Steph's E-learning and Digital Cultures Blog

part of the MSc in E-learning at the University of Edinburgh

Archive for the ‘Weekly Summaries’

End of Lifestream Summary

A thoroughly challenging and inspiring few weeks have been spent involved in the course content. When embarking upon this course, two personal concerns were that the content would be irrelevant to my professional practice or the technical aspects too advanced considering my limited experience of e-learning. Fortunately, the course has proven to be relevant and (although frustrating at times) technically achievable. My journey over the past twelve weeks can be compared to walking a path with one foot on the uneven rocks and the other on trudging through mud, knowing too well that if the two paths would combine the journey would become more manageable. One foot followed a path of experiencing the many and varied modes in which the education can be facilitated by digital means. This has been reflected in the weekly summaries. The second path was one of academic learning; exploring intricacies of the ethics and philosophies related to cyberculture, virtual communities and posthumanities. The task at the end of each block provided some even ground as the paths merged and I embarked upon the opportunity to share my understanding course content through a digital activity.
At times it felt like a success or failure situation as I tried to understand the readings and find a way represent this in a way that fed into my lifestream. I can now appreciate that success is not simply an opposite of failure. With a ‘failure’ in using feeds or a bookmarking site came the opportunity to learn, improve and achieve a greater understanding of the place of e-learning and digital cultures within the real world. Likewise, the tasks provided opportunity to integrate a new digital activity into my lifestream. As noted in the weekly summaries, this was time consuming and perhaps not as comprehensive in content as if I had put pen to paper. However, the lessons learnt from the experience of undertaking a digital activity are as invaluable as learning academic arguments when it comes to understanding the uses of e-learning and digital cultures within education.
It became challenging to keep the weekly summaries in sync with the course contents when moving onto a different block of work before all work had been completed for the previous block. I decided that it would be best to keep the summaries chronological aligned with the calendared course content to provide some structure to my lifestream.
My lifestream reflects a hesitation in sharing my knowledge/understanding before I have a comprehensive appreciation of a concept. The comments posted in relation to my work helped me to consider concepts in more depth and from an alternative stance. I well appreciate that peer support and shared thinking facilitates understanding and concept development. This course structure, as with any way of learning, has required testing and practice in order to establish how it works best on an individual level. Therefore, in future I personally would contribute to future blogs and seeks peer engagement more freely and certainly advocate it as an effective educational process.
Having to initiate each account for the first time, for everything that fed into my lifestream is representative of my previous involvement with such modes. Such academic discourse has proved itself to be motivating. The ‘conventional’ expression of knowledge through academic writing is self limiting. Using Prezi, twitter or blogs with links to U-tube for example, allow an expression of complex notions; unrestricted by the constraints of an essay. The experience of e-learning has also raised some interesting ethical considerations that I intend to further explore within the assignment. All in all a very worthwhile journey!

Week 12 Summary

Much time this week has been spent reading and looking at PBworks, though this has not been fed into my lifestream. It is only as I come to write this summary that I see how empty my lifestream is this week. I realise that I am naturally inclined to work through ideas in my mind more so that through writing. As this is does not enable assessment of my processes and if probably not the most efficiant way of working, I have made a last minute attempt to represent some of ‘background activity’. A few pages from StumbleUpon and posting a blog in response to the comments received on my posthuman pedagogy have now fed into my lifestream. It has also be useful to take the opportunity to look at classmates lifestreams and see how the themes that have emerged from their end of block tasks vary and also seem to relate to the individual interests.
In preparation of submitting this section of the course I have also played some more with the format of my page. Adding a contents list (in the form of tabs) across the top of the page will hopefully make it easier to navigate around my posts. The final course summary is also ready to publish.

Week 11 Summary

To look at my lifestream this week it would appear that no work occurred this week. However, quite the opposite is true. In preparation for the final assignment I have been looking back over my previous end of block tasks and the subsequent comments. Some posts provide a useful reference to literature that has been identified as being relevant to the work I have produced. This seemed a logical way of deciding the focus for my assignment as the contents of the tasks has been self motivated and therefore the subsequent recommended readings are general found to be of personal interest. These comments have certainly helped develop my understanding and spurred on some critical thinking that I hope to carry over into the assignment.

Week 10 Summary

Much of week 10 was been spent understanding the first half of this block. By moving onto pedagogy I have found some clarity on the previous readings and been able to construct a blog for the posthuman/cyborg readings. After spending considerable time on Prezi and Slides/U-Tube presentations in previous weeks I decided a blog (with hyperlinks) would be appropriate for presenting my pedagogy within the timeframe. I was happy with the outcome and have received useful and interest comments. This has been one of my more enjoyable sections of work as I realise I have a particular interest in pedagogy and inherently find myself looking at e-learning as a method with which to become more familiar…something I am reading around in view of the final assignment.
Now at week 11, I am more comfortable with the format of the course and find myself not needing to make such a conscious effort to use blogs and the likes of delicious and StumbleUpon as they have become part of my routine when looking for wider reading and storing artefacts. My newly acquired familiarity with such sites has most probably contributed to taking some of the ‘stressful effort’ out of studying and allowed me to consider the content in more depth. I have even started using these sites for other courses and browsing personal interests. With the little remaining time left to the structured part of this course I hope to use Holyrood Park Hub some more as this is an area that I can see will help me develop ideas for the assignment AND become more comfortable with sharing ideas in a virtual community.

Week 9 Summary

Finally, a eureka moment!  Week 9 (and 8!) has significantly encroached on week 10 as I have been struggling with the meaning of post-human.  Until now, I considered it to be related to human action and found myself trying to ‘fit’ it into some schema that sat nicely in my preconceived understanding of being human.  After reading Edwards ’The end of lifelong learning: a posthuman condition?’ it clicked that ’post’ is ‘going beyond’ being human.  Perhaps a simple point to grasp but without it it has been particulary difficult to make meaning of Haraway and Hayles.  Now I have a better understanding of this I feel I can read these again and begin to contruct a blog related to some of their work.

I’ve been looking for examples of posthuman in films and media and storing them in Delicious to keep for my blog.  I also added StumbleUpon to my lifestream.  Unfortunately I now realise I saved them in a folder with the same name as my lifestream tag and so they fed directly onto my lifestream.  This left my page with a range of bizzare and disjointed artefacts when viewed without any context.  I have rectified this problem, leaving me just my page to tidy over the few remaining weeks.

Week 8 Summary

Being the first week of block 3 I obtained the readings and had a brief look at them but have been significantly distracted by finishing the ethnography. A lot of my learning this week has happened in the ‘real world’ and I do not feel I have reflected the significance of this in my lifestream. The opportunity to ‘invite a friend’ has led to some motivating conversations with colleagues and friends. This has turned out being an industrious stage in my course journey as I have been conducting some of my studies within a social circle that functions quite dependently around ‘conventional’ communication and wishes to believe it shy’s away from cyberculture, technology and posthumanities.
A few tweets have fed into my lifestream. Previously, finding it awkward to follow conversations in twitter I have had reservations over whether it would be a chosen means of communicating after this course. I realise now that it will…….I have no reservations that it is an effective way of sharing a links to another website. This is what I have tried to do this week when an ‘invited friend’ made me aware of the Free Thinking Festival and some I found some interesting sessions directly relevant to posthumanities.

Week 7 Summary

The ethnography task has been interesting. I would until now have consider myself quite distance to the virtual world. However, the varied contributions from the class have been an eye opener to the fact that many communities that I consider common place in ‘my world’ are in fact virtual communities. This slowly developed realisation is perhaps representative of the fact they are so integrated with the real world…and how little appreciation I had for the fact that ‘my world’ was actually so involved in the virtual world.
Always looking for a new challenge I decided to use Prezi to present my ethnography. I had seen it used my previous students and was attracted to the slick linking between ideas – perfect for snap shots of a community. However, the challenges related to ethics (already identified in week6) became even more apparent when building the ethnography and it the intricacies of Prezi proved to be very time consuming. Despite this, it was worth the effort as I felt my ethnography turned out well for a first attempt and the feedback I received would indicate that posting it supported within a blog enabled me to convey the ethical challenges I encountered.
Looking at my lifestream I see that I have not been adding very varied feeds over the last few weeks so I have gone back to trying to use delicious some more. It takes practice to integrate using sites as a new way to support my learning, thus I realise I must practice some more.

Week 6 Summary

Hands writing on the ‘Circulation, Networking [and] Flattening’ came to mind this week and can be related to a virtual community. My chosen community is brought together by the belief that the members are equipped with political, moral and spiritual ideologies that can better the world and make it sustainable. As Hand says, cyberspace reduces the limitations of being a lone, lost voice by enabling people that are geographically distant to join together to form a larger, empowered body of people. The possibilities of the cyberculture restructuring boundaries created by a democratic world tied up in bureaucracy are intriguing. I also hold some cynicism that people can hide behind a persona that is not representative of them in the ‘real world’. This is something I wish to investigate further.
Much of this week has been spent observing the multi-faceted dimensions of my community and taking snap shots of what I feel represents the community. Ethically, I feel I have addressed the essential thinking related to being the ethnographer (as outlined on the AoIR website and course content). However, as I become more acquainted with the community I cannot help but make personal assumptions and question whether I agree with/support their practices. For my participation within the community my participation is not guided directly by the literature but something that I am personally, morally comfortable with. I’d go as far as to suggest that whilst my ethnography is conducted with a benevolent attitude I find myself repeatedly questioning whether in fact I may interfere and inadvertently alter the natural dynamics of the community. Undoubtedly, I have found this aspect the most challenging part of ethnography and have therefore decided not to contribute but attempt to make unbiased observations.

Week 5 Summary

This week I have been contemplating the most appropriate virtual community in which to base my study. In the interview with Howard Rheingold he makes reference to the ‘Global Community’. Whilst he in clear in stating the global community is not some fluffy, ideological community where everyone is best friends he does raise some interesting points. Namely, a large portion of the world now live in cities and now experience less of the close knit community born in villages where people are concerned about life on a very local scale. This has occurred concurrently with geographical boundaries posing less restriction as travel is readily accessible and geographical boundaries have been dissolved by the risk of global flu pandemics and nuclear war, for example. Reduced community identity on a small geographical scale, development of infrastructure/the WWW and geographical distance becoming inconsequential and the sharing of common concern/interest/belief have paved a way for virtual communities to develop. This shift in community dynamics poses numerous questions as to how people converse and a basis for my ethnography.
I received feedback on my lifestream. As anticipated, it was apparent that my use lifestream is not being used to its full. In an attempt to update my lifestream I found that I had notes scattered across my desk and throughout my hard drive that would suggest I had done some work yet to look at my lifestream one could not tell as much. My course participation is an array of scribbles and links that require structuring to form weekly summaries. Due to (the overused excuse of) work commitments I have found it difficult to participate in the discussions held in Holyrood hub. However, time spent commuting enables me to complete the readings and I have managed to feed a couple of twitter comments into my lifestream. I wonder at times whether it will take the ten weeks of this course to master making regular and varied contributions to my lifestream…slowly I am getting there.

Week 4 Summary

The week of the artefact. The theme I wished to present was clear from the outset…or so I thought. The film festival has made apparent that different people can love or hate the same film, find it entertaining or disturbing to watch and consider something meaningful or just regard it as existing without meaning. I initially intended to demonstrate the use of digital culture during an average day in my life and how there can be conflict within a digital culture; creating utopia or dystopia. Whilst I initially (and naively) considered these two states to be polar opposite I began to realise that in fact the distinction between utopia and dystopia was guided by application/purpose/acceptance of the digital technology and social context. A slideshow of how the worlds merge seemed an obvious medium for demonstrating this continuum. YouTube was an obvious place to present my artefact as it allowed audio/visual without distorting my artefact and provided an opportunity to practice uploading, at no cost, a product I have created for the mass market.
The artefacts created by the class were brilliant. The variety demonstrates my earlier reference to the way that people have exposure to the same event (in this case course content) but from it draw different conclusion and relate more with one aspect than another…I continued to do this in my commentary on some of the other artefacts though must investigate whether these comments can be fed to my otherwise hungry lifestream.