Wednesday, 27 February 2013

#EDCMOOC Week Five: The Assessment!!

Quick intro:
This post begins with the assessment and link to my artefact. I link to some online tools that others can use to make their own… and also share some of the resources produced by other MOOCers and a link to those produced by the students on the MSc in E-Learning and Digital Cultures. Finally I have put links to all the videos and readings that we have had access to over the duration of this brilliant short course – just in case you want to see for yourself how you might build your own MOOC.

You are joking? Produce a digital artefact - me?!
It has to combine at least text and images… And it will be peer reviewed. Also - each of us will be required to review three artefacts against the criteria set for the course – writing 250 words saying how and why the artefact has done so…

There was a little flurry from some MOOCers worried that any old person was going to mark their work. But I’d been in the FaceBook group since November and had only been impressed by the quality and calibre and commitment of my fellow MOOCers – so have no worries on that front. (Of course, if I get a low mark that will change toot sweet!)

There was also some concern – not least from the not very techie people like me – about how to make an artefact – and just how artefacty it had to be … Did it have to have text, pictures, music – and oh god no – movement – please not movement! And what about interaction? Or clever cutting and editing tricks with online tools that I have not yet heard of?!

Thank goodness that my old mate Andy Mitchell was also taking this MOOC and he helped by giving me critical feedback on my first draft (“I must say I’m really disappointed…” I think Andy missed his true calling as a diplomat!) – and by helping with some of the technical bits. I am not content that I still have to reach out for technical support – so am playing with the idea of doing the whole MOOC again – but next time focussing on tools rather than the content…

Online tools
Talking of tools - we were told that there were several online tools that we could use to make our artefacts:
Google Sites:
or any blog, web space or wiki site …
More ideas: ‘50+ web 2.0 ways to tell a story’:

Other possibly useful resources:

*** In space no one can hear you scream!! ***

Here’s one I made… 
I have been overwhelmed by the quality of the artefacts that I have been looking at this week – and slightly terrified that I must assess and give critical feedback to at least three made by any of the 44,000 people out there who are in this MOOC!... But anyway, here is my artefact:

And a short one Andy made in GoAnimate of some of my text:

And here are some cool examples from my classmates:
With apologies to all the other brilliant ones out there that I have not seen – or that I did see and forgot to copy and paste here…

Andy’s subversive one: (can you see what it is yet?)

Two-minute video: Log In:

Fran Monaghan’s VoiceThread:

And June B’s blog plus vimeo artefact:  

The University Bog’s post and artefact:
Cathleen Nardi’s, Change your thoughts:

Amy’s Digital Life artefacts:
§         The video:

Responses to #EDCMOOC by MSc students:

**** How lucky we have all been to be in such a wonderful immersive and creative MOOC with fellow travellers who were all prepared to give so much and do so much. If you want to see what inspired us – there follows links to the four weekly topics and the viewings and readings that we were asked to do. ****

Course Materials
Week one – four
I did not put the full links to the videos and readings in all my #EDCMOOC blogs – so this post offers a quick summary for those who might be interested – and for me when I re-visit this part of my blog to be inspired all over again:

Week 1: Dystopias 
Film 1: Bendito Machine III (6:35): Watch on YouTube 
Film 3: Thursday (7:34): Watch on YouTube 
Film 4: New Media (2:21): Watch on Vimeo

The readings:
This covers the arguments in the set text (the journal version) – but for me it is more cogent, punchy and powerful – and it has more passion. It also discusses notions of ‘education’ versus ‘training’. Love it! And it influenced our: ‘A journey into silence: students, stakeholders and the impact of a strategic Governmental Policy Document in the UK’ in Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 5 No. 4, 2009 pp 566-574 – which critiqued the UK govt e-learning policy – and which at some point I shall shamelessly plunder for a blog post!

Useful as a primer with students interested in Sociology or sociological perspectives…

Reading Dahlberg:
Liked the introduction and references to the Frankfurt School & kulturkritik … pessimism and focus on high culture, Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, oppositional politics and popular culture (Kelnner 97) and Audience reception theory – Fiske (1987) and polysemy – drawing on Barthes = a text when read… More to follow.

Daniel, J. (2002). Technology is the Answer: What was the Question? Speech from Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 27-29 May 2002.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9/5.,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdf

Wesch, M. (2007). The Machine is Us/ing Us? (4:33): Watch on YouTube 

Week 2: Utopias:
Film 1: A Day Made of Glass 2. (5:58): Watch on YouTube

Film 2: Productivity Future Vision (6:17): Watch on YouTube

Film 3: Sight (7:50): Watch on Vimeo

Film 4: Charlie 13 (14:20): 
(optional) Film 5: Plurality (14:14): Watch on YouTube
Ideas and interpretations
Johnston, R (2009) Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet. First Monday,

Newitz, A. (2011): Social media is science fiction. Google I/O conference, 10-11 May 2011, San Francisco: Watch on YouTube 

Bleecker, J. (2006). A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things.

Perspectives on education
Shirky, C. (2012). Napster, Udacity and the academy., 12 November 2012. 

Bady, A. (2012). Questioning Clay Shirky. Inside Higher Ed, 6 December 2012.

Campbell, Gardner (2012). Ecologies of Yearning. Keynote at Open Ed '12, October 16, 2012, Vancouver BC. (63:19): Watch on YouTube 

Optional extra material for this lecture:

Audrey Watters’ Storify notes: 

Richard Sebastian’s blog post: 

And there’s more....
If you want to dig deeper into how the media is representing the emergence of MOOCs, and continue your hunt for metaphors, we recommend these two pieces. The comments on both are also worth exploring. What metaphors can you identify in these, and how are they operating to position MOOCs? 

Anderson, N. (2012). Elite education for the masses. The Washington Post, 4 November 2012. 

Carr, N. (2012). The Crisis in Higher Education. MIT Technology Review,

Week 3 – We’re all post-human now…
Film 1: Toyota GT86: the ‘real deal’ advert (1:01): Watch on YouTube
Film 2: BT: heart to heart advert (0:40): Watch on YouTube
Film 3: World builder (9:16): Watch on YouTube 
Film 4: They’re made out of meat (7:20): Watch on YouTube
Ideas and interpretations

Badmington, Neil (2000) Introduction: approaching posthumanism.Posthumanism. Houndmills; New York: Palgrave.
Perspectives on education
Kolowich, S (2010) The Human Element. Inside Higher Ed:

Monke, L (2004) The Human Touch, EducationNext:

And this went to the Disrupting HE Symposium, Dublin, Feb 2013:

Week 4 – Post-  & Trans-human
Film 1: Robbie (8:45): Watch on Vimeo
Film 2: Gumdrop (8:05): Watch on YouTube
Film 3: True Skin (6:12): Watch on Vimeo 
Film 4: Avatar Days (3:54): Watch on YouTube
Ideas and interpretations
Bostrom (2005) ‘Transhumanist values’ reproduced from Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 4, May (2005):

Hayles, N K (2011) Wrestling with transhumanism:
Perspectives on education
System upgrade: realising the vision for UK education (2012) EPSRC Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme:
(The link is to a taster document for the full report, which you will find

Carr, M. (2008) Is Google making us stupid?

 CODA: We all blogged our responses each week - and read and commented on the blogs... Many engaged in the Forums set up by the course itself - and there were two Google Hangouts with the tutors. Many of the MOOCers held tweetchats - with thousands of tweets posted... I can't imagine it being any better! 

Friday, 22 February 2013

#EDCMOOC: Week Four: H+: Re-defining the human

It’s week four already! I will be so sad when this wonderful MOOC is over! Next week the artefact - agggghhhhh! Started the day with a Google Hangout with @andydmmitchell – talking about life, the universe and all things EDC – and he has wonderfully offered to help me put my artefact together next week… I know that the tutors have said to start this week – but Friday is my MOOC day, so today I do the viewing and reading – and posting… Next week I hope to put both Thursday and Friday aside for artefact production.

As a learning developer interested in creative, authentic and engaging teaching, learning and assessment practices, I have for a long time been promulgating (?) the setting of just this sort of an assignment in modules across the University, but it is only now in this MOOC that I can truly see the potential of this. In a couple of weeks I have a practical hands-on resource-making session booked with a group of Anthropology students, as you can imagine, I will be showing many of our artefacts to try and inspire theirs… And if you can think of any that I definitely should show – please let me know?

Week four: H+: Re-defining the human
Some truly beautiful films this week - especially Robbie and Gumdrop - both on the subject of Artificial life  - and both moving in very different ways. 

Film 1: Robbie (8:45)

Watch on Vimeo

Short, haunting and beautiful film about what is a good life – and a good death – through the eyes of AI Robbie. It made me cry…

Film 2: Gumdrop (8:05)

Watch on YouTube

Yes – it is true – after crying at Robbie, Gumdrop made me smile: a totally different perspective on AI and being ‘human’. Magic.

Film 3: True Skin (6:12)

Watch on Vimeo 

Yeah baby – here we are back at the dystopia that a misanthrope like me can relate to! This is Blade Runner+ … monetised, augmented, brutal… and not so scifi – ‘they’ are already buying the body parts of the poor…

Film 4: Avatar Days (3:54)

Watch on YouTube

Not really on the same theme as the others, to me… This is an exploration of our avatars – made ridiculous perhaps by striding through the ‘real world’… but… 

So what's so special about augmented reality?
When I was oh so much younger we played Dungeons and Dragons – I was an Elf - with magic powers – and we made up a board and built our strange world and played together – on quests – gathering ‘treasure’ …  and it was compelling and we were engaged – and thus it was real.

Winnicott (1971) argues that play is essential to counter the implicit threat of transitional spaces: between worlds, between social classes, in alien educational settings – he also argued that it is only in play that we are really our true fiercely alive selves. No wonder we love these virtual, augmented spaces so much. It is not technology, but the monetised world that dehumanises us all.

I was reading Rick’s thoughtful blog:  and commented as he does on the recurrent trope: the fear that these virtual spaces diminish us – reducing our emotional intelligence, make us inhuman … but when I walk in the real world and parents teach their children not to move aside for other pedestrians and not to smile at their neighbours and not to care for the elderly or the infirm – surely *that* is what makes us inhuman? When neo-con governments offer us ‘choice’ – by which they mean giving the care of the social side of our lives to private corporations to cut costs, wages, accountability, services… surely *that* is what makes us inhuman? (Oops – back here again! Moving swiftly on…)

In this post, I am going to focus on just one reading:

Bostrom (2005) ‘Transhumanist values’ reproduced from Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 4, May (2005)

Reflection on the potentialities offered to us mere mortals if we were trans-human or post-human (H+) – oh the wonders that we could behold, the things that we might do… 

I do see and understand the arguments made here – but so many of us could do so much in the scant years we have been allotted if only we lived them!

Think Groundhog Day – after the protagonist cursed with living the same day over and over stops trying to kill himself he learns to play the piano, he learns to love life and he finally learns to love his fellow human beings – and he is allowed to live his normal life again.

Fear, insecurity, insurance policies and pensions – all convince us to keep quiet, don’t rock the boat, don’t reach for the stars; to stay in our box and not live the life we could lead… Sadly I see that this H+ debate contributes to this worst side of us fearful humans. As I read , I hear, if only, if only, if only… If only I had been born rich, a boy, a girl, healthy … someone else altogether. If only I’d been dealt a better hand… been braver, stronger, more independent.

Whilst wrapped in intellectual justification and reasoning, debate on the potentialities of an H+ future seems to be just another aspect of the addiction of being in capitalism. Capitalism needs us to want and to buy – it requires us to yearn and to strive - to be restless and discontented. Capitalism needs us to be forever unhappy … always to project towards tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow… an endless stream of tomorrows of greater potentiality and happinesses – all purchasable – no down payment necessary.

Well – that is addiction pure and simple. The addict is never in *this* moment – but always yearning for another moment… or, as Schopenhauer put it, only oscillating between the pain of wanting something and the despair of having it.

There is only today and the life we have, the health and class and gender and aptitudes that we have … This video (will change your life) is serendipitously moving around FB atm and seems to capture it so well:

Live your life . Feel your dream. Find your joy – and do that thing.

It’s no surprise that so many lose themselves in the wonder of augmented reality given the paucity we accept in our real lives. It is only a miracle that more don’t disappear into the virtual forever… So don’t just save the Whale or the otter or the Greater crested newt – let’s save ourselves – now and in this life and today…

So I really cannot take H+ and that debate too seriously – yes – wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was telos – and teleology - the world developing positively: the work and the wealth and the wonder shared equitably; life and technology moving forward ethically and with concern for justice, kindness and love - but it ain’t so.  But I/we do have today – and I/we do have this very shabby body (well, I do) – I/we do have this limited life span – and if I/we try to live this one well… then being human *will* be enough.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

#EDCMOOC week 3: Are we posthuman now?

Week beginning 11th Feb 2013

Right – make a cup of tea – then… Question of the week:

Q: is the essential nature of ‘being human’ under threat from techno and biomedical advances?

A: Listen to Fukuyama (2002) on his book Our Posthuman Future:

Fukuyama discusses the effect of culture and social capital on economic life. Previously notorious for article, then book, The End of History (1989): the new modern viz. post-USSR … all walls falling down, history over, liberal values won.

Some of us watching those walls saw Russian people lose their right to employment, homes and pensions: we saw grannies on the street selling plastic gew gaws to live… and thought this was not the end of history - this was pre-history!

Worryingly, he really did not see the rise of theocracies and theocratic dictatorships. (I seem to remember that in the early part of the twentieth century GK Chesterton - of Father Brown fame – did; I must check that out…)

Fukuyama’s main argument seems to be that there is something that could be called human nature, and that moral choices, human emotions = source of our humanity = source of dignity and political rights citing Jefferson: all men created equal, 1776… except slaves of course.

Fukuyama argues that extension of rights to all (!) emanated from biological awareness of genetic equality – and thus genetic engineering will lead to inequality because people really will be born genetically different – and this is a politically serious issue.

Phew – thank goodness that all that scientific awareness has led to such an equal society!

Love the implicit techno-determinism: these terrible human behaviours somehow emanate from the technology qua technology rather than the sort of constructed and enacted humanity that allows people to live in and accept terrible inequalities and terrible behaviour in society.

The implicit metaphor set up by Descartes helps me here:

I think therefore I am

Arguably this rationalist model of humanity was so embraced because it reinforced and propelled our whole binary, dialectic world:
rational: irrational…
man: woman …
civilised: native…
white: black…
mind: body…
M/class: w/class
human: non-human

… and this is a problem for the ruling class, for the techno must surely fall on their side of this binary, it is so much more rational, more modern … it allows uber-man. The techno = threat for those who currently hold power.  

Perhaps that is why this debate seems a bit recherche to me: I am on the other side of that binary. I am already discounted. The techno holds no inherent fear for me – how can it displace me more? The only problem with the techno is that once I too am work-less, I may not be able to afford to be connected to the WWW – but I will still be connected to people.

Now off to my counterbalance - an Asimov clip from 1988 on the Technology Enhanced Learning blog:

Asimov predicted the internet – and the ability to learn at your own speed, in your own home – to follow your own interests – to enrich learning and have a one-to-one relationship with knowledge – not mediated by the tutor… JAs in the 17th C  radicalised religion with Protestantism said you could have a one-to-one relationship with god – not mediated by the pastor or priest.

Four hundred more years to even think about radicalising education suggests that the power of socially constructed ‘education’ is even more powerful than the church: that the ideological state apparatus of education is stronger than that of religion. I knew this tacitly – but Asimov’s words threw a new light upon this.

‘Like prison, the reward of school is getting out!’ The sorrow here is not that so many of us flee learning – but that school kills our natural love of learning…

On to the next cup of tea – and the next position:

Q: universal human nature does not exist… with am implicit optimism that what is made can be made differently…

A: see: Core Reading: Steve Fuller’s Warwick TEDx talk: Humanity 2.0: defining humanity Which I accessed through: (thank you).

Continues thread opened last week – we are metaphorical beings conceptualising the world through metaphors and metaphorical processes – and reminds us that what and how and who that we think humanity and being human is has also been thus conceptualised.

What humanity and the human IS – is not abstract or a meta-narrative – but we are beings and concepts of being, inextricably embedded within our own contexts, cultures, times. If this is so – then for us in the west – existing as we do in these stressful, hierarchical, unfair and unjust digital times… whatever we are now, is being human within digital cultures…

This reminds me of Plato and his notion of the perfect forms existing in the cave of the gods, that we are but humble shadows of… and his concept of three types of human being: bronze, silver and gold – and that these different forms of people had different aptitudes and were suited to different roles and rewards in society. So people who saw themselves as enlightened could contemplate possessing slaves because they did not see those as truly ‘people’… which of course resonates with class and caste – which is still very healthily alive in society today… and notions of the deserving and undeserving poor, the rhetoric of hardworking families struggling to earn an honest coin whilst the feckless wallow behind their closed curtains. I particularly like it when Etonian millionaires like Cameron & Osborne (UK prime minister and chancellor) condemn the workless for feeling ‘entitled’ to their unearned £75.00 per week unemployment benefit – whilst feeling perfectly entitled themselves to inherit their unearned millions, their unearned and highly paid sinecures as directors of companies… Ah – but I digress again.

Finally, the overarching Q for this week seems to be:

Q: Can we reassert something quintessentially human in our digital world? Can we reaffirm ‘our commitment to humanist ideas which underlie many educational philosophies and approaches to practice, such as equality, freedom and autonomy[?]’

A: I think all the blogging that I’ve been doing rather insists that the only truly human characteristic that I can think of is cruelty: we are in-humanity… It’s been that sort of week! But now to the viewings, Lay on MacDuff… 

Film 1: Toyota GT86: the ‘real deal’ advert (1:01)
Wow! Whilst it is so easy to see all the flaws with this – the glorification of an implicitly macho technology and an unsustainable ecology/economy all being normalised as the very opposite of that… I see the evocation of Blade Runner… I see the pixellated burger in the hand of the guy who has the conduit to an idealised freedom… I hear, ‘No Regrets’ and know that it is saying that we have so much to lose… by which they mean the castration implied by safety technology which will take the life out of driving and out of our culture… while they sell you back technology and a de-natured culture…

But, there is a dangerous beauty to the piece, a density of ‘poetry’: so much conveyed in one minute…

Film 2: BT: heart to heart advert (0:40)
Yes – mediation posing as non… with the telephone offered as more ‘real’ than say a Skype contact… Couldn’t possibly be because Skype is online and cheaper than a phone call? Boy – what an old cynic…

Film 3: World builder (9:16)
Suggests a world where ‘god’ is a blue collar worker building a life size Second Life perfect world, against the clock, for his terminally ill wife… Even as she wonders at the space he has created for her – he can see something menacing on the skyline – a blot – a flaw in his heaven… And yes, she is Cinderella-summoned back to ICU; and although he was absent from her dreams he can enter the nightmare of her illness, placing a flower plucked from the virtual into the glass on her bedside table. ‘There are more wonders… than you can dream on in your philosophy, Horatio…’ – and we are all alone for aye that. (I thought the Windows logo glowing on her forehead very spooky!)

Film 4: They’re made out of meat (7:20)
Two suitably strange almost human looking life forms commenting on the human race: they are made of meat… their brains are meat… they communicate by meat. Nifty references to alien abductions – and desperate smoking to convey life… Absolutely excellent short film – that just is a commentary on our frail humanity.

Google+ Hangout with the tutors:
I do so enjoy these opportunities to meet our excellent tutors and see them discuss the course – and their apprehensions of our participation. There was some discussion of the different ways we are negotiating this MOOC – and that this in itself also creates difference – some privileging the visual and synchronous over the disembodied; others seeming to prefer the fragmented and contingent asynchronous. Interesting as it illustrates how immediately we as humans tend to inhabit new space in these habitual ways… and thus that there will be potential for research… but reminds me of why we created our Beach Space in SL to support student learning by stimulating different ways to inhabit and stake claim to educational space.

Advanced reading: Badmington, N (2000) Introduction: approaching posthuamanism Posthumanism NewYork; Houndmills: Palgrave

The posthuman… (Hah - also references Descartes; happy self-congratulatory smile on my part!) - Descartes: there would be no de facto difference between a machine monkey and a monkey, because no monkey possesses reason; but there must be that difference between man and machine man… 

Badmington cites the Germans: Marx, Freud, Althusser, Engels – overturning Hegel:
  • Our consciousness is shaped by our contingent material conditions. Rather then being essentially something that is naturally human, different material conditions produce different humanities.
  • We are prompted by our unconscious and desires that are not controlled by our consciousness…
And notes that whilst the theorists argued about humanity, post-humanity, non-humanity and a-humanity – Hollywood produced Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob, War of the Worlds: we are at risk from the in-human ‘other’; this debate was not the sole preserve of the intellectual.

Though critics assumed these to be a reaction to the Cold War rather than the second world war: communists look like us, they masquerade as us… but they are not us, Badmington cites them as evidence of man’s insecurity :
Man, the films insisted, would survive: this was destiny, the law of nature… [but] why defend Man if ‘his’ position at the centre of things is inevitable? … Humanism was in trouble: Hollywood knew this but took refuge in denial. To borrow a paradox from Jean-François Lyotard, the cinema depicted Man dying in abundance, passing away from prosperity, croaking from health. And yet, although they shared a common concern with the end of human sovereignty, theory and mass culture were kept generically apart. When they eventually met, however, posthumanism was born.

Cyborg nature
Baudrillard proposed that technology is transformational: the supposedly autonomous Cartesian man now dependent on technology for everything – including access to and views of ‘the world’. Of course everything from anthropology to feminism were already de-centring ‘man’ from the centre of this universe… So, did Derrida’s post-structuralism bring us finally to the post-human? But Derrida points out that systems always contradict themselves from within…

Reflecting on my own response to this week’s questions on ‘being human’, I see that whilst I obviously believe that we are not essential beings, but human beings formed by our relationship with contingent circumstances – material and virtual – I obviously hoped or wished for an essential quality, something that valued and values all life no matter how ‘not like me’ that might be. Though not religious, it might be summed up as ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’. Simple and elegant – and manifestly not embraced by secularism or any of the religions struggling – and sometimes with terrifying success – to reassert their power over the world… perhaps that is the posthuman quality that I am hoping for.