agregador de noticias
We’ve got a great set of new books in for review in the Journal of Interactive Media in Education (JiME) at the moment – thanks to Routledge for the review copies.
If you’re interested in reviewing any of the following then get in touch with me through Twitter or via rob.farrow [at] open.ac.uk to let me know which volume you are interested in and some of your reviewer credentials. First come – first served!
Sue Crowley (ed.) (2014). Challenging Professional Learning. Routledge: London and New York. link
Andrew S. Gibbons (2014). An Architectural Approach to Instructional Design. Routledge: London and New York. link
Wanda Hurren & Erika Hasebe-Ludt (eds.) (2014). Contemplating Curriculum – Genealogies, Times, Places. Routledge: London and New York. link
Phyllis Jones (ed.) (2014). Bringing Insider Perspectives into Inclusive Learner Teaching – Potentials and challenges for educational professionals. Routledge: London and New York. link
Marilyn Leask & Norbert Pachler (eds.) (2014). Learning to Teach Using ICT in the Secondary School – A companion to school experience. Routledge: London and New York. link
Allison Littlejohn & Anoush Margaryan (eds.) (2014). Technology-enhanced Professional Learning – processes, practices and tools (3rd ed.). Routledge: London and New York. link
Ka Ho Mok & Kar Ming Yu (eds.) (2014). Internationalization of Higher Education in East Asia – Trends of student mobility and impact on education governance. Routledge: London and New York. link
I kno most readers no longer use Firefox, but the value of this article for me is not so much a lict of (recommended) extensions you can add to Firefox to enhance security, but rather the overall shape of future browsing it points to. Or should point to - it is worth noting that a browser produced by an advertising company (ahem Chrome) is probably not going to have a lot of security built in. Otherwise, though, the sort of features described here - limits on scripts, blocking advertising, secure passwords, encryption everywhere, tracking disabled - are the sports of features people would prefer to have, had they a choice.[Link] [Comment]
The Digital Learning Congress is the biggest meeting devoted to the technology industry and to the digital knowledge management in business in Central Europe. The event takes place today, and many of the sessions will be broadcast live throughout the day.Interest Area: Higher Education Training & Work Learning & Society
Hack Education Weekly News: PISA Scores Confirm that [Fill in the Blank with Education Narrative of Your Choice]
My apologies for the lateness and lightness of this post. But I’ve been in Paris this past week and WiFi access has been tricky and the red wine abundant. I visited both La Porte d’Enfer and Les Catacombes and I wish I could say I did so without thinking about ed-tech a single time.PISA!
It was PISA week with the release of the 2012 scores from the Program of International Student Assessment, an exam given to students around the world. In math, the average score of US students was 481, lower than the OECD average of 494. In science, the average score of US students was 497; the OECD average was 501. In reading, the average score of US students was 498; the OECD average was 496. University of Oregon professor Yong Zhao weighs in (well, lots of folks did, but I’ll just link to him).Other Tests
The school board in Huntsville, Alabama will offer students cash incentives to do well on their ACT tests – up to $300.
A revised SAT will not come until 2016, according to Inside Higher Ed.
The College Board, edX, and Davidson College are teaming up to offer special Advanced Placement courses in calculus, physics and macroeconomics. More details in The New York Times.Law and Politics
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau will soon have some oversight powers over student loan servicers like Sallie Mae. While the CFPB regulates bank-based loans, student loans haven’t had the same oversight.
Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) have reintroduced the Do Not Track Kids Act, which would update COPPA to further restrict Internet companies from collecting and selling kids’ personal data.
Civil rights groups in Texas are asking for a ban on using non-lethal weapons like Tasers and pepper spray on school grounds. This follows an incident last month where a student who was tased by a school safety officer suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Utah State Senator Aaron Osmond (yes, from that family) says he plans to introduce a number of bills in the next legislative session, including one that will allow home school and private school students in the state to opt out of all public school requirements (including assessments) and one that will allow public school parents to influence the selection of their child’s teacher.
“Argosy University’s Denver campus has agreed to pay $3.3-million in a settlement with the Colorado attorney general’s office, which found that the for-profit institution, a division of the Education Management Corporation, had intentionally misled students about one of its degree programs.” So says The Chronicle of Higher Education.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a former graduate student at the University of Oregon. Monica Emeldi claimed that the school's education department retaliated after she complained about its treatment of women.Launches
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos managed to distract from the company’s woeful labor practices by announcing via 60 Minutes that it would soon launch drone delivery for Prime members. I’m not even going to link to the folks who wrote about the ed-tech angle here.
Boundless, the “textbook alternative” startup, has launched its Boundless Teaching Platform, an effort to get more teachers using and remixing Boundless content.
littleBits unveiled several new modules this week: a microphone, a dc motor + motorMate, a vibration motor + vibeSnap, and a servo!
Earlier this year, Techcrunch speculated that Aardvark founder Max Ventilla’s next startup would be an education one because his wife had tweeted a stack of education books that he was reading. Turns out, Ventilla’s launched a school. Because what else preparation do you possibly need?!Funding and Acquisitions
STI has acquired the education app store Chalkable for $10 million. More details via Techcrunch.
Clever has raised $10 million, according to Techcrunch. Because data.
Pearson has acquired the Brazilian language-learning startup Grupo Multi, says Bloomberg, for £440 million.
Edsurge reports that SmartestK12 has raised an “undisclosed round” of funding to help “teachers create, deliver and track online assignments.”
EducationSuperhighway has raised $9 million in funding from Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates’ non-profits which are both totally neutral initiatives into getting kids faster Internet in their schools, I’m sure. Read The School Library Journal for more details.
East-West Digital News reports that the Russian edu content market place Besmart.net has raised $4 million in funding.
CB Insights has listed the top 10 ed-tech funding rounds for 2013. Oh, look. MOOCs. Oh, look. The World Bank. Hmm. (Please stay tuned for my year-end roundup of “the business of ed-tech” which will draw on this and more.)“Research” and Data
The most commonly awarded grade at Harvard is an A. Because they’re all so clever there.
The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has released a database on athletic and academic spending at NCAA Division I public schools.
According to a survey conducted by the Los Angeles Board of Education, just 36% of teachers strongly favor continuation of the district’s troubled iPad initiative. 90% of administrators said the same.
A small number of Chicago Public School students had their personal data leaked online, says the city. although it assures parents that the issue has been fixed. Health data – specifically vision test results – from about 2000 students were briefly accessible online.
According to research by University of New York professor Peter Shea, online learning does, in some cases, help boost college completion. But he also found that online community college students in Virginia and Washington have higher dropout rates.
Mike Caulfield takes a closer look at a recent study that found a high rate of employment of history PhDs. He says he’s weighing writing regular “deep dives” into these sorts of stories – when stats make headlines but need more explanation. Do it, Mike!
And Phil Hill takes a closer look at research out of the University of Pennsylvania on its MOOCs.From the HR Department
Former Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino is joining Twitter’s Board of Directors, the startup's first and only female board member.
Michael Feldstein offers his retrospective on the MRI conference, suggesting that “ the connectivist/open ed crowd has been spectacularly, stunningly successful at ‘ changing the narrative’ .” But as Phil Hill points out in another post, the only media coverage of the most significant gathering of cMOOC people ever is of some fairly minor UPenn study of xMOOCs. But I do agree that there's no point expecting to improve things by changing the narrative. I've watched the narrative - mine and others' - be changed over and over the last 20 years. LMSs. Learning Objects. Educational Modeling. Content syndication. OpenID. E-Learning 2.0. EduPunk. Learning Networks. Connectivism. OERs. MOOCs. The result is always the same. Sometimes it's ignored. More often it is co-opted and somehow becomes the property of the very institutions it targets. You can't change the world - or the establishment - with a narrative.[Link] [Comment]
In my first post to this series of blogs I raised he question: What are we achieving with the fieldwork activities of Year 1 in the Learning Layers (LL) project? In the two subsequent posts I gave an account on the developments in the co-design activities and in the training activities.
In this post I want to make three concluding remarks to complete the picture that may otherwise look a bit inward-looking and self-sufficient:
1) It is necessary to pay more attention to external support activities that can enrich the co-design and training activities – in particular the so-called Layers PBL projects;
2) It is necessary to have a closer look at the studies on regional innovation policies and the role of organised clusters (that are being carried out by the WP7 team).
3) It is necessary to pay attention to the potentials of and challenges for accompanying research.
1. Concerning the external support activities it is essential to note the valuable contribution that is provided by student groups working in the “Layers PBL” projects that work with particular tasks/apps proposed by LL partners. At the moment we have such projects working in several universities (HSKA, RWTH, Metropolia UAS). In the co-design activities and training activities of the year 2 we can count on the possibility to integrate their results into project work and to initiate new ones.
2. Concerning the studies on regional innovation policies and organised clusters, we have hosted several working visits of the WP7 team and attended to several sessions of stakeholder talks. We have also got several reports on other working visits of the WP7 team. This all has brought us closer to the understanding of regional and sectoral potentials and how to use ‘scaling up’ opportunies that are supported by other funding programmes. This is particularly important when we see the chance to involve other innovation regions with similar initiatives.
3. Concerning the role of accompanying research it is worthwhile to pay attention to the twofold relation of such research and the design/development activities. Firstly, the researchers have to be sufficiently closely involved in the design and development processes to sense the changes (progress or obstacles) in the process dynamics. Secondly, the researchers have to keep a relative distance to be able to document and analyse the developments (without being overly guided by their first impressions). In this respect the LL activities pose additional challenges to carry out the twofold duties of accompanying research in a balanced way.
I think this is enough on these issues at this moment. After the review of the Year 1 activities we need to get back to these issues when launching the Year 2 activities.
The discussion will be continued …
Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.
As Phil mentioned, he and I were both lucky to attend the MOOC Research Initiative conference, which was a real tour de force. Jim Groom observed that even the famously curmudgeonly Stephen Downes appeared to be enjoying himself, and I would make a similar observation about the famously curmudgeonly Jonathan Rees. If both of those guys can be simultaneously (relatively) pleased at a MOOC conference, then something is going either spectacularly right or horribly wrong. I believe it was the former in this case.
We are at one of those rare moments when there’s enough confusion that real conversation happens and possibilities open up. The sense I got is that everybody is really grappling with the questions of where we can take the concept of a “MOOC” and what MOOCishness might be good for. That is fun and hope-inducing. Phil and I spent a lot of the time interviewing folks for a future e-Literate TV series (coming to a computing device near you in March or April of 2014), so we were lucky to hear a lot of perspectives. There is some very good exploration happening now. George Siemens and his fellow conference organizers (as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which sponsored the event and the research) did a real service by bringing people together to talk about these issues at this pregnant moment.
One thing happened toward the end of the conference that has me puzzled, though. Jim mentioned it in his blog post:
At the same time[,] Bon Stewart’s admonitions for some kind of organized response to start filling the temporary void of direction with alternative narrative still rings in my ears—and it is very much the lesson I took away from Audrey Watters keynote at OpenEd.
There was a lot of conversation, really throughout the conference but coming to a head at the end, that the term of MOOC is somehow damaged goods and that…something…should be done about it. Usually the word “narrative” was brought up. But this talk of “alternative narratives” or, as Bonnie put it, “changing the narrative”, confuses me. As far as I’m concerned, the connectivist/open ed crowd has been spectacularly, stunningly successful at “changing the narrative,” and I’m not at all clear what it would look like to somehow do it differently. I don’t understand what they mean here. Unfortunately I had to rush out the door to try to catch a plane shortly after the panel discussion and didn’t have an opportunity to follow up with some of the attendees. So I’m going to try to express my confusion in this blog post and hope that somebody can help me figure out what I’m missing.
Warning: This post is long and lit crit wonkish.The Archeologies of Ed Tech Narratives
Before there was “MOOC,” there was “edupunk.” Jim coined this term in 2008 as a way of describing an anti-consumerist educational ethos. He was rejecting LMSs, course cartridges, PowerPoint decks, and other tools that tend to encourage (in his view) the notion of education as something that can be packaged and delivered. Journalist Anya Kamenetz picked up this term in her book DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. Despite the fact that Anya explicitly cited Jim and some of his peers as sources of inspiration for her book, the edupunk crowd was not amused. I didn’t follow this falling out closely, but my sense is that they didn’t like the book because it is, in part, consumerist in its recommendations to students about how they should think about their education. (Anya’s Gates-funded sequel, The Edupunks’ Guide to a DIY Credential, is essentially a consumers’ guide.) Anya’s use of the term and her impressive success at promoting the book and the ideas in it eventually prompted Jim and others to stop using the term edupunk.
And yet, I think it’s worthwhile for the DIY U critics to ask themselves what that narrative would have been like had it not been for the influence of their word on the book. Remember, Anya’s primary concern is the student debt crisis. Her goal is to show students that they don’t have to feel locked into the default path of a traditional college education that will plunge them deep into debt. There are other narratives that could have served her purpose. Consider, for example, libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel’s Ayn Randian exhortation that young people should drop out of college and create their own startups. Anya’s book title could have been simply DIY U: Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Education. The addition of “edupunks” destabilizes the narrative that would have been implicit in that title. It raises questions for the reader: What is an edupunk? Where did that term come from? What do punks have to do with edupreneurs, or the coming transformation of higher education? You could say that the term “edupunk” was co-opted, and there would be some truth to that statement. You could also say that “edupunk” infected or informed the narrative about the student debt crisis. There would be some truth to that statement too.
The story of “MOOC” is different but it shares some important characteristics. In this case, I believe the xMOOC proponents were largely unaware of the connectivist work when they took up the term. Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig cited Salman Khan as their inspiration; I don’t recall them ever mentioning George Siemens, Stephen Downes, or David Cormier. I suspect that “MOOC” was a convenient term that they and others latched onto without giving it a lot of deep thought. (And for the Derrida fans in the crowd, somebody then had to create the term “SPOC” to position “private” as the absence of “open”.) But imagine if they had latched onto or made up a different term, like “Internet-scale Courses (ISA)”. In this post-pivot moment, what conversation would that have provoked? With “MOOC,” we can ask questions like, “Really, what do we mean by ‘massiveness’ and ‘openness’, and why (and how, and where) are those useful features of an educational experience?” No such possibility would exist in “Internet-scale Courses.”
Is there a world in which an original idea like “edupunk” or “MOOC’ could both become dominant and remain true to its roots? One narrative we should be particularly careful of is the narrative of co-optation. The notion that some pure Idea is insidiously taken over by Forces and corrupted to their Evil Ends is both convenient enough to be almost inevitably wrong and simple enough to contradict the epistemological tenets that undergird the very idea of connectivism.Writing and Diffidence
I have largely put away the theoretical tools that I learned as a graduate student in media studies, but one that has stayed with me is the notion of critique in the Derridian sense. Now, I will be honest: There are vast swathes of Derrida that I simply do not understand. In fact, I have always suspected that his works were partly jokes about the knowability of meaning at the expense of the reader, in somewhat the same way that Shelley’s “Ozymandias” can be read as a joke about the knowability of identity. But one thing that I did take away from Derrida (and Foucault, in a different way) is that there is an inherent, inevitable, and eternal tendency in human culture to develop simple stories about what is. These stories are always wrong, in part because they are simple. You can’t fix this. You can’t “change the narrative” to something that is “true.” We want easy answers but there are no easy answers. One can buy this much of the theory without buying the idea that meaning is radically relative, but connectivists in particular should grok this concept. Changing the narrative does not get us out of the fundamental problem that all narratives are, in some important sense, false (or, if you want to get all post-structuralist, that they can only be “true” in the sense and to the degree that they are consistent with the rest of a belief system). Nor does it solve the problem that any narrative will inevitably be warped by the powerful human tendency to make what they are hearing consistent with what they think they already know and, more importantly, with what they want to believe. The best you can do, according to this view of the world, is continually destabilize the dominant narrative—to challenge people to look, for a moment, beyond the easy and search for the true.
And this brings me back to the thing that I don’t get. Given this view of the world, what does it mean to “change the narrative” or “create alternative narratives”? What would success look like? How is it different from what has already happened with “edupunk” and “MOOC”? If those stories are failure stories, then how would a success story be different?
Phil and I aren’t thinking about e-Literate TV as a work of critique—we’re just not that smart—but I suppose you could say that one of our goals with it is to change, or at least destabilize, narratives. What we see happening on campuses is something like this:
- The campus president announces, “I just met with the very nice people at [insert commercial MOOC vendor]. We are making a MOOC. This is going to transform our university! Please make the MOOC by next week.”
- Somebody in the faculty senate declares, “I heard that MOOCs give you cancer and melt the polar ice caps.”
- Food fight.
We want to challenge both the president’s and the faculty member’s narratives, not because we want to replace them with a “better” or “truer” one, but because the most interesting conversations happen when people on both sides of the argument start realizing that the situation is more complicated than they thought it was. This is precisely what was so inspiring about the MOOC conference, and it’s the most that we know how to aspire to. If there is a more effective strategy or a higher goal for “changing the narrative,” I would like to understand what it is. But at the moment, I am having a failure of imagination.
In my first post to this series of blogs I raised he question: What are we achieving with the fieldwork activities of Year 1 in the Learning Layers (LL) project? In my previous posts I gave an account on the developments in the co-design activities of the LL design team Sharing Turbine (mainly taking place in Bau ABC).
In this post I will complement the picture with a similar account on training activities in the construction sector during the year 1 of LL project. Here again, I will focus mainly on training activities that have started to take shape in Bau ABC (but not exclusively on the host organisation). Concerning the development of training activities I would formulate the following thesis:
In the training activities of the year 1 we have shifted the emphasis from ad hoc training measures towards a more comprehensive (but transparent) approach. This gives the participants a broad overview of web tools and enables quick trials. This helps them to select their own priorities and make their own plans for further learning and utilisation in their own area.
Looking back at April and May 2013, when we started the early pilots training activities, I have to admit that we were rather cautious . We had good reasons for this, since the co-design activities were only in the beginning phase and we indeed tried to avoid over-ambitious openings. Yet, we understood that we need to develop some kind of project-specific training initiatives to improve our user-skills in web and multimedia (jointly).
So, the ITB team prepared a Webinar for NNB/Agentur to support firstly the staff and later on the network members in ecological construction work. Also, some demonstration sessions with basic applications (e.g. Bosch app, Evernote) were organised with interested craft trade companies. Moreover, some agreements were reached with training providers for craft trade companies to support their training events. However, these initiatives did not raise a wide interest. We were still at the advent of linking training activities to co-design initiatives and to active utilisation of new tools.
The next step in developing training initiatives was taken in an ad hoc meeting in June 2013 (organised alongside the consortium meeting in Graz). One of the ideas put into discussion by this meeting was to organise Do-it-yourself workshops in Bau ABC to create users’ own apps. During the summer months this idea was reworked towards a Multimedia Training approach. The First Multimedia Workshop (moderated by Jenny Hughes from Pontydysgu) provided an orientation to different ways to create apps or to use services and tools in a customised and user-adapted way. This workshop had already a strong hands-on emphasis but it mainly served the purpose to outline the learning pathways forward.
The Second Multimedia Workshop in November (also moderated by Jenny Hughes) was already planned as the second in a series to be continued. This workshop consisted of several short sessions during which the participants trained with similar tasks but using somewhat different software in different groups. The programme started with easier exercises (setting up individual twitter accounts, making word clouds with wordle etc.). Then the participants prepared glogsters ands padlets to present text and multimedia content on the same page. Then cartoons, animations and videos were used to present task implementation in construction work (measurement). In the next phase several other applications were demonstrated with the help of the website of TACCLE2 project (that promotes multimedia competences of teachers and gives advice to develop their own web contents). In the final phase the participants trained with WordPress and developed their own blogs to bring together results of the previous sessions.
In the concluding session the participants (including the director of Bau ABC) committed themselves to continue with a series of such workshops. Pontydysgu volunteered to install a dedicated WordPress site for the training and provide links to relevant contents on the TACCLE2 website. In addition Pontydysgu volunteered to shape the training programme as small modules with tutorials and tasks that support self-organised learning. The participants agreed to continue independently with the proposed tools and to prepare for the next workshop their individual plans for further learning and for domain-specific use of tools.
In a flashmeeting for planning the Y2 activities this development of the training approach was given a new dimension when the participants of the meeting saw the continuation as a joint opportunity to develop wider participation. Also, the development of the WordPress site and modules was seen as a strategy for outreach to craft trade companies and for shaping customised training packages.
I think this is as far as I can follow the development of the training concept for construction sector. As I see it, this process has moved from smaller opening steps towards a collaborative and participative shaping of a training programme that can be scaled up in the coming years. Also, my impression is that the first steps have been paved by such ‘user engagement’ that leads to empowerment of learners and capacity building in the organisations involved.
However, this is not the whole story of the process dynamics (of “growing together”, of “hatching out” and of reaching out beyond the initial pilot contexts. Although I may have limited possibilities to report on other supporting activities, it is appropriate to bring them also into the picture by a concluding blog post.
To be continued …
Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.
The problem is, as our tools become increasingly complex, so there is a need to learn more complex skills to be able to optimise our use of them. The computer is a classic example of complex technology that can be difficult to use. Things have dramatically improved since the introduction of Graphic User Interfaces, and Siri and Kinect have done a little to bring us closer to improved voice and gesture control. However, computers have also exponentially increased in power and utility, and we will always need to run to keep up. We can speculate that most of us fail to harness the full potential of computers because we simply don't have the skills to exploit their full potential.
Many skills and literacies required, to be able to maximise our use of computers so that they can navigate knowledge on our behalf. The fact that we now carry very powerful computers around with us in our pockets does little to change the problem - we are sentient, autonomous and emotional, whereas computers are simply cold, unthinking machines that blindly follow the instructions they are given. This differential is stark and unforgiving. We still need to be able to develop skills and competencies in the use of technology before we can reap its benefits. This takes time and effort, and no small amount of stress when things don't work out as we had anticipated.
Stephen Wolfram's recent announcement may change all that. The Wolfram Alpha natural language he has announced seems to be a solution to many complex human/computer interface problems. According to Wolfram, symbolic programming is the future of systems design. He says:
"There are plenty of existing general-purpose computer languages. But their vision is very different—and in a sense much more modest—than the Wolfram Language. They concentrate on managing the structure of programs, keeping the language itself small in scope, and relying on a web of external libraries for additional functionality. In the Wolfram Language my concept from the very beginning has been to create a single tightly integrated system in which as much as possible is included right in the language itself."
Wolfram also talks about the fluidity of the new language, suggesting that coding and data can become interchangeable:
"In most languages there’s a sharp distinction between programs, and data, and the output of programs. Not so in the Wolfram Language. It’s all completely fluid. Data becomes algorithmic. Algorithms become data. There’s no distinction needed between code and data. And everything becomes both intrinsically scriptable, and intrinsically interactive. And there’s both a new level of interoperability, and a new level of modularity."
Time will tell how much the Wolfram language will actually achieve to ameliorate the problems we face when we try to use technology and complex interfaces to solve human problems. Yet one thing is clear, and that is that the new language will present new ways to navigate knowledge, and may indeed represent a clear advance forward in how we manage data, and how it can be incorporated into our every day lives. Anyone who has used Wolfram Alpha as an answer engine would probably agree. I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing what the Wolfram language will be able to do for our use of computers in the future.
Image by Frankdzines
The future of knowledge navigation by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's
Martin Weller has a thought-provoking editorial in the latest issue of JiME. He argues that many of the battles for open education have been won but that the movement now faces the challenge of balancing all kinds of different aims and aspirations. Is openness about freedom? Is this an argument about business models or a philosophy of education?
These questions are couched in a wider narrative about finding pathways through times of change (especially rapid change or revolution). We often only see the underlying patterns of historical forces in retrospect: as the philosopher Hegel tells us, the owl of Minerva ‘flies only at dusk’. Not only are the issues complex and conflated; there is also the small matter of the education publishing industry that is keen to protect billions of dollars of revenue. With all this is mind it can be hard to focus on the more prosaic problems we face on a day-to-day basis.
Martin appeals to the same ‘greenwashing’ analogy that Hal Plotkin used when I spoke with him in Washington DC earlier this year. Nowadays environmental friendliness has penetrated the mainstream so successfully it can be hard to recall the way many corporations and lobbyists fought against a small environmental movement. Brands are more than happy to present themselves as ‘green’ where before they denied the value of such a thing. Their redefinition is known as ‘greenwashing’ and shows how a message can be co-opted by organisations which would appear at first to be excluded. Can we say the same thing about open education as commercial providers become ‘providers of OER’?
Martin does a great job of showing why ‘battle’ might be an appropriate metaphor for what’s going on. In the case of open access publishing, for instance, incumbent publishers want to preserve profits but open models have allowed new entrants into the market. These new publication models are immediately thrust into challenges of scale and sustainability that can make it hard to preserve the openness that was the original impetus.
I won’t try to present any more of the argument here – it’s well worth reading in full. But here’s the conclusion for the gist of it:
Openness has been successful in being accepted as an approach in higher education and widely adopted as standard practice. In this sense it has been victorious, but this can be seen as only the first stage in a longer, ongoing battle around the nature that openness should take. There are now more nuanced and detailed areas to be addressed, like a number of battles on different fronts. After the initial success of openness as a general ethos then the question becomes not ‘do you want to be open?’ but rather ‘what type of openness do you want?’ Determining the nature of openness in a range of contexts so that it retains its key benefits as an approach is the next major focus for the open education movement.
Open approaches complement the ethos of higher education, and also provide the means to produce innovation in a range of its central practices. Such innovation is both necessary and desirable to maintain the role and function of universities as they adapt. It is essential therefore that institutions and practitioners within higher education have ownership of these changes and an appreciation of what openness means. To allow others to dictate what form these open practices should take will be to abdicate responsibility for the future of education itself.
The Pontydysgu website is always full of news about the big projects we are involved in, like FP7 Learning Layers or Taccle2. This is pretty inevitable as they take up the majority of our time and budget. However, there are lots of other, smaller Pontydysgu projects running in the background that we rarely post anything about. This is a bit of an oversight because although we often use these projects as test beds for trying out new ideas or as vehicles for piloting specific bits of technology that we then roll together in a much bigger package, they are also successful in their own right.
All of them are running in Pontypridd, (known locally as “Ponty”) which is where the Wales half of Pontydysgu is based. Some are part funded through the LLL Partnerships programme; some are funded in-house. We thought we might write a series of posts on what these projects are all about….
First up is Dysgu Ponty, which translates to Learning Ponty. We chose this name because apart from the play on Pontydysgu (meaning approximately Bridge to Learning), we wanted to convey the idea that the whole community of Ponty was learning and that the town called Ponty was a learning resource.
The project is based on a very simple concept – let’s cover the town with QR codes linked to a learning resource. The codes are being printed on decals (for shop windows), enamel (for the exteriors of building) and on varnished wooden plaques for hanging around trees in the park. Codes come in three colours – red for Welsh, green for the English translation and black for careers.
So far we have 200 and our target is at least another hundred. The town has a population of 30,000 but this covers all of the outlying villages as well. It also has a great sense of community, which means that the level of support has been brilliant. The whole community is involved – schools, the Town Council, shops, businesses, the local newspaper
The link from each QR code goes to a website page on which there is a question that relates to the location. The level is approximately 8 -12 yrs olds. Following the title question is some simple information using a range of multi media. The location of the codes will be on Google Maps and we are currently sorting them out into a ‘Maths trail’, ‘Language trail’, ‘History trail’ etc so that children can choose whether to follow a subject trail or focus on the codes in one part of the town.
The purpose of the project is really to provide a bridge between formal and informal learning and to improve home school links.
We are currently working of a way of ‘rewarding’ children for completing a number of questions – not sure Mozilla badges quite fits. Also thinking about how we can get kids to be able to upload pictures as well as comments. May rethink the platform.
Meanwhile here are some examples of the sorts of things we are talking about
Location: on the bandstand in the park
- Links to… Question: Have you ever heard brass band music?
- Additional ‘information’ – mp3 of Colliery Brass Band with one line of text explaining that most all the pits had their own band
Location: Outside Costa Coffee
- Links to… Question: Do you know where coffee comes from?
- Additional information: You Tube video of coffee being harvested and processed
Location: Outside travel agent underneath exchange rates
- Links to… Question: How much is it worth?
- Additional info: Text and image – If you had £37.50 to take on holiday, how many Euros would you get? Which travel agent in town has the best exchange rate today?
Location: On the river bank adjacent to the confluence
- Links to…mQuestion: What rivers are these and where is their source?
- Additional info: The place where two rivers merge is called a ‘confluence’. Use Google Earth to trace the two rivers back as far as you can, find out their names and where the river enters the sea.
Location: On the war memorial
- Links to… Question: How many died?
- Additional info: Look at the names on the Great War memorial and then the names on the Worls War 2 memorial. In which war were the greatest number of people from Pontypridd killed? How many times more people? Why do you think this was?
Location: Market Street
- Links to…Question: What has changed?
- Additional Info: Picture of the street taken 100 years ago from same spot. Text – List all the things that are different between Market Street in 1910 and the same street today.
Open Access (OA) and Open Educational Resources (OERs) have won the day. writes Martin Weller, but after the victory comes the battle. "After the initial success of openness as a general ethos then the question becomes not 'do you want to be open?' but rather 'what type of openness do you want?' Determining the nature of openness in a range of contexts so that it retains its key benefits as an approach is the next major focus for the open education movement." 14 page PDF. Good read. See in addition a dozen or so more articles from this special issue of JIME on openness.[Link] [Comment]
As Phil Hill points out, the main media focus from the recent MOOC Research Initiative conference (MRI) is a survey of some UPenn xMOOCs featuring large numbers of drop-outs (see Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, and eCampusNews, for example). This is disappointing given the number of cMOOC practitioners at the conference. And the UPenn research isn't even worth writing home about. Kevin Werbach writes, "the researchers didn’ t have any contact with the faculty teaching the courses. So some of their statements are generalizations. E.g., I’ m not sure what it means for a course to be 'targeted at college students.'"[Link] [Comment]