Education as Industry

Filed under: — Joe @ 12:59 pm

I’ve been thinking lately about the model that sees education as an industry, with students as the product. Or , really, educated students as the product. Or that model’s cousin, which sees education as a business with students as the customers or consumers. It’s not a new model, by any means. It’s one that’s always been popular among conservative critics of education (naturally enough, since it’s a completely capitalist, and completely anti-liberal model).

It’s a model that I find fundamentally in opposition to any liberal philosophy of education (including my own). If we see education in a constructivist (or connectivist) light, if we are interested in a process for students of growth and deeper understanding, then a focus on “delivery” of a “product” is a focus aimed in totally the wrong direction.

But what’s been bringing this to my attention lately is the (to me) startling prevalence of this model in discussions of educational technology. Even sources like Sloan-C, which is (I think) generally faculty-driven, and which really should know better, embed right there in their (careful, this is a pdf link) “five pillars” (“learning effectiveness, cost effectiveness, access, student satisfaction, faculty satisfaction”) ideas which, while important, don’t seem to me to be have kind of organic, creative, developmental emphasis which I consider so essential in my own teaching, and in any good teaching I remember experiencing or witnessing.


These pillars (and all the different phrasing of similar ideas) are, certainly important. And it is, maybe, important to break things down for purposes of measurement, analysis, and even assessment. But I worry about, always, and part of me rebels against, always, the idea of breaking down too much.

I think often about the comment of someone at one of our Visible Knowledge Project presentations.

I don’t want everything to be ‘visible.’ Some of what teaching really is, at its best, is necessarily invisible. It’s not all science. Some of it is art, and you can’t just take away the art.

It’s a challenge to keep hold of that “invisible” stuff, while still trying to look rigorously and critically–to make teaching and learning (especially with technology) a subject of serious scholarly inquiry.

And I think it’s a mistake, in working with that challenge, to fall too deeply into a “business” or “corporate” model. We’re not doing the same thing, in a liberal education, as job training.



Filed under: — Joe @ 9:36 pm

Thanks to Professor Harris for an excellent pointer to George Siemens’ article at elearnspace, “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”.

Somewhat of a very important replacement (addition?) for behaviorism, constructivism, and cognitivism. Siemens posits connectivism as combining chaos, networks, complexity and self-organization–all elements of learning which are changed, or emphasized, or enabled, by technology.


Laptop Carts

Filed under: — Joe @ 6:58 pm

Had a small meeting today to try to finally get (at least on a pilot basis) a tryout of our laptop carts (they’re similar to these, but not exactly the same–30 laptops in a huge, tank-like, rolling cabinet–to which we’ll be attaching a router, a projector, and–maybe–a printer).

We’re going to have a technician accompany the cart, to help with checking in and out (all laptops numbered, all checked out and returned in exchange for ID cards–no card, no laptop), and to troubleshoot any issues that may come up in class. I’m not sure that’s going to be a sustainable model in the long-term, but I hope so. It seems like it will help a lot with getting nervous faculty to give it a try, and (maybe) lessen the class time consumed by technical and logistical issues. I know it’s a system that is used successfully elsewhere.

Some other longterm questions…

What about maintenance on these machines as the use gets heavier? Especially as students start downloading malware, deleting vital system files, and so on. We don’t have the staff at this point (and probably won’t ever) to re-image each machine more often than maybe once per semester.

How well (if at all) is the wireless access going to work? And how secure (if at all) is it going to be?

From what I hear, the math department tried a similar scheme with calculators, and it worked for two or three years, and then the calculators started disappearing. Why was that? How can it be avoided? Nobody seems to know.

What if students want to (unlikely) bring their own laptops? That should be no problem–but letting them into the network may be tough.

Shall we have some kind of required training for faculty who want to use these carts? Even though we’re going to have a technician in the room?

There will probably be even more questions as we really get it moving, but I’m anxious to have it work. The equipment is already bought (of course, the questions should have been answered first, but that’s not the way things work!), and I don’t want to waste it. And I’ve had faculty asking me, already, “what if I want to use a lab, but only once in a while. They’re all reserved by people who use them every week!” This would solve that problem.


No more Global Affairs

Filed under: — Joe @ 5:54 pm

Well, it finally happened. I know that many at Global Affairs have been waiting, watching, anticipating, hoping for me to give them some excuse to ban me, and today they found it. I don’t find their reasons to be fair (of course), and they certainly don’t fit the rules in the site FAQ, but enough is enough. If I’m unwelcome enough there that they have to ban me, they win. I’m gone.

Global Affairs was never really a perfect place for me. The overall political lean of the place was far too right-wing (although they constantly congratulated themselves on how “centrist” they were). People on the right were allowed far more freedom in vitriol and personal attacks than anyone on the left. And worst of all, a small group of moderators and administrators (not all of them) carried out some of the ugliest personal attacks of all, and the rules were enforced inconsistently.

But there were some very strong advantages. Many of the people there (the majority, I think) are reasonable, intelligent, and interesting. They have a range of knowledge and experience in many different areas, and they were willing to open themselves enough to make it seem like a real community, with real caring.

I enjoyed being a part of that very much, and I will miss it, I’m sure. It’s a shame that this small group is so intolerant, ugly, and afraid, that they don’t see what makes the site work so well (I’m torn, here, because I don’t think it would be right to name them–but I don’t want any of the others who might read this to think I’m including them). I’m not the first they’ve banned or driven out of the forum. I don’t know if I’ll be the last.

So I’m in the market for a new, fairer, online, adult discussion community. It has to be small enough that posts come in at a manageable rate, but big enough that they don’t languish unremarked forever. It should have room for technical, political, social, and cultural discussion.

I’ll keep looking.



Filed under: — Joe @ 5:25 pm

Jamila Larson at Common Dreams has an excellent (if disturbing) essay on her experience at the inauguration. Her depiction of the fur, stretched skin, cowboy hats, and barely disguised, simmering, arrogant rage that descended on DC is exactly what I experienced. And I wasn’t even there for the inauguration, just happened to be in town at the same time.


Number Four

Filed under: — Joe @ 8:39 pm

KokoFour cats is really too many for any household, especially one that also contains two gerbils and a rotund, hairy, dog. But since I have a soft-hearted wife, who can’t resist a cold and hungry stray, we now have added the lovely white kitty Kokonut to the household. She’s a beauty, and very affectionate, if a bit sleepy.


Victory in Cobb County

Filed under: — Joe @ 4:10 pm

new stickerGreat decision by a judge in the Cobb County, Georgia “stickers” case–the school board has to remove the stickers, can’t use them, and has to pay all the court costs of the plaintiffs in the case. Colin Purrington, who made the brilliant parody stickers I blogged about before, had a new one–clearly expressing the real loss in this “victory.” I’m hoping the school board members who voted for the stickers will resign, if they have any professional responsibility and common decency, or will be voted out, if (as I suspect) they don’t.

King Nerd

Filed under: — Joe @ 10:04 am

Yes, I am the King–it’s good to get a little recognition, for something! (And I didn’t even have to cheat!)

I am nerdier than 100% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!


A long break

Filed under: — Joe @ 10:02 pm

Back to blogging soon–returned from California, some delayed chores accomplished (but still more to go!), and ready to start a more blogful New Year.

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