Sunday, January 29, 2006

Battle of the Titans

Just finished listening to the live stream of EdTechTalk #34 by Dave and Jeff with this week's guests, Stephen Downes and George Siemens. Regular readers will know that I've long been a fan of both of these "titans" in the world of Canadian education technology.

Today's discussion revolved around a couple of posts from late last year. Stephen made a post that prompted a response from George, including a note that it was too bad that Stephen's post happened at a time (between Christmas and New Year's) that meant it was "under the radar" due to the fact that many of Stephen's regular readers would be away on vacation and, presumably, not have ready access to his post. Stephen responded in today's 'cast that the timing of the release coincided with him having some time off work in order to be able to produce his paper.

I have to confess that my head is still spinning trying to digest what I've just heard. Try as I may, I can't seem to bring myself around to what I understand to be George's premise when it comes to the "objective." As I think more about it, I keep coming back to the notion that the objective has to be subjective in that "common sense" or "community standards" will ultimately dictate what constitutes the "objective" in a particular circumstance.

For instance, I know that interacting with others from literally around the world in the last while via WorldBridges has greatly expanded my horizons and added an "objective" I didn't have prior to participating.

To cite two examples, in a very short time I have an appreciation of GMT/Zulu time and the vagaries of sound editing and post-production. This experience, and an expanding "frame of reference" leads me to "filter" information in new ways to have it make sense in the face of my subjective experience.

I'm definitely still reflecting on Stephen and George's conversation and think I need more time with the "source material" that led to this conversation. As I think about the discussion, I keep coming back to the notion of the wiki textbook. Specifically, how should the subjective contributions to a wiki be vetted or "objectified" and become part of the "canon" on a given topic? I think there has to be a "back channel" for "radical" or "dissenting" views to be heard. I think at one point George mentioned the need to for individuals to remain as such and thus not be assimilated and result in groupthink.

Isn't there a danger of the "objective" view amounting to the same thing? Doesn't the presupposition of a "right" or "correct" answer, in and of itself, preclude discovery of alternative, and perhaps better, solutions to a given task or problem? Lots of great food for thought to be sure. Thanks to all for a stimulating conversation, including those who participated in the dialog in the chat room. Look forward to seeing you all online again soon.

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