by Stephen Downes
Nov 18, 2014
The Teenager's Sense of Social Self
Hardly the final word on the subject, but nonetheless interesting reading. Things like this put things in context:
There's nothing like teenage diaries for putting momentous, historical occasions into perspective. This is my entry for the 20th July, 1969.
'I went to arts center in yellow cords and blouse. Ian was there but he didn't speak to me. Got rhyme put in my handbag by someone who's apparently got a crush on me. It's Nicholas I think. Ugh.
Man landed on moon.'
Peers and social life have a disproportionate influence on adolescents. Why is that? If I had to judge by my own reflections on personal opinion, I would say it is because we learn by imitating. We watch, then we practice. And at that age we are actively seeking out things to imitate. But I'm sure that's not the whole story. (By the way, I was 10 at the time of the Moon landing and I was much more interested in it that this writer).
Critical Digital Pedagogy: a Definition
In this article Jess Stommel offers a crisp overview of digital pedagogy (with references to Friere and Giroux) and suggests that critical pedagogy:
- centers its practice on community and collaboration;
- must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to reimagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries;
- will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather together a cacophony of voices;
- must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.
To my mind critical pedagogy is the dedication of network methods (aggregate, remix, repurpose, feed forward) and network values (autonomy, diversity, openness, interactivity) toward the personal recognition and employment of the critical literacies (patterns, meaning, use, context, inference and change) in one's own environment.
Beyond the MOOC Model: Changing Educational Paradigms
James G. Mazoue,
Though I disagree with a number of the details, this is on the whole a good article that effectively argues that the changes brought about by MOOCs are just beginning, and not in decline at all. James G. Mazoue identifies four major drivers of change that have become evident in the wake of MOOCs:
- MOOC-based degrees - "a quality online degree offered at scale for a nominal or greatly reduced cost is a more attractive alternative for many students"
- Competency-Based Education - "effectively enables individualized learning but shifts the overall power differential in education from institutions to students"
- Formalization - "adopting effective learning strategies and instructional methods should not be a happenstance occurrence, but rather reflectively adopted and systematically implemented"
- Regulatory reform - ""Higher education," Andrew Kelly and Frederick Hess point out, "functions more like a cartel than a dynamic marketplace."
Now just throwing all of this into the private sector is not an appropriate recipe for reform; we will just end up with the sort of shambles that characterizes financial services or the insurance industry. But neither can we merely continue with the existing system which is at once too expensive and too ineffective. Effective educational policy has tgo see the system of learning as a type of infrastructure, worthy of and needing public-level support to ensure equity of access and a focus on quality of service.
Is Democracy in Deep Trouble?
I generally disagree with Don Tapscott but In want to chime in with him on this one. He argues that our political institutions are failing and the future of democracy itself is in question. Voters are increasingly unable to sway the political agenda, and our political leaders are behaving increasingly badly. "The ongoing abuse of trust by office holders is the product of widespread rot," he writes. "The result is a full-blown crisis in legitimacy." Consequently, he writes, we need to replace the existing system with "participatory" built around five principles:
- Integrity - "elected officials need to embrace integrity – which is honesty and consideration."
- Accountability - "we need to divorce politicians from relying on big money"
- Interdependence - "the public, private sector and civil society all have a role to play in sustaining a healthy society."
- Engagement - "mechanisms for government to benefit from the wisdom and insight that a nation can collectively offer."
- Transparency - "almost everything should be done in the full light of day"
These are nice-sounding principles but I fear they are unworkable. Two of them - integrity and transparency - depend on the character of our elected officials, which we already agree is lacking. What stands for 'engagement' today is mostly a series of public relations exercises. 'Interdependence' usually means granting special access to business and industry to the decision-making process, access they have purchased and will not let go.
We need to recognize that governance is complex and cannot be managed. We will not obtain good government by telling people how they ought to behave because, even if the recommendations are very good, a certain number of people will not follow them, and will ruin it for everyone else. We must structure democracy in such a way as to prevent these people from becoming so powerful in the first place. There have to be limits to wealth, limits to power, and limits to influence. There's no easy way to do this. But without them, democracy will fail at a time in history when we need it most.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL) math for innovative SMEs
This overview of the concept of the 'technology readiness level' (TRL) is useful in the areas of innovation and technology development (we use it in-house at NRC). The idea is to distinguish between innovations that are still at the conceptual stage and those that are ready for production. Our MOOC technology reach 5 or 6, and did not receive project support to go further. Our personal learning environment software has reach level 4 in earlier prototypes and now we're trying to get it to 5 or 6, after which if it's successful we have the plan and commitment to go further. TRL is useful because it demonstrates the hurdles to innovation - it's not typically getting to step 1, as most people (I think) suppose, it's getting past the higher levels and into deployment.
Embedding Learning in Work: The Benefits and Challenges
One of the major aspects of the personal learning environment system we are designing revolves around the idea of embedding learning in work. Why? As Charles Jennings writes, "A common finding that has emerged from study after study over the past few years is that learning which is embedded in work seems to be more effective than learning away from work." After summarizing a number of research studies making this point, he turns to some of the challenges. One is that such learning can't be designed - it is "self-managed, and the measurement is in terms of outputs." Another is "the lack of understanding and failure to use performance support approaches" in typical workplace learning systems. Finally, "embedding learning in work almost always requires the active support of executives, business managers and team leaders."
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