National Novel Writing Month, known colloquially as NaNoWriMo, starts today and runs through the month of November, encouraging participants to write 50,000 words toward a novel. This is the 14th year of NaNoWriMo, and the number of registered participants has grown from 21 “overcaffeinated yahoos” to more than a quarter of a million in 2011. And while media buzz for NaNoWriMo continues to grow, its press popularity dwarfs that of other massive online learning environments, specifically MOOCs. Continue reading
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
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
I made a comment during the first week of reading in the Current/Future State of Higher Education (#cfhe12), lamenting the lack of readings that withstood academic rigor, most notably through the journal process. Academic journals are a source of contention and fight in open access circles (#oped12), and there are a number of journals that have already gone open access, continuing to vet and peer-review rigorous research while opening its books to anyone interested.
The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning is such an open journal, and readings from it have helped guide my understanding of the history of distance and online education. Within its electronic pages I have found history, perspective, dissent, and most importantly theoretical and research rationale for posits and claims. So I wonder why, at this point in my cMOOC readings for cfhe12 and oped12, I have not found any articles from this journal, considering the ones I have encountered so far paint a great road map leading us from the dawn of industrial education to the massification precipice we are at today. Continue reading
Finishing up the readings from #cfhe12 Week 1.
- The Siege of Academe: A piece on the edtech startups dotting the Silicon Valley landscape, and what they mean (or don’t mean) to the future of higher education as we know it. The piece comes from the perspective of the innovators (stereotyped here as twentysomethings straight out of East Coast higher ed looking to make it big), and the foundation of the piece is that education is a trillion dollar potential gold mine…for the right company that gets the right product out at the right time. Most interesting to me was the roll call of existing movements in the field (Udemy, EHighLight, the various xMOOCs), as well as the lack of discussion from anyone involved in educational theory or pedagogy. Continue reading
Just last week I discussed potential problems with having an academic, rigorous reading list in an open access course such as a cMOOC. My main contention was peer-review, empirical research (or the lack thereof) in the cMOOCs, as academic research is most often published in academic journals, journals that exist as a checkpoint to determine quality and sufficient rigor. If cMOOCs cannot take from this lit, the discussion happens around news briefs and blogs, entities that are important but an incomplete part of the balanced breakfast.
The other side of the equation reared its head this week, as Pearson moved to remove copywritten material from an edublogs site (last updated in 2007). The content in question was from a 1974 textbook that was out of print. The web host for edublogs, ServerBeach, responded by shutting down the server and removing access to the nearly 1.5 million edublogs. The professor who put the copywritten material (a 20 question true/false quiz primer) out there intended to only affect a specific class, and the question of fair use is viable in such a situation. However, fear of DMCA (likely spurred by SOPA and PIPA) seems to have resulted in a massive action for the interim.
So, it looks like the future of both open education (#oped12) and higher education (#cfhe12) is going to struggle with such a world, where this blog could show up on a reading list for a cMOOC, but if I were to publish research in the American Educational Research Association, it would not be available for such courses, and publishing it without permission (read: $$$) would result in massive shutdowns affecting many more than my work was ever intended to see.
One tangental hope from this article — I received link to this article through the Twitter feed of Michael Peter Edson, who is in charge of Web & New Media strategy at the Smithsonian (and who I had the pleasure of meeting in March to discuss various educational and museum policy). I often lament the lack of crossover in disciplines — a lot of cool open movement things are happening in museums (though not in museum ed departments, oddly enough), and it would be great to see the energy of such variant disciplines coalesce together. Maybe it will.
In his reflection on the first week of #cfhe12, Bryan Alexander looks at the continued fervor behind MOOCs, as well as the focus of economics in the initial discussions coming from #cfhe12. Bryan somewhat laments the lack of discussion on other elements, such as technology. Looking at his perspective, I came to grips with frustration about several topics so far lacking in the class discussion, specifically learning theory and pedagogy.
And first off, there is a difference between learning theory and pedagogy…as one has to deal specifically with the way in which people learn, and the other is in relation to the methods and manners in which people teach.
cMOOCs are often based on connectivism, a theory in which learning is based on the connective networks of individuals and content rather than held in brains by people (that is a crude definition; I have yet to fully read Siemens’ writing on the topic). While there is debate to be had on connectivism, one can point directly to connectivism as a learning theory. As the learning methods from a cMOOC come through the creation of personal learning networks as well as digital artifacts, one could say the pedagogy mirrors the theory, though with no teacher involved in a cMOOC, it would seem to be that no pedagogy exists at all.
xMOOCs, on the other hand, are tough to nail down through either learning theory or pedagogy. I have found a direct link to distance education methods through xMOOCs, but these institutions and their creators don’t discuss learning theory, and seem to use pedagogy as a buzzword rather than in its intended use. Lloyd Armstrong looks at the stated pedagogies of Coursera and MITx versus their teaching activities in practice, in part to see what pedagogy means to these MOOC havens.
Coursera courses are designed based on sound pedagogical foundations, to help you master new concepts quickly and effectively. What are those pedagogical foundations? They don’t say. However, my experience with Coursera courses (and the ever-expanding blogosphere of people who have documented their journey through a Coursera course) follow a similar path: a video lecture exists for students to watch (broken into chapters). Depending on the subject, the video will embed a quiz for students to take either during or directly after viewing. There are discussion boards facilitated by TAs, where students can discuss concepts, seek clarification or share new resources. Depending on the subject, students can turn in a written assignment, which will be peer reviewed by others in the course. That’s it.
Pedagogy is the art, science and/or act of teaching. Based on this Coursera roadmap, there is little teaching that happens: more to the point, content is put out for people to take from, and it is up to the user to utilize resources to sink or swim. While there is a theoretical and pedagogical rationale for such an approach, to call that sound pedagogical foundation is disingenuous. If Coursera is following Sal Khan’s idea of the flipped classroom, that should be noted as the pedagogical foundation. The pedagogical problems with the flipped classroom are, to just name a few 1) The only aspect of “flipping” new to the past 20 years is the HD quality of the video lectures, and 2) it expects an interventionist teacher to assist students with project development and scaffolding once in the classroom, and there is no “classroom” for a MOOC, so students are on their own to mind the logic gaps.
With the video lecture/quiz/flipped method gaining a lot of traction both through MOOCs and the work of Khan Academy, more study of such pedagogical practices and learning theories is necessary. However, I am skeptical of finding much more there; Gary Stager (I will find the Twitter link later) met Sal Khan and asked him about educational research and learning theory in his methods, and Khan no-sold the question, seeing research as something for other people to do.