September 21, 2010 § Leave a comment
There is the argument that the genes of technological innovation are frequently in conflict with emotional intelligence. Successful technological innovation is all about disruption. On the other hand, effective emotional intelligence is all about collaboration, that means how you get like-minded people to achieve a common goal and enjoy it.
One of the companies that managed to coexist collaboration and disruptive innovation is Google. The planet has been Googled, with Google becoming part of our lives, like brushing our teeth. It has eliminated barriers to finding information and knowledge. While the Internet makes information available Google makes it accessible. While twenty years ago entrepreneurs would have said ‘I’d like to be the next Bill Gates and Microsoft’, today people’s great ambition is to be the next Google. It has become the place to go for information and probably the most visible service concocted by mankind.
Collaboration has also been central to Google. Indeed, Google is becoming what Microsoft was in 1998. Microsoft’s power was the ability to leverage its operating system to control the various applications that use the operating system. So, Microsoft offered a free browser to knock out the Netscape browser and attacked Java software that might facilitate competition with the underlying operating system. On the other hand, Google’s power extends to more than one layer of the network. Its power flows from a different source. Google produced an amazing machine for building data, and that data has its own ‘network effect’– the more people who use it, the more data generated. Everything sits on top of that layer, starting with search. Every time we search, we give Google some value because we pick a certain result. And every time we pick a result, Google learns something from that. So each time we do a search, we are adding value to Google’s database. One potential here is that the data layer is more dangerous from a policy perspective as it cuts across layers of human life.
So far, there haven’t been any concrete evidence that Google misbehaved in the way Microsoft misbehaved when they tried to leverage the operating system to protect themselves against competition. So, far they’ve been good guys. Yet, that leads to a question: Why do we expect them to be good guys from now till the end of time?
Like Microsoft, Google might become intoxicated by power and succumb to the same human failures. Theirs might be an old story about how good people deceive themselves. As Microsoft did in the nineties, you become so convinced that you are good that you become oblivious. Is this becoming true at Google today? Hopefully, the counter-argument that the genes of technological innovation exist in harmony with emotional intelligence would be exemplified by Google.
September 15, 2010 § Leave a comment
September 13, 2010 § Leave a comment
Aleks Krotoski recently wrote an article on games, which was published in the journal, Nature. In it, she used computer-based games such as Fate of the World and World Without Oil to illustrate her point that these games could be used as platforms for learning, particularly for Science. In response to the article, Anthony D. Pellegrini cautioned that “games and play mean different things in an educational context” and that it is incorrect for Krotoski to use the two terms interchangeably. Yet when I read the article again, I struggled to find instances where Krotoski used games and play interchangeably. In the few rare occasions when she did, she was referring to the action of playing the game, rather than play itself. It didn’t help that the introductory sentence of the article, “Sophisticated multimedia experiments offer platforms for learning about science through play”, seemed to place the emphasis on play instead of games.
Whilst I agree with Pellegrini that care has to be taken when defining and using terminology, I fail to see why this should be a contentious point in the context of Krotoski’s article. The whole point of Krotoski’s article is to highlight the potential of computer-based games in learning. Even if the meaning of “play” has been synonymously associated with “games”, my opinion is that the difference in semantics is subtle, especially for non-domain experts. This is not to say that I condone a loose use of terminologies in technical writing. What I am questioning is whether one should see an article in its entirety and appreciate the ideas it is trying to convey, or zoom in to dissect the definition of a single term used in the passage. There is, after all, a danger of missing the forest for the trees.
Nevertheless, if I may play a game with words myself, I’ll say that I agree with Pellegrini that Krotoski’s article did little to support her suggestion that “computer-based play can support learning in schools“. It did, however, give the readers some idea of how “computer-based play can support learning”, though not necessarily in schools or in the formal educational context.
September 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
Like many people in the education world I’m addicted to my favourite bookshops. Of course I buy books online as well, and I’ve even been known to read Three Men in a Boat on my laptop, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. Most of my own research work also involves using source material that has been digitised. Without such tools my life would be ten times harder than it is – thinking about the research process for graduate students in the 1970s makes me grateful for the searching, indexing, tagging, annotating and sharing that is now so easy to do.
I can’t get away however from the pleasure of browsing real books in a real bookstore, and so it frustrates me when discussion of digitising books turns into a battle between lovers of the book and those who have seen the future and are sure it Tweets. Books are a well understood, easy to replicate technology. The future lifespan of the book can be counted in decades in my opinion and possibly another few centuries.
Alongside this traditionally published material we can expect to use specialist devices to access the written word. I recently borrowed an Amazon Kindle and a Sony E-book reader from the Bodleian library, in order to see how they function as research tools for students. I have also spent part of the summer playing with various members of Apple’s i-family of products, including the new i-Phone 4’s crystal clear Retina Display.
There are some great independent reviewers of these products and I’m not going to do that here. What I am going to do is use them to explain how education technology can change the landscape in which learning takes place, often in surprising ways. My own experience of using these products was that, in contrast to my pre-conceptions, e-book readers were not well suited to my needs as a researcher. I could only use them to read and annotate – or share my notes or do a multitude of other really useful things. For me though, I can do all that on my laptop and also multi-task with other work. For pleasure reading though I found them really useful. This doesn’t mean I would never use one for research purposes but that for me, and I find this a somewhat odd thought, an e-book reader is not going to the top of my research tool wish-list. I’m sure there’s a place for the e-book reader; it’s in my beach bag as I go on holiday.
I’m not going to give up on thinking about how digitised written material can be accessed and used by students and teachers, but for me the idea of these devices being in widespread use in classrooms, in their current incarnation at least, seems unlikely. To my mind the iPad is the best current contender for a flexible mobile device on which research materials could be viewed,. This does nothing to alter my view that the impact of what is learned and how that knowledge is acquired will not be much affected by these technologies except in specific contexts. I’ll revisit the issue in a year’s time and see how silly I Iook by being foolish enough to predict the future.