It’s one of those things that sound unbelievably geeky – it’s like geocaching (a geeky repurposing of multibillion dollar GPS satellites to play hide and seek) combined with capture the flag, combined with realtime strategy games, bundled up as a mobile game app (kind of geeky as well), with a backstory of a particle collider inadvertently leading to the discovery of a new form of matter and energy (particle physics? a little geeky). It’s the kind of thing where peoples’ faces glaze over on the first description of portals and XM points, and resonators and links and fields.
One thing that’s been stuck in the back of my head as I worked my way up to Level 5 Nerd of the Resistance in the game, is the lack of an apparent business model. It’s a global-scale game, with thousands? millions? of users checking in from all around the world. There don’t appear to be ads in the game – I’ve never seen any – and there appears to be an unwritten rule that portals should be publicly accessible. That unwritten rule largely negates a business model that would have businesses pay for placement in the game in order to draw customers into their stores etc…
Niantic started the game in 2013, and launched it under the “release it free so we build a user base, then sell the company” business plan. It worked, as Google bought the company and ramped the game up. It’s now available for both Android and iOS platforms, free of charge, with no advertising or premium subscriptions or in-game purchases.
So, what is Google getting out of it? I think their largest draw is likely in crowdsourced geolocation of networks. They have every Ingress user actively (collectively) wandering the globe, reporting every wireless SSID and cell tower they come across, along with GPS coordinates. The game gently pushes players to stay at the location of a portal, confirming the geolocation and refining precision over time. It’s kind of a genius plan – it is constantly updating Google’s network geolocation database, which can then be used to more accurately track and target all users of the internet for advertising etc…. They’ve turned a bunch of nerd’s nerds into a crowdsourced network geolocation reporting system. And, at Google’s scale, it costs them a pittance to have this system running.
We may collect device-specific information (such as your hardware model, operating system version, unique device identifiers, and mobile network information including phone number). Google may associate your device identifiers or phone number with your Google Account.
When you use a location-enabled Google service, we may collect and process information about your actual location, like GPS signals sent by a mobile device. We may also use various technologies to determine location, such as sensor data from your device that may, for example, provide information on nearby Wi-Fi access points and cell towers.
Common TOS for all Google services, but especially relevant in a geolocation-based game that is actively pushing users to wander their neighbourhoods to gather this data and send it back to Google.
If they’d released the app as a “report network locations to improve google’s ad targeting” tool, it would have gotten huge pushback, and not many people would have downloaded it. But, by hiding that function and wrapping an insanely addictive game over top of it, it’s gone viral.
brb. I need to go recharge the portal at the playground down the street…
If I ever spew anything like this, kill me.
I’ve been trying to get my head around the reasoning for the corporate rebranding to Brightspace12, and I’m coming up short. I like the name, but it feels like everything they’ve described here at Fusion could have been done under the previous banner of Desire2Learn. I’m more concerned about signs that the company is shifting to a more corporate Big Technology Company stance.
When we adopted D2L, they felt like a teaching-and-learning company. What made them interesting to us is that they did feel like a company that really got teaching and learning. They were in the trenches. They used the language. They weren’t a BigTechCo. But, they were on a trajectory aspiring toward BigTechCo.
Fusion 2013 was held at almost the exact same time that we had our D2L environment initially deployed to start configuration for our migration process. We were able to send a few people to the conference last year, and we all came away saying that it definitely felt more like a teaching-and-learning conference than a vendor conference. Which was awesome.
We’ve been working hard with our account manager and technical account team, and have made huge strides in the last year. We’ve developed a really great working relationship with the company, and I think we’re all benefiting from it. The company is full of really great people who care and work hard to make sure everyone succeeds. That’s fantastic. Lots of great people working together.
But it feels like things are shifting. The company now talks about “enablement” – which is good, but that’s corporate-speak, not teaching-and-learning speak. That’s data.
Fusion 2014 definitely feels more like a vendor conference. I don’t know if we’re just more sensitive to it this year, but every attendee I’ve talked to about it has noticed the same thing. This year is different. That’s data.
As part of the rebranding, Desire2Learn/Brightspace just rebooted their community site – which was previously run within an instance of the D2L Learning Environment (which was a great example of “eating your own dog food”), and now it’s a shiny new Igloo-powered intranet site. They also removed access to the product suggestion platform, which was full of carefully crafted suggestions for improving the products, provided by their most hardcore users.
The rebranded community site looks great, but the years worth of user-provided discussions and suggestions didn’t make the journey to the new home. So, the community now feels like a corporate marketing and communication platform, rather than an actual community because it’s empty. I’m hopeful that there is a plan to bring the content from the actual community forward. The content wasn’t there at launch, and it was about the branding of the site rather than the community. That’s data.
And there are other signs. The relaunched community site is listed under “Community” on the new Brightspace website, broken into “Communities of Practice”:
The problem is, those aren’t “communities of practice” – they are corporate-speak categories for management of customer engagement. Communities of Practice are something else entirely. I don’t even know what an “Enablement” community is. That’s data.
It feels like the company is trying to do everything, simultaneously. They’re building an LMS / Learning Environment / Integrated Learning Platform, a big data Analytics platform, media streaming platform, mobile applications, and growing in all directions at once. It feels like the corporate vision is “DO EVERYTHING” rather than something more focused. I’m hoping that’s just a communication issue, rather than anything deeper. Which is also data.
They’re working hard to be seen as a Real Company. They’re using Real Company language. They’re walking and talking like a Real Company. Data.
The thing is – they’ve been working on the rebranding for awhile now, and launched it at the conference. The attendees here are likely the primary target of the rebranding, and everyone I talk to (attendees and staff) are confused by it. It feels like a marketing push, and a BigTechCo RealCo milestone. It feels like the company is moving through an uncanny valley – it doesn’t feel like the previous teaching-and-learning company, and it’s not quite hitting full stride as a BigTechRealCo yet.
I really hope that Brightspace steps back from the brink and returns to thinking like a teaching-and-learning company.
- this isn’t about the name – personally, I like the new name, and wish they’d used it all along. But the company had built an identity around the previous name for 15 years, and it looks like they decided to throw that all away
- and there’s the unfortunate acronym. 30 seconds after the announcement, our team had already planned to reserve bs.ucalgary.ca
Or, how I spent about 15 hours debugging our MediaWiki installation at wiki.ucalgary.ca, trying to figure out why file uploads were mysteriously failing.
We’ve got a fair number of active users on the wiki, and a course in our Werklund School of Education’s grad program is using it now for a collaborative project. Which would be awesome, except they were reporting errors when uploading files. I logged in, tried to upload a file, and BOOM, got this:
Could not create directory "mwstore://local-backend/local-public/c/cf"
um. what? smells like a permissions issue. SSH into the server, check the directories, and yup, they’re all owned and writable by apache (this is on RHEL6). Weird. Maybe the drive’s full?
df -h. Nope. Uh oh. Maybe PHP or Apache have gone south – better check with another site on the server. Login to ucalgaryblogs.ca and upload a file. Works perfectly. So it’s nothing inherent in the server.
Lots of searching, reading about LocalSettings.php configuration options. Nothing seems to work. I enable Mediawiki logging, check the apache access and error logs, and find nothing. It should be working just fine. The uploaded file shows up in the /tmp directory, then disappears (as expected) but is never written into the images directory. Weird.
So, I try a fresh install of mediawiki elsewhere on the server (in a separate directory, with a new database called ‘mediawikitest’). Works like a charm. Dammit. So it’s really nothing wrong with the server. Or with mediawiki. Maybe there’s some freaky security restriction on the new server1, so I set up a new VirtualHost to spin up the new MediaWiki install in exactly the same way as wiki.ucalgary.ca (using a full hostname running in its own directory, rather than as a subdirectory of the “main” webserver’s
public_html directory). And it works like a charm.
Hrm. Searching for the error message turns up mentions of file permission errors, and file repository configs. I mess around with that, but everything looks fine. Except that uploads fail for some reason.
Maybe there’s something funky about the files in the wiki.ucalgary.ca Mediawiki install – it goes back to May 2005, so there’s over 9 years of kruft building up. There’s a chance. So I copy the whole wiki.ucalgary.ca mediawiki directory and use it to host the test instance (still pointing at the mediawikitest database). Works fine. So it’s nothing in the filesystem. It’s not in the Apache or PHP config. Must be in the database.
So, I switch the test instance to use the production mediawiki database (named ‘wiki.ucalgary.ca’). And uploads fail. Dammit. I assume something is out of sync with the latest database schema, so I eyeball the ‘images’ table in both databases. AHAH! Some of the field definitions are out of date – the production database is using
int(5) for a few things, while the new test database uses
int(11) – maybe the file upload code is trying to insert a value that’s longer than the table is configure to hold. So I manually adjust the field definitions in our production images table. That’ll solve it. Confidence! But no. Uploads still fail. But the problem’s got to be in the database, so I modify my search tactic, and find a blog post from 2013:
Problem solved. Turns out the new database backend thing in mediawiki doesn’t like database names with dots in them, and doesn’t tell you. Thank you Florian Holzhauer for finding it!
Dafuqbrah? Really? That can’t possibly be it… The wiki’s been working fine all along – it’s up and running and people are actively using it. If the database wasn’t working, surely we’d have noticed earlier…
renames database from wiki.ucalgary.ca to wiki_ucalgary
Son of a wiki. It works.
So. At least 15 hours of troubleshooting, debugging, trial and error, modifying configurations, installing test instances, and being completely unable to figure it out. And it was a freaking . in the database name that was doing it. With no mention of that in any error message or log file. Awesome. An error message that says “
could not create directory” actually means “
hey - a portion of my code can't access databases with . characters in the database name - you may want to fix that.“
- we moved recently from an old decrepit server onto a shiny new VM server hosted in our IT datacentre, which is awesome but I’m rusty on my RHEL stuff, so there’s a chance I’m missing something important in configuring the server…
Having spent the last 2+ years of my life working on the LMS selection, implementation and replacement here at UCalgary, I can relate to this awesome new article on a pretty profound level. My life in educational technology has been almost entirely redefined in relation to the LMS. That’s a horrifying realization.
This part weighs particularly heavily…
The demands of sustaining infrastructure have continued to dominate institutional priorities, and the recent promise of Web 2.0 has been unevenly integrated into campus strategies: instances of broad, culture-shifting experimentation along these lines in higher education can be counted on one hand. IT organizations have started outsourcing enterprise systems in the hope of leveraging hosted solutions and the cloud more broadly to free up time, energy, and resources. The practice of outsourcing itself seems to have become the pinnacle of innovation for information technology in higher education. Meanwhile, IT organizations are often defined by what’s necessary rather than what’s possible, and the cumulative weight of an increasingly complex communications infrastructure weighs ever heavier.
and a faint glimmer of hope:
Starting now. A technology that allows for limitless reproduction of knowledge resources, instantaneous global sharing and cooperation, and all the powerful benefits of digital manipulation, recombination, and computation must be a “bag of gold” for scholarship and for learning. It is well within the power of educators to play a decisive role in the battle for the future of the web. Doing so will require the courage to buck prevailing trends. It will require an at-times inconvenient commitment to the fundamental principles of openness, ownership, and participation. It will require hard work, creativity, and a spirit of fun.
It will require reclaiming innovation. Our choice.
This is where I go out on a bit of a limb, but I think it’s important to share this kind of info to see if it’s on the right track, too ambitious, or not ambitious enough.
Basically, the last year has been one of constant change in learning technologies at the UofC. We changed LMS, from an antique version of Blackboard, to the latest version of Desire2Learn1. We replaced Elluminate with Adobe Connect2. We rolled out Top Hat as the campus student response system. It’s been a lot of things changing, some while the academic year was under way. I’m hoping we have these things stabilized by the end of the Fall 2014 semester, so we can move on to more interesting things.
We have had difficulty in keeping our key learning technologies up to date over the years, in a kind of digital parallel to deferred maintenance on our facilities. Then, when we reach a crisis, we have to react and strike Urgent High Priority Projects to enable massive change to respond to impending technology failures. We need to get past that reactive mode, which keeps our resources tied up in emergency projects, and into a more proactive mode that is forward-looking, so that we’re able to plan ahead rather than panicking about averting imminent disaster.
As a university, we offer a set of common tools that form up the core learning technologies platform. This is important, because it provides a common starting point for all 14 faculties and various service units. If they can start with a common set of tools, we can provide some cohesive support and enable people to get up and running. It provides a consistent experience for students, so they don’t have to learn one LMS for a class in Sciences, and a different one for a class in Arts, and a different one for one in Kinesiology, etc…. That consistency is downplayed, but it is incredibly important.
Students are under a pretty extreme level of pressure to succeed. They face rising costs, crushing debt, and more competition than ever before. If we can provide them with a consistent experience, they spend less time learning the tools and more time engaging each other and doing more interesting things.
Also, we have students whose success depends on this consistent experience – anyone that uses a screen reader to support their visual challenges will tell you that inconsistent interfaces essentially destroy the learning experience for them, as they have to battle with various navigation models and learn to find things in each environment.
The University of Calgary’s common learning technology platform currently consists of:
- Online Tools
- Adobe Connect
- Top Hat
- Classroom Tools (classroom podium software stack)
- SMART Notebook
- MS Office
- various media players
- various web browsers
These are common tools that are centrally funded, and are available for use by every instructor, student, and staff member in our community. They provide various levels of flexibility, which cover the most common use cases (and UCalgaryBlogs.ca even lets you pick various themes and enable plugins to really customize your site as needed). And UCalgaryBlogs.ca and wiki.ucalgary.ca probably wouldn’t have been considered part of the core common learning technology platform before I started my new role and basically started telling everyone that that’s what they were.
But, these tools don’t cover all common needs. We still need to add a few tools. The most urgent needs are for video hosting and survey management.
Video hosting is important because we currently don’t have a place where we can say “hey. you need to share a video? just use this…”. Today, individuals have to spin up their own YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, or other accounts and publish their videos there. Which works, but what happens when an instructor leaves the university? The videos they published to their accounts on various services disappear. We have no way to provide support for these services. Students, again, have an inconsistent experience (why does video from my Math course work on my iPad, while my Chem course videos don’t?). At the moment, the only campus platform for hosting videos is a static webserver. So, 500MB video files are uploaded to a server, students are expected to download the video and install whatever video player is required (is it MP4? Will that work in QuickTime, or do I need Windows Media Player? Can I play a WMV file? etc… and we still have courses with Real Media files. Yeah.
So, by adding a video hosting service to our common platform, instructors and students can host videos in a place that’s managed and consistent, and will be able to know that videos will work on whatever device they use, and won’t disappear when a prof moves to another institution.
Similarly for survey management. We currently rely on individuals to spin up their own Survey Monkey or similar account, learn how to use it (there are many many online survey platforms that are used), and pay for the pro account so you can export your full data set. This adds up quickly. If we provided a campus survey platform, individuals wouldn’t have to pull out their credit cards, and we’d be able to manage the data and provide a level of support that isn’t possible otherwise.
OK. So we add video hosting and online surveys to the common learning technology platform. That provides the starting point for all faculties to build from. But it still won’t cover unique needs – we have 14 faculties, each with signature pedagogies, and it’s just not realistic to assume that their unique needs can be fully met by a handful of campus-provided common tools. How do we provide a common set of tools and support innovation and unique requirements?
Departments often manage their own platforms – our Faculty of Medicine is involved in an open source consortium to build and maintain an online platform tailored to their needs. They also get to manage the servers and software required to run that platform. Other faculties use other platforms, and are able to have dedicated servers managed by Information Technologies in our campus datacentre, but each one is essentially a standalone project, requiring separate dedicated resources to maintain and monitor the server and its software.
What if we were able to provide something like the Reclaim Hosting model on campus? That would give individuals access to host whatever software they need, mostly through the one-click installers built into CPanel, while running the whole thing within the campus datacentre so that everything is properly managed and backed up. Again, this is stuff that’s possible now, by having individuals go to GoDaddy, MediaTemple, iWeb, or any of a long list of hosting providers where they can set up whatever they want. But, they have to find a good provider. They have to learn the unique way of managing the software on that provider’s platform. They have to remember to pay the annual fee charged by the service provider. And they need to back their stuff up. That’s a lot of points of failure. We need to provide a more streamlined way of supporting this kind of innovation, so they’re able to focus more on the innovation and less on the management of the service.
I think this is where we need to go as a university. We need to provide the best core tools as a common platform. We need to provide consistency while not stifling innovation. And we need to provide support for innovation, exploration, and truly unique use cases.
So, my visionary plan3 for campus learning technologies is to finish stabilizing things by the end of the Fall 2014 semester (which means before Christmas 2014), adding in the missing pieces to make sure we have a really solid core platform. And then, to be able to start working on more interesting things, including planning out what would be required to implement a Reclaim Hosting service on campus.
- that’s probably going to wind up as a blog post or two, but later…
- still in progress, but it started back in January
- which isn’t actually that visionary – it feels more like common sense and catch-up in 2014
Just processed a quick time-lapse test, using the camera1 that we installed to monitor construction of the new digs. This’ll work nicely… Now, to test a few video hosting platforms, to see which one mangles the video the least…
original H.263 .mov file (66.3MB)
also, holy smokes does YouTube compress video files, even at “HD” quality. yikes. Facebook looks janky and won’t seem to embed at full width. Vimeo looks decent, but won’t play HD embedded unless I pony up for a premium account (and made me wait in line for 43 minutes before compression began, for reasons). Flickr and MediaCore seem to be the best so far…
- a Foscam FI9821W V2, installed hanging upside-down at an undisclosed location on campus
We’re working on something that would benefit from being produced in the form of a well-designed online document, so I’m gathering some samples and links…
- Harvard: Beyond the Horizon
- Interactive Documentaries via @cogdog’s iDocs presentation at Skidmore College
- Tim Owens – Community Web Hosting
- New York Times – Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek
- Medium – The Importance of being Satoshi Nakamoto
- The Guardian – NSA Files Decoded
- Smithsonian – Oral History of the March on Washington
- Esquire Magazine – Seven Strange Days With the Young Syrians Fighting Assad
- The Seattle Times – Coffee in India
- The Chicago Tribune – Curtis Duffy’s Saving Grace
- Women & Tech – Nora Young Interview
- ESPN: The Long, Strange Trip of Dock Ellis
- LiveStrong 2012 Annual Report
- Ford Foundation 2011 Annual Report
- Bootstrap responsive design framework (and a sample skeletal mockup )
- ScrollKit – recently acquired by Automattic, to be included with WordPress
- Aesop Story Engine (WordPress plugin, installed on UCalgaryBlogs)
- Pages – produces PDF or ePUB versions of documents
- iBooks Author – author eBook PDF/ePUB/iBook format
- BookCreator – for iPad and Android
Any other awesome examples or useful tools to make this kind of design activity not cost a fortune or rely on a large team?
I was fortunate to be able to present a session at CNIE 2014, to share some of the campus engagement stuff we did as part of our long LMS replacement project. I tried to stay away from the technology itself, and focus on the engagement process. Full slide deck is available online, and fuller reports describing the engagement and findings are still available online, as well as the GitHub repository of LMS RFP requirements1.
Basically, I described the process, which started as a conventional inventory of shiny things. We then realized that we had the opportunity to have a more meaningful discussion as a campus community, and the conversation shifted to more interesting topics such as how people actually teach and learn, and what they actually care about.
I billed this as a hands-on session, and was rewarded with a coveted 90 minute slot. The first activity was to have participants try working through building a “fishbone diagram”, based on the research of Jeffrey Nyeboer. It’s a useful way of organizing the description of organizational attributes – things that make up the workflow of an organization – in a way that’s more meaningful than simple word clouds.
(photo by the awesome and talented Irwin DeVries)
It’s a process we used with faculty leadership across our campus, to describe what they mean by “teaching and learning”. We provided them with a simplified template as a null hypothesis, and asked each faculty to correct/complete/adapt/recreate it as needed to describe what they care about. The beauty of this kind of diagram is that it’s pretty inclusive – it’s easy to work on with a group, and when there is disagreement about something that’s on it, or something that has been missed, it is easy to hand people markers to hack away at the diagram until they like it. Used that way, it’s an interesting way to build consensus around what things an organization cares about, which is something that often triggers conflict and defensive postures. The cool thing about the engagement model is that it has lead to some much deeper discussions about things that are much more interesting than what they need from an LMS – it’s opened the door to ongoing discussions about teaching and learning that would have been difficult, impossible, or unavailable otherwise.
Here’s the simplified fishbone we used as a starting point for each faculty on campus:
Here’s one of the fishbones that was adapted by one of our faculties:2
And the fishbones that some of the session participants came up with, to describe various contexts:
In the session, I also talked about how we identified the various types of people/groups that make up our community, which is surprisingly difficult at a complex organization such as a university.
The session went really well, even though it was an “LMS session” at a time when we’re finally getting some movement away from The LMS As All That There Is™ – but this engagement model would work well (and has worked well) for anything – the LMS change on our campus just provided us with the Macguffin to get the plot moving.
- but I would strongly recommend that you don’t use the full set – this was far too much for everyone, and with enough items, things basically cancel each other out. pick a subset of items that you really care about, and have the respondents tailor their responses to that, rather than the whole shooting match. at a high level, they’re essentially all the same thing anyway…
- we provided these via copies of documents in Google Docs, so people could happily add/edit/remove stuff without worrying about access or tools
The results were immediate and powerful. The employees exhibited significantly lower stress levels. Time off actually rejuvenated them: More than half said they were excited to get to work in the morning, nearly double the number who said so before the policy change. And the proportion of consultants who said they were satisfied with their jobs leaped from 49 percent to 72 percent. Most remarkably, their weekly work hours actually shrank by 11 percent—without any loss in productivity. “What happens when you constrain time?” Lovich asks. “The low-value stuff goes away,” but the crucial work still gets done.
I’d love to set this policy up at the office. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.
Update: and… 5 minutes after sending the link to the article, and we have an informal policy in the Taylor Institute to try out prohibiting work-related emails before 8am and after 5pm, and on weekends. Awesome. It’s a start.
Aggregated stats for D2L usage during the Winter 2014 semester (Jan-Apr 2014). Counts number of visits, not pageviews.
The first week of January was the ramp-up to the official semester start. Reading week is visible as the slump in February. Kind of trails off as finals approach…
News of a new collaboration between UGuelph and D2L, on a major pedagogy research initiative:
The pedagogy research project strives to help schools track and report on learning outcomes across programs over time. Researchers will use D2L’s predictive analytics capabilities to document and discover the effectiveness of assessment tools on specific subjects while working with educators to develop a curriculum that results in greater student success.
2 quick thoughts1 on this:
- awesome! D2L really does play well with others, and invests in improving teaching and learning rather than just polishing shiny baubles.
- surely there is more to this than just predictive analytics. I’d love to see a pedagogical collaboration that was about in-the-trenches teaching (and learning) online, and not just massaging the data gathered about online activities. D2L has been trying to foster an online community of teachers (and others) in their D2L Community site23. It would be really cool to push that community up a few notches and open the doors so anyone can follow along (or join in).
Desire2Learn really feels like they care about teaching and learning – the Fusion conference last year was different from any other vendor conference I’ve been to, and felt decidedly like a good teaching-and-learning conference rather than a buy-our-shiny-products vendor conference.
- my own thoughts, not the official position of the university or anything
- which is actually running in the D2L LMS itself
- but it requires a login to see the stuff that goes on inside it
Awhile back Bill Nye debated Ken Ham on science vs. creationism, at Ham’s museum of young earth creationism. Nye just posted some background on the talk and his preparations, and this kind of jumped out at me:
On the slides in my “decks,” as they’re called, I do not use many words. My colleagues sent me dozens of PowerPoint slides for my use. Thank you of course, but my goodness you all, when I watch many of your presentations, it’s like reading a page of book projected on a wall. How can someone in the audience focus on what you’re saying, when there’s a blizzard of words in front of her or him?
Dr. Bates has been seriously kicking ass for many years. He’s decided to retire – and he deserves it. I can’t even imagine how much energy he’s dedicated to the field of teaching-and-learning, and eLearning, over the last few decades. Well earned retirement.
His post announcing the decision is full of gems. I have to admire his no-BS summary of the state of eLearning.
Even the processes of learning, which used to be relatively stable, given how much is biological, are also undergoing change. Technology is not neutral; it does change the way we think and behave. Furthermore, I foresee major developments in the science of learning that will have major implications for teaching and learning – but it will also have major false directions and mistakes (be very careful with artificial intelligence in particular). So this is a field that needs full-time, professional application, and very hard work, and I just don’t have the energy any more to work at that level. To put it simply, this is not a profession where you can be half in and half out. Dabbling in online learning is very dangerous (politicians please note).
And then there’s MOOCs. I can’t express adequately just how pissed off I am about MOOCs – not the concept, but all the hubris and nonsense that’s been talked and written about them. At a personal level, it was as if 45 years of work was for nothing. All the research and study I and many others had done on what makes for successful learning online were totally ignored, with truly disastrous consequences in terms of effective learning for the vast majority of participants who took MOOCs from the Ivy League universities. Having ignored online learning for nearly 20 years, Stanford, MIT and Harvard had to re-invent online learning in their own image to maintain their perceived superiority in all things higher educational. And the media fell for it, hook, line and sinker. This is a battle I no longer want to fight – but it needs fighting. But my reaction did make me wonder, am I just an old man resisting the future? And that has definitely left a mark.
I’d been hoping to find a way to get Tony to visit our campus to work with our Learning Technologies Task Force. Looks like that’s out. But I look forward to following his writing. This is a guy who’s been working in this field for decades, in various roles, and who has had the good fortune to travel and see what various institutions are doing. That’s gold.
The taste of “success” in our world gone mad is measured in dollars and francs and rupees and yen. Our desire to consume any and everything of perceivable value – to extract every precious stone, every ounce of metal, every drop of oil, every tuna in the ocean, every rhinoceros in the bush – knows no bounds. We live in a world dominated by greed. We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth.
We cannot necessarily bankrupt the fossil fuel industry. But we can take steps to reduce its political clout, and hold those who rake in the profits accountable for cleaning up the mess.
And the good news is that we don’t have to start from scratch. Young people across the world have already begun to do something about it. The fossil fuel divestment campaign is the fastest growing corporate campaign of its kind in history.
From our latest Comprehensive Institutional Plan:
There are two initiatives that have the potential to address our access issue and increase enrolment with strategic allocation of new resources. The first is the development of a learning technologies strategy that will include a focus on enabling and enhancing learning experiences through the integration of learning technologies, with the potential to create alternative instructional approaches that allow for a larger on- line presence and admissions (strategy will be developed by June 2014).
Our campus is already oversubscribed by something like 3,000 FTE, and we are needing to prepare for much higher enrolment as the city continues to grow1. There will be a much larger role for blended- and online learning as core parts of our academic programming.
So. My team is the “Technology Integration Group” of the Taylor Institute, which will be responsible for figuring much of this stuff out. Looks like we are going to have our hands full
- the Plan mentions several times that Calgary is the fastest growing city in Canada, third largest municipality in the country, projected to hit 1.5M people by 2019 – we just crossed 1M a few years ago.
Why does a show about the universe produced in 1980 have such a strong pull on us today? It’s not because of the compelling communication style of Carl Sagan alone, although that is a small part of it. Nor is it because Sagan gave us information that most of us never had. The reason Cosmos endures is because the presentation of the original Cosmos series made it clear why what we were seeing and hearing mattered. Even if it was not always explicitly stated, the message was clear: This is important. This is remarkable. And you are a part of it.
I wonder why MacFarlane and deGrasse Tyson didn’t just whip together a Prezi…
What I’m afraid of is the society we already live in. Where people like you and me, if we stay inside the lines, can enjoy lives of comfort and relative ease, but God help anyone who is declared out of bounds. Those people will feel the full might of the high-tech modern state
Where everything goes on a permanent record of some sort, the only dissent allowed involves which colour of avatar to select on Twitter.
Pariser, E. (2011). The Filter Bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and how we think.
I (finally) started reading this on the flight to Toronto. Fascinating take on the whole you-are-the-product thing.
Just as the factory farming system that produces and delivers our food shapes what we eat, the dynamics of our media shape what information we consume. Now we’re quickly shifting toward a regimen chock-full of personally relevant information. And while that can be helpful, too much of a good thing can also cause real problems. Left to their own devices, personalization filters serve up a kind of invisible autopropaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas, amplifying our desire for things that are familiar and leaving us oblivious to the dangers lurking in the dark territory of the unknown.
The manifesto that helped launch the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the early nineties championed a “civilization of Mind in cyberspace” – a kind of worldwide metabrain. But personalized filters sever the synapses in that brain. Without knowing it, we may be giving ourselves a kind of global lobotomy instead.”