Gift Economy

Nakamura labels the prevalent market structure in the propagation of memes, AIM buddy icons and viral media (etc.) as a gift economy. Gift economies are a characteristic of participatory culture wherein participants appropriate and transform existing media and co-opt their usage in participatory exchanges. The original and the transformed media are further available for the participants to appropriate, transform and propagate.

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Authentic Problems/Challenges

Authentic learning activities are conducted in the specific social and physical environment in which their application will occur. The key to developing and delivering authentic learning activities is to situate the learning (in the context wherein it will be applied). The aim is to develop learners’ real world application of concepts by engaging them in tasks that are more relevant to their lives instead of abstract, decontextualized knowledge.One of the key tenets of situated learning is that knowledge is co-constructed through social interaction among learners. The success of situated learning depends on the level of authenticity (i.e. degree of similitude with real world) of the interaction and the underlying task. Higher levels of authenticity yield deeper and more meaningful learning. Some examples include simulations, role playing, interactive workshops and communities of practice.

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Activity Theory

Mouza and Lavigne briefly discuss the application (by Vahey and colleagues) of Activity Theory to develop a curricular activity system framework. Vahey et al’s discussion is focused on student use of SimCalc and Geometer’s Sketchpad as dynamic representation tools to engage in meaningful mathematics which results in deeper learning and greater equity. In terms of the curricular activity system, SimCalc and Geometer’s Sketchpad are historically and culturally constituted tools used for cognitive development through a process of mediation. This mediation (as well as the curricular activity system and Activity Theory) has its roots in Vygotsky’s cultural-historical development theories.

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Does Teacher = Learning Jockey?

Early in his presentation, Sugata Mitra, quotes Arthur C. Clarke: “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be.” He goes on to describe the results of his Hole in the Wall experiment wherein he placed computers with online access in various regions of India and observed children’s efforts to self-organize and teach themselves with the help of the computer. His thesis examines the ability of learners to assemble and organize themselves around a technology in order to learn. Thus, he recognizes the changing role of the teacher based on the affordances of emerging educational technologies. He examines one extreme of the changing role of the teacher – the removal of the human element and finds that for some learning tasks, the human element can be removed by a machine.

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Affinity Spaces

I was intrigued by the term Affinity Spaces in this week’s reading, because the choice of words allowed me to understand the underlying concept in a new light. Some characteristics of Affinity Spaces (as defined by James Gee) are:

  • active participation by members
  • deeper engagement with popular culture (as compared to engagement with textbooks)
  • sustainment by common endeavors
  • diversity of age, class, race, gender, educational level and experience
  • fluid, dynamic, negotiated norms and levels of participation depending on skills and interests
  • informal hierarchy of expertise wherein participants act as mentors to some participants while mentees towards others
  • constant motivation to learn and build expertise

Gee argues that these characteristics make Affinity Spaces powerful learning environments.

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Clarke’s Third Law

One of the first questions to ask about spirituality and technology is whether technology has an equivalent of the theological entity referred to as the spirit, soul, sentience, anima or consciousness. 

Philip K. Dick’s Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep and its film adaptation, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, explore the kinship between humans and machines. Among the questions explored in the texts are: What makes an entity human? Dick has devised his own version of the Turing Test – the Voigt Kampff machine, which measure pupil dilation and the emotion of particles from the body, as a measure of whether a being experiences empathy as a response to questions designed to evoke an emotional response. Can a machine experience love? Can a human love a machine? Explored in the relationship between a human and a Replicant (cyborg) who is not self-aware, i.e. she thinks she is human. Do we achieve a sense of purpose and meaning through our memories?

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