For the final reflection of the course, I thought I would attempt to wrap by brain around one of the larger concepts we have explored. As I briefly referred to in this week’s tech review, there seems to be a convergence of web-based tools. With a couple of clicks I can upload pictures, videos, audio, and text to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, WordPress, YouTube, etc. I see this convergence as not only convenient for the creator, but also as a way of streamlining ideas and information. With very little effort an individual can access ideas, updates, and information about the people and concepts they are interested in.
The next logical step (if it does not already exist) is to have a platform that integrates all of these various forms of communication into a one-stop-shop. Maybe this will be referred to as “Wal-Marting the Internet”. Users access one app or one website that allows them to see a stream of updates from their friends and those they follow as they post through the various services. I envision those who would protest this merging, just as people protested Wal-Mart coming to town. Some will refuse to participate, preferring the “mom and pop” sites that are smaller and more intimate, but in the end, people gravitate toward convenience.
This week we had the chance to explore Second Life. This is my first time to visit this virtual world, and like most things, I see two very different sides to it. On one hand I can see where mature individuals with educational endeavors in mind could utilize this virtual world for learning. A classroom in any setting could be established for students to meet and interact with the instructor in order to converse and explore a topic. In fact, as I am describing it now it sounds pretty interesting. With enough time and effort spent on developing the course environment(s) and experiences it could turn out to be something pretty amazing.
Then, there is the other side. My knee-jerk reaction was that it would just be a place for people to pretend to be something they are not and flirt with strangers. I still think there are a large number of people who do exactly that. As an elementary teacher I do not think I would be willing to use this technology simply because the children are not mature enough to resist some of the features within SL. Features like removing articles of clothing provide way too much temptation for a pre-pubescent fifth grade boy. There is also the chat feature which I know my students would immediately jump to.
So, although I see where this could certainly be an intriguing and engaging environment for some learners, I’m afraid the only second life my students will get to see is the one they live outside of my classroom.
I was very intrigued by the video on Dan Pink‘s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I had never heard that beyond repetitive, low-cognitive work money or other extrinsic rewards cease to be motivators. I agree with his notion that in order to be productive and for creativity to flow, money must be taken off the table. In other words, people need to be paid enough that they can stop thinking about it and focus on the job.
The Web 2.0 Expo video featuring Rosalind Picard discussed new technologies that can track our emotions by monitoring our pulse and skin. One of the ideas for this technology is to let people see how we are feeling as we communicate with them online. She mentioned that although they are working on it, they are not quite at the point where someone would know specifically what emotion you are feeling, only that there is a spike in your signature. I think it would tend to cause confusion rather than clarification with the way it is right now. For example, a guy could be communicating with a girl on line and he sees that something he says to her causes a spike in her wave. He takes this as a sign that she likes what he says, but her actual emotion was disgust. That could definitely lead to some awkward moments! I think I’ll wait until the technology gets a little better before I try it.
I was really impressed with Kevin Kelly‘s lecture that we watched this week (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPso8j7Mv00&feature=player_embedded). His vision for future uses of the web were both logical and fascinating. I really liked the idea of “screening” that he referred to. We have had conversations in my elementary classroom about the students having desktops that were touch enabled screens. Textbooks could be digitally stored on these desktops, along with productivity tools and wi-fi Internet access. Screens could replace the bulletin boards in the school’s hallways so that images of student work could be shown along with videos of the students creating and discussing their thoughts about their projects.
I must admit when Twitter first came out I was not terribly impressed. My initial thoughts were that we now had the ability to get unimportant, trivial updates from anyone we would choose to follow. I also saw it mainly as a vehicle for individuals with celebrity status to have one more thing to boost their fragile egos (i.e. “look how many followers I have”). Cynicism aside and a greater interest in incorporating technology into my classroom have caused me to think of Twitter (aka micro-blogging) from a different perspective. The potential is there to genuinely increase student engagement and learning. There now even exists the opportunity to connect with people who actually have something meaningful to say, and not just the self-serving tweets of depthless celebrities (oops, there is that cynicism again – sorry).
Reading the article by Tim O’Reilly confirmed for me some of what I had heard about the Web 2.0 movement. Primarily, that some software products had moved above the use of a single device by becoming web-based, and that individuals had the chance to contribute to open source products such as Wikipedia and Moodle. The article helped give me a better understanding of the full scope of the Web 2.0 concept, especially from the business perspective. What I found to be most interesting, however, was the information provided this week about blogs. It has not been until recently that I have focused my attention on blogs, and more specifically, what blogs have become. My perception of blogs had been that they were more or less what they had started out as; a kind of online diary. I have been impressed to see how much they have grown, not only in content but also in influence. It is amazing to me that the power of the individual has become (through the connectivity with others) a force that has a very large influence over what is popular on the web and beyond.
I am still fascinated by the access to information our society is afforded through the Internet. Like so many, I can clearly remember growing up in a time when there was no such thing. I have been thinking a great deal lately about the Internet as our world brain. Each connection point to the web is a synapse in this ever-changing, ever learning, ever evolving brain. As more and more people come on-line the knowledge base grows. I find it to be both exhilarating and foreboding. -JPG