by Stephen Downes
Oct 23, 2015
It's Never That Simple
This article raises three reasons to question "evidence-based policy." The first two are versions of the same thing, and a common problem. The third, though, is the deeper issue, as what constitutes "evidence" is often rationalization for a policy decision that has already been made. As I often say, "You only find what you're looking for." Our presuppositions shape and inform the 'evidence' we hold for those presuppositions. This is not to dispense with evidence at all (I am, after all, an empiricist) but rather a caution that evidence never comes free and clear; there are always theoretical strings attached. Here they are (quoted):
- "Confusing correlation with causation may itself result from physics envy, but it is a real problem in management science."
- "The symptoms and cause confusion has always been more dangerous in method development."
- "Evidence based policy has become an industry in its own right, more policy based evidence these days."
Leader-less ants make super efficient networks
We actually see this sort of phenomenon fairly frequently. It's yet another example of simple low-level processes working over time to create order and efficiency without management or leadership. In this case, ants are creating the most efficient routes between networks of nests, even though these are difficult to compute. "We videotaped the ants forming their networks to work out exactly how they create this efficient solution, and found that networks formed through trial and error. Initially, ants built inefficient networks that had many redundant trails and dead ends but over the next few hours, redundant trails gradually disappeared until the network reached its final, efficient configuration." Long-time readers will remember how, in 2001, I taught ants to navigate a maze.
Learning -agogy Overload
I sort of rolled my eyes when I first heard the term 'androgogy' (this would be back in the early 90s) not so much because I couldn't see how teaching adults might be different from teaching children but because I couldn't see why the term 'pedagogy' couldn't just be expanded to include all forms of teaching. This was I was just beginning to realize that the favourite actuvity of education theorists is to draw distinctions and create taxonomies. I never did find that a particularly useful way to approach research, and so I've ignored most of the new '-ogies' that have filled the field since then. This summary by Matt Crosslin fills that (small) gap in the 16,000 posts of OLDaily, and I echo his observation: "his gets at the root of why Ed Tech solutionism is so wrong: people are unique, different, and ever-changing. We can’t have one idea or solution that works for all people at all times."
Edinburgh University’s updated Manifesto for Teaching Online – 2015
I'm not particularly enamoured of the Edinburgh University's manifesto for teaching online in and of itself, but I really appreciated Jenny Mackness's commentary, which either raises questions about the individual points or, more usefully, offers support and annotations from the literature. Not that I always agree with her - when she says, for example, that "openness is under-theorised" I want to cringe, because I don't think anything needs to be 'theorised', much less openness. And I think the observation that "all forms of openness entail forms of closed-ness" is either trivial or false: trivial, in the sense that any name can be defined in terms of its opposite, or false, in the sense that there are some kinds of openness (space, for example) that know no bounds.
Slides and Resources from My Keynote at The Allen Experience
Here's a slide presentation that reflects some of the themes I talked about in my own presentation this week. "Don't think like an instructional designer," he advises. "Think like a game designer." I think this is good advice, and I like the way he turns his presentation into a game (though I wish he hadn't just made it one of those branching games where you choose 'A' or 'B'). But this is just right, isn't it: "People are motivated when they have autonomy, mastery and relatedness."
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