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EDC MOOC Week 3

While initially it was hard for me this week to transition from the class's first theme of "Dystopia/Utopia" to the second of "Being Human", now I have so many thoughts on the topic, I don't know where to start.

I find the movie Wall-E coming to mind again, maybe because I haven't read Brave New World, which has been talked about a lot. I guess Wall-E is my example of a world where technology has taken over subtly, lulling us into complacency by giving us everything we could ever want - except for the things that arguably make us human.

Sometimes this is the way I feel about TV, especially Netflix. In theory this sounds like a great service. You can stream TV shows and movies you're interested in whenever you feel like it, so the convenience aspect is wonderful. But somehow it all gets flipped on it's head, and instead it becomes so important to not only watch what I want, but the idea of a queue makes watching feel like another thing to add to my to-do list and I start looking for every possible opportunity to watch something, and I start to feel guilty when I don't keep up with what my friends are watching. But is sitting in front of a screen watching fictional people live out their lives really living? There are other forms of entertainment enhanced by technology in this way so that they become so easy, effortless, and rewarding that they take the place of other less technological but probably more "human" and more important things that I worry we're missing out on.

It's strange because the issues brought up in this course are making me sound like much more of a luddite than I thought I was. On the job I've generally been closer to the leading edge on new technology. At one workplace, I basically shared responsibility with another staff member for keeping our department up to date on new technology.

The more I read/watch from this week's class resources, the more I wonder if the distinction isn't between human and not human, but reality and not reality. The film "World Builder" was a great example of that. I don't think we could argue that the people in it are not humans acting in very human ways, but the world they are experiencing clearly is not real. I think that's what gets people nervous about technology. If our lives are lived on screens rather than in face to face interactions, is that really living?

I guess a lot of my concerns come out of becoming a parent. Above I have my son in a picture my husband posed to annoy me. I really wonder what his generation's relationship to technology is going to be. Obviously it will be much different than mine, and even more different than his grandparents'. And while generally I am grateful for all the wonderful things technology allows us to do faster and more easily, I also see how it makes things that aren't essential to our existence faster and easier, to the point that we can lose focus on the things that are really important. Is his generation on the path to mobile laz-e-boys with ever-present slushies to keep them hydrated and viewing screens to keep them entertained? Or will they harness new technologies to tackle the world's problems that have, up to this point, remained mysteries?

As I think about the discussions in this class about how online learning and MOOCs in particular, I realize that there's a lot left to be figured out yet. This was the first week where we had something resembling a traditional lecture as part of our class materials. Generally we've had a series of short films tackling the issue of the week and then a few articles addressing different aspects of that issue as well. We've had to two G+ hangouts as a class, but those are definitely not lectures, really more of an opportunity for the faculty involved in the course to discuss key issues in a conversational manner and answer common questions from the thousands of students enrolled. I think it is quite likely that online education will grow away from the model of traditional face-to-face education. While it's taken a little getting used to, I've still managed to take a lot away from this class, and I think the format has helped me to uncover different things than I would have if I were taking it in person.
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