Here are slides for a talk I’m giving to my university about issues to consider before offering MOOCs or accepting MOOCs for credit.
I also participated in a webinar about MOOCs for corporate learning, hosted by Jeanne Meister of FutureWorkPlace. A few slides related to that are at the end of the above presentation.
My last advice to both groups is that, even if you decide to not go with MOOCs today, keep a close eye on them. MOOCs are evolving extremely rapidly, both technologically and pedagogically. See for example these MOOCs that are pedagogically more interesting than just videos and quizzes: Passion Driven Statistics, Learning Creative Learning, and the Open Learning Design Studio MOOC I mentioned in my previous post about pedagogical issues with MOOCs. There are also millions of dollars being invested in MOOC development, with both new and old tools evolving to accommodate the unique demands of MOOCs. Several MOOC platforms are emerging, both free (Instructure’s Canvas.net, Blackboard’s CourseSites, Google+ Communities and Hangouts and other Google Apps) and open source (Class2Go, OpenMOOC, CourseBuilder, edX, P2PU, WordPress).
So 6 months from now, a year from now, MOOCs may look quite different.
And my first advice to everyone is: try a MOOC out for yourself. That’s the best way to better learn about them.
In case the quotes didn’t clue you in, this post doesn’t argue against massive open online courses (MOOCs) such as the ones offered by Udacity, Coursera, and edX. I think they are very worthy ventures and will serve to progress our system of higher education. I do however agree with some criticisms of these courses, and that there is room for much more progress. I propose an alternative model for such massive open online learning experiences, or MOOLEs, that focuses on solving “problems,” but first, here’s a sampling of some of the criticisms of MOOCs.
Criticisms of MOOCs
- Khan Academy
- The organization is unclear and it lacks sufficient learner support.
- The videos aren’t informed by research and theory on how people learn, and this may diminish the effectiveness of his videos. He could make the physics videos more effective for example if he directly addressed student misconceptions in the videos. It doesn’t appear that any of the videos ever get revised or updated.
- Also the videos are still basically non-interactive, passively absorbed lectures. While nowhere near as effective as active learning (where students may learn twice as much and may be three times less likely to drop out than in traditional lecture-based courses), lectures do still have a place and can be more effective if given in the right contexts, such as after (not before) students have explored something on their own (via a lab experience, simulation, game, field experience, analyzing cases, etc.) and developed their own questions and a “need to know.” See research on productive failure and a “time for telling.”
- Udacity and Coursera courses
- These courses are clearly putting the traditional college course model online, and the problems are the same as with traditional college courses. They are a big step above opencourseware sites, which just have notes or long recordings of class lectures online with no guidance or learning support, but as with traditional college courses, there is often a lack of active learning or effective instructional design, and a lack of interactivity or scaffolding of the learning experience for beginners. Here are some comments from some folks who have attempted these courses (the vast majority of people drop out of these courses):
- “the Coursera course I’m taking (AI) has longer videos (6-20 minutes) of the instructor mumbling as he draws over and over on ever increasingly confusing Powerpoint slides. Sometimes a video will have one multiple choice question, other times the video will not have any questions at all. The worst part is that only once has the video gone on to explain the question. So if a student has a problem understanding the question, they will have to resort to the forums. There’s no follow-up….Basically, the Coursera course is taught as if I was sitting in a class watching an instructor draw on a Powerpoint — the fact that it’s running in a web browser and can provide a different method of teaching seems to be lost on the instructor.”
- “I’m going through the Coursera machine learning class right now and I have to say that the professor glosses over several details and often makes comments like “if you’re not familiar with calculus…” and “if you’re not familiar with statistics…” which caught me off guard at first.”
- “I’m taking Model Thinking on Coursera and there are at least 2 pdf for each section (20 sections). Some of them from professor’s book, some links on the web or some scientific articles. I even stop reading it all because it’s time consuming.”
- “I have tried a lot of these new online courses that have been created but I still think they have missed the point, the point that khan academy got right. I don’t want to plan my life around weekly assignments. I keep getting emails about about assignment deadlines, causing unneeded anxiety which puts off the whole learning experience.”
- “I tried, believe me I tried hard, but video is not my type. Over 20 years I’ve learnt all I know reading, surfing, browsing the web, not watching videos. I can digest/absorb/ignore a whole page of text in ten seconds instead of being forced to watch boring 10 mins videos that offer only one min of real interesting content.”
- These all sound like the kinds of issues one would expect from traditionally designed college courses and online courses that focus more on content coverage than learning and understanding (one of the “twin sins” of course design).
- Curt Bonk’s open online Blackboard course
- “It’s a class about retaining, motivating and engaging online students, and I’m leaving because I’m not motivated and not engaged.”
- “First assignment included two 44-page pdf files that were expensive to print and difficult to read online”
- “it’s the same old Blackboard” “Same threaded discussion – very 1999.”
Especially disturbing is that none of the major MOOC providers have hired anyone trained in instructional design, the learning sciences, educational technology, course design, or other educational specialties to help with the design of their courses. They are hiring a lot of programmers and recruiting a lot of faculty, who may have various motivations for participating in these open education experiments. To their credit though, edX, backed by $60 million from MIT and Harvard, is hiring one person to help with course development, although they only require a bachelors degree. Most instructional designers or learning scientists have a masters or PhD, partly because designing and developing effective learning experiences is a hard skill to learn and may never be confidently “mastered” in one’s lifetime (Dunning-Kruger effect aside). Some even argue that educational research is the hardest science of all. Another exception is the Open Learning Initiative, which does have teams of learning scientists working on their educational materials (but they are not MOOCs), resulting in much more effective, efficient, and engaging (e3) learning (students in their hybrid stats class learn more in half the time as in the regular face to face course). But the vast majority of MOOCs, just like the vast majority of regular college courses, are completely self-designed by faculty, who are most often not trained in effective instructional design or teaching. As someone once wrote, “College teaching may be the only skilled profession for which systematic training is neither required nor provided–pizza delivery jobs come with more instruction.” I don’t argue that faculty should not be involved in designing these courses – it is critically important that instructors have ownership of their teaching and at least be able to customize their learning materials (see 1, 2, 3), and similarly students need to have some ownership in the learning process, too (the key components of motivation are autonomy, mastery, and purpose). But faculty can be aided by some training or assistance in course design, technology, and teaching and learning to develop technological, pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK). Teaching should be treated as a design science, more like engineering than just an art or craft that we all think we can intuitively do well.
Are MOOCs a Horseless Carriage?
In the book How People Learn (which can be read free online), John Bransford shared the story of Fish is Fish. That link goes to a video of the children’s story. If you don’t have five minutes to watch it, the story is about a fish who befriends a tadpole. As the tadpole matures into a frog, it ventures out onto land and brings back stories of the things it sees, such as birds and cows. But in trying to understand those things, the fish interprets them from its own worldview. A bird is a fish with wings, for example. Similarly, when cars were introduced into society 100 years ago, we interpreted them from our previous experience and worldview as horseless carriages. The question is, are MOOCs an example of imposing an existing worldview (traditional instruction, courses, and instructors) on a new medium for learning? Is it necessary for all the ‘students’ in a MOOC to be learning the same topic at the same time (synchronous learning)? That appears to be a common defining characteristic of all MOOCs. Does there have to be a single, unchanging instructor? Does it have to be a ‘course’ at all, with a finite beginning and end? Most students forget much of what they learn once a course ends (see “Father Guido Sarducci’s Five Minute University” for a humorous take on that). Many topics are constantly changing and evolving (like science and engineering and technology), and one’s learning may be out of date sometimes within months, if not years, after a course ends. Much of what we learn comes from outside the classroom anyway – what we call lifelong learning and informal learning.
MOOC or MMORPG?
Imagine a scenario sometime in the future where an employer wants to hire someone. Maybe in the future, instead of just asking someone if they have a degree or certification in something, they will ask if someone is a member of some learning community or shares some relevant experience. They might ask questions similar to what one might ask an MMORPG player (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), like what ‘level’ one is at or about one’s accomplishments. Of course, something like this is already happening today. Most employers don’t care about which courses you took or your grades. They don’t look at transcripts. They want to know about your experience, your beliefs, your skills and abilities, and so forth. College degrees may (perhaps mistakenly) be used by an employer as a signal of things like intelligence level (going to a prestigious school means you probably got higher SAT or ACT scores, for example), persistence, and the quality of the instruction you have had. But actual experience is better signaled by things such as previous jobs, internships, and perhaps in the future things like badges and portfolios can help signify skills and experience, as well, similar to the badges one collects in a game.
The question some people ask is, are MOOCs and similar ventures the future of education? Are they going to replace degrees and courses? Are instructors going to lose their jobs? To me that’s like asking if horseless carriages are going to replace horses. Maybe they will replace degrees one day, but if they do, I don’t think they’ll still be referred to as MOOCs, and perhaps not even as “courses,” just as we no longer refer to cars as horseless carriages. And unlike horses, instructors and the profession of instruction (teaching and professors) can adapt – away from a traditional delivery of content model and perhaps toward a model of designing and refining and facilitating learning experiences, such as described in the book teaching as a design science and as already practiced at some places like Western Governors University, where there are course mentors instead of instructors. And ultimately the existing system is not going to change much without some significant learning experiences on the part of the community of educators to gain a better understanding of their own practice and how people learn.
From MOOC to MOOLE
MOOC purists would argue that the new courses from Udacity, Coursera, and edX are indeed in the same vein as traditional modes of higher education, and not what true MOOCs are about. The argument is that MOOCs should be about connecting learners with one another and with the content. It is the connections that matter. This philosophy has been variously termed or framed in terms of actor-network theory, networked learning, and connectivism. The point of this post is not to criticize those theories or ideas, but sometimes there does not appear to be a logical connection to learning and understanding. ”Connecting” learners to one another or exposing them to content may often not be sufficient to magically cause learning to happen or to cause significant changes in beliefs and practice. Similarly, making content “open” isn’t sufficient to magically cause learning to happen, although it is a good first step (enabling and expanding access to learning opportunities for more people). Also, even the original MOOCs still often had a traditional course structure with a beginning and end, all the learners learn the same topic at the same time, and the instructors are often still the “sage on the stage.” That is not to say that networking and openness are not necessary and valuable, just perhaps not always sufficient. As noted on the networked learning wikipedia page, Steve Fox (2002) argues that “networked learning is too often considered within the presumption of institutionalised or educationalised learning, thereby omitting awareness of the benefits that networked learning has to informal or situated learning.” And that latter point is important for reflecting on the MOOC model.
Situated learning concerns how all learning happens in context. Students need a reason to learn, and we shouldn’t just assume they will be able to learn something for its own sake. It explains why for example a Brazilian street kid may be a whiz at math, and a 6 year old may have hundreds of Pokemons memorized. See for example the work by James Paul Gee or Jean Lave. John Dewey said 100 years ago that we shouldn’t educate just to prepare kids for a future they know and care little about – we should educate them for today, teach them stuff that is useful and interesting to them today, and adult learners are even more skeptical of instruction that doesn’t appear to be relevant to their current work or life.
Situated learning also helps us better understand how to focus on the learning rather than the content for its own sake, because often the reason we take the time to learn something is to solve some problem we have. One of the most popular applications of situated learning research to education is called problem-based learning (PBL). Other examples include games or workplace learning. But the instructional technique of problem-based learning was actually invented before the theory of situated learning was understood (similar to how many technologies are invented before the science is understood). PBL was invented in a medical school – students were given patient cases or x-rays and asked to discuss and diagnose them, similar in a sense to an episode of House. Problem-based learning can be applied more generally, however, to solving all kinds of real-world problems big and small. Examples have included water purification, or community playground design, and so forth. The problem, and the learning needed to solve that problem, are now at the center – not the content and not the instructor. And there is not necessarily an arbitrary ‘end’ to learning, nor do students need to be working on the same thing at the same time.
In these kind of problem-based learning situations we may or may not even be talking about a course structure at all, but more broadly any real-world learning experience – MOOLEs (massive open online learning experience) instead of MOOCs. I’m not saying that MOOCs are not MOOLEs though.
MOOLE = open education + problem-based learning
Maybe a MOOLE might be considered an example of problem-based learning, but for especially widespread and persistent problems, and for which open, online resources and communities can be of help. It is important that people in a MOOLE have a purpose. The goal of participating in the MOOLE is changing and improving practice in the real world. They still have the learning communities and personal learning networks that exist in MOOCs. MOOLEs might be more self-directed sometimes, or community-scaffolded and driven, depending on the context and problems being addressed.
Who’s the teacher in a MOOLE? Who’s the learner? What are the variables, if not time or amount of content as in traditional courses. Can people ‘drop out’ of a MOOLE? Is retention an important variable? Are learning and changes in real-world practices the most important variables? How are they measured?
Why Linux and Wikipedia are not MOOLEs, maybe
I hate introducing new labels or acronyms. They often introduce arbitrary or unnecessary divisions and separations, where instead connections should be explored. But this is just a thought experiment. Is MOOLE too vague? What are examples that seem to satisfy many of the elements of openness and solving real-world problems, but might not be the same thing as what a MOOLE describes?
The Linux development community and the community of Wikipedia contributors would seem to qualify as MOOLEs – massive, open, online learning experiences. Is there anything that would preclude them from being considered so? Well, one issue is that these communities focus on doing and not learning. They often do not adapt to the needs of new members (over 80% of new editors on Wikipedia quit within a year), and they do not always attempt to ‘bring in the fold’ – the masses of people (the general public) who never contribute to their communities. In fact, they have several mechanisms and unaddressed hurdles in place which specifically function to exclude the majority of people from contributing to their communities. For over 10 years Wikipedia kept in place an arcane syntax and editor, that may have had the effect of excluding many people from contributing to articles, and Linux and several other open source communities were known for “RTFM jerks.”
Can you imagine a museum, for example, which found out about some hurdle to participation and just ignored it or was even proud about the fact that it functioned to exclude a significant portion of the population? Well, the good news is the Linux and Wikipedia communities are aware of these issues and trying to address them, but it is still a challenging effort that might have been easier to address if a culture of learning and a better understanding of learning was in place from the beginning.
MOOLEness Rubric, Checklist
As I mentioned, I am hesitant to introduce new terms or acronyms as they are are often used to exclude and separate things. The purpose here is really not to say what is and isn’t qualified to be labeled a MOOLE. A better example of a natural perceptual quality used to group things is color. But one does not say that one particular shade of red is the ‘true red’ and anything else is ‘not red’. Instead one might speak of ‘redness,’ and the quality of being red.
Similarly, this discussion of MOOLEs is more concerned with identifying the qualities of effective lifelong learning experiences, that may happen to be facilitated by open and online resources and communities.
A rubric or checklist might help identify some things to notice. That is beyond the scope of this post, but a few potential items might include:
- Is there a syllabus, instructor, etc.? You are definitely looking at a course, and it may be a MOOC. But whether it is a learning and learner-centered experience might be a separate matter.
- Is there are *required* textbook you have to buy? That kind of hurts the openness of the learning environment if some cannot purchase the book (and a significant portion of college students do not purchase the textbook for courses)
- Does the learning end? Is that ending arbitrary?
- Are beginners and new learners/members being scaffolded and supported? Is there a culture of respect for novices?
- Are there mechanisms for helping one another see what each other is learning or not understanding? See research on formative assessment, for example.
- How is learning being facilitated? See Goals and Strategies of a Problem-based Learning Facilitator for some ideas.
But essentially the point is that some MOOCs and college courses are going to continue to have problems if people create them without learning more about how people learn and how to design effective learning experiences. I proposed creating an open course on the topic of learning and educational multimedia design a couple years ago in this chapter, but haven’t had the opportunity. However, a group of folks will be offering a MOOC on open learning design this August. It is described so:
Learners and educators of the 21st century are confronted with a vast wealth of open and readily available information, and the accelerated evolution of social, mobile and creative technologies. These offer learners and educators unprecedented opportunities, but also entail increasingly complex challenges. Educators may still provide access to knowledge, but now they also need to carefully craft the conditions for learners to enquire, explore, analyse, synthesise and collaboratively construct their knowledge from the variety of sources available to them. This entails a need for a shift in their role: from providers of knowledge to designers of learning. The call for such a repositioning of educators is heard from leaders in the field of TEL and resonates well with the growing culture of design-based research in Education.
In the course of this MOOC, participants will be exposed to the rationale and motivation for a learning design approach, the state of the art in the field, and the current grand challenges for research and practice. The will familiarise themselves with a variety of tools, methods and practices, and gain the skills to lead learning design initiatives in their context of practice.
Here’s a taste of the current tools and frameworks out there for developers interested in learning more about this platform. Probably the first thing you have to decide though, is are you more interested in running your HTML5 app on mobile phones and tablets (iPhone and iPad’s iOS, Android, and to some extent Blackberry and Palm), or in a regular desktop browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE…), or both? Some tools for mobile web app development are listed below.
First, here are some places to keep up with this rapidly evolving field:
- Learning WebGL – for keeping up with 3D developments
- Some discussion groups: http://groups.google.com/group/iphonewebdev , sitepoint forum, codingforums, etc.
- The Changelog – They have a regular podcast which often features interviews with developers of HTML tools such as some of the ones listed below (Sencha Touch, Coffeescript, etc.)
- YUI – very java-like user interface toolkit from Yahoo, very complete and accessible. They have started adding mobile support (touch/swipe/etc).
- JS Optimizers – to compress/obfuscate and combine into one file your js code see Google Closure Compiler, YUI Compressor, JSMIN
- PhoneGap – has an open source permissive license. They support Blackberry and Palm and Symbian and so forth, as well as iOS and Android. They create a native webview wrapper for your HTML5 app, so that you can access native things such as the camera or sensors.
- Sencha Touch – built off of ExtJS and JQTouch – any app you develop with it either needs to be GPL or else you have to pay for a commercial license from them. Can work with PhoneGap, they have some nice demos, esp. for the iPad.
- Ansca Mobile – Corona SDK, better for game development, commercial license.
- appMobi – commercial, too, I believe
- Canvas tutorials
- ExCanvas – for making canvas work in internet explorer (IE 9 will support it I believe)
- RGraph – graphing library
- bluff – graphing library
- three.js – canvas-based 3d engine (not using webgl as the ones below)
- Painting/Sketching demos
- Sass and Compass – alternative to CSS – adds some smarter features to CSS like variables and so forth
- HAML – alternate to HTML, not as popular perhaps, or as needed as the above two, since there are 2000 HTML WYSIWYG editors out there.
- narwhal – an alternative to node.js
- npm – a package manager for node.js, similar to gem for ruby
- WebSockets – a new HTML5 feature that allows for better persistent server-client connections. You’ll find some demos around of multiplayer games and web pages that use websockets, and on github there are node.js websocket server examples. You need the Chrome browser or Safari or Firefox 4 beta.
- ExpressJS – server-side web application framework
- Spritely – nice sprite engine
- gameQuery – 2D engine
- Akihabara – for creating arcade-like games
- Copperlicht – WebGL 3D game engine
- GLGE – another WebGL game engine
- SceneJS – WebGL scenegraph library, see also the interactive, editable demos
- C3DL – Canvas 3D library
- Dextrose Aves Engine – commercial game engine in development, see this video talk
- tinygames – see their work (building off of karma edu and so forth) to create educational html5-based games (math only apparently).
- Physics Engines & Demos
Browser-based Development Environments
- See my earlier post Browser-Based IDEs, but also these:
- http://sketchpad.cc/ along with hascanvas and others work with processingjs for creating animations
- I mentioned it in the previous post, but the bespin editor continues to evolve and improve. It now supports code completion using jsctags.
- GUI Designers – really nothing out there that is finished and free and open source (see Ext Designer for a commercial option), other than of course free WYSIWYG HTML designers, but see these rough demos:
Larry Cuban argues that we only have new technologies in classrooms in order to placate (mostly non-parental) taxpayers and politicians, so that schools can seem “modern” and “with it.” Computers and so forth are just there as a status symbol, just like an ipod/iphone, or a nice car or dress (he actually used those analogies). I’m not really buying the argument. First, are schools awash in new technologies? When you visit your local school, does it seem “modern” and “with it”? 9 times out 10, I’d say not exactly, with richer private schools being the usual exception.
If this argument is correct, then why are technologies only being bought for schools now? Why not 50 years ago, 100 years ago? There were never TVs in every classroom, and 100 years ago there were no calls for “1 horse per child” or “1 locomotive per school” even though horses were just as much a ‘status symbol’ as computers and cell phones are supposedly today.
What’s the difference now? What’s different about computers (and interactive whiteboards, etc.)? Maybe it’s because teachers want it, students want it, parents want it, etc. That’s not ‘resource dependence’ (satisfying taxpayers) at all. In fact, the more something is likely to be a status symbol, the *less* likely teachers want it in the classroom, because it distracts from learning (such as iphones, etc.). It was when computers and laptops became a commodity, an everyday phenomenon, that they started to grow more present in the classroom.
Some recent and upcoming books that caught my eye (haven’t read them yet).
- Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities – They’ve made a copy of Chapter 10: Action Notebook available online. “it summarizes dozens of practical steps you can take to support your community. With checklists, tables, and questions, it takes you through the steps of stewarding technology and outlines what to keep in mind at each step.” (via Scott Leslie, EdTechPost)
- How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching - The words “Seven” and “Smart” in the title give me pause, but I’ll check it out sometime.
- Inspired College Teaching: A Career-Long Resource for Professional Growth - Maryellen Weimer has written a good deal in SOTL (scholarship of teaching and learning). See this essay Positioning Scholarly Work on Teaching and Learning (pdf) and her site/blog: Teaching Professor. They have a conference next week, too.
- Next Generation Course Redesign – By some folks at the University of North Texas.
- A Guide to Faculty Development -
- Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College – This book has gotten a lot of attention elsewhere already. I will check it out, but I’m a bit skeptical of folks who base their work on charter school results, since charter schools choose the students, which can skew the results.
- The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up – I’ve liked Kieran Egan’s work, although this one sounds a bit weird, he imagines being 50 years in the future or so, and how education changed (sorry, I forgot even the summaries I’ve read, it was a few weeks ago). See his website and Imaginative Education Group portal for more info, too.
- The Systems Thinking Playbook: Exercises to Stretch and Build Learning and Systems Thinking Capabilities – Sounded interesting
- Using and Developing Measurement Instruments in Science Education: A Rasch Modeling Approach – Probably only interesting to those developing assessment instruments like myself.
- You are Not a Gadget – Already a good bit of coverage of this elsewhere. Has some criticisms of web 2.0, wikipedia, and the like. From a quick skim in a bookstore I found some points I agreed with, some I did not. I’ll try to look at it more in depth in the future.
- DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education – There’s already been a good bit of discussion about this book in many places. I liked the perspective this excerpt from Inside Higher Education gave on college life in the 18th century, to show that yes, we have made some progress in education
- “In a faraway colony, one in a thousand people — mostly young, rich, white men — are sent to live in isolated, rural Christian communes. Some are pious, learned, ambitious; others are unruly younger sons with no other prospects. The students spend hours every day in chapel; every few years, the entire community is seized by a several-days-long religious revival. They also get into lots of trouble. In their meager barracks they drink, gamble, and duel. They brawl, sometimes exchanging bullets, with local residents, and bother local women. Occasionally they rebel and are expelled en masse or force administrators to resign. Overseen by low-paid clergymen too deaf or infirm to control a congregation, hazed by older students, whipped for infractions of the rules, they’re treated like young boys when their contemporaries might be married with children. And, oh yes, they spend a few hours a day in rote memorization of fewer than a dozen subjects. This was the typical 18th century American college, loosely modeled on England’s Oxford and Cambridge, which date to the 13th century.”
- And finally, some upcoming or recent embodied cognition/phenomenology books: The New Science of the Mind: From Extended Mind to Embodied Phenomenology (Mark Rowlands), Embodied Minds in Action (Hanna & Maiese), and The Extended Mind (Richard Menary).
A colleague of mine, Dr. Qing Li of the University of Calgary, along with Dr. Xin Ma, just had an article published in the journal Educational Psychology Review titled A Meta-analysis of the Effects of Computer Technology on School Students’ Mathematics Learning. She found “statistically significant positive effects” which were ” greater when combined with a constructivist approach to teaching than with a traditional approach to teaching.”
I first came across Dr. Li’s work last year when she published an article in the British Journal of Educational Technology titled Instructional Design and Technology Grounded in Enactivism: A Paradigm Shift? (Word doc). She presented this past Monday at the 2010 AERA conference in a learning sciences SIG session on embodied cognition and enactivism. Her AERA paper as well as my presentation are at this site: http://embodiedcog.wikispaces.com/ Dr. Li is actually more known for her work on cyber-bullying. She has several papers on that topic.
Dr. Li and I are currently putting together a chapter proposal on applications of embodied cognition and enactivism to instructional technology for the forthcoming Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology. I’m also hoping to submit a proposal on engineering education for that handbook.
By the way, the person who chaired my AERA session, Dr. Alan Amory, also just had an interesting theoretical article published in the journal Interactive Learning Environments titled Instructivist ideology: education technology embracing the past? From the abstract: “It is argued that against the background of a neo-managerial and market-driven global education system, the production and use of technology to support teaching and learning perpetuates hegemonic behaviorist values….The analyses show that education technologies are often designed to support masculine hegemonic behaviorist instruction practices. As an extension, education technology is used in the classroom as the object of instruction to support fundamentalist values rather than a tool to mediate knowledge construction.”
Imagine if Jean Piaget, John Dewey, Maria Montessori, or Paulo Friere were tenure track education or psychology professors today. They would probably not get their work published in education and psychology research journals, despite being some of the most highly influential and innovative thinkers in education.
Even some contemporary people who are or have been highly influential in education largely do not publish their work in journals for the most part, including Kieran Egan, Howard Gardner (multiple intelligences), Seymour Papert, Larry Cuban, and so forth.
They primarily publish in books.
Part of the issue is that we keep research, theory, development, and practice in separate bins. Educational research journals rarely publish about theory or development or practice; Philosophy of education journals primarily publish articles about long deceased theorists; and teacher/practitioner journals and magazines rarely publish about research or theory.
If some of the above authors submitted their work to journals, they would be rejected for not having p values and effect sizes, or because they discuss new and innovative theories and practices without devoting enough attention to past philosophers or empirical findings.
Research, theory, development, and practice are not separate but equal things. Influencing and changing education for the better is not the result of any one of those in isolation. A common thread between them all is innovation. We are interested in new, innovative ideas and practices and developments to improve education, such as those created by Piaget, Dewey, Montessori… This is more of a concept from engineering or entrepreneurship than science or philosophy. One might adopt an engineering perspective on education (as Dewey did). If you compare today’s world outside of education to the world of 100 years ago, the starkest differences and advances are a result of engineering. We don’t use p values alone to judge improvement in automobiles or computers. We don’t have to cite Plato or Kant to better understand new medical technologies.
Of course engineers do research, engineers do discuss theory and philosophy (the fPET engineering & philosophy conference is this weekend), and engineering is inherently connected to development and practice. But too often educational research is disconnected from changing theory or practice, and educational philosophers don’t engage in innovative development or empirical research. The former becomes aimless and ineffectual; the latter becomes arm-chair theorizing disconnected to everyday practice. Practitioners, too, sometimes glom onto some new idea or technology that doesn’t have a basis in research or theory, or doesn’t really change or advance their practices (IWBs, or interactive whiteboards, may be a current example). Developers sometimes recreate activities based on outmoded and less effective ideas. That said, are K-12 and higher education teachers and developers supposed to read and apply educational research journal articles? I don’t think so, although there is evidence for a correlation (not a causal link): engineering instructors for example who follow educational research have better student learning outcomes, but they are a tiny minority, the exception. And it’s not entirely the responsibility of practitioners. It is our job as educational researchers, theorists, and developers to always be highly connected to innovation and making educational change happen, as were Dewey and so many others. At the very least, we should be striving to communicate our work publicly with others and allowing for public feedback and criticism from practitioners, theorists, developers, and so forth. Many more people read a magazine article or even a blog post or view a youtube video than read an educational journal article or attend a conference presentation. My AERA talk was attend by 20 people, but after posting it online over 200 people had viewed it within a few hours. A journal article, even an open access one, I would guess at most a few hundred read (and virtually zero practitioners), whereas an innovative new software tool or instrument or curriculum may be used by hundreds or thousands more, especially when given away for free with an open license. I and other edubloggers, #edchat’ers, youtube educators, and educoders know this phenomenon well. Salman Khan‘s instructional videos on youtube get more views than even all of MIT’s opencourseware courses combined. If you google ‘cognitive load theory’ you’ll get my post that is critical about it, even though I don’t do research on that topic myself, and despite decades of other published journal articles and books on the topic. Perhaps Dewey and Friere would have had blogs or twitter accounts or Youtube channels, like Larry Cuban, Roger Schank, Richard Hake and many other less well known but nevertheless influential educational innovators do today.
Students in my advanced instructional design course (login as guest) created some narrated presentations in VoiceThread at the end of the semester. They are on topics related to faculty development, teaching and learning, multimedia, etc.:
- Service Learning
- How People Learn framework
- Backward Design
- Threshold concepts
- Animations vs. Diagrams
- Multimedia learning
The end of the presentations have links to more resources, but apparently voicethread doesn’t make the URLs clickable in a slide. Comment here and I can post the links in a clickable format.
I had some thoughts for a new open educational journal last week, especially in light of the discontinuation of the Innovate journal. I even tested out Google Knol as a hosting platform. It allows for open peer review and more transparent interactions, plus it has zero costs and zero institutional obligations. Some medical journals are starting to use it for quicker research dissemination. Here is a fake google knol journal I created to test it out, feel free to play with it or contact me if you want moderator privileges.
Anyway, while I was conked out after a dental procedure this morning some education/edtech folks on twitter started discussing creating a new journal so I thought I’d share my own notes. Perhaps the anesthetics still haven’t worn off. My notes are here in a Google Doc that anyone can view and edit:
I welcome any feedback or thoughts. I do have some more notes & thoughts on procedural issues, like editor guidelines and decisions, author guidelines, etc. This best practices guidelines from DOAJ on creating new open access journals is very helpful.
I already blogged about this matter 3 years ago in a post entitled “The State of Educational Research & Development.” But a few recent things made me think of it again:
- @newsweek tweeted for us to tell them our thoughts on the American education system in 6 words or less. My first thought was that “education needs more r&d”, because as my previous post mentioned – medicine and engineering and related areas spend 5-10% on research, whereas in education that percentage is closer to 0.01%. And most of that miniscule amount is spent on basic research, not development. NSF doesn’t even fund much K-12 or higher education curriculum or software development anymore.
- The U.S. department of education recently released its National Educational Technology Plan for 2010, authored by many researchers with whom I am familiar. I’ve only scanned it so far, but I haven’t seen much emphasis on development, just research. The only development ideas I’ve seen so far are very top-driven solutions, the “Grand Challenges” described in the end section on R&D: for example a huge tutoring system, a system for delivering assessments, a school data sharing and mining system, etc. I’m not seeing any bottom-driven or domain-specific ideas or more specific solutions. I posted a comment on that page similar to this post.
- Tony Bates blogged about “the state of e-learning in 2009” and noted:
My biggest disappointment this year…has been with open educational resources…what are we getting? Digitally recorded 50 minute classroom lectures and digital textbooks. What we are not getting are materials designed from scratch for multiple use…And there is still so little of it. What I would like to see are many thousands of short modules
- Also as I wrote in another earlier post on “50 examples of the need to improve college teaching,” software is key. The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) has helped people redesign their college courses to be much more effective and efficient and cost less. The key to that is the use of interactive software: “successful course redesign that improves student learning while reducing instructional costs is heavily dependent upon high-quality, interactive learning materials” (ref). That may work well for common, large enrollment courses for which there is already a bunch of software available, but what about the rest of the courses? What about all of K-12, too?
- I recently wrote a chapter titled “Toward a Nation of Educoders” about how if we could make it easier for students and teachers to develop interactive software (such as animations and games and interactive websites), perhaps this would help alleviate this problem, make it less formidable and daunting, financially and timewise. This is related to the “computational thinking” (pdf) and “computational literacy” push seen in computer science. We should look at programming as the new 4th “R”, a new literacy that students and teachers need in today’s world. A couple years ago I blogged about this and an article by Marc Prensky: “Programming: The New Literacy.”