Cog Dog Blog, an interview with Alan Levine

Alan Levine, author of Cog Dog Blog, is here with us today. Alan writes about technology, education, and “other assorted things.” Alan is a director at the New Media Consortium and is an international speaker. He is currently working on Web 2.0 Storytelling and is here today to lend some of his insights.

1. What inspired you to start Cog Dog Blog?
It was bicycling, canines, and the web. I started CogDogBlog in April 2003 when I was an instructional technologist at the Maricopa Community Colleges in Phoenix, AZ. After years of trying to help people to learn to create content by writing HTML (e.g. http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/tut/) I was very encouraged about the emerging publishing platforms where the focus was on writing and content, rather than code and formatting. My philosophy on technology is always to use it before I talk about it, so I installed a copy of MovableType on a web server and started writing.

More details (well not too many more) are in my first post http://cogdogblog.com/2003/04/19/i-blog/


2. What makes the current generation of students different from others in terms of technology?

I cringe at making generation generalizations. It’s a bit easy to make sweeping statements that end up full of gaps.

But the changes are the same that it always was – each generation is surrounded by a different and new culture, framed by the innovations at the time, and are different from the mindset of the teaching generation. When I was in school, there were probably teachers asking themselves about the generations of students (mine) growing up immersed in television.

But my youth seems pre-historic to the present. What is different now is a much richer integration (or is it penetration) of communications technologies into our every day lives. What is different now is the smaller, perhaps flattened world, where we can more easily be connected with people from both near and far that would never have happened before. What is different now is the availability of information on near real time on a scale that was never there before.

All of this things are issues to be concerned about and optimistic about.

3. How can technology change education?

Many people feel like technology does something to them: I do not support giving inert objects that kind of power. So on their own, computers, video cameras, interactive whiteboards, the internet do nothing more than walls and chairs and desks. It’s people that can use technology to change education.

And really, what is even menat by technology? One might argue that books and pencils are tools we use to learn with. None of these are any good without creative thinking and planning, measured use, and reflection one what we are doing. But too many of us get lost in the shiny lights.

4. What is the biggest obstacle in integrating technology in education?

People. Fear. Inertia to comfort. Lack of risk taking. Pick one or all. Interesting in all this rich ecology of communication tools is that many people feel isolated.

5. As a teacher, do you think it is possible to one day have all-online classroom in the future?

I’m not a teacher, but this future happened long ago. The pedagogy of online can go back to the old correspondence courses or the Australian School of the Air. Fully online classes have been around for a long while.

So its technically possible, yes, but really appropriate for certain use case- geographic isolation, lack fo quality local school options, physical isolation (e.g. learners with certain medical conditions), or just as alternatives for learners where it would eb the best mode. I really do not see where it needs to be “fully online” vs “traditional face to face”- the most interesting places is the spectrum in between.

Wow! Thanks Alan for the interview. You can find his site, Cog Dog Blog, here. For more information about Udemy, see our main website here.