Summer 2012

The 7th Chais Conference

This year's Chais Conference sponsored by the Open University's Center for Innovation in Learning Technologies brought under one roof researchers, doctoral students, lecturers and educators from 35 different institutions throughout Israel, all of whom share a common language of research and technology and resulting in more than 90 professional papers.

The day divided into dozens of sessions with lectures nad presentations on wide-ranging subjects, among them: "Cognitive Perspectives of Learning within a Technological Environment," "A Study of the Use of Smartphones within the Educational Environment," "Smart Boards vs. Projectors in the Classroom: Research Results," "Teaching, Learning and Pedagogy in a Computerized Environment: What does the future say?," "A Delphi Investigation into the Future of Distance Education," "Are Teachers Ready for the Change in the Classroom."

Prof. Barry Wellman, Professor of Sociology at Toronto University and Director of NiteLab was the keynote speaker. Wellman's topic was: "Networked Individualism: How the Personalized Internet, Ubiquitous Connectivity and Social Network Affect Interpersonal Relations."

"We are ensconced in a triple revolution: the turn from groups to social networks, the internet and the proliferation and differentiation of the personalized internet, and the personal mobile always-accessiblity."

Where is all of this leading us?

While we are more technically-oriented, many of our groups and social media contacts really are throw-backs to densely-knit villages conceptually-speaking, but not in terms of actual contact. "To a certain extent, we still have our home and office as an important work group, but since the 1960's," says Wellman, "we are becoming less neighborhood-based. People are functioning more as networked individuals and less as group members."

In spite of the global interconnectivity of the internet, Wellman's research indicates that the point of contact has changed from the household and work group to the individual. "The average person has 634 total ties, of which 23 are close ties and 27 are significant ties. Networked individuals have partial membership in multiple networks rather than permanent memberships in settled groups, which I refer to as the Facebook fallacy."

And, in the end, in spite of all of our online connectivity: "face-to-face is still important for sharing and generating ideas, and personally connecting on important subjects."

One of the key questions Wellman's research has investigated is whether people like technology or not. "It turns out that a 5:1 like technology."

So what does all of this data indicate?

According to Wellman, "assuredly there is a reconfiguration of private and public. We know where people are (mobile-accessibility), we know what they are doing (Facebook) and we are gathering our information, more and more from other people, rather than sitting in seminars and groups."

On the downside, there are more "trashier information consumers than producers of good information, and there is the growing fear of surveillance, as governments and corporations are accumulating power data on each of us."

"Our face-to-face communications are constantly extending, but about 50% of our relationships are with kinfolk. So, the more the world has changed, in factů it really hasn't."