Things I’m Thinking About

In this month’s Wired magazine regular contributor and comic book writer Warren Ellis entitles his column ‘Five things I’m thinking about right now.’

Whilst I often share what I’ve been thinking about in my weeknotes, I thought I’d share what’s been on my mind more generally recently:

1. Standardisation

Innovation seems to be predicted upon standardisation. This can either be distributed (in the case of Open Source Software) or due to an individual or small group’s previous efforts that have led to a core of good practice.

2. The atomisation of society

Even when events are held and people are gathered together they are increasingly not interacting with others who are physically present. Whilst there is some mediated interaction via social networks most of the interactivity is, in fact, controlled by brands and organisers. These exert power and control even in seemingly-informal situations, such is the power of mediated communication.

That’s not to say that there is anything new to this, per se. It has ever been so through television, books and the power of institutions. People seem to like hierarchies.

3. The media

Whilst a lack of gatekeepers and the extremely low cost of entry allows blogs like this to reach a modest number of people it can, depending on the critical faculties and method of presentation, lead to a situation where all ‘news’ is seen as equal.

Perhaps the zenith of this is newsmap.jp, a service that constructs an uncritical visual representation of the top stories from Google News. Stories from the barrel-scraping TV show ‘X-Factor’ are juxtaposed and, depending on the time of day/week, sometimes overwhelm events of immense historical, political and economic importance.

Unfortunately, it would seem that the public broadly considered believe news to be apolitical and unbiased. One has only to witness the number of people in obviously well-paid jobs crucial to the country’s successful functioning who eschew quality news reporting for the fast-food ‘reporting’ of free newspapers.

4. Metaphors

There’s a paucity of historical metaphor, especially within the educational sphere. As I hope to point out in a forthcoming post, grasping for new metaphors and making seemingly-tenuous connections is vital for sustaining and enriching language.

I’m currently at the stage of laughing at authors whose imaginations (or perhaps basic knowledge) cannot stretch further than hunter-gatherer or industrial revolution metaphors. That laughter may well give way to frustration sooner rather than later.

 

The sublime and the ridiculous.

There’s a fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous. Take the following in response to a retweet I made about potentially giving learners Google-like ‘20% time’ to pursue their own interests:

My initial response?

Ridiculous. That would never happen!

And then…

But perhaps as a vision statement for 2020 that could work.

Which got me thinking:

So what would we need to do to make that reality?

Perhaps:

  • Mobile phones seen as learning equipment.
  • Availability of secure GPS-enabled school environment.
  • Learner autonomy.

So actually, an offhand statement can serve as a vision to work towards. It’s good to mix things up sometimes. :-p

 

The problem(s) of 21st century literacy/ies

As most people reading this will already know, I’m studying towards an Ed.D. at the moment. My (tentative) thesis title is What does it mean to be ‘educated’ and ‘digitally literate’? The impact of ICT and the knowledge society upon education in the 21st century.. You can find my thesis proposal here and bookmarks related to my studies here. My current thinking is that I’m just going to focus on the concept of what ‘literacy’ means in the 21st century as it’s a huge and confused (confusing?) field.

 
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