You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘digital divide’ category.

“Blackboard, Windows, Photoshop” – familiar names to specific markets who are being pressured to take action or decide on something…

“Open Source Software, GIMP, Linux, Blogs, Wikis” – Unfamiliar names to specific markets who are being pressured to decide or take action

Fear paralysis or more accurately, ambiguity aversion is an entirely natural and a well known feature of the human brain. Well known to marketeers and spin doctors that is.

I blogged about this some time ago. Now here’s a quick 2 min video describing the Ellsberg paradox. Thank you George.

Advertisements

I first saw Andrew Odlyzko’s article Content is not king in Vol 6 Num 2 of the journal First Monday in 2003 or something. First Monday has consistently delivered many a mind altering experience for me, and even 6 years later it is worth revisiting this Feb 2001 article. In it Andrew makes an almost prophetic argument for the time.

In the following sections I develop the argument that connectivity is more important than content. The evidence is based on current and historical spending figures. I also show that the current preoccupation with content by decision makers is not new, as similar attitudes have been common in the past. I then make projections for the future role of content and connectivity, and discuss implications for the architecture of the Internet, including wireless technologies.

At the time of Andrew’s article, Learning Management systems were being used by educational management to bash the early adopters of the Internet into line and force them out of their DIY Internet projects and into template driven, organisation wide Learning Management Systems. I was called in to create high cost “Learning Objects” that the students would use instead of text books and analogue distance learning materials. The teacher took a back seat, always waiting expectantly for the content, always quietly skeptical that anything online would change what they do. To claim that content was not king at that time was something of a challenge to the likes of me who’s income was being made through eLearning content production, and to the managers who were blindly redirecting massive amounts of money into new content production. We hardly took notice of this argument, strangely nor did the displaced teachers…

Around the same time Dave Wiley produced the Reusability Paradox which was another spanner in the works articulating a persistant frustration being felt by content producers and elearning developers. The content wasn’t being used!!

It took me another 2 years to see the writing on the wall, and when Web2 / socially networked media / user generated content came along in 2003/4 I began to see my escape route.

Today, I recognise a connection in Andrew’s argument that content is not king, and Illich’s Deschooling Society – Chapter 6, Learning Webs. In Learning Webs, Illich also argues for investments in connectivity before content. I also recognise through the Illich connection that this argument has been going on for quite some time, and is not likely to get resolved anytime soon. Even with such stark and plainly obvious proof like email, SMS, blogging, online learning communities, and content-less courses that it is connection that is of more value to people.

So today, the struggle to appreciate these arguments goes on. At Otago Polytechnic we are investing in Flexible Learning. A considerable amount of that investment goes to Internet based content production unfortunately. We bicker and fight about this nearly every day. I myself spend a significant amount of time developing content, even though I am experienced and aware of the reasons why not to. To balance this plain as day risk we are also trying to get our teachers (and students for that matter) connected as well, but it is harder to quantify or see the results of this than it is with numbers and screens of content.

What does “getting our teachers connected” mean? It means helping them to appreciate Internet connectivity beyond content access; it means encouraging them to blog; network online and find others in their field, make contact, communicate, form learning communities, connect. It means extending the already familiar and tangible notion of face to face contact to an online and hence always connected context. It is very hard work, and very difficult to develop, especially when we can have very little say in the infrastructure that supports such an effort here in New Zealand.

A quick look at NZ Internet stats

My sense tells me that these stats reflect a reality in Otago that we fail to fully comprehend in education. And when we’re talking broadband, we should probably expect low speeds, low data caps, poor reliability, and shared computers to be further impacting all through that 33% broadband. How can we facilitate connectivity in the way I’ve described with infrastructure and take up that produce these stats?

Connectivity is our biggest challenge. Both infrastructural and behaviorally. Content is hard to justify when at least 67% of New Zealanders have very limited means to access it.

I plan to find out more about the KAREN project, and how it is promising very fast internet connections between universities and other nodes throughout NZ. At the moment the KAREN project seems to be focused on its application in research and formal education, celebrating stories of video conferencing between research groups, and distance education into schools. I want to find out if anyone has proposed distributing some of that connectivity out to communities. Something along the lines of South Australia’s Air Stream project, would possibly help improve both access and uptake of broadband connectivity, and help introduce an appreciation of wireless in the region. I’m not sure how big the KAREN is, but if a portion of its use could be made available for free community wireless across the region, I think that will go a long way to improving connectivity.

Update:

Ah yes Graham, I share your.. story.

As  Alahka puts it in your comments, you can lead a horse to water… or as I have exhaled from time to time, flogging the dead horse that died in the trough!

I think though, it is incentives and time we need to encourage and support those teachers to first use the tools for their own learning. If they can’t do that, then I’m not sure we should be risking their incompetence on the lives of others who are either coerced into their charge, or pay huge fees for their services.

image CC BY MorizaIts a beautiful day outside. I’m spending it building a wardrobe in the bedroom. And while I wait for the batteries on the cordless drill to recharge, I’m finally catching up on my long neglected bloglines.

I highly value Stephen Downes’ recent critique the Cape Town Declaration. I started reading the declaration yesterday, but quickly lost interest in it for reasons I was not entirely sure of at the time. Stephen’s critique, the comments that follow, and the links out to other ideas about it offer up so much more food for thought than the declaration itself. I think I will spend more time following the critiques and responses before I actually read the declaration – maybe that way I will find the thing more interesting as I read through it and consider the critiques and conversations I have already read. At this point in time I intuitively share Stephen’s concerns and I think the general points he is trying to make should extend right accross the Open Educational Resources movement. There is too much standard thinking about the ‘delivery’ of education, and the near neurotic obsessing over copyright seemingly at the expense of more important issues to do with learning. Nuf said on that for now.. more to follow after I’ve had more time reading.

Speaking of reading, making the time to read really helps me to listen. Since working at the Polytech my time for reading has been slowly eaten away. While in discussions about workload I try hard to defend the time I need to read, and reckon that people in my role need to allocate at least 30% of their time to it.. for me this would be at least 40 hrs per month reading my bloglines and adding notes to my blog. I need this to remain current and to sustain my connections. Funny how a fulltime job with all its inefficiencies can eat away at that. Over the past 2 years I have been reduced to less than 20hrs reading and writing time. I am starting to appreciate the familiar chorus from people when I encourage blogging and RSS, that chorus that says, “but who has the time!” In my own loss of the time I need, I really have only myself to blame. I must defend that time, and where possible extend it. Reading other blogs, comments and general points of view are extremely helpful to my own listening abilities and the things I can bring back into my local context. The trouble is, that that amount of time impacts on my abilities to listen in on the local channels. Those face to face meetings, discussions, and other things. At the moment, there is a communication disconnect between the speed and depth of the online communication and the slowness and superficiality of the face to face…

Stephen also recently posted the transcript of the talk he made in Wellington back in 2006 on Groups and Networks – the class struggle continues. I have blogged extensively my support once again for Stephen’s thoughts here, especially through that time soon after his talk where the debate about Groups and Networks became quite controversial, ending in a wide scale dismissal of its importance. I still think it is centrally the most important issue not just limited to online learning, and this recent transcript helps keep it alive in my mind.

Barbara Deu rounded up the troops to support her presentation to the Merlot Conference in New Orleens last night. She had the main conference wired in with a SecondLife conference and a Webheads VOIP and chat conference all at the same time. There must have been 40 or so people online joining in the conference.

Barb gave nice talk on networked learning – slides and audio – and then handed the mic around to a variety of people coming in from all over the world to give a brief sentence or two on networked learning.

Finding my way into the webhead channels was too hard for me – something to do with that olden style free ranging that Webheads do, and being 1 in the morning for me I just needed something easy. So SecondLife it was, and my first go at the new voice feature.

It was really something actually. Jeff from WorldBridges did a great job relaying the audio from the Merlot and Webheads conference through to SecondLife via his Avatar’s voice. We in SecondLife all sat around Nick Noakes’ famous campfire and listened in on Barbs talk while we chatted amongst ourselves.

I was really impressed with the quality of the sound and the usefulness of the effects (surround sound with close and distant effects) how engaging it was to be in there supporting Barb as one of many. SO much better that Elluminate, and successfully bridged between the haves and the have nots. I could feel Barbs nerves though! I was nervous! but it all went well, topped of by a nice little Banjo playing (I could have heard more though 🙂

So, hats off to you Barb, not only did you give a great talk, you successfully brought your network in with you and gave something tangible to the conference goers to see what it is you are talking about with networked learning.

Janet Hawtin has posted an idea that really gets me thinking. We should combine the literacy skills of online and offline researchers and communicators.

Because these are subtle and personal customisations for specific contexts this means they are diverse. As a community we are developing social skills around finding and filtering for our own personal purposes the collective diversity available. I think this is where literacy exchange comes in.

I think Janet’s idea is a great one! I know I am guilty of forcing people into a very narrow range of research and communication technologies (blogs, wikis and RSS of course), and this naturally frustrates people who are accustomed to other ways of researching and communicating. Meeting professional researchers and communicators who don’t understand these technologies is frustrating however.. but as Janet says, it would be beneficial to draw on a diverse range of literacy skills, more, it would be very important to actively seek out this diversity and support it.

I think Janet’s idea relates to my idea of using analogue media along the lines of socially networked media so as to bridge digital divides.

There is lots to explore here, and Janet’s suggestion is something I might add to my list of objectives when facilitating learning communities. That list?

  1. Losing the teacherly voice
  2. Linking analogue media and communications with digital networks
  3. Supporting and promoting a range of research and communication literacies
  4. Establishing networks more than groups
  5. Supporting long term learning communities
  6. umm