Deep Thoughts about Dark Technology

Is it possible the advancement of technology is moving in a dark direction? This just may be a loaded question, but really, is technology invading our inner-most personal space?  I bring this up because I watched an episode (S04, E03: Crocodile) of Black Mirror, a Netflix series. One theme in the episode is the ability to infiltrate a person’s memory through technology. Technology is awesome and is doing amazing things, but just imagine a person with a portable monitor and a small adhesive square attached to your temple replaying moments in time you cannot remember on your own. Again, technology is amazing, but are these possibilities moving too fast and too much into the personal?  I suppose a creepy aspect of that scenario is an outsider knowing too much about me or any person for that matter through memory replay. What comes to mind is the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. Jonas, the main character becomes the only person in his society given the power to view all world events and essentially is the link to the past. In respects to the Black Mirror episode Crocodile, one person holds power to view any ones past events, I’ll call that person the memory-viewer. I could be grappling with the idea of ethics. Is it ethical to infiltrate a person’s memory- remembered or not remembered? I didn’t mention, in the episode, the person whose memory is replayed does not have any control over the duration of time the memory-viewer can review; within minutes the memory-viewer can view a sequence of events in just a few minutes.  I wonder in what ways does the ability to replay a person’s memory infringe on a person’s rights? Yes, consent must be given to view a person’s memory, but when is too much viewing time too much and better yet who should control this viewing time? As jaw-dropping as Black Mirror is and its forethought into our possible technological future, I am in awe of the amazing capabilities of technology in reality and entertainment, but often I am left with many questions about ethics surrounding the rapid movement of technology.

The Situation on Online Learning

Today I was asked, is online learning situated, in what context and how can it be supported? I am not quite sure how to respond to this question; my first mind says yes, but for some reason, I want to say no. To generate a concrete answer, I suppose I must explore these questions.

I think online learning and collaboration can offer significant benefits, if it is within an operational community, its purpose meets the interest of the learner, but most importantly if the learner is participating. I suppose a person can learn from the sidelines through observation. Similar to second language acquisition, it takes time. The first step for any learner is to build the courage to join a community and possibly even more time to participate in a community to hold a functional role. Yes, learning can be situated, but in the right community, meaning continuous interactions are taking place. For example, members are pushing each other’s development, and most importantly the learner can apply concepts from their online community to their real-life community and vice versa.

What makes situated learning special is the connection it brings by including others in the learning process. In general, learning with others especially friends is fun. In fact, who doesn’t like fun! The social learning aspect is terrific because it can include an element of ZPD (Zone Proximal Development). ZPD is all about scaffolding one’s learning and in a learning community viewing others learning/trying something new, in my opinion, elevates the on-looker’s development at least by observation alone. I would also like to think, viewing what and how others learn can activate a monkey see, monkey do action type. This is risky because success can increase encourage, but failure may also discourage. However, in the right online learning community, a person’s failure will not last long as the essence of a community of practice is refinement, encouragement and social learning.
Well, by the looks of my response above, online learning is situated. I think it is all about belonging to the right community suitable to the needs of the learner. If the community and learner do not have a common interest minimal learning may take place.

Formal Learning vs Informal Learning

The best forms of learning are unconventional. The classroom is a great place to foster traditional learning, but learning through world exploration is amazing. In my work, I try to fuse traditional and experiential learning by applying learned ideas from the classroom into assignments that are multi-functional with purpose. Formal learning in the classroom is based on a test which instantly marginalizes many student groups, whereas, informal learning does not marginalize and allows for students to gauge their learning by applying it to their lives. Honestly, the world is the teacher, and day-to-day application is the test.

I believe informal learning can cultivate life-long learners who explore new things based on interest. Using interest as a starting base is perfect because, like any enthusiast, the learner will want to share their new knowledge and test it in authentic settings. I believe the goal of learning is to share by enlightening others to new developments, apply to refine and determine the effectiveness of the new knowledge, and lastly impact society.

A Whole New Beginning

I recently landed what I think is my dream job. I am currently working to develop a writing center at a private college, in addition to a whole lot more. In the mean time I have met with a few people including the deans of the various programs at the college. I learned more about the student population, the needs of the students and most of all the campus community. I have to say I am loving what I see, which is food- EVERYWHERE! But really, the faculty and staff is awesome.

In preparation for the writing center I have been doing some homework- who am I really kidding? I can’t work at a college and not have some homework.  Anywho, I have been looking at what other college and universities are doing to develop and sustain a successful writing center. I have to say since taking on this position I am really having to rely on my network. In college I took a course on the networks and learned about how they form shape and distribute and ectetera. I have to say it is kind of strange reaching out to people I haven’t seen or spoken with in a while. However, the joy is reconnecting with others in addition to meeting and making new connections. I recently reconnected with a person who I can now call my mentor- she doesn’t know about her new assumed title, but in my book she is. She gave me some critical things to think about in relation to developing a writing center. I have done something like this before, but on a smaller scale and for high school students. My vision for the center I am currently working on is BIG, there is so much I want to do. However, my wanting to do things may have to stay on the back-burner. As I work more and remind myself of the needs of this campus I find myself trying to figure out where do I hold and focus my attention.

I am reading all kinds of materials in preparation for the the various projects I am taking on. I came across an article by Mike Rose speaking on the structure of remedial writing courses and the need to shift toward a paradigm of teaching the types of writing students will encounter in their academic courses. I have to say his article was very eye opening as to how the teaching pedagogy toward this demographic should change. After reading his article  I have to say I would like to employ some of his suggested strategies into my work. Now, how will I go about doing that? Umm… I am not sure. I guess make it a hard-fast rule and say this is it because I said so.  In my perfect world I would like to employ many of the strategies I am reading about into my project(s). I suppose for now I can continue with my brainstorming sessions until I have my meeting with my boss to discuss the plan she would like for me to review.