CEP917 (Knowledge Media Design) a course I co-taught with Danah Henriksen, in the fall semester 2012, received the First Place (in the Blended Course category) in the 2013 MSU-AT&T Instructional Technology Awards Competition. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention John Bell and William Cain as being part of the design team that made 917 possible. You can read our proposal (here) AND see the video that we made as a part of the proposal below.
The Gallup Student Poll surveyed nearly 500,000 students in grades five through 12 from more than 1,700 public schools in 37 states in 2012. We found that nearly eight in 10 elementary students who participated in the poll are engaged with school. By middle school that falls to about six in 10 students. And by high school, only four in 10 students qualify as engaged.
Peter Hershock is an education specialist at the East-West Center in Honolulu and author of Buddhism in the Public Sphere. He was recently interviewed by Matt Bieber of The Wheat and Chaff. I found this interview fascinating, particularly the first half which spoke to the idea of education in the 21st century (something I have written and talked about quite a bit). Here are some excerpts from the interview. I recommend reading it in full.
The Dubberly Design Office has created a series of models of innovation, play and design. These are terrific resources and I just found out about them by chance. I see these as being quite significant in the classes I teach, including CEP817: Learning Technology by Design; CEP818: Creativity in Teaching and Learning; and CEP917: Knowledge Media Design.
I am including links to a couple of their models – but I do recommend visiting their site to see more…
I have often talked of repurposing as being key to creativity, particularly for teachers using new technologies. (See previous postings on this topic here and here, and here and here.) Imagine my surprise when this past Sunday’s comics-page had a comic on this very issue. The strip is called Jump Start below is the specific set of panels on repurposing.
There are lots of cool examples in this article but the one that stood out was this one:
This underwear sign presents an example of innovative thinking about space. Finding a drain
opening in the path of his endeavors, the artist spontaneously incorporated a navel (and home for a mynah bird)
How wonderful is that!! Read the entire article for more…
This presentation of a talk by Daniel Pink has been making the rounds on the Interwebs. I am including it here just as a personal reminder for me to use in my teaching AND as an example of a wonderful presentation style. Check out
RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us
The three key factors that Pink describes as being inherently motivating are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Now think about school… How much of these three do we present our students? Too often school is about doing things someone else as prescribed, not for mastery but rather just to get it done, with little sense of the broader purpose for doing so. Is it surprising that school is demotivating?
This is not an issue of whether or not (or how) we should be using technology – but rather a more fundamental issue of why we have school in the first place.
What can we do to bring in these three into the classroom?
President Obama plans to name Howard A. Schmidt, a veteran cyber security warrior with experience at senior levels of government and industry, to fill a long-anticipated cyber coordinator position at the National Security Council, administration officials and outside consultants confirmed.
As far as one can see Mr. Schmidt is well qualified for this position, having served both in industry and in the government in the past. However, one fact about his background caught my attention and prompted this note. In describing his qualifications Ambinder wrote
Schmidt has credentials unique to the job: he received his masters in organizational management from the University of Phoenix, a (fully accredited and esteem) mostly online university.
Apart from the typo on esteem, what struck me was this positive mention of the University of Phoenix, something I often do not see or hear. Over where I live and breathe, the good old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar university, the University of Phoenix is not regarded as having much esteem. I have argued here and elsewhere that this will soon change. That most of us at the “traditional” university have underestimated just how powerful the forces of change are. Online learning (and for profit universities) are here to stay and maybe even take over universities as we know them.
Reading about Mr. Schmidt’s credentials just reminded me just how quickly this change is happening.
How does technology change what we do? Often when a new technology appears we tend to see it in terms of existing practices and structures. So an e-book is the same as a book, except in digital format. E-books still have “pages” which we “turn” (with a flick or our finger or if you are stuck with the Kindle, by pressing a button), though digitality does not require pages or turning them. Similarly the design of most early online courses attempted to replicate face-to-face modes of teaching (capturing lectures through video, for instance), instead of pushing for exploring the possibilities of this new medium. This is often most obvious in the kinds of iconography that new technologies generate. So the icon for Microsoft Word document looks like a piece of printed paper, an email-box looks like a regular mailbox (think AOL and its “You’ve got mail” message) and so on.
However, new technologies do not just replicate what we could do before – they insidiously and fundamentally change the nature of the tasks we perform. Think of the idea of hyperlinks! Regular texts go hypertextual through developments like the table of contents, indices etc. however, these are weak attempts at best. True hypertext emerges only through digitality.
I was reminded of this when reading a recent NYTimes article on video bingo and the controversies it is causing in Alabama. The article begins by describing traditional bingo:
Everybody knows what this is: dozens of people, mostly retirees, hunched over paper grids in a smoke-filled American Legion hall on a Sunday evening listening eagerly to a woman recite numbers.
Now we have a new player on the block, video bingo! which is described as follows:
But what about this: a dim warehouse of flashing, jingling video terminals with names like Boomtown Bonanza where, early on a weekday morning, people sit on stools pushing buttons and watching cherries and 7s reel by.
The Daily Show featured William Kamkwamba, a Malawian high school student who built a windmill by looking at pictures in a book! I have always been a fan of jugaad, the idea of indigenous creativity using the detritus that seems to be a function of our modern world. And this is just an amazing story.
What is both incongruous and amazing is that we live in a world where there can be a terrible famine that a 14 year old has to drop out of school. And this boy finds a book at a library funded by some Western agencies, and looking at the pictures (he couldn’t read English very well) builds a windmill. The story ends up in the newspaper, and then hits the blogosphere. The kid ends up presenting at the TED conference in Africa!… and here is is on the Daily Show! Incidentally, Jon Stewart has a delicate balancing act as he tries to get this story across even while cracking jokes that his guest may not even understand.
Just how far Kamkwamba has come is best revealed by watching the video till the end… Watch for the discussion about Google.
[T]he day is coming—sooner than many people think—when a great deal of money is going to abruptly melt out of the higher education system, just as it has in scores of other industries that traffic in information that is now far cheaper and more easily accessible than it has ever been before. Much of that money will end up in the pockets of students in the form of lower prices, a boon and a necessity in a time when higher education is the key to prosperity. Colleges will specialize where they have comparative advantage, rather than trying to be all things to all people. A lot of silly, too-expensive things—vainglorious building projects, money-sucking sports programs, tenured professors who contribute little in the way of teaching or research—will fade from memory, and won’t be missed.
But other parts of those institutions will be threatened too—vital parts that support local communities and legitimate scholarship, that make the world a more enlightened, richer place to live. Just as the world needs the foreign bureaus that newspapers are rapidly shutting down, it needs quirky small university presses, Mughal textile historians, and people who are paid to think deep, economically unproductive thoughts. Rather than hiding within the conglomerate, each unbundled part of the university will have to find new ways to stand alone. There is an unstable, treacherous future ahead for institutions that have been comfortable for a long time. Like it or not, that’s the higher education world to come.
His essential argument is that under the assault of new technologies, mainly the rise of online learning, the business model that sustained U.S. colleges can’t survive. [He restricts his comments to just private colleges and universities, but given the condition of state funding, I see the points he is making relevant to all universities and colleges, private and public.]
He paints a bleak picture of the future college/university, saying
When this happens—be it in 10 years or 20—we will see a structural disintegration in the academy akin to that in newspapers now. It will mean fewer professors and worse pay; low-paid, untenured faculty will do much of the teaching. Online instructors are already joining freelance reporters in the underpaid, insecure, overeducated work force that works from home. The market will encourage this trend. The typical 2030 faculty will likely be a collection of adjuncts alone in their apartments, using recycled syllabi and administering multiple-choice tests from afar.
Most of the points he makes are not not new – they have been made in the past by others (I have had a couple of posts about these issues as well). However, there is one new idea that I had not fully thought about, and that has to do with the idea of college aggregators. Making an analogy with news aggregators that are pushing traditional news organizations towards demise, he argues that the future will see the rise of college aggregators.
Taking the newspaper analogy one step further, I would venture that college aggregators will be the hub of the new school experience. In the world of news, the aggregators (Google News, Yahoo News, blogs) have taken over from the physical—and virtual—newspaper as the entry point for news consumption. Already, half of college graduates attend more than one school before graduation. Soon, you’ll see more Web sites that make it easy to take classes from a blend of different universities, mixing and matching parts of a degree and helping to navigate the different institutional requirements. Already you can go to Web sites like http://www.bachelorsdegreeonline.com or www.EducationDegreeSource.com to learn about possible online-only degrees. Or you can go to the University of North Carolina’s Web portal to find classes around the state, some online, some offline. These are crude beginnings—like the news listservs of 1996. Soon, aggregators will combine and repackage not just courses, but the modules inside courses. Hourlong sessions will be remixed for different classes: That one hour on the French Revolution is good for both French History and for the History of Revolutions class.
The age of the educational mashup is here!!
He ends with a plea, that I would strong endorse:
But unless we make a strong commitment to even greater funding of higher education, the institutions that have allowed for academic freedom, communal learning, unpressured research, and intellectual risk-taking are themselves at risk. If the mainstream of “college teaching” becomes a set of atomistic, underpaid adjuncts whose wares are sold by barkers in the subway, we’ll lose a precious academic tradition that is not easily replaced.
In an age where experts are a dime a dozen, willing to pontificate at the drop of a pin, it is hard to tell whom to believe, and whom NOT to believe. In comes Phillip Tetlock, an academic who has made it his mission to evaluate the prognosticators! This is described in his book:
Tetlock, P.E. (2005). Expert political judgment: How good is it? How can we know? Princeton: Princeton University Press.
I recently came across a review written by him, titled Reading Tarot on K Street (in the September/October 2009 issue of The National Interest) and I thought it captured his work in this area quite nicely (and would be worth preserving).
When we score the accuracy of thousands of predictions from hundreds of experts across dozens of countries over twenty years, we find the best forecasters tend to be modest about their forecasting skills, eclectic in their ideological and theoretical tastes, and self-critical in their analytical styles.1 Borrowing from philosopher Isaiah Berlin, I call them foxes—experts who know many things and are not finicky about where they get good ideas. Paraphrasing Deng Xiaoping, they do not care if the cat is white or black, only that it catches mice.
Contrast this with what I call hedgehogs—experts who know one big thing from which likely future trends can be more or less directly deduced. The big thing might be any of a variety of theories: Marxist faith in the class struggle as the driver of history or libertarian faith in the self-correcting power of free markets, or a realist faith in balance-of-power politics or an institutionalist faith in the capacity of the international community to make world politics less ruthlessly anarchic, or an eco-doomster faith in the impending apocalypse or a techno-boomster faith in our ability to make cost-effective substitutes for pretty much anything we might run out of.
What experts think—where they fall along the Left-Right spectrum—is a weak predictor of accuracy. But how experts think is a surprisingly consistent predictor. Relative to foxes who are less encumbered by loyalties to an all-encompassing worldview, hedgehogs offer bolder forecasts and, although they hit occasional grand slams, they strike out a lot and wind up with decidedly poorer batting averages.
The implications for people who make projections about technology and schools and learning is quite obvious to me. It is the hedgehogs we need to be careful of, mainly because of the vehemence of their beliefs which can sometimes override our “foxy” nature. I say inherent because I think that educators, for the most part, are pragmatists, sensitive to the limits of arm-chair theorizing and big ideas. A hard nosed approach to reality, that recognizes its complexity, that demands multi-faceted problems solving approaches is what is needed, not being wedded to one, just one overarching idea.
Edupunk seems to be a reaction against the rise of course-managements systems, which offer cookie-cutter tools that can make every course Web site look the same.
As with any neologism, there are as many meanings as there are users… here are some links if you want to learn more. First the post that introduced Edupunk to the world, and a couple more that attempt to explain its intricacies, here and here. [Note, this is not a comprehensive or even most important set of links on this topic, just what a few minutes with Google revealed to me.]
Now, the idea behind EduPunk, as Mike Caulfield describes it, “with its implication of technical accessibility, a DIY ethic, quick and dirty over grand design, and a suspicion of corporate appropriation” appeals to me a lot. It is something that Matt and I have been arguing and implementing for a while now, though of course we didn’t call it EduPunk. We often said that our course websites worked through a strange combination of “Duct Tape and Magic”. Read the rest of this entry »
A while ago I blogged about a column by David Brooks in the NYTimes (Flipping the Tech & Ed equation). Brooks described research by Goldin and Katz indicating a “race between technology and education” based on the idea that technology is (by its very nature) skill based. When we add to that the fact that technology is continually changing we are forced to conclude that keeping up with the technology requires continual learning and education.
I recently came across a review of the Goldin and Katz book by Arnold Kling and John Merrifield (you can read the full review here [PDF document]). There was one aspect of the review, about the race between new technologies (or upgraded technologies) and the kinds of education and learning on needs to keep up, that really clicked with me and helped me articulate better some thoughts I have had for a while. Read the rest of this entry »
I am always on the lookout for new and interesting visual representations of complex data and just discovered Death & Taxes, 2009: “is a representational poster of the federal discretionary budget; the amount of money that is spent at the discretion of your elected representatives in Congress. Basically, your federal income taxes. The data is from the President’s budget request for 2009. It will be debated, amended, and approved by Congress by October 1st to begin the fiscal year.” You can buy the poster but also access it through a somewhat clunky flash interface.
Jared Diamond has an article on edge.org, somewhat provocatively titled: How to get rich? The question his after is simply, “what is the best way to organize human groups and human organizations and businesses so as to maximize productivity, creativity, innovation, and wealth?” Read the rest of this entry »
I do not understand David Brooks. Brooks is an op-ed columnist for the NYTimes. For the most part his columns are right-of-the-political wing nuttiness, garbed in some erudite clothing. I am not linking to them here but his past few op-eds suggesting that McCain would make a great president despite the shallow, erratic and negative campaign he has run have become somewhat repetitive and tiresome.
And then, once in a while, when I have just about decided not to read his columns any more, he throws out some really cool and interesting stuff. Read the rest of this entry »
The answer is that when that picture has been taken by someone you know and it ends up on the NYTimes Freakonomics blog!
Long story short, a picture of a sandwich taken by Leigh Wolf has been used by the cool people over at Freakonomics to illustrate a story. Check it out here… and yes, the photo is credited to someone called 46137, which as it turns out is “Leigh” rotated 180-degrees (works best with a calculator font). Oh the beauty of Creative Commons and the web!
A quote in today’s oped in the NYTimes, about how this current financial crisis is difficult to understand since many of the decisions were taken by computer programs. The author quotes someone as follows:
the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions. … Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.