SXSW: The day the Bubble burst

Day 3 was a big one for me. A couple of things I attended really spooked me and challenged my world view about education. A following post will discuss some of the challenges that education is facing.

I came to a career in education. It wasn’t predestined. It wasn’t even on my radar until I started, and even then I wasn’t sure it was a long term thing. But I liked it. I liked putting my design and multimedia skills to something a little more noble than advertising and marketing materials. When I took a full time job I set out to learn. Learn as much about the field I was entering so that I could start to speak on the same terms. To make more work better, not just look good. To think about the Learner Experience and the broader context of what I was making in terms of learning resources.

I taught myself about pedagogies, learning design, how people teach, how people learn – not just the theories but the practicalities. I absorbed everything thrown at me, asked questions and started to feel comfortable about being in education. My blog signifies that I was comfortable enough with what I knew that I could actually contribute to the discussion.

I thought education as a sector was with it too. That deep down it knew all this stuff too. It had spent time reading, listening, going to conferences and learning about what it means to learn. Today the bubble burst.

Last year I had a running debate on Yammer with a colleague. His contention was that education was still a pre-professional field. I thought I was doing the right thing when I went in to bat for education – but today I’ll admit I was wrong.

I’ve been living in a bubble. I’m surrounded by people who are innovating and who care deeply about utilising best practice to create engaging learning. They are driven to ensure the learning experience they provide their students is the best that it can be. Most importantly they are aware of what is considered “best” or even “good”. But that’s my bubble. That’s not education as a whole – and for better or for worse SXSWedu has given me a better insight into the larger world.

What’s become abundantly clear though is that most teachers, particularly in higher ed which relies on Academics who perform multiple roles and Adjuncts that have no permanency to their role, aren’t aware of best practice. Nor are they properly equiped or compensated to learn or implement those practices.

Reflecting on my current work I was beginning to think that it really wasn’t innovative enough. That much of our work seems to be foundational to online learning and that it seemed too obvious. I’ve changed my mind – what we are doing at CSU in uImagine is incredibly important. We’re building those foundations together with our staff. We’re providing a vocabulary through which best practice becomes knowable, identifiable and practical. It’s innovative because it’s about changing the model at an institutional level – which very few seem to be focussed on. It’s also about changing practices and pedagogy.

There’s a part 2 to this coming…


6 thoughts on “SXSW: The day the Bubble burst

  1. Am nodding and troubled by this in equal parts. Forcing me to ponder my own assumptions. May have something useful to contribute in coming days. Some short indications of thinking follow.

    Always troubled by “best” practice. Ditto the taint of “blame the academic”. Though they aren’t blameless. Can see value of the CSU model (quite like it, well done that) but also wonder about its reception and translation into practice beyond the clever folk who developed it.

    Question of role of model as a sensemaking/guiding thing, as opposed to window-dressing or a straight jacket.

    Conference sounds like it was good value.

    • I too have been troubled by the “best practice” issue – it’s one of the main reasons I rallied against the pre-professional label. Education is complex and diverse – but there are some basic and fundamental practices around student engagement that work and that form the basis for a good learning experience. It’s just that they’re not widely known or expressed consciously. There are things that many academics do that “feel right” but they don’t have a way to express them, communicate or share them.
      I do need to watch my language in theses posts because I don’t intend to blame academics or adjuncts – this is really about systemic failure. This lack of knowledge is a manifestation of the problem, not the problem itself.
      We’re doing pilot implementations of the model at the moment, but I’ve been surprised by the response. At the end of last year we had our teaching and learning conference and there were lots of presentations using the model to discuss their work without any prompting whatsoever.
      We did some work in our roadshows about what was perceived good practice and it all aligns pretty well with the model we’ve worked on. It then acts as a vocabulary and grammar for further discussion and development which is fantastic. It’s not a straight jacket, but a language 🙂
      There’s a few gaps that we’re still working on – hopefully I’ll post about that work soon!

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