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Hi Martin, I've been thinking for some time that a pre-Uni course would be highly beneficial for students. A MOOC would, for the most part, fit the bill. But for me the key learning needed before the 2nd year is not so much 'knowledge' as learning skills. Having said that, it is also necessary to bring everyone up to more or less the same level in the knowledge too. I would think it should be possible to create a MOOC (or other online, non f2f) course which teaches learning skills with the domain knowledge as an 'exemplar'; this is an approach I am increasingly taking in f2f teaching, and so far the experience seems to be that it equips the students better for subsequent years.
Thanks for this Josie. I agree that the focus should be on digital literacy and not computer science, as such, but think you are in danger of mis-representing what computer science is. It is not just about coding; you can be a computer scientist and not able to write code (well, to any useful degree), just as you can be an artist and not make sculptures, or a biologist and not able to genetically modify a bacterium. The processes involved in software engineering, which include coding, are useful in many arenas apart from life as a programmer. They include critical review and awareness of context. They include social skills and the ability to learn from, communicate with and influence other people. They also include being able to break problems down in to small pieces and solve them, as well as synthesising solutions from the components you have developed or discovered. I also do not think it is 'fair' to say that not having the opportunity to engage in a digitally mediated social life means you are digitally illiterate. Not having access to books may be a causal factor in being unable to immediately demonstrate literacy, but I don't believe it equates to illiteracy. However, that said, I think your approach to digital literacies is right - it has a lot of resonances with my view (the Pirate Model - in that it requires a level of general learning literacy, which includes a good level of self-awareness and meta-cognition.
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Actually, I didn't mean that, but I can certainly see potential for it happening. @bengoertzel's work on Automatic General Intelligence and the concept of The Singularity are, I think potential stepping stones in that direction. Well, actually, The Singularity of course is the idea of the point when it happens, rather than a stepping stone, but identifying the possibility is part of the route. And yes, for some readers, that is probably a very scary thought. But I think that to some extent that may already be true for some individuals. I think some people do not engage with the 'digital' because it is already so rich and strange and different that they don't experience any synergy. It is possible, I suppose, that The Singularity may not happen, if the systems required to cause it to happen are so rich, strange and different to us that we stop being able to contribute before it reaches a point where the 'artificial' can continue to improve itself. And there are some who will take hope from that, I guess.
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HI Sue, As a cyberneticist, I completely agree about much of our biology being essentially computational or effectively mechanical. I know others are sometimes incensed by this assertion, however, so I tend to steer clear of it - and, after all, I cannot prove that the contrary is false (e.g. at the moment, although we can show activated regions of brain, we can't necessarily show exactly how the activations cause specific functions, and we haven't yet found a neural correlate of consciousness, and clearly can never prove the non-existence of a soul). However, other people's sensitivities aside, what we can show is that we can approximate any system using a digital simulation, and to an arbitrarily good degree (given enough time/effort/resources) so it is quite reasonable to consider biological systems in terms of digital models of them. And if we are able to continually improve digital simulations, I wonder if it will ever be appropriate to consider ourselves as being in a post-digital world? Will the computational ever reach a stage where it is no longer changing sufficiently to truly blend into the background in our culture?
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Hi Sue, It was a most interesting discussion, as you say. The study of the connections is always, to my mind, the most interesting part - and it is where system components meet - or fail to meet! - that you get the greatest impetus for change and the impact of the sheer range of possibilities which a single component cannot possibly achieve. In the case of 'literacy' (which, I have to admit, I find generally poorly defined and/or misused - probably by myself at least as much as by others) there are many components, one of which I think it is fair to term 'digital literacy'. Having said that, I still think 'fluency' is a better term to use, if for no other reason than being more aspirational. As for the post-digital, I think it is only really a concept which works for those not engaged with the progression of "digital" technology. I put "digital" in quotation marks because this can include any form of 'computational', not just digital. In a field which is still rapidly changing, it does not seem to matter whether it is culturally normalised - the post- prefix should only apply (imho) to things which are in a steady-state (more or less). And even then, it is almost entirely academic, as the 'digital' is culturally embedded as a term. Always worth having the discussion, though, as it help clarify positions and ideas :-)
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Hi Josie, I agree that it is important that people are educated about potential risks. Indeed, I often advise teachers I know to be a bit more careful with their online presence than they currently are - some I know are a lot more open than even I think is wise. Unfortunately, that advice is chiefly necessary, however, because I know what various schools and education authorities enact as policy (and worse, what they pull forth from thin air as examples of 'misconduct' even when they have no policy). My fear about this guidance is that schools and local authorities will use it as an excuse to further restrict the private lives of teachers. We already have some schools which tell teachers they cannot associate online with the parents of their pupils. Some authorities forbid their teachers to use blogs. This sort of policy undermines the teachers' rights, and, by proxy, I would argue it also undermines the rights of their pupils. Of course, just as in the police force, there is a way around it - teachers can create profiles under pseudonyms. The ones most likely to do this are the ones we, as a society, are probably least likely to want doing so - but it is also a valid response by teachers who want to be able to provide the best learning experience for their pupils. I honestly think it would be much better to give guidance which says: No employer should insist that an employee should use their own online identities for work purposes. Where an employee builds an online identity for work purposes, they should have the right to take that ID with them, or to link it with their personal ones as they see fit (except in a few exceptional cases). Where an employee has an online identity with which they engage with pupils or pupils' parents, they should register that ID with the employer, so that inappropriate behaviour on anybody's part can be quickly identified and action taken. The same applies to students/pupils - there should be no compulsion, and rights over the identity should be in the hands of the individual it represents.
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*cough*Facebook*cough* does let you see what your profile looks like as any of your friends, though not as any other logged in user. How sad it is that "we" don't think teachers should be able to share any of their personal lives with their pupils. My best teachers shared at least some elements of themselves with us, and our education was, I believe, richer for it. Apart from anything else, it helped with learning how to negotiate boundaries and what was, and wasn't, inappropriate to share. Frankly, I think it is hardly surprising that more recent generations seem to have more difficulty with social skills if teachers really aren't able to model this sort of thing for them. Fortunately, I know quite a few teachers who do share - but I guess they will get weeded out soon enough.
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Nov 30, 2009