Reading List #5

There is a bit of theme running through this list – edtech and innovation. It’s been a topic of discussion for me over the last week or so and I’ve been trying to develop and clarify my thinking on the topic. Expect a blog post soon on it!

A gorilla in their midst: rethinking educational technology – Really enjoyed this paper and definitely the pick of the list! Some great thinking about edtech and how we see, study, relate and define it. There was particular resonance for me and the work we have been doing in mLearn – almost stumbling into the approach that Chris advocates. The work we have tended to do is less thought out – jumping almost straight into doing – which has been more complex, blurry and messy. This has seemed far more “real”, being away from structure, theory and preconceptions has made the process more natural. We have attempted to let ‘results’ grow rather than seeking to cultivate them or control them by focussing on exploration and the process of learning ourselves.

Startups: Innovation Through Inferiority! – extremely well articulated arguments against the current range of Silicon Valley startups. The article is quite broad but does bring it back to MOOCs and the current raft of edtech startups currently flooding the market.

Silicon Valley venture-backed startup companies generally make worse, not better products. Their main advantage is that they are cheaper and therefore more accessible to the average person, which enables populist-sounding marketing. So Airbnb is cheaper but worse than a hotel; blogs are cheaper but worse than newspapers; user-generated content in general is free but worse than professionally produced content.

I think it is important that in education the innovation being promoted isn’t of better quality, it’s just cheaper. Education will have to decide what value they place on quality.

Leading Innovation: The 3 Carriage Train – Video on leading innovation. Some nice concepts and fits in with this from Seth Godin’s blog.From experience this tends to be the best way to work and get the best results – but that’s been with quite a bit of 1 to 1 time. Think my next challenge might be trying to scale this up.

Notes on “Beyond Retrofitting: Innovation in Higher Education – Another look at where innovation sits within Education. I can really back up Keith’s point,

Like policy, business models provide the overarching framework in which we work; they structure the possibilities. While a good deal of discussion in digital higher education focusses on instructional practices and technology, to a considerable extent, these are by-products of the broader, structural conditions – such as policy. The right policy (or business model), in other words, makes it possible for great educators to use the best instructional strategies and technologies to help students learn.

I think part of the discussion around innovation needs to centre on the framework – what is the optimal environment for this to occur? How does it support innovation? Can innovation become cultural or is just ‘breaking the rules’?

disruptive innovations are exciting and satisfy our desire for quick changes, but they are one part of a large set of innovations required to improve the value of higher education for our students, faculty and other stakeholders.

Another excellent point – I don’t think there is such a simple thing as an ‘innovation’. Rather it sits somewhere on an axis that joins where we were and where we are going.

Innovation is a Practice This is an interesting article – and it’s hard because I can see more than one side to this.

If innovation is about having brilliant ideas, then there’s not much you can do to manage it or get better at it. But if it’s a process, you can do both of those things – manage it and get better at it.

Perhaps innovation is best seen as middle ground – somewhere between inspiration and process. Or maybe it cannot be abstracted in that sense. Is it perhaps better to think of it as the soil itself rather than the produce that grows from it?

The Future Of UX Design: Tiny, Humanizing Details – The concept of microinteractions is a really interesting component of UX design but with much broader application across the design spectrum. To me micro interactions are key to making design seamless. They take of the edge, transition the user, develop the narrative and drive home the point. While often small in nature they tend to have some of the biggest impacts on how we perceive and understand our interactions. They are the bounce and easing animations, the pull to refresh and the ting! sound of success. They deserve attention because they smooth the edges and add the polish.

The Principles of Learning – This list seems to fit well with my model for learning and is a good set if principles to guide the choice of pedagogy and educational approach.

iPads: From Pedagogical Crutch to Education Innovation – I like it when someone flips a term on you. I agree with the sentiment here of using “an iPad, or any other mobile device, as a crutch — quite literally — to get started on a path toward innovation”. For what it’s worth this is my experience of using iPads in technology – they work best as a catalyst, a crutch, a starting point for wider adoption, experimentation and innovation with technology.

Resiliency and Grit, Not Failure – I can relate to George’s point in this article. I think it is the narrative we want to share that is important and to me part of that is the need to remove the stigma attached to failure. Failure is a natural part of any process – so the narrative i want to share is recognising this fact in order to build a competency for resilience. One of the key lessons that I’ve learnt in life is that it is never wrong to make a mistake – the wrong thing to do is not fix it.

I totally understand what educators are saying when they talk about “failure” and our thoughts are on the same wavelength. That being said, the narrative of what teachers actually do is misconstrued by our public when we use the term. Most of the people who I know that defend this term do everything in their power to NOT be failures and since they are educators, that means they do everything to instill “resiliency” and “grit” into their students as well. Do they (or their students) fall? Absolutely. But the story should not be about “falling”, it is about what we instill in our students to make sure they get back up. That is what we need to share.

OMG, its culture change time – I really liked this passage from the article:

In effect culture is always complex, never complicated. So it follows that cultural change is an evolutionary process from the present, not an idealised future state design.

The idea that simple microinteractions make up a culture is profound. Complexity arises from the state and nature of compounding simplicity. It’s why I find natural ecology so amazing and inspiring.

Why Microsoft’s reorganization is a bad idea An interesting comparison of business structures. What I though was interesting is that universities tend to co-opt both models. This “best of both worlds” approach should be noted for its “worst of both worlds” reality. Lack of clear vision, lack of collaboration, divisional competition that has evolved to warfare and sabotage, lack of accountability and responsibility. It’s like something from Douglas Adams whereby it’s so dysfunctional that it seems to work.

Dustin Hoffman on TOOTSIE and his character Dorothy Michaels – Not a reading at all, but this 3 minute clip from Dustin Hoffman is deep and touching. I actually felt enlightened after watching, and that something new, different and unique had been opened up to me. I got a different perspective on our culture – past the glamour and the ‘beauty’ – where it’s like a movie set – all front and nothing behind. I know that deep down I don’t think or behave this way, but I know all too often I fall for that trap of superficial judgement. I know that I’ve missed out experiencing  many interesting people because of that mindset. It is such an ugly part of our society and ourselves – to write somebody off based on an aesthetic veneer. It’s an important lesson to learn and to teach others because when we become aware of it, we are able to overcome it.

… on a ligher note

The Pixar Theory – I’m a huge fan of the Pixar movies and really enjoyed this attempt to unify all the movies into a singular universe spanning time and space.

Desert Bus: The Very Worst Video Game Ever Created – Love the concept of this game but also the practical impact it has made – great story.


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