Saturday, February 16, 2013

E-Learning - Utopic or Dystopic?

To be honest, I didn't really see any connection with education in Toyota's Real Deal advert. An avatar buying a car, or whatever he is doing, from another avatar doesn't look very real. "There is nothing real in this town, just pixels, pretends..." What is he then? Is he real? Didn't look real to me, just like anybody else who is supposed to be unreal.

E-learning doesn't really have to be that. Can we really expect a schoolchild to be disciplined enough to study fully online? Not many will, I think. If we are talking about school education, then what is wrong with flipping classrooms? I use technology to enhance my learners' learning experience and to provide them with some extra activities that they can do if they choose to. In many cases they do because they feel that it helps them to improve their grammar and vocabulary, their writing, listening and reading skills. They feel that there is individual approach because there is always a message from me, their pages bear their own names, and we meet 3 times a week. So what is wrong with that? Yes, there is a mixture of technological and natural, but I simply don't see it as a negative development. In contrast to what Lowell Monke claims in his article The human Touch, I see a great improvement in my students' writing skills.

In the second video, Heart to Heart, Adam's need to talk to his wife face-to-face about something important is re-asserted here, which matches what Steve Kolowich discusses in his article The Human Element. However, I think, there is some information missing in the article. What level of education is the drop-out level high? Is it about free courses or paid ones? The drop-out level seems to be high in free online courses, because many people register just out of interest, they don't really warm up to the course, or they can't manage their time effectively enough to complete the course. What I would really like to know if the drop-out rate is high in distance MA courses. Many people who choose the online option do so because they need the degree and they either work, or cannot afford the ever-increasing fees of universities. Do they really stop the course having paid for it partially or in full? The notion of building online presence has been around for quite a while and I agree with that. It is always nice to hear your tutor's voice or see what you lecturer looks like like it would happen in a classroom setting where you also get to know what your tutor/lecturer/professor likes or dislikes: little human things about a person who teaches you. And this can be done in an online course through Social Forums or Google Hangout, etc.

The film made me go through an array of emotions from happy to sad. Do we say that technology has manipulated my emotions? As human beings we do react emotionally to what is happening around us, be it technological or real.
The man's loved one is in a life-threatening condition and he is dreaming about things he would do for her if she survived whatever has caused her condition. Isn't it what we all do when things go wrong? Don't we all dream about things we would do if they were different? Doesn't it make us feel different? So why call what the man does emotion manipulation by technology if all he does is he dreams but using holographic tools.

And the last clip They're made out of meat made me laugh to be honest. If we view the aliens as iPhones and iPads, then it seems that aliens are some of the meat's dream. Now the question that wasn't of interest to the aliens was that animals are also made of meat, does that make them human too?

 "Have we always, sometimes or never been human?"
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines human as
If we think of 'human' in terms of the adjective then it seems that anything with a human trait could be defined as human. And this is how I think Prof Fuller sees it - just as an adjective. What do we do with people who behave in an inhumane way? Do we brand them non-human? Many people do horrible things, but what shall we call them? Aliens? Isn't that in itself a form of discrimination? Maybe we could classify them humanity into kind and unkind to make it easier to define human?

Wouldn't ability to feel, to love, to hate, to laugh or to cry be human only characteristic of humanity, especially the last two? Isn't it biological enough evidence not to claim that the Bible is the only reason we know we are human and that there is no biological reason for this? As far as I remember from Biology classes at school humans are the only species that walk upright. Isn't it a reason good enough?

I believe that technology can help us fight against discrimination. Since the day I started using Facebook and taking online courses, I have made many friends from around the world and am more aware of their real problems and worries than ever before. News is biased or it is not what really happens, the Internet helps us connect with others, network and get to know other cultures.


  1. Well put. Defining what is human for me is not really necessary to make some statements about online learning. It is found in biology - birds, mammals, monkeys, chimpanzees - that the young and inexperienced learn by mirroring, or imitating or watching others. The human aspect, which might get lost if groups of people don't meet anymore in real life. So I hope you go on meeting 3 times a week in your class - very worth while.

  2. I agree with you, Dick! My students are actually young adults, and they still have the need for face-to-face lessons. but still we are taking part in this course and communicating and learning, right? I see a lot of positive things in that. :)