Thursday, March 15, 2012

Are Things Really Broken or Is This How Change Really Feels?

I have often wondered how my daily research might (or might not) be affected by travel, sleep (or lack thereof), and my different speaking engagements or presentations.

Take yesterday, for example. I gave a presentation to the great faculty at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri, held a Next Is Now webinar for a large group of folks later in the day, and then flew to Orlando so that I could talk about digital learning content with the folks at Full Sail University. I worked on research for my next book on the flight so by the time I made it to the hotel sometime after midnight, my head was swimming with all kinds of ideas about learning content and how to fix it.

Maybe that's why I was drawn to Michael Feldstein's post about a different approach to the LMS paradigm, GoodSemester. Michael sums the product up by saying, "Their product model is so different from the conventional LMS business that there are no clear precedents for how well it might work even in principle. It’s uncharted territory." Having registered for the product and poked around, I would agree. But my real takeaway is that GoodSemester is the kind of thing you get when you don't start from the same point of departure as everyone else. It may or may not last, but you can't argue about it being fresh or about the fact that it could take us to a different teaching destination.

And maybe all the time I spent talking about how learning content is changing attracted me to items on MOOC experiments by Stephen Downes and Audrey Watters. In his presentation, Downes argues "that to the extent that a MOOC focuses on content, like a traditional course, it begins to fail. A MOOC should focus on the connections, not the content." This is reminiscent of George Siemens' statement that "MOOCs are not (yet) an answer to any particular problem." Watters looks at MOOCs from a different perspective, that of the learner. Based on her experience as a lurker in multiple MOOCs, she wonders who the other learners really are (novices or experts), and asks about how motivation works in these online courses. More importantly, "How will this 'open and ongoing experiment' proceed now that alongside the institutional and cross-institutional MOOCs, we have a whole cadre of for-profit startups?"

And, maybe all my nagging internal questions about the efficacy of our current learning content attracted me to a couple of critiques of the Khan Academy. For the record, I'm a big fan of the Khan Academy as a source of valid supplemental learning content. There are many things to like about the simple, informal approach, and the content design. On the other hand, I can understand why David Andrade might say that the videos are just a bunch of lectures and not good pedagogy, or why Tony Bates would comment on the lack of contextualization for learners using the videos. " Just jumping at random into a video suddenly makes me aware that I need lots of prior knowledge before I can understand this video, but there’s no help on that. Also, where’s the feedback? If I still don’t understand after watching the video several times and doing the exercises, what do I do?"

My opinion is that maybe we're asking these videos to be more than they actually are -- individual tutorial snippets designed to help someone studying a particular subject gain a better understanding. Again, I have never seen this content as stand-alone but rathe as supplemental. As such, I think it's both significant and extremely innovative. Maybe we're trying to make it more than it really is?

Of course, we could probably say the same thing for Google Search. The WSJ has an article today touting some new changes upcoming. Essentially, Google is going to add a more semantic element to our search results in order to make them more relevant. The end result will be the addition of more factual (think encyclopedia) information to make our search results. For Google, this is certainly an opportunity to build up more advertising opportunities in search. And, it makes me ask if they aren't over-thinking things a bit. Do we really want the extra stuff? If I wanted actual information,  I would simply go to Wolfram Alpha, a computation/search engine that was designed to deliver these kinds of results (and does them much, much better).

Yes, maybe walking up without having the right amount of beauty sleep makes me churn on what needs fixing instead of focusing on what I can be creating. Not that there aren't some things that need fixing, mind you. Just take the Tour de France, for example...

Suggested Reading
GoodSemester: Not an LMS, but a Learning Platform

Education as Platform: The MOOC Experience and what we can do to make it better ~ Stephen's Web

Learning from MOOCs | Inside Higher Ed

Educational Technology Guy: Khan Academy - not good pedagogy and not #edreform

A short critique of the Khan Academy

YouTube Opens Up Live-Streaming to Non-Profits First

Google Gives Search a Refresh -

1 comment:

  1. Rob I totally agree with what you just said in this post every thing should be used for what it's meant for. Whether its khan academy or MIT open courseware they can only supplement the learning process. Learning has to be facilitated by a teacher in a pedagogical environement. E-learning platforms like WizIQ, ADobe Connect, Udemy offer sophisticated tools for online teaching, creating equal opportunties for people everywhere to attend instructor-driven courses, many of which can draw in these profoundly useful open resources.