by Stephen Downes
Feb 27, 2017
Long discussion of the argument that the professoriate (in the United States) leans left. I have little patience for such discussions because I'm of the view (also expressed in this article) that people on the left self-select into academic positions (just as people on the right self-select into business positions). I also think the disparity is exaggerated by the general right-wing tilt of American society as a whole (what they call "moderate" I call "hard right"). I also see (again as expressed in this article) little to no evidence of any resulting bias in grading or promotion. Finally, if people are serious about encouraging more right-wing participation in academia or in education generally, the solution is simple: make these the highest paid positions in society, and require people in management and finance to work on a teaching salary.
I don't think this is a bad list of things, though I would have been more reluctant to recommend specific products and services the way this article does (or, maybe, would have recommend more than one in each category). But to be sure, much of the fault with the recent mistrust of science lies not with researchers themselves (even though they are the audience for this article) but external agencies who have sought to monetize research output. The discussion in the comments on this is pretty good.
Jane Hart taps into what I think is a fairly common tendency in enterprise social learning: "it is seen in terms of imposing social and collaboration tools on the workforce, compelling them to share and collaborate, and then controlling and tracking what they do share." This doesn't work because those that are already sharing resist attempts to have them change tools or submit to monitoring and control, while those who don't share resist the pressure to share. She recommends (and I agree) "a supportive bottom-up approach, which is more about supporting those individuals who already are sharing and collaborating with one another and encouraging others to experience the benefits."
This post discusses a National Post article which asserts that Canada has failed at innovation for 100 years and questions whether Trudeau can fix that (presumably via financial transfers to industry, which was the previous government's strategy). I question the original assertion that Canada is not innovative. Alex Usher says Canada copies U.S. innovations, but in fact, the opposite is the case; American companies are more likely to copy Canadian innovations. The measures cited are mostly based on private sector spending (on R&D, on software). We've seen that giving the private sector more money won't actually increased their R&D spending. Innovation simply doesn't happen in branch plants.
In Canada most innovation is created by new companies and based on homegrown R&D from the ground up, and these are usually spin-offs from public sector investment like government and universities. Usher suggests that the locus of innovation should be the provinces, and not the federal government. But innovation is currently based both in the provinces (for universities) and the federal government (through military, through federal science, and through procurement). Of these, only federal science could be relocated to the provinces, but only four provinces have the resources to sustain them, which would actually create more, not less, centralization.
I guess the students who built it have all graduated. We used it for the Personal Learning MOOC. It had some nice features but it definitely did not promote interaction, creativity or discussion. The platform did support limited embedding, which enabled (as described in this article) an interactive circuit diagram tool and a textbook to be embedded.
The early days of the internet split into two major categories: talk, and work. Talk took place on Usenet, work took place everywhere else. I was a work person; I didn't have much time for Usenet. Work eventually won out, and with the invention of the Web - a work thing - creativity flourished. Those days are over. As Mike Caulfield says, "The hyperlinked vision of the web was replaced by Usenet plus surveillance." We fritter out time away with expressive social media, he says. Instead, "We need to start asking the real question, which is how do we teach our students to collaborate and communicate.' Well - no. I mean, yes, but we should have done that by the time they were out of, I don't know, grade 5 or so. Image: Wesley Fryer.
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