Time Machines

The Time Machine (1960)

When I was in second grade, I saw the film The Time Machine at a drive-in theater. It was directed by George Pal, starred Rod Taylor, and was released in 1960. It was scary. It was cool. It had “primitive” special effects by today’s standards. But I loved it.

Eventually, it sent me to the library to get the novel by H.G. Wells. Twenty years later, I taught that book to a bunch of like-minded seventh graders that I had lured into reading its very 19th century pages with very 21st century imaginings about traveling through time.

Then, the summer after fourth grade, I tried to build a time machine in my own basement. I had a “lab” in a old coal bin that was full of chemistry sets, rockets, rocks, any tool I could find, model car kits and salvaged electronic components.

I had no idea where to start or what to do, but I just went at it. (Years later, I would jealously watch ET do the same kind of thing successfully.) I have never lost my fascination for time travel.

The telectroscope (also referred to as ‘electroscope’) was the first non-working prototype (i.e. conceptual model) of a television or videophone system. The term was used in the 19th century to describe science-based systems of distant seeing.

The name and its concept came into being not long after the telephone was patented in 1876, and its original concept evolved from that of transmitting remote facsimile reproductions on paper, into the live viewing of remote images.

Back in 2008, artist Paul St George exhibited an outdoor interactive video installation linking London and New York City in a faux “telectroscope.”  Of course, it wasn’t any more real than the ones from earlier centuries – but this conceptual model “worked.”

It had a fictional “back story” that said that the device worked by using a transatlantic tunnel started by the artist’s fictional great-grandfather, Alexander Stanhope St. George. People looking in one end in NYC could see and hear those at the other end in London.

I like the term “distant seeing” that was attached to the original concept and has remained.

   telectroscope in New York                photo via urbanshoregirl

The installation art actually used a visual high speed broadband link between London and New York City that did allow people to see across the ocean.

You can’t really call any of these telectroscopes “television systems” or “time machines.” And the term telectroscope was replaced by the term “television.” But, looking back at the original 1870s imaginings about these things, it sounds like they were describing our television, or even the Internet, or perhaps some merging of the two that is happening right now.

Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

My wife, Lynnette, and I contributed a chapter to the new book, Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Strategies and Predictions for the Future

Our chapter is titled “MOOCs: Evolution and Revolution.”

This chapter introduces the evolution of the MOOC, using narratives that are documented by research generated from the educational community. It concentrates on the history and progression of distance learning and its movement toward online education. The authors’ perspectives focus on their own anecdotal evolution, from traditional classroom teaching, infusing distance and online learning, to designing and teaching in a MOOC setting. In examining whether the MOOC is more of an evolution or a revolution in learning, they explore questions that have emerged about MOOCs including what distinguishes this model from other online offerings, characteristics of learners who succeed in this environment, and debates regarding best practices. Critical reaction and responses by proponents of this learning format are presented and acknowledged. The research, perspectives and debates clearly impact what the future of the MOOC appears to offer. This continues the discussion within the book section ‘RIA and education practice of MOOCs,’ aligning to the discussion on the topic of ‘educational training design.’

Because it is a big (and expensive) book (tell your librarian to order it!), I did a 3-part article about some of the ideas in our chapter on my Serendipty35 blog.

In Part 1, I write about the MOOC as revolution and an evolution.

In Part 2, I cover some of the path Lynnette and I followed in teaching and learning face-to-face, then online and finally in a MOOC environment, which probably parallels many other educators development.

The third part covers the pre-history of the MOOC, which is a backstory that encapsulates how distance education developed into online learning.