by Stephen Downes
Apr 27, 2015
Blackboard’s “Modern-Day Pragmatism” K-12 Trend Report
So today's newsletter takes a tour around some of the companies active in the field of online learning - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
This post starts with some of the good. It is a report freely available from Blackboard summarizing some of its recent research on personalizing education. "An expectation of inclusion has led to personalized learning in a supportive context, but has increased the workload and demands on the individual k-12 instructor... This implies a different set of teaching methods and a different set of educational outcomes. Teachers need to become more comfortable with a broader, worldly set of skills – facilitating a cultural educational space, rather than disseminating knowledge."
Accessibility: A Journey Towards Openness
Interesting article on Blackboard's increasing emphasis on openness - as evidenced by its support for Moodle - and accessibility. In particular, I think these activities are providing good public relations for the company: "All issues that were discovered were resolved and published back to Moodle headquarters for inclusion in the core code; a collaborative accessibility group within the global Moodle community was established to continue testing efforts." Blackboard is also pushing an initiative to create online learning for government agencies. They have an eBook on this, but you have to give them your personal information to read it. Oh well, take away those good publicity points.
Programming an Essential Literacy for the Future
Coursera is highlighting a new course on programming in Python. One wonders why the course doesn't consist of a single page containing a link to Codeacademy. But the big news here is that they've landed Charles Severance (“Dr. Chuck”) of the University of Michigan. And yes the course "is also designed to equip people to take advantage of other programming classes that are out there (Khan Academy, Code Academy, etc.)." But this is nice (and not reaclly characteristic of Coursera): "All of his teaching materials, including his code auto-grader, can be downloaded and used under a Creative Commons license to be re-used or re-mixed for any purpose. Dr. Chuck is very emphatic about encouraging the use of his materials, he pleads: 'Please reuse my stuff!'"
New Features! Private Comments and Group Lists
Edublogger is touting some new features added "on both free and Pro Edublogs and will be added to all CampusPress networks next week." The blogs will now support 'provate comments', which the blog poost says "can only be created and read by those that can edit the post. This means blog admins, teachers, editors, and the author of the post." Also new are 'group and class lists' - "You will be able to see a live feed of all posts from blogs in a list as they are published." Thes rto me feel like they should have been introduced five years ago or more, but better late than never, I guess.
Prime Minister David Cameron visits Microsoft Global Showcase School Sandymoor
Microsoft UK Schools Blog,
Microsoft appears to have picked a side in the UK election and is campaigning with them on education issues. The occasion is a visit to Sandymoor School - "a Free School with a unique vision to provide an education for the future." There's also another article on another Microsoft feature school, Wymondham High Academy in Norfolk. According to this article: "'I am in favour of Free Schools. They give parents choice. Everyone wants the best for their children.' - David Cameron, UK Prime Minister." Whihc is a ridiculous assertion, in my view, since choice can be provided by all manner of education systems, and not just (whathe calls) free schools. I think the point of of the post is to wrap Microsoft's schools initiatives (and Office 365) with the British flag and the ideals of private education system. I don't think this emphasis does Microsoft - or the British people - any real good.
Who we are and what we stand for
John Fallon addresses Pearson's most pressing issues in an address at the annual shareholder meeting. "It has been a bruising time for our colleagues," he says. "We’ve cut 5,000 roles – mainly in print or mature markets – whilst we’ve added new roles in tech, efficacy, education, research and fast growing markets." The shift to digital learning also underscores his remarks, as he touts the Pearson System of Courses. So what aere the underlying values of the company? "Our values – to be brave, imaginative, and decent – have been tested, but ultimately they’ve been reaffirmed and strengthened – and we are working hard to reward our people. And now we’ve added a fourth value – accountability – highlighting our commitment to a simple and incredibly powerful idea – that every product we sell can be measured and judged by social impact." On the other hand, there's also this: "some folk may question whether a sense of social purpose and a profit motive can go hand in hand. We think that what makes Pearson an incredibly special company is that they always go hand in hand." So don't expect to see any good coming from Pearson unless it's also making them money.
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