Monthly Archives: October 2012

Ethiopian Tablet Hoopla – Take a Deep Breath

The OLPC initiative in Ethiopia is getting some traction in ed tech circles, and I came across a blog response by Ben Grey, a tech CIO for a K-12 district, professor, teacher and optimist in the field.  He was thrilled about the potential coming from this initial look at data.  I find his passion inspiring, but was weary of the article’s elements Grey was ignoring while extolling other virtues.  I responded to his blog via comment, and will mirror that below:

I appreciate your enthusiasm in this field…such energy is needed in the edu world. This article came across my computer today as well, and my reaction was slightly different.

I saw the Ethiopian children’s unintended use of the devices in the same light as you, but I don’t see anything new here. People in your comment stream have already talked about “more them, less us” in the student/teacher dynamic, and any constructivist worth their salt would look at these results and say Duh. Kids want to learn, want to explore, and want to create, and they want to take ownership. Jailbreaking the camera and the desktop design is part of a learning process, something folks like Piaget and Papert would have expected in any supportive environment. Continue reading

Teaching & Teachers – Apocalypse Now?

Just when I finish linking the MOOC movement with societal and cultural movements working against teaching as a profession, I find a weeks-old Wall Street Journal article asking if teachers will be necessary in the future.  The jist, as you could imagine, is that technology allows for lecture to be put online for others to see, so do we need all of these lecturers when we can just get some “star teachers” to record some HD video?  Learning is the accrual of content, so why not get the well-known people to share the content?

My problem with this educational futures is it sits squarely opposed to conventional and contemporary learning theory. Continue reading

MOOCs and the Teaching Profession

Months ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who works for an organization with strong ties to the charter school movement.  I respect him and a mutual friend of ours, and because I have a visceral problem with the charter school movement, I wonder how he and this other friend could have dedicated their lives to education yet be advocating for school choice and ravaging Diane Ravitch through social media.  I told this friend I wanted to understand his POV on the charter school movement, letting him know I was at best a skeptical audience.  We talked civilly the entire time and I felt like it was an eye-opening experience for the both of us, but I walked away from the conversation focused on one exchange:  I expressed dismay at the continual turnover of teachers in charter organizations was not only harmful for students at the school (as The Onion illustrates here), but was aiding in the erosion of teaching as a profession.  My friend’s response was simple:  I do not believe teaching is a profession.

Along with the hype, there is a lot of fear in the pundrity and commentary in relation to the MOOC movement:  if massified ed takes place on this global, global scale, what happens to teachers? Continue reading

MOOC Pedagogy – Waiting for Big Data?

I’m in a constant search to find documented discussion of the pedagogy behind the various MOOC iterations. cMOOCs are not so hard; they are borne of distance education and most adhere to connectivism, which is a pedagogical approach in my opinion, a learning theory in the opinions of others. xMOOCs are much more difficult; due to their newness there is little scholarly data on the model, and the creators have not shown as much interest in describing existing pedagogy as in stamping this model as the future of higher education (#cfhe12). Nicholas Carr notes that part of the reason for gathering learning analytics from the courses is to improve pedagogy: (xMOOCs) hope to build large behavioral data bases that can then be mined for pedagogical insights.

Continue reading

Hodgepodge – Links on MOOC Parallels

Trying to keep up with research, theory, history and current goings-on is more than one blogger can handle.  That’s where I am, however.  Here are tweets I’ve come across relating in some way, shape, fashion or form to the world of MOOC:

  • Another Stunningly Bad Vision for Learning:  From Will Richardson, a writer and K-12 reformer.    Richardson here looks at an edtech example of personalized learning, the ed policy buzzword revolving around using technology to let kids get at content at their own pace.  This is not new pedagogy at all; in fact, personalized learning is one of the many pseudonyms of independent study, a distance education pedagogy developed due to the difficulty of creating student-student and student-teacher interactions (meaning student-content interaction needed to be of high quality).  As my earlier blog mentions, the distance ed folks see a lot of value in student-student interaction (and there is ample research showing students see a lot of value in student-teacher interaction), so the policy push toward personal learning is counter to existing learning theory.  It lends itself to the collection of data, however.
  • Learnable Programming – Bret Victor, an educator and programmer who was referenced in Khan Academy’s recent computer science tutorials, tackles the pedagogical problems he sees with Khan Academy, both in word and in example.  The piece is long and likely requires some programming knowledge to fully grasp it, but Victor provides excellent correlations for laypeople such as myself to understand he does not agree that programming can just be learned through rote mechanics.
  • In Colleges’ Rush to Try MOOC’s, Faculty Are Not Always in the Conversation:  Chronicle of Higher Education article looking at the lack of faculty input involved in the race for a number of colleges to align not only with the world of MOOC, but with specific LMS such as Coursera or edX.  The article cites professors lamenting their role in negotiations, but in some blog discussion on this very site, anecdotal evidence suggests professors are but one part of the equation:  their voices should be heard, but so should those of instructional designers, department heads, support staff, etc.

    Lots more to get to over time…


Connectivism Applied: The Toddler Test

Recently I posted about my current research into connectivism and my belief that it is more pedagogial than theoretical.  I noted that my understanding of connectivism (something I consider integral to the discussions in #cfhe12) remains limited, and continued field use of the term would help me gain a broader understanding and perhaps come to different conclusions.  I didn’t realize such an opportunity would arise so soon as today while caring for my toddler.   Continue reading

Connectivism: Contemporary Learning Theory, Distance Ed Theory, or Pedagogy with Panache?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around connectivism, the learning theory developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes that in a lot of ways led to the growth of distance education and the development of MOOCs.  At its heart, connectivism is about where content/knowledge/learned stuff exists, and posits that in an interconnected, technologically-robust world, it is as much about how to access the learning opportunity as anything, but inherent to such a model is the notion that technology has systemically changed not only the way knowledge operates, but also the brain itself.   Continue reading