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The Machine is (_____) Us

  • Technology Use in Higher Education

    Teachers and students, through K-12 to colleges and grad schools, in America and in other parts of the world, are all engaged in teaching and learning with the help of technology. Technology use has positively contributed to our teaching and learning practices. We write online blogs to express our opinions, comment on each other’s pages, use multimedia presentations to vivify our ideas. We can now overcome the physical gap and connect through the Internet with people that are far away from us, allowing us to study and learn together with the help of online classroom platforms.

    This semester I am taking an online Java programming course. I meet with the professor and classmates online at least once a week. The course schedule is not synchronic so we don’t need to be presented at the same time, which is reasonable because we are from different parts of the world in different time zones.

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    You might think that texting is the only way for us to communicate. Actually no. We talk to each other by texts of course, but we can also recording audios or even videos of ourselves or of our computers’ screenshots. The professor would use a website called VoiceThread (a video site where you can share your screen while recording your illustration) to teach us new concepts or show us examples.

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    With the help of technologies like voiceThread, we can listen to the instructor’s words again and again, without worrying about missing information if we are interrupted by something else. Also the information presented is clearly demonstrated both verbally and visually, lowering the cognitive load and help students enhance the understanding of new concepts.

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    But there’s also concern about students’ lack of cooperation and collaboration. Although there are forums and the commenting mechanism is very handy and convenient, the classmates don’t usually feel motivated in participating in group work or helping each other. One major reason might be that without face-to-face communication in a real classroom, the sense of belongingness to a community is weakened. Therefore, outside of classrooms, the use of technology and social softwares should also be encouraged so that classmates can bond and connect with one another, not only as classmates but also as friends.

  • Deception as a Strategy in Online Dating

    Researchers now consider deception in online profiles as a strategy rather than a way to hide who they really are. They have found out that although deceptions are frequently spotted in online dating profiles, in the meantime, the magnitude of such deceptions is relatively small. People lie about certain aspects of their real selves, so that they could be more competitive in the “dating market” and by doing so slightly, they could still maintain their true self and avoid being spotted of their deceptions.

    It’s interesting to see that people are constantly deceiving and being deceived, and this tension always exists. Although people are aware of the fact that “since I’ve lied about my profile, why can’t others lie as well”, they are still willing to take the chance.

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    Of course, there are also times when lies and deceptions become dangerous and have to be taken seriously.

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    The studies researchers conducted show a common trend of how and what people lie online, but in daily life, as an individual, we might still encounter different people that might not fit into the trend. Anti-CatFishing is still a major thing we should always keep in mind.

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  • Public Displays of Connection

    It’s interesting to read the article “Public Displays of Connection”, since it was published 10 years ago, examining the trend of the development of social networking. Ten years have passed, and we can see that social networking sites are still very important, permeating through every aspects of our life.

    There are now various types of networking sites, focusing on different specific aspects of our life, catering to our social needs to the fullest extent. Designers of these sites are trying their best to overcome the drawbacks encountered during the early incarnation. By narrowing down the objective and focus of the sites, seemingly excessive and unorganized information online is less of a burden than before.

  • It Gets Better

    Speaking of anti-bullying campaigns, the first thing that comes to my mind is the “It Gets Better Project” which was launched in 2010. In response to the suicides of teenagers who were bullied because of their sexual orientations, the campaign called on people from all over the world and of all sexual orientations to share their own stories and express their support through youtube videos.

    The cyberspace does give the bullies an easy way to perpetuate, but it also helps positive information spread in an unimaginable speed and scale. From ordinary people to celebrities, politicians and even the US president, thousands and millions of people joined hands to fight bullying and express hope for a better future.

    Four years have passed since the campaign started. Legislations have passed to ensure healthier and safer online environment. The cyber norms are also changing for the better. As we now see the world, it DOES get better.

  • Learning in the Digital Age

    In my Cognitive Development class, we’ve been constantly focusing on the traditional learning theories such as nativism, behaviorism and constructivism. Scholars used to believe that knowledge is innate, which has nothing to do with environmental influence. Then they realized that the outside environment couldn’t be neglected. The impact of environment on the learning process is gradually being emphasized.

    But as George Siemens has mentioned, former theories all limit the learning process within an individual, and overlook learning occurred in organizations and technology-influenced learning. As information continues to grow in an unimaginable speed, it’s apparent that people now rely on the help of technologies more than ever. Many cognitive steps we used to go through can now be aided by technology. We don’t have to store or retrieve knowledge solely in or from our brain. Now we have computers, smartphones with powerful databases and applications that are easily accessed whenever we are in need. In the digital era, learning is no longer just an individual process, but a system which requires connections between individuals and organizations through various networks.

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    Report a Problem? Discuss sentence!

    Examples of such learning process can be easily found nowadays. Language learning apps such as Duolingo, have been changing their way of teaching from the former one-way outputting of course content, to the current two-way interactive teaching. Learners can now connect their own knowledge to the community through online forum (network) and also learn more about related materials. The connections learners built and formed allow themselves to remain current on the target information and thus amplify their learning efficiency.

    Connectivism as a learning theory, has indeed shed light on how to design more effective instructions in the current digital age.

    Questions: Can you guys find more examples of the application of connectivism in the field of instructional design? What do you think we should consider when designing our own instructional products?

  • Self and Identity Online

    In Identity construction on Facebook, the authors talk us out of several stereotypical views we hold on the differences between online and offline identities. Identity is a social product rather than being restricted to defining an individual. Identity changes according to different situations and social environment. Online world intertwined with the offline world in many ways and we cannot say that they are separate worlds. Facebook as an online social media, for example, is a nonymous site where people demonstrate a mixed identity which is in between of the face-to-face interaction and anonymous online interaction.

    I’m especially interested in the way the authors describe the Facebook identity – the “hoped-for possible selves.” People do have the desire to show more than tell and people are more influenced and impressed by showing rather than telling. I believe that this is also one of the reasons why nonymous social media like Facebook are successful. Although in anonymous online environment, there is more space for people to deviant and people could be less responsible for how they react and behave, the interaction in such environment wouldn’t affect their real life social life; whereas in Facebook and other nonymous social media sites, they could have some space to shape their own identity and at the same time, change and mould their offline face-to-face interaction with others.

  • Facebook – Friend or Foe?

    Well I have to admit that although I do have accounts for different social media, I’m not a crazy fan of them. My Facebook page sucks. So does my Instagram page. The reason why I decided not to update them that much is that I had to spend a huge amount of my time on them and thus I got less time for other things I value more, and if I wanted to simultaneously do my work and take care of my social sites, I became really distracted and I ended up doing neither well. For example, if I posted something on Facebook, every time when there’s new comment or new LIKES on the post, my phone’ll ring or vibrate so that I’ll have to stop what I’m doing and check my phone. And even if I decide to leave it alone, my mind will at least think about “maybe I should ignore it” and that’ll also be a distraction from my work. People might say that you could always turn the notification off and such. But wait, as long as you decide to post something, you’ll always be longing for comments and LIKES, and your phone would be a magnet that draws you to thinking about it.

    But I have to say that we cannot just shut down all of our social sites, just because they might impair our focus and efficiency. Social media like Facebook can provide us with useful information, like important social events. They can also bond ourselves with friends, and let us communicate with family and friends even if we’re miles apart. I think that as long as we make a fine line between work and social media, we can reduce the negative impacts that are brought by social media. When we’re studying or working, we should focus on the work and leave our phone alone.

    In China, there’s an app called “Wo Yao Dang Xueba” (literally means “I want to be a studyholic”). You can set goals before you study or work, for example, that I want to study for an hour. Then after you press start, the phone will switch to the timer mode. If you activate the phone before the timer goes to zero, then you fail to reach your goal. The app will automatically post on your social sites (you need to link it to your social accounts before using it of course), telling your friends that you’ve failed to focus on your study or work. Or if you’ve completed your goal, it will also post a congratulation message on your social page as a kind of “showing off” gesture. What’s interesting about this app is that it takes advantage of the social media to prevent people from using them too much.

    Of course, you might say that still, with that timer in mind I’ll still be distracted anyway. It’s true, but I have to say that it’s not exactly Facebook’s fault that you cannot focus on your work. It’s you yourself who make the call whether to let in the distractions or not. People get distracted all the time, with or without social media. You could be distracted from your work by birds twittering outside your window when Twitter was not introduced to the world, right 😛 ?

  • Readers to Leaders

    The reader-to-leader framework shed lights on the ways designers could engage and attract more people to their products (websites, applications, etc.). The author really made quite a few good points in illustrating such a framework. As an experienced netizen who has gone through the process of being merely a reader, to finally being a leader, I couldn’t agree more on the points the author’s made. It then got me thinking, as hopefully-soon-to-be instructional designers, what should we consider when designing say, an English-learning app, that could fully attract people’s attention and become involved in it?

    A user-friendly interface and useful contents are no doubt a must. If the users cannot use it easily, or cannot learn anything useful from the app, then why should they use it again? Also, as the author contends, one way of attracting people to engage and become a reader is the trust transference mechanism. There are plenty of examples to back up this point. One of the most popular social network in China, Renren (namely “everybody”), made its way to the top of this field thanks to the power of trust transference. At first, it was just a social networking website called Xiaonei (namely “on-campus”), and it was originally designed for university students. It then grew fast, expanded and became no longer exclusive to the student body but to the entire society. One student uses it, and then his friends began using it, and their friends who are not necessarily students began using it, and … you already know the rest of the story. In the case of mobile phone apps, trust could be earned by users’ direct contact with friends, it could also be earned by users checking out other users’ ratings or comments on the app. We, as instructional designers should also keep this in mind. When designing our own products, pay attention to the users’ feedbacks, not only for the purpose of improving the product itself, but also for the reason that users’ feedbacks are vital to potential users while they are deciding whether to engage or not.

    Building the sense of achievement and also establishing ranking system are very effective ways of pushing users to contribute, as the author contends and empirical evidence suggests. Shopping websites like Amazon have ranking mechanism for active commenters. They also value the quality of the comments, which not only reduce the possibility of meaningless or junk information, but also give those who give useful comments a sense of achievement, stimulating other users to produce useful comments as well, thus forming a benign cycle. The app we’re to build should also incorporate ranking systems as well. For example, we could rank users based on how many tasks they have finished in a day, or how many days in a row the users use the app and learn. This way the users could be more attracted to the app, and more motivated in learning. Also, social network should be connected to this ranking system, so that the users could have a sense of competition with the ones they know, and also enabling the app to spread faster.

  • Comments I made (Week 2)

    To Cristina:

    Communication via social media offers us more choices and space. People can now use all kinds of abbreviations and emoticons to express themselves, and that couldn’t be achieved easily during normal face-to-face conversations. We can decide whether to respond or not, since it’s mostly asynchronous on social media. Social media provide us with a platform to simply express ourselves without expecting responses, and it also enables us to gather strength and connect with more people than we can imagine (think of the ALS ice-bucket challenge).

    To Sam:

    While we argue that it is society that has been pushing innovation and technology forward, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that there has to be enough technology to aid us when we are innovating, though technology itself are without exception programmed by us human. Technology still serves as an indispensable element in the process of innovation.

    To Kandice:

    Ha, interesting comment about technology used as means to make more money. But I don’t think that’s the whole picture. Making money is a part of what technology enables us to do. A couple more pixels in our camera seem to make little difference, but think about twenty years ago, when we had to use heavy non-digital cameras and go through a lot of procedures to get our photos developed. Sure, we’ve spent lot of money paying for such technology, but we have to admit that it is changing how we live.

  • Technological Determinism?

    As students, we are taught in history class that technological inventions have served as a major stimulus of social transformation. The invention of navigator initiated the exploration and conquer of new continents; the invention of electricity launched the second industrial revolution which greatly boosted the efficiency of labor force.  The list goes on. Do these mean though, that technology really determines the progress of the world and society we’re living in?

    As I summarize, the gist of technological determinism is to contend that technology is the major moving force of history and social transformation. Although the required readings are abstract in language and that I couldn’t fully understand all of the arguments, it is clear to me that they all tried to evaluate the causal link between technology and social change. My stand is that it seems obvious, and empirical experiences have well-informed us that even if technology isn’t the determining factor of social change, it does help change and shape the society in many ways.

    There are still so much about technological determinism that I’ve not yet understood. I’m hoping to gain more insight from the professor and my classmates during class and I’ll come back and update.