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Is Amazon becoming the educator of the Internet Age?

Fig.1. The debate on this book in Amazon comments is turning this into a self-directed, open module on the outbreak of the First World War

Amazon is going way beyond selling and reselling books to aggregate conversations. The sophisticated way that discussions are offered might be a lesson to educators – reviews aren’t simply stacked, but are offered in a variety of ways: contrasting arguments, newest first, based on rating for the publication or likes from other readers. While simultaneously, playing upon serendipity multiple alternative reviews are offered in a ‘side bar’. You can begin to pick out types of voice, from the academic to the belligerent, to those who have yet to read or complete the book, to those that have read it more than once. Innovations here are seeing Amazon becoming a social platform in its own right with recently launched platforms inviting discussion and group forming. i.e. Amazon gains in stickiness and frequent visits and revisits.

(First posted in OpenStudio as part of H818: The networked practitioner).

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Applying learning on the First World War with e-learning – some Kindle reading.

Fig.1. Applying learning on the First World War with e-learning – some Kindle reading. 

I believe very much in the process of pulling apart, opening out, expanding, then editing, revising and condensing. There is an applied ‘creation process’ here – the three diamonds or Buffalo system that I sense H818 is taking us through.

Fig.2. The ‘Buffalo’ system of opening up, the compressing thinking

These days it is easy to grab and mash any content on a digital screen, but where I have a book I will, in some circumstances take pictures rather than write notes, then quickly bracket and annotate this text before filing it in an appropriate album online – for later consumption.

Regarding CC I’m afraid as the music and movie industries have already shown people will do as they please even where the copyright is bluntly stated. Academia will require and expect that everything is done by the book – the rest of the world won’t give a monkey’s … ‘we’ll’ do as we please until there’s a legal shoot up or the ‘industry’ realises that it has moved on.

Regarding eBooks, Amazon are looking at and expect to be very much at the forefront of the evolutionary of the book. Google are competing in the same space.

‘Have we reached the Napster moment in publishing?’ a senior engineer at Amazon asked.

My head, content wise, is in another place, studying First World War military history. As never before on the MAODE or subsequent OU e-learning modules, I know have content to put into these processes. For example, ‘the causes of the First World War’ might require reading of a dozen books and papers/pamphlets starting with H G Wells in 1914 and ending with books appearing on tables in Waterstones this week. Courtesy of the Internet just about anything I care to read, at a price, I can have within seconds on a smart device … or overnight courtesy of Amazon.

Whatever my practice, this content is mashed-up in my head.

If I mash it up through screen grabs, notes, sharing in social media and blogging then this is another expressing of what is going on in my head – though controlled by the parameters of the tools and platforms I use – currently a wordpress blog, SimpleMinds for mindmaps, and ‘Studio’ for layering text and images over screengrabs i.e annotations. As well as what ever Kindle gives me in the way of notes and highlights.

This kind of ‘extra corporeal’ engagement or visualization of what is going on in my head with the content gives it an life of its own and an extra dimension while also re-enforcing my own thoughts and knowledge. I’m sure that I am rattling along this learning curve at a far, far greater pace then I could have a decade or two decades ago. Patterns are more apparent. And I am spotting too many misappropriated images too. The idea that you can grab a frame and relabel it is 100 years old!

Fig.3. How I filmed the Front. Geoffrey Malins

For example, the footage from the ‘Battle of the Somme’ is often ‘grabbed’ with subsequent combatants and authors claiming these to be original photographs of their own – they must have had access to the negative. This footage, as I am very familiar with it, is repeatedly put into films and documentaries completely out of sequence.

As reference above is correct – I find ‘grabs’ from the film footage and photographs taken by Ernest Brooks who accompanies the ‘cameramen’ around the Somme in June/July 1916 constantly claimed as another person’s own photograph or belonging to their collection. 

A false or alternative impression is therefore built up.

Then, across YouTube, sections of TV dramas and films are snatched and cut into a person’s own re-hashing of a different story. Harry Patch died age 111 or something – the last veteran. A tribute to him uses footage from the TV drama starring Daniel Radcliffe called ‘My Boy, George”.

Are we therefore seeing with text, stills and moving images what has been happening to music for the last decade or more – deliberate, and often illegal sampling and mashing, rehashing, exploiting of someone else’s work? If so what impact will this have on content in the future? Does too much of it start to look familiar, rather than original? Or does originality come out of this process too?

The conclusion might be that people simple sidestep the stilted, stuck, formal process of academia – where the sharing process is so desperately slow. The paper I read on use of audio and tracking in a museum I thought was reasonably current as it was published in 2008 but the technology used comes from a different era – 2003. Research done in 2006, initially submitted as a paper in 2007, published the following year.

An R&R department functioning like this would be left behind.

Knowledge must leak, must be shared sooner, and where those share a work in progress it should be commended.

Openness comes with some caveats

Fig.1 At the Brighton Festival – that’s Verity of ‘Verity & Violet’ – or is she ‘Violet’ ?  And what do they all have in common? I changed their nappies.

I’m getting a sense of deja vu as the rhythm of this module reveals itself. Openness comes with some caveats. It is not everyone’s cup of tea.

As people we may change or behaviour in different environments. I am not saying that we as individuals necessarily behave in the same way in an Open Studio online (a virtual studio no less) than we do or would in an open studio, as in a collective in a workshop or ‘atlier’ that is ‘exposed’ to fellow artists –  but is nonetheless human interaction with all the usual undercurrents.

What I believe will not work is to put a gaggle of creators in the same room and expect them to collaborate.

The studios of the ‘open’ type that I am aware of are either the classic Rennaisance workshop with a master artist and apprentices at various stages of their own development, or,  with a similar dynamic in operation, the ‘occupants’ of the studio are exposed LESS to each other and more to external commentators and contributors and this requires some formality to it .i.e. not simply ‘the person off the street’ but an educator/moderator in their own right.

Is H818:The Networked Practitioner too dependent on chance?

The foibles of a small cohort and the complex, messy, moments ‘we’ are in. Three years of this and, by chance only, surely, six of  us in a subgroup jelled. More often the silence and inactivity of the majority makes ‘group work’ a myth – partnerships of two or three were more likely. The only exception I have come across in the ‘real world’ have been actors working together on an improvisation – they have been trained however to disassociate their natural behaviours.

Some of us study with the OU as we cringe at the ‘exposure’ of a course that requires us to meet in the flesh – distance learning suits, to some degree, the lone worker who prefers isolation.

By way of revealing contrast I am a tutor at the School of Communication Arts – a modest though pivitol role given their format and philosophy – exposure to many hundreds of kindred spirits who have been there …  a sounding board and catalyst. NOT a contributor, but more an enabler.

We’ll see.

My thinking is that to be effective, collaboration or exposure needs to have structure and formality in order to work.

At the Brighton Arts Festival the other evening I wonder how the 80 odd exhibitors would cope if the Corn Exchange was also their workshop? In certain, vulnerable environments, the only comment should be praise. Feedback is invited from those who are trusted.

A school setting is different again, as is college … people share the same space because they have to.

Open Studio apears to try to coral the feedback that comes anyway from a connected, popular and massive sites such as WordPress, Linkedin Groups, Facebook and even Amazon. Though the exposure, if you permit it, is tempered and negotiated – Facebook is gentle amongst family and friends, Linkedin is meterd and professional in a corporate way, WordPress is homespun while Amazon, probably due to the smell of money can be catty – and in any case, the artefact is a doneddeal, it’s not as if, to take a current example, Max Hastings is going to rewrite his book on the First World War because some in the academic community say that it is weak historicaly and strong on journalistic anecdote.

On verra

Would you know a digital scholar if you met one? Are we there yet?

Martin Weller, in ‘The Digital Scholar’ looks forward to the time when there will be such people – a decade hence. I suggested, in a review of his book in Amazon, that ’10 months’ was more likely given the pace of change, to which he replied that academia was rather slow to change. That was 18 months ago.

Are there any ‘digital scholars’ out there?

How do we spot them? Is there a field guide for such things?

I can think of a few candidates I have come across, people learning entirely online for a myriad of reasons and developing scholarly skills without, or only rarely, using a library, attending a tutorial or lecture, or sitting an exam. But can they ever be considered ‘scholarly’ without such things? They’ll need to collaborate with colleagues and conduct research.

On verra.

Teenagers and technology

Fig.1. Letters from Iwa Jima. Clint Eastwood directed Movie.

In one of those bizarre, magic ways the brain works, last nigmt I watched the Clint Eastwood film ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’ then stayed up reading in bed (quest for a very specific paper/set of papers on teenagers/young adults, health, presription medication) while waiting for my own teenagers to come in from a concert in Brighton.

Fig.2. Last minute reading for H809 TMA01

I stumbled upon ‘Teenagers and Technology’ by Chris Davies and Rebecca Eynon.

After a chapter of this I did a One Click on Amazon and kept on reading through the next couple of chapters.

I kept reading once they got home.

My mind constructed a dream in which instead of bagging letters home from soldiers, I found myself, Japanese of course, constructing, editing and reassembling some kind of scroll or poster. I could ‘re-enter’ this dream but frankly don’t see the point – it seems self-evident. I’ll be cutting and pasting my final thoughts, possibly literally on a 6ft length of backing wall paper (I like to get away from a keyboard and screen from time to time). Reinforced by a Business School module, B822 Creativity Innovation and Change I found that ‘working with dreams’ and ‘keeping a dream diary’ are some of the tools that can be used.

If I wish to I could re-enter this dream over the next few months as a short cut to my subconscious.

We’ll see.

I’m not sure how you’d come up with a Harvard Reference for a dream.

Fig.3. fMRI scan – not mine, though they did me a few years ago

Perhaps in 20 years time when we can where an fMRI scanner like a pair of headphones a set of colourised images of the activity across different parts of the brain could be offered.

Dream on 🙂

How do you split your time online? Visual expression of my ‘personal learning environment’ PLE

Fig. 1. The latest expression of how I learn on line. February 2013

This has gone through various forms and ought to included learning across all platforms – I get books from Amazon where the eBook doesn’t exist, I use sheets of A1 paper on a drawing board to sketch out ideas and plans, I use the iPad as a digital camera and use a digital SLR too.

Fig. 2. How it was

The difference? Even more reading and writing.

Fig. 3. Earlier still. A year ago?

A more realistic expression of my learning environment or context i.e. taking on board multiple influences

Fig. 4. A difference expression of the same thing – centred on e-learning

What is the library, when the totality of experience approaches that which can be remembered?’

5th May 2012

‘What is the library, when the totality of experience approaches that which can be remembered?’ (Rausing, 2011:52)


Lisbet Rausing

Speaking at the Nobel Symposium ‘Going Digital‘ in June 2009 (that ironically took another 2 years before it was published0.

Things are gong to have to speed up in the new age of digital academia and the digital scholar.

We have more than a university in our pockets (an OU course), we have a library of million of books.


(I have an iPhone and iPad. I ‘borrow’ time on laptops on desktops around the house, libraries at work).

I’ve often pondered from a story telling point of view what it would be like to digitize not the libraries of the world, but something far more complex, the entire contents of someone’s mind. (The Contents of My Mind: a screenplay) It is fast becoming feasible to pull together a substantial part of all that a person may have read and written in their lifetime. (TCMB.COM a website I launched in 2001)

‘Throughout history, libraries have depended on destruction’. (Rausing, 2011:50)


But like taking a calculator into a maths exam, or having books with you as a resource, it isn’t that all this ‘stuff’ is online, it is that the precise piece of information, memory support or elaboration, is now not on the tip of your tongue, but at your fingertips.

Rausing (2011) wonders about the creation of a New library of Alexandria. I wonder if we ought not to be looking for better metaphors.

‘How do we understand the web, when this also means grasping its quasi-biological whole?’ (Rausing, 2011:53)


Tim Berners-Lee thinks of Web 2.0 as a biological form; others have likeminds. But what kind of growth, like an invasive weed circling the globe?

There are many questions. In this respect Rausing is right, and it is appropriate for the web too. We should be asking each other questons.

‘Do we have the imagination and generosity to collaborate? Can we build legal, organisational and financial structures that will preserve, and order, and also share and disseminate, the learning and cultures of the world? Scholars have traditionally gated and protected knowledge, but also shared and distributed it, in libraries, schools and universities. Time and again they have stood for a republic of learning that is wider than the ivory tower. Now is the time to do so again’. (Rausing, 2011:49)

If everything is readily available then the economy of scarcity, as hit the music industry and is fast impacting on movies, applies to books and journals too.


It seems archaic to read the copyright restrictions on this Nobel Symposium set of papers and remarkable to read that one of its authors won’t see their own PhD thesis published until 2020.

‘The academic databases have at least entered the digital realm. Public access – the right to roam – is a press-of-the-button away. But academic monographs, although produced by digitised means, are then, in what is arguably an act of collective academic madness, turned into non-searchable paper products. Moreover, both academic articles and monographs are kept from the public domain for the author’s lifetime plus seventy years. My own PhD dissertation,19 published in 1999, will come into the public domain in about 110 years, around 2120’. (Rausing, 2011:55)

The e-hoarder, the obsessive scanning of stuff. My diaries in my teens got out of hand, I have a month of sweet wrappers and bus tickets, of theatre flyers and shopping lists. All from 1978. Of interest perhaps only because 10,000 teeneragers in the 1970s weren’t doing the same in England at the time.

‘We want ephemera: pamphlet literature, theatre bills, immigrant broad sheets and poetry workshops’. (Rausing, 2011:51)


What then when we can store and collate everything we read? When our thoughts, not just or writings are tagged and shared? Will we become lost in the crowd?

‘What if our next “peasant poet,” as John Clare was known, twitters? What if he writes a blog or a shojo manga? What if he publishes via a desktop, or a vanity publisher? Will his output count as part of legal deposit material?’ (Rausing, 2011:52)

The extraordinary complex human nature will not be diminished; we are what we were 5000 years ago. It will enable some, disable others; be matter of fact or of no significance, a worry or not, in equal measure.

A recent Financial Times article agrees with Robert Darnton, warning that by means of the Books Rights Registry, Google and the publishing industry have created “an effective cartel,” with “significant barriers to entry.” (Rausing, 2011:57)

Much to ponder.

‘If scholars continue to hide away and lock up their knowledge, do they not risk their own irrelevance?’ (Rausing, 2011:61)

GLOSSARY

Allemansratt : Freedom to roam

The Cloud : A Simple Storage Service that has some 52 billion virtual objects.

Folkbildningsidealet: A “profoundly democratic vision of universal learning and education”?

Incunabula: “Incunabula” is a generic term coined by English book collectors in the seventeenth century to describe the first printed books of the fifteenth century. It is a more elegant replacement for what had previously been called “fifteeners”, and is formed of two Latin words meaning literally “in the cradle” or “in swaddling clothes”

Maimonedes : His philosophic masterpiece, the Guide of the Perplexed, is a sustained treatment of Jewish thought and practice that seeks to resolve the conflict between religious knowledge and secular.

Meisterstuecke : German for masterpiece.

Samizdat : An underground publishing system used to print and circulate banned literature clandestinely.

Schatzkammer : ‘Treasure Room’, and in English, for the collection of treasures, kept in a secure room, often in the basement of a palace or castle.

Schumpeterian


REFERENCE

Ruasing, L(2011) (Last accessed 23rd May 2012) http://www.center.kva.se/svenska/forskning/NS147Abstracts/KVA_Going_Digital_webb.pdf )

E-Learning : Further reding from the OU

Further reading and distractions. Several I’d recommend here for H800ers and H807ers and H808ers. In deed, anyone on the MAODE.

A couple reveal other interests (Swimming, History) as well as business interests (Digital Marketing/Social Networking)

I just craved a read, cover to cover, rather than all the reports and soundbites. At the top of my list for relevance is the 1994 translation of Lev Vygotsky from a book that was originally published in 1926 – highly relevant to e-learning because perhaps only with Web 2.0 can his ideas be put into action. Also Rhona Sharpe and Helen Beetham (eds) on ‘Rethinking Pedagogy for the Digital Age’, just the kind of thing we read anyway, just valuable to read the entire collection as there is a pattern, a train of thought you follow through the book with an excellent introduction to each chapter by the editors. Others? Several on the corporate side, impressed with Larry Webber. Several practical if you are teaching and want loads of ‘how to’ e-tivities. Don’t touch Prensky – inflated and vacuous. I don’t understand why or how come he is so often brought into conversations … because he irritates people into speaking out?

Preparing for blended learning

Once again I am reading a book cover to cover. It may not be an attractive model for distance learning, but in reality, six books on a theme with some overlap do form a body of work that develops my understanding. The interplay between authors may only be in my head, but it works.

For me these books bind everything else that I study from one module to the next H807, H808 and now H800.

They are typically OU people, sometimes contributing to the MAODE as Chair or Authors … and of course because of the papers they have written, or a chapter (or part of at best) that we are invited to read.

I have these on a Kindle. I find I can ‘consume’ the content far faster, reading in moments during the day, highlighting and making notes as I go along. It would be interesting to be one of several reading the book together.

Would we not become aware of the passages we each highlight?

Whereas I’d not stand in Waterstones and read through an entire chapter before purchasing I now do this as a matter of course. If I’ve been engaged for a chapter (sometimes a little more) then I reckon I can go the distance. The ease at which one title can be read and others offered has mean feeling that Amazon has a hand down my pocket.


Rogers’ Criteria of assessment – diffusion of innovations

Diffusion of Innovation model

Diffusion of Innovation model (Photo credit: mrwilleeumm)

 

Rogers Criteria of assessment:

 

  1. Relative advantage
  2. Compatibility
  3. Complexity
  4.  Trialability
  5. Observability

 

DOKI & iTV (WAYL) were chased intuitively – if a client would back it, then it was ok. This chase continued with projects developed to support equally speculative broadcast / internet linked projects. From a business perspective this was encouraging clients to chase chimera.

 

We should have know better and offered value in money made or saving made … networking for the NHS was developed within their far more cautious framework. The advantages had to be apparent and the transition compatible. Though apparently complex the technology & the players were in place to take the next step. It could be trialled at a limited number of outlets and observations shared with the team.

 

The relationship with Ragdoll was different again; all they wanted was a website. We tried to steer them towards something that would be a credible tool for selling product (their programmes & merchandise). We all got tantalised by the creative opportunities.

 

With FTKnowlege it was another leap in the dark, feeling their brand name could be instantly attached to a distance learning MBA programme and feeling their was a need to get in their first. The view being that not to do otherwise would see other Amazons and the like taking a huge market share.

 

REFERENCES

 

Kaye, R. and Hawkridge, D. (eds) (2003) Learning and Teaching for Business: Case Studies of Successful Innovation, London and Sterling, Kogan Page.

 

Rogers, E.M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations (5th edn), New York, Simon and Schuster.

 

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