Stop saying technology is causing social isolation

Love this article that came through my feed this morning – see this early extract:

People like to criticize current society. Not necessarily the current society relative to us, but the contemporary society of the time they live in. It’s just so cool to romanticize the past even if it makes us feel bad about the present. Past times were always better. And in this age of information and technology, in which the smartphone is so ubiquitous, it’s only obvious to blame them for some of society’s problems. Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to stop and reflect on the use we give to technology and to criticize the bad behaviors associated. But I believe that accusing technology (and, again, especially smartphones) of ruining social interaction and even all kinds of experiences is, to say the least, quite wrong and misguided. Some people would even qualify that as pretentious, but I’ll refrain from that.

The article covers a great number of things that I have covered in various workshops, encouraging people to think about the fact that ultimately in using most digital/social technology we are dealing with human beings – just happens to be mediated by technology … but that culturally we prioritise face-to-face (which yes, are valuable – I love catching up with people) …. this sentence totally captured it:

… I’m just not able to comprehend why should we be forced to interact with those physically close to us instead of with the people that we really want to interact with.

I often use the photo featured in this blog post to encourage conversation … we have a rosy, nostalgic view of the past in which we think we all chatted away with those random strangers .. but no – we just buried ourselves in a different technology.

One of my favourite bits from my own book (described by the Financial Times as sensible) is:

Although in practice most children are continuing conversations with friends from their local area, it’s fascinating to see how often “online” communication is viewed as second-rate, as we see from Professor Livingstone’s comment:

“Even though … face-to-face communication can… be angry, negligent, resistant, deceitful and inflexible, somehow it remains the ideal against which mediated communication is judged as flawed.”

Yes, we need to look at our habits, but not dismiss technology out of hand.

Read full article.

Academic Digital

Checking out new MA from @LSTheology #digitalstudent

So there’s a new MA on the block from London School of Theology. It’s advertised as

Beyond applied theology – the MA in Integrative Theology (MAiTh) can either be accessed and completed online worldwide or studied full or part-time on campus in London – what ever suits your lifestyle or needs better.

As I was looking at this, whilst thinking about how CODEC develops an appropriate MA, and whether it should be  fully online/offline, and as the debate about MOOCs (and other assorted acronyms) continues, it’s interesting to see what other institutions are doing.

The recent JISC Learning and Teaching Experts session fed back information on research into what student expectations are of digital provision, a rather more updated version of something I spoke about in 2010 (5000+ views). What do people want/need to get out of (formal) learning? And that does need to be the core question and focus, rather than “how do we use this snazzy technology” which can be a legitimate focus in preparation, but not in defining the learning objectives. As my book indicated, at the end of the day, people are still human beings, with needs as adapted by culture and context, but essentially arriving in this world with similar needs and desires as they have for many years.

As I wrote in a PGCLTHE assignment:

We expect increasing numbers of students who are living at home, part-time, mature, or from overseas. Students will expect better access to online courses, and a more flexible approach to learning, with ‘pick-and-mix’degrees and opportunities to gain vocational experience through university-private-sector partnerships.

It’s interesting that LST is offering this in a blended way, and it will be interesting to see if a sense of community develops between those meeting face-to-face (which does always change the dynamics (and I love), but is not necessarily a ‘better’ means of connection) and those online, or if separate communities will develop. Last year JISC, in speaking about the use of technology as part of face-to-face teaching (where there’s a lot of emphasis on “contact hours” as meaning face-to-face):

“As the student body becomes more diverse, so institutions need to find ways to ensure that their teaching modes and materials reflect different learning preferences and types of study and attendance. Technology offers a range of ways to do this and to enhance student access to resources and staff both inside and outside university owned systems.”

There are many different learning styles. Many institutions have moved from chalk and talk/sage on the stage to guide on the side, and there’s definitely an extrovert bent to much teaching (get people chatting), but in a conversation with a colleague this morning, I mentioned that I love the group dynamic (as written about in another assignment)/relationship building/sharing knowledge (whether that is online or offline, and I have some idea of the focus of the topic), whereas she would rather be given the topic and sent off to research it. I have always thought that if the right framework is provided (online or offline), and the students are prepared to come in fully enthusiastic .. that’s the first ingredients towards success.

I like the fact that LST are offering this in a range of styles, and I’m looking forward to hearing how it works in practice (and wonder what their VLE looks like). At #ECSM14, I heard from Jon Dron about ‘The Landing’ – his institution is (I think 100%) distance learning (even most of the staff largely are), and how they sought to provide the social side of learning that many desire.

Academic Digital

Jisc encourages recognition of technology in face-to-face learning time

Jisc welcomes the 2013 Student Academic Experience survey from Which? and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the information it provides about the range of student learning experiences in universities and colleges.

Asian girl with headphones using skype on laptop
However, with its focus on ‘face-to-face contact hours’, the report may be missing the many ways in which institutions and academics are using technology to guide and support students, and ultimately transform the student experience.

In the digital age, the nature of the student experience is changing rapidly and access to resources and to teaching staff has been transformed. Contact time need no longer mean students and staff sitting in the same seminar room – lectures can be filmed and watched online at a time that suits the learner, academics may engage with and offer feedback to students via email, Facebook and even twitter rather than in time-constrained seminars or tutorials. In this type of model students can engage with digital resources ahead of face-to-face sessions and then use the contact time more fruitfully for discussion and interaction.

“The report’s headline figures do not distinguish between different kinds of contact time, so there is a danger that an institution that primarily engages in old-fashioned ‘chalk and talk’ transmission-style lecturing might appear to be offering more contact hours than an institution that is using technology to deploy resources and contact time more strategically and effectively,” said Martyn Harrow, chief executive of Jisc.

“As the student body becomes more diverse, so institutions need to find ways to ensure that their teaching modes and materials reflect different learning preferences and types of study and attendance. Technology offers a range of ways to do this and to enhance student access to resources and staff both inside and outside university owned systems.”

Jisc has been supporting institutions to enhance the student experience for over 20 years. It offers advice and guidance on how technology can wrap the institution around the learner, providing accurate and personalised resources and services. It funds projects to help institutions better understand their learners’ needs, from learning analytics and comparative course data to creating a seamless student experience.

Academic Digital Event

Faculty of Education, Health and Social Care Presentation

A presentation that I gave at the Faculty of Education, Health and Social Care at the University of Winchester this morning, followed by a presentation on Wimba with Prof Neil Marriott and Dr Audrey Chamberlain – got some good discussions going, and I look forward to working with the Faculty more!