The Machine’s still using us.

In 2007, this video hit the emerging “blogosphere” like a wrecking ball. It was the video which accompanied several books which claimed education faced such radical upheaval and unimaginable change that school would fail children and teachers needed to grab hold of the “read/write” web with urgency and not ‘wait’.

Although this may have been true, it certainly wasn’t based on fact or particularly mindful of decades of work in the potential for using the Internet and Computers in education. In fact, it was Ronald Reagan who first held the first ‘online discussion’ about the potential for the Internet in education in 1975. Ironically waiting for Jane Fonda to join the chat but she never did.

It marked an epoch, a moment in time where the topic of ‘educational technology’ moved out from journals and academic publishing and onto blogs and the then embryonic micro-blog platform. It appeared in thousands of ‘edtech’ posts and powerpoint presentations to a new audience. Technology was moving out the computer lab and into every classroom. It no longer required experts, it required everyone to show up and participate … the wisdom of the crowd.

Now, 7 years later, this moment has passed into history. Society has welcomed the new domesticated and mobilised technology offerings of mega-corporations who make billions of dollars. Now billions of people publish media on a daily basis in a new economy of micro-payments though data transmission and receipt.

Parents mediate technology, communicate with their children and seemingly trust them to access the Internet with little or no supervision — or specialist instruction, while schools appear to be increasingly divided on how to fund, manage and use technology.

One question that needs to be asked is just how relevant is this video today?

MI’d love to hear what you think.

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2 thoughts on “The Machine’s still using us.

  1. I’ll take up your invitation, Dean.

    I always thought the first part of the title exciting. ‘The Machine is us’. It is us. We can steer it and sort it. We are the machine. The basic tenet, that digital and binary is better is real for me. An interconnected network, like a brain, moving forward with ideas and art and forging something new collectively is a wonderful notion. That’s what’s both exciting and scary. I think your concerns are legitimate but you are going for the wrong targets.

    Essentially, to me, your polemical thesis – about 2.0, PLNs etc. – is spurious and misfocused but I passionately agree with perceptions about the need for proper media studies and more trenchant analysis of of the corporate juggernauts rolling into our classrooms nowadays, colonising these previously sacrosanct, non-commercial spaces, often with keen teachers, like me, unwittingly carrying the virus. It is true that not enough children are not being educated by their parents or teachers in a way that is needed, for now. There needs to be more savvy, both technical and political. People need to read more and play less Angry Birds.

    However, I am much more concerned by many, many other issues in education. For example, the rampant managerialism, that swamping of professional life with policies and processes that do not help a struggling kid/family or assist an educator to educate than I am by technology, or lack of nous. This blind unthinking new scholasticism is truly awful. We fund without using evidence-based research, we support the supernatural charities with taxpayer monies to spread their (often) arcane, sexist, undemocratic messages. These are far bigger issues for our children’s collective futures than a few educators being stimulated by the idea of helping each other and feeling there is a world outside the classroom walls of a 40-year career.

    Although I am generally optimistic in outlook, there is some despair that successive governments have not had a nucleus of quality minds dreaming us to somewhere better, especially in our approach to education. There’s a real dearth of leadership. Our democracy is looking broken and needs lots of us working hard to make it better. A never-ending task, (sounding a little glib) as we are the machinery of our political apparatus, and well-know, it is using us!

  2. I loved this video when I first saw it, and still occasionally revisit it. We have come so far since that period – with the internet becoming so much more accessible for ordinary people. I fully appreciate your frustration with school and technology – so many think that a multi-media presentation (aka. Microsoft Powerpoint) is a technology based assessment item, specialist organisations think that simply giving Indigenous kids a Kindle is going to improve their literacy (apparently the Machine itself will teach us)… and so on. It’s also become clearer to me how the major platforms, like Facebook, *are* the internet for many people. For these people, Facebook is their first interaction with online connections – (the good, the bad and the ugly) and it’s like an invisible straightjacket. Some of this may have, no definitely has, something to do with most/many of the people I know accessing their web via mobile phones (and on prepaid plans). Your internet (life) is very different when you have multiple devices on 200gb a month, versus $20 prepaid monthly plan than includes 500mb or 1gb a month on a mobile device. Perhaps the bigger machine – of social, cultural and economic inequality – is still using us.

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