EDCMOOC Week 1 – Utopia/Dystopia

I think it’s ironic that the course begins with a dichotomous exchange – let’s face it. Utopia and Dystopia claims are usually stretched so far as to entertain or serve some other pop culture needs. In fact, utopia is rarely dealt with in sci-fi because it’s inherently boring because it lacks conflict – except in the case of Star Trek where harmonious living exists on Earth, just not in outer space… which speaks to empire and other imperialist machinations.

Anyways, I’m surprised to see this relationship in regards to education – where usually we’re navigating the 99% between the polar opposites of the extremes. I sit in the middle with most of these online tools, where how they are used, and intended to be used, is much more important than the potential ways they could be used. Education should be associated with the same things that utopia is associated with – filled with hope, a sense of better things to come. The reality is that perhaps education has become something dystopian – filled with dread, anxiety; crushed by authoritarian, herded like cattle into a room and treated as if one were a (student) number. At least in first year…

Is that because of the education system? Or the shift from education as a human interest to an economic interest? I think society as a whole has shifted from a society focused to an individual focused entity, which is in some part, due to neoliberalism. Recognizing that, and doing something about it is a whole different ballgame I suppose.

The ironic thing is that the course is presented in what might be the ultimate forum for data acquisition (a Fordian notion of efficiency, quantifying what is done, and justifying what you do)  – Coursera’s platform for MOOCs. The underlying subtext of the first week was certainly exploring the idea of utopia, and in my opinion, you have to relate it back to what is happening within the course context – it’s a course about education online. Putting the pieces together, perhaps the designers are saying this is not such a good way to run a course…

Answers for 2012

Every year I try to do a Questions for the year – themes that I think will be interesting to explore and think about. At the end of the year, I go back and see how wrong I was.

For 2012, the Questions are here.

For those questions here’s some answers:

1. Pearson LMS? No big deal. I think the Blackboard free LMS is more important in the LMS space, but Pearson may be doing some things, but nothing big or earth shattering. Of course, a lot of faculty I work with don’t use Pearson texts.

2. Web mining useful? Ultimately yes, but increasingly difficult to do. With Twitter becoming more walled off, Instagram way more walled off and Facebook increasingly walled off, it’s much more difficult to use something like Ifttt to get something cool to mashup. It’ll be interesting to see how open data sources survive, and whether APIs will wither. I’d like to see more open data – I think it’s where we’ll see growth and interesting possibilities emerge. From an economics standpoint, these sorts of niche areas will be tremendous economic generation in the future.

3. MITx? In and of itself is not that big, but EdX, Udacity, Coursera and the others are making MOOCamania running wild on you. Credentials is still a big thing, but I suspect that’s the gateway and where these startups will make their money – partnering with a school who will rubber stamp their findings – or partially rubber stamping credit.

4. Android tablets in Education? Big fart of air. iPads still rule. Android will suffer for the hundred of crappy tablets and lag of killer apps on the platform. For phones, it’s fine; for tablets, not so great.

5. Learning Technologists? Still play their/our marginal role.

Soundcloud in Teaching

I’m always interested in iterative shifts; small steps taken to work towards something (hopefully) better. Usually over the last decade that’s been something I’ve been very good at helping faculty do. The challenge I’ve run into time and again, is the fear that technology will replace lecture, or the role of the instructor. I’m sure most of you who are reading this will not be fooled at all by this statement – this age-old boogeyman.

So I’ve been using Soundcloud for probably two or three years now. It’s essentially a web based application that you can save or record audio files to and share with others. It has brilliant and immediate application for second language learners, and I think could serve as a multimedia resource for other areas as well. How great would an essay replacement with a radio play be? It would engage the creative side of students; perhaps a theatrical debate to reframe the classic argumentative essay.

What about a way of recording discussions between students? The Soundcloud app (Android/iOS) can do that. I was playing around with it for the Android platform, and it really is a remarkable application where you record from your phone, and it’s available in minutes.

Soundcloud often gets pitched as something that has great web tracking/analytics, however that’s a for-pay feature.

Sorry I’ve been quiet lately, work has been very busy and I haven’t really been sharing what goes on here as I’m still sorting that out. I do have a couple of things in the hopper, not quite yet ready to go – more in the edtech vein that I’m usually writing in, but practical in nature.

Happy New Year as well, hope yours is as good as mine will be.