Relevance of Being Irrelevant

I was reading this posting about Being Online or Being Irrelevant, and while I do agree with the idea of being online, I  see the other side of the coin as well. There are some brilliant lecturers, for whom being online would make them irrelevant. They just don’t adapt well to an online existence. They either don’t adapt or can’t adapt. We should allow for these people to be relevant.

Also, in the first paragraph, the question is posed “What does photography do to our concept of art?”, which immediately begs the question, “What does e-learning do to our concept of learning?” On one side of the argument will stand the sentiment that e-learning does nothing to our concept of learning, because no matter where learning occurs, it’s still learning. The other side of the argument is that it changes almost everything. Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle, acknowledging that e-learning has an effect on learning, much as learning in a classroom is different than learning in a workshop. I don’t have answers, just more questions.

Another Design To Address Change

Websites are (sometimes) designed for interaction and flow.

Books are designed for readability.

E-learning is designed for….information transmission?

This is certainly the belief I have. LMS’s as a whole are systems that encourage transmission rather than other methods of learning. The collaboration tools are not the greatest, nor are they immediately present. If they do exist, they are workarounds, hacks, expansion ideas or afterthoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I like hacking around in the systems we use to figure out how to do something. Some systems make it hard to do so, some accept that their existence is a framework that you build on.

I think that the LMS is already entrenched in higher education and will continue to serve a role in education. I don’t think we’ll fully go to distributed resources of knowledge, aggregated by RSS feeds and pipes. LMS use may drop, but I suspect that it will serve as a gathering point that builds in the features of web 2.0, but cradled in an environment where failure or success is not so open to the world. Some students crave that security, and we should at least give that to them in a gesture of support.

That means that we need the fundamental design of LMS’s to change so that they are adaptable, much like operating systems that have applications that run on top of them. They also need to output well designed templates that faculty can use to display content. No current LMS has a template system for content – we can do it with blogs, why not learning spaces? It’s not difficult, but it would be (and in my case definitely is) a barrier to faculty creating good looking learning spaces.

Part of site reliability, or authority, is that learning spaces look professional. A slapped together website in HTML is not enough to attract customers, why would a slapped together pastiche of PowerPoints, PDFs, webpages and links be attractive to students?

Looking Forward to CCK09

With the holiday here in Canada I’ve spent some time doing exciting things like laundry, mowing lawns and other domestic duties that I’ve been lax in doing lately. While I was matching up socks, I was thinking about my participation in CCK09, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2009, which is essentially a course but has a real expansive social element to it. I participated last year as a registered student, so my writing and bits were rewarded with marks.

This year will be different for me, so it’ll be interesting to take a second kick at the can without the “pressure” of marked submissions. Participation for me will be a little less, I’m up to teaching three different courses in the Fall Continuing Education semester (XML, Fireworks, Searching The Internet Effectively), and two for Distance Education (XML and Searching The Internet Effectively). Plus the e-Learning work and completing a degree. Busy? Yeah.

I’m very interested in seeing how my ideas about well designed educational spaces match up with Connectivism. We know that good design lends credibility to sources. We also know that good design can manipulate people’s opinions about things. Considering that Connectivism accepts “knowledge” from multiple sources – can you game a network into altering the “truth”? Truth,  in my opinion is mostly subjectively agreed upon by groups of people based on their experiences – and that I need to define what I mean by truth backs up my belief. There is a sense that somehow the Internet is killing knowledge, but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s a case of setting priorities straight – I don’t need to know how to get somewhere – Google Maps will do it for me. Of course, this only works if it’s right.

This is an important piece to education: educators used to rely on books as a symbol of truth. “Hey, someone published thousands of books, and we’re using it in school, so it must be true!” Schools used to be the gateway of that knowledge. The yang to that yin, is that you have to have enough of a crap detector to understand when it goes wrong. Now that knowledge has moved out of books and into online spaces, or into devices like your cellphone, it’s easier to fake people out. Never mind that it’s easier to publish a book now than it ever has been in the history of the human race…

When the Simon Wiesenthal Centre came and spoke to the College last year, they illustrated that point where a hate group had bought – and essentially put together a fairly slick website to defame Martin Luther King.  It only came to their attention after a student had used some of the “material” for a class project. If the design of the site had been cruder, maybe some alarm bells would’ve sounded sooner.

Good design, good looking designs, add credibility. And it’s not hard to get good looking stuff, especially when we’re all playing a credibility game to get our voices above the noise.