by Stephen Downes
Apr 04, 2016
This is an interesting forward-looking document from MIT. While the authors take pains to be clear that this is not a blueprint for the future of education, it does draw out some interesting lines of thoughts, including recommendations for research collaboration, showing the relevance of online learning to higher ed, creating the 'learning engineer', and fostering change to implement reforms. The meat of the document, though, is found through pages 6-10 under the heading 'key fronts in education research'. I am by no means convinced of all of these, but they're worth noting. For example, would I including the findings of cognitive psychology in the mix? Well, they can't be ignored, but there are clear grounds for scepticism, so I am not sure I would take them as a given.
This is what happens when everyone gets to have a theory and 'science' in your discipline consists essentially of categories and taxonomies. "Despite Anderson's work and other studies that continue to disprove the idea that personality type is related to one or the other side of the brain being stronger, my guess is that the left-brained/right-brained vernacular isn't going away anytime soon. Human society is built around categories, classifications and generalizations, and there's something seductively simple about labeling yourself and others as either a logical left-brainer or a free-spirited right brainer." Nice picture of a brain though.
Many of the people I work with don't seem to see this coming, but from where I sit we're on the verge of commoditized artificial intelligence. AIAAS - Artificial Intelligence as a Service - is here now, as this item indicated. Tony Hirst recent "posted A Quick Round-Up of Some *-Recognition Service APIs that described several off-the-shelf cloud hosted services from Google and IBM for processing text, audio and images." And now we have "Microsoft Cognitive Services (formally Project Oxford, in part) brings Microsoft’s tools to the party with a range of free tier and paid/metered services."
I've never been a fan of the rhizome metaphor for learning, but not for the same reasons given by Mackness, Bell and Funes. They write, "We recognise that the rhizome can successfully challenge traditional authoritarian, hierarchical approaches to teaching and learning, freeing learners to follow their own learning paths and determine their own learning objectives," which is true, but as criticism they argue "smooth space, the space of the rhizome, is a difficult space for learners’ becoming, and as Gale (2010) noted, it increases the vulnerability of learners." ("Smooth space is open space, whilst striated space is bordered.") This is just the old argument that 'constraint increases freedom', which for various reasons I don't accept. To me, the rhizome metaphor fails because it does not sufficiently capture diversity and complexity. But that's a different topic.
How does the originator of the Rhizomatic MOOC, Dave Cormier, respond? "One point about vulnerability stuck out for me, and resonated as something that needs thinking through in all learning contexts. 'I think we do need to notice that a new sort of resilience needs to be nurtured.'" I would that that while it's true that hothouse flowers face challenges in an open environment, it does not follow that closed environments are better. Rather, we would encourage flowers to grow without special protection - a certain kind of resilience. Or as Cormier says, "we want to think of resilience as a process rather than some innate quality that people have."
The push to privatize education continues apace, and like many such initiatives, the focus is first on populations unable to resist. In this case, the people of Liberia. Kishore Singh: "Such arrangements are a blatant violation of Liberia’s international obligations under the right to education, and have no justification under Liberia’s constitution." Audrey Watters notes, "The company in question is Bridge International Academies, which has received funding from the Gates Foundation, Learn Capital, and Mark Zuckerberg’s investment company the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (among others)... Simply saying 'Critics emerge' in response? Wow."
This post is a little bit 'inside baseball' but it explores the sort of question that's becoming more significant to us as we accelerate development of our personal learning environment, so it's interesting to me. Something typical: "Ahh, broken link. The IMS version links back to Blackboard. The equivalent web version has the open link." Bleah. Our implementation of OpenEdX in LPSS.me had the same sort of issue.
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