Friday, July 22, 2016

The Echo Chamber of Confirmation Bias

Nothing like politics to constrain + manifest social media as an echo chamber of presumption + confirmation bias. Such a massive waste of technology. People are seriously afraid to think for themselves, to cast a wide net in what they read, watch + listen to. Change is not our enemy. Throughout history, progress is the manifestation of change + intellectual growth. What is the point of education if all it does is confine + bully people into an acceptance of presumptive narratives and memes? Educational indoctrination breeds convergence and followers, not creative, dynamic learners. The world is not static and the future needs divergent, creative thinkers, not drones who conflate a GPA with actual understanding and comprehension. The echo chamber is the intellectual closed mind. It is a norm that deserves and requires our active resistance.

(Cross posted with Ecomyths)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Learning and Connectivism in MOOCs

Instinctively and intuitively, I am skeptical about MOOCs.  Many are similarly inclined and are outright dismissive in their reaction to them.  

However, experience suggests it is precisely when we are most set in our opposition and predisposition that we need to step back, consider things more deeply, reflect and ponder if our presumptions are acting to preclude us from learning something that is just new, different and/or an alternate perspective.

It is in this vein that I recently discovered the ideas of Stephen Downes, well presented on his blog and illustrated with this presentation.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Science, moral authority and the implications for education

Starting back to a new term and prepping for the classroom myself and read this latest post from Frank Furedi in Spiked
  • At a time when society finds it hard to provide compelling answers to the problems that people face, the realm of science is being plundered in search of moral authority.
  • Evidence-based education, which is intimately linked to the ‘what works’ culture, leads to a form of processed education. Processed education is dominated by an instrumentalism that threatens to reduce education to a technique and teaching to a technical intervention.
  • Not only does the quest for an evidence base distract educators from teaching and from confronting challenges - it also doesn’t work, even in its own terms. 
Two things are inter-related here: the use of science to infer moral, political authority within decision making and the implied corollary that education not embracing the presumptive process is deficient. Furedi issues an important warning against both trends but is particularly worried about the reductionist effect that a reliance upon science (especially normative science and post-normal science) invokes within education. 

Teaching should be the facilitation of discovery and personal understanding of experience, not the imposed accreditation in approved thought, paradigms or ideology.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Life, learning and living

Good post this: what-if-i-dont-have-a-passion
Don't expect your calling in life to find you -- you have to go grab the world and be brave enough to venture out and discover for yourself!
Or just live the life of quiet desperation your family prescribes for you and confines you to because of their fears. 
You have to live your life as you, not the life anyone wishes for you.
And that can take time to discover, define and realize. But it's not a race, it is a journey and enjoying, experiencing the journey is the point of life.  We are all going to die.  Crossing the finishing line first is not the goal.  Giving love, finding love and sharing our love with people, of spaces and places and creating something of value -- that's the purpose.  There is no timeline but our own.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

value and edcuation

A thoughtful post from James Delingpole, who writes:
  • The most important thing of all for a teacher is – or should be – to be placed in circumstances where you are properly able to teach.
Delingpole sees the problem in contemporary education as stemming from a cheapening of instruction, wherein the free, state-provided education is akin to
  • of those all-you-can-eat-buffets, where the food is so cheap you no longer see it as a dining-out treat but as something almost contemptible.
What is needed is for the institutions, the students and the larger society to perceive and re-assert the value that arises from an education.

This presumes, of course, in higher education, that institutions and professors are supplying an education that provides value in contemporary society, for a globalized world, in an era of profound and rapid change. 

It also calls into question the real worth of MOOC's and the pressures to adopt massive, on-line, distance and remote courses distinct from the personal, communal contact of the real classroom.  As Susam Blum writes learners are people, not isolated test-taking brains.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

education as coaching or a plantation economy?

Two contrasting perspectives on university education caught my eye recently. The first article was an excellent exposition on the meaning of learning and why technology and teaching are not the same:

  • Education is not the transmission of information or ideas. Education is the training needed to make use of information and ideas. As information breaks loose from bookstores and libraries and floods onto computers and mobile devices, that training becomes more important, not less.
  • Educators are coaches, personal trainers in intellectual fitness. The value we add to the media extravaganza is like the value the trainer adds to the gym or the coach adds to the equipment. We provide individualized instruction in how to evaluate and make use of information and ideas, teaching people how to think for themselves.
  • Just as coaching requires individual attention, education, at its core, requires one mind engaging with another, in real time: listening, understanding, correcting, modeling, suggesting, prodding, denying, affirming, and critiquing thoughts and their expression. 
In contrast, the second article was a post lamenting how contemporary universities now resemble a plantation economy:

  • The modern university is a plantation....a large agricultural enterprise that raises and sells livestock and crops for profit....
  • Undergraduates are livestock. In an actual plantation, livestock are raised and sold for profit....moving undergrads through the system is how universities make a great deal of money...
  • An important aspect of raising livestock is keeping them docile... 
  • If students are livestock, what corresponds to crops? Research grants and contracts. Not research itself, but research done in order to receive outside money....
  • In the modern research university, obtaining grants is a requisite for employment. Yes, one can do research without external funding, but that doesn't count, at least not for much...
  • Every plantation needs overseers, bosses who enforce rules and dole out the rewards and punishments. In universities these are department chairs and deans...
The connection between the two posts?  Increasing efforts to transpose teaching practice with the use of technology through the widespread imposition of distance education, on line and "free" large enrollment classes.  What is driving these "initiatives" is not pedagogy nor the quality of education.  Rather, the plantation owners and operators of the university sector are  seeking to further increase revenue, decrease expenditures and sell their measures as educationally sound and driven "improvements".

Education suffers when learning is replaced by grade attainment and performance indicators for the success of your plantation university are the throughput of the livestock students.  Big courses, using distance technology are the university equivalent of Google and Wikipedia: large repositories of information, data and opinions, but they are not learning in and of themselves.  Teaching still requires that a teacher facilitate and empower the learning of the student.  Good tools are nice but are no substitute for skilled coaching, personal engagement and emotional investment.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Too often it is assumed that education has to be structured and that learning has to be taught.  A recent experiment with technology reveals just how much this proposition is a fallacy.

The One Laptop Per Child project decided to side track educational structures and, instead, just dropped off sealed boxes of Tablet PCs in two Ethiopian villages.  The results are inspiring to all who subscribe to the strength of the human condition and innovative spirit:
  • We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He'd never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.