All hail the electronic calf

Given I’ve been blogging about MOOCs lately, I thought it was high time I better informed my perspective by actually doing a MOOC.

So I signed up to The University of Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures course on Coursera.

It has just kicked off, and one of the resources that we have been pointed to in the first week is Zumbakamera’s short animation, Bendito Machine III.

This film really resonated with me.

Anyone familiar with the Judeo-Christian story of Moses climbing Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God will recognise its alignment with how modern consumers interact with technology. The arrival of the all-singing, all-dancing device-of-the-moment sweeps away all the false idols before it. Rejoice! as we consumers are only too willing to worship the one true god.

That is until the next one comes along.

A golden bull statue.

Beyond the theme of religious zeal, yet another theme pervades the film: the distraction of the masses by “popular culture”. Whether it be news, lifestyle or banal entertainment, the machine can meet all your needs – and so the populace remains glued to the screen, flitting about from scene to scene without ever considering the context.

We’re intelligent because we’re hyperconnected.

Insofar as these themes relate to e-learning, the obvious parallel for me is the undue influence of Apple. The iPad in particular is heralded by some as the panacea of education. The archangel of autodidactism. The shining light of mobile learning.

The iPad can do anything and everyone owns one, so you would be a luddite not to use it, either as a teacher or as a student.

I sooo can’t wait to get mine. When I do, I’m going to put it in a golden case. With horns.

UPDATE: Helen Blunden from Activate Learning Solutions commented on this post pointing out the overly theoretical nature of the EDC MOOC content. I agree, so I have drawn out the following practical messages from the Bendito Machine III animation…

1. Don’t believe the hype.

The ultra effective marketing campaign by the Apple folks would have you believe that the iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world. If you were to develop an e-learning solution specifically for the iPhone then, you might find that you have left most of your target audience out in the cold.

2. Future-proof yourself

The current situation will not remain so forever, so don’t paint yourself into a corner. (Just ask the Flash designers!) I’m not inclined to develop device-specific mobile apps, for example, but rather HTML5 that is web-based and device agnostic. I’m not saying never develop apps; what I am saying is if your platform of choice disappears (Nokia? BlackBerry?) you don’t want all your work to disappear with it.

13 thoughts on “All hail the electronic calf

  1. I signed up for #edcmooc to see what hoohah was about and the first lesson too theoretical and academic. I viewed the videos and read Marc Prensky’s article then delved into the research articles which promptly lost me in theories that left me questioning if there’s any value that I can apply directly to my work.

  2. I’m starting up #edcmooc as well, but I’m doing it out of interest from a comparative point of view, having already done a unit in Digital Media in Social Context at Uni of Technology, Sydney and another digital culture-related thing at Uni of Aalborg in Copenhagen. I’ll give this one top marks for enthusiasm but am finding a fairly big mental chasm between the highly engaging short films and the 22 page academic articles at this stage.

  3. @ Activate Learning Solutions – Yes Helen, I was thinking the same thing, and I notice via Twitter that some have already flown to coop for the same reason.

    In regards to the Bendito Machine III and the themes that I have discussed in this post, you have prompted me to update my post with a couple of practical messages.


  4. @ rebekahmcbrown – Please do!

    @ Kate Scott – I’m just about to delve into the Chandler paper. Wish me luck :0)

    @ rowenamaxwell – LOL!

  5. I checked out mental health in context and found stuff too disconnected…I think the MOOCs at this point in their evolution, need to be more comprehensive and staggered. They try to cram in too much within too little time and (virtual) space.

  6. @Gail Smith – Thanks Gail. I suppose it was obvious to me given I was familiar with the story.

    @ the seeker – I agree. MOOCs still have quite a way to go in terms of their pedagogy. Having said that, I’ll take a less-than-optimal MOOC over no MOOC.

  7. I took the EDC mooc a couple of years ago, and I really enjoyed it. But yes it is very much in the theoretical more abstract areas (in a few weeks you will find yourselves trying to define what a human is…)
    I dont think its the kind of course that provides specific tips on improving your eLearning, more that it provides you with a richer understanding of the concepts in the subject.
    Here was my reflections on the first week

  8. I agree, Joseph. It’s certainly not a “how to do e-learning” kind of course, but rather a reflection on some of the deeper factors that influence our relationship with it. Fascinating stuff.

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