Last week I was in a F2F class thinking about asymmetric warfare and looking to the past for lessons that could be used to explain the conflicts of today. This clashed with the #edcmooc class requirement to look to the future to understand how utopian/dystopian stories shaped our understanding of technology and education.

So this past weekend, I wondered why I felt disconnected from #edcmooc to the point of severely limiting interaction with conversations going on across G+, Facebook and Twitter. Finally I realized that the week just had little to offer me as it was structured and I didn’t know how to learn from it. I always look to the future because that was my job until recently. I love the bright visions shown in concept videos like those developed by Corning and Microsoft and many others that I have watched over the past 20 years. But concept videos are just creative artifacts – they don’t predict the future although they may help steer some development. If you were to go back to the past (e.g. 1960s) to look at visionary videos by noted futurists like Arthur C. Clarke (search YouTube for longer versions), you see some elements that have come true like mobile phones and a worldwide communications network. But were they predicting the future or inspiring someone to make it happen based on plausible laws of physics. It’s hard to say but it would be a fascinating research topic.

I am more disturbed by the horrific vision shown in videos like “Sight” where technology is abused to control and manipulate other human beings. While the actual acts of digital manipulation may not be quite as obvious as that shown in “Sight”, it is becoming more common place every day. And it perhaps is more a part of being human than any grand visions for the future. Humanity has always had the ability to push science to create technology for social good. While some steps have occurred in that direction (e.g. medicines to control diseases), the preponderance of technology development seems to focus toward security and control whether through older principles like laying out a village for optimal defense or the continued improvement and creation of more weaponry (to include influencing minds like in “Sight”). So why isn’t there a push for more utopian solutions like ending disease and hunger or protecting the earth from the stresses of climate change? Why does humanity seem to trend toward the negative instead of the positive when interacting with technology? What happens cannot be blamed on faceless technology which doesn’t create who we are although it may shape how we connect and learn and react.

I also realized that there are times when it is hard to connect on so many levels and do creative and critical thinking in so many learning opportunities at once.  I will explore that in another blog.  In the meantime, these are the common elements and differences that I see between the two classes – a digital online course #edcmooc and a F2F class on asymmetric warfare. They both depended heavily on videos to set the stage for learning and discussions. In the F2F class, movies like “The Battle for Algiers” provided much discussion on causes and responses. In the online class, video clips like industry concept videos by Corning and Microsoft as well as short fictional clips like Sight, Inbox and Bendito Machine, provided food for thought on the utopian/dystopian meaning of the future. Both classes provided a shared experience although the timing was different with the F2F class sharing synchronously while the online course sharing was asynchronous across days. The big difference between the two has been the timing of the discussion and interaction. The F2F class immediately discussed the lessons learned in a group with time to reflect as an individual over the week long course.   But the group learning stopped when the class ended.  That is not the case with #edcmooc.  I was able to re-engage and pick up new learning experiences especially in an adhoc Twitter chat in the middle of the week.  Having both experiences together has shown me the value of both.  But overall I like the possibility of extended learning opportunities that a digital online course may offer  better than the “one and done” F2F course.