by Stephen Downes
Feb 03, 2017
Part of the problem with e-learning technology is that it is designed with the wrong consumer in mind. Designers picture the typical online student as a stereotypical college student with deep pockets attending a traditional midwestern university studying the liberal arts. Real students, though, aren't like that - especially those served by e-learning. They're not studying full time, they don't live on campus, they have jobs and expenses, and they have a pretty good idea why they're taking classes and what they want to do.
As usual, the essence of understanding technology can be found in understanding what makes for bad technology. "Hebocon is a robot contest for the technically ungifted. "The word Heboi in Japanese means 'crappy,' 'unperfected,' 'poor in quality,' or 'poor in ability.' 'Hebocon, the robot contest for dummies,' is a robot battle contest for Heboi robots made by Heboi people. All the entrants are people who neither have the technical expertise, determination, nor the focus it takes to build an actual robot. " "Entrants will need compromise and surrender, instead of ideas and technical skill. Robots are penalized for having high-tech features." (Metafilter, 2014) The first Hebocon. A bit from IEEE Spectrum. I thin k technology conferences should have mandatory contests to design the worst possible actually functioning technology. And the winner should have to apologize.
I'm happy to say that the philosophers are lining up on the correct side of this discussion. "No, you do not get to punch people even though they’re ideologically despicable." Let's remember that. For more on ethics, you might want to read my recent post, An Ethics Primer.
I'm generally sympathetic with the aims of this post but I can't get past his use of corporate logos and branding (specifically, the whole Star Wars motif) to animate his call. I come from the same place he does, in 1985, "the future of learning was bright and educational technology would play a central role in its transformation by removing the curriculum, the artificial subject silos and the streaming of kids by age, so that learning could be experienced and lived." I didn't need Seymour Papert to come up with these ideas for me, I might note: a lot of people figured this all out independently. I too regret that "technology was co-opted not to liberate but to reinforce standardisation and automation of schools ways." But no I won't join an “EdTech Rebel Alliance” - I will continue to work with my own identity and my own brand, even if not stamped with corporate imprimatur, as I have always done.
We still use Windows 7 at the office. Our version of Exchange, meanwhile, is so old it is actually incompatible with newer versions of Outlook, with the result that my Windows 10 laptop and desktop at home have to use Thunderbird to access email. It's a common scenario. The article blames the complexity of Windows 10 and privacy concerns. I disagree. First, I think that the software-by-subscription model is seriously flawed; you no longer own software, so signing over to Windows 10 means permanent annual expenses. Second, I think the Microsoft apps that come built-in with Windows 10 (Mail, Calendar, Maps, Groove, Messaging, even Edge) are terrible; features I'd come to count on have vanished. Windows 7 with the 2010 versions of Word, PowerPoint, etc., is a stable long-term solution. The software won't disappear on you, features won't disappear on you, not even if you stop paying Microsoft. And that's why companies and individuals are sticking with it.
The Cameroon government has shut down internet access in English-speaking regions of the predominately French-seaking country in response to unrest in the minority population. The outage, which has lasted two weeks, is having a significant effect on the region's nascent internet industry. Edward Snowden notes, "This is the future of repression." I'm sympathetic with all sides in the dispute, and hope they are able to de-escalate. meanwhile, the event makes it clear that organizations need to develop diginal communications that do not depend on the internet, a 21st century wireless Fidonet, if you will. Image: Steve Tchoumba
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