Monthly Archives: March 2013



“What would Jaron say?”

I found myself wondering this in class this week as the question was asked if we thought technology could advance from being the medium to being the teacher itself.  What would Jaron Lanier, author of You are not a gadget, say about that?

I have been meaning to break apart my Prezi on Lanier’s book in individual blog posts since I last December.  I guess since I’ve waited this long, it doesn’t matter that I’m starting closer to the end of Lanier’s book than the beginning.  In the fourth section of the book called Making the Best of Bits, Lanier examines how we make sense of or process all the bits of information we encounter everyday and turn them into usable information and knowledge.  I use the word “process” to lead into the theory of computationalism.  Lanier offers three “less-than-satisfying” common descriptions of computationalism:

  1. “a significantly voluminous computation will take on the qualities we associate with people” (think Moore’s Law)
  2. “a computer program with specific design features [i.e., ‘strange loop‘]… is similar to a person”
  3. any information structure that can be perceived by some real human to also be a person is a person” (think Turing Test)

However, Lanier prefers what he calls realistic computationalism which he defines as “the idea that humans, considered as information systems, …are the result of billions of years of implicit, evolutionary study in the school of hard knocks.”  From those experiences, we create evolutionary storytelling.  Does technology have such a storied history?

Blaze NoseLanier introduces us to the work of computational neuroscientist Jim Bower who suggests that the way humans think is based in the sense of smell.  “Smells are not patterns of energy, like images or sounds,” says Lanier.  Smell comes from molecules (bits of information) that Lanier says “require input from other senses” in order to create meaning.  “Context is everything.”  Where will computers draw upon in their stored memory to put sight, hearing, and feeling together with a smell to create meaning?

And one last argument that Lanier makes about making meaning from bits relates to language and the work of neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran.  Similar to Bower, Ramachandran studied how the senses are interconnected to create meaning when they encounter unfamiliar words.  Can technology master the nuances of language and put them together with other sensory intakes?

As I tried to pull Lanier’s far-flung ideas together in my presentation under the umbrella of implications for adult learning, I drew on my readings about a few other “isms” — cognitivism and constructivism — and for that I returned to a more traditional text by Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner:

The learner is more than a cognitive machine. The learner is a whole person made up of the mind and body and comes to a learning situation with a history, a biography that interacts in individual ways with the experience that generates the nature of the learning.”

Don’t these kinds of learners deserve a teacher who has just as much mind and body, history and biography to add color to the learning?  Lanier proclaims that we are not a gadget, and if I may be so presumptuous to assert, I believe he would say our teachers should not be gadgets either.


Posted by on March 31, 2013 in ADLT 642


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Making the Square Round

I started this M.Ed. program three years ago. At the time, I wanted to make a career change and find a job in corporate training, something I had dabbled in previously providing product training to the sales teams I supported. Since then, I have gone back and forth about whether it is really a corporate environment I want or maybe an academic setting where I can put my adult education training to work. All the while, though, it has been a trainer/teacher position I imagined.  This semester, however, has shown me that there are many more opportunities in adult ed than just being the one facilitating the education.

In my 20+ years in marketing, I have worn a lot of hats — writer, editor, event planner, agency liaison, public relations coordinator, web site content manager, and campaign result analyzer, often all under the same job title. Marketing isn’t just a job, it’s many jobs. And like so many other comparisons I’ve blogged about over the past few years, here again marketing and adult education parallel. Through the design challenge projects we’ve worked on this semester, I have seen that as an adult educator, I am likely to wear many hats again — trainer, developer, designer, scheduler, platform evaluator, provider of tech support as well as some of my familiar roles as writer, editor, and event planner.

To be honest, this is not a completely new realization, as I had stumbled across this SlideShare presentation last year. However, this semester is, as some of my classmates have noted, a capstone course in our chosen track of educational technology, which is making me realize how close I am to being ready to find a job in my new chosen field. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a scary realization. Not scary in the sense that being an adult educator means so many different things, because I’m used to that in marketing. What’s scary is trying to show a potential employer that while none of these job titles appear on my resume, I can be an asset to their team as an instructional designer, instructional developer, eLearning technologist, or project manager.

Actually, that last title is on my resume, but it has the words “marketing communications” in front of it. Much of my past experience does transfer nicely into adult education, but it’s going to take a little work on my part to convince a potential employer of that. To that end, I am glad to have the diversity of projects this semester to gain experience on real-world problems working with people in the field I desire to be in. Merging the goal of this class with that of last semester’s class: experience + my PLN = (I hope) my foot in the door.

I am the square pegMore so than my resume, my blog has become the showcase for what I can do. Therefore, I respectfully submit this little corner of the web as evidence that I can be an effective member of your learning team. While you can find plenty of applicants with work experience that fits exactly with the role you’re hiring for, I believe that my academic studies plus myriad experience demonstrate the adaptability and intelligence that are not only needed in this role, but are also essential as the organization grows and faces new opportunities and challenges. I look forward to hearing from you to schedule a time to discuss my application.


Posted by on March 17, 2013 in ADLT 642


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