by Stephen Downes
Mar 17, 2017
Dan Meyer takes a swipe at this article (behind a paywall, for no good reason) in Educational Leadership on “personalized learning” and in passing also raises questions about potential conflicts of interest on the authors' parts (there's an interesting exchange with the publisher in the comments). "This isn’t good instruction," writes Meyer. "It isn’t even good direct instruction. When someone is explaining something to you and you don’t understand them, you don’t ask that person to 'repeat exactly what you just said only slower.'" On a related note: they could use the volume switch to have them repeat it louder as well! See also this MathiaX review (source of the image above).
This article at least gives a nod to Martin Weller's plea to let MOOCs define their own standards for quality. "Let people play and explore in this space without tying it down with the types of quality overhead we already have in formal education." And then it shrugs as says "whatever". "MOOCs must be shown to meet some of the same quality standards that other online courses are expected to meet," writes the author, without justification. It then proceeds to question "How aware are teachers of quality assurance systems when developing MOOCs?" along the usual lines. I've offered alternative accounts of quality in MOOCs: how diverse are the participants and technologies? How interactive is it? How open is it to different people and different types of participation? How free are people to define their own objectives and learning strategy?
Discussion of the concept of a "modernized transcript". It's similar to what I have been calling a "personal learning record", with the main difference being that it is specific to a single institution, as opposed to incorporating data from multiple institutions and specific to a single individual. And it also seems to be focused more on academic record - "secure, verifiable credentials that reflect more comprehensive data on student learning" - rather than a more general statement of competencies and achievements. What's holding it back? "A better way to track, communicate, and authenticate the depth and diversity of these experiences in a reliable and coherent way." That, I guess, and an affinity for fax machines.
This is an article that deserves a deeper discussion, but in the space I have here I want to make just one point: the list of effective leverage points in a system, as described by Donella Meadows, is exactly the inverse of the list of effective leverage points in a network. And we can understand this by understanding how any sufficiently complex system becomes, effectively, a network. To change a system, you change paradigms, objectives and rules. But a network is not based on paradigms, objectives and rules, and trying to change them is like trying to push a fog bank. In a system, a change to a small parameter, like the rate of return on a rental property, is insignificant. In a network, these small parameters are everything., because there are no higher-level parameters to which these must conform
I'm not sure whether this is an experiment that will spread (because its successes won't be measured in any traditional metric) but I'm still happy to see it taking place. “You're in charge of figuring out who you are, what you will do with your time, what you want to learn, who you want to be, what kind of person, and kids who spend their whole life growing up in that system, when they go to college, they know who they are,” DeBusk said.
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