Intro Emerging Tech

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English version of Intro to Emerging Tech for Africa

General Information:

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Instructor: George Siemens ( (weekly newsletter on emerging tech) info

Contact: gsiemens AT gmail DOT com

Course Tag: AfricaIET09

Course moodle site: Introduction: Emerging Technologies, Africa

Google Group (join to receive regular email updates on course progress and highlighted learner commentary/resources.


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Learners - those funded by the OSIWA grant - will be asked to complete a presentation (for week 8) as well as actively participate in the course activities. Evaluation will be based on the following:

  1. Regular, weekly, participation in moodle forum and blog discussions (30%). Forum/blog contributions are important as they provide learners with an opportunity to form connections with each other. These discussions are developmental (i.e. when done on a weekly basis, they provide value in sharing ideas and receiving feedback, rather than when done at one moment toward the end of the course when feedback from others does not contribute to ongoing development). A forum or blog post should be substantive - advancing a thought expressed by articles or by a previous learner's comments, critically evaluating concepts in the course, or applying weekly resources/tools in the context of Africa. Length is secondary to offering insight on the topic.
  2. Weekly experimentation with emerging technologies, resulting in an digital artifact shared with others in the course (i.e. blog, podcast, wiki, image, etc.) (30%)
  3. Final presentation (40%). More information on your final presentation:

Week 1: Considering Literacy in a Digital Age

[edit | edit source] Digital literacies particularly targeted.

The word 'literacies' has many different meanings in different contexts. With the help of the readings from this week we are trying to expose more complex interpretations of literacies than is sometimes used in order to explore the widest range of possible contributors to success or difficulty inside of an online setting.

  1. What literacies do you see as fundamental to a positive online experience?
  2. Which ones do you currently possess?
  3. Which ones do you think you will need to learn?

This course will argue that, among other things, knowledge is created in the connections between ideas. Your primary responsibility during this course is to engage in discussion with your fellow learners. In this exercise this can be done by replying to comments in the discussion threads. Responses in here are NOT to be directed to the instructors of this course but rather to all learners.

Activities for week 1:

  1. Listen to week 1 podcast introduction to the course
  2. Post your introduction in the course moodle site
  3. After reading the article on literacies, comment on how literacies are reflected in the needs of your university/students/country.

Week 2: Identity & Privacy: Tools of Expression and Presence

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In week one, we discussed digital literacies. The ability to participate in the conversations of an era, through the era's prominent technologies/media, requires a focus of our identity. Our identity online is shaped by our participation. Each forum we contribute to, each blog post we author, each comment we post, and each profile we create contributes to our identity. Google (or summize for twitter and technorati for blogs) provides easy access to other who wish to observe or explore our activities.

While there is a bit of overlap between presence and expression tools, distinct elements can be noticed in each.

Tools of presence allow individuals to declare "what they are doing". This is noticed in Skype (the online status indicator), Twitter, and instant messaging. These tools are effective in letting others know where you are and how accessible you are.

Tools of expression allow individuals to declare "who they are". Profiles in Google, Facebook, and other social networking services are used to present ourselves to others. By making our interests (and identity) explicit, others are able to "discover" us. Transparency and discoverability are critical foundations for forming social and learning networks.


Digital Footprints (.pdf)


After reading the "Digital Footprints" article, reflect on ways in which different tools influence your identity online. In particular, comment on concerns that learners face in your country or institution. Most discussions of privacy and identity are focused on west-world views. What types of privacy issues do you and your learners face?


Mid-way through the course, you will be asked to complete a presentation for other learners in the course (see the assessments section of this outline). To begin preparing for your presentation, review the tools listed in the Emerging Technology Handbook. Which tools interest you? Why?

Week 3: Personal Learning Environments

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We also need to keep track of the learning that we are doing. Something that you learn from this course might only end up being useful 6 months or 6 years from now. Having a clear way of tracking the pieces of work that you are doing is critical to life long learning in an environment where an extreme amount of information permeates a discussion.

Readings Duffy, Peter and Bruns, Axel (2006) The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. This amounts to a textbook of current thinking in the PLE world. It is a list of models that educational thinkers from around the world have put together to describe their own learning and how they think others might like to have their learning structured.


Forum discussion - Choose three of the PLE diagrams (with accompanying websites) and compare the different views on Personal learning. Try to get inside the thinking of the given authors to understand why they have chosen to work in this way. What can you take away from each of the example to help construct your own PLE?


Start your PLE diagram, post image somewhere on the web with the course tag. (for the diagram, you can use any graphic software - Fireworks, PowerPoint, or open source tools like CMAP, or web-based tools like Gliffy)

Start your own PLE. Make some initial decisions about how you are going to create your own learning space.

Tool to explore this week: Blogs

Take a few minutes to review the blog resource page. Go to a blog service (, blogger, or something similar) and set up a blog. If you are concerned about privacy, use a fake name/title. Experiment with posts - text, formatting, an image, etc. As you progress in the course, you can use this blog as a means of sharing your files/resources with others.

Optional: If you're interested in additional resources on PLEs, recordings from a recent online conference are available here.

Week 4: Affordances: Defining social media

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According to psychologist James Gibson, an affordance is the "action potential" of a tool (or, perhaps more broadly, an environment or system). What does this mean? Essentially, it means that tools have certain uses to which they are broadly oriented. I can, for example, use a hammer to drive a nail into a board when building a house. This "action potential" of a hammer is more useful than using a hammer to clean a window. While we can argue and debate the exact action potential of different tools, we can broadly recognize appropriate and inappropriate applications.

From the perspective of this course, social media has certain affordances for learning (I should state that media itself is not inherently social, but that it becomes social as we use it for social purposes).

Defining Social Software Affordances provides a framework for viewing emerging technologies. Six key affordances can be noted in emerging technology. We will explore each of these in more detail in the coming weeks. The affordances are:

  • Access. This affordance includes many of the most popular tools in use today: Google (access information), Facebook (access people) resources
  • Declare or state presence (as currently online or in declaring physical proximity through GPS). Presence is a declaration of "what I am doing" or "where I am".
  • Expression through tools such as Second Life or profile features of most social networking site. Expression is a declaration of "this is who I am".
  • Creation of new content and resources through blogs, wikis, podcasts, Second Life
  • Interaction with others through asynchronous and synchronous tools like discussion forums, Twitter, Skype, ELGG
  • Aggregation of resources and relationships through Facebook, iGoogle, or NetVibes.

Most tools will have more than one affordance. For example, Twitter has the affordance of interaction and presence. Blogs have the affordance of creation and interaction. Google Reader - with its recent updated features of sharing with friends - has the affordances of aggregation and interaction.


Once you've reviewed the affordances of social media link above, review:

Social Media Examples

Go to the discussion forum for week 4 and share your definition of social media. Do you agree with the discussion of media affordances listed above? What technological affordances are most critical for your school or university in Africa?

Week 5: Open and Networked Learning

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As you're likely aware by this stage in the course, the tools we've considered are essentially based about connections. This is hardly surprising...after all, the internet is the backbone of the tools and concepts driving discourse in society.

How are networks expressed? At two prominent levels: how we access content and how we connect with each other.

At a content level, tools like Google, Google Scholar, Diigo,, YouTube, online forums, Google Groups, etc. enable relatively simple access to content. Think for a moment about your experiences as a learner as little as ten years ago. Something as simple as conducting a literature review required days (weeks?) in a library digging through stacks of journals. Now, a few hours on Google Scholar or similar academic search engine, provides a huge array of resources. Combined with open access publishing, numerous additional opportunities exist for research and content access.

In terms of interaction, the connective aspects of the internet are prominent: email, skype, instant message, twitter, and many, many others. Geographical separation is no longer the limiting element it was ten years ago.

The duality of content/interaction connections fits under the broad banner of networked learning. This week, we'll spend time exploring this concept in greater detail.

Watch the following video:

Networked Student


  • Create a delicious account
  • View this short video on social bookmarking in plain English
  • Search for resources on "networked learning" and tag your three favorite resources with IET_F09
  • Download Jing or Articulate and play around with creating a sample presentation. Articulate is a great tool, but expensive. You can download a trial version to experiment with it...
  • Share your thoughts in the discussion forum...

Week 6: Tools for Interaction

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In week 4, brief consideration was given to the concept of affordances of tools. The term affordances comes from psychology - particularly the work of James Gibson. An affordance is essentially the "action potential" of a tool - i.e. what it can be used to do/achieve/accomplish. For example, a hammer is much better suited for the action of pounding nails into wood than it is for cleaning windows.

Software also has an affordance component. When considering Skype, Moodle, Google Wave, or similar new software, educators can place the tools in different contexts by asking "what is the action potential of ____?".

This week, we will look at tools of interaction. These tools can be synchronous (real time such as skype) or asynchronous (time delayed, such as this moodle forum). Obviously, tools can have various affordances. Skype, for example, can be used for real time interaction...but it can also be used for declaring presence (i.e. the "i'm online" green dot beside a skype user's name). Or it can be used to create a podcast interview.

Activities this week:

1. Continue working on your draft presentation - due in two weeks!
2. Tag tools and resources on delicious or diigo relating to our topic "tools of interaction". Please use the course tag: AfricaIET09
3. In the moodle forum, share the two tools you have found most valuable for interaction (one synch, one asynch).
4. Create an account on slideshare (mine is here if you're interested). If you have time, upload a short powerpoint presentation, record narration with Audacity, and upload/synch both. 5. Share your thoughts on tools of interaction in the moodle forum:

Week 7: Tools for Creation

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Week 6 focused on tools of interaction. This week, we'll look at a variety of tools for content creation.

One of the prominent affordances of the internet is the ease and low cost of content creation: video, audio, images, and other digital content.


Review the following resources:




Once you've reviewed the resources, create a blog (if you haven't done so already), a wiki (wikispaces is a great resource for setting up a free wiki, but as the wiki page lists, other options are available), or a podcast.

Please post your response in the discussion forum.

Continue working on your mid-course presentation. If you have not done so yet, please post your draft presentation for others to provide comments and suggestions.

Week 8: Final Presentation Week

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This is the presentation week for the course. Please post your presentation, as detailed in the course outline, to the discussion forum in Moodle...

A few examples of presentations posted by learners in previous courses:

Week 9: Tools for Sharing

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The online environment is about sharing - webpages, blogs, podcasts, images, etc.

The tools you'll encounter this week focus on sharing content online. Numerous tools exist, and you've used several already for sharing your podcast to sharing your thoughts on you blogs. Earlier in the course, we looked at the affordances of technology - namely, what is the "action potential" of a particular tool. Each tool has multiple affordances, resulting in some overlap (blogs can be used for creating content as well as for sharing).

Review these resources:

If you do not have an account with flickr and delicious (or diigo), please create an account. Post a few images and tag a few articles on delicious (or diigo). What are the educational uses of these tools? How could you use these in existing classrooms?

...and, if you have time, create an account with . VoiceThread is an interesting tool that combines sharing (images, documents, and videos) with interaction through audio and text comments.

Week 10: Tools of Control: Aggregating content/conversations

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At this stage in the course, you're probably feeling a bit overwhelmed with the amount of tools you've encountered and the amount of information you need to manage. Once you start reading a few blogs...and following a few journals...and a few news doesn't take long until you feel like your on the losing end of an information war.

Fortunately, there is an option to cope and make sense of this abundant information: Aggregation. Most traditional information sources, such as newspapers and journals, provide structure and the type of content they feel their readers will enjoy. With online aggregation, you are essentially "rolling your own newspaper". You decide and subscribe to the information sources you find worthwhile.

Activities this week:

1. Read this

2. Create an account with one of the aggregators listed in the reading (I use Google's a good basic starting tool).

3. Subscribe to a few blogs and news sites (details on how to do this are listed in the video in the aggregation page).

4. What do you think? Are RSS readers something you could get used to? What do you like? Don't like? Share your thoughts in the forum...

Week 11: Tools of Presence

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"Tools of presence" allow us to let others know where we are...and what we are doing. While related to "tools of expression", unique elements exist. When expressing ourselves through Google or Facebook profile, we are essentially letting others know what we are about. When declaring our presence to others, we are letting them know where we are and what we are doing. Privacy issues are a big concern with presence tools. On the one hand, when we reveal our location/interests to others, we open ourselves to connections.

On the other hand, when we are open, we are also at increased risk of identity theft, harassment, or related concerns. Careful consideration is warranted when using tools of presence...

Tools to consider:

Twitter -

Set up an account, add a few friends (my id=gsiemens). Facebook - status you use these? If you are on FB and regularly update your status, have a look through the types of status updates you have posted, and ones that your friends have posted. Do you notice any privacy concerns? If so, provide a brief summary of your experience in the forum this week...

Latitude - watch this short video:

Reactions? At what point does our ability to connect move out of the realm of "cool!" and into "oh, that's a bit freaky"?

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The chaotic pace of change in technology and society presents educators with a critical problem: how do we recognize important trends that have the potential to influence education? Abundance - as we've addressed at several stages in the course - obscure the consequential.

In times of change, every individual needs basic skills in tracking trends and informally (at minimum) analyzing potential impact. But how do we do this? How do we get started? That's our topic for this week.

Resources: Struggling for a metaphor of change - a fairly broad look at trends and a suggested model/approach to analyzing which trends are consequential - this is a useful site for societal trends. They compile a monthly theme of an important development and provide a fairly in-depth analysis of that theme. 10 Trends - slideshare presentation - on learning 2.0

After reviewing resources and readings for the week, take a look back at your experience in this course. Which trends are more significant? Which trends have had the greatest influence on you and your work? Reminder: we will be meeting in SecondLife on Tuesday. I'll send out the SLURL via email announcement. This is an optional session...