One of the purposes of research is to establish a foundation of prior knowledge for future experiments to engage and extrapolate before proposing a new design that will further the field. This is important; without an understanding of what came before, research runs the risk of reinventing the wheel, or even (worse yet) coming up with something more rudimentary than the wheel.
In my days of teaching creative writing, it used to be quite the stressor to get smart, motivated teenagers to take notes of their plots and characters. These were students used to doing everything right and being able to beat the system just with what was stored in their heads. I explained that creative writing was not about beating a system, and the more complex a story and a group of characters became, the more important it was to create a system where you could record those complexities so you could return to it as the story developed. Some listened right away and got to work. Some needed trial and error before coming to me so we could devise strategies. Some never listened and became increasingly frustrated. In the end, it was more likely for someone from the first or second group to have a coherent, rich story than someone from the third group.
I think about this as I read more literature on the history of MOOCs as described by the MOOC creators. Continue reading →
Reading John Gatto’s pioneering work Dumbing Us Down, and took to musing on one of the paragraphs, this one from Dan Greenberg, founder of Sudbury Valley School, who wanted to look at what students need from modern education in a modern economic, social and political landscape:
Children must grow up in an environment that stresses self-motivation and self-assessment. Schools that focus on external motivating factors, such as rewards and punishments for meeting goals set by others, are denying children the tools they need most to survive.
As noted in my previous post looking at Thomas Friedman’s thoughts on MOOCs, there is a disconnect between the idea that education needs to produce a strong workforce and the idea that education needs to produce creative, critical and divergent thinkers who can tackle multi-faceted problems facing society and the world at large. Writers such as Gatto (2002), Stephen Ball (2003), and P. Taylor Webb (2009) see the contemporary political and curricular landscape of education as a system of rewards and disciplines, from the national level and No Child Left Behind all the way down to the individual classroom providing stickers or detentions. Such an environment, based on standardized assessment of content remembered, facilitates a workforce to provide a good or service rather than to tackle complexity. Even more general-minded individuals such as Sir Ken Robinson (2009) see a problem with a school system designed to produce scalable assessable results rather than critical, creative and divergent outcomes based on the context of the content. Continue reading →
In doing some MOOC reading I again got into the comments section to find a difference of opinion, this time on Khan Academy, a content delivery system many xMOOCs herald as inspiration for their wares. I evoked Seymour Papert’s 1991 book The Children’s Machine, specifically his kitchen math discussion, in an attempt to look at why a lecture-based mathematics instruction often doesn’t translate into understanding math for application in life. Another commenter provided this Papert quote in saying that Khan and Papert would agree on the benefit of Khan Academy:
“There won’t be schools in the future…. I think the computer will blow up the school. That is, the school defined as something where there are classes, teachers running exams, people structured in groups by age, following a curriculum-all of that. The whole system is based on a set of structural concepts that are incompatible with the presence of the computer. …But this will happen only in communities of children who have access to computers on a sufficient scale.
The due course of education in America is linked to public policy. This has existed on the state and federal level for over 100 years (well over); however, it is only in the last 30+ that there has been a federal department dedicated to education. Too often it seems that people within their own disciplines ignore societal factors and stressors when debating the merits of their discipline. This happens in education, an enterprise subsidized by governmental monies (to a shrinking degree, however). We cannot debate movements in education without looking at politics.
At the same time, politicians and policy hawks need a firm understanding of education if they are going to pitch for a model or debate a movement. Rhetoric and hyperbole only go so far, and ignorance of the theories, pedagogies and history of learning can cause great harm.
My Twitter network shot out an education article published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C. Written by Alex Tabbarok, it’s title, Why Online Education Works, foreshadows a lack of historical perspective of both online and education (#cfhe12). The artifact is an important representation of existing thought in the political world, and with that I will dive in:
Back to the theoretical grind, I was alerted to a research article on heutagogy as an alternative to andragogy. If that sentence is full of ambiguous words, it was for me too — both are theories of learning relating to adult education, a field in edu which supposes that adults learn in a manner different from children (which is a lot to suppose, but makes sense at first glance). While MOOC marketing departments have heralded the xMOOC’s ability to let an intrepid 12 year old take a Stanford course in computer programming (and, as a field, we need to see how Code Academy fits into the MOOC archetype), the history behind MOOCs comes either from traditional higher education (xMOOC) or distance education designed for higher education (cMOOC). Because traditional higher ed is seeing an upward shift in median age of student (and distance ed has always seen an older student population than in traditional ed), the theory the MOOC movement built on (or will build upon) needs to account for an adult population. Not surprisingly, little of the little MOOC research flows down this path. That leaves it to us to research, code and crunch. Getting into the work by Lisa Marie Blaschke… Continue reading →
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 →
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 →