I will be visiting my colleagues at the University of Edinburgh in mid-June to give a seminar on MOOCs, automation, artificial intelligence and pedagogical agents. This is a free event organized by the Moray House School of Education at the U of Edinburgh and supported by the Digital Cultures and Education research group and DigitalHSS. Please feel free to join us face-to-face or online (Date: 18 June 2014; Time: 1-3pm) by registering here.
This seminar will bring together some of my current and past research. A lot of my work in the past examined learners’ experiences with conversational and (semi)intelligent agents. In that research, we discovered that the experience of interacting with intelligent technologies was engrossing (pdf). Yet, learners often verbally abused the pedagogical agents (pdf). We also discovered that appearance (pdf) may be a significant mediating factor in learning. Importanly, this research indicated that “learners both humanized the agents and expected them to abide by social norms, but also identified the agents as programmed tools, resisting and rejecting their lifelike behaviors.”
A lot of my current work examines experiences with open online courses and online social networks, but what exactly does pedagogical agents and MOOCs have to do with each other? Ideas associated with Artificial Intelligence are present in both the emergence of xMOOCs (EdX, Udacity, and Coursera emanated from AI labs) and certain practices associated with them – e.g., see Balfour (2013) on automated essay scoring. Audrey Watters highlighted these issues in the past. While I haven’t yet seen discussions on the integration of lifelike characters and pedagogical agents in MOOCs, the use of lifelike robots for education and the role of the faculty member in MOOCs are areas of debate and investigation in both the popular press and the scholarly literature. The quest to automate instruction has a long history, and lives within the sociocultural context of particular time periods. For example, the Second World War found US soldiers and cilvilians unprepared for the war effort, and audiovisual devices were extensively used to efficiently train individuals at a massive scale. Nowadays, similar efforts at achieving scale and efficiencies reflect problems, issues, and cultural beliefs of our time.
I’m working on my presentation, but if you have any questions or thoughts to share, I’d love to hear them!
BCNET is a not-for-profit, shared information technology services organization focusing on British Columbia’s higher education system. The organization aims to to explore and evaluate shared IT solutions and hosts an annual conference. I delivered one of the keynote talks for this year’s conference, and shared examples and stories of online learning initiatives. I framed these examples in terms of research on online learning and the context of the historic realities of educational technology practice. These stories illustrate the multiple realities that exist in online education and highlight how emerging technologies and open practices have (a) broadened access to education, (b) reinforced privilege, and (c) re-imagined the ways that academics enact and share scholarship. I am including my slides below.
I was recently invited to deliver a plenary talk at the 2013 Emerging Technologies for Online Learning conference, hosted by the Sloan Consortium. Steve Wheeler will be giving a keynote and I am excited to hear him talk. My presentation will pick up where Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (download it for free here http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120177) left off, and will take readers through a set of stories intend to clarify how emerging technologies are, and are not, changing education.
The talk is entitled Seven Tales of Learning Online with Emerging Technologies, and I described it as follows:
During the last few years, emerging technologies and online learning have dominated narratives regarding the future of education and the potential role that technology may play in education. Are we reaching a point where “anyone can learn anything from anyone else at any time?” Or, are Google, Facebook, and Twitter “infantilizing our minds,” distracting us from meaningful learning and purposeful living? As societies, governments, and other social groups adapt and change over time, so do institutions of learning, the work that they do, and how they do that work. In this presentation, I will share seven research-based stories describing the integration of emerging technologies in learning environments. These stories paint an intricate picture of online learning with emerging technologies and demonstrate how (a) emerging learning technologies have impacted educational practice, (b) the use of emerging technologies “on the ground” is often negotiated and contested, and (c) a “culture of sharing” may be finding increasing acceptance in education under emerging phenomena such as Massive Open Online Courses, Open Educational Resources, and social media use by scholars. These stories highlight how learning and education are (and are not) changing with the emergence of certain technologies, social behaviors, and cultural expectations.
I recently gave a presentation in which I sought to capture some of the activities that I see happening when researchers are using social media to enact scholarship. In this presentation I argued that while faculty members have always shared their work with each other (e.g., through letters, telephone calls, and conference presentations), techno-cultural forces are prompting educators and researchers to share scholarly work in an ongoing and open manner. I also argued that “sharing” is a value and literacy that we should embrace and teach, not just because it is compatible with the purpose of higher education but also because it may contribute to a more equitable society.
I love spending time with others and participating in conversations that help others understand and explore the role of technology in education, society, and 21st century living. On Thursday (Dec 6th), I get to do that at a local middle school as part of the Digital Parent learning series, an event hosted by Carl Hooker who is the Director for Instructional Technology in the Eanes Independent School District. I will be talking about participation in online spaces and networked cultures and why and how parents can support and foster their children’s online participation. I anticipate that I will have to defend the notion of real and virtual life being inextricably intertwined and, to a large degree, inseparable (which is an argument that resembles one that I made in 2008 and one that Nathan Jurgenson recently described quite eloquently). I also look forward to hearing and learning from my co-panelists’ experiences!
If you are in Austin, please join us for this free event.