Reading List #3

So another week another set of new articles – mixed up with a few video and audio posts this time round!

A 10th Grader Explains How Social Media Can Replace Textbooks – A really nicely put piece, simple but lovely.

“Social media can transform a class from a traditional, cookie cutter, textbook-using class into an innovative, fascinating, and extremely relevant course.”

Project Mighty and Napoleon – Not really a read but this smart stylus & digital ruler from Adobe really are innovative and definitely have a wow factor. Looks like tablets are growing up and becoming more capable than desktops – at least in some areas.

The 70 mega rich who don’t pay tax – with all the discussion around budget blackholes – this looks like an issues worth addressing. I don’t begrudge anyone making money but feel we have a system that encourages cheating and lacks any sense of citizenship. Sorry, but you wouldn’t make that money if it weren’t for Australian society – time to pay back into the system.

Bill Gates on the iPad: ‘A Lot Of Those Users Are Frustrated’ – I’m still trying to see the logic in how users are frustrated by the iPad not providing word functionality – and not Microsoft? Easiest thing to do? Realise Word is just bloatware and find something better!

The High Risk of a ‘Wait and See’ Approach – As someone who sees constant change, evolution and innovation as the natural state, this just makes sense. I like the last part of the article in particular:

“Stop Waiting; Start Doing” & “Remember this: “If you don’t do it, someone else will.” And they’re doing it right now!”

Beware the Big Errors of ‘Big Data’ – Really good article on some of the issues around the next “saviour technology” – Big Data. We need to understand that:

“Big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information”

What a data point tells us is not truth. Not when truth is abstracted from context.

Disaster Capitalism Comes to Education – This is one of those ideas that has so much relevance today and I’m glad Mike reinstated this post. I agree so deeply with this sentiment –

“the most important thing we can do as we talk to people is remind them that they are *not* surrounded by rubble, that in fact students at their college *do* have transformative, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Not enough experiences. Not as many students as should. Not at a reasonable and accessible cost. Not always in a way that is directly related to the world they enter on graduation.”

Education isn’t a the rubble strewn wasteland a lot of people want us to imagine – my analogy was a car with a flat tire, not a seized engine – but that message seems to get lost, especially when you speak to vendors hocking products. I’ll have to add this one to my list of docos to watch!

Inspiration calling – OK, technically another ‘non-reading’ but this is too good not to share. It’s an audio recoding of a phone call from web developer Jeremy Keith to the owner of a company whose website looks very similar to Jeremy’s. In academia there is such vitriol around plagiarism – but I tend to think that this might perhaps be a better way of dealing with it. Not punitive, not shameful – it is justice served Socratically through a calm melodic voice encouraging self-awareness and inner change. Getting caught is one thing, handling it and committing to change is another.

You didn’t make the Harlem Shake go viral—corporations did – Great article in our meme culture – the mix of technology and social. Some great lines too – “Memes become themes become meta-memes become norms” and “Primacy is more important than privacy.”

Overblown students’ egos ignore teachers’ expertise – This is quite an interesting piece on the research by Dr Ann O. Watters in the latest edition of The Journal of General Education. In it she contends that “today’s student-led learning environment, which stresses the importance of student voices and experiences, has led to a loss of teachers’ authority within the classroom”. I think this is quite an interesting perspective and something that gave some ideas in placing the next article.

More on education a la carte – A post from University Canberra Vice Chancellor Stephen Parker. Stephen makes some really valid points here which I agree with, but I sense that there is something wrong with the tone of the post. This was difficult for me to read, and perhaps just as difficult to try to pinpoint why. It took me a little time to realise that the reason it didn’t sit well was because the voice takes such a passive stance and it seems quite timid. I understand that the point of the piece may be more to stimulate discussion than to argue a specific point, so maybe my problem is just how that discussion is being framed.

What seems to be missing is any recognition of the substantial role of the institution in all this. Institutions, companies and individuals have a voice and have a role to play – they are active participants that affect the relationships that come with economic, technological and cultural change. The trends that Stephen raised aren’t foreign – they are part of our daily interactions, or maybe the problem is most universities haven’t seen it that way. Many Universities, and sections within universities, have acted as hermetically sealed spaces and have chosen not to engage with change and to develop a relationship beyond themselves. They have been selfish and self-centred and it is no wonder they feel threatened.

However, it needs be pointed out that we aren’t victims of change, we are in a relationship with it. We can react and interact with it in many ways and be passive or proactive. I wish we could have this discussion. It would be nice to spend time talking about this relationship, rather than jumping on every messianic technological solution as a quick fix. The truth is that we must realise relationships are really hard work!

To take Steven’s analogy – the al a carte menu is a symbol of the diners relationship with the restaurant. You get choice, but that is limited to what’s on the menu. Boundaries were set and the relationship works within it. The diner gets to participate in the experience but the restaurant has a responsibility to live up to their side of the deal. They have control and provide the ambience, the food on the menu and the level of service. Students can have a la carte but we have to provide a restaurant they want to dine in!

To round out this post I wanted to draw some parallels between Stephens post and the work done by Dr Watters and the framing of education around the students. I am a firm believer in a student centric approach – but to me this is not about becoming student led, but instead achieving an equilibrium in the relationship between institution and student. It addresses the millennia of inequality through institutional dominance in this relationship by allowing more participation from the students. At the same time we need not go too far the other way and need to avoid the concept of student led. Student Led undermines the experience and expertise inherent in most institutions and substituting it with an ideal of choice but a reality that fails to meet anyone’s expectations.

This idea of relationships seems to be what we need to pursue because students don’t want control of their education, they want to participate. Students want to own the experience but that doesn’t translate into taking responsibility for constructing courses, content, timetables. They want flexibility but that doesn’t mean they want to forgo structure or planning. Students want a relationship with the institution. They want to engage with us, they want to participate and they want to interact. What needs to happen, and is the most appropriate course of action, is to even out the power relationship between institution and student.

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