FOTE09: the finale

E-classroom at the Lewis Library, Princeton

Made it to the last session of the day, which started with ‘Unbundling the University’ by Dougald Hine. The spread of technologies is driven by not what it can do, but what we want it to do. For example SMS was unanticipated as a mass technology – people often want less information rather than more. He criticised some of the models of how technologies spread as being loaded with value judgements – not all technologies are good, not everyone is impressed with gadgets! Dougald argued we are not superior because we get excited by technology and it’s important to look at where the dissatisfactions and unmet desires lie. Dougald talked about a PhD student who struggled with getting help with his PhD – about people working in silos – and he found the course he wanted from the School of Everything in the end and paid for it. He asked as it gets easier for people to organise their own teaching, will we see more of what he calls the DIY masters? The Edgeless University report I cited earlier, apparently said that university learning technologists was getting it wrong by going down the route of providing content. He also talked about how qualifications were less valuable today than 10 years ago, and that universities IT is less up to date than company IT. He concluded saying that people have been learning without universities and while perhaps institutions provide the accreditation and learners can choose where they get their content from.

Shirley Williams from University of Reading was up next talking about digital identity and asked how many of us had Googled themselves – most of us had! Shirley ran a workshop with PGCE students and many of them found things on Bebo and MySpace about themselves and couldn’t remove it because they had lost their password or e-mail account that they registered with. Shirley had a list of bizarre e-mail account names that some of her colleagues use – but would an employer open and e-mail from fluffybunnyknickers@hotmail.com? There were also some examples of people using Twitter to find a job and people being sacked for making offensive comments on Facebook about their employer. Shirley made the point that a lot of people do very silly things in online spaces. All this work is on the This is Me website with lots of resources about digital identities which I’m going to check out afterwards. We have been planning on running a class on Facebook privacy and security for students later in the term, so this could come in handy.

The final speaker was Lindsay Jordan from the University of Bath, and University of the Arts who had a blog post ready about her talk. She’s a learning technologist at Bath and talked about how she uses her blog, about reflection and about Vygotsky. It’s a bit late on a Friday afternoon for learning theory so we were all pleased to return to the subject of Twitter and ‘social presence’. Lindsay sees the key as ‘reciprocity’ (which goes back to ancient Egypt and Greece) so we should lead and learn by example. She concluded by talking about Darwin and the survival of the fittest – in the social world (in contrast to the biological world) the fittest are those who give the most.

I headed off shortly after that, as we were running late and it’s Friday, but thanks everyone for a good day!

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