Friday, February 22, 2013

EDCMOOC End of week 4

As those of you from Australia, who read my posts, will know, my background is in what is commonly referred to here as RTO-land. The acronym stands for Registered Training Organisation and represents those companies both public and private that subscribe to the Australian system of vocational training.  Australia uses a competency based system of training for training supplied to workplaces, apprentices and others preparing to enter the workforce. The system is based on a quality framework, the Australian Quality Framework (AQF) which describes qualification levels and, on a set of standards of governance, the National Vocational Regulations (NVR) which proscribe how quality can be attained, measured and evaluated,  and utilises National Training Packages (NTP) which comprise standards of competency to be attained at the various qualification levels within various industry groups. The intent of this system is that it is transparent and transferrable. If I attain a qualification or a competency standard at any RTO in Australia, then it must be recognised by any other RTO within Australia. An employer should be able to reference the competency standards that I have been awarded within that industry's set of standards and know the level at which I can perform those competencies.

Why am I stating all of this? Because this will have a bearing on my interpretation of the learnings from this edc mooc, and the way in which I present my artefact for assessment.

The questions that are beginning to form themselves in my mind are around the application of technology to work places, particularly within the `traditional' apprenticed trades and what this means for jobs, apprenticeships and workplace learning.
How much and how fast are our industrial workplaces changing? Can training keep up with the pace of change of technology at work?

Will technology save us?
It's 3 years since I first saw the Patti Mae MIT lab sixth sense presentation on TED http://www.ted.com/talks/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.html  In those 3 years, our smart phone technology has allowed us to seamlessly integrate internet capability into every aspect of our lives. Yes we can use Qreader to scan digital barcodes and get product information, yes we can quickly check our flight details, however it is still a device separate from our bodies. Patti's teams research seems to suggest a deeper integration. I think we may well be on the edge of an integrated smartphone / sixth sense technology. (Just read media release about Google Glasses  http://www.google.com/glass/start/how-to-get-one/ ).
Since 2009 there have been massive advances in bio-tech. Will the speed of research into bionic eye development, DNA memory storage and patenting of DNA strands, 3D human cell/organ printing challenge our humanity? What will this mean for the workplace? What will this mean for the possibility of thought control? What will it mean for legal safeguards? Will the right to independence of mind become enshrined in law?

Would the loss of independence of mind / thought be the point at which we decide we are no longer human? If you control someone's every thought, are they human?

Has my thinking about `Being Human' changed?
I still think that there are innate qualities to being human. The first quality is that of The Seeker. The restless need to explore, to know, to find out. Not every human exhibits this quality strongly, but I believe we all have it and I believe that it is not the same drive as that which drives other animals to seek better food. The second quality that we seem to have is that of needing to believe that there is some being greater than ourselves, and that we have a relationship with this being(s). Stephen Fuller presents evidence of this in his `Intelligent Design' theories. In essence he believes that the hand of god is visible through science.
Is it possible to be spiritual without being religious?
After watching the Google Books story (Storyville BBC, thanks Andy Miller) I thought that yes, the other thing that really defines us as humans is greed. The opposing force to seeking and having a spiritual belief is that of greed. This too appears to be primarily a human quality.

Is there a point at which we are no longer human?
This depends on whether we define being human as physical, intellectual or spiritual. Is the quality of being a seeker, simply an emotional reaction driven by the endocrine system, or is it part of our spirituality? Is the quality of greed purely driven by instinct to hoard, control and secure resources for one's own survival, or is it a product of warped spiritual belief that one had the right to control others & benefit from them? (I am the son of god!)
I am choosing to define being human as a spiritual quality in which humans collectively believe that they have some kind of relationship to a higher order. Unfortunately I keep thinking of `wild' children, those rare occurrences when human children have been found raised by wolves etc., and this ruins my definition.
So this then tells me that the notion of Being Human is one that has been constructed by our developed cultures and that it is not a natural occurrence.
It then follows that if `Being Human' is a cultural construct, we will be able to remain human, no matter what we do to ourselves as we will simply modify our cultures to cope with it.

Do I now believe in a utopian vision of the future or a dystopian vision?
Neither, I believe that we hold the power to create the future, but that it is those human qualities of greed that have the potential to create a dystopian future and of seeking that have the potential to create the utopian future. Again utopia and dystopia are cultural constructs, and have been opposing forces throughout known history.

Will my grandchildren's education be better than mine, worse than mine, or just different from mine?
The Seeker drives us to learn, the Greed drives us to control others. Education is a political act. It can be used to control or to free people. This MOOC experiment is tipping the scales towards the Seeker. I'm pretty sure it will get reined in by the Greed fairly soon. (just look at Google Books)
I know that most of the discussion about moocs in higher education circles, revolves around the question of `how can we make it pay?' and `we can control it by with-holding the issue of certification unless there is payment'. This will become the limiting factor for moocs.
Technology will improve the access to information and the ability to share, collaborate, communicate and create as we learn. It will not change the instinctive need to seek, to find passion in what we do and learn, to make meaning of our world. Culture is the change agent for those aspects.

What does Being Human mean for Education?
The Seeker strives to find enlightenment and this often leads to the notion of `Greater Good', in this instance that education is for the `Greater Good' of the people. The principles of Instructional Design encourage us to `engage the learner', to elicit interest and stimulate enquiry, analysis and evaluation of information. The Seeker uses education to empower all humans. The Greed utilises education as dogma to enslave, restrict free thought, refine automated response and disempower others.
The need for a sense of spiritual connection can be used to activate the seeker and pique their interest.

What do the new technologies that challenge the current culture of Being Human mean for Education?
I think the biggest influencers of the new technologies will be Memory technologies and  communication technologies. The body altering & enhancing technologies are less likely to affect learning capabilities. The most extreme future I can think of, (& I know this has been proposed in science fiction) for education is that we will have memory encoded DNA implanted in us at a young age, that will hold all knowledge that we need to access, and learning will be confined to learning how to recall, catalogue, analyse & evaluate the information at any given time, in any given situation. Learning will be all about problem solving, action planning and implementation. Our DNA memory will KNOW that 1+1 = 2, but will it know what to do about it?
In a Utopian vision of education, knowledge will be free, learning how to apply it will come from the ability to use enhanced communication technologies to seek collaboration and cooperation on all learning problems.


What have I learnt over the past 4 weeks?
That the human is (still) a social animal
Being human is still a topic of discussion
If you can imagine it, it can be created, (eventually)
There appears to be almost universal belief that Total Social Control = Dystopia, however I could also ask "is this just ratbag social leftist university environment & propaganda?"
Freedom of thought = Utopia, (as above)
Eugenics is still alive and well, and
The relentless advance of technology continues to tempt people to believe that they can use it to create their own version of the perfect world
The eugenics debate goes back to the `us & them' culture.