by Stephen Downes
May 16, 2016
Tony Bates has some sharp and insightful points on culture. "Culture is a critical component of any learning environment," he writes. "However, changing a pre-existing, dominant culture is very difficult." Depending on your perspective, these cultures may also be damaging to learning. For example, a segregated education determined to teach girls 'poise' and ladylike behaviour can scarcely be called comprehensive, he suggests. And Canada's residential school system designed to assimilate aboriginal students was openly destructive. But online learning gives us the means to build our own cultures, he suggests, and he would foster openness, recognition and respect while "making explicit and encouraging the underlying values and epistemology of a subject discipline."
This is a review of the recently released Australian National Strategy for International Education 2025 (40 page PDF) and it is not a positive one. Australia has been noted in recent years for an explicit focus on revenue generation from international education, and this report represents a continuation of that strategy. "The strategy has three pillars: strengthening the fundamentals, transformative partnerships and competing globally. To operationalise these pillars, the Australian government will provide A$12 million (US$8.8 million) over four years." Without commenting on the objective, I find this a small amount of money to support such wide objectives, in particular given "the closure of the Office for Learning and Teaching – the major source of funding for teaching innovation in Australian higher education."
This is just an example of some of the ridiculous assertions still being published in the traditional media. I realize that opinion columns should represent all perspectives, but the denial of reality should not be one of them. If you go into your local bookstore (if you can find a local bookstore) you'll find it selling knick-knacks, toys, food, and pretty much everything but books. People don't buy Kindles any more because they don't even want another device to read books, I'm sitting in a café right now and nobody is reading print on paper. Writing a column like this is the surest way to undermine your credibility. See also: eBook sales are not falling, despite what publoishers say.
I have to admit that I am impressed by the way Don Tapscott has found something current, used it to reinforce his core message, and released a book with a slew of publicity that is going to keep himself (and his son Alex) employed for some time into the future. This is how you manage your career as a pundit at a high level. And maybe it will even do some good. Tapscott writes, "The digital world is challenging the very notion of a walled-in institution that excludes large numbers of people. Yet the Industrial Age model of education is hard to change. Vested interests fight change. And leaders of old paradigms are often the last to embrace the new." I see this on a daily basis. Time for a change.
To be launched on May 24, the Competency and Skills Systems project aims "to facilitate the transition to competency-based education, training, and credentialing through the development and dissemination of open source infrastructure and tools." It is being coordinated by the American Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) proigram, which develops technology on behalf of the U.S. military. It's also working with a number of other organizations, including IMS, IEEE LTSC, LRMI, and more. This could be big. "Competency portability enables multiple organizations, learning resources, and software systems to reference common sets of competencies. In the CASS vision, diverse authoring tools, learning management systems, learning record stores, learning object repositories and registries, intelligent tutors, simulations, online courses, certificates, transcripts, and résumés could all refer to and retrieve information about the same competencies via persistent URLs in a standardized manner."
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