by Stephen Downes
Apr 20, 2016
You probably remember the images from 2011 of a police officer walking up and down a line of seated student protesters at UC Davis, casually dousing them with pepper spray. But until last week, you would not have seen the image when searching for UC Davis. As the Sacramento Bee, reported: UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet. That all changed this week as activists countered the SE to bring pepper spray and UC Davis back together again in the public consciousness. I took part in it. I'm glad this particular incident has been rescued from obscurity. But I wonder how many similar incidents, perhaps not as widely remembered, have been spent their way into algorithmic oblivion.
I would probably lump 'bad online learning content' into the same category. Here's the issue: As Lyons puts it, marketers "took the Internet, one of the most wonderful and profound inventions of all time, and polluted it with advertising and turned it into a way to sell stuff." This is true of roughly 90 percent of the stuff I read for this newsletter every day. Now of course the author takes the classic 'blame the victom' detour - it's really our fault for 'feeding the bears' by clicking on clickbait or not paying for content. But maybe marketers could try something new too, "by asking one simple question, starting now: how can our marketing effort make the Internet better, instead of worse?" Commercial interests working for the public good? Is it possible?
I can't say I agree with this strategy, but people should know it's a thing, and probably coming to a trade show near you (and will certainly be pitched to your administrators on the golf course). There's already a TED talk. "Take goal-setting in your classroom to the next level ," says the pitch, amid posters advertising 'grit' and 'purpose' and 'self-control'. I see no evidence to suggest that a 'lack of character' is what impedes people seeking a good education and better quality of life. But it's always easier to blame the poor (and poorly educated) for their own character flaws than it is to actually put money and priority into opening the doors and creating equitable access to all the benefits of an education. But hey, if you disagree, "start using the WOOP method today to guide your students toward completing their goals." Via EduWonk.
I know that blogging seems to some like a lost art, and I am away that I am expressing my inner curmudgeon when I take to that venerable form, but the fact is that there are are risks, for both myself and for corporations, in taking to social media as the primary means of expression. The foremost among these is the risk that what I write simply won't be read, that it will be swallowed in the maw of the algorithm never to reappear as 'relevant' or 'top'. "Publishing on third-party sites is akin to digital sharecropping because content producers lose control. The third-party websites can change their rules, or even disappear. Brands that hitch their PR and marketing wagons to the wrong social media star assume an enormous long-term risk."
I've never been a fan of so-called 'rigor' in schools. This article makes the case against nicely as it reviews Thom Markham's description of "a demand for more personalized learning, brain-friendly environments, less recall and more thoughtful application of knowledge, optimal conditions for eliciting intelligent behaviors, constructivist tools, and respectful, caring relationships that honor the learner." Moving away from 'rigor' doesn't mean lowering standards, it means changing them. "The core task of the modern world is not to prep students for standardized tests by delivering content... but to prepare them to judge the quality of information, generate new ideas, filter them through a net of critical analysis and reflection, and share and move the ideas through a design process to create a quality product, either as an idea or a material object."
We have Google's Classroom, Apple's Classroom App, and now Microsoft's Classroom, free for Office 365 Education users. "Each Classroom is an online homepage where teachers can create student groups, distribute assignments and files, and share events and reminders via Outlook. The tool is also integrated with students’ OneNote Class Notebook, a digital binder where students can take and share notes, complete assignments and organize class materials." If I were vending learning management systems, I'd be looking to get into a different industry.
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