In a recent post, entitled “Another Side of China“, I wrote about how the Chinese government is determining what cartoons will be shown on prime time TV to protect its own industry. As we all know, the Chinese government is also monitoring and censoring certain Internet content, including parts of Google and Yahoo. More recently, a similar debate has started around Wikipedia’s entry into China. Today, I ran into an issue related to this, this time with access to Internet content of an academic nature. I was contacted by a Chinese master’s student who was looking for a few dissertations written by doctoral students in the U.S. She had the titles but could not get access to the full documents, or even an abstract. I ended up finding abstracts for her and sent them to her via email, as I couldn’t do it through MSN.
I started thinking more about this later in the day, and I now wonder if the Chinese government is blocking certain academic content in order to protect China’s research by forcing Chinese scholars to predominantly look at Chinese research. Obviously, for teaching and learning purposes, this is not a good thing, as it narrows the body of knowledge you have access to. In that respect, we are pretty spoiled in the U.S., as access to information is much easier.
However, the whole net neutrality issue could change that in the U.S. (I blogged about that in the post “Threats to Ubiquitous Computing“). In a way, a loss of net neutrality would have a similar effect to access to information via the Internet, in that certain content would be very difficult or impossible to access for people who have a slow connection (think media content like video). And even though this would not be a form of censorship by the government, if the government is going to allow the creation of a tiered system of access, it would certainly be condoned by it.
Either way, whether content would be completely blocked (as in China), or made virtually inaccessible (as may happen in the U.S.), ubiquitous access to technology does not necessarily equal ubiquitous access to information. This is something that learners of all ages should know about and realize when they access the deluge of information we call the Internet. In the back of your mind, you should always wonder what information is NOT there, and who is responsible for that. However, as in the example I described here, sometimes technology does provide you with ways to access what you normally couldn’t…
As I was perusing my RSS Feeds this morning, I ran across this post by Karl Fisch. Above all, take a look at Karl’s PowerPoint (read the post afterwards to get the context, and some info on updated slides). I won’t go into the details, you’ll have to watch it for yourself to get the full effect. There’s some pretty mind-boggling stuff in there. I ask you to think about this as you watch:
What does it all mean for teaching and learning?
After the great experiences I had in Shanghai, running into this article today was certainly a reality check:
China bans Simpsons from prime-time TV
The Associated Press
BEIJING — D’oh! China has banished Homer Simpson, Pokemon and Mickey Mouse from prime time. Beginning Sept. 1, regulators have barred foreign cartoons from TV from 5 to 8 p.m. in an effort to protect China’s struggling animation studios, news reports said Sunday. The move allows the Monkey King and his Chinese pals to get the top TV viewing hours to themselves.
Having the technology available, like the ubiquitous TV screens I saw all over Shanghai, especially in public transportation, is one thing, being able to choose content is another. The article really reinforced my observations that as much as Shanghai is modernizing, the traditional culture and politics are still strong. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds, as there has been criticism to this decision in China itself…
A few more observations from a different day at the conference:
- The focus in teacher education in China with regards to technology seems to be on teaching pre-service teachers to use technology, even though there is some talk about connecting technology and pedagogy.
- Some of the younger scholars (especially graduate students in the 22-28 or so age group) are interested in mobile technology such as handheld devices and mobile phones. This is not surprising, given the proliferation of mobile phones among Chinese in their teens and twenties. I saw plenty of them just walking around in Shanghai!
- Another observation related to mobile phones and digital cameras in China is that smaller is better. When I asked some of the graduate students why people like small devices, they told me that the Chinese tend to be smaller physically, on average. Interesting thought which hadn’t occured to me.
- The younger generations (those in college especially) are somewhat of a reflection of the changes taking place in China and the juxtapositions it’s creating:
- They know their culture and roots (family is still strong), but are also forward thinking
- They are inquisitive and want to learn about cultures other than their own
- They want good jobs when they graduate, but now how difficult that will be given the current job market in China
- They use lots of technology (mobile phones, SMS, Internet, digital cameras, blogs), but may not be familiar with the very latest such as RSS