CETIS 2008 conference opening session: Oleg, Adam and Andrew Feenberg

November 25, 2008

I am attending the CETIS conference in Birmingham – the first morning is arranged as a plenary keynote by Andrew Feenber. [Need to update this with links.]

Oleg Liber set the scene. He described it as a recession special. Reminding us that in this time of change we can spot new opportunities, or the need to entrench and close in around options.
Key reference points influencing the UK:

Leitch report – need to think about value.
Burgess report – how do we assess/accredit.

With decisions such as the non-funding of second degrees causing pause for thought – will it focus minds and impact on humanities? Big impact on OpenU. Demographic changes making everyone think about new sectors.

Technology changes – mobile computing finally (asus, iphone, Google android).
Web as platform – finally coming true as well
Cloud computing – but we should not abandon the ideas of elearning (even if we do abandon the term).
Lifespan of information is longer than the life of applications and devices.

These are challenges for all of us – but worth looking at IT services in particular. IT services are becoming important.

JISC CETIS describes itself as a place where it is ok to talk technical details. It is newly divided into two parts systems and content/peoples and activities. Over the next year will hole one event per month. Plus working groups – output oriented around specifications.

– achievements of previous year
– Areas of actions for year ahead
– Special focus on demand on IT services.

Adam Cooper then took over to describe the “CETIS connections” linked connections similar to BBC’s comedy connections. He has put up his powerpoint with links through to the blog posts.

Oleg introduced Andrew Feenberg – a Canadian philosopher to talk about “The online education controversy”. An historical and analytic talk.

He took the approach of reading his talk – describing Educational Technology as an oxymoron (in some hands). He led with a quote (from Brody President of John Hopkins University) about the way that education has not recognised the opportunities that it has to lower cost. This view reflects a performance view of Higher Education (with salary costs half of education costs). He referred back to “Executive Computing U” using computer conference system to support distance learning. Startup problems – how to teach and learn online, developed dialogic pedagogy. Text based online discussion can be effective and should not be overlooked today.

Distinguished online from face-to-face. Encourages slower pace, better recognition
“little doubt that good teachers can achieve good results”. Question though whether there is greater value in multimedia over text. David Noble took a contrary view. Compared with Plato on writing – and the lack of ability for written text to adapt and converse. A humanistic bias against technology.

Key is that technology can replace dialogue with interacting with technology – but it does not necessarily follow. And perhaps the Internet is the technology that liberates.

Division of labour (John Smith) illustrated by the image on the £20 note. Andrew Yure? – quote about reducing the skills required from individuals to avoid intractable people needed in the system.

Image from army training manual depicting technology as a delivery mechanism to deliver ideas into the human brain.

Pinch? & Bijker – “…different inerpretations by social groups … lead to … different further developments”. The interlinked and co-consructed nature of social use of technology can be Illustrated by Escher’s drawing hands. There is no clear way to say what is the starting point.
Terms of relevance:
technical underdetermination
actors influence design
interpretive flexibility
closure on a successful design

Suggested rival models for how technology might function include the “factory model” or the “the urban ideal”. Factory implies control and narrowing, city view looks at potentials, communication and openness. While it seems obvious that the city view is more desirable – however viewing technology as cost cutting and automating means that the factory model could dominate.

Inviting email response and visits to his web page on early online education and online pedagoy. At wwwords.co.uk. He also mentions that he has developed an annotation tool for Moodle

Online can support most activities that go on in the classroom.

Oleg Liber asked a key question prompted by the classic experience of listening to a lecture v watching the video. The key is that the live version is a performance that could change while the video cannot change. Bill Olivier made the point that this fits with Piaget that there is a point where you need to adjust mental framework and dialogue will enable people to cross that point better than anything else.
Andrew Ravenscroft – what does the recession change. In the first instance nothing needs to change – but it could be the end of the obsession with making money and greed. People may develop interests beyond making making money which drives people to do the same thing. How this impacts on technology is unclear but efficiency and output focus is part of Thatcher/Reagan era that may not carry forward.

Children have to go to school to gain the models for interactions and vicarious learning to learning. Then can progress to online. Text base can then offer enough engagement to allow construction of connections.


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