May 292008
 

How are things changing?

ACMA Report

If you want an official Australian Government version, read Top Six Trends in Communications and Media Technologies, Applications and Services – Possible Approaches produced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in March 2008, but only released this month. The ACMA is Australia’s regulator for broadcasting, the internet, radiocommunications and telecommunications.

The trends identified were:

1. Accelerating pace of change

2. Diversity in physical infrastructure and higher-speed broadband networks.

3. Distributed connectivity

4. Emerging content and network management technologies

5. Web-based services and the emerging “social web”

6. Continuing scientific and technological innovation

The report authors seem strangely comfortable when they talk about wires and gizmoes, but when it gets to the more slippery areas of social networking, they seem to want to just define what these things are and then run away as fast as they can. Maybe these topics are outside their brief. Sentences like this, however, do have me scratching my head in puzzlement:

SNS [social networking sites] may evolve over the next five years to become integrated hubs for individuals, organizations, and their extended networks to connect, communicate, access and share tailored news, information and entertainment

*May* ? *Next five years* ?

It was clear that they were also uneasy about those crazy kids and their mesh networks :

. .. in a self selecting community of mesh users, it may be difficult to distinguish between public and private communications over a mesh network. Individuals who set up and/or use mesh networks may not be fully aware of the consequences or risks associated with open access arrangements.

Those Wacky Kids

If you want a much more entertaining look at how things are changing on the education front, check out Mark Pesce‘s recent presentation to a group of educators in Brisbane: Those Wacky Kids . It looks at the effects of having a hyperconnected bunch of people – many, many of them under 15. I like this slice of life of a schoolkid:

These “hyperconnected” and ever-more wacky kids get up in the morning, put on their uniforms and go to school. When they get there, they’ve got to turn off their mobiles, put away their iPods, close the chat windows, unplug themselves from the webs of co-presence which shape their social experiences, sit still and listen to teacher.

And they’ve got to do this inside of an environment – the classroom – which is so thoroughly disconnected from the rest of life as they have always known it that it must, deep in their co-present souls, resemble nothing so much as a medieval torture chamber. An isolation tank. Solitary confinement.

It’s not just that school is a pain in the ass. It’s that it looks – to them – like a completely unrealistic pain in the ass, one which is out of step with the world beyond the classroom walls. It’s as if, every morning, these kids are marched into a time machine which transports them back to 1955.

Hyperconnectivity in the workplace

If you want to find out more about the effects of Hyperconnectivity on the workplace, you could read the paper that telecommunications company Nortel commissioned, the Hyperconnected: here they come (May 2008). It does, of course, try to lead the reader to conclude that they need products just like the sponsor provides – but if you can get through all that, it’s quite useful. If you don’t want to give them your email address in return for reading the paper, you could still glean much of it from this ArsTechnica article: No off switch: “Hyperconnectivity” on the rise . Snippets from the report:

  • 16% of the workforce is currently considered “hyperconnected” , with a further 36% to come very soon.
  • Reliable infrastructure to keep these people connected will become critical
  • The boundary between work and personal is slipping
  • Hyperconnectivity in the hands of the workers will have great productivity gains, but can also put sensitive company information at risk
  • 60% of the Hyperconnected are under 35, and only 7% are over 55
  • 60% are male

Finally – hyperconnected friends, enemies and armies for action

Returning to Mark Pesce again, here’s a clip of him talking about twitter and what it can do,Friends, Enemies and My Army. , from the 2008 Next Wave Festival, Mercat Hotel, Melbourne, on 25 May 2008

There is some strong language.

  5 Responses to “Hyperconnectivity – it’s here”

  1. Nice thoughtful entry Kathryn! It poses all the questions I want the Education Faculty to respond to in relation to preparing new teachers for schools, not to mention the same questions being addressed to IT policy makers in education sectors.

    How do we prepare students using the tools that sit so comfortably with them?

    Then there’s the issue that Tanya Notley raises – what role do schools have in ensuring social inclusion in a networked culture? (Especially when many in education officialdom seem to use the same strtegy you describe – define social networking then run away)

    Thanks

    Kim

  2. “When they get there, they’ve got to turn off their mobiles, put away their iPods, close the chat windows, unplug themselves from the webs of co-presence which shape their social experiences, sit still and listen to teacher.” – yes, just like the rest of us. Sometimes you have to concentrate on something and that involves paying attention to what is going on where you are, not what everyone else is doing.

    “And they’ve got to do this inside of an environment – the classroom – which is so thoroughly disconnected from the rest of life as they have always known it that it must, deep in their co-present souls, resemble nothing so much as a medieval torture chamber. An isolation tank. Solitary confinement.” – Please. That’s right, not being able to write ‘OMG, he is sooooo hot’ will just be torture. How will they cope? The fact of the matter is, not a lot of what these people are saying to each other is that important. They, like me, will survive the dreadful disconnect from their peers. Learning to function in an artificial environment prepares them for another one they will have to live in – the world of work. How many woolies workers do you see who are ‘hyperconnected’ at work?

    “It’s not just that school is a pain in the ass. It’s that it looks – to them – like a completely unrealistic pain in the ass, one which is out of step with the world beyond the classroom walls. It’s as if, every morning, these kids are marched into a time machine which transports them back to 1955.” – Oh yes, 1955, clearly. Or 1995, or 2000, one of those. It is perfectly reflective of the wider society that in the school environment you are focusing on what you are there for – education – and not on what your friends in the next classroom are sniggering about.

    I for one take issue with the assumption that because some kids are ‘hyperconnected’ this means that the classroom has to change to allow them to remain so. I just don’t agree that because people ask them to turn off their mobiles and stop chatting to all and sundry about their smallest activities this is somehow a tortuous experience that will never prepare them for the rest of their lives. I don’t have my mobile on me at work, because in my job it isn’t appropriate. This is the current world we live in. Just because people do something in their social life doesn’t mean that schools or the workplace must or will adopt these same conditions. Just because a tool (eg mobile phone) can be used in a productive way doesn’t mean it will be used in a productive way. I’m not suggesting that collaboration is bad, or that these tools don’t have a place in schools or the workplace, but cruelty to puppies it ain’t. I just don’t think that this kind of overstating of the situation helps people who don’t see the point of the tools he is referring to understand or take them seriously. If anything it makes people skeptical of their worth.

  3. Just re-read my post and wanted to make it clearer- I am not anti connectivity! I know there are roles for Twitter, Jaxtr, blogs, wikis, flickr, etc etc etc both in the workplace and in schools, but I think the focus must be on WHY and HOW we want to use these things.

  4. Merriwyn -

    At this point in time, we do not tell the kids why and how we want to use these things. We simply tell them to put these things away. That approach is not only not working, it is actually counterproductive. The informational pressures of hyperconnectivity continue to build, whether we acknowledge them or not, and whether we know how to harness them or not. This is why my final injunction is that the teachers must become students: we ourselves do not know why and how to use these things.

  5. Mark – I agree that we should deal with the issues appropriately and explain why we do or do not use certain things in specific contexts, rather than just enforcing a blanket policy. There is of course an issue at the moment that not everyone sees the potential uses for these tools,and some people are unwilling to consider new tech because it takes time, effort etc. But I still think that the arguments were overstated and oversimplified. That said, I do think teachers need to learn about these things and see if there are appropriate uses for them in the classroom, so I do agree with the underlying concept. I just don’t agree with the idea that we must automatically adopt a technology that people use in their personal lives in an educational context. I think it is really important to figure out what is actually useful and what isn’t, without making sweeping inclusions or exclusions.

Leave a Reply