MOOC Week 3: What does it mean to be human?

Being Human

The three videos that portray the way technology may be able to enhance our lives to provide for almost all our needs in a most fantastic way all concede one thing – that being in touch with other human beings and “real life” is still the ultimate experience that most people yearn for. Looking at the human race from the perspective of decidedly unimpressed aliens is a parody of how the colonialist West looked down upon the heathen races they subjugated and destroyed.

Video 1:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=K6Pb_tmPKGk

Video 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=l5bkniCUAow

Video 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VzFpg271sm8

Video 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=IfPdhsP8XjI

Humans craving human interaction is not surprising at all, which is why the article by Steve Kolowich rings true: that adding movies, podcasts and audio chatting sessions such as Skype, to leaven the weight of text information, can increase retention rates in online courses. But just human interaction per se isn’t enough. The quality of the interaction is key. I’ve seen some lectures and Youtube movies that have dazzled me and some that I haven’t bothered enduring to the end as they were so bad. A colleague recounted how some Khan Academy videos did such a good job of explaining mathematical concepts – even better than the class having the real teachers teach – that the maths teachers themselves agreed and so they happily instituted the flipped classroom concept and are enjoying facilitating the use of concepts rather than teaching them. This has prompted me to plan to add some videos to the online course I am designing at the moment!

The huge amount of time taken up by computer use in all levels of education nowadays obviously means some neglect of other things. Lowell Monke believes it is at the expense of real hands on learning and this neglect has a detrimental effect on literacy, ethical values,   and “deep human” qualities of “determination, courage, ingenuity, and faith …”

With two children, one aged 8 and the other almost 10, I am also concerned about the effects that long hours on the tablet and computer can have. I don’t, however, agree with his conclusion that computers are hugely detrimental to my children’s education. At school they still work with their hands, play sport and go on trips. The complaint by Monke that computers are creating information overload and more abstraction than before is probably not true. With computers able to replace diagrams and poor quality pictures which existed in the old textbooks with videos and pictures, the abstraction may well be a lot less.  Kids playing many games such as Minecraft are not experiencing the ” … passive acceptance of prefabricated images.” but in fact having to engage in sophisticated navigation and changing the environment they see. Last week my 10 year old spent a whole school day looking at the coastal environment with his class. My daughter had to take in a real flower for her art class, and her class also baked cakes for a sale tomorrow. Definitely hands on!

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