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User:Leighblackall/Everything you need to teach and learn online

This paper is in progress, and based on a series of blog posts by Leigh Blackall, brought together for the purpose of preparing a 3-6000 word essay for academic development of the general concepts. Please feel free to insert references, make corrections, and even add concepts. Please be careful in documenting such additions in either the edit summary or the discussion page, so we may be able to manage the final edit. I'd suggest signing any conceptual additions in the main text here, just so it stands out. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoy the reading at the stage its at already. Leighblackall 23:46, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

Integrity in educationEdit

[Higher education is the...] "mass production of people literally unfit for anything except to take part in an elaborate and completely artificial charade."[1]

This paper questions the integrity of education as we may know it today. It considers education's primary, if undesirable role - to maintain social inequality. It links recent technology adoption to the perpetuation of that inequality, and questions the economic and policy models in which education in industrialised societies is presently developed. This paper proposes alternative perspectives and directions for education that may address these criticisms, and work towards models for education that better meet the needs of people, their freedoms and ability to determin themselves.

Building you a prisonEdit

In 1976, Ivan Illich collaborated with Etienne Verne to write the booklet, Imprisoned in the Global Classroom[2].

Following are significant excerpts, relating mostly to the critique of education today.

An analysis of the defects of the school system no longer stirs anyone to action. This is true of the specialists who establish the facts, the politicians who decide how to dress them up, and the teachers who have come to terms with them. The conclusions reached are deposited in libraries, and the great international bureacracies have taken on the task of disseminating them. [3]

I'm not sure if evidence is needed to make such a claim today, or how one would go about gathering evidence for it? It seems to me however, that this opening paragraph relates to Susan Awbrey's 2003 paper on academic capitalism, were she makes the reference to the problem of mental models not matching action:

Research has shown that the theories, or mental models, people use in practice are, for the most part, tacit. Few people are consciously aware of them. It is these unquestioned theories-in-use that often guide our actions and strategies not our espoused theories. (Argyris and Schon, 1974, Argyris, 1980, Argyris, 1987, and cited in Smith, 2001) Thus, quite often the world-view and values we espouse are not the world-view and values implied by our behavior. This is not just a difference between what we say and what we do (between theory and action) but between two different theories of action—-one we profess and one we actually use.[4]

So far this point should be obvious to most, we all have used rhetoric for the importance of "critical thinking" and "diversity in opinion" and how valuing that somehow leads to counter measures against group think and closed mindedness, but how many of us have witnessed our own inability to accommodate those values in practice, let alone the groups we participate in? When I consider my interactions with various management and policy initiatives, I'd have to say the clear majority don't know how to effectively accommodate criticism and diversity, especially considering a perhaps more emboldened class such as the so-called 'net-generation', gaining strength and confidence through online social media and networks. Of course the reverse is also true, where the we new critics lack the cultural capital to effectively engage the groups in power.

Either way, this problem of closed mindedness leads to significant problems for any organisation, if they are not able to hear or properly consider the feedback to their strategies and actions. Obviously this is a problem not just for education, but the depth of the problem becomes even more alarming if we also consider the observations in Cass Sunstein's recent book Infotopia[5], where he outlines many examples of the causes and consequences of group think and an organisation's inability to question the consequences and values of its own actions.

And its at this point where the opening paragraph of Global Classroomo hits the truth of the matter. Action is not possible because over time the agencies to which the proposals are made, have developed defence mechanisms (departments and procedures), that both intentionally and non intentionally inoculate them from the intrusive feedback and proposals, and so the realisation of a need to take action or review mental models never has the opportunity to forms.

It is not usually drawn to our attention that this training is to be provided by 'instuctors', a new profession, the development of which has the particular advantage of providing jobs for intellectuals who would otherwise be unemployedd. It also ensures that an alliance between intellectuals and working men remains obstructed by the system. Permanent education absorbs the 40,000 intellectuals for whom no other job exists, and employs them as 'instructors', course designers, directors and inspectors of education. [6]

In other words, the likely criticisms are absorbed by the institution, and the diversity is lost in the group identity and its unique power dynamics.

But this blockage is not true for all change proposals of course, some very significant proposals do get through: academic capitalism, investment in 'eLearning', adoption of IT, but these three especially have been silent revolutions, where critical discourse seems to have been a long way from those who decide on the actions.

So how do proposals get through while others don't? There's an elephant in the room isn't there?...

Because they limit their attention to the evident consequences of compulsory schooling, rather than the hidden curriculum and the social ethos it produces, politicians can never think further than compensating for, correcting or restricting its superficial failings. [7]

The "they" here are the deschooling reformers that Illich and Verne call out as the unsuccessful change agents. They were too focused on the action - consequence loop, and not reflecting enough on the underlying values. Again Susan Awbrey's investigation relates here, where she points to Kurt Lewin's work around the notion of unfreezing, which it just so happens - relates to action research.

‘Unfreezing’ (Lewin, 1951) is an organizational term that has come to mean many things. First, it means that for change to take place members of the organization must see not only a need for change but also an urgent reason to change. Slaughter and Leslie have made the case for urgency by showing us that, out of financial necessity, higher education is already undergoing a quiet revolution that is having some unintended consequences. Second, Lewin’s concept of unfreezing warns us that attempts to change without addressing an organization’s cultures and values will fail in the long run.[8]

The important thing to highlight in this quote is the warning that if we don't engage in discussion around cultures and values, changes will be unsuccessful in the long term.

How would attention to a "hidden curriculum and social ethos" arouse a need for action? Perhaps by making explicit the unacknowledged truth of the matter - that our rhetoric does not match our actions. That our actions and the processes that enable them are more fundamentally corrupted. Such attention probably takes decades on social scale, years in small groups, and months for individuals - which must be why we experience change in networks so much faster than in groups[9].

But the one certain effect of these innovations is to conceal still further the latent programme merely by manipulating the manifest facts, and thereby reinforcing it. Research by experts into alternative strategies, and the imposition by politicians of new legislation and regulations, imply that individuals and communities have neither sufficiant resources to discover their particular educational requirements, nor the power to decide for themselves how to meet their needs. At every turn they become a little more alienated from themselves and a little more industrialized. This, in fact, is the universal result of compulsory schooling. [10]

Depressing indeed! A conscious "latent" conspiracy?..

Strategically, on the management level, the proclaimed permanence of access to education and the right to receive instruction was calculated to make it easier for the political bureacracies to accept limitations on the quantitative development of schooling, since educational opportunity would not be restricted to early years, everyone being offered a second or even a third chance. This is prime territory for the philosophy of equity and opportunity. [11]

What I think is meant by this is that the notion of "life long learning", and its unfortunate appropriation by education institutes, dilutes the possibility of focused change by spreading the load and institutionalisation across a wider social gathering. Illich and Verne argue that notions of life long learning are sinister due to the latent corruption of the groups and institutes who appropriate responsibility for it.

Illich and Vern's booklet, Imprisoned in the Global Classroom is a difficult read. Its paragraphs point out in all directions, and without a lot of concrete accuracy.. perhaps too much has passed between now and 1976. It makes an impression of a vague sense, but using exact and urgent language. I imagine many would dismiss it out of frustration, and today's inappropriate expectation of 'evidence' in social sciences. Reading passages over and over, and reflecting on their meaning takes time, and the thoughts and ideas it gives me feel worth the time.

Deschooling, which has been adopted by the ideology of industry, assists this transfer, just as various fascist regimes today are assisted by self-concious rationalisation. In the same way that deschooling is used to promote education without schools and schools without walls, education satellites and the knowledge industry, teaching machines and multi media systems, it is used to promote permanent education. Without doubt, deschooling here falls into a most dangerous and well-concealed trap, laid for it by those who wish to utilize it to justify the educational mega machine of the year 2000.[12]

This paragraph should give all of us in the educational technology arena reason to pause. It talks about life long learning, and a sinister appropriation by education agents using it to justifying themselves. While I'm half certain I sit on the right side of the fence on this one, I'm cautious not to appropriate the statement as an endorsement of my work either - because I just might be guilty of exactly what Illich and Verne point to here.

Is my work in trying to open up an educational institution, its processes and resources, and then to situate its teachers and research in the popular arena, in fact just further entrapment of independent social existence, and bringing it under the dominance of Education? On may levels it is, I can see that. To build awareness of learning as it happens in social networks and its media, and then to nurture ideas in the educational institution on how they might exist in that, seeks to further legitimise the dominance of the Education paradigm, impacting further on individual and community self determination and sufficiency. Its just as bad as what marketing agents are doing, government agents, even the medical institutions, where they lack a genuine sense of altruism we might otherwise look for[13]

Is such work to open up institutionalised education and research the lessor of a greater evil? Or is it actually better that institutionalised education exist as it does behind its own walls, restricting access to the opportunities (or illusion there of), and making itself irrelevant to more and more people as an Internet enabled learning web matures? Perhaps Education, and Academic Capitalism will actually help societies more by perpetuating this exclusion, thereby reducing its dominance over more people's real lives, leaving their communities little choice but to devise other ways of learning and individual growth?... Perhaps the large scale economic model of education today ensures that it ignores small scale community learning projects precisely because they are too small scale, too parochial, leaving the participants to their own ends, unmolested by educational corruption.

Its an interesting notion to throw around. I see a reason to wait longer now, either for the space for genuine altruism in our institutions to develop (rather than being pressured by a few counter culture radicals), or for the spread of community learning initiatives in response to the institution's weakening. Of course there's no guarantee that either will happen within a present lifetime, in fact there's plenty of evidence to the contrary.

There really is a relentless source of criticism in this book, to the globalisation of education. Chapter 3 titled Political Inversion is written by Illich alone, and I find it a more familiar writing style. This chapter revisits the importance of conviviality and self determination, set against the dominance of institutions that can be shown to take away conviviality - starting with prisons, but moving right through all others. Many of my colleagues would argue that education prepares people for conviviality, but I'd be interested to know if their belief survives a reading of Illich, where he brings the hidden into plain view and exposes education as the separation of things into specialties, in a political context of short term, and an economic cycle of escalating consumption and collapse.

Academic capitalismEdit

There is an excellent paper by Susan Awbrey titled Making the Invisible Hand Visible. The Case for Dialogue About Academic Capitalism[14]

Susan's paper has introduced a term that I have not heard around Australian universities yet - academic capitalism. While Susan writes mainly from a US perspective, she refers to research carried out in Australia, UK, Canada and the US.

Academic capitalism is defined as “institutional and professorial market or market-like efforts to secure external moneys” (Slaughter and Leslie, 1997, p. 8). In the 1980s and 1990s academic capitalism flourished as government support for education declined, corporate interest in new products and processes coincided with the university’s search for increased funding, and as the government sought to enhance national competitiveness by linking postsecondary education to business innovation... Public higher education institutions became dependent on sources beyond the government and that process is already changing the roles, rewards, and structures within academic institutions.

I can't help quoting this paper at some length, as I know many of my colleagues will put off reading a PDF, but they might take a few minutes to read some notes here. I've copied Susan's spot-on observations of some of the consequences of academic capitalism.

At the university level
Academic capitalism is sweeping higher education. Although some institutions have been partially insulated by unique missions or large endowments, it is a growing phenomenon. At the institutional level rewards now flow to academic units that build external funding. There is an expansion of sales and service functions from branding and promoting logoemblazoned products to marketing web-based services. Campuses now resemble malls with recognizable private food and book vendors. Admissions functions have become enrollment management as the pressure increases to compete for new students. More and more administrative responsibilities are pushed out to the academic units. There is a decline in collegial governance with more important decisions being made at the central level to respond quickly to external constituents. There is growing tension between academics and central administration.

At the department level
There is an increase of hyper-competition between academic units for scarce resources. (This competition has exaggerated already present disciplinary biases.) Fields “close to the market,” such as business and engineering, continue to gain power while those less close, such as the liberal arts, are losing influence. The salary differentials between faculty members in fields that can access external dollars and those fields that cannot continue to grow. Fields further from the market are also experiencing increased teaching loads. There is an increase in the numbers of part-time faculty. Less and less importance is being placed on the quality of undergraduate and graduate instruction as reward systems shift and the maintenance of external partnerships absorbs increasing amounts of faculty time.
With faculty
Faculty members are under pressure to pursue external funding. There is a shift away from community-minded attitudes toward attitudes of personal gain. Faculty members have less time to devote to instruction. Faculty, especially untenured junior faculty, are experiencing high levels of stress due to an increasing number of faculty roles. Maintaining external relationships demands larger and larger amounts of faculty time, and less time is available for other roles. Faculty members are becoming resistant to committee and university service as demands on their time increase. There is a decline in collegiality and campus community. There is less allegiance to the institution as faculty increasingly view themselves more and more as independent entrepreneurs.
On research
Overall there is less government funding available for research. There is less basic, or curiosity-driven research, and more specialized and applied research. External constituents are setting more and more of the university’s research agenda. Faculty members engaged in research have less allegiance to the university as centers and institutes become increasingly funded by external, non-governmental sources.
With students
Students are experiencing steady tuition increases. More and more students are seeking means/end education for career advancement. There is a growing resistance to broad educational experience as per course costs increase. Students are developing a shopping mall, consumer viewpoint of knowledge as a commodity. There is greater competition among students for spots in prestigious institutions. Broad access to higher education is being threatened as tuition spirals upward.

I've been a change agent in education for quite some time now.. one thing that has troubled me for almost all that time is that the rhetoric and the actions of education don't fit together. Susan picks this up also:

Research has shown that the theories, or mental models, people use in practice are, for the most part, tacit. Few people are consciously aware of them. It is these unquestioned theories-in-use that often guide our actions and strategies not our espoused theories. (Argyris and Schon, 1974, Argyris, 1980, Argyris, 1987, and cited in Smith, 2001) Thus, quite often the world-view and values we espouse are not the world-view and values implied by our behavior. This is not just a difference between what we say and what we do (between theory and action) but between two different theories of action—-one we profess and one we actually use.

Susan goes on to use a great example to illustrate this point. Airport security measures - where their actions are clearly having consequences on many of the other values that guide their practice, and so know one in the industry has an eye on the relationships between values, practice and consequences. Susan gives a simple method for ensuring this happens:

Once you implement [change] strategies you may ask: “What did we expect to happen?” “What were the results?” and “How might we alter our strategy next time?” These questions are all asked from within the mental model you hold of the situation. If we also ask questions such as: “Why did we select this strategy?” “What made us think it will work?” “What have been the unintended consequences on each of our guiding values?” we are asking questions about our mental model and challenging our theory-in-use.

The trouble with this I think, and especially in the academic sector where truth is largely relative, and people's depth of understanding is non sequential and a-synchronous, such a review of consequences might lead to a paralysis. I've certainly come to such a point in many areas of my work, particularly when looking more deeply at the values of 'learning', the practice of 'education', and the consequences that practice has on 'learning'! aka Illich. Our practices are so deeply embedded, and the critique is so fundamentally challenging, that many people become simply paralysed and end up either ignoring the critique and 'getting on with it anyway', or dropping out of the structure all together. As a result, it is very difficult to find people in the sector who are willing and able to discuss the critique.

Perhaps though, this is simply a result of not having enough people in the room to discuss the problem and devise actions that move us on somewhat.

‘Unfreezing’ (Lewin, 1951) is an organizational term that has come to mean many things. First, it means that for change to take place members of the organization must see not only a need for change but also an urgent reason to change. Slaughter and Leslie have made the case for urgency by showing us that, out of financial necessity, higher education is already undergoing a quiet revolution that is having some unintended consequences. Second, Lewin’s concept of unfreezing warns us that attempts to change without addressing an organization’s cultures and values will fail in the long run.

Academic capitalism is a very appropriate term for obvious reasons. The seeming oxymoron in the two words coming together is not an invitation to adopt an anti-capitalistic stance necessarily, but it sure does give me pause to reflect on my actions and proposals that are ultimately responding to this large changing force in the sector.

The erosion of public funding that has led to academic capitalism implies a shift not merely in funding sources but also in the deeper values that underlie education’s role in society... The use of a strategy such as academic capitalism needs to be consciously undertaken and widely discussed with broad awareness of and input regarding intended and unintended consequences not only on the financial health of the institution but also on the university’s mission and guiding values.

Social and technological determinismEdit

Lately I have been hanging about at the Internet Archive checking out movies. Last night I found the 30 second commercial for Admiral Cigarettes, made in 1897![15]. Its a really lame ad by today's standards or course, but is an extremely interesting case study to look at the early adoption of a new communicative technology. This little film offers us a chance to reflect on our own adoptions of another new medium more than 100 years later!

Early advertising film from the Edison Manufacturing Co. Copied at 26fps from a 35mm print preserved by the Library of Congress. Director: William Heise Sponsor: Edison Mfg. Co. Audio/Visual: silent, black & white. Creative Commons license: Public Domain. Date 1897

Admiral Cigarettes really strikes me as a great example of how poorly prepared those early adopters were in understanding the uses and impact of that particular new technology. You can see in the film an almost zero comprehension of the grama of film and movies, no sense for the unique language structures of a movie that would begin to form more than 20 years later. Obviously the creators of the Admiral Cigarettes ad saw movies as simply an extension of the theatre. Actors on a stage, extroverted movements, big props, 2 dimensional... But they failed to understand and speak a new language of the new medium. Shall we call them movie immigrants[16]?

I think we have faced the same language and perceptual barriers with the Internet as the Edison Manufacturing Co did with film in their cigarette ad of 1897. Its obvious really, especially if you look at art and education and their early attempts to enter the digital Internet era. When the Internet first started hitting my street in 1995, I was at art school. By 1998 the first websites started to come out for the art school, they were being called virtual galleries. These virtual galleries were simple click through tours of paintings, drawings, sculptures and the odd installation just to be difficult. Just as Admiral Cigarettes created a virtual stage, the 'artists' created virtual galleries. Some were so committed to the idea, that they even started looking into virtual reality technologies as a way to bring familiar dimension into their virtual walk-through galleries.

Of course much later, with the benefit of Internet hindsight I have been able to find more authentic artistic expressions of this same time, work such The Lair of the Marrow Monkey by Eric Loyer, are examples of work that engaged with screens, sound, hypertext and connectivity, creating artistic experiences in emerging languages and cultures. They weren't as much recreations of what was already understood (gallery exhibitions) - they were something new, or at least beginning to exhibit something new[17].

Now taking a look at slow old education... The early adopters of these new mediums (digital media and the Internet) have been suffering from the same incomprehension as the early adopters of movies. Just like the early adopters of movies, and the artist's virtual galleries, educators using digital media and the Internet are largely relying on familiar methods, creating virtual classrooms, treating knowledge with traditional print industry processes, and trying very hard to retain the old teacher student relationship by narrowing scope into institutions and their learning management systems, to deliver courses they call learning.

I think its important to look at digital media and the Internet as separate entities in the language unfolding by the way. Its unfortunate that digital media and content creation has held the lime light in education for so long, and that the connectivity offered by the modem has, to a large degree been ignored. Most discussion in the eighties for example, seemed to focus on computer programming, and developing experiences that could be understood as educational in terms of cognitive development. Take a look at the Computers in Education edition of the Computer Chronicles TV series, broadcast in 1984[18]. In it the host and his guests are looking at computer programs in the classroom, and what sort of cognitive development such programs might achieve with students. Even though one of the speakers in this edition actually uses a modem to link into one of their demonstrations, they fail to even talk about the implications of that technology, instead they focus on content and that more tangible device the PC. Two years prior to their discussion was the Disney movie Tron[19]. A movie that framed popular perceptions of computers, focusing on programming and content. Both of these cultural expressions largely ignore the connectivity offered by the modem.

Into the 90's and the focus remained on content development with CD ROMs and Instructional design. Huge amounts of money were (and still are being) poured into "shelfware" that were really just finished content - digital text books with mildly interactive graphics, and the odd light-weight program for drilling and quizzing. Here were attempts to bring the massively evolving spheres of information into portable content that could be used and understood in the terms of traditional teaching and learning practices and their tangible objects.

When I came into the picture, after the millennium bug, I was a budding Flash developer being asked to develop still more finished content but this time for delivery over a network, not on CD ROM. The CD ROM developments were now being required to develop their content complient to standards, (theoretically sharable and adaptible content, limited to the conditions of the LMS) deliverable over the network. Massive investments were being made in Learning Management Systems, that again failed to understand the new language of learning that was evolving, merely replicating the communications capacity of the Internet, leaving out the international connectivity in the name of Intellectual Property, privacy and security. And this time I was creating more virtual classrooms and simulated training environments with the popular graphics and 'interactiveness' of Flash. All the while I must admit, I had a sneaky suspicion that what we were doing was way off and not the slightest bit 'future proof', but having no idea what the new language of learning would inevitably be in the approaching era of network learning and Internet 2.0.

Costly and unsustainable content development comes from an uninformed and uncritical focus on computers and programs in education throughout the 80's and 90's, one that ignored the wider picture of connectivity and collective learning being offered by modem mediated communications. This in turn comes from the lack of engagement by educational institutions, into the strong and popular critiques of education and society throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s - many of which would have heavily influenced the developers of the Internet[20]. Content creation is very much tied to the process of learning rather than the product for learning, and that the connectivity and subsequent content processes offered by the Internet, challenges everything about our traditional teacher / student / course / content that goes by largely unquestioned in practice.

Internet content is created by people as a process of learning, not as a product for learning. Let me explain.

Tonight I have had an idea or a realisation, spawned from past ideas, readings and discussions, stimulated by a little old movie. The Internet and this blog gives me an opportunity to voice my idea out to engaged readers in my network, open for comment and reactions, now and in the future. That opportunity motivates me to think about the argument I'm making, link together a few things to support what I'm saying, and format it into a reasonably coherent expression. Once 'out there', I both wait for comments and responses, and continue thinking about it until the next idea comes along that will build upon these past experiences. This is a learning process for me, and for those who engage with me in it. This post is not so much an outcome of any particular study (such as a paper or essay might be) but is more a piece in the process of learning. Its an ongoing conversation of learning, with the recorded voices in the conversation contributing to the content used in someone else's learning.[21]

So, just as the movie started as a recreation of the theatre, later developing into a language and expression of its own, online learning will develop from virtual classrooms and courses to something more appreciative of connectedness and networks and communicative processes. This is not to say that the methods and approaches we develop along the way will be superseded by such a new practice, theater is still video recorded after all, it just means that a unique language and practice for the new medium will develop, and it will likely have no resemblance at all to the methods of online education we use today. We must be mindful of that, and watch for practices that stunt this growth and development.

Artifact of controlEdit

I have been involved in secondary school, vocational and academic educational development since 2001. In that time I have been close to the unfortunate mainstreaming of the Learning Management System (LMS) and along with it the distracting notions of sharable learning objects, IMS standardisation, usability, reusability, interoperability, open source and patents, copyright and intellectual property, and other impossible complexities relatively unique to the bureaucratic industry of the LMS. More lately, and I mean six years late, attempts to bring features of the highly popular social web into the LMS paints a stark picture of just how segmented and comodified we have allowed education to become.

Those thoughtful and persistent resisters (Wiley, Seimens, Downes, Norman, Lamb, Farmer, Bartlett-Brag, myself and many more 2001-2010) who pointed out the paradoxes of content production and managed learning, as well as the breaking of social connectedness and equality, the lack of exit or even entry plans, the negative impact on literacy, the gross waste of time and money, the correlation to higher costs and tuition fees, the little to no evidence of need beyond unrealised profits, and the sad prospects of academic capitalism, have largely remained isolated to innovation departments, undiscussed in IT departments, and avoided by management units for long enough as to allow the LMS to entrench itself into our operations and determine more and more of our educational realities. These critics' endless and passionate efforts to bring about a free and socially connected education culture have been gradually losing their field of influence as the LMS's architecture of control increasingly dominates all.

But the LMS is merely an artifact of a wider range of problems facing education (commodofication, control, power, bureaucracy, compliance, exclusivity and restriction, dislocation, dysfunction, irrelevance, status quo, cohort learning, escapism, conformity and extreme conservatism). Its intrinsic relationship to those wider issues is what ensures it remains the central and costly feature to most institutions of academic and vocational education and training. What little there is that remains of the resistance to this disappointing reality is a firm belief that deinstitutionalised and accessible education, connected with social learning networks that know no borders, boundaries or limits to knowledge sharing, can only emerge from outside the institutions, and so they are! (Wikimedia, Youtube Education, P2PU, OER, networked learning).

This paper is the academic formalisation of a series of blog posts that have been following this line of critique for 6 years. That blog and this paper is intended as a disruption to the formal education sector's fixation on the LMS as technological fix, and inescapable path toward commercial precarity. Using Illich, Friere, Postman, McLuhan, Foucault, Bourdieu, and Habermaus as a framework for review, I will argue the need for formal educational institutions to exit the LMS, rethink their capitalistic practices, and engage with social learning networks. I aim to convince just a few that managed learning is more than a mere tool, and that current practices are at best a distraction or worse - escapism from thinking about education in the wider context of the society it is meant to serve.

Education, reactionaries, determinism and singularityEdit

While talking about standards, guidelines, the post LMS age, failures of sharable learning object theories and SCORM technologies, I have made the claim that educational organisations have been far too proactive with technology and not reactive enough. They have invested too heavily in their own technological developments and lost site of what is happening outside their schools, in the real world, in the hands of the average citizen.

Doug Noon in in Alaska calls it Diffusion[22]. Instead of using proactive and reactive as terms that explain the problem, he has used instrumentalist and determinist.

Instrumentalists say that Education Reform is made possible by new technology, while determinists see Change as a process that is driven by new technologies.

Doug points to a screen by VH Carr Jr, called Technology and Diffusion[23]:

None of these technologies, however, has been generally available for individual or private use due to cost, scope or application. This deterred a "grass roots" technology adoption cycle as it was nearly impossible to generate movement from the bottom up by influencing faculty peers and administrators with demonstrations of successful applications.
Unlike most earlier technologies which were thrust upon the education community, Internet technology is individually available to faculty and students who can use their own systems to serve their own purposes. The impetus for the innovation frequently grows from individual users of the technology, and as their communication and influence moves laterally through their contacts, a body of support can grow and exert "pressure" on the institutional administration to commit to adoption of the technology. There is, therefore, a high potential for a "bottom-up" or "grass roots" adoption process to succeed.

Carr is too general in saying Internet technologies. You can take the principle observation though, and apply it within the idea of "Internet technologies" and it starts to work even better. Take free blogging v's pay a web designer and buy a server with software approach. Take Wikipedia v's the National library's closed reference section... take a Learning Management System v's small pieces of free web based applications loosely joined...

That's what's going on now. In the early days of Internet for teaching and learning we had experts creating SCORM compliant content, for Learning Management Systems sitting on expensive servers maintained by expensive server administrators. We still have it, more or less, its rediculously entrenched. But now days we have a trend emerging not from the management and their systems, but from the grass roots of part time teachers and all sorts of students. Based on an opening up of content and a largely free and accessible Internet of communication tools. A grass roots counter culture with intense productivity that draws those managed systems into question.

But at this point we should return to Doug's important observation,

The subject of internet technology and education reform (ie. blogs, wikis, podcasting, videoblogs, games, Wikipedia, Google,…) is frequently coupled with the observation that many teachers don't seem to recognize the wave of change that is rushing toward us, traditional classrooms are becoming obsolete, new forms of communication are requiring new definitions of literacy, etc …and the question: How are we going to get them to see it? Because, according to the edublog evangelists, seeing it is a mark of progressive visionary practice that will prepare kids for the future.

He's right, there has to be an enlightenment in the school culture before the grass can grow. Education needs to attract a different type of person, it will have to remove the systems that prevent the engagement, and managers will need to step back and be less prescriptive with technology implimentation and policy, and work towards building a senses of autonomy, mastery and purpose[24]

So, I'm still unresloved with my proactive/reactive idea. Perhaps I'm toying with the wrong words, maybe even the wrong ideas. What I'm trying to find is a simple way to explain the need for grass roots development instead of standardised managed systems, and cynical staff development programmes.

Perhaps another night's sleep and another occassion of singularity will emerge the idea for me a bit more. So I'll finish with Doug's final dark word on it, which I have experienced myself more time than I care to remember:

I made a presentation about blogs to a group of teachers last summer. After I talked for probably too long, a woman raised her hand and asked, “Why would anyone want to do this?” I didn’t know what else to say. You either see it, or you don’t. We lack consensus - not only for technology - but for our vision of schooling.

Deconstructing Behaviorism within Social ConstructivismEdit

A questionEdit

The following question was put to me at a Desire2Learn and Ascilite Roundtable Event 18 June 2008:

The use of easily accessible and, in many cases, free social software tools such as MSN, Skype, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Second Life and a wide range of blogs and wikis, has become almost ubiquitous among the so-called ‘Net Generation’. In the context of a growing emphasis on eLearning, most commonly facilitated by enterprise-scale Learning Management System and a range of institutionally managed and supported communication and collaboration software tools, and in an environment of increasing emphasis on intellectual property rights management and quality assurance, how do universities (and other educational institutions) respond to the use of free, open-access tools in common use by their students? What are the potential educational uses of such tools? What are the current practices of use of these tools within educational institutions? What are the issues, risks and hidden costs? What are the advantages and benefits?

Understanding the questionEdit

Such a long and complex question needs a little unpacking..

Is the use of “free social software” almost ubiquitous?
Statistics from 2007

Statistics released in November 2007 revealed that 67% of New Zealand homes are not connected to the Internet. Precisely: 33% have no connection what so ever, 34% have connections of 25kbps or less, and 33% have connections of 200kbps or more. Considering that a connection of 25kbps or less can not satisfactorily work with the range of free social media we are talking about, and considering that type of media is increasingly defining the Internet today, and with an expectation that its development will continue to demand more bandwidth into and out of homes - New Zealand households with connections of 25kbps or less should probably be considered as not being connected at all. Therefore a vast majority of New Zealanders are not able to share in the rich social media scape we are considering as ubiquitous.

Non-the-less, what is being documented in more developed regions of the world 9including 1/3 of New Zealand homes), through some research and a seemingly over whelming quantity of cultural output, it is probably fair to say that a certain level of ubiquity is the case in those regions. If New Zealand does address its issues of social equity in terms of connectivity and access, it should follow that we too will share in the experience and social development that is being observed in developed regions.

Is eLearning really growing?

Considering the New Zealand Government believes that digital literacy and basic computing skills are needed by everyone in New Zealand, most people with experience in the field of eLearning would probably prefer that it was by now considered a normal and integrated practice of learning generally, and that a specialist understanding with specialist services be no longer needed to support its development. However, most people in New Zealand would probably agree that eLearning is not an integrated practice, and that the digital literacy and basic computing skills that go with it are far from integrated (surmised from the connection statistics for NZ, and my own personal experience introducing computing and social media to people in Otago).

Most educational institutions still house something like a specialist unit for eLearning related development, and continue to invest in their worker's developing digital literacy and basic computing skills, and most of the institutions have invested heavily in hardware and software that is believed to facilitate the development of eLearning practice. The fact that these specialist services exist is evidence that eLearning is still considered something beyond 'normal' practice in education, and that integration of eLearning and digital literacy and computer skills (like the book, projector, or photocopier) has some way to go yet.

What is an appropriate response from our educational institutions, to a forecasted social media scape?


This question is the focus of our discussion and what follows is an attempt to address the problem through a breakdown of some of the key elements I believe are in play. I propose we start by reviewing the underpinning theories that constitute educational practices – namely the constructivist, behaviorist and cognitivist learning theories; and then follow with a brief critique of educational attempts at adopting social constructivism into behaviorist practices; and then to relate the idea that social media is a product of social constructivism and should be considered in those terms. I will finish with my own view that educational institutions consistently go about their business in predominantly behaviorist modes of practice which is ill suited to any attempt at adopting social constructivist practices, and that we should reconsider education's relationship to society and learning both historically and in the foreseeable future.

Learning theoryEdit

There are 3 pillars to education that can be found in learning theory:

  1. Constructivism
  2. Behaviourism
  3. Cognitivism

These 3 theories are generally believed to be the guiding lights to professional teaching. They are the primary learning objectives in teacher training, and knowing them is proof of your socialisation into the education profession.

In short, the application of these theories might be explained as such:

Social conditions help an individual to construct self awareness and learning through any number of experiences and interactions. Some of those experiences and interactions are designed (such as school) to condition specific behavioral changes that can be measured as learning. An understanding of how minds process information (cognitivism) is what informs the design of those experiences and interactions.

Social constructivism in education - the round shape in the square holeEdit

It might be fair to say that social experiences and interactions are always helping an individual to construct self awareness and learning in just about all aspects of their life. The experience of school, or formalised learning is but one in many social interactions and experiences that form people's learning. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the political significance we place in formalised learning and education, we focus a majority of our resources there, and do so with seemingly no understanding of informal learning throughout the rest of our lives. Naturally, the educator's perspective and world view is all about their role in that small part of people's lives, but in becoming aware of the importance of socially constructed learning they try remodel their behaviorist practices to encompass constructivist approaches.

Typically the approach involves a set number of people we quite rightly call a class. That class is brought into an environment that temporarily separates them from their normal social spheres of family, friends, public, familiar environments, community and society at large. They are expected to attend sessions and are rewarded or punished, either subtly or explicitly for behavior that reflects engagement and ability to express what the teacher has intended them to learn – an inescapable behaviorist reality, and in many cases quite appropriate, perhaps though, not at the scale we currently have it at.

However, along comes a well meaning teacher, perplexed by our understanding of socially constructed learning, who will attempt to design into their behaviorist reality - a sense of social learning! Typically it involves the design of activities such as "group work", "discussion", and "role play". Some go as far as to reward this artificial social behavior with statements of it as learning objectives. This confusing effort to draw out learning within behaviorist realities with artificially social interaction must be causing stress for all involved. It is a crude attempt to develop a sense of social connection inside what is ultimately an anti social environment.

To my mind, the attempts so far - to break down traditional behaviorist approaches with ill conceived social constructivism has so far been crude and confusing. Formal learning is a small part of our socially constructed world, our socially constructed learning can not be squeezed into small, short term behaviorist experiences. It is much like trying to fit a very large round shape into a very small square hole. It is behaviorism over stepping its bounds in an attempt to be everything to everyone.

Web2 is socially constructed media and communicationsEdit

It is a mistake to adopt the term Web2. It only serves a meaning to those already in the know, and for those who are not, it always needs further explanation. And because its meaning remains a mystery to those not in the know, we rely on inquisitive minds to ask for further explanation. More likely, the term simply turns people away and gives an easy ride for shallow critics, software merchants, and those threatened by what it actually entails. Web2 might more usefully and accurately be termed, socially constructed media and communications or social media for short. Social media as a term captures more meaning than Web2 and is more likely to be relevant to people interested in socially constructed learning.

Now that a connection should be evident between social constructivism and the media scape we have on hand today, it should be interesting to consider how objectionable it may actually be for education to be adopting social media inside its seemingly inescapable behaviorist contexts. If you can accept my argument that social constructivism can not be used in behaviorist methodologies, then with it I would argue that social media cannot be used inside behaviorist media - such as the prescribed media presently used (LMS, system email, content repositories etc).

Social media in education - more of the sameEdit

The effort to push large round shapes into small square holes has been a consistent feature in educational adoption of social trends. Most recently in the context of the Internet, Institutions have necessarily de-socialised the experience in an era known as dot com, by setting up its own systems of email, centralised websites, file servers, content management systems, and learning management systems - all reinforced by draconian firewalling, content censorship and ill conceived policy to restrict access and bandwidth. Arguably the initial motivations of this effort were needed, given the deep seeded behaviorist practices of education, and the very costly hardware and software being invested in. That said, the resulting monolithic and parochial services that have been set up at almost every institution were always going to be superseded by utility Internet services - once a suitably large enough market demand was established. That time is now, and many people are finding it more productive and rewarding to be using software and Internet services outside the Institutions.

But with the establishment of a large workforce employed to maintain the local and parochial services, the adoption of so called "Web2" or "Social Tools" - to quote the question, into education is yet more forcing of even larger round shapes into even smaller square holes. The agents who continue this retro-fitting have not spotted the oxymoronic aspect of the idea, nor stopped to consider the wider problem of social constructivism inside institutions of behaviorism. Perhaps even more concerning is that the IT professionals did not factor in the inevitability utility scale provision of services once a market had been established, and did not design exit strategies for their now legacy systems.

Nor has anyone stopped to consider (in these terms) what the result may be in bringing social media into such environments, and how effective it will be or not. Making such a large and chaotic thing fit inside a restricted and limited operation is certain to fail more so than attempts to change the direction of the fitting and to bring education more appropriately out into socially constructed learning contexts and the social change it could entail. What I mean to say is, instead of retro fitting our systems and trying to add features of social media, education should occupy the social media scape. Store videos on Youtube, photos on Flick, and texts on Wikibooks; have teachers and lecturers editing Wikipedia, starting a blog, responding to questions, and generally participating in society's media. Don't try to squeeze society and social media into our limited way of going about learning.

That is not to say we should stop offering traditional behaviorist based services, We should! its a good way to learn, but its not the only way, its not even a significant way. If we are truly interested in learning, then we should be looking at ways to engage with the bigger picture.

"...We don't need no education..."Edit

Obviously a thinking person would not make such a statement without wondering what would become of training doctors, pilots, engineers, trades, researchers, and services; or how to ensure that as many members of society as possible are literate and numerate and have the skills to discover and make the most of learning pathways. Those words are more a challenge to the simple ways in which we in education go about our business - a challenge to behaviorism within industrial scale education systems, that tries to encompass social learning. An appeal to stop and think what is actually happening. Perhaps we don't need education!

What then might a future look like? A society empowered through social media to more fully develop their own learning along the lines of Ivan Illich's visions? Workers in tune to informal learning and how to leverage such learning for professional gains? Children permitted to follow their interests and develop at their own pace, under the guidance of trusted and respected adults and peers?

Once again, well meaning teachers will attempt to push these large round shapes into their small square holes because in the absence of a tangible alternative, this is all they can do! Perhaps opportunities should be explored more between the different approaches. How can mainstream schools relate more to homeschooling and the various extra curricula that children do outside of school? Again, this is not to say school should take on those activities - quite the opposite, it is a suggestion that schools (as gate keepers) should look at ways they can recognise and enhance the learning that goes on everywhere else. Perhaps as Jay Cross says, workplaces should invest 80% of its training budgets in supporting informal learning? And what if teachers (of all types) started to occupied space outside their institutions more, and into the social media scape, they would benefit from a fresh perspective of the world - one from within instead of without.


The Dawn of Epimethean Man by Ivan Illich

From the ancient Greeks to a modern New York City child, Illich in 1970 critiques modern society and the drivers of progress as replacing Hope with Expectation.

PBS Frontline Special
"Growing Up Online"

A new series from PBS where viewers get an inside look into the worlds kids enter and create online, focusing on the important ways the Internet is transforming childhood and development. The documentary also notes a profound generational disconnect, perhaps the greatest American generation gap since rock 'n' roll. Another interesting aspect of the use of technology is the way educators respond to it. The documentary is informative, available for viewing online and provides teaching guides and a discussion forum.

The Idea of the University

Australian universities are among the least well-funded in the developed world, and behind the decline in federal funding there can be detected a confusion of purpose - what exactly is the university for in today's world? Are they primarily about training workers to enter the modern skills economy, or is there another kind of role that the university plays in a democracy?

Downloadable audio from ABC's Late Night Live with Phillip Adams for the next week or so:

Educational websEdit

Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue's responsibility until it engulfs his pupils' lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education--and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries. Ivan Illich. Deschooling Society, 1971. [25]

This paragraph summarises the key ideas in Illich's proposal for Deschooling, and provides checks and balances for those attempting a rethink educational support structures along these lines. Illich concluded that schooling - including higher education, was counter productive for people and societies, and that the disillusionment of education, and the gradual breaking down of its structures, would lead to practices more amenable to his notions of freedom and self determination.

Where institutions go wrongEdit

  • How much was spent on eLearning content development in Australia from 1998-2010
  • With more than 60% of Australians yet to be connected to a usable Internet, what evidence of need was there to invest in eLearning in Australia through years 1998-2010?
  • How much has been spent on training for elearning using LMS in Australian institutions?
  • How transferable are the skills learned in that training? What has been the success rate of that training?
  • Why are IT support units inside educational institutions disproportinately expensive, unskilled in contemporary internet use, and out of touch with the needs of those they are asked to support?
  • Why does it take so long to test free and open source software alternatives, or to have proposals of models inspired by free and open source heard?
  • Why, given the implicit educational and traditional value of open source development models, are they not used or common practice in educational institutions?

Independent connectednessEdit

The concept of independent connectedness is perhaps no better put than by Illich in Deschooling Society and Tools for Conviviality. Illich criticised institutionalisation and its tendency to fullfill itself at the expense of indivual autonomy. One of the more important principles I have set myself is to strive for conviviality, or autonomy, or independent connectedness. When I show someone how to do something, my goal for them (whether or not they share the goal at the time) is for them to achieve relative independence from me and the organisation they are affiliated with. Some of the more contentious examples of this thinking involve my discouragement of the use of an LMS or organisational email, and to use the popular Internet instead to achieve the things they might consider using an LMS or email for.

Why would people, in an increasingly casualised employment condition, invest time in learning a system that makes them dependent on and limited by their employer, when the functionality of that system is surpassed by external tools that also serve to give that person independence? Similarly, why should a "student" invest time in a system that makes them dependent on the institution they are not likely to keep a relationship with for longer than 3 or 4 years, often much less, especially if the functionality of that system is second rate to the external tools they could use independently? Allowing yourself to become dependent detracts from your ability to develop a convivial, critical and engaged understanding of your practice in its own right. You become dependent on your institution, and limited by its outlook.

It is easy to explain with email. You join or enroll with a university, and for reasons that are not clear they issue you with an email address with a username you might not have used, on a platform you might not wish to use. Inexperienced in the trappings of dependence, you build up a reputation, a network, even your professional reputation on that email address, only to be faced with a big problem when it comes time to leave that organisation. All the functionality of that email system can be surpassed using your own email address that frees you from this risk of dependence. This scenario plays out across almost all the online information and communication systems provided by the organisation.

With the quality and accessibility of external, utility even "cloud" based systems already surpassing what is typically provided by the organisation, the question of should I use external systems can be answered by what both parties stand to loose and gain. What do you lose or gain by asserting independence? What does your organisation lose or gain by your assertion of independence?

  • Do you use their restrictive Internet, or bring your own in via a wireless USB key?
  • Do you build up a profile page on the organisation's website, or simply link it to your Linkedin profile or stream your own site into it via RSS and embed codes?
  • Do you build your teaching and/or learning inside their learning management system, or do you build it outside on more popular channels under your own name, and link it in to the LMS if you have to?
  • Do you publish research only on the restricted journal or do you negotiate release so you can link another copy on your own web?
  • Do you use the lecture recording system, or put it out on your own uStream or Livestream channel with the connected functionality and cross posting features?

The list goes on.

Even those who have come to see the benefits of using external platforms fall into the same institutionalised trappings however. Recently I attended a seminar by James Neill for an initiative at UC called Hothouse. James arrived ready with his own uStream channel, but the host had also arrived with a uStream channel for the organisation. Confronted with the choice, James accepted to stream over the organisation's channel, thereby surrendering his independence and accepting dependence on the organisation. As it would turn out, the person representing the organisation forgot to click record on their stream, and so Jame's paid doubly for his surrender of independence, and the organisation gained very little.

An alternative would have been for James to stream on his own channel, and to link to and mention the organisation in his talk. The organisation could add James' recording to their own playlist, offsetting a variety of liabilities, and benefiting from the immediate exposure to James' network. James would also benefit from exposure to the Hothouse network while accepting responsibility for his own presentation. The organisation gets networded, Jame's keeps independence. Its a win win situation.

An institution, even an initiative within the Institution, has more to gain by networking. Take for example the Otago Polytechnic's Youtube channel. I set that channel up not to upload videos, but to collect and create playlists of any videos found on Youtube about Otago Polytechnic. The desire for an Institutional identity is still served, but without weakening a network and asking individuals to forgo their own identity for the sake of a collective. See also groups vs networks.

(Further writing to add to this thread: Out from under the umbrellas, and What would it be like to be the rain. Also linking Illich and Friere here.

A need for social engagementEdit

Using the popular Internet in teaching and researchEdit

A presentation given to the Faculty of Health at the University of Canberra, Dec 2009. Links and references at

Maintaining individual intelligence in an Institutional identityEdit

Something better than what follows...

My advice to staff new to adopting social media is to focus on using it for their own research and professional development, and to put off ideas for teaching just for now. A focal point for this is the establishment of the UCNISS website (link soon). It is being designed to capture contributions made in each of our individual spaces by RSS feeds. The syndication of the postings by each of us appears on the UCNISS website in a sidebar box called "news just in". Once each post is captured by the website, it is a simple editorial step to reassign any of those posts to a new category in which it will appear as though it was an official post to the site itself, placed in the correct section of the site, with its own graphics and layout fitting to the site. At a first glance, it would appear as though all the content is local, but to a search engine and experienced user, they will see that the content is networked from individual presence.

Thanks Kathy Sierra for the image

In this way I expect to over come the pitfalls of group work, group think and multiple identities, leveraging the motivation each individual has to establish and maintain their own web presence. Through each person maintaining their own presence with new posting, they will be helping to establish and maintain the UCNISS website as well.

This approach also aids search engine optimisation through the linking between the distributed and networked content - for both the individual and the Institution, and it demonstrates to some degree, how information can be made to flow across multiple channels. Much like Wesch's video describes:

The Machine is Using Us

Redefining Intellectual PropertyEdit

Open EducationEdit

The role of marketing in educational developmentEdit

When a university marketing department spends most of its resources on branding and brand awareness campaigns like billboards, newspaper ads, 15 second tv and radio commercials, sponsorship, calendars and diaries, and another large portion on the website, open days, visitations and international representations, little if any of this has any educational benefit. We promote study with our university with glossy, promising messages, and leave the quality and delivery to under resourced, sometimes stressed staff and admin. All this effort and expense is potentially undone by that form of marketing we cannot control: word-of-mouth through social media. That word of mouth message goes far and wide once the reality of our service is apparent to our paying customers.

It just so happens that social media has a vast and impressive potential for learning, research, education .. and even assessment. A marketing driven engagement with social media brings them into a direct compliment to teaching and research efforts at the University. This post sets out a proposal on how marketing expenditure can be used to improve the quality of media and teaching resources, while at the same time achieving significant brand awareness objectives that marketing departments traditionally engag in.

Take the $5000-10000 that is typically spent on a billboard, use it to produce and publish a series of lectures, panels, interviews, mini documentaries, add the branding information that you would have on the billboard, and upload to Youtube. The views and response rates will be significantly higher than a billboard. Go further, package the lecture videos with links to openly accessible readings and resources, as well as the assignments and assessment criteria, and make it available for free on the popular social media channels, and offer reduced fee-based assessment and certification services to people who are using these open educational resources for self directed study. By rethinking marketing expenditure, and educational services in this way, we are not only generating glossy promising messages, but delivering glossy promising products as well, linked to user pay services that are more clearly in our mid to long term 'business' (and education) interests.

The point of difference for the University of Canberra

Producing open educational resources is not new. Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Open Courseware was an early mover in this direction - but criticised for the quality and depth of their resources. Many other universities have set up open education initiatives, none are taking advantage of the full opportunity before them. UC has an opportunity to be 'first to market' and with real points of difference...

Add Creative Commons to the Intellectual Property Policies

As UC reviews it policies on IP, it needs to add a clause that enables and supports staff who want to use Creative Commons licensing arrangements. I hope UC will go further, following Otago Polytechnic's lead and set Creative Commons Attribution as the default recommended copyright license over outputs from the University, with a process in place for restricting copyrights down from that. This actually works in the interest of a Commercialisation Unit or IP Unit in the university as they try to monitor and manage IP being generated. By defaulting to CC By with an opt-out process, anyone who wishes to apply copyright restrictions down from the default CC By, would need to see the Unit to apply whichever restriction they think is necessary. This assists in the 'better' management of IP at the university and captures anything that does have real commercial possibilities. As copyright is managed at present, All Rights are Reserved by default, and no real procedure with an incentive exists that involves a unit like a Commercialisation Unit or IP Unit.

If UC were to adopt CC By as a default, this will generate a vast amount of media and industry attention. UC would become the first Australian tertiary learning organisation in to move towards open education and research. It would be the 2nd in the Southern Hemisphere, following only Otago Polytechnic. UC can also take the advantage in the moral delimas by taking practical steps towards returning access to publicly funded research outputs, where they are presently caught up in a publishing cycle that closes that access and sees large profits going out to offshore publishers.

Assign resources to the development of 5 show piece units

Changing the IP policy to one that gives options for open education and research practices will generate media attention, but having little to no follow-through will only undo the benefits of that attention as people see the hollow promise.

In many ways, this was the weakness in the work at Otago Polytechnic. It has so-far been unable to coordinate library, marketing and IT services effectively to adequately support teachers and researchers taking their work to an international arena. Yet, despite this absence of support, an analysis of their effort reveals a 125% return in the first year of their investment.

It cost $4000 to properly train 1 teacher/researcher how to effectively use popular social media for their work, and in the first year each person would generate over $9000 worth of marketing, infrastructural savings and quality improvements to their work.

With such a return it is arguable that a greater investment can be made. One that involves production promotion expenses from marketing, support and development from the library, improved ICT and admin services. An investment like this could well leverage even greater returns than Otago Polytecnnic's largely uncoordinated and unsupported efforts by a few motivated individuals.

UC should identify at least 5 units for development and packaging as open education units. This development involves resource production, teaching staff training and intensive support with the objective to bring the staff member up to a point where they are able to independently work with the materials and media in an enhanced and publicly accessible unit.

Use popular social media

Leading open educational initiatives like MIT Open Courseware, Utah State University and Johns Hopkins University make their educational media available freely online, but on their own web spaces. This approach undoubtedly misses a large majority of people using the Internet for informal learning, as they browse through more popular channels for information such as Youtube and Wikipedia.

Harvard Law has twice presented open courses well packaged around popular social media. Firstly in 2008 with their Law in the Court of Public Opinion - where they used, Second Life, a Wiki and a Blog to run the course for formal and informal enrolments simultaneously. Secondly in 2010 with Justice - a unit heavily using Youtube to present a TV-like series around the unit. Closer to home is the University of New South Wales on Youtube, where it features some of its better lectures. None of these however, are sophisticated in their use of social media, nor do any of them go beyond mere marketing, such as linking it to actual teaching and assessment.

The UC approach to social media

UC should package and publish quality recorded lectures (in the broader understanding of the term - including panel discussions, interviews and mini documentaries), topics and supporting study material, assignments and assessment schedules across popular social media channels for at least 5 show case units.

Lectures would be produced for authenticity, short and engaging and useful to people studying the unit for interest as well as for certification. These videos should be loaded to Youtube, both on the lecturer's channel and a UC channel and playlist, with copies spread across other video sites such as, and backed up to the Australian National Archive. Youtube would be the focal point for the videos.

As well as the video series, each unit takes a Wikiversity page and lists the topic schedule ensuring all readings and resources have copyright release for use on Wikiversity, or are at least openly available online. This page includes the assignments and assessment criteria. If a text is used in the unit, the text should be loaded into Wikibooks, with a print version available under normal royalty arrangements. This work should be done in the spirit of collaboration, with UC positioning itself as one of potentially many 'providers' of teaching and assessment services that compliment the Wiki study materials. Once complete, a link to these pages can be placed on all the related Wikipeia pages.

Each unit has a course website where all these resources are gathered and compiled in one central place. Links to this website are included in the description text for all the videos and wiki pages. This website is primarily used for announcements and updates on the course and its development, as well as notes, examples and feedback on work submitted by people undertaking study in the course.

Position assessment and certification services for new 'markets

The units that are packaged and published this way need to be designed in such a way to be useful both to people interested in learning, as well as people seeking assessment and certification services. In other words, the stated learning objectives, assignments and assessment criteria need to be aligned and robust enough for both self directed learners using the open educational resources independently, as well as for dependent learners who have enrolled up front - seeking teaching and learning support services while they study.

Self directed learners can simply engage with the materials, where appropriate - discussions and forums, even gain access to labs and equipment as a fee-for-service arrangement, and complete and submit assignments for assessment. Assessment and certification services can take place when that person enrolls in the course. That enrollment essentially takes place when they are confident of a completion. Front loading a course, making it possible to enroll on completion, obviously has a positive impact on performance indicators that impact funding to the course - such as completion rates. Only those who are have effectively completed, are enrolling for assessment services.. in other words 100% completion rates, and quite likely very high satisfaction and continuation rates, not to mention better student profiles engaging in fee paying services.

This design aims to attract people already in full time work and struggling to make necessary career changes. To parents seeking distant and self paced study options. To people in regional and remote areas reluctant or unable to relocate to Canberra for study. To experienced and/or self directed learners seeking recognition for their knowledge and skills. To local and international people looking for less expensive study and certification options. As yet, most universities do very little in identifying and servicing this sort of demand.

As long as the developments compliment the needs of existing up-front enrolled students, then this development will simply open UC units to possible new 'markets'. Obviously by engaging marketing resources and librarian support in improving media and resources used for teaching and learning, with those resources being publicly available in the style I've outlined above, there is not only an improvement on services to existing students, but it goes a long way towards marketing departments developing and servicing new 'markets' as well.

Be self concious of our dominance in people space

A paragraph about the need for alturism and humility in the face of the critique by Illich on global classroom prisons.. see above

A need for critical literacyEdit

Chet Bowers - Let Them Eat Data...

A need for participatory action researchEdit

Everything you need to teach and learn onlineEdit



  1. Thomas Merton, quoted by David Orr. What is Education for? Six myths about the foundations of modern education, and six new principles to replace them. In Context number 27: The Learning Revolution, 1991
  2. Ivan Illich and Etienne Verne. Imprisoned in the Global Classroom. Writers & Readers Publishing, 1981
  3. Ivan Illich and Etienne Verne. Imprisoned in the Global Classroom, P9. Writers & Readers Publishing, 1981
  4. Susan Awbrey. Making the 'Invisable Hand' Visable: The case for dialogue about academic capitalism. Oakland University Journal, Spring 2003 - Issue Number 5
  5. Cass R. Sunstein. Infotopia: how many minds produce knowledge. Oxford University Press, 2006
  6. Ivan Illich and Etienne Verne. Imprisoned in the Global Classroom, P9. Writers & Readers Publishing, 1981
  7. Ivan Illich and Etienne Verne. Imprisoned in the Global Classroom, P10. Writers & Readers Publishing, 1981
  8. Susan Awbrey. Making the 'Invisable Hand' Visable: The case for dialogue about academic capitalism. Oakland University Journal, Spring 2003 - Issue Number 5
  9. Yochai Benkler. The Wealth of Networks, Chapter 4, Social Production: Feasibility Conditions and Organizational Form. Yale University Press, 2006
  10. Ivan Illich and Etienne Verne. Imprisoned in the Global Classroom, P10. Writers & Readers Publishing, 1981
  11. Ivan Illich and Etienne Verne. Imprisoned in the Global Classroom, P11. Writers & Readers Publishing, 1981
  12. Ivan Illich and Etienne Verne. Imprisoned in the Global Classroom, P12. Writers & Readers Publishing, 1981
  13. Keith Lyons. Vicarious Learning and Reciprocal Altruism. Clyde Street - Learning, Teaching, Performing, December 2009
  14. Susan Awbrey. Making the Invisible Hand Visible. The Case for Dialogue About Academic Capitalism. Oakland University Journal, Spring 2003 - Issue Number 5
  15. William Heise. Admiral Cigarettes. Edison Manufacturing Co. 1897
  16. Marc Prensky. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. 2001
  17. Eric Loyer. The Lair of the Marrow Monkey. 1998. There are more honest examples I have seen, staying with HTML for example, and encorporating diolog with online audiences, but a web based bookmarking tool wasn't around for me then, and I have long ago lost my local bookmarks
  18. Glenn Kleimanand, Herb Lechner, Patrick Suppes. Computers in Education. The Computer Chronicles, 1984
  19. Steven Lisberger. Tron. Walt Disney Pictures, July 1982
  20. Keith Gessen, Mark Greif, Chad Harbach, Benjamin Kunkel, Allison Lorentzen, Marco Roth ("The Editors"). The Internet as Social Movement. n+1, 23 April 2010
  21. Leigh Blackall. Early Film, Early Internet, Early Days. July 2005
  22. Doug Noon. Diffusion. March 2006
  23. VH Carr Jr. Technology and Diffusion. 2006
  24. Daniel Pink. The Surprising Science of Motivation. TED Talks, August 2009
  25. Ivan Illich. Deschooling Society. Harper & Row, 1971.



  • Early Film, Early Internet, Early Days, Network Learning - Last night I found the 3o second commercial for Admiral Cigarettes made in 1897! Its a really lame ad by today's standards or course, but is an extremely interesting case study to look at the early adoption of a new communicative technology. This little film offers us a chance to reflect on our own adoptions of another new medium more than 100 years later!
  • [Beyond the Horseless Carriage], looking at the evolution of ICTs in education, the reasons why education has been so slow to take up new technology, and an argument for the urgent need to review curriculum.)
  • Participatory Culture and the Internet of the Masses - “We should be less concerned about designing technologies that will afford young people ’satisfying participation opportunities’ and more concerned about ensuring that new generations can challenge and question the opportunities that are ‘offered’ to them. The goal –for young people as well as old– should be the self-critical individual.” Do you think that the Internet — either as a medium, or as an environment — inspires/encourages such self-critique? Do you think that digital natives are more or less likely to be interested in and have the capacity for inquiry and/or self-reflection?
  • Technological Somnambulism - view of objects as something we can easily separate ourselves from - we fail to look at the long term implications of using that object.. including little thought going into the effects of using/developing that technology
  • Technological determinism - Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that presumes that a society's technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values.
  • Democratic Rationalization - against the idea of technological determinism citing flaws in its two fundamental theses: the thesis of unilinear progress and the thesis of determination by the base.
  • Social determinism - Social determinism is the hypothesis that social interactions and constructs alone determine individual behavior (as opposed to biological or objective factors such as technology)..
  • Technology and neutrality - society being at fault for the 'development and deployment'[Green, Leila (2001) Technoculture, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, p 3] of technologies.
  • Ethics of technology - "ethics of technology" refers instead to two basic subdivisions.
  • The ethics involved in the development of new technology—whether it is always, never, or contextually right or wrong to invent and implement a technological innovation.
  • The ethical questions that are exacerbated by the ways in which technology extends or curtails the power of individuals—how standard ethical questions are changed by the new powers.
  • Critique of technology - Critique of technology is a theory which analyzes the negative impacts of technologies. Prominent authors elaborating a critique of technology are, e.g.. Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Langdon Winner, Joseph Weizenbaum, Theodore Roszak, Neil Postman and Lewis Mumford.
  • Ivan Illich: Tools for Conviviality - the institutionalization of specialized knowledge, the dominant role of technocratic elites in industrial society, and the need to develop new instruments for the reconquest of practical knowledge by the average citizen. Illich proposed that we should "invert the present deep structure of tools" in order to "give people tools that guarantee their right to work with independent efficiency.
  • Ivan Illich: Deschooling Society - Giving examples of the ineffectual nature of institutionalized education, Illich posited self-directed education, supported by intentional social relations, in fluid informal arrangements
  • Critical pedagogy - is a theory and practice of helping students achieve critical consciousness.
  • Ecopedagogy - ecopedagogy's mission is to develop a robust appreciation for the collective potentials of being human and to foster social justice throughout the world, but it does so as part of a future-oriented, ecological political vision that radically opposes the globalization of ideologies such as neoliberalism and imperialism, on the one hand, and which attempts to foment forms of critical ecoliteracy, on the other.
  • Networked learning - Networked learning is a process of developing and maintaining connections with people and information, and communicating in such a way so as to support one another's learning.