While MOOC-ing about, I realised how most people I know already are hooked into Google web apps. Practically everyone I encounter on eduMOOC has a Gmail account, I receive invitations to Google Docs almost daily, and now everyone is jumping at Google+. Have people forgotten the black hat Google is wearing?!
My view is that people are so keen on Google+ not because it’s so perfect and so private, but because of the arrogant way Facebook has dealt with their customers. But this is perhaps a naive way of dealing with Google, which, not so long ago, was the bad guy of the Internet.
To give credit where it belongs, G+ does have its merits and the company has learned a lot from past failure, like Wave. There is also great appeal in the integration of the highly usable and good quality productivity services Google provides. Still, I do get the feeling that the lock-in gets tighter and the circle that Google is drawing around us gets narrower and narrower. It is certainly more and more difficult to “escape”.
Could we see Google emerge as the first virtual state taking over the rule of what we are doing online. Will we see a Google virtual Prime Minister soon? With the identity infrastructure they mention in their plans it is certainly feasible. Where will this leave the rest of the Web – will there be anarchic outcasts, outposts of unregulated (un-googlified) web users?
I realise this sounds quite sci-fi for now, but wait and see…!
In a post in early 2009, I anticipated the coming of a new Internet. Unlike people who thought Web 3.0 would give way to the Semantic Web, I long held it that by maturing as a virtual society, the Internet would inevitably require identities around which this society would be structured, or would structure itself. Hence, I firmly believed and still do that we are going to see a Personal Web emerge over time. By this I not so much mean that the web experience is being personalised, but that we have a singular accredited identity, just like we have in real life with our ID cards, social security numbers, etc.
Signs are that Google is going to lead the way there. In this interview, Google’s Eric Schmidt admits that they are working on an identity infrastructure for the web. So this may finally be the plot behind Google+. And certainly Chrome’s brand new browser identity management is a big step in this direction. Schmidt unmistakenly talks about unique identities perhaps with multiple personas and perhaps personalities. There are of course countless advantages in terms of convenience, personal safety, child protection, identity theft and fraud prevention. Numerous disadvantages too, in terms of policing, tracking, or spying.
So far Google’s long term plans are still kept quiet, and while anonymous browsing and chatting might still stay around for a while, in the end this development might mean that someone who claims to be under the age of thirteen, might indeed be under age.
It probably comes as no surprise that among the 2400 participants of the current massive open online course eduMOOC a sense of confusion has spread.
Typical questions raised are “what are the learning objectives?”, “what are MOOCs about?”, or “how do I master the abundant wealth of content?” In response help arrives from veteran MOOCers. This mostly comes in form of advice for un-learning: “forget normal course structures”, “forget catching up with all postings”, “set your own objectives”, etc.
Indeed, filtering noise and identifying the threads, tools, and groupings that are relevant to you is hard work, and there is always the danger that a MOOC gets drowned in anectotes and story telling, which may pose a stumbling block to the credibility and applicability of knowledge in its creation.
However that may be, the real questions remain unanswered: “what is learning in a MOOC?”, and “how do we know that we are learning”?
Here, I think, as well as in other free unstructured learning experiences lies an unpublished secret – the fact that learning is a feeling of wellbeing!
It’s the satisfactory feeling of serendipitous discovery, enlightened clarity, and, finally, the feeling of identity through the shared knowledge and experience that connects you to others, as well as the feeling that you yourself have made a step forward in your own existence. MOOCs as well as formal forms of education need to take more care that learning can be felt – not measured! – by those who it affects, the learners.