Tuesday, March 04, 2008

John Naughton - Naace conference keynote

Note to the casual reader: this is a rather shambolic attempt at live blogging a session from the Naace 2008 Strategic Conference in Torquay, hence it reads something like a stream of (un?)consciousness rather than a thought through, planned blog post.

(I'll put links in later)
John Naughton from the Observer is presenting the first keynote. I'm live blogging it, but not yet using CoverItLive (oops). Here goes... this will be mainly a collection of random lines, so apologies in advance.
JN not a fan of Second Life... and isn't sure what a keynote speaker is for - possibly to "lend tone to a disreputable occasion".
Most educators wouldn't say they were in the media business, but we all are. Media being the plural of medium - not just a carrier, but a medium in the scientific sense - a mixture of things needed for cell growth for example, like a petri-dish. Society is a living thing and it relies on media for development and growth. Change the media, you change the organism. What's changing in our society? Cites Neil Postman - author of The Disappearance of Childhood - unappreciated and not taken seriously. In a print based culture it takes longer to become competent to function as an adult. Postman's contention is that the arrival of TV has transformed society in the same way the arrival of print undermined the Catholic Church. It doesn't take long to become competent at TV - hence the age of reason is lowered. You'll never see a remedial class in TV viewing... Postman's view of education - Amusing Ourselves to Death (on US politics). Political climate in soundbites - hence there are always only two sides to an argument.
Media ecology - a more dynamic system with complex interactions in different forms - parasitic, symbiotic, equilibrium, change, etc. Better than the market metaphors used by government and media. TV didn't wipe out radio, or films or newspapers; the web hasn't (yet) wiped out newspapers - it's not about markets and market share, more of a changing ecosystem. The organisms in this ecosystem inc TV, radio, P2P, web, etc. The dominant organism was broadcast TV - but this is changing - terminal decline. Narrowcast digital TV is eating broadcast TV from within. Once audiences are fragmented, things change - PVRs, iPlayer, etc. Broadcast will still work for major events - 9/11, World Cup, etc. The Web won't replace TV, but the internet might. The Web is just one kind of traffic - P2P data exceeds web data by 10:1 or 2:1 depending on the time of day. The web might be seen as an interesting blip - not the biggest thing ever, just a single innovation.
Penetration of broadband, video streaming, audio streaming, eCommerce, IP telephony (Skype 150,000 new users a day), wide access to Wifi, social networking, IPTV (Joost etc.), - all in developed countries. Then there's Google...
Young people rely on search engines - they view rather than read. Google runs on Linux - hence everyone uses Open Source software, even if they don't think they do. Everyone wants the service, they don't care how it gets to them - Open Source or not. The platform is not the computer anymore - the network is the computer exemplified by the concept of cloud computing. Our children and grandchildren will grow up in a world dominated by the net.

  • Push media - broadcast TV - a select band of producers create it, passive audience recipients (the couch potato) could switch off, or change channels chosen for him by others, about as free as one of BF Skinner's pigeons. Push is fundamentally asymmetrical - the creativity is at the producer's end, not at the viewer's. The most astonishing thing about broadcast was how it kept tens of millions in its thrall - commercial TV is essential "a licence to print money". Push was an artefact of the technology - analogue frequencies limited how many channels could be broadcast. Digital changed this and hollowed out the push model from within.
  • Pull media - the web - the opposite of push, the user selects something and browse to it. Comparing online prices from the comfort of your own armchair means prospective purchasers turn up with not just specifications of products but their prices as well. Consumers can be much more informed - harder to keep secrets from them (see Prince Harry in Afghanistan). cf with Edward VIII and the abdication - a deal done with newspapers which stuck, until Edward came to marry Mrs Simpson - a divorce court is a public place. King's Moll Reno'd in Wolesley's Home Town was how one (unfettered) US paper put it - people in WHSmith were employed to cut out sections of US papers which mentioned Mrs Simpson. Nowadays the internet allows things to be found out and disseminated which wouldn't otherwise - like Kryptonite Bike Locks opened with a biro or Sony's stealthy installation of a rootkit. A quote from a medical researcher "in 2010 the biggest problem for GPs will be how to deal with internet-informed patient".

The asymmetry of the push world will be replaced with something more balanced.
(there are lots of echoes in this of Lessig's TED Talk on Creativity).

  • Blogging - no-one knows how many blogs there are ~100m? Ewan disagrees with this in the subsequent session, but I think the point is that it's a lot. (Technorati say 2 new blogs per second). Many contain high order thinking and are very trustworthy. The traffic in ideas in blogging isn't a one way street. Blogging gives a platform. This is a reversal in the decline of the public sphere. Support for Obama comes from the debate in the blogging community which encouraged him to stand - he whupped Hilary in that. Endism - is blogging the end of journalism? Not from an ecological perspective - it changes the ecosystem. A new organism arrives, existing organisms need to adapt.
  • Digital photography - sharing through flickr etc. allow display of photographs with tagging, the private becoming public.
  • YouTube - from the crass to the compelling. 9/11 - video coverage couldn't have been assessed using push media. All of the CNN, ABC and Fox coverage is available,the experience of listening to Jeff Jarvis's 6 MP3 files on his blog. The remix culture - again, back to Lessig.

The phrase user generated content is what links them. LiveLeak of a Iraq video - I can never watch these without wincing as you know something terrible's going to happen, but not in this clip:

This sort of clip would never be shown on broadcast TV, as it doesn't make the news. It does, however, show

  1. why the US aren't liked in Iraq and
  2. that patrols never stop if they can help it

Kids born in 1985 have grown up with the web, use BitTorrent to get US TV shows, 6 new realities for them:
Lee rennie?

  1. Media and gadgets are ubiquitous - therefore things are far more complex;
  2. New devices allow this to be enjoyed anyway;
  3. Mobile phones;
  4. Multitasking a way of life;
  5. Devices with rich media are critical;
  6. Things will change even more in the future.
By any metric, the emerging media ecosystem is immeasurably more complex than before - over 50s are conditioned to previous models of media.
The big question: what are the implications for education?
The problem is the speed of change. A widening gap between which the media ecosystem is changing and the glacial pace of educational progress. Educational sector has sought to control variety rather than amplify its own variety. Curriculum is devoted to training rather than education in ICT - the line about replacing the word "sex" for ICT in "would you rather your kids got ICT training rather than ICT education". He then shows the Vision of Students Today video which unfortunately whoever is running the computer decides not to show full-screen... a real shame as the video will mean nothing to those watching without being able to read what it says, so here it is:

Question: (it's mine, but hey...) - is a user-generated curriculum worthwhile and desirable? The wrong question (oops) - rather, what's wrong with the current pedagogical model - it's users' delight in creativity which is the good thing about this, it enhances the curriculum and enables the focus to be on the learner. These technologies would enable something conversational, rather than the hoop jumping which is required at the moment - they don't fit into a target driven environment - teachers are resourceful, autonomous, creative, not drones. The internet isn't a pipe, it's a beanstalk, up which children climb.
Question: many of the types of technology are morally neutral - they just "are" rather than being intrinsically bad or good. Are we in a position where we need to rethink the teaching of moral choices. If the computer's in the bedroom then you've lost, don't abdicate responsibility - you wouldn't with TV. JN didn't install filtering software, instead encouraged children to think about what they were doing, how it made them feel - safe or unsafe, etc.
Question: Ivan Ilic (?)- Technology can be used for bureaucracy in teaching or creativity in learning - are we near a tipping point for that? Seymour Papert was a visionary - from Mindstorms to The Children's Machine - teachers had seen technology as a threat. JN's kids are bored by ICT at school - "We did key skills - f-ing PowerPoint"...
Question: After reading Neil Postman's Teaching as a subversive activity - what are the implications when schools are not full of teachers who grew up in the previous ecosystem? The danger is that these teachers will be in the system and crushed by its weight - a potential tragedy. We're all rats in this maze - the OU is still giving home computing specs in platform requirements rather than capabilities.
JN's Question: What's your policy on PowerPoint in the classroom - JN's own response - it should be a sackable offence.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blogging but John is far more than "from the observer". I'm sure he wouldn't blow his own trumpet himself but http://molly.open.ac.uk/Personal-pages/OAQs.htm

    gives more details of his many and varied activities.