Olivia Walsh - Manifesto

Classrooms should offer digital tools in conjunction with the traditional print medium.

This principle essentially proposes that technologies such as laptops, ipads, tablets, e-readers, etc. should be offered to students alongside traditional textbooks and novels. I argue for the provision of both mediums in a classroom because, while I prefer books over electronic formats, I realize that there are other styles of learning depending on the student’s comfort level with the technology. Younger people are pulled in by the allure of technology, yes, but they are also growing up in an environment that values convenience, customization, and constant connection. There are many of us who enjoy print books for example, because it allows you to highlight, fold the page corners, and underline important passages; however, this all seems to satisfy a human need to touch something (sensory experience), to have something to hold in between your hands that has tactile features (binding, pages, even the ink). There’s also a huge sentimental factor involved with reading from a book; our society associates traditional books with the library ritual from our childhoods, the books our parents read to us, the personal collections we keep and want to pass on to our children, and so on. On the other hand, those rituals and the environments in which we read and learn, are quickly evolving to include digital readers because of their perceived convenience and wireless capabilities. I do not think we should abandon traditional print mediums, but rather, utilize the electronic format as a helpful, space-saving, and customizable alternative, especially when it comes to accommodating the learning styles of students.

Sources: Education Week, Study: E-Readers vs. Books

We ought to accept virtual relationships as meaningful and legitimate.

This principle suggests that the Internet can be a perfectly legitimate medium for “meeting” a potential significant other. As Kaitlin posted in Question Forum 3, “If a relationship is authentic based upon a mutual interest in the other person and a desire to communicate, then it seems that online and offline relationships have a similar purpose, albeit a different mode of mediation."

We are all familiar with the chat rooms of the past. Now, these chat rooms – virtual spaces where adults can “meet” and conduct conversations – have evolved into much larger dating sites such as eHarmony and match.com. On these sites, you can register an account, create a profile, and expect to receive invitations to chat with someone who thinks you two might be compatible, within days. To many older Digital Immigrants, this “new-age” practice is considered downright crazy and illegitimate; how could you trust someone you’ve never met in person? On the other hand, how hard is it to trust someone in real life? To Digital Natives, then, this practice of meeting someone online is becoming increasingly common, if not more widely accepted, especially as dating sites turn out fairly high success rates. That’s not to say that dating sites are 100% safe; however, both the risks and stakes of online dating are arguably just as high as dating IRL: you might go on a few dates with a guy, get to know him and come to find out, he’s a complete jerk, he cheated on his last girlfriend, he hasn’t been totally honest about his career – the list could go on. Many also argue that putting yourself out there online is just as hard as putting yourself out there in real life. Additionally, many individuals have professed the legitimacy of these dating services because they admit to having experienced scarring, unhealthy relationships in the past or they perceive the online space as a less threatening environment – one in which they have more control. In some cases, people would rather meet others and conduct relationships online because they are uncomfortable with their body image, age, marriage history, or the number of kids they have, etc. While, as a culture, we may not be comfortable with the connotations of online dating just yet, I think we ought to respect the individual’s judgment when it comes to their personal dating preferences. Those of us who would prefer to meet potential partners IRL can still do so; those who wish to try out online dating should not be condemned or looked down upon.

Source: Question Forum Team 4 class discussion/posts

Educators should reinvent new methodologies for all subjects, at all levels, using students to guide them.

This principle not only calls attention to the Digital Immigrant/Native divide apparent in classrooms, but it also urges teachers to learn to communicate in the language and style of their students if they want to see a future generation of bright, successful learners. In his article, “Digital Native, Digital Immigrants,” Prensky asserts that it’s not about “changing the meaning of what is important or of good thinking skills,” but it does mean moving “faster, less step-by-step, more in parallel, with more random access…” (Prensky 4). I agree with Prensky’s call to educators and, moreover, argue that younger generations of Digital Natives require a different, more flexible teaching approach. Unlike Digital Immigrants before us, we have been enculturated to accept constant connectivity as part of our daily lives: instant access to web search via mobile technology, downloading music, instant messaging – it has all changed the way we learn, and continues to do so as the technology evolves. Of course, the new teaching methodologies don’t have to be invented from scratch; however, due to the monumental difference in the way Digital Natives process and retain information, methodologies and content must be adapted. Video “games,” for example, ought to be incorporated into this reinvention. Although traditionalists and many Digital Immigrants might argue that video games typically promote and/or are associated with violence (shooter, role-playing games, for ex.) and self-destructive behavior, or are more suited to recreational purposes, I have trouble believing that a video game cannot be used for educational use. In fact, there are many educational video games out there that promote the exact opposite, which is creativity and analytical thinking. I believe that video games and more interactive software could be used to facilitate and enhance learning in both classrooms and distance-learning curricula.

Sources: Prensky, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants – Part 1,” Considered Replies – Thread 2 (Virtual vs. Reality)

Digital natives should recognize the intrusive properties of constant connection that social networking sites impose and manage their Internet usage accordingly.

Social networking sites like Facebook, and Internet giants such as Google provide us with two services: constant connection to our friends and family, and constant access to streaming information. One of the downsides of constant connectivity, however, is the loss of privacy. Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble, posted an article on his website in regards to Google’s latest transparency report. Google doesn’t only store all that data it collects on us in massage storage centers; in fact, “Google has received 4,601 user data requests from the US Government over the most recent six-month period and has complied with 94% of those requests (the highest compliance rate).”

As digital natives, we have grown up accustomed to having these two services at our fingertips; without them, we feel lost, alone or disconnected to some degree. In many cases, we feel as if we are missing out if we are not constantly connected to our loved ones whether through an online identity or mobile device such as a cell phone. Since giving up our ties to these technologies seems out of the question for many of us Digital Natives, I argue that we should at least be aware of and self-monitor our relationship with these technologies. Keeping in mind that the success of Google and social networking sites largely depends on the amount and type of information we give it, I think we would be wise to adopt this self-policing rule. Without totally sacrificing the devices and tools that make our lives “easier” (e.g. free us to do other things), we can, and should, keep track of how much time we spend on the Internet and also the kinds of activities that we engage in while “plugged in.” I am sure most people still care about online privacy so this should not come as a shock. Based on our observations, we can at the very least discipline our online activity and err on the cautious side when it comes to volunteering information about ourselves.

Sources: Sherry Turkle, Alone Together; Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble, The Filter Bubble: Google Transparency Report; Question Forum Class Discussion – Team 3

We should place highest value on tacit knowledge when distinguishing humans from robots.

This principle suggests that, ultimately, when it comes down to making the distinction between humans and robots, only a human will demonstrate tacit knowledge. Only a human is truly capable of improvisation as well, which for humans, occurs when at the moment when we “get taken by surprise, gulp, feel things freshly again—these are the signs that we’re alive” (Christian 98). A human, for example, may know how to ride a bike or speak a language, but can’t necessarily transfer that knowledge to another person by writing it down or verbalizing it. A robot may be programmed to play an instrument, may even be remarkable at it. Still, a robot cannot deviate from technical algorithms or formulas; it cannot disregard logic. Like Christian said, staying creative – staying human – is about “creating more and more different things” (96).

Since the beginning of the semester, we have been attempting to define several characteristics of the human experience, or answer the pressing question, what makes humans uniquely “human?” In light of the Turing Test, the rise and development of chatbots, robotic humanoids, and other computer programs designed to imitate humans, the answer to this question seemingly narrows down to vague abstractions: the idea of the soul, the ability to think, etc. In “Site-Specificity vs. Pure Technique,” Christian uses the example of the artist, finally coming to the conclusion that “art doesn’t scale” (96). Like the video we watched in class of Chris Thile, the mandolin player, it seems to hold true that artistic and musical endeavors, creativity, and performance all have one thing in common: improvisation. This improvisation is fascinating to us because not only does it implicate that emotions can trump technical scripts, but that improvisation cannot be achieved by programmed machines, even if they are indistinguishable and embodied. As Mike mentioned in his post to Question Forum 5, “playing scales is not creating art; scales and other theoretical ideas in music are a framework for creating art.”

Sources: Brian Christian, The Most Human Human; Question Forum Discussion, Team 5; Chris Thile IMPROV video

We should view “thinking” machines as a tool that can be used to free us to do more meaningful activities.

Some of us are still disturbed by the idea of “thinking” machines because we have been enculturated to associate the act of thinking with humans, and only humans. Naturally, we take pride in our uniqueness; our defensive reaction to the advancing front of technology comes as no surprise. Although we have yet to disprove that animals also have equal thinking capabilities, we seem to unconsciously assume that human beings are the only animal that can think (see “The Sentence”). Before robots, we also assumed that humans were the only ones in existence capable of using a language with syntactical rules, using tools, and doing math (Christian 12). By now, we have dismissed these as proof of our uniqueness, although we can’t help but wonder then, “where is the keep of our selfhood?” (Christian 13). If robots can think now, then what keeps them from taking human jobs away? By adopting this principle, we will not be giving our jobs away to robots. In fact, we will be released from doing a number of unpleasant tasks (e.g. reading a map when lost or grading scantron tests). In proposing this normative statement then, I argue that those who feel threatened or disturbed by machines that “think” must also remember that machines such as computers and the like were originally designed to increase economic efficiency for all. Smartphones and other mobile devices arguably share this same “thinking” capacity, that is, if thinking “involves analyzing a situation, drawing from a database…and then selecting the best course of action” (Kaitlin, Question Forum Post 4). We have already begun to accept basic thinking machines, and undoubtedly, this trend will continue to free us from having to do mundane activities.

Sources: Brian Christian, The Most Human Human; Question Forum discussion and posts, Team 4