Monday, 17 November 2008

I’ve been reading a bit about (digital) media literacy and its impact in the promotion of a participatory society. I’m particularly interested in investigating what role of education (including e-learning) should play in this process. Some argue that youth become digitally literate just by interacting with popular culture. Others say pedagogical and policy interventions are needed so as to foster equal access to opportunities for expression using new media, a clear understanding of how media shape perceptions, and socialization that prepares them to act as a media makers and community participants.

I tend to go along with the second opinion not least because of a small survey I carried out with some teenagers (15-19 years-old) about their Internet uses. Among other findings, I discovered (was I really surprised?) that, despite their easy access to the Internet, the great majority of them spend 100% of their time online in one or all of these 3 activities: email/IM, chat and social networking sites. I’m talking here about middle-class Brazilian students whose parents have in their majority finished a university course.

Now, I’m not saying there is no gain in digital literacy in these activities, but I just wonder how much critical, reflective and creative thinking is required while updating one’s profile, or finding out about someone’s new date. I don’t want to sound prudish and I definitely don’t think young people should not do these things. What I’m questioning here, and as mentioned above, what interests me is to define the role of education in the process of developing young people’s media literacy skills. As apparently they’re not getting a lot of it from their main current internet activities, how can elearning help shape their future as active, participatory citizens? That’s not a rhetoric question; I’d really be interested in having other people’s opinions.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

In Brazil we are approaching city elections. I thought this would be the appropriate moment for a flashback. Before I move to that, however, I would like to state my complete disgust for the task ahead of me: choosing from the local candidates the ones who are less dishonest, less incompetent, whose intentions are less evil... After our last elections I decided I wouldn’t do this anymore. I’m sick and tired of it, and I will only vote again when the political system concretely devises and applies a method to demand accountability of those elected.

I’m sure someone will say that this accountability is checked in the following elections: all you have o do is NOT vote for those who betrayed your vote and their own promises. Nonsense. In general, those who are elected occupy financial, economic, and marketing spaces that will vitally serve for manipulation. Their tentacles reach beyond our control, and, as a result, they accumulate money, information and souls, which will guarantee their next elections regardless of what they have done. That’s how it works and, so far, in the discussions on political reform, I’ve heard nothing that could threat this scheme. I can already hear those good souls saying that by refusing to participate I’m contributing to the status quo. I disagree. I’m more and more convinced that our participation through voting only legitimates the process. Maybe, when the number of those who refuse to cope with this process is large enough, some significant change will emerge.

Well, the topic is controversial and I said I’d bring a flashback. Here it goes again an amazing article about innovative and effective ways of thinking cities and their management: Remixing Cities . Maybe it will inspire someone.

Monday, 25 August 2008

I was just reading about the Information Overload Research Group (IORG) Inaugural Conference, which was held on July 15, 2008. It’s interesting to see who some of the participants are, and what they are up to. In this particular conference: David Goldes, Basex’ president, Max Christoff from Morgan Stanley, Shari Pfleeger Lawrence from the Rand Corporation, and Nathan Zeldes from Intel. All of them talking about the problems their organizations face with respect to information overload. It’s gotten to the point where their businesses are actually losing money: the cost of unnecessary interruptions plus recovery time (time spent getting back to where you were, if indeed you do get back there) to the U.S. economy is $650 billion as of 2007. That’s 28% of the knowledge worker’s day, while only 12% of the knowledge worker’s day is spent in thought or reflection.

In his post on IORG’s blog, Jonathan B. Spira, Chief Analyst at Basex and Vice President, Research, of IORG, comments about an interesting paradox described by David Levy, one of the presenters:

“just as we are creating new tools for knowledge work and collaboration (and as our economy is becoming more knowledge based), we are losing the time we need to think.”

As a way to overcome this predicament, Levy suggests “more contemplative practices into both work and academic settings”. A truly hard exercise in today’s world, but it’s indeed a pleasure to find that Caymmi was right after all! And, as an adopted ‘baiana’, weary of stereotyping jokes, I’m more than serious here. Much as Levy’s suggestion sounds misplaced in today’s world, I’m trying to commit myself to some contemplative, deep thinking exercise. Even if that means not getting all the new information I could be getting. Or maybe because of that.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Net-generation naturally multitask. Those of us born before the digital age have to struggle against our natural tendency to do one thing at a time and, for this reason, are disadvantaged in terms of learning. Of course everyone has come across these clich├ęs, but, recently, to my relief, I have been reading several articles and blog posts about ‘multitasking’ and learning (The Myths of the Digital Generation, Digital Nativism - Digital Delusions and Digital Deprivation, Digital natives and immigrants: A concept beyond its best before date and Thinking: a challengeable position on learning 2.0 and the incumbent). A very recent article about this topic called The Myth of Multitasking by Christine Rosen has had the powerful effect of making me stop reading and write this post. The whole article is worth reading, but I’m copying the final words here since they express SO nicely what I’ve felt for a long time and never had the talent/wisdom to express.

For the younger generation of multitaskers, the great electronic din is an expected part of everyday life. And given what neuroscience and anecdotal evidence have shown us, this state of constant intentional self-distraction could well be of profound detriment to individual and cultural well-being. When people do their work only in the “interstices of their mind-wandering,” with crumbs of attention rationed out among many competing tasks, their culture may gain in information, but it will surely weaken in wisdom.

Perhaps I have fallen into the same trap I’ve been warning people about. Perhaps I’ve been multitasking too much, shallow-reading too much, focusing too little to be able to articulate in written words what I feel I know. George Siemens warns us, “I wonder if the criticism of multitasking isn't partly misplaced...i.e. perhaps we just have much more noise in our world today (video games, TV, podcasts, blogs, youtube) and the key task is one of knowing when to experience multiple information sources and when to focus.” But how can we tell the difference between noise and real learning opportunities when we are constantly being told that everything in life, such as chatting with friends, watching Big Brother, taking and sharing pictures, checking Twitter to find what other people are doing—huh???, etc., all represents real learning opportunities? Perhaps I’m too old to be able to decide when to give my divided attention or when to focus, unless I focus to figure that out.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Yesterday I came across an article written in 2003 by Stephen Downes about copyright and its relationship with ethics. The subject interests me due to its great impact on the empowerment of citizens. It relates to free access to educational/cultural products. It relates to culture and income distribution too. It’s also about exposing your work (and yourself) to those with opinions different from your own. It’s about controlling others. Need I say more?

As usual, I tend to agree with Downes’s points AND keeping my mixed feelings about the subject. Among other things he says, “Copyright, from my perspective, is a haven for thieves. It is a license to claim ownership over anything you might happen to find on the internet (and elsewhere) that isn't clearly nailed down. Worse, it is providing a means for those who enter this free and open space called the internet to put up fences and say "this is mine," to appropriate a network designed for open exchange and to convert it to a private publication and distribution system.”

This sounds quite right and fair. What bothers me is that going against (disrespecting) copyright is illegal. On one hand, well, it could be argued simply that it shouldn’t be illegal (at least not totally illegal), but, on the other, while it is, I don’t feel comfortable advocating for breaking the law. Then I come to a dilemma: as an educator who preaches for citizen empowerment, should I be advocating for a law that prevents/limits the access to education of those who need most? But shouldn’t empowerment and democracy be based on the respect of laws?

Monday, 12 May 2008

I was reading Donald Clark's blog about how much more public life's supposedly become and I thought of myslef. I’ve been fighting my tendency to fight personal transparency. My need to veil my life, my habits, my likes. My discomfort (disgust) for being too open to the world, too traceable, too public. I’m an e-Learning educator; I need to have a public/accessible online Anamaria. I need to socialize and share and learn and network. So far, it’s seemed like a reasonable price to pay, considering how much I’ve learned (and hopefully have helped others learn). So I blog (in English and in Portuguese), I’m on Facebook and Orkut. I’m on SCoPE. I read (with great pleasure) some edubloggers I have come to admire. Yet, every now and then, this weird suspicion comes to my mind… how public, transparent, open is this new world where I’ve come to be a constant visitor (and eventually a contributor)? And of course I don’t ignore the fact that it’s accessible to anyone with an internet connection. I mean open in terms of providing different opinions, opinions I don’t immediately agree with. How transparent is a world where apparently all inhabitants share the same core values, the same basic opinions about education and learning? Sure anyone can disagree—and some do in fact write about their disagreements, but, in general, I’m still protected by a cozy community of peers much like in my private life… Shouldn’t I be openly/transparently networking with those whose opinions I despise? I particularly liked a sentence I found in elearnspace where George Siemens says, “A few good cynics are always nice to have around”. Where are the cynics in the edublogosphere? Perhaps I need to look for them in the private, obscure, offline world?

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

I came across and interesting post by Dean Shareski comparing the end of religion to the end of school. Basically, he links the structures and rules of religion, which, according to Bruxy Cavey will turn religion obsolete, to the structure and rules of school. This got me thinking about the need for schools as they currently exist. Many thinkers, such as Stephen Downes, have been talking about deschooling for a long time, and it’s difficult not to agree with a lot of what they say. However, what would deschooling cause in developing countries? What effects would children and adults suffer if, instead of going to the existing schools, they were given the chance to decide what, when and where to study. Let’s considering of course they had access to web 2.0 technologies, adequate bandwidth and all the necessary support. What would be our roles as educators? How would we promote self-directedness in a teaching/learning culture where students are still so used to being told what to think and do? Who would replace the schools’ role in promoting tolerance to difference among young people? Would these people become too individualistic? Food for thought…

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Google generation - not enough critical thinking skills

A new report, commissioned by JISC and the British Library portrays the ‘Google Generation’ – people born or brought up in the Internet age – in a way that might be surprising to many. Basically, it claims that, although these people exhibit an ease and fluency with computers, they rely on the most basic search tools and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to asses the information that they find on the web. Now, consider that in Brazil, those with easy access to high speed Internet are most frequently those coming from better educated families and with access to the best schooling opportunities. These people lack critical thinking skills, and, as we have been told by recent studies about Brazilian reality (the latest ISEP), cannot read or write in the fullest sense of these terms… What then can be expected from the vast majority of the Brazilian population? I see the “teaching” of literacy skills—basic, digital and media literacy—the only way to promote their empowerment. However, what does this ‘teaching’ encompass? Hopefully not the throwing of the “right” content, but the cultivation of thinking habits, the promotion of meaningful networked discussion towards real independence and not reliance on the same old experts.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Very informative writing on Steve Hargadon's blog about the ways the Web2.0 will impact the future of Education. He pictures bright horizons, and I can't hardly disagree with him. My only question is to what extent this future will come to developing nations. What can we do to broaden the roads for this future in remote places? Do we really have to wait for physical roads to be built before these ways are cleared? Is it not possible to leapfrog our way to a more prosperous future?

Sunday, 2 March 2008

2008 is election year in Brazil. We'll have the chance to choose new mayors, but unfortunately prospects are not very bright: the same people who never get tired… Let me tell you I’m really tired of them. Just in case your hopes are not completely dead, I’m sharing here this fantastic post I found in Harold Jarche’s blog. It's called Remixing Cities and it's absolutely amazing. I just wish our dear candidates had similar ideas. Well, at least we should know what to demand.