Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cloudy with a chance of computing...

Today I wanted to stop from my little digital world to talk about the things that keep coming up at work.

Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is in essence the Tower of Babel, the Library at Alexandria, it is the collective consciousness.

We live in two veils of existence. We are never alone. We always have help. We have friends we will never see. We have friends we see that we never speak to the way we do the friends we don't see.

Is this bad?

Perspective is important. I listened recently to Dr. Christopher Dede at faculty forum speak about digital media.

As he spoke about value of digital media and social networking, there was still a sense of cynicism and distrust that seemed juxtaposed by his excitement for the tools. It made a lot of interference for me as a listener to hear someone diametrically opposed from a digital standpoint against the very same idealism his generation (my parents too) tried to teach us as young students. The ability to dream and to make those dreams come true.

I listened to the group pick apart the ability of my generation and the ones below me to delineate real from virtual worlds.

I found myself asking, "What is your problem? You told us to grow up and change the world, to make it a better place. You told us to make friends, to work together, to be more than what we are. So what if I have an Avatar--that avatar is working with others to transfer the world we are making in the cloud of the net back to YOUR reality."

Then I stopped myself.

Dr. Dede's rhetoric is indicative of the digital divide in whatever current terms are available.

I enjoyed what he had to say, but I can't necessarily agree with his ideas on application or his distrust. And, maybe he didn't really mean for his conversation to echo the distrust of his generation.

Students need solid problem based learning problems and skills to work in these virtual realms that will apply to their real life. I want my child to be a problem solver. I can thank my MOM for my first TSR Dungeons and Dragons set and its hours of problem solving and collaborative skills sets. World of War Craft, Second Life, Mafia Wars, and all the millions of flash group games are teaching us to work together rather than apart. Eventually no one will remember a world where it wasn't ok to go look something up or ask for help with a problem. If you can solve a problem together, you can solve it alone too. The skill set is the same, the knowledge base is just more diverse in a group.

More importantly, for me, his conversation opened my eyes on better ways to ask faculty and students to work together. Stop looking at the buttons, look at how the skills from the buttons that have nothing to do with clicking will click in the RW or Real World.

I find value in Second Life because we can see what works before we spend too much money or time. I value Second Life for being able to bring people into a multicultural or problem solving situation that I would never have access to in the Real World.

Academia is changing, and will continue to change. The world is opening up. Can you allow yourself for two moments to think that maybe someone sitting on a machine in Ghana might have the answer you need to your current problem? Can you be grateful that they are in your cloud helping you along? Can you help someone in Alaska? Australia? Thailand?

You tell your students to go to the library, but the world is right there waiting behind a 15 inch screen with real humans waiting to help you not only read their experiences, but to experience with them their world.

Cloudy with a chance of computing. Hope comes from the skies.

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