David Wiley is one of those people operating on the edges of the educational space. In his recent post, he’s offered a new role for the teacher and a possible answer to one of the major problems I’ve had with online education for a long time — credential.
Maybe instead of hacking WordPress, we should be hacking degrees. Anyone up for a completely informal, completely open, homemade certificate-style diploma? A handful of courses offered by all of us – take intro open ed from me, connectivism from George and Stephen, media studies from Brian (you know you’ve always wished he would teach it), and then complete three cumulative edupunk projects under the tutelage of the Reverend, D’Arcy, and Tony. Maybe D’Arcy will also offer an elective in mobile video production? 😉 Why not? I want my homemade edupunk diploma!!!
I’ve written before that the purpose of the institution — the thing that it really provides — is the credential, not education — certainly not learning. The stranglehold that the institution has on the credentialing function maintains the economic value of the experience, to whit:
People need jobs to survive.
Industry requires credential.
The credential is only available from the institution.
People pay the institution to get the credential.
Because people need jobs to survive.
That monopolistic function — provider of credential — has been a barrier to realizing the potential of online education. There’s even a whole industry of certification that services colleges and universities by offering, for a fee, accreditation — a kind of “Good Teaching Seal of Approval” from a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to say “Yup. They’re ok.” Allegedly this means that diplomas actually means something and that folks don’t just send a check and get a sheepskin. Recently we’ve seen how effective that is. (Not very.)
I’ve been envisioning the solution to this as a kind of third party credential a la the Western Governor’s University that provides a kind of validation of education by certifying operational knowledge, not seat time. I’ve thought of it as a kind of ABA or AMA for various fields. If you can pass the exam, you’re given the credential and can represent yourself as a professional regardless of how/where that knowledge was obtains. David presents a more audacious idea, one more in keeping with the spirit of the internet.
Chemistry gives us two concepts for how to combine solids and liquids. A solution is when the particles of solid are dissolved by the liquid. A suspension is when the particles “float” in the liquid. Salt and sugar will dissolve in water, and once mixed, the combination is stable. The salt or sugar will not separate. It’s possible to mix sand and water to form a suspension, but over time, the sand will settle out unless more agitation is applied.
As we consider the combination of tools, content, and students, I think these mental models provide a metaphor to help us understand things like “text books” in a new light. A text combines words and pictures in a way that, ideally, creates a entity that’s different from words or pictures alone. Adding graphics to words creates a new thing — a kind of cognitive solution. Whether the solution is salty or sweet really depends on the precise nature of the words and pictures, but the point is that the text can’t be subdivided again without changing the nature of the product.
Classes are more like suspensions. We can add or subtract, modify and append, but the key to keeping the nature of the class consistent is the need to periodically apply agitation so that the components don’t settle out. I can add a text, subtract a chat, bring in outside speakers, and make almost any kind of change we could think of, and as long as I keep applying energy, the suspension will maintain integrity.
As you consider your tools and your class designs, remember that you need to know how the various tools work individually as a precursor to how they work together. Once you start combining them, the critical skill is knowing how they work together and what proportions meet your goals.
As I’m struggling with this laptop upgrade problem, it has reminded me of one important lesson. Blogging isn’t only about writing. It’s about reading as well. I’m reminded of this because my aggregator is only partially populated with subscriptions. As a result, I’m missing some of the more inspirational choices I normally pull from for these daily posts. Will Richardson over at Weblogg-ed talked about this a lot awhile back and it’s very true.
On one hand, I’ve been thinking I need to prune back some of the 500 subscriptions I normally have. That’s a lot of noise and many people do go thru a build and purge cycle with their ‘gators. Perhaps it’s time for my list to be cut down.
On the other hand, I usually group them by subject and “read-level” so that those blogs that are “must read” are at the top of a subject (like Education) and those that are “if I have time” are near the bottom. Carrying the extras doesn’t really hurt me because I’m pretty ruthless about “mark as read” and moving on. Having all that extra stuff to use means that I have a wider choice of material from which to pick when it comes time to write.
Something tells me that by the time I get this list rebuilt, it’s not going to be a lot shorter.
We often talk about global perspectives but, unless you’re really looking, you might not see them. The Learning 2.008 conference just wrapped up in Shanghai and Jeff Utecht has a nice little photo album and recap.
Learning 2.008: A moment. I think these pictures tell the story better than I can. I always have this weird feeling when the conference is over. Part of me is so relieved that it’s over and another part of me never wanted it to end. I was tired, running on pure adrenalin by the end of it but so excited to see educators learning together and from each other.
If you weren’t seeing this unfold on your aggregators, then you need to add a few people to your list.
A couple years ago – which is nearly a decade in Internet Years, the topic of technology integration was making the rounds. A colleague up in Canada had this to say about it almost two years ago today:
Ron made a comment about not knowing what Second Life is and noting that he just hadn’t had the time to check it out. Here’s a little video explanation of why the New Media Consortium thinks it’s important. The propaganda isn’t as interesting as the view of their campus. Yes, this is what it looks like in-world.