ETEC 511: New Foundations of Educational Technology

This was a core course and to me the framing of the course was slightly confusing. We talked about tools, and the two phenomenological positions that tools might occupy (tools control and condition us; tools are controlled by us). To me that was the key feature of the course, but it was clouded with some distracting approaches to the readings – there was never a key linkage back to the core concept of the course, and while that makes for a challenging course… it also makes for a confusing effort. The assessments never made a clear connection to the theoretical approach – in fact the rubrics had to be consulted to see the connections, which again could be the way the instructor approaches the course, and could be the way the course itself was constructed. I liked the use of other tools, however, I really really wish this program would be really student-centered and allow US to select the tools we want to use for communication. There’s a lot of hand-waving about student focused (at one point, the instructor made a point of saying “the LMS is terrible for teaching” to which I wanted to respond, the LMS isn’t doing the teaching… it’s the place we the students are looking to keep track of stuff). We used Slack, which I have a personal set of problems with (the threading of the chat is limited at best; search is abyssmal; I really have a problem with the way sub-channels? group conversations? are managed) which seemed to be more of the instructor’s choice rather than a collaborative effort.

And if one was concerned about student data being in a private, for-profit, hosted in the US system like Slack when Mattermost is available free to any UBC user makes a ton of sense…. but alas.

Technical choices aside, although in an educational technology course I don’t think you can put them aside, this course was disjointed, the assessments were all over the place – the individual assignments worth 5% apiece – some were written; some required media elements to be designed. There was no equivalency in the time spent between them. I can write a page in about a couple hours of focused work. I can create a video in about a day. In the end, I didn’t really want to engage with any of them as they were all duplicating effort based on the weekly readings and discussions we had already on the topics. While I did find the variety of topics engaging, some of the assignments made some gross errors of assumption. Like I can’t control the use of my phone. Or I don’t use my technology critically. I’ve been working in technology related fields since the late 90’s. I was early in on designing web pages. I saw some of the first javascripts to alter peoples behaviour on webpages (this was in 1997 advertising to draw people’s mouse pointers to elements, think image maps with gravity wells to slow mouse speed and to subtly draw their pointer to hover over objects with pop up descriptions). I taught a course on searching the web as Google moved to a semantic engine for analyzing search results, thus shifting their focus on quality search to engagement on search and selling advertising. The majority of the general populace may not be attentive to attention; but the people in a Master’s level program about technology should be paying attention. Professionals in the field damn well better be. I’m sure that particular assignment about attention could be framed more neutrally.

I realize the design has to hit both audiences for these courses – teachers new to the field and educational professionals who are seeking a post-graduate level degree (like myself).

I was shocked that there was no readings whatsoever about danah boyd’s work, or Ursula Franklin or Neil Postman (beyond the one article) or well, any of the history of the Internet. I’m lucky to have lived through it, but if you’re talking about the foundations of educational technology, you’re talking about the foundations of the world wide web. If you’re talking about the foundation of educational technology outside of the basic roots of web-based instruction – you really need to start talking about Audrey Waters most recent book, Teaching Machines. If you’re talking about online communities you need to include Howard Rheingold’s works. I guess the foundations course I’d design is far-and-widely different than what UBC has done. That’s fine, and probably the perspective I need to hear, rather than the perspective I’d want to hear. Most of that work was done outside academia. It’s not lost on me that most of the educational technology work is historically at-risk as it’s been published on the open web and not in academic journals.

Outside of that, I really, really loved the first thing we did in the course, which was take time to think about settler relationships with indigenous populations through text analysis. It was a thoughtful exercise and I’m constantly thinking about how I can fold that into our work as educational technologists.

ETEC 511: IP#8 – Attention

This assignment includes a requirement to do an attentional record. Here’s that:

9-10Work tasks, email, tickets,Moving from task to task – completed chunks then moved to different task  
10-11Work meetingCataloging was a distractions
11-1211-11:30 lunch 11:30 – 12 work tasks, email, MS TeamsMoving from task to task – completed chunks then moved to different task  
12-1Work meetingDiscussion raised some questions that I searched for. MS Teams message came in from another team member, answered it  
1-2Work meeting (different) 
2-3Video Interview (2-6)Needed to be present during this, phone turned off, no distractions
6-7Dinner prep and dinner, finish workNo phone/computer during dinner prep, work required focus and attention
7-8TV (listen to TV, not actively engaged)Doodle on phone, check email, play games
8-9TV (listen to TV, not actively engaged)Doodle on phone, check email, play games
Attentional Record

This is a bit of a curious exercise as it wants you to turn this data into some visual, but all my visual storytelling skills tell me that it’s not going to add any sort of additional information and abstracting this information one step further is actually obfuscating the information and making analysis harder. So I’m not going to do that.

This exercise for me was interesting, as the exercise was more distracting than my normal process. Typically, I am not a distracted person. I quite often choose not to look at my phone, or check email, or get distracted from what I am doing. If I am “distracted” chances are I’m bored (which is also how I relax, just not pay attention to anything, and stop being actively engaged). Setting out an activity where I have to pay attention to my attention – well, that’s going to be a recipe to double down my already disciplined approach to work, tasks and life. So, I don’t know that I have some great revelatory technique to deal with distractions – I’m not some ascetic monk, I just believe that being in the moment and present is important. In many ways, that’s what Citton (2017) is talking about in the Joint Attention section of the book – “we are always attentive in a particular situation.” (p. 83) In educational situations, attention varies depending on the student and their role – as if attention is social and co-constructed. However, there’s some social norms that drive attention (albeit younger students might adhere to this better than middle school students – who are more likely to be testing social norms). While I don’t necessarily agree that attention is co-constructed, it is (and our current social media world confirms) most certainly socially constructed. Peer groups can “pay attention” to certain musical acts, and ensuring you know those musical acts ensures your social status. Those relationships are social. Families and friends are often the most important people to drive attention and, in my chart, the times where I’m with friends and family, are also the ones where my attention is most undivided.

That sounds so high and mighty to write… but it’s true. The attention that I pay has the most value when I value the people around me. Thinking beyond this particular chart, but into the territory when I do use my phone for entertainment – it’s in transit, between places, and alone.

I will also say that Citton missing out on Neil Postman’s critiques of mass media for entertainment (and thus attention) is a gap that I paid attention to after reading the chapter.

Conversation Prism

It’s been a while, so it’s only appropriate that I start speaking again with a post on the Conversation Prism. It’s now up to version three, and this one is an improvement over previous versions – this one is more specific in it’s categorization. Gone are SMS/Voice from version 1.0,  and it still doesn’t address the community based music genres like SoundCloud and Bandcamp – where I think important music conversations are occurring.

A couple of large tools are missing – Plurk, Netvibes to name two that come to the top of my head in a moments notice. While I don’t think the new category Attention/Communication Dashboards add anything to the conversation other than a central location to read distributed feeds, if you’re going to have it in there, Netvibes and Google Reader are the two top ones, to not mention them is a pretty large omission. Plurk was on the previous Conversation Prism 1.0, under the category of Micromedia, but could easily fit under Blogs/Conversation. Twitter is not really a Streaming tool, even their own description is Microblogging platform, so I quibble about the categorization of a lot of these tools.

Despite my criticisms, it’s a monumental effort, one that I might shell out $20 to put on my wall. In fact it would be interesting to get older versions and compare them side by side. Where’s my time machine when I need one?