MOOC – Week 3

I know it’s only week three, but I must say that I really have already gotten a lot out of my first online course experience. Sure, there are those opponents who say that such massive courses are too impersonal to provide people with any real learning experience and I’ll admit that I’d love to find people near me who want to take a course with me next time because nothing compares to in-person discussion. Nevertheless, this course has still offered many interesting outlets for exploring the material and grappling with the issues at hand.

This week I really enjoyed seeing the digital artifacts that the Master’s students provided for us. On the one hand, they provided great examples of our final project and I started to see connections between what we were learning. On the other hand, it was simply cool to see that there were actual graduate students learning from what the world had to say about these issues. The information they compiled and the ways they displayed their messages were neat. 
The material this week threw me for a bit of a loop. It brings into question the essence of what is human. I found it particularly interesting in the TEDx video that there are so many reasons for and against humanity, but especially the idea that humans as a species include such a wide variety of people that it’s hard to define what actually does and does not make us human. He puts into the question the idea of education as an assimilating tool and whether or not it’s even necessary. If this is the case, then obviously the technology that we strive to improve to help humanity “progress” may not carry any merit at all. I found this a compelling argument yet it was still a difficult concept to understand. The short film “They’re Made of Meat” also pushed this notion that what we believe is “human” may not really exist. Humans, after all, could just be a visceral species like all others on the planet merely behaving without any distinguishing characteristic that transcends other species. So, the question arises: is technology merely confirming the fact that there is nothing unique about being human? Is there more to being human beyond having a brain to think that we’re different? If not, is education really necessary at all?

These are issues that I will continue to deal with through this course. As a teacher, what do I think the ultimate goal is when I instruct my students each and every day? Do I feel as though the technological progress will bring them closer or farther away from the essence of humanity? Wow, I don’t know. Clearly humans contain emotions and thoughts that a machine cannot replicate. Does technology diminish these traits? How then, will humanity retain its essence amidst the ever-increasing presence of technology? I start to wonder whether it’s a serious issue for humans and then it brings me back to the utopic/dystopic debate from the previous weeks.

Because of these complex issues, I think that I’m overwhelmed when it comes to starting on the final project. I keep trying to discover what people are saying and learn about all the new tools that are out there–I consider myself someone who is familiar with technology–but there really is just a deluge of information to grapple with. Again, I’m fascinated by what other people are posting all around the world and it’s great that I can hash out thoughts here, then check what people are saying, clarify and rework my thoughts, and then read another article or watch another movie on the course. The process has been the interesting part for me and I think it’s great to be a part of this very meta-experience. I just wish I had someone here in person to help me make more sense of it all! 

1 Comment

  1. Agreed – though I've found it possible to make contact with people in real time through G+. The experience hasn't been precisely transcontextual, but it has been transcontinental, and I've learned a lot about how people in other cultures make sense of digital culture and our humanness or lack of humanness in relation to it.

    For me, in understanding this week's reading, I'm toying with the idea of just what it is we're interacting with when we interact with each other digitally. Is it something fully human? Or is it distilled in some way into something… what?

    This brings us right back around to your sense that you need someone “in person” to help you make sense of it all. After all, you can get someone to explain it to you in an email or a big post assuming they knew what it is that you don't understand. It's difficult to convey and intercept the nuances of meaning we take for granted in *human* (face-to-face) communication across the digital divide. The non-verbal features of communication are precious. They make us human, and only the true virtuosos of the written language do them justice. That's why, I think, our instructors are emphasizing images.

    And yet, there's something more to it…


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