Welcome to the one place where EMAC is Whack!

"Attack of the EMAC" is Kevin Sharpe's class blog for EMAC 6300: Introduction to the Study of Emerging Media and Communications at the University of Texas, Dallas. He is an educational marketing manager and runs the Newspaper in Education program at The Dallas Morning News.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why we need a Good "Open-source-keeping" Seal of Approval

Jaron Lanier’s addresses concerns regarding online collectivism in his essay “Digital Maoism” and the risks of sharing knowledge from open sources such as Wikipedia. Moving forward – as more and more resources are developed through open source contributions – perhaps some type of “digital reputation” needs to be developed that reflects a source’s reliability, experience and authenticity. Rather than depending on a democratic approach that might be driven by subjectivity, an objective score could be used to weigh in the credibility of a contribution based on the contributors reputation.

This basic approach similar to this concept is already used online in a simpler manner that isn’t based on complex calculations. EBay allows shoppers to share their experiences so others can determine whether or not a seller is reliable and able to make good on their products or services. Couch Surfing doesn’t use calculations to report a user’s reputation, but transparency and references from other users are documented and available for review. Spam blockers have also been using this type of “digital reputation” in order to determine whether or not an email is spam.

Credit ratings are a similar concept that might make a good model to start some type of “Good Open Sourcekeeping Seal of Approval.” However; since one source might be a master at one topic or area of expertise, that same contributor could be unreliable in many other subjects, skills or abilities. A digital credibility rating needs to factor those variances in order to calibrate some type of score that fluctuates based on topic, purpose and objective. Registration and authentication would be required. A plug-in or some other type of application would need to track and measure that user’s contributions, collaborations and feedback in order to calculate and post scores.

Rather than being “driven by democracy,” open source sites would qualify and share contributions based on this type of digital reputation. Updates and revisions as well as overrides and objections would be automated and objectively calculated rather than based on popularity, politics or subjectivity.

UPDATE: The New York Times published an editorial the day after this posting regarding ways sites are addressing "trolls" who are abusing anonymity. Two specifics mentioned that are relevant to this topic.

One application used by Disqus allows ...
"users to rate one another’s comments and feed those ratings into a global reputation system called Clout. Moderators can use a commenter’s Clout score to 'help separate top commenters from trolls.'"

The editorial also describes an approach used by Gizmodo.

The technology blog Gizmodo is trying an audition system for new commenters, under which their first few comments would be approved by a moderator or a trusted commenter to ensure quality before anybody else could see them. After a successful audition, commenters can freely post. If over time they impress other trusted commenters with their contributions, they’d be promoted to trusted commenters, too, and their comments would henceforth be featured.

While these approaches focus on just "commenting," it illustrates there are opportunities to utilize this kind of concept to develop and track some type of "digital reputation" system.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to bridge the generational divide in the classroom

“Don't even try to keep up with technology,” said a middle school girl recently to a group of teachers. “You'll only look stupid.”

That’s a student quote educational technology consultant Marc Prensky mentions in his article, “On Being Disrespected,” published in the October 2006 edition of “Educational Leadership.” It’s a pretty good way to illustrate the generational “digital divide” N. Katherine Hayles references in “Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes.”

Prensky illustrates some of the cultural attitudes occurring between generations in regards to technology as well as emerging educational approaches. Older generations demonstrate a lack of respect toward the educational benefits to digital devices and media -- especially video games.
“One high school student reported to me that his parents told him, ‘Your computer games are a total waste of your time, money, and brain cells.’ Given that this student spends a lot of time playing these games, which are often more challenging than his schoolwork, and that he is proud of succeeding at them, this comment reflects enormous disrespect. The kid was pretty hurt by it.”

On the other hand, Prensky also references a type of “digital elitism” reflected by younger generations toward adults. He states that many students see their teachers as being digitally illiterate – “and they disrespect them for it.”

Prensky – author of the 2001 book “Digital Game-Based Learning,” and the 2005 book “Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning!” – travels around the world talking to educators about how to address the generational divide in classrooms in regards to the use of technology in schools.

While Hayles examines “Generation M,” Prensky explores the cultural and pedagogical differences between “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants”

Today’s students are “natives” who were born in this digital age while their teachers – like immigrants who physically and geographically leave one world behind and inhabit a new society that requires them to learn a new language and practice new customs. Prensky says "Digital Immigrants" posses a type of “accent,” that is “their foot in the past.” For example, he points out that one “accent” is how Digital Immigrants print out emails and find comfort in creating “paper trails” of their digital documents.

During the first decade of the 21st Century, educators who are Digital Immigrants have been resistant to integrate technology into their teaching strategies, let alone transition from “deep attention” approaches to “hyper-attention” techniques.

These “old school teachers” internalize their educational style and insist that traditional instructional methods that worked for them should be good enough for the students they teach. However, their stubbornness toward embracing digital strategies an emerging technology out of principle and respect for traditional approaches more than likely masks their insecurities regarding their “digital illiteracy.”

Schools are throwing dynamic hardware into classrooms in order to tangibly demonstrates to parents that students are being exposed to 21st century technology. Teachers – on the other hand – are not being taught how to integrate these tools into their teaching strategies. Professional development covers how to “turn it on and off,” and then teachers are expected to go out and “use the stuff.” No time is spent exploring educational features and benefits as well as the diverse approaches that can be developed through these new devices.

Perhaps one of the best ways to help bridge the generational divide in cogitative modes between teachers (Digital Immigrants) and their students (Digital Natives) would be for districts to develop professional development programs for teachers that embrace 21st Century instructional strategies that focus on “hyper-attention.” As it stands in most cases, traditional instructional strategies are being used to show teachers how to use emerging technology. It should be a digitally immersive program that abandons the classroom environment and integrates multi-media, social media and networking, game-based instruction structures as well as other types of distance learning strategies.