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I have run out of interesting things to write about edtech.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/07/2017 - 9:16am in

Welcome to the new More or Less Bunk. I think this is version #4, if memory serves me well. I redesigned it again because I’ve started guesting in that computer science class I described in this post. Since I knew I was going to have to describe how to build actual web pages, I had to build one myself.  That would be my new landing page, and I had to redesign here at the same time because of the way I structured this site back in 2014.  I have more to do here, but this is yet another example of learning by doing on my part. I remain stunned that this sort of thing is now technically half my job description.

With more actual doing, I’ve become far less interesting in pontificating.  It helps that I’ve been writing my next actual history book all summer. Lately, I’ve been doing a deep dive into the history of catsup!  So you’ll understand why I don’t much care about MOOCs or personalized learning or the coming faculty apocalypse (which, of course, JP and I already covered here).  Since I’m running a Faculty Learning Community (a term I picked up from the one and only Adam Croom) for our very incipient Domain of One’s Own project on campus starting in August, I still have to follow this stuff to some degree.  However, I’m pretty sure that I’ve run out of interesting things to write about edtech.*

However, before I leave this subject for what may be a pretty long while, I thought I’d review where we’ve been over four versions of this blog.  In 2012, a bunch of people in Silicon Valley started claiming that MOOCs were going to disrupt education and make universities obsolete.  I spilled a ton of pixels worrying that they might be right.  It turns out they were wrong.  But the really interesting question from the history of technology standpoint is exactly why they were wrong.  The rather surprising popularity of this post about edtech and refrigerators made me want to review this because maybe it’s not quite as obvious to some people as it is to me.

Disruption theory is built on analogies.  If I remember right, Clayton Christensen invented disruption theory by looking at the computer storage industry, then applying those lessons elsewhere.  Eventually, he applied the same principles to higher education.  The same way that Silicon Valley shills like to pitch things as “Uber for____,” there are useful versions of this kind of argument and less useful versions of this kind of argument.  Frankly, I’m not sure that this is the correct chronological order, but “Uber for hotels” gets you Airbnb.  On the other hand, disrupting education the same way that Zip Disks disrupted the computer industry during the 1990s gets you a really shitty education – a.k.a. MOOCs.

The obvious reason for this is the degree to which the new thing replicates the old thing.  Storage is storage.  Someone’s house still gives you shelter, just like a hotel.  Someone’s car still gets you where you’re going.  And in all three of these cases, it gets you what you want much, much cheaper.  Reach back to refrigerators, and the new technology is actually a vast improvement over the old one, ice boxes.  But i turns out that there isn’t much of a paying market for watching professors lecture and answering a bunch of multiple choice questions, at least among potential college students.

But even if there was, completely disruption isn’t exactly inevitable.  Sometimes the hotel itself is the reason for your visit.  Whether it’s a conference or just the pool and the buffet downstairs, hotels will always have something on Airbnb.  To go back to that refrigerator post again, some people  actually prefer going to the laundromat that owning their own washer/dryer – particularly if they don’t have their own house.  Sometimes even if the experience seems better, disruption may take time or might never happen at all because of strange cultural considerations that mere business professors will never bother to contemplate.

So what’s the deal with education technology?  MOOCs were and remain a mostly lousy experience, except for corporate training apparently – perhaps because corporations don’t much care about the quality of the student experience.  Various efforts to disrupt other aspects of the college experience with edtech have met varying receptions.  Sometimes the reception has been good (think textbook rental services, for instance).  Sometimes the reception has been bad (think e-textbooks, for instance).  If the savings are worth the inconveniences of an inferior experience or can somehow provide a better experience, those companies will prosper.  If they aren’t, then we’ll have yet another fad on our hands.

What I’ve learned in my years of studying this topic, is that there are actually a ton of really devoted people who are trying to develop and utilize various educational technologies to create useful and – at least in some cases – superior experiences to how colleges and classes operate now.  These efforts are, as you might expect, hugely labor intensive.  Therefore, they seldom appeal to private Silicon Valley companies trying to make a quick buck.  They do, however, appeal to all of us who are in higher education for the long run and a willing to try something new.

I got drafted to teach WordPress in a computer science class because I became one of those people.  What used to be peripheral to my job has moved to the center thanks to learning by doing.  While I may share a few of those experiments in this space moving forward, I’m afraid my days of long-winded pontificating about edtech are over.

Maybe it’s time to try history blogging again.  Anyone want to hear about the history of catsup?

* The one exception to that statement is an article that JP and I have in the hopper.  Actually, I drafted it from one of Poritz’s ideas and he’s been sitting on it for a few weeks now. It may see the light of day eventually, but if you’re reading this JP, I think you know what you have to do in order to make that happen.

Universities are failing to equip enough students with digital skills

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/06/2017 - 9:01am in

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Technology

Universities must better integrate digital skills into curricula in order to remain relevant and competitive, argues Jisc's Paul Feldman.

The post Universities are failing to equip enough students with digital skills appeared first on Wonkhe.

Gophers.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/06/2017 - 9:10pm in

I got exciting news yesterday: I’m becoming a computer science professor! I’m alright. Nobody worry ’bout me. It’s just for three days.

You see, my friend JP is teaching a CS class for pre-college Freshmen this summer and it’s going to start with getting them Reclaim Hosting sites, then teaching them how to control their own domains. Poritz, who codes his own pages like most people write prose, is so far ahead on this he actually needs help explaining this simplified process to ordinary people, so I’m coming in for the first three days to help talk the students through this process. Ironically, I’m hardly the greatest WordPress web designer in the world. [Indeed, THE Jason Jones owes me an e-mail or at least a post on improving one’s WordPress skills so I can redesign this site again as practice.] Nevertheless, over the last few years I’ve become quite good at modeling “Let’s all learn this together” behavior.

This is necessary because this whole concept of “Digital Natives” is complete rubbish. Yeah, I know that’s a rather common sentiment (at least in well-informed circles), but I’d actually go one step further: A lot of old people like me are a lot closer to being digital natives than college students are. After all, I was on a college campus for most of the Nineties. I actually learned (and have now completely forgotten) Gopher in an 80-part e-mail course. By which I mean, this gopher:

Not this one:

via GIPHY

Or this one:

So I literally have decades of experience being uncomfortable on the Internet.

I’d argue that this is a good thing. One of the many things I learned writing a book with Poritz was the origins of the fake word “app.” Yes, I already knew it’s short for “application,” but what JP taught me is that the whole point of applications is to perform a particular function for you so that you don’t have to worry about it. By making things more easy, you’re more likely to hand over your cash, your data or perhaps both.

As a stereotypical liberal college professor, the whole “Fake News” thing from last year scared the Hell out of me, and would have done so regardless of the outcome of the election. Since the Internet is so important to everyday life and is already (for good or for evil) taking over the college classroom, I’m committed to helping students understand how to think critically about something that’s inevitably such an important part of their lives. With an epidemic of fake Founding Fathers quotes perverting our politics, the relationship between this project and history professing should be obvious.

Or we can all be gophers and climb back into our holes and wait for Bill Murray to blow up the golf course for us. Pardon me if I prefer to be more pro-active.

Wearable tech in HE: fad, flop or flourishing?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/03/2017 - 10:01am in

There’s lots of talk about educational applications for wearable tech in HE. How have things moved on in the last year or so?

The post Wearable tech in HE: fad, flop or flourishing? appeared first on Wonkhe.

Charlie Brooker: ‘The more horrible an idea, the funnier I find it’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/10/2016 - 10:00pm in

As the anthology series Black Mirror returns, its creator explains what fuels the show’s twisted tales – and tells us where we’re going wrong with technology

A sadistic version of The X Factor where contestants perform for their own freedom. An immersive experience where criminals are subjected to the same terrors they inflicted on their victims, in front of a baying audience. A grotesque cartoon demagogue using TV and social media to obtain power. No, these aren’t scenes from the first term of a Donald Trump presidency, but something only marginally less traumatising, and infinitely more likely to happen: Charlie Brooker’s techy anthology series Black Mirror, a show its creator describes as made up of “deliciously horrible ‘what if’s”.

Few shows have wormed their way into the nation’s collective nightmares like Black Mirror, the new series of which premieres on Netflix from next Friday. Over two Channel 4 series and a feature-length Christmas special, Black Mirror has depicted unpleasant scenarios from the not-too distant future, in a way that has at times felt almost eerily prophetic. Four years before the lurid #piggate allegations about David Cameron came to light, there was The National Anthem, a Black Mirror episode where the prime minister is forced to have relations with a farmyard animal. Even when Black Mirror isn’t that prescient it always manages to summon up some malignant future spirit that speaks to our technological preoccupations of the present, from AI to augmented reality.

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The Future of the Professions

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/02/2016 - 10:58pm in

In an era when machines can out-perform human beings at most tasks what are the prospects for employment? In an era when machines can out-perform human beings at most tasks, what are the prospects for employment, who should own and control online expertise, and what tasks should be reserved exclusively for people? The Future of the Professions predicts the decline of today's professions and describes the people and systems that will replace them. In an Internet society, according to Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind, we will neither need nor want doctors, teachers, accountants, architects, the clergy, consultants, lawyers, and many others, to work as they did in the 20th century.

The authors Richard Susskind OBE (Author, speaker, and independent adviser) and Daniel Susskind (Lecturer in Economics, Balliol College, University of Oxford) explore these questions with Joshua Hordern (Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership), Vili Lehdonvirta (Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute) and Judy Wajcman (Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics). Chaired by Kathryn Eccles (Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute and Digital Humanities Champion, Humanities Division, University of Oxford).

What Does it Mean to be Human in the Digital Age?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/01/2016 - 12:25am in

A librarian, literary scholar, museum director and digital commentator explore how the digital age has shaped, and will continue to shape, the human experience and the humanities The TORCH Humanities and the Digital Age series will explore the relationship between Humanities and the digital. It will consider digital’s at once disruptive and creative potential, and imagine future territory to be prospected. Underpinning this is perhaps the most important question of all: What does it mean to be human in the digital age? How might it reshape the way we create meaning and values? In this opening event we bring together a panel of experts from across the Humanities and the cultural sector to examine how the digital age has shaped, and will continue to shape, the human experience and the Humanities. We are joined by Tom Chatfield (author and broadcaster), Chris Fletcher (Professorial Fellow at Exeter College, Member of the English Faculty and Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library) Diane Lees (Director-General of Imperial War Museum Group) and Emma Smith (Fellow and Tutor in English, University of Oxford). The discussion is chaired by Dame Lynne Brindley (Master, Pembroke College).

Online Tool to Start Co-Ops Launches

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/10/2015 - 11:02am in

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Technology

Creating Digital Connections

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/10/2015 - 10:49am in

Impact Investment Data ‘Woeful’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/10/2015 - 10:04am in

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