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Posts Tagged ‘future

Recently I read an article written with hope. Blind hope.

If the title (How the Amazon Echo Show Will Revolutionize Higher Education) does not reveal why, then its list of how-exactly will.

If the article was meant to be satire, it failed because its tone was too honest and earnest. It was almost as if the writer was sponsored to write it or wrote it to get sponsored.

Either way, the ideas focused blindly and romantically on technology in education instead of realistically and critically.

For example, one suggestion was that the device would let you “visit your alma mater’s Second Life campus from every room in your home by voice command”. Second Life? There is as much point of doing this as visiting Ello and MySpace.

How about being able to “monitor your children in their dorm rooms through the always-on video and audio feeds”? Creepy much? Legal advocates for privacy could have a field day with this one.

Maybe the legal folk could conference with the device. They could also use existing systems today to do all the items of the list and just as well if not better. The oversell of edtech is a fetish.

We already have the benefit of hindsight of the “disruption” of higher education by MOOCs and the “Uberisation” of education.

History repeats itself. It has to, because no one ever listens. -- Steve Turner.

We should have learnt from those mistakes, but we collectively ignore or conveniently forget.

The technology giants do create change and it is tempting to gaze into the crystal ball to predict the future. But the future is not just a function of technology, particularly in the edtech world.

Here it is a socio-technical phenomenon. People and mindsets shape what edtech does. This is why we still appropriate the latest technologies for show-and-tell. It is when people do something unexpected and different with the technology that change happens.

My claim is not sexy because it is not based on a fetish for technology. It is based on critical research and reflective practice. This allows me to have my head in the air while my feet still feel the ground.

You can accuse me of being boring with my approach to edtech, but certainly not of being kinky.

 
I did not think that some people are still talking about the future of the e-book. I guess this is not surprising given how the concept and practice of e-books is still largely limited to what a book does.

Publishers and developers need to take note of this observation from the article:

“A book is the opposite of a web page,” which typically has a scattered design that relies on links to other sites, Jaffe said. With a book, “an author has thought deeply about a topic, curated everything you want to know about it, and packaged into a single publication.”

E-books that most people read on Kindles and library apps are often glorified PDFs. They are not like the Web or social media. They are certainly not like the level 2, 2.5, and 3 e-books that I suggested in 2011.

Perhaps the future of the e-book is also about getting the timing right. People were not ready for less book-like e-books then. They are less resistant now.

Pushing change to readers is one thing, changing from within is another. Publishers are slow to change their mindsets and practices.

Revisiting my thoughts on e-textbooks, I realise that the concerns are the same today. Publishers may have moved on to control access to resources via institutional or proprietary LMS [example], but the same principles are in play: Limit for profit.

So let’s not call a book an an e-book unless we can relook it through a social creator’s lens first and a publisher’s lens last.

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After reading this review of research on homework, my mind raced to how some people might resort to formulaic thinking.

This was the phrase that seeded it:

Based on his research, Cooper (2006) suggests this rule of thumb: homework should be limited to 10 minutes per grade level.

What follows were examples and an important caveat:

Grade 1 students should do a maximum of 10 minutes of homework per night, Grade 2 students, 20 minutes, and so on. Expecting academic students in Grade 12 to occasionally do two hours of homework in the evening—especially when they are studying for exams, completing a major mid-term project or wrapping up end-of-term assignments—is not unreasonable. But insisting that they do two hours of homework every night is expecting a bit much.

If you assume that people would pay more attention to the caveat than to the formula, you assume wrongly. Doing the former means thinking harder and making judgements. The latter is an easy formula.

Most people like easy.

If those people are teachers and administrators who create homework and homework policies, then everyone who is at home will likely suffer from homework blues.

Am I overreaching? I think not. Consider another example on formulaic thinking.

I provide professional development for future faculty every semester, but this semester was a bit different. There was a “social” space in the institution’s learning management system (LMS) where a certain 70:30 ratio emerged.

A capstone project for these future faculty is a teaching session. The modules prior to that prepare them to design and implement learner-centred experiences. At least one person played the numbers game and asked what proportion of the session should be teacher-centred vs student-centred.

I provide advice in person and in assignments that the relative amount is contextual. My general guideline is that student-centred work tends to require more time since the learners are novices and that the planning should reflect that.

However, once that 70:30 ratio was suggested in the social space, it became the formula to follow. It was definite and easier than thinking for and about the learner. It allowed future faculty to stay in their comfort zone of lecturing 70% of the time and grudgingly attempt student-centred work 30% of the time.

But guess what? When people follow this formula or do not plan for more student-centred activities and time, they typically go over the 70% teacher talk time and rush the actual learning. This pattern is practically formulaic.

Formulaic thinking is easy, but that does not make it right or effective. In the case of the course I mentioned, the 70:30 folk typically return for remediation. It is our way of trying to stop the rot of formulaic thinking.
 

I read a tweet like this and the linked article more critically than most.

I am glad that the school is doing something different, but is it doing something qualitatively better?

As much as maker spaces seem to be the flavour of the moment, how many school authorities have asked themselves whether they need such spaces to make?

Why are students not already making and creating in mainstream curriculum? Unless extremely dangerous or specialised, why must these activities only happen in special spaces or rooms?

In April I questioned the validity and purpose of maker spaces. Others more articulate than me have blogged about the same issues.

Why is the whole school not a maker space?

Is much of the curriculum and practice driven by design thinking, exploring, tinkering, learning from mistakes, and reiterating?

Does a maker space help school leaders and teachers question the assumptions of schooling?

Can having a maker space for robotics or coding really be setting sail to the future while the rest of schooling is anchored in the past?
 

This tweet made me pause for thought and to recall what I think about “the future” of schooling and education.

Individuals and collectives that perpetuate the rhetoric of being “future ready” might be wasting their energy. The only thing we can say about the future is that it is uncertain.

We might know what is going to happen in 15 minutes. But how about what is going to happen in 15 hours, 15 days, 15 weeks, 15 months, or 15 years? How certain are we of determining the future the further away it is?

An alternative is to consider the perspective of William Gibson. I prepared two similar image quotes based on photos here (from Brazil) and here (from the Philippines).

The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed. --William Gibson

The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed. --William Gibson

This perspective does not mean that we ignore the future or not try to prepare for it. Instead, it helps us think about more concrete actions.

You cannot be future-ready because you cannot predict it; you can try to be prepared because you can shape what happens now. Trying to be ready is an impossible state of being; being prepared is a constant state of mind.

Part of our effort to shape the future is recognising that segments of our community or population are stuck in the past, perhaps due to circumstances beyond their control, e.g., they are born on the disadvantaged side of a divide. Their future is our current, so we need to bring them forward.

Consider a few examples. We have kids who do not have access to current technologies. We also have kids that have access but do not have permission due to outdated rules and policies. We put all those kids in classrooms that are kept separate from the wider world. These classrooms focus on content and curriculum (learning about) instead of context (learning to be).

Blindly focusing on the uncertain future and trying in vain to be ready for it could be selfish and wasteful. Focusing on the now and near-term future of the have-nots — and there will always be have-nots — is certainly a more giving and productive mission.

Much of the anglosphere seemed to ga-ga over 21 October 2015 as the day Doc Brown and Marty McFly came Back to the Future.

This spawned needless analysis of whether the movie had correctly predicted life in 2015. No movie or even a well-regarded think tank can predict the future with any certainty.


Video source

The future is now. The future is what you make of it. You do not need 1.21 gigawatts of power to realize that.

Stop staring into an unforseeable future. Stop trying to make projections that are based on fairy tales or science fiction movies or dystopian novels.

The future is hopeful, not wishful. It is not merely envisioned, it is also enabled. Do it now.

Tempting to link the future of anything to technological development. That is what most people seem to do because technologies make things faster, better, or are just plain awesome.
 

Caps-Lock is FULL OF AWESOME!!1! by colinaut, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  colinaut 

 
Since my passion and work lie where the fields of education and technology overlap, that might also be why I am often asked to offer answers to the question “What is the future of education?”

I do not have a ready or standard answer. But I have distilled some ideas that have withstood scrutiny.

The first is that education and schooling overlap, but they are not the same. For example, schooling is about enculturating the masses while education is about finding the individual.

We need both schooling and education, but I think that we have too much schooling and not enough education. It is just as important to realize that some people use the terms interchangeably. This is why you will get different and confusing answers.

The second thought I have is that it is a mistake to link changes in schooling and education to the pace of technological development. Schooling and education move and respond very slowly to change. Both are very conservative, but schooling more so than education.

The world’s first university might have started in Bologna in 1088. Lectures probably started shortly after and they are still a mainstay in 2015 despite the changes in technology.

My third thought is that we are extremely short-sighted as a species. We want to look forward as far as we can, but we hold ourselves back with our short and selective memories, our biases, our greed, and our fear:

  • We forget that every important technological development had its opponents and failures.
  • Some of us refuse to accept evolution as a fundamental change process because we cannot see beyond a human lifetime.
  • A few of us in control of products like educational media and policies like Internet access would rather maintain the status quo to make money or to feed worry.

So is there a future for education in spite of all these barriers? Of course. Can I tell you what it will look like definitively? Of course I cannot.

What can we do then? Instead of wringing our hands in despair, I say we learn to be now-ists because what we do now shapes the future. If, as William Gibson put it, the future is already here; it is just not evenly distributed, then I say we find ways to spread it around.


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