by Stephen Downes
Mar 11, 2015
Debunking the Myth about a Creative Destruction of Higher Education with Technology as the Driver
The central premise of this post is that "while it is the case that technology is sneaking into the nooks and crannies of the post-secondary system, it is not producing transformative change." Looking at the evidence itself - from the structure of universities to the nature of assessment - the author argues that little has changed in universities. The author also identifies several reasons for the "stasis" seen in the system, things ranging from government funding, collective agreements and faculty resistance. My view is different. I don't think we can look inside the system for signs of change - it will remain static right up to the last moment. We have to look outside for the trends which will produce a 'sudden' crisis in the system. MOOCs, for example, produced little change inside universities - big surprise! - but took the world outside universities by storm, signifying several latent trends building up in momentum. People in universities will think that credentialing and government funding will keep them static - right up to the moment they don't. Mark me on this.
The Big Picture
I love the diagram, and the concept is well-executed, but the word 'apps' stands out like a sore vendor-specific thumb. It shows up in the responses: "People have begun to grasp Journey 1, the journey from courses to resources, but still struggle with the journey from resources to apps." So why don't we fix the terminology:
- Courses - prepare you for the future ('remember these directions')
- Resources - support you in the moment ('use this map')
- Sources - guide your behaviour ('use the SatNav')
It's a slightly different take on the meaning of 'source', but we can visualize being led by the source of something (whereas the word 'app' really has no intuitive associations beyond the brand it refers to). (I thought about using 'horses' or 'forces' or even of making up a word instead of using 'sources' to replace 'app', but I think 'sources' fits best).
On rote memorization and antiquated skills
"To my surprise," writes Daniel Lemire, "there is an abundant supply of teachers and parents openly supporting rote memorization and antiquated skills." He then deals with some of the objections people raise. Like, for example, learning to do long division by hand to understand what's "under the hood". Well, what is under the hood? "How processors do divisions is not quite like pen-and-paper long division." That's true with most mathematics 'foundations' - they're not foundational at all! Another objection he meets is that the information memorized is useful. Well, maybe it is. But "rote memorization on its own is theory divorced from practice." If you get in the practice, then if it's actually useful, it will be remembered pretty quickly. And what's key is this: "Nobody ever became a great mathematician, or even a good one, by relying on rote memorization." (Image)
Fast Food Commercials Aimed At Kids 'Deceptive'
I have long argued that if we are to filter web content for kids at all, we should be censoring things that are really harmful, like fast food products. I'm not alone, maybe. " Fast food advertising doesn't emphasize healthy menu items enough, and by giving away toys in things like Happy Meals restaurants are being deceptive even by their own self-regulation standards, according to scholars." Of course what I would prefer more than censorship would be to see something like corporate responsibility when marketing to kids. But hoping for that would be naive, I guess.
A digital public space is Britain’s missing national institution
I'm not sure I agree with the 'public garden' metaphor as a model for provision of open educational resources in the community. I understand the desire to move the discussion our of the crass competitive marketplace. But what I find is that when we divide environments between public and private in this way is that the public environment becomes a bit of a wasteland. That is not to dismiss the need for public investment in these resources. So I would rather use a public roads metaphor rather than a public park. But they should be available in the same environment as other resources. Related: BBC's Research and Education Space (RES): "The Research and Education Space (RES) is a new platform of linked open data catalogues from a wide range of online educational resources. RES aims to significantly improve access and use of these resources for teaching, learning and research."
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