No longer do we have to buy the whole album for just one song. There is bandwidth being chewed up at a great rate to satisfy these demands.
We often seem to work best in small groups – basketball teams, football teams – with a common purpose. This is a critical tool for addressing some of the challenges facing us. There have been many studies of human working or short term memory and many are familiar with Miller’s idea of the ‘magical number seven’ – being the number of items we can hold in our working memory. We used to need skills like remembering oral information to keep us safe and transmit important information to others.
You might be wondering why there is a picture of Brad Pitt here – it is related to the topic and not merely gratuitous. In our tribal past there was a need to keep knowledge in our own heads, hence the popularity of oral learning , such as epic poetry. Great literature as we know it today, but in its time the Iliad and Odyssey were spoken verse. But now we have far surpassed the ability of any human to retain knowledge in our own heads. This means that our learning practices need to change. This means two things:The storage media for knowledge are changing – from oral to paper to digital (text, hypertext, audio and video)There are still some essential knowledge frameworks that must be resident inside our heads for us to be able to decode the storage media. For example, the ability to read is critical.Thus we still need to equip people with the basic tools of literacy. But those tools are changing. Perhaps it is time to consider tools for thinking – GTD, goal setting, lateral thinking? Also perhaps time to consider how we can meet affiliation needs by offering collaboration opportunities via technology tools – such as wikis, blogs, social networks?
One thing that this social computing revolution has done is make it easier for minority groups to find each other and to connect. Schnubbs (a.k.a. Schnubert Von Turkleberry) here has 110 Facebook friends and 66 followers on Twitter. All jokes aside. In the past it was difficult to find people with whom you felt an affinity due to cultural ties, hobbies or interests. Pre-Google it was almost impossible to locate disparate information. Now we use the term Google to signify a search for information.
The first thing I am going to say directly about technology is quote from one of the forefathers. Grady Booch very sensibly said: “A fool with a tool is still a fool”.It will do us well to keep this quotation in mind as we consider technology.
The institutions of learning in this country are pretty conservative and slow to adopt new fangled technology, usually quite sensibly on the basis of cost. But now with web 2.0 social computing and open source the main arguments against new technology adoption are being destroyed. Individual teachers are embracing change, but sometimes when I meet these visionary folks they seem more like revolutionary cells of the vanguard than part of the institutional mainstream. But the learners will eventually force our hands by disengaging if we do not respond to the shifts in their cultural practices.
I think that all of these issues mean that we are dealing with a radically different set of expectations – from our learners on the one hand and from their parents on the other hand. The parents were socialised in the old non-digital world; while our learners are the digital natives. It’s going to be an interesting balancing act between those different sets of expectations. This all tells me that we are dealing with issues about boundaries and different perspectives on what the boundaries are. The kinds of discussions we can expect are about the times and places of learning; of the nature of educational content; and of the authority to decide all of this. And the interesting thing is, that what we think is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Just try to get a 15 year old to do something they don’t value or feel like doing. This notion of boundaries in a hyperconnected world is another challenging concept. But it is worth remembering that interesting discoveries are made at the boundaries of the currently known world. It makes me start to ask questions like:Why does school have to be 9-3 or whatever the set time has been for generations?Why does school have to be in the one place all the time?What is legitimate content of learning?What about the role of authority? Who has it & why? How do we feel about that? Is it generational?Boundaries are all about the time, place, content and authority in relation to the educative process.
As part of my preparation for this session I’ve been trying to distil my thoughts on the implications of new technology on culture and learning. And for me it has all come down to sensemaking as the purpose of education. Dan Russell provides a nice definition of sensemaking: “Sensemaking is in many ways a search for the right organization or the right way to represent what you know about a topic. It’s data collection, analysis, organization and performing the task.” (http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2007/01/sensemaking_3th.html )To a certain extent I think that these changes mean we need to become co-participants in the learning experience. Become facilitators of the process rather than the experts. This does not mean that our experience and empirical knowledge is not valuable. But in the world we face we need to get learning back to our ancient tribal roots where an elder was with the learner. We need to establish mutual respect and open dialogue. And luckily now we have the technological tools to facilitate that dialogue.
Consumption On-Demand No more waiting What I want When I want it Oct-2008 by Kate Carruthers 21 http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/17/bittorrent-is-now-streaming-movies-with-ads-but-wheres-the-good-stuff/
Tribal Brains Wired to deal with smaller groups Wired for small chunks of information Oct-2008 by Kate Carruthers 22
Oct-2008 by Kate Carruthers 23 Tribe size Dunbar’s number = 150 Subgroups based on common interests Increasingly loose ties
Oct-2008 by Kate Carruthers 24 Growth of knowledge Too much knowledge to keep in our heads No more epic poetry Source: http://www.familycourtchronicles.com/philosophy/spartan/spartan-brad-pitt.jpg