The SSL certificate I’d been using for this site had been about to expire, so I tried yanking it so I could replace it with something powered by Let’s Encrypt (which is backed by the EFF, Mozilla, Automattic, etc…). But, Let’s Encrypt doesn’t launch until the fall, so the timing wasn’t right. In the meantime, some browsers were throwing fits as some of the parts of my site were still trying to load via secure HTTPS connections, while others weren’t. Chaos and hilarity ensued. So, I just threw some money at the problem to get a shiny new certificate from SSL2Buy to get the site back on the air. I’d been trying to set up a free certificate through StartSSL, but that just didn’t work (and Firefox still freaked out with the free certificate).
SSL really needs to be easier if it’s going to be used by more folks – especially important, since Firefox is trying to deprecate non-secure HTTP.
Social learning was one the major bets we made at HBX. It also yielded some of our most profound learnings. When students asked a question on the platform, we resisted the urge to jump in, instead leaving it to peers to do so. When students struggled with a concept, we resisted (even more) the urge to jump in and correct the group, but relied on peers to do so. The results were remarkable (and somewhat humbling if you’re an expert): in more than 90% of cases, questions were precisely and accurately answered by the peer group. One of our HBX CORe students had previously been the head teaching assistant (TA) for one of the most popular MOOCs (massive open online courses). He noted that a typical approach to intervention in online courses was to amass larger numbers of TAs, so that some “expert” was ready to intervene quickly on any question as it arose. One unintended consequence? “Soon, everyone expected the TA’s to answer questions. No one took it upon themselves to do so.”
“Trust the students,” we preach in our classrooms. It’s one of the hardest axioms to follow. The temptation for an expert, or a teacher, is to help at the first sign of confusion. But letting it simmer can aid learner discovery. Indeed, the power of collaboration comes when you trust the group so that they are strongly encouraged — forced, even — to resolve problems on their own. Let an expert intervene, and you could undermine collaboration itself.
I’ve been thinking about this article a lot, as I work through a proposal to set up a support program for instructors adopting various learning technologies. If we set up a bunch of infrastructure and people to answer all of their questions, they would become dependent on it. If we don’t set up any, they won’t be as likely to succeed. Somewhere in the middle. Somewhere.
In the proposal, I’m trying to set up a seed of “in the trenches” support out in the faculties, to work with instructors and take advantage of a direct understanding of pedagogy in various fields. I’m also trying to set up central and community supports to enhance what people are doing more broadly across our campuses. But, how to do that without short-circuiting collaboration that could (and should) be happening Out There™? We need to help to build capacity – in individual instructors, in teams, programs, departments, and faculties – without inadvertently training people to rely on Technology Experts That Know Everything™ (because they don’t exist, nor should they).
Stephen ended his post linking to Tony’s blog post with what appears to be a throwaway line. It’s not. This is where the tension is centred when it comes to teaching. Lectures aren’t teaching, but have been used as a proxy for teaching because how else are you going to make sure 300 students get the appropriate number of contact hours? Butts-in-seats isn’t a requirement anymore. We can do more interesting things. And we can then use lectures for what they are good at. To reify, rehearse, assemble and celebrate.
Installed windows 8.1 in a VM today for testing. Surprisingly, not hating it. Especially when running on an SSD, it’s quick. And I haven’t seen that damned spinning blue cursor yet. Kind of love the weather app with built-in ski reports… And writing blog posts from Word? Feels… wrong… but it might work. Never thought I’d say this, but I could actually use this without ranting non-stop (as I did during my last foray into Windows 7 – had to give up the Dell laptop because my blood pressure kept rising…)
On noopower1 through marketing and repetition extended into ubiquitous social media:
Operating within the larger political economy of advertising–supported media, it is not surprising that Facebook, Google, and Twitter mirror marketing’s penchant for experimentation and repetition. Software engineers working for these firms pore over data about what actions users most commonly take — that is, what is most often repeated within the architectures of the sites. These engineers then constantly tweak their interfaces, APIs, and underlying software to reinforce these actions and to produce (they hope) new ones. The tiny changes in the Google homepage, for example, are akin to ripples on the surface of a body of water caused by motion deep underneath, as software engineers seek to increase the attention and productivity of users of these sites.
Real–time data collection on links clicked and videos watched provide marketers with the data they need to experiment with different messages, images, sounds, and narrative structures, allowing them to tailor messages to target publics, and then this process is repeated, ad nauseam, in a cybernetic loop. Behavioral tracking of users allows marketers to repeat messages across heterogeneous Web sites as users visit them, as well as make sales pitches via mobile devices as users travel through space. The messages that result in sales are repeated; those that do not are archived (perhaps they will be useful later). Liking, “+1”ing, or retweeting an ad enters users into a contest to win a trip to the theme park built around the movie that was based on the video game currently being advertised, a game in which the main character must use social media to build a following to solve a crime. All of this is, of course, a marketer’s dream: the observation, experimentation upon, and ultimate modulation of the thoughts of billions, the chance to increase what they call (in some of the most frightening language imaginable) “brand consciousness” over other forms of consciousness and subjectivity. It is the reduction of the scope of thought to a particular civic activity. It is the production of the flexible and always–willing global consumer as the real abstraction of our time. Consumption über alles.
Thus, to counter the reductive noopower operating in and through the social media monopolies, activists and technologists must create systems that allow for radical thought and heterogeneous uses, for differences that make a difference. The alternatives to social media monopolies must be built with protocols, interfaces, and databases all designed to promote new political thinking — noopolitical thinking — and to resist reduction of thought to repeated marketing messages of all varieties. We all can agree that this is probably impossible, but we always must keep a better future on our minds as we work with what we have on our minds.
The potential for thinking through new re–combinations, new ways to draw up code and language into a new media politics are suggestive. But I want finally to return to the question this article began with: more or less? This text has been framed by a belief that social media monopolies ought to be disrupted — and in the name of at least two of the things they are axiomatically understood to promote (social justice, solidarity as a form of community) and do not. It has been argued that this disruption might be attempted through a toolset — silence, disruption of language, and the exploitation of language’s capacity for polysemy (the metaphor and the lie) — that is not often considered as apt for such a task. My conclusion, and here I return to salute Ivan Illich, is that these tools can be deployed to produce other kinds of more convivial engagements — a better commons — than our apparently ‘social’ media enable. Above all, I have wished to take seriously the idea that communication density, and increasing communicational volume, does not — in and of itself — indicate more understanding, freedom, openness, or ‘good’. To make this case demands also taking seriously the idea of a media politics that begins with silence.
“At the University of Calgary we have built a strong financial foundation due to the hard work of many people over the last several years,” says Cannon. “We have contingency funding set aside, and we will continue to work to find operational efficiencies and grow revenue. We will continue to move toward our Eyes High goals. Nevertheless, a budget reduction of this size means that we have some difficult decisions to make in the coming months.
“We know students, faculty and staff will have many questions about what these cuts mean to the university. We simply do not have all the answers yet. We will keep you informed over the coming weeks, including holding Town Halls for the campus community later this month.”
Adds Cannon: “Given the level of this cut, and the government’s clear focus on post-secondary institutions working more closely with each other and with government to find efficiencies, eliminate duplication and more closely align university research with the economic agenda of the province, structural change may be necessary within the post-secondary system.”