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This is a version of the talk I gave at ISTE today on a panel titled "Is It Time to Give Up on Computers in Schools?" with Gary Stager, Will Richardson, Martin Levins, David Thornburg, and Wayne D'Orio. It was pretty damn fun.
Take one step into that massive shit-show called the Expo Hall and it’s hard not to agree: “yes, it is time to give up on computers in schools.”
Perhaps, once upon a time, we could believe ed-tech would change things. But as Seymour Papert noted in The Children’s Machine,
Little by little the subversive features of the computer were eroded away: … the computer was now used to reinforce School’s ways. What had started as a subversive instrument of change was neutralized by the system and converted into an instrument of consolidation.
I think we were naive when we ever thought otherwise.
Sure, there are subversive features, but I think the computers also involve neoliberalism, imperialism, libertarianism, and environmental destruction. They now involve high stakes investment by the global 1% – it’s going to be a $60 billion market by 2018, we’re told. Computers are implicated in the systematic de-funding and dismantling of a public school system and a devaluation of human labor. They involve the consolidation of corporate and governmental power. They involve scientific management. They are designed by white men for white men. They re-inscribe inequality.
And so I think it’s time now to recognize that if we want education that is more just and more equitable and more sustainable, that we need to get the ideologies that are hardwired into computers out of the classroom.
In the early days of educational computing, it was often up to innovative, progressive teachers to put a personal computer in their classroom, even paying for the computer out of their own pocket. These were days of experimentation, and as Seymour teaches us, a re-imagining of what these powerful machines could enable students to do.
And then came the network and, again, the mainframe.
You’ll often hear the Internet hailed as one of the greatest inventions of mankind – something that connects us all and that has, thanks to the World Wide Web, enabled the publishing and sharing of ideas at an unprecedented pace and scale.
What “the network” introduced in educational technology was also a more centralized control of computers. No longer was it up to the individual teacher to have a computer in her classroom. It was up to the district, the Central Office, IT. The sorts of hardware and software that was purchased had to meet those needs – the needs and the desire of the administration, not the needs and the desires of innovative educators, and certainly not the needs and desires of students.
The mainframe never went away. And now, virtualized, we call it “the cloud.”
Computers and mainframes and networks are points of control. They are tools of surveillance. Databases and data are how we are disciplined and punished. Quite to the contrary of Seymour’s hopes that computers will liberate learners, this will be how we are monitored and managed. Teachers. Students. Principals. Citizens. All of us.
If we look at the history of computers, we shouldn’t be that surprised. The computers’ origins are as weapons of war: Alan Turing, Bletchley Park, code-breakers and cryptography. IBM in Germany and its development of machines and databases that it sold to the Nazis in order to efficiently collect the identity and whereabouts of Jews.
The latter should give us great pause as we tout programs and policies that collect massive amounts of data – “big data.” The algorithms that computers facilitate drive more and more of our lives. We live in what law professor Frank Pasquale calls “the black box society.” We are tracked by technology; we are tracked by companies; we are tracked by our employers; we are tracked by the government, and “we have no clear idea of just how far much of this information can travel, how it is used, or its consequences.” When we compel the use of ed-tech, we are doing this to our students.
Our access to information is constrained by these algorithms. Our choices, our students’ choices are constrained by these algorithms – and we do not even recognize it, let alone challenge it.
We have convinced ourselves, for example, that we can trust Google with its mission: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” I call “bullshit.”
Google is at the heart of two things that computer-using educators should care deeply and think much more critically about: the collection of massive amounts of our personal data and the control over our access to knowledge.
Neither of these are neutral. Again, these are driven by ideology and by algorithms.
You’ll hear the ed-tech industry gleefully call this “personalization.” More data collection and analysis, they contend, will mean that the software bends to the student. To the contrary, as Seymour pointed out long ago, instead we find the computer programming the child. If we do not unpack the ideology, if the algorithms are all black-boxed, then “personalization” will be discriminatory. As Tressie McMillan Cottom has argued “a ‘personalized’ platform can never be democratizing when the platform operates in a society defined by inequalities.”
If we want schools to be democratizing, then we need to stop and consider how computers are likely to entrench the very opposite. Unless we stop them.
In the 1960s, the punchcard – an older piece of “ed-tech” – had become a symbol of our dehumanization by computers and by a system – an educational system – that was inflexible, impersonal. We were being reduced to numbers. We were becoming alienated. These new machines were increasing the efficiency of a system that was setting us up for a life of drudgery and that were sending us off to war. We could not be trusted with our data or with our freedoms or with the machines themselves, we were told, as the punchcards cautioned: “Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate.”
Students fought back.
Let me quote here from Mario Savio, speaking on the stairs of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley in 1964 – over fifty years ago, yes, but I think still one of the most relevant messages for us as we consider the state and the ideology of education technology:
We’re human beings!
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
We’ve upgraded from punchcards to iPads. But underneath, a dangerous ideology – a reduction to 1s and 0s – remains. And so we need to stop this ed-tech machine.
A year ago I wrote about Google Classroom, speculating whether it would affect the institutional LMS market in higher education. My initial conclusion:
I am not one to look at Google’s moves as the end of the LMS or a complete shift in the market (at least in the short term), but I do think Classroom is significant and worth watching. I suspect this will have a bigger impact on individual faculty adoption in higher ed or as a secondary LMS than it will on official institutional adoption, at least for the next 2 – 3 years.
And my explanation [emphasis added]:
But these features are targeted at innovators and early adopter instructors who are willing to fill in the gaps themselves.
- The course creation, including setting up of rosters, is easy for an instructor to do manually, but it is manual. There has been no discussion that I can find showing that the system can automatically create a course, including roster, and update over the add / drop period.
- There is no provision for multiple roles (student in one class, teacher in another) or for multiple teachers per class.
- The integration with Google Drive, especially with Google Docs and Sheets, is quite intuitive. But there is no provision for PDF or MS Word docs or even publisher-provided courseware.
- There does not appear to be a gradebook – just grading of individual assignments. There is a button to export grades, and I assume that you can combine all the grades into a custom Google Sheets spreadsheet or even pick a GAE gradebook app. But there is no consistent gradebook available for all instructors within an institution to use and for students to see consistently.
Well today Google announced a new Google Classroom API that directly addresses the limitation in bullet #1 above and indirectly addresses #4.
The Classroom API allows admins to provision and manage classes at scale, and lets developers integrate their applications with Classroom. Until the end of July, we’ll be running a developer preview, during which interested admins and developers can sign up for early access. When the preview ends, all Apps for Education domains will be able to use the API, unless the admin has restricted access.
By using the API, admins will be able to provision and populate classes on behalf of their teachers, set up tools to sync their Student Information Systems with Classroom, and get basic visibility into which classes are being taught in their domain. The Classroom API also allows other apps to integrate with Classroom.
Google directly addresses the course roster management in their announcement; in fact, this appears to be the primary use case they had in mind. I suspect this by itself will have a big impact in the K-12 market (would love to hear John Watson’s take on this if he addresses in his blog), making it far more manageable for district-wide and school-wide Google Classroom adoptions.
The potential is also there for a third party to develop and integrate a viable grade book application available to an entire institution. While this could partially be done by the Google Apps for Education (GAE) ecosystem, that is a light integration that doesn’t allow deep connection between learning activities and grades. The new API should allow for deeper integrations, although I am not sure how much of the current Google Classroom data will be exposed.
I still do not see Google Classroom as a current threat to the higher ed institutional LMS market, but it is getting closer. Current ed tech vendors should watch these developments.
The post Google Classroom Addresses Major Barrier To Deeper Higher Ed Adoption appeared first on e-Literate.
eLearning Papers is welcoming submissions for issue 44 on "The Teacher's Role in Educational Innovation"
The online journal eLearning Papers is welcoming submissions for issue 44 on "The Teacher's Role in Educational Innovation". Deadline for submissions is 4th of August.Interest Area: Schools Higher Education Training & Work Learning & Society
eLearning Papers is welcoming submissions for issue 44 on "The Teacher's Role in Educational Innovation"
The online journal eLearning Papers is welcoming submissions for issue 44 on "The Teacher's Role in Educational Innovation". Deadline for submissions is 4th of August.Interest Area: Schools Higher Education Training & Work Learning & Society
As part of our e-Literate TV set of case studies on personalized learning, Michael and I were fully aware that Arizona State University (ASU) was likely to generate the most controversy due to ASU’s aggressive changes to the concept of a modern research university. As we described in this introductory blog post:
Which is one reason why we’re pretty excited about the release of the first two case studies in our new e-Literate TV series on the trend of so-called “personalized learning.” We see the series as primarily an exercise in journalism. We tried not to hold onto any hypothesis too tightly going in, and we committed to reporting on whatever we found, good or bad. We did look for schools that were being thoughtful about what they were trying to do and worked with them cooperatively, so it was not the kind of journalism that was likely to result in an exposé. We went in search of the current state of the art as practiced in real classrooms, whatever that turned out to be and however well it is working.
As part of the back-and-forth discussions with the ASU case study release, John Warner brought up a good point in response to my description that our goal was “Basically to expose, let you form own opinions”.
@PhilOnEdTech Can't form opinion without a more thorough accounting. Ex. How did you choose students and fac. to talk to?
— John Warner (@biblioracle) June 1, 2015
Can’t form opinion without a more thorough accounting. Ex. How did you choose students and fac. to talk to?
Let’s explore this subject for the four case studies already released. Because the majority of interviewees shared positive experiences in our case studies, I’ll highlight some of the skeptical, negative or cautionary views that were captured in these case studies.Our Approach To Lining Up Interviews
When we contacted schools to line up interviews on campus, it is natural to expect that the staff will tend to find the most positive examples of courses, faculty and students to share. As described above, we admit that we looked for schools with thoughtful approaches (and therefore courses), but we needed to try and expose some contrary or negative views as well. This is not to play gotcha journalism nor to create a false impression of equally good / equally bad perspectives. But it is important to capture that not everyone is pleased with the changes, and these skeptics are a good source of exposing risks and issues to watch. Below is the key section of the email sent to each school we visited.
The Case Study Filming Process
Each case study will include a couple of parts. First, we will interview the college leadership—whoever the school deems appropriate—to provide an overview of the school, it’s mission and history, it’s student body, and how “personalized education” (however that school defines the term) fits into that picture. If there are particular technology-driven initiatives related to personalized learning, then we may talk about those a bit. Second, we will want to talk some teachers and students, probably in a mixed group. We want to get some sample reactions from them about what they think is valuable about the education they get (or provide) at the school, how “personalization” fits into that, and how, when, and why they use or avoid technology in the pursuit of the educational goals. We’re not trying either to show “best/worst” here or to provide an “official” university position, but rather to present a dialog representing some of the diverse views present on the campus.
Campus Input on the Filming
In order for the project to have integrity, MindWires must maintain editorial independence. That said, our goal for the case studies is to show positive examples of campus communities that are authentically engaged in solving difficult educational challenges. We are interested in having the participants talk about both successes and failures, but our purpose in doing so is not to pass judgment on the institution but rather to enable to viewers to learn from the interviewees’ experiences. We are happy to work closely with each institution in selecting the participants and providing a general shape to the conversation. While we maintain editorial control over the final product, if there are portions of the interviews that make the institution uncomfortable then we are open to discussing those issues. As long as the institution is willing to allow an honest reflection of their own challenges and learning experiences as an educational community, then we are more than willing to be sensitive to and respectful of concerns that the end product not portray the institution in a way that might do harm to the very sort of campus community of practice that we are trying to capture and foster with our work.
As an example of what “willing to be sensitive to and respectful of concerns” means in practice, one institution expressed a concern that they did not want their participation in this personalized learning series to be over-interpreted as a full-bore endorsement of pedagogical change by the administration. The school was at the early stages of developing a dialog with faculty on where they want to go with digital education, and the administration did not want to imply that they already knew the direction and answers. We respected this request and took care to not imply any endorsement of direction by the administration.
Below are some notes on how this played out at several campuses.Middlebury College
As described in our introductory blog post:
Middlebury College, the first school we went to when we started filming, was not taking part in any cross-institutional (or even institutional) effort to pilot personalized learning technologies and not the kind of school that is typically associated the “personalized learning” software craze. Which is exactly why we wanted to start there. When most Americans think of the best example of a personalized college education, they probably think of an elite New England liberal arts college with a student/teacher ratio of under nine to one. We wanted to go to Middlebury because we wanted a baseline for comparison. We were also curious about just what such schools are thinking about and doing with educational technologies.
Middlebury College staff helped identify one faculty member who is experimenting with technology use in his class with some interesting student feedback, which we highlighted in Middlebury Episode 2. They also found two faculty members for a panel discussion along with two students who have previously expressed strong opinions on where technology does and does not fit in their education. The panel discussion was highlighted in Middlebury Episode 3.
As this case study did not have a strong focus on a technology-enabled program, we did not push the issue of finding skeptical faculty or students and instead exposed that technology was not missing from the campus consideration of how to improve education.
The administration did express some cautionary notes on the use of technology to support “personalized learning” as captured in this segment:
By way of contrast, our second case study was at Essex County College, an urban community college in Newark, New Jersey. This school has invested approximately $1.2 million of its own money along with a $100 thousand Gates Foundation grant to implement an adaptive learning remedial math course designed around self-regulated learning. Our case study centered on this program specifically.
Of course, the place where you really expect to see a wide range of incoming skills and quality of previous education is in public colleges and universities, and at community colleges in particular. At Essex County College, 85% of incoming students start in the lowest level developmental math course. But that statistic glosses over a critical factor, which is there is a huge range of skills and abilities within that 85%. Some students enter almost ready for the next level, just needing to brush up on a few skills, while others come in with math skills at the fourth grade level. On top of that, students come in with a wide range of metacognitive skills. Some of them have not yet learned how to learn, at least this subject in this context.
Given the controversial nature of using adaptive learning software in a class, we decided to include a larger number of student voices in this case study. Douglas Walcerz, the faculty and staff member who designed the course, gave us direct access to the entire class. We actively solicited students to participate in interviews, as one class day was turned over to e-Literate TV video production and interviews, with the rest of the class watching their peers describe their experiences.
As we did the interviews, almost all students had a very positive view of the new class design, particularly the self-regulated learning aspect with the resultant empowerment they felt. What was missing was student voices who were not comfortable with the new approach. For the second day we actively solicited students who could provide a negative view. The result was shared in this interview:
As for faculty, it was easier to find some skeptical or cautionary voices, which we highlighted here.
As described above, our intent was not to present a false balance but rather to to include diverse viewpoints to help other schools know the issues to explore.Arizona State University
At ASU we focused on two courses in particular, Habitable Worlds highlighted in episode 2 and remedial math (MAT 110) using Khan Academy software highlighted in episode 3.
We did have some difficulty getting on-campus student interviews due to both of these being online courses. For MAT 110 we did get find one student who expressed both positive and negative views on the approach, as shown in this episode.
Like ASU, Empire State College presented a challenge for on-campus video production from the nature of all-online courses. We worked with ESC staff to get students lined up for interviews, with the best stories coming from the prior learning affects on students.
It was easier and more relevant to explore the different perspectives on personalized learning from faculty and staff themselves, as evidenced by the following interview. ESC offered him up–proudly–knowing that he would be an independent voice. They understood what we meant in that email and were not afraid to show the tensions they are wrestling with on-camera. Not every administration will be as brave as ESC’s, but we are finding that spirit to be the norm rather than the exception.
It’s also worth pointing out the role of selecting colleges in the first place, which is not just about diversity. We know that different schools are going to have different perspectives, and we pick them carefully to set up a kind of implicit dialog. We know, for example, that ASU is going to give a full-throated endorsement of personalized learning software used to scale. So we balance them against Empire State College, which has always been about one-on-one mentoring in their design.
Hopefully this description of our process will help people like John Warner who need more information before forming their own opinion. At the least, consider this further documentation of the process. We are planning to release one additional case studies – the University of California at Davis in early July – as well as two analysis episodes. We’ll share more information once new episodes are released.
The post How Student and Faculty Interviews Were Chosen For e-Literate TV Series appeared first on e-Literate.
Mis alumnos de 3º del IES "Antonio Calvín" nos ofrecen ejemplos de uso del blog personal como portfolio del ABP: "Ojos que no ven", uno de los REAs de Proyecto EDIA con el que hemos trabajado en este curso.
La creación de estos portfolios formó parte de la evaluación de todo el proyecto a partir de documentos como la "Rúbrica para la entrada de un blog de aula".
Estos portfolios les sirvieron para recopilar todas las tareas, recursos y productos que formaron parte de nuestras experiencias de aula que presentamos en el blog Sociales Calvin y el hagstag #3cscalvin.
El desarrollo de este periódico (ligado al proyecto Pole del centro) implica el aprendizaje y la mejora de habilidades como la comunicación en Lengua extranjera, la creación de textos periodísticos o el trabajo colaborativo y en equipo.
"The Mirrors' Social News" fue un proyecto surgido de la colaboración de dos profesoras que compartíamos docencia en diversos grupos de 3º de ESO y que buscábamos nuevas vías para dinamizar la actividad de aula docentes y estudiantes.
This post has nothing to do with educational technology but everything to do with the kind of humane and truly personal education that we should be talking about when we throw around phrases like “personalized education.” Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs) go hand-in-glove with the trendy Competency-Based Education (CBE). The basic idea is that you test students on what they have learned in their own lives and give them credit toward their degrees based on what they already know. But it is often executed in a fairly mechanical way. Students are tested against the precise curriculum or competencies that a particular school has chosen for a particular class. Not too long ago, I heard somebody say, “We don’t need more college-ready students; we need more student-ready colleges.” In a logical and just world, we would start with what the student knows, rather than the with what one professor or group of professors decided one semester would be “the curriculum,” and we would give the student credit for whatever college-level knowledge she has.
It turns out that’s exactly what Empire State College (ESC) does. When we visited the college for an e-Literate TV case study, we learned quite a bit about this program and, in particular, about their PLA program for women of color.
But before we get into that, it’s worth backing up and looking at the larger context of ESC as an institution. Founded in 1971, the school was focused from the very beginning on “personalized learning”—but personalized in a sense that liberal intellectuals from the 1960s and 1970s would recognize and celebrate. Here’s Alan Mandell, who was one of the pioneering members of the faculty at ESC, on why the school has “mentors” rather than “professors”:
Alan Mandell: Every single person is called a mentor.
It’s valuable because of an assumption that is pretty much a kind of critique of the hierarchical model of teaching and learning that was the norm and remains the norm where there is a very, very clear sense of a professor professing to a student who is kind of taking in what one has to say.
Part of the idea of Empire State, and other institutions, more and more, is that there was something radically wrong with that. A, that students had something to teach us, as faculty, and that faculty had to learn to engage students in a more meaningful way to respond to their personal, academic, professional interests. It was part of the time. It was a notion of a kind of equality.
This was really interesting to me actually because I came here, and I was 25 years old. Every single student was older than I was, so the idea of learning from somebody else was actually not very difficult at all. It was just taken for granted. People would come with long professional lives, doing really interesting things, and I was a graduate student.
I feel, after many years, that this is still very much the case—that this is a more equal situation of faculty serving as guides to students who bring in much to the teaching and learning situation.
Unlike some of the recent adoptions of PLA, which are tied to CBE and the idea of getting students through their degree programs quickly, Empire State College approaches prior learning assessment in very much the spirit that Alan describes above. Here’s Associate Dean Cathy Leaker talking about their approach:
Cathy Leaker What makes Empire State College unique, even in the prior learning assessment field, is that many institutions that do prior learning assessment do what’s called a “course match.” In other words, a student would have to demonstrate—for example, if they wanted to claim credit for Introduction to Psychology, they would look at the learning objectives of the Introduction to Psychology course, and they would match their learning to that. We are much more open-ended, and as an institution, we really believe that learning happens everywhere, all the time. So, we try to look at learning organically, and we don’t assume that we already know exactly what might be required.
One of my colleagues, Elana Michelson, works on prior learning assessment. She started working in South Africa where they were—there it’s called “recognition for prior learning.” And she gives the example of some of the people who were involved in bringing down Apartheid, and how they, sort of as an institution working with the government, thought it might be ridiculous to ask those students to demonstrate problem solving skills, right? How the institution might look at problem-solving skills, and then if there was a strict match, they would say, “Well, wait a second. You don’t have it,” and yet, they’re activists that brought down the government and changed the world.
Those are some examples of why we really think we need to look at learning organically.
Students like Melinda come to us, talk about their learning, and then we try to help them identify it, come up with a name for it, and determine an amount of credit before submitting it for evaluation.
This is not personalized in the sense trying to figure out which institution-defined competencies you can check off on you way to an institution-defined collection of competencies that they call a “degree.” Rather, it’s an effort to have credentialed experts look at what you’ve done and what you know to find existing strengths that deserve to be recognized and credentialed. The Apartheid example is a particularly great one because it shows that traditional academic institutions may be poorly equipped to recognized and certify real-world demonstrations of competencies, particularly among people who come from disadvantaged or “marked” backgrounds. Here’s ESC faculty member Frances Boyce talking about why the school recognized a need to develop a particular PLA program for women of color:
Frances Boyce: Our project, Women of Color and Prior Learning Assessment, is based on a 2010 study done by Rebecca Klein-Collins and Richard Olson, “Fueling the Race to Success.” That found that students who do prior learning assessments are two and a half times more likely to graduate. When you start to unpack that data and you look at the graduation rates for students of color, for African American students the graduation rate increases fourfold. For Latino students it increases eightfold. Then, when you look at it in terms of gender, a woman who gets one to six credits in prior learning assessment will graduate more quickly than her male counterpart given the same amount of credit.
That seemed very important to us, and we decided, “Well, let’s see what we could do to improve the uptake rate for women of color.” So, we designed four workshops to help women of color, not only identify their learning—the value of their learning—but identify what they bring with them to the institution.
What’s going on here? Why is PLA more impactful than average for women and people of color? In addition to the fact that our institutions are not always prepared to recognize real-world knowledge and skills, as in the Apartheid example, people in non-privileged positions in our society are tacitly taught that college is not “for them.” That they don’t have what it takes to succeed there. By recognizing that they have, in fact, already acquired college-level skills and knowledge, PLA helps them get past the damage to their self-image and dignity has been inflicted on them and helps them to envision themselves as successful college graduates. Listen to ESC student Melinda Wills-Stallings’ story:
Michael Feldstein: I’m wondering if you can tell me, do you remember a particular moment, early on, when the lightbulb went off and you said to yourself, “Oh, that thing that’s part of my life counts”?
Melinda Wills-Stallings: I think when I was talking to my sons about the importance of their college education and how they couldn’t be successful without it and them saying to me, “But, Mom, you are successful. You run a school. You run a business.” To be told on days that I wasn’t there, the business wasn’t running properly or to be told by parents, “Oh, my, God. We’re so glad you’re back because we couldn’t get a bill, we couldn’t get a statement,” or, “No one knew how to get the payroll done.”
That’s when I knew, OK, but being told by an employer who said I wasn’t needed and I wasn’t relied on, I came to realize that it flipped on me. And I realized that’s what I had been told to keep me in my place, to keep me from aspiring to do the things that I knew that I was doing or I could do.
The lightbulb for me was when we were doing the interviews and Women of Color PLA, and Frances said to me, “That’s your navigational capital.” We would do these roundtables where you would interview with one mentor, and then you would go to another table. Then I went to another table, and she said, “Well, what do you hope to do with your college degree?” And I said, “I hope to pay it forward: to go continue doing what I love to do, but to come back to other women with like circumstances and inspire them and encourage them and support them to also getting their college degrees and always to be better today than I was yesterday, so that’s your aspirational capital.” And I went, “Oh, OK.” So, I have aspirational capital also, and then go to the next table and then I was like, I couldn’t wait to get to the next table because every table I went to, I walked away with one or two prior learning assessments.
And then to go home and to be able to put it into four- or five-page papers to submit that essay and to have it recognized as learning.
I was scared an awful lot of times from coming back to school because I felt, after I graduated high school and started college and decided I wanted to get married and have a family, I had missed the window to come back and get my college education. The light bulb was, “It’s never too late,” and that’s what I tell women who ask me, and I talk to them all the time about our school and our program. Like, “It’s never too late. You can always come back and get it done.”
Goals and dreams don’t have caps on them even though where I was, my employer had put a cap on where I could go on my salary and my position. Your goals and dreams don’t have a cap on it, so I think that was the light bulb for me—that it wasn’t too late.
It’s impossible to hear Melinda speak about her journey and not feel inspired. She built up the courage to walk into the doors of the college, despite being told repeatedly by her employer that she was not worthy. The PLA process quickly affirmed for her that she had done the right thing. At the same time, I recognize that traditionalists may feel uncomfortable with all this talk of “navigational capital” and “aspirational capital” and so on. Is there a danger of giving away degrees like candy and thus devaluing them? First, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving a person degree certification if they have become genuine experts in a college-appropriate subject through their life experience. In some ways, we are all the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, or the Cowardly Lion, waiting for some wizard to magically convey upon us a symbol that confers legitimacy upon our hard-won skills and attributes and thus somehow making them more real. But also, a funny thing happens when you treat a formal education as a tool for helping an individual reach her goals rather than a set of boxes that must be checked. Students start thinking about the work that education entails as something that is integral to them achieving those goals rather than a set of obstacles they have to get around in order to get the piece of paper that is the “real” value of college. Listen to ESC student Jessi Colón, a professional dancer who chose not to get all the credits she could have gotten for her dance knowledge because she wanted to focus on what she needed to learn for her next career working in animal welfare:
Jessi Colón: It was little bit tricky especially because I had really come here with the intention of maximizing and capitalizing on all this experience that I had. Part of the prior learning assessment and degree planning process is looking at other schools that may have somewhat relevant programs and trying to match what your learning is to those. As I was looking at other programs outside of New York or at other small, rural schools that do these little animal programs, I found that there were a lot of classes that I really wanted to take.
One of the really amazing things about Empire State is that they can also give you individualized courses, and I did a lot of those. So, once I saw these at other schools, I was like, “Man, I really want to take a class in animal-assisted therapy, and would I like to really, really indulge myself and do that or should I write another essay on jazz dance composition?” I knew that one would be more of a walk in the park than the other, but I was really excited about my degree and having this really personal degree allowed me to get excited about it. So, it made sense, though hard to let go of that prior learning in order to opt for the classes.
I could’ve written 20 different dance essays, but I wanted to really take a lot of classes. So, I filled that with taking more classes relevant to my degree, and then ended up only writing, I think, one or two dance-relevant essays.
It turns out that if you start from the assumption that the education they are coming for—not the certification, but the learning process itself—can and should have intrinsic value to them as tools toward pursuing their own ambitions, then people step up. They aspire to be more. They take on the work. If the education is designed to help them by recognizing how far they have come before they walk in the door and focusing on what they need to learn in order to do whatever it is they aspire to do after they leave, then students often come to see that gaming the system is just cheating themselves.
This is a student-ready college. This is real personalized learning. And in order to achieve it, there must be an institutional commitment to it that precedes the adoption of any educational technology. The software is just an enabler. If college community collectively commits to true personalization, then technology can help with that. If the community does not make such a commitment, then “personalized learning” software might help achieve other educational ends, but it will almost certainly not personalize education in the sense that we see here.
I’m going to write a follow-up post how ESC is using that personalized learning software in their context, but you don’t have to wait to find out; you can just watch the second episode of the case study. While you’re at it, you should go back and watch the full ETV episode from which the above clips were excerpted. In addition to watching more great interview content, you can find a bunch of great related links to content that will let you dig deeper into many of the topics covered in the discussions.
We have known this from the beginning: "For MOOCs to function as the bridge between open content and collaborative learning, they need to include opportunities for social interaction and collaboration, which have consistently proven to be beneficial to learners. Failure to do so would relegate MOOCs to little more than content repositories, which, while still valuable, would be used primarily by the highly educated, mature, and motivated independent learners they currently serve." Eventually this will be 'invented' at MIT or Stanford. Probably with the assistance of Gates funding.[Link] [Comment]