by Stephen Downes
Apr 24, 2017
Creative Commons is meeting in Toronto later this week and while I won't be there (I'm not funded for this sort of work any more) I'll be following with interest. This post sets out an ambitious agenda for Creative Commons to devise and deploy a model for collaboration, shared goal-setting, and mobilizing action. These are called 'platforms' and there will be specific sessions on platforms related to the Open Education Platform, Copyright Reform and Open GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums).
This is Development Minister Jonathan Moyo speaking to Zimbabwe’s state media: "We need radical transformation from our institutions of higher learning. They must move from being certificate-giving universities, to industry-creating hubs because universities must be drivers of the economy. It’s time to rethink our universities and change their role." There are many different strands of this story - Zimbabwe's economic collapse, Mugabe, issues of academic freedom, diploma mills, privatization, etc. It's every issue rolled into one. Image: HIT.
I like the analogy presented in this post because it makes it clear (in a way the Gartner hype cycle does not) that different technologies are adopted very differently. But Julia Fisher takes it a step further, suggesting that some technologies are adopted more swiftly because they are a better fit for existing conditions. This analogy, though, presumes that new technologies must 'plug in' to existing consitions: the home, in the case of appliances, or the school, in the case of ed tech. Yet from my perspective ed tech has had its greatest impact outside school, and doesn't need to be plugged in at all.
What do you get when you combine education and Foucault? For Stephen Ball, it's a type of learning as self-care. "education, the teacher and pedagogy are articulated not as skills and knowledges but as the formation of moral subjectivity, a form of politics, and a relation to ethics rather than to truth. This is not liberation but activation." I can't say I agree with this perspective, but I do see in it reflections of things like the duty of care and new feminist epistemologies.
I want to say at the outset that this is excellent work and that I encourage Audrey Watters to keep digging into this subject. Having said that, I want to suggest a realignment of focus. Her focus is on the origin and purpose of funding for "companies and organizations that work in and around education technology." But everyone is investing in technology. What characterizes these companies is not their investment in technology, it's their investment in entrepreneurship and privatization. There is a lot of good work happening in educational technology being done by people working to achieve social and economic equity. Let's not lump those people in with the red-in-tooth-and-claw neoliberals.
This post raises the question of whether "what works" really reduces to "what can be measured", and whether the maximization of "cleverness" is replacing other (and possibly more significant) aspects of education. For example, "setting by ability means setting by socio-economic group, and there isn’t very much mobility between these groups." So maybe the question of social mobility should be regarded as equally important, even if more difficult to assess. "To ask the question about what our educational aims really are is to raise the possibility that there might be good reasons for preferring and applying mixed ability teaching even if, in terms of the maximisation of cleverness, we had established that it did not ‘work’ as well as setting." Via Doug Belshaw.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released a longish (49 page PDF) on student privacy. The report (like the EFF) is mostly focused in the United States. After noting that students and schools "are using technology in the classroom at an unprecedented rate" the EFF reports that "educational technology services often collect far more information on kids than is necessary and store this information indefinitely." Additionally., "We investigated the 152 ed tech services that survey respondents reported were in use in classrooms in their community, and found that their privacy policies were lacking in encryption, data retention, and data sharing policies."
Last week we saw an important ruling in Canada on net neutrality, and as the headline suggests, it was a good ruling. In essence, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) "has crafted a reasonable, pro-net neutrality framework that provides carriers with guidance and users – whether innovative businesses or consumers – with assurances that net neutrality is the law of the land."
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