I was a late starter in this course (I believe I started in Week 3). This course was originally on my list, but the Friday evening timeslot was the issue, so I had to move some personal commitments around to make it work. The reason I chose this subject over others was that it offered the opportunity to look at new and emerging technologies and this excited me. Enterprise Systems and Business Process Management (BPM) are my majors, so I am usually looking at more established technologies, therefore being able to take a look at some of the ‘newer’ and leading edge technologies in a class environment was very enticing.
In terms of whether the course lived up to meeting its expectations, yes, I definitely think so. This course provided me with the chance to not only look at some technologies that I haven’t seen before, but also to ‘have a go’ at using them – not just tinkering – but actually having to produce something with them as was the case with the app building and the mashup. I appreciated the opportunity to hear how other people used or perceived the range of technologies we looked at and discussed, providing me with some new perspectives to my way of thinking. Being an IT major we are often looking at technologies and studying how to use them or develop them. Not much time is spent on critiquing these technologies and looking at the overall engagement of these technologies within wider society, as well as the societal impact of technologies in general. Being able to do this was a valuable outcome of this subject.
The Learning Environment
In terms of the learning environment for this subject, I liked the overall mix. The classroom time was very thought-provoking and I enjoyed the open discussion format. I also thought the guest speakers really added a valuable dimension to the learning experience. In terms of the class structure I was a bit sceptical of not having the regular ‘tutorial’ time immediately following the lecture. However, the fact that there was a structured activity that needed to be undertaken online was an interesting and worthwhile alternative to the usual situation of turning up to a tutorial where only a handful of people have undertaken the readings and are ready and able to actively participate in the discussion! As the fortnightly activities were compulsory everyone had to invest time and effort into completing them, which therefore increased their ability to speak knowledgeably to the specific topic. In terms of the subject tools, I hadn’t used Google+ before, and I found the first couple of weeks a bit confusing, so it took some time to ‘settle in’. However, based on Kathleen’s explanation for using Google+ rather than Facebook I appreciate the reason for doing so.
In terms of the assessment I believe it was reasonably balanced. I would have liked to have seen what a ‘good’ blog post was prior to the marking of the first submission, as I lost marks for a couple of silly mistakes/oversights which I could have corrected with an example of the expectation. Also, while I like the idea of creating a community on Google+, I’m not so sure I liked the assessment marking for contributions to this. I read a lot of what was on the community and commented where I felt it appropriate, or where I could add value. However, I didn’t write a huge amount as I don’t like writing for the sake of it and now in retrospect I feel that I have probably lost marks for this reason. Perhaps instead the marking for this element could be more balanced and not just be concentrated on writing comments in the online community, but also for positive overall contributions including contributing to discussion in class (or for online people during the live feed), as I feel that unfortunately those contributions counted for considerably less in the overall marking criteria. In adding this element, those people who feel the need (or like to) comment extensively on the community can do so, while those who prefer to contribute in the face-to-face environment will be equally recognised for doing so.
It is also worth mentioning that I really liked the format of ‘Play’ and ‘Reflect’. I think this was valuable in allowing hands-on experience and experimentation on the one hand, then allowing us to analyse and share our thoughts and opinions on what we had done or what we had discussed during the workshop. It was a refreshing format and in my opinion it worked very well.
Challenging, Interesting and What’s Missing?
I found the app building and the mashup the most challenging activities – but both were great to do. The app building provided me with the opportunity to do something I have wanted to dabble in for a while and though the result didn’t have all the ‘bells and whistles’ of a finished app, I was very happy with the functionality that I achieved from it. I’m now trying to come up with something novel in order to build the next killer app! I also found the mashup challenging as while I take lots of photos I realised I didn’t have access to the software required to do the mashup, so it took quite a while to find something suitable to get it done and complete the task.
I should also make special mention of the gamification week. This was quite enlightening. I felt that I got pulled into the game due the competitive challenge that was thrown out there by Katya. There were some challenges that I couldn’t participate in due to time issues, but I tried to engage in those that I could – hence my dedication to the story over several separate time periods – despite some frustration as to where it was going! On the other hand I don’t use Twitter, nor do I intend to, so I had to pass on that challenge. However, what this week made me realise was the potential for gamification in certain areas, but the need to be careful in how it is applied. For example, if I were to implement gamification in the workplace it must serve a very clearly defined purpose. It can’t just be a means to reward staff for completing an activity or a means of developing a competitive workplace environment, otherwise I can see how it would have the potential to take up a great deal of valuable employee time, distracting them and pulling them away from their work. I found this out firsthand during gamification week! Also it might be useful to undertake this ‘challenge’ earlier in the semester before the big assessment items start to get in the way.
Another area I found extremely thought-provoking was the whole idea of analysing our own social media usage – especially early in the semester – as it’s something I’ve never really sat down and thought about. I also found it interesting to see how other people in the class use social media, as well as some of the generational aspects relating to its use. Interestingly I think I’ve gone off Facebook more because of this (not that I was ever a power-user). I will also take this into consideration when I finally update that LinkedIn account as well. The fact that we had to put this personal social media usage analysis into the persona poster reinforced in a very tangible way this learning and also helped me to gain further insight into user-centred design and UX, which is an area in which I have considerable interest.
In terms of whether there was anything missing from the subject, I think that it would have been useful to go into more depth in some areas. For example, during the week where Nic Sozur was the guest speaker it might have been interesting to look at a couple of case studies (with the class having to do some background reading in advance). On another note, it might also have been interesting to have a week/fortnight when the librarian majors and the IT majors split into two groups to focus on something specific to their areas (other majors can hop into one of the two groups). This may enable a greater depth to be achieved in certain focused areas.
There is no specific week that I didn’t enjoy – I enjoyed them all! It was more a case of finding some more challenging than others, but all were enjoyable and worthwhile.
Key learnings from the unit for me are the importance of getting in and trying some of these new technologies firsthand, as well as hearing and comparing other people’s experiences and opinions on their usefulness and applications.
Another key learning was the overall societal impacts of new technologies. This was multi-faceted and ranged from analysing my own personal usage of social media and how it impacts my own life, to the ‘two-speed technology society’ that seems to be developing between those who have the latest technology and know how to use it, and those with limited or no access or ability to take advantage of these, through to the impacts of the complex legal aspects of these technologies and the new power balance that is emerging in society based on who has control of these technologies. These are all areas of which I will be more conscious in the future and would like to explore further should the opportunity arise.
“Technology is everyone’s business”
Having undertaken this subject I have gained an expanded insight not only into some new technologies, but also the overall impact of technology on society more generally. The extent to which technology now impacts every aspect of our lives means that each of us NEEDS to make technology our business. We need to be aware of what is going on around us, who has information about us and what they are doing with it. We need to ask if technology is benefiting us, is it damaging us, or is it just noise? While I was aware at the high level of some of the topics we discussed this semester, having had the opportunity to hear more about issues such as metadata and technology participation has made me realise the importance of being more involved and making more of these technology issues my business. It is only by engaging and making technology our business that we can influence positive change both now and into the future.