Monday, March 4, 2013

File Under: Doesn't fit in any of my other blogs

One of my favourite videos. Molecular science and rap. It's the perfect combination.


#edcmooc Assignment & Assessment Thoughts

I wanted to post a few comments on my thoughts around the assignment and assessment process for #edcmooc.

First, I wanted to use the opportunity to try some software tools that I hadn't previously tried.  I'm still fairly new to blogging and have stuck mostly to text and image in my posts.  This particular blog has afforded me the opportunity to try out embedding video which was ridiculously simple.  For my artifact I tested a number of digital recording apps on an iPad before finally settling on one and my overall artifact was created in Prezi which I had heard good things about but never used myself.

I will say that my final artifact which was based on an existing Prezi template was very easy to create.  The controls and effects were easy to use.  That was not the case when using the blank Prezi template that I started out with and which was my initial plan.  I found that I had issues with frames freezing, zoom issues, paths shifting, and frames becoming inaccessible.  Those issues seemed to disappear with the template so I expect that some of the problem was me getting the feel of Prezi's more advanced features.  Consider that in the template scenario you just focus on dropping in your content and tweaking the frames and zoom a bit as you go as opposed to creating your entire path, background, etc.  So while I am content with my final version, I am disappointed that I couldn't create my initial project as I envisioned it.  Given more time I'm sure I could have smoothed out some of the issues I experienced, however I will say that I would have hoped that the tools would have been more intuitive.  There are also some limitations to the software in general; one example I came across was the inability to create a subscript or superscript in a simple way.

As for the course itself, I really enjoyed the way it had people thinking and communicating about various ideas around the themes.  The content was very intriguing and I enjoyed the time I spent on the course.  The final evaluation process was mostly smooth.  I ended up reviewing one additional artifact (required 3 to complete the course) and I enjoyed all of them.  People put some good work into their assignments and it was really cool to see some other perspectives about the content of the course.  I have posted the 4 that I reviewed over here: Peer Assignments.  Have a look; they are really quite diverse and interesting.

My one concern is that I only received feedback from one classmate.  I'm not sure if there was a system glitch that prevented me from seeing the others, if only one provided feedback, if I genuinely only received one review, etc.  I have posted a question about it in the forum but as this course is so massive I don't expect it to be addressed.  It is not a huge deal as I'm not relying on the results of this course for anything but personal gratification, but as I mentioned in my forum comment, I was really looking forward to the reviews from my classmates.   I think that this is one of the issues of the large online classroom - when there is any sort of issue it becomes hard to get clarity (which is exactly what the topic addressed).

For what it's worth, the single review I did receive was thoughtful, critiqued the work honestly and was well written.  I really enjoyed this course and although I expect this particular blog may fade away without #edcmooc providing a raison d'etre I am hoping that some of the ideas I began to explore during this course continue to grow and find traction in my future musings.  Until then...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Being Human #EDCMOOC

World Builder

This was a Week 3 film that was to help us think about being human in relation to technology.  This film highlights the idea of immersion into a (false) world created by technology.  Part of the focus this week is on technology creating an artificial world.  Simulation.  But how different is this from forms of art in the past (and present)?  Theater, literature, and cinema can all be forms that create a fiction in which we can immerse ourselves.  We do this everyday - when a favourite character in a book or movie dies, fans mourn that loss.  Certainly it isn't the same as reality, but we vest ourselves in it nonetheless.

But the discussions and the movies we've been watching focus on the shift from technology as medium for a story to technology as medium for reality.  We're no longer sitting on the couch after a day at work watching our favourite drama on television.  We're sitting on the couch living our lives virtually.  Or that's what the films seem to be suggesting may happen.

It's exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.  As with many of the topics in this course, the idea that something seemingly good could have an undercurrent that is anything but good.  It forces one to always question the motivations and agendas that linger below the surface.  The World Builder video illustrates this is a powerful way although it doesn't contain a message of anything malicious.  What it does illustrate is that under the surface veneer can be dramatically different circumstances.

Fantastic stuff to ponder.

Final Assignments from my #EDCMOOC Classmates

Final Assignments from some of my #EDCMOOC Classmates

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Part 1 of the Assignment is complete #edcmooc

Done, with a couple hours to spare.  Barely.  I'm a little disappointed.  You can find it over here:  Your (Corporate) Education #edcmooc.  Aside from being all over the place with my theme, which at first made things difficult to nail down, I struggled with the Prezi software I used.  I was trying to work from a blank template but found it to be very unstable.  I eventually capitulated and went with one of the predefined templates and things worked much more smoothly.  So, me or Prezi; not sure which was the issue but in the end I was able to finish the assignment.

However, it didn't end up being nearly as rich as what I had originally intended.  I had parallels to the Blog, allusions to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, visuals that reflected the idea of the digital rabbit hole I find myself going down when it comes to technology and so much more.  The course was very rich in content and there were so many ways to go.  In the end I'm comfortable with my final submission and I really enjoyed the class.  I'm not entirely finished yet - I still have to review 3 of my peers' work.  Looking forward to that.

I hope to continue this Blog but there are a number of others that have been neglected over the past number of weeks that are wanting my attention.  So until next time.

Friday, February 8, 2013

(2nd) Sight #EDCMOOC

So I've watched Sight again and I find that I like it even more the second time.  It really pushes the message that a Utopian veneer can easily hide a Dystopian reality underneath.  This is such a popular theme in storytelling, both on the page and the screen.

It's a very rich story considering it is less than 8 minutes long.  There are issues of disconnection from society while being exceedingly connected to technology.  There are privacy issues.  Moral issues.  And ultimately, the protagonist is likely a sociopath.  Indeed, just as he can restart a level when he makes a mistake while chopping cucumbers, so too does he feel that a reset is in order when his date decides she doesn't want to spend any more time with him.  While we've all probably been in a situation where we would love to be able to reset a date that has gone wrong, Patrick doesn't just cross a line, he completely eliminates the line.

Whereas the Microsoft and Corning Utopian advertisements push a "better" world, reliant on their technologies, Sight is a moral tale.  It's purpose is not to glorify technology and the benefits it provides; it is quite clearly denouncing the Utopian vision.  Or at the very least, peeling back the curtain to expose what can be wrong with that vision.

Plurality is another short movie about the potential for technology that is purported to improve society actually making it worse.  We don't ever learn what the future holds but the story makes it clear that the benefits of the technologically advanced society do not outweigh the trouble those advances also bring.  I really liked both of these films.  I think I lean more towards this likelihood - that we go into it believing that we have created and adopted something that works for the greater good, but are always ultimately blindsided by something that was out of our scope and ultimately makes the whole thing less beneficial overall.  This is once again where being human comes into play - we believe in the fable of a Utopia that is within our grasp but the reality is even the best intentions will be undermined.  But it's not the technology that will do it; not on its own at least.  It's always us behind it.  That is our blind spot.  Or someone stands to gain. That is our flaw.  And the technology is always just a means.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Just watched this one.  Wanted to quickly throw it up on the blog but I need some time to think about it.  My first thoughts are that it once again shows that one person's utopia can be another's dystopia.  And the theme of pulling back a veil to reveal the Truth is well portrayed here too.  Which has me thinking of The Wizard of Oz.  If nothing else, this course has me making many connections.  More later.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Here are a couple more videos that were provided as part of our Week 2 resources.

Whereas the Week 1 videos and resources had us looking at how we have viewed technology in the past, these have us looking to the (possible) future.  Again, we look at these with a view towards reflections on utopia/dystopia.  In the case of these two videos, my immediate thoughts are that both are presented as idealized futures where technology integrates fully and seamlessly into our everyday lives.  Information is truly at our fingertips.  We are connected to one another by means of this technology.  Everything is clean, smooth, uncluttered.

But these are the visions being created by large corporations that have an end goal of profit.  Profit is not in itself a bad thing, but I see the echoes of the discussions from Week 1 around movies like Wall-E in these videos.  We see the rosy future being advertised without the consideration of potential negative implications.  In Wall-E the advertisements were (still) on a constant loop even after Earth had been abandoned because it had become unlivable as a result of all of the trash (consumables).  Another concern is the power and influence that would come with being a company whose products were so completely enmeshed into the population's everyday life.  Again, visions of Wall-E, where the goals of the corporation supersede the rights of the consumers.  The concern is that checks and balances are abandoned when the level of influence becomes so great.  Security becomes another issue.  With information so readily available, the implications for the security of that information (personal or business-related) increase.

There are another few videos with this week's resources that I still need to review.  I'll post on them as well as exploring the various conversations occurring in other blogs, on Twitter, in the forums, etc.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

And this... #EDCMOOC

Thanks to David Hopkins over at Technology Enhanced Learning Blog for both his take on #EDCMOOC (so far) and for pointing me to this video.  It kind of speaks to another issue that is a bit of a combination of some of my earlier points.  I guess maybe the word oversight encapsulates it for me.  The video references some of the things we're going to have to start thinking about in new ways in light of Web 2.0.  Things like copyright, authorship, privacy, and so on.  But who is we?  How do we influence the world wide web in any sort of significant way?  We can leverage its power of connectivity for starters.  People are already doing that in meaningful ways.  Think of this course and in fact the entire Coursera offering for that matter.  But still, can we really make an impact?  More to digest.

Another Thought to Pursue #EDCMOOC

In space no one can hear you scream.  And amidst all the noise of the net, no one can see your little blog.  Anonymous.  Alone in a crowd of millions.


More First Impressions #EDCMOOC

The connections that avail themselves to us in a digital world are as I mentioned earlier both a wonder and a curse.  I love that a Tweet from a stranger piques my interest and I'm led to an article that has me contemplating the future of education.  But the problems, off the top of my head, because I'm just stream of consciousness-ing here, as I see them are:

1) The excess of Tweets, Blogs, websites, FB groups, etc. etc. etc. - there is just so much content that it creates a virtual cacophany of digital noise.  Choice is lovely when you're choosing between chocolate or vanilla ice cream.  Then along comes someone offering 31 flavours, and suddenly your 20 second decision has been compounded immeasurably.  Now digitize your cone and pick your flavour from every connection the internet has to offer.  The choice can become overwhelming, to the point of paralysis.  Or you can choose to not choose, purposefully choosing nothing.

2) Each connection brings you to another.  And so on.  Down the rabbit hole.  Not in a one pill makes you larger sort of way, although that would be implied in point 1.  This is a turning and twisting and jumping that starts you out researching organic flea repellant for your pooch and finds you 20 minutes later exploring the cultural practices of the ancient Incas.  It can be hard to stay focused because there is just so damn much out there, available at the stroke of a few keys.  So many choices.

3) That medley of information, for me at least, lacks cohesion.  So while I am grateful for the resources that allow me to research both organic flea repellant and Incan culture, I often find myself without any clear path for where I am going and what I am trying to achieve.  It is distracting.  It's great for Trivial Pursuit, but I must admit I haven't played that in awhile.  My point is that while the tools for exploring and learning and understanding any topic are there, there is so much noise that often nothing is accomplished.

4) The sheer volume of content while seemingly a positive thing, also means that it becomes harder and harder for the content that has true value for anyone is harder to find.  How do you get your content noticed?  Not a new problem as any marketing executive will readily tell you.  But the fact that the barrier to entry for adding digital content to world wide web is almost completely absent means that the volume of content is incalculable.

So there you have it, for now anyway.  My struggles with the content creators, the infrastructure itself and then the actual content.  Utopia/Dystopia.  Two sides of the same coin as someone already tweeted.

I also want to explore the parallels between the topics we are discussing here in #EDCMOOC and the Game Theory course I'm currently taking through Coursera as well.  Specifically, I'm just going through some game scenarios where time and choice are coming into play.  It was interesting for me that there was this intersection of topics in two very different courses that I am currently involved in.  But more on that later.

Another area that interests me is the idea of The Matrix.  I'm not a huge fan although I think it was a fine movie.  What intrigues me is the premise.  I'm also not a conspiracy hound, but I enjoy the idea of it.  So while I don't think there is one secret world government that oversees the internet and uses it to keep us all down, I like exploring the possibility that there could be a veil that might be pulled aside at some point to reveal the Truth.  Note the capitalization, courtesy of Plato.  More on this later too, possibly.

See, this is what I'm talking about.  And this is where the Being Human topic for #EDCMOOC comes into play.  Like the internet, we humans are both physically a set of connections and options (organs, bones, nerves),  emotionally/socially (see my ramblings in my Why? post) and intellectually (I'm exploring the primary themes of this course but now I've got at least 3 distinct areas of interest that I can explore further).  FOCUS KID!

#EDCMOOC Week 1 Cinema

Here are the videos that were presented for us to view and think about. 3 YouTubes and a Vimeo. There has been an abundance of commentary on them already from a wide range of MOOCers.  I'm still mulling.  I need to watch them again and give some thought to how I feel about them in relation to our primary themes, and specifically where I want to go with my own line of thinking.  For now, here they are.  None are exceptionally long but each is worth the view for the artistic commentary on technology and society that they present.  Enjoy and feel free to let me know what you think.

 Film 1: Bendito Machine III

 Film 2: Inbox

 Film 3: Thursday

 Film 4: New Media

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Why another blog?  I don't keep up well enough on the ones I already have, so why more?  E-Learning and Digital Cultures.  It's an online course, or more precisely, a Massive Open Online Course.  A MOOC as the kids say.  And this one is #ECDMOOC.  Go ahead, read some of the tweets.  I'll wait.

Clear now?  No?  Yeah, me too.  At the very basest level it comes down to this.  I'm part of the online course mentioned above.  My task in a nutshell is to have left behind a digital artifact to be criticized (creatively one would hope) by my peers, reflective of my thoughts on the topics of either utopia/dystopia or being human as related to digital learning/knowledge/culture.  Digital artifact, for those who are staring at the screen with eyes glazed over, simply means that the final project has to use a digital medium: blog, online video, tweets, etc.

Now add to the mix that there are apparently 40K people taking this course right now.  And that the course structure is fairly fluid and open.  We are encouraged to view videos and reflect.  Comment in forums.  Post to blogs.  Discuss with one another.  Question.  Tweet.  Start Facebook groups.  Leverage social media.  Thus the blog title.

The internet is a mess of interconnections.  It is a great analogy for many things, life being one of them. Every life is a mess of interconnections.  There are the strong connections: immediate family, close friends, (current) colleagues.  Then there are the weaker connections: extended family, distant friends and acquaintances, (former) colleagues.  There are connections that are weaker still.  These are faces we recognize but don't really know, people we met only briefly or ever so casually.  They are the cashier at the grocery store that you see every week but whom you don't know anything about.  And then the least of the connections, the ships in the night.  These are the people we pass everyday but don't interact with; we brush past each other, almost close enough to touch, but never interact directly with one another, aside from the act of passing by one another.

The point is that in both life and on the internet there are a multitude of connections, and each then opens up the possibility of more new connections.  And so too with the construction of this course.  There are many ways to go off and explore.  It is anything but linear.  And that is both beautiful for the choice and variety it presents and discouraging for the sheer number of choices.  It can be overwhelming.  Utopia.  Or the other.  Just like life.  Like being human.

I expect to be fleshing this out a bit as I go on, but for now I'll leave it at this so I don't lose track of where I (think I) am heading.