Teaching is Ultimately a Coercive Act

I don’t know when I came to begin to think this – but teaching is ultimately a coercive act.  You need to convince students to care about a topic, you have to stress what information is important. Even student centred approaches are coercive – they just ask nicer. School is ultimately not a good system for education, or at it’s root learning.It is however a good place to be told what to do.

So when Khan Academy, Coursera, MITx or any of the other learning mills churn out chunks of content to advance education, it’s not learning – and it’s definitely not teaching. I guess I’ve got a case of the Mondays on Tuesday, because I get so irritated with how online teachers dictate, even at the highest levels. Sure structure is needed for these online learning events – a framework. Loose meanderings are not always what I want to see either – but why is it that I have to listen to some prat go on about programming logic, then take a conceptually vapid multiple choice question, get a grade (which has as much value as lint) and then do that again and again and again? Is that learning? No, that’s producing widgets. I’m truly disheartened with the state of the Internet as it is (closing down it’s freedom) and efforts to education online. I guess I’ll sit out online learning and wait to see if mobile learning ever provides the out and freedom with context I’m looking for.

More EduDIY Stuff

I can’t in good faith (a word I use very carefully) believe that the only example of Learning that can be found on the web is the arduino electronics framework. At least that’s what I’ve taken from this e-book: Learning Freedom and the Web. While it’s positioned as a manifesto, gallery curated guide or puff piece for Mozilla – it falls flat of doing what open source is good at, not worrying about how good it is and getting the job done. It misses the mark. This comes off as some sort of Microsoft-lite apology piece. Now, admittedly I’m not a fan of the author, but I am a fan of the content. I can put aside my thoughts of the author in this case, because I love the stuff in the book so much. However, I’m not impressed at the connections between the three distinct concepts (and I think there’s easy ones to make that aren’t done very well here). I think there’s a definite hands-on bent that could’ve been strengthened by bringing in how other people do it and elaborating on why the Mozilla approach (for lack of a better term) is better. The Arduino chapter could’ve gone into detail about it’s connection to PureData an open source Max/MSP competitor, which would’ve fleshed out the idea that open source is educational and better than the commercial versions.

Answers for 2011

Well, I guess a year’s time is as good as any to have some answers – even if the answer may very well be no answer. For the original post see: Questions for 2011. Yes, there will also be a Questions for 2012.

1. What makes anyone think that the video games push (mostly by the iOS platform devices, but Xbox, Playstation and Wii) has anything to do with formal education? 

Well, I don’t know if gamification gained any traction, but things like achievements in video games have lent themselves to things like badges. I suspect that my original assertion that it will be marginalized, will remain until someone can quantify and measure the whole process, much like they’ve tried to do with standardized testing.

2. Why haven’t educational institutions really pushed for a mobile learning environment? 

I think there’s been some motion here – certainly the open courses are structured so that they are mobile friendly, and the big two LMS vendors (Desire2Learn and Blackboard) are both becoming more mobile friendly, I suspect the resistance comes from the institution’s inability to control and verify that a potentially mobile student may not be that student, and the only way to assess a person is still in-person. I don’t think it matters anymore, in work most people will use the Internet to research a possible solution to whatever problem they face, so knowing something isn’t as crucial as it once was. Knowing something however does allow you to find a solution sooner – making you a more efficient worker – which is what capitalism wants.

3. Will the consolidation of the web conferencing tools that education typically use (Wimba and Elluminate) mean that new companies with new models will arise? 

Well, they haven’t arisen yet, but there’s a plethora of tools out there to replace Blackboard Collaborate or whatever it’s called this week. However, no one has put together the killer app – which I hope is the form the web conferencing takes – mobile native, low bandwidth friendly, and most of all, accessible.

4. Wither edupunk? 

Yup. edu-post-punk should be interesting.

5. What will Pearson as a publishing giant and accredited University mean? 

Turns out, not much. Unless you consider an extremely walled off garden of textbooks in a proprietary LMS with Google Doc integration something.

EduPunk For Sale…

T-shirts only $10, badges only $3.50. Buy, buy, buy from DIY. Like hula-hoops in a disposable craze, another fast food fad to throw away… (with apologies to Anarchy For Sale by the Dead Kennedys)

So I finally come around to taking a look at The Edupunk’s Guide, well a PDF of it anyways, which seems to miss the whole point of edupunk, which at least one other critic seems to get. Sure, it’s like what Green Day or Blink 182 is to punk; palatable, accessible and easy for the mainstream to swallow, but with a hint of rebellion. We wouldn’t want to upset the status quo too much, would we? While the Edupunk Guide talks a lot about taking responsibility for one’s own education. In fact, taking responsibility for one’s education is something millions of people do on a daily basis. Whether it’s how to fix an excel spreadsheet at work, how to do a calculus equation at Khan Academy or  connecting with a foreign language speaker over Skype, people do that already on their own. That’s not edupunk, that’s daily life. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time someone made a career out of stating the obvious. Where the edupunk moniker really holds weight (with me) is that it accepts an idea that a course (but could extend to a program of study or less than that too) can be done differently than what has already been done. It’s a good primer, missing a lot of the “so what” moments and crucially missing that the majority of the world is already past it. And that’s where Edupunk (with a capital E) Guide sort of falls down. Really, it’s too late. Missed the boat. Jumped the shark? Maybe.

It’s already 1978 in edupunk. The Sex Pistols have broken up, Jim Groom’s now in PIL. Sid’s dead.

Don’t worry, 1978’s not all bad. Ramones put out Road To Ruin. Two of my most influential records were released Crass – Feeding of the 5000 LP and Black Flag – Nervous Breakdown 7″ EP.

Questions for 2011

So, as we approach the end of a year, we start to see the predictions, wrap-ups and trends for the next few years as well as the year that has passed. Seeing as I almost always end my blog posts with a question – here’s five questions for the year 2011.

1. What makes anyone think that the video games push (mostly by the iOS platform devices, but Xbox, Playstation and Wii) has anything to do with formal education? Trying to harness gaming to teach formal concept is like riding a chicken. Useless (for both you and the chicken). People play games to escape what they don’t like about their own life – much like why people watch TV, use the Internet or whatever other hobby one might have. They don’t necessarily want to have learning forced on them in their own homes. That isn’t to say that educational games can’t be good (although they mostly are dreck), or shouldn’t be attempted. They shouldn’t be expected to fill more than a niche.

2. Why haven’t educational institutions really pushed for a mobile learning environment? It seems like logical growth from the LMS, and there’s a lot of affordances that can enhance learning. Situated, just-in-time learning has a greater impact for learning than plain old quizzes in the LMS. Why haven’t the engineering departments demand more Geo-location devices? Why haven’t literacy skills groups put forth the same sort of effort that the BBC World Service has in Bangladesh? That sort of ingenuity could help the impoverished and undereducated in Canada (and in Hamilton). One of the biggest hurdles the urban poor have is literacy skills. Why is no one doing this locally? Moreover, why are our LMS’s so pisspoor as a mobile website.

3. Will the consolidation of the web conferencing tools that education typically use (Wimba and Elluminate) mean that new companies with new models will arise? We’ve locally seen a couple of contenders – BigBlueButton is easy to use and has most of the features one would want, as well as SabaCentra for Northern Ontario – but will most institutions just cave in and use Blackboard Connect? It seems like that may be the case.

4. Wither edupunk? Much like punk rock did after the halcyon days of 1977, the widespread punk phenomenon died out and either got co-opted into new wave or went further underground, got harder and faster, became hardcore and rather dogmatic by 1984. Since then, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the genre, except that the music has gotten uglier and more punishing (and less like music). Edupunk seems to have hit that moment where people either pass the moment or become more underground. I have hope that much like punk music in 2010 (which has been a weak year for new releases – on vinyl no less – in the genre), edupunk will be a vibrant, thriving option in 2043.

5. What will Pearson as a publishing giant and accredited University mean? Well, it’ll give the hucksters at University of Phoenix and Full Sail a run for their money. I’m not saying those institutions are bad per se, I’m sure a quality education can be had there. I’m not sure that an educational institution should have profit as it’s motivation.

Suck Suck

I’ve been reflecting about how much politics are involved in the decision making process. And transparency is a buzzword talked about. And every time I think about that stuff, I think of the first song (Suck Suck) off the album Aspirations by the Australian band X (not to be confused with the X from Los Angeles, who are all sorts of good as well). Yeah, I’m not into the political process of making decisions.

What I Learned This Week (Part 10)

Why Digital Natives Aren’t…. is a great read that busts up the generalizations that prevail in the media. Like a billion others writing on blogs, I’m not a fan of the Digital Natives tag (nor Digital Immigrants and the rest).  While I see some value in the generalizations, not as defining characteristics of an age range but as defining characteristics of groups of people. Certainly the tech savvy folks I know are much more Digital Native than some of the supposed generation.

Malcolm McLaren is dead. Or maybe not, it could be a hoax. Everyone seems to blame/celebrate him for creating punk, which is hogwash. Punk was a movement that McLaren capitalized on, like all good businessmen. He didn’t create it, but saw it as his opportunity to push some buttons and push some boundaries. That’s the inspiration I take from him, and many others, in my teaching and work.

Blogging as a Continuance of the Oral Tradition?

This article, Digital Media: The New Democracy brings up an interesting idea – blogging, and by extension all the social media we engage in (like vernacular video) is continuing the tradition of oral history. Of course, theorists like Ong (secondary orality) and McLuhan (the global village) have talked about these ideas in relation to the democratization of the narrative – as we take control of publication and the content of the publication we also change the way history is recorded and how the future will look at us.  Of course, having the written word overwrite some cultures, and even some people’s existence, what will the digital oral history overwrite?

Certainly it is easy to see “primitive” cultures being overwritten, there is very little Kalahari bushmen websites, or anything other than minutia about what the “cultured” world has done to them (for diamonds, for the land they live on…) from a documentary perspective. While this is progress, and some will argue inevitable, is it right? Do those of us in a privileged position have a moral (oral?) obligation to bring these issues up?

My Teaching Perspective…

So, as part of the ADED 4F35 course at Brock University, I had to articulate my personal teaching perspective. Of course, being a punk, and holding those idea(l)s closely, I had to tie educational theory into my personal life. Here’s the video. I was really unimpressed with the idea that my creative side (a huge part of who I am and the part of me that I most value) had to write an essay. Blah. Thankfully there was an option to do something “creative”. I didn’t do so well on the marking rubric for APA citation… but really does that stuff matter? I guess if I’m writing for publication… which I’m thinking I might do.

My Teaching Perspective Is Based on Who I Am from Jon Kruithof on Vimeo.


Not that anyone is particularly following me – couple of quick updates to shock people I guess.I know, I know, good blogging etiquette is to maintain contact, but when you have very little to say, is there a point to add to the chatter? I don’t suspect that it’s good to blog for blogging’s sake… yet that’s kind of what this post is. Conundrum wrapped in an enigma packaged in a problem, neh?

1. I hate that whatever edublogs did borked my ability to track information in Google Stats. It was a good way to discover what was going on, and make new contacts, read new insightful things… yeah. Bummer.

2. I’ve been slaving away at creating, compiling and documenting “stuff” on D2L, or Desire2Learn (for those who don’t follow LMS’s).

3. I did a presentation of “research” (and I use research in quotes only because there’s no real research going on, it’s pseudo-research where we plan our research but don’t execute it) using some Presentation Zen techniques and people were really blown away with it. Thank you Garr Reynolds. I tried to be conversational, or as conversational as the subject matter (student perceptions of multimedia instruction in an e-learning) would allow. I tried to get people involved with their experiences with my subject topic, which is a good engagement strategy regardless.

3a. On the same note, um and so are my enemy in public speaking. You’d think I’d have learned that after many years presenting and practicing presentations, I’d be able to consciously stop saying ummmm. Guess not. Maybe I’ll video capture myself and see how many times I do speak of mine enemies.

4. An interesting old concept popped up again. I was watching a newish documentary called “Punk’s Not Dead” which actually does a pretty convincing job of saying it’s underground (well, shocking). I’m waiting for the documentary that treats punk like Ken Burns did with jazz… there’s a depth there that can be mined for sure. Anyways, one of the arguments of the new school of punk, bands like Sum 41, My Chemical Romance and The Used is that they are quick to embrace corporate sponsorship which they feel can be co-opted and used to promote their message. This argument has been going since Bad Brains and Husker Du (and before them, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Sham 69) signed to major labels.

A nice parrallel to edupunk, some of whom reject the Blackboard LMS model and distribute the learning across several free, open resources (Moodle, Pageflakes, RSS feeds, blogs).With that said, I think there’s a value to having a centralized point of entry. Is there an answer to the criticism? Well, sometime you have to work in a system; education is certainly a system. The end result of the system is what’s important, not necessarily the means.

5. When Mohawk decided to go with Desire2Learn, the other competitors were Blackboard and Angel. Funny how in hindsight, there really was only two competitors.

6. Even though I’ve been thinking about transferring this blog, resurrecting my other blog and adding a third blog about Hamilton punk and putting them all under one umbrella/domain, I still haven’t been overwhelmingly motivated to do so. Maybe in the Fall.