Momenta Learning

A blog on topics related to Elearning, online education, and instructional design.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My comments on Week 2 Films 1 and 2.

To say the least, these two commercials show a very rosy future. It is clear that they are trying to convey the message that the technologies they are promoting will be present in every aspect of our lives: from when we rise in the morning, to when we go to sleep. Who is to say that in the distant future, portrayed in those two films, everybody in the world will have access to that kind of technology, when right now we are not able to feed the whole population on this planet?
The way education, at the basic level, is shown in the film suggests that the classrooms of the future will require every student to possess a computer or digital device. I just don’t want to spend time listing the failed attempts at achieving this that many school districts have embarked on, the recent fiasco in Los Angeles County is the latest one reported.
It seems to me that the classes in both films are heavily using media and interactivity, and this seems to suggest that this is the best way to teach something like building a bridge. I think that is not defensible because there are other methods that are as efficient as using multimedia and computer programs. Another suggestion is that the use of cool gadgets in the classrooms will enhance education, which is also not true.
In overall, I believe this two cases show an example of a utopian vision of the future. But I was left with the impression that these kids and their families belong to a privileged class. This is another issue that education is currently undergoing, just like in other parts of the economy, a dismal gap between people who can pay for college and those who cannot afford it. I would like to read research related to the effects of economic status on e-learning, especially attitudes toward the use of it.
One thing that is not depicted in these films is the interaction between the students. It is well documented that students communicate to each other using social media but the film failed to show how that is going to evolve when those technologies presented actually exist.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

An example of dystopian story about technology...

When I watched the movie "Pi" some years ago, I was impressed by the use of the camera looking at the actor while he was moving (accomplished by a camera strapped to the actor), which is commonly used nowadays but at that time was really innovative. I do recommend the movie but it is not for the faint of heart because of its dim and gloomy nature.
Even though many people think that what is changing the world is technology, many really mean the hardware behind that technology. But what actually drives these machines is not the hardware but the software (algorithms) that makes them do stuff. I have always thought that the revolution in technology did come from hardware improvements but the creation of more powerful algorithms is what has actually sealed the deal. And this movie talks more about the numbers behind the hardware than the hardware itself. This movie was made well before all that wave of web 2.0 came around, so there is little reference to the internet and more emphasis on the power of computers and algorithms. I consider this a good example of dystopia brought about by technology.

My comments on Film 4: "New Media"

This second film, although very well made, falls short on a new message. I know the visuals are impressive but to me, the message is difficult to see. The role of technology is not clear, since this really looks more like an invasion of machines more than the influence of technology in our lives. But the similarity to the other film "Bendito Machine III" lies on how a higher entity takes over our lives and environment through the use of gadgets, which most of the times, do more harm than good to us.
The final sequence left me wondering if the actor is the controller of those machines or if the machines are controlling him? I couldn't figure that out.

My comments on Film 3: "Thursday"

I admire those films where the title is something hidden in the movie that you have to find out later. In this case, this film has the title hidden well into the middle of the film, and at first sight there is no clue on why the movie is called "Thursday". By the way, it would be really cool to have a restaurant that is far up the atmosphere!
I think the film presents many issues with technology that are widely known, such as how we have become so dependable on it that when we loose power at work, everything comes to a halt (it is true, not only that, if I loose the internet connection, I just cannot move forward), or how we get so absorbed by technology that our entertainment, our communications, and our activities revolve around technological gadgets such as cell phones (smart phones?), tablets, and so on. This film does not have any dialogue either, but I don't believe the film could have gone without it, I think this a conscious decision from the filmmaker and not the nature of the film (like in Inbox). The original idea in the film is how we get so involved in the life in a big city that we forget that nature is still trying to thrive in those environments, the birds story line is real and true in many cities. What is not true is the fact that the city is presented as a barren, devoid-of-life, place. In fact, there is a whole movement right now on making big cities more green by placing more green areas around.
I am not sure what the question about gains and losses means. I will try my best. I see many gains in the sens that technology has made our life so much easier in many aspects. The fact that I can sen this post to be viewed by potentially many other humans is remarkable, and a positive gain. The loss is that I cannot have all of them in front of me to tell them all this I am typing here, which is depicted in the film with the couple having to communicate by text messages because they are so busy with their lives. Another loss in the film is the fact that nature is so hidden in the city that is hard to see or notice until a bird smashes on your window, just like in the film. The enormous gain is the awareness that comes out one we realize that life is actually thriving around us, despite our best efforts to transform the environment to our needs.
I think the agent in this film is the bird because it is taking the role of nature in the film. The fact that this bird has thrive in the urban environment and has transformed its environment (by building a nest inside an antenna's plate, using wires to build the nest for lack of tree twigs) makes it the main role in the movie. I watched the whole thing waiting for the next sequence where the bird would show up. I think another message in the movie is the fact that life moves on despite our best efforts to manipulate it into complying to our wishes.

My comments on Film 2: "Inbox"

This is a very funny short film, I love those kinds of short films. I am a fan of short films, as a matter of fact. It is remarkable how this film was made for that length of time with no dialogue whatsoever. The visuals are very explicit and you are never at a loss of what is going on in each sequence.
Having said that, I simply cannot decide which side to take. It is a utopian account because the message seems to be very positive, I mean, this is a happy ending, the guy gets the girl at the end, right? Yes, but the fact that because there is no dialogue at all makes me also consider this a dytopian account. Verbal communication between us humans is one of the most important and beautiful aspects of evolution. The fact that we can say many hurtful and beautiful things with our voice makes us unique in this planet. I believe that technology has changed that a lot with the advent of e-mail, chat rooms, Twitter, Facebook, emoticons, and so on, where you can say many things (or type, rather) in the message but there is no emotion attached to it, no body language either. In my experience, this has led to many misunderstandings when I text or IM because the intended text message sometimes does not contain the full meaning from the sender, has anybody else experience that too?
In order to convey a message to another human being, we also need the body language, which this film uses plenty to convey messages, and that is a good thing, which makes the film utopian to my eye. In most of the film, this message is being conveyed from the film to the viewer, it is only at the end that the characters experience this exchange. That also makes the film a little dystopian. It is implied in the film that two people can fall in love by just exchanging messages (but that does happen every day in dating sites), and that full communication can be achieved by use of text and characters. That has changed human communication in a profound way.

Friday, November 8, 2013

My comment on Film 1: "Bendito Machine III"

This is a very interesting take on the "dystopia" of technology. I believe the film is trying to convince us that if we use technology without thinking about the consequences of its use, we will end up depending on it completely. Especially if we do not take steps into understanding the purpose of these technologies in our lives. The suggestion of the influence of technology in our society and our environment is evident in the film, as we see that sequence when the technology starts harming the characters and then attacking their environment.
But the suggestion that there is a "higher" entity that produces this technology is not sounding to me at all. I believe that those who develop these gadgets and applications are genuinely trying to make our lives better, and they figure that the consequences of the new technology will take care of itself. The sad truth is that no one can predict what the future. Every action we take has consequences, many of them unintended. The same applies to them.
But we do have a choice on embracing these new things or not, just like the characters in the film did. Since they were able to dispose of old technology, they could, at any point, decide on throwing away these gadgets whenever they please but they chose not to. We also have a choice and proof of this is the large number of new things that have been invented during history, which are now in the pantheon of rejected technology, not only old technology is disposed of, new technology that would not appeal to the masses gets thrown out too.
What I also find odd in the film is the impersonal reference to the new gadgets in fashion. It is clear that any technology is useless unless there is a human face behind it. By itself, technology will not harm us, they need a human being to start the process, which is what I find odd because in the film all those references to the tv and the internet seem to imply that the diabolical technology acts by itself, which is not true.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My adventure in the Coursera EDMOOC

Here is my first course post. I really want to complete this MOOC this time around. Hope life doesn't get in the way. Hello to all fellow Courserians! Greetings from Gainesville, FL.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is there room for yet another LMS?

I just recently heard that a new venture sprung up with a new offer for a LMS (NACR). I had the impression that there were already many LMS systems in the market, so I did a small Google search and, as many of you probably know, I got lots of hits. There are many options available out there, each one having a different application but in essence they all have the same tools and functions. Which brings me to this question: is there room in the market for yet another LMS?
A LMS is a very important piece of any online education program. Without it, it would be difficult to manage an educational system consisting of hundreds of online courses, if not thousands. Then tracking student progress becomes more difficult, there are also issues on dealing with assessments, and so on. Nobody doubts the need of a LMS in an educational program.
I certainly don’t want to be in the shoes of that poor manager who has been tasked with selecting the right LMS for the company to host their training or educational program. I would think it is very difficult to find the right choice with so many options available, so I wouldn’t like that kind of job. But somebody has to do it.
You can argue that those already out there are different in certain ways. They differentiate themselves somehow. This could be based on the technology they use, the market segment they are catering, or the education level they are targeting, and a long etc. At the end of the day, they all do the same thing: administer the how, when, what, and where to deliver course content, resources, assessments, activities, interactions, learning, validation, evaluation, etc. to the user. They also have to be able to deliver data on student activity, otherwise you have a LMS that operates like a CMS (content management system).
So, where is the market saturation? Apparently we have not reached that point yet. Many of the solutions out there cater to some segment of the market. There are still big players out there that claim to be able to solve anybody’s problem (which I doubt). LMS are evolving towards something resembling cloud systems, with other tools like adaptive learning, date gathering, and heavy use of multimedia. I think we are in that elimination process when some old solutions will go extinct (unless they evolve with the times) or out of favor, and new solutions are coming into the market to take their place. So yes, apparently there is still room for new innovations.

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