Wednesday, 17 June 2009

We are under control!

As part of our H800 course we use First Class (FC). This can be used as an agent of control over students and tutors alike. Consider these functions (much loved by many tutors)
1. It is easy to collect posts by any individual together so working out how much we have done is made simple.
2. There is the power to delete messages by anyone with the right priviledges (not sure htis has been used on H800 but it is quite defitely used elsewhere).
3. Even if the student does not write they leave clear and easily observed footprints. WHo has opened a post and whether they have downloaded anything is easy to see.
4. Outside of First Class it is easy to see who has signed in and when they last did so.

The fact that the new Moodle Platform may not replicate some of these functions is casuing distress to some tutors. SO we might choose to assume the current VLE is used as an agent of hierarchical control, at least to some extent. Here is a question: does the INteractive WHiteboaard fulfil the same function in school. Is the IWB an agent of control, sucking in the minds and eyes of the pupils like some sort of sick hypnosis?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

SO now I am trying to think about Web2 and power. We have a very current example unfolding in front of our eyes in Tehran. the BBC amongst others is reporting the role played by Web 2 technologies in spreading 'knoweledge' . Twitter delayed its upgrade apparently after a request not to dirupt its role in acting a chanel of communication speaks of this. This is knowledge creation taken out of the halls of academia and into the world. Knowledge truth and falsehood all revealed to our gaze. WHat is suprising me is that the purportedly powerful, the ruling elite, appear to be unable to effectively silence this event. Restrictions on journalists, closing down of services and feeds and the young in Tehran still manage to carry on twittering. There must be despots the world over who are looking on with interest and not a little concern. In my H800 course I am menat to be citing form previous activities, here I am citing from the current: but I think it fundamentally supports the notion that Web2 is shifting the way we learn and the way 'knowledge' is created.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Thinking about the history of Higher education it is possible to see a tension between encouraging what we might loosely call ‘free thought’ and enforcing academic conformity. I suspect but cannot easily demonstrate that this tension is not new, but is probably as old as Higher Education itself.

I think it is possible to argue that Web 2 (using the term broadly) tips the balance of academic power towards ‘free thought’. On H800 we have encountered a variety of tools and articles which support this, from this I am selecting two. My first is Wikipedia and Baker’s article in the Guardian. ( . Obviously we now have access to information which was perhaps available before, but was certainly not so easy to access. However Wikipedia is not just opening up access to knowledge, it is passing control of ‘knowledge’ from the many to the few. Web 2 is changing the way knowledge is stored and safeguarded. Wikipedia offers the chance for each and every one of us to add our bit to the commonwealth of what we know. More to come…

Saturday, 6 June 2009

H800 Week 17 Activity 1a

Week 17 1a video

We look at this video

This is a video with which I am very familiar, I used it as a student on E891 (educational research) to challenge the consensus view on what research was.

The suggestion is that you try listening to the video without the sound:

It had never occurred to me to mess with the medium: though as someone who believes there is a useful message in ‘The medium in the MassAge’ it should have occurred to me. It would have been interesting to start with just the sound track and see what response that evoked (but then that is the musician in me).

The messages for me in this video are:

1. The ‘traditional distributive’ approach to HE (and by implication economics) in particular is something less than perfect

2. That these students are in a time of change (but they are ethnographers I think a interesting group of people who think carefully about evidence and behaviour)

3. That technology does have an impact, some students study times seem very short compared to the hours I put in a just computerised era. (I was not a ‘hardworking’ student)

4. Technologies might be used to address some of the real world problems but we have seen other technologies as being the saving of the world before.

With the sound off the message for me is about anachronistic approaches to learning. The hall is empty, stripped of any feeling, sad lonely isolated damp like the main hall in a great old castle (see above). Imagine if you can what this space would have been like packed with a mass of smelly, raucous humanity with all the injustices and glories, the victories and defeats, joys and pathos that comprised Medieval Society. SO different to the Heritage sanitised, empty soulless space neatly presented on for you to view.

I can remember the first time I got to university the thrill of sitting in a large lecture hall and listening to some very distant (quite eminent) professor…profess. Then as now I can fall asleep almost anywhere and did so at about 40 minutes, 2/3 of the way through the opening remarks. SO even full of life the lecture hall (now replaced by the podcast?) was dead in the water.

When we come to the student messages to whom do they think they are speaking…’the establishment’? If so who are the people who make up this group (some sort of special tribe?) or is the group created by the on looking students themselves, their own social construction. Or is this addressed to the world…if so it means the connected world since this video demands an internet connection.

The messages seem to say this is my life and I do not like it much, but it is better than the lives of many (many of whom will not see the message). That this is how I live and it is not always so good.

Then in the final ‘chapter’ technology shows how the rescue of the students and the world (by implication) can be made, but this is irritatingly contrasted with a 19th century quote from Josiah Bumstead. Of course all the students were doing was writing on their own ‘chalkboards’ and then using video to display to a worldwide audience.

I assume lots of us will find this mirror of the first video

All this casts my mind back to the 'disestablishment' of my youth. It might be worth thinking about what is said in Illich's introduction to 'De schooling Society'

It may also be interesting to compare the sensible and careful ethographic research in the given video with 'another brick in the wall': this is of course not 'research'.

I hope this will evolve and plan to post to my blog I have already made this post 3 times and it is getting boring constantly deleting and adding to it. There will also be the notes I was supposed to write.