Clint responds to Audrey’s decision to nuke comments from Hack Education. I agree – it’s unfortunate that douchebags on the internet1 feel that they can abuse people while hiding behind the anonymity of the internet.
It’s Audrey’s decision to nuke comments – and I fully support her in whatever she decides to do – but I hate that she was pushed to it by misogynistic assholes spewing vitriol and hate. That’s not OK. Nobody should feel threatened or devalued or hated for what they write. Nobody should feel like they need to withdraw because some vocal assholes throw bile at them.
I don’t stand for it in The Real World. I don’t stand for it online. It’s simply not OK to treat people that way.
I completely support Audrey in her decision to nuke comments. Her writing is some of the most important stuff in ed tech at the moment, and we need it. We need more of it. And we need Audrey to be able to do her work without having to waste cycles thinking about misogynistic asshole ranters in the comment threads.
She’s not silencing anyone, or crushing freedom of speech. If you have something to say, misogynistic asshole commenters, man the fuck up and create your own blog. Own what you say. Put your name on it. Don’t hide in the comment section of the blog of someone who is working hard to keep education from sliding into corporate solutioneering hell.
- they are also douchebags in The Real World, but don’t get to hide behind anonymous internet comments in meatspace
I gave a presentation at the University of Calgary’s Collaboration for Learning conference today, on some of the visualizations I built as part of my thesis research. I made a point of avoiding talking about the thesis itself, but presented some of the key visualizations of metadata and coding data. I also made a point of only having enough slides to last for no more than half of the allotted time, in order to ensure enough awkward silence to hopefully prompt an active discussion. Kind of worked, almost.
The presentation was intended to show what kind of information can be gleaned from examining the system-generated or -inferred metadata (title, date, author, wordcount, etc…), and contrasting that with what can be learned by “cracking open” the posts and conducting a latent semantic analysis using a coding template. The conference theme was “collaboration for learning” – so I was trying to take a slightly different angle, to see if it was possible to show what collaboration might look like by analysing online discussions.
Some of the points I made during the setup:
- normalizing online discussion data across platforms is hard, labour-intensive, and not likely to be done by anyone who isn’t a desperate grad student trying to finish a research project before running out of time in their MSc program…
- looking at the metadata can be surprisingly enlightening – especially when mapped in a timeline view. Why on earth don’t more online discussion analyses use timeline views rather than coarse aggregations at the week/month/semester level?
- pretty pictures are impressive, but often don’t actually tell you anything. I’m looking at you, Wordle.
Some of the points that came up in discussion:
- the coding-data analysis may not be necessary to learn much of what can be inferred through more automatable metadata analysis, especially when combined with sources of data (like, radically, talking to the participants…)
- having better coding-data analysis tools may not be as awesome as it sounds, as there is the potential for having nasty feedback loops if the discussion analysis is available to participants during the discussion itself.
So. This happened. Your move, Bowie.
I’ve been thinking about how to better support innovation on campus, and realized that there is a strong bell curve describing the drive to innovate in teaching practices in a population of instructors (and, likely, students), something like:
The “mavericks” are the ones that will explore, experiment and push the boundaries no matter what the institution does. The “quiet majority” are where most instructors are – they work hard at what they do, but don’t have the resources (time, funds, people, etc…) to try many new things. The “resisters” are the often-vocal ones who push back against change for various reasons.
It seems as though much of the usual support for innovation at an institution is aimed at the group of “mavericks” – find the rock-star instructors who are doing cool stuff. Give them resources, and let them push harder to see where they wind up. This is great, and essential, but feels a bit like slapping your logo on a Formula 1 race car and then marvelling at how fast you are.
The “resisters” is another focus – if only we can convince them that change is good, or will make their lives better, they will see the light and butterflies and unicorns etc… Supporting this group is important, but devoting a disproportionate amount of effort isn’t helpful. Many of them would resist even if you peer them with a dedicated support staff with an unlimited budget.
The “quiet majority” is where the action is. These people do most of the heavy lifting of teaching at an institution. They work hard, and they care. What I’m interested in is how do we work with the “mavericks” to find useful innovations, and also work with this “quiet majority” to find ways to incorporate innovative practices at a larger scale to improve teaching and learning across the institution.
What does that look like? I’m not exactly sure. But I think the key is in providing access to institutional resources to help the “mavericks” amplify what they can do, while finding/building platforms to enable everyone to take advantage of meaningful innovations in practices and tools. And, it has to be evidence-based – try new things, figure out what really works, what doesn’t, what’s sustainable, what’s extensible, etc… and work to develop appropriate innovations.
Also, for this to be effective, it can’t be just about technology, or just about pedagogy, or just about institutional resources. This is where the campus really needs to come together and incorporate everything in one place. An community centre for innovation and research. That’s where the magic will happen…
Now, of course, it’s very subjective; there are going to be exceptions to everything I’m going to say, and I’m just saying that so no one thinks I’m talking about them. I want to be clear: The idea of cinema as I’m defining it is not on the radar in the studios. This is not a conversation anybody’s having; it’s not a word you would ever want to use in a meeting. Speaking of meetings, the meetings have gotten pretty weird. There are fewer and fewer executives who are in the business because they love movies. There are fewer and fewer executives that know movies. So it can become a very strange situation. I mean, I know how to drive a car, but I wouldn’t presume to sit in a meeting with an engineer and tell him how to build one, and that’s kind of what you feel like when you’re in these meetings. You’ve got people who don’t know movies and don’t watch movies for pleasure deciding what movie you’re going to be allowed to make. That’s one reason studio movies aren’t better than they are, and that’s one reason that cinema, as I’m defining it, is shrinking.
Well, how does a studio decide what movies get made? One thing they take into consideration is the foreign market, obviously. It’s become very big. So that means, you know, things that travel best are going to be action-adventure, science fiction, fantasy, spectacle, some animation thrown in there. Obviously the bigger the budget, the more people this thing is going to have to appeal to, the more homogenized it’s got to be, the more simplified it’s got to be. So things like cultural specificity and narrative complexity, and, god forbid, ambiguity, those become real obstacles to the success of the film here and abroad.
and, on a studio that passed on a likely-to-be-successful project because it didn’t fit their standard operating model:
They were afraid it would fail, when they fail doing the other thing all the time. Maybe they were afraid it was going to work.
Sound familiar? Sounds an awful lot like the new neo-industrial era of online education. Education being saved not by the people that devote their lives to the craft, but to the executives and investors and accountants that have scrutinized cost/benefit analyses and determined that education is worth being saved. So, it’s not just education that is afflicted with this pattern – it’s a symptom of our larger cultural fear of risk and avoidance of failure.
Stephen Downes observed that the response from elite institutions to MOOCs has been essentially instantaneous – and unprecedented in both immediacy and scale of the response.
The money shot, on response to MOOCs:
MOOCs were not designed to serve the missions of the elite colleges and universities. They were designed to undermine them, and make those missions obsolete.
Yes there has been a great rebranding and co-option of the concept of the MOOC over the last couple of years. The near-instant response from the elites, almost unprecedented in my experience, is a recognition of the deeply subversive intent and design of the original MOOCs (which they would like very much to erase from history).
So, how does the institutional response to MOOCs compare to other educational technology and/or pedagogical advancements? How many of the following innovations/initiatives have drawn a similarly-scaled response from institutions, warranting millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours devoted to their pursuit?
- Learning Objects (and Learning Object Repositories)
- Web 2.0
- Open Education Resources
- Individual publishing platforms (blogging etc…)
- Collaborative publishing platforms (wikis etc…)
- Badges and open credentials
- Cable TV in the Classroom
Those things, and many others, never really bubbled above the level of “let’s present something at a conference and wonder why nobody understands how awesome this stuff is!” (admittedly, some of it turned out to be less-than-awesome, but there hasn’t been the level of critique and introspection by institutions pushing MOOCs). Yes, some of those ideas took off on some scale, but none had anywhere near the level of frenzied institutional mouth-foaming enthusiasm – support was largely on the level of small projects or individual instructors, rather than Presidential Committees and Senatorial Task Forces.
Why are MOOCs different?
It’s not the technology – despite elite institutions building custom platforms to enable their vision of MOOCishness, the tools have been here for years.
It’s not the availability or ease of access to content. Open Education Resources, open textbooks, Creative Commons, wikibooks, etc… have been available for years. They’ve been useful and interesting, but haven’t gained anywhere near a sizeable fraction of the attention that MOOCs have attracted.
I think Stephen nailed it – MOOCs have gone big because institutions see the subversive power of them, and need to control the genie before it’s fully let out of the bottle. Maybe, through creative and selective cultivation, the genie can be defused, or the bottle recast, to eliminate the threat to the status quo, or at least to allow the elite institutions to maintain their position at the top of the food chain.
While many innovations have had at least the potential to disrupt the practices of education, MOOCs are the first (or at least the biggest) innovation to challenge the business of education. Follow the money.
- I really wish Stephen was using a more robust blogging platform, so I could link to a category or tag for the posts. they’re linked at the bottom of this post, though
- he’s not really a jerkface. which is why I hate him so much.
- no. I don’t hate him. dude’s got talent. and he’s nice. jerkface.
- I may just shutter this blog and set up a redirect to point to Followers of the Apocalypse, to save everyone some time… maybe some form of round robin redirector, to randomly send people to the awesomeness at Kernohan’s blog, or Downes’ Half an Hour blog, or Abject, or Bavatuesdays, Hack Education, or any of a long list of people who are kicking ass lately…
The video below captures some of the discussion. So much goodness in it. We haven’t lost the open web. We can (continue to) choose to build it. Yes, there are silos and commodifcation and icky corporate stuff that would be easy to rail against, but what if we just let go of that and (continue to) build the web we want and need? Yeah. Let’s (continue to) do that… That’s what Boone’s Project Reclaim is all about. That’s what I do on a tiny, insignificant, human scale. That’s why I publish my own stuff here – I’ve built this site up exactly how I want it, to support my ability to be as open as I choose, without relying on others to enable (or decide not to) me.
It’s not about protesting against silos or corporate activity streams. Freedom means people get to choose how they manage their digital artifacts (including delegation of that responsibility to third parties). It’s about doing what I think is right, and feeling good about that. That’s all I can do.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what UMW does with their Domain of One’s Own project – and hoping to do more of that kind of thing here on our campus. Some pretty amazing things can happen if you enable and encourage individual students and instructors to build their own stuff…
on shared values and culture:
There was a time when it was meaningful thing to say that you’re a blogger. It was distinctive. Now being introduced as a blogger “is a little bit like being introduced as an emailer.” “No one’s a Facebooker.” The idea that there was a culture with shared values has been dismantled.
on metadata and intentional sharing:
A decade ago, metadata was all the rage among the geeks. You could tag, geo-tag, or machine-tag Flickr photos. Flickr is from the old community. That’s why you can still do Creative Commons searches at Flickr. But you can’t on Instagram. They don’t care about metadata. From an end-user point of view, RSS is out of favor. The new companies are not investing in creating metadata to make their work discoverable and shareable.
on lock-in and the impact of corporate control over discourse platforms:
We have “given up on standard formats.” “Those of us who cared about this stuff…have lost,” overall. Very few apps support standard formats, with jpg and html as exceptions. Likes and follows, etc., all use undocumented proprietary formats. The most dramatic shift: we’ve lost the expectation that they would be interoperable. The Web was built out of interoperability. “This went away with almost no public discourse about the implications of it.”
on streams, and the algorithmic control of conversation flow:
Our arrogance keeps us thinking that the Web is still about pages. Nope. The percentage of time we spend online looking at streams is rapidly increasing. It is already dominant. This is important because these streams are controlled access. The host controls how we experience the content. “This is part of how they’re controlling the conversation.”
on the lack of historical context:
We count on 23 yr olds to (build websites/apps/tools), but they were in 5th grade when the environment was open.
First. Dang. That makes me feel old. But, how can we expect the people that are building the current and next generations of things to have learned from history, when they weren’t around to experience it to know how important this is, or how it can be done differently?
I’m not sure that we’ve lost the web. Yes, the open web is marginalized, and the corporate streams are predominant. But, it’s not over. Eventually, Facebook will fall – my gut says they’ll do something colossally stupid with the new Facebook Home android thing with constant tracking of users, and may (finally) attract significant attention and oversight. And then, people will likely withdraw. And eventually come back to wanting to control their own content and activities rather than unthinkingly relying on “free” corporate streams…
I started off snowboarding. That didn’t work out too well. Reverted to skis so I could keep up with Evan. What a fantastic day…
I haven’t seen an official breakdown of the impact of provincial budget cuts on the UofC itself. Saw this mention in a related article on executive salary freeze:
In its 2013 budget released two weeks ago, the province cut the University of Calgary’s operational budget by about $32 million, or seven percent.
The university states that is equal to a nine percent difference in funding when it includes a two per cent increase which was promised in the 2012 budget.
also, the 9% difference is even higher, when accounting for inflation. likely more info available in tomorrow’s town hall meeting.
glad I’m not an executive…
So Google is killing Reader:
We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favourite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.
Translation: Thanks for letting us mine your activity and data for a few years. We’ve decided you just don’t make enough money for us, and we’ve decided to stop using your activity to feed into our search algorithm. You are no use to us anymore. We’re killing Reader. End transmission.
Translation 2: Using a web page to read feeds is emasculating.
I’m not at all surprised by this. (remember iGoogle?)
But there is an easy way to reclaim your feed reader, so nobody can take it away from you, or cripple it, or mine your activities and data.
I switched to Fever˚ a couple of years ago, migrating all of my feeds from Google Reader. And haven’t looked back. It’s not free – it costs a whopping $30 for a license. But the licensing fee goes to support a fantastic developer, and means that there are no ads or data mining or anything skanky.
Here’s my current Fever˚ “Hot” dashboard:
Here’s my “★★★★★” folder of must-read feeds:
Here’s my “Photos” folder – mostly from Flickr users, but also people posting photos elsewhere. All in one handy feed display:
It’s also got a great iOS app, Reeder (which is best on the iPhone – pixel doubled on iPad for some reason).
Screenshot of “hot” items in Reeder on my godphone:
And the five-star feed folder:
You can still “share” items – you can expose an RSS feed for items you star within Fever•, and – wait for it – anyone can subscribe to that feed, using any reader that hasn’t been “sunsetted” by a giant corporation. I display my “shared” items on a page on my blog, powered by a self-hosted instance of Alan’s awesome Feed2JS tool.
It’s my Fever˚. No company can decide to “sunset” it. Well, I guess Shaun can decide to abandon it, but even if that happens, the software is running on my server, so worst case scenario I don’t get updates provided by him (through the fantastic automated software updater, btw).
Anyway. Google kills Reader. Not surprising. If you’re still relying on anything Google provides, it’s now shame on you. Reclaim your stuff.
Gehl, R.W. (2013). What’s on your mind? Social media monopolies and noopower. First Monday. 18(3).
On noopower1 through marketing and repetition extended into ubiquitous social media:
Operating within the larger political economy of advertising–supported media, it is not surprising that Facebook, Google, and Twitter mirror marketing’s penchant for experimentation and repetition. Software engineers working for these firms pore over data about what actions users most commonly take — that is, what is most often repeated within the architectures of the sites. These engineers then constantly tweak their interfaces, APIs, and underlying software to reinforce these actions and to produce (they hope) new ones. The tiny changes in the Google homepage, for example, are akin to ripples on the surface of a body of water caused by motion deep underneath, as software engineers seek to increase the attention and productivity of users of these sites.
Real–time data collection on links clicked and videos watched provide marketers with the data they need to experiment with different messages, images, sounds, and narrative structures, allowing them to tailor messages to target publics, and then this process is repeated, ad nauseam, in a cybernetic loop. Behavioral tracking of users allows marketers to repeat messages across heterogeneous Web sites as users visit them, as well as make sales pitches via mobile devices as users travel through space. The messages that result in sales are repeated; those that do not are archived (perhaps they will be useful later). Liking, “+1”ing, or retweeting an ad enters users into a contest to win a trip to the theme park built around the movie that was based on the video game currently being advertised, a game in which the main character must use social media to build a following to solve a crime. All of this is, of course, a marketer’s dream: the observation, experimentation upon, and ultimate modulation of the thoughts of billions, the chance to increase what they call (in some of the most frightening language imaginable) “brand consciousness” over other forms of consciousness and subjectivity. It is the reduction of the scope of thought to a particular civic activity. It is the production of the flexible and always–willing global consumer as the real abstraction of our time. Consumption über alles.
Thus, to counter the reductive noopower operating in and through the social media monopolies, activists and technologists must create systems that allow for radical thought and heterogeneous uses, for differences that make a difference. The alternatives to social media monopolies must be built with protocols, interfaces, and databases all designed to promote new political thinking — noopolitical thinking — and to resist reduction of thought to repeated marketing messages of all varieties. We all can agree that this is probably impossible, but we always must keep a better future on our minds as we work with what we have on our minds.
- “power over minds, power over thoughts”
The potential for thinking through new re–combinations, new ways to draw up code and language into a new media politics are suggestive. But I want finally to return to the question this article began with: more or less? This text has been framed by a belief that social media monopolies ought to be disrupted — and in the name of at least two of the things they are axiomatically understood to promote (social justice, solidarity as a form of community) and do not. It has been argued that this disruption might be attempted through a toolset — silence, disruption of language, and the exploitation of language’s capacity for polysemy (the metaphor and the lie) — that is not often considered as apt for such a task. My conclusion, and here I return to salute Ivan Illich, is that these tools can be deployed to produce other kinds of more convivial engagements — a better commons — than our apparently ‘social’ media enable. Above all, I have wished to take seriously the idea that communication density, and increasing communicational volume, does not — in and of itself — indicate more understanding, freedom, openness, or ‘good’. To make this case demands also taking seriously the idea of a media politics that begins with silence.
Bassett, C. (2013). Science, delirium, lies?. First Monday [Online]. 18(3).
I’ve been uncomfortable about the MOOC hype. There are a few reasons, ranging from the neoliberal commodification and privatization of education, to the extension of largely passive didactic pedagogies.
Basically, it’s an emphasis on education-as-content, and an exercise in the controlled dissemination of that content. Students learn through receiving access to content in the context of a course.
wait. we’re innovating. there are better graphics now.
Except the students are now removed from an intimate educational context. Course completion approaches gold farming. Eventually, instructors will be reduced so institutions can take advantage of massively open class sizes. Eventually, students will outsource their participation rather than grinding their own experience points. AI instructors, teaching AI students. But massively.
And that’s all fine. Given the environment we’re building, the success stories will be written by those that can best take advantage of the rules and affordances that make up the system.
But what about real innovation in learning? MOOCs are all about the course. And the instructor. And in granting access by students to the instructor and whatever content has been produced. The course is designed within the context of a program and possibly toward a terminal goal of a degree or credential.
What if the course wasn’t important anymore? (is it important now?) What if the only thing that mattered was people coming together to explore and learn together? What would that even look like?
Well. Where’s the venture capital opportunity in THAT? It’ll never fly.
But that’s the real change that can be enabled by the same tools and affordances that have been built to enhance the status quo as MOOCs.
This isn’t a technical or software problem. It’s a cultural shift, to emphasize individual control and co-operative learning. That’s where the interesting stuff is happening. And where it will continue happening.
This is why DS106 and ETMOOC and many others are so interesting. It’s not about the stupid animated gifs, it’s about people coming together to explore and play together, and to provide critical analysis and discourse of each other’s work. Most of the participants aren’t there for credit, don’t actually take the course, and do it because they’re interested in doing something for themselves. That’s interesting.
But. As long as we’re collectively spending our time rebuilding and entrenching traditional institutions and paradigms, we’re avoiding the real innovations in education and learning that are far more interesting than forming a consortium of elite lecture providers.
- even if the MOOCs are open, the content is carefully constructed, often custom-built to support an instructor’s or institution’s needs, and access controlled – MOOCs that lock content behind logins with enrolment caps. How do they define open?
- spock in school, from Star Trek 2010
- it’s called a mooc, but interesting because it is another of the ilk of experiences that are the anti-Coursera/EdX/Udacity/etc…
- the interesting ones avoid the temptation of being Massive. Small open online courses.
Operational grants for Alberta colleges and universities are being slashed by about $147 million for the next year — almost seven per cent.
University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon told CBC News the university was expecting a two per cent increase for each of the next three years.
“At the University of Calgary we have built a strong financial foundation due to the hard work of many people over the last several years,” says Cannon. “We have contingency funding set aside, and we will continue to work to find operational efficiencies and grow revenue. We will continue to move toward our Eyes High goals. Nevertheless, a budget reduction of this size means that we have some difficult decisions to make in the coming months.
“We know students, faculty and staff will have many questions about what these cuts mean to the university. We simply do not have all the answers yet. We will keep you informed over the coming weeks, including holding Town Halls for the campus community later this month.”
Adds Cannon: “Given the level of this cut, and the government’s clear focus on post-secondary institutions working more closely with each other and with government to find efficiencies, eliminate duplication and more closely align university research with the economic agenda of the province, structural change may be necessary within the post-secondary system.”
Although its economy is still strong, growth is high and unemployment is low, a decline in bitumen prices brought on by decreased pipeline capacity has thrown the province’s finances off the rails.
Alison Redford’s government announced it would cut spending and borrow billions to cope with a multi-billion-dollar shortfall.
I don’t have funding for this (yet), but my boss suggested a road trip to see what the state of the art is at other institutions. I proposed a school to visit, and was gently nudged toward restricting things to just western canada for some strange reason…
where would you visit in western canada, and why. I need to make the case to visit some institutions to see really cool/kickass/innovative stuff.
maybe not education, but more of “learning and collaborating”.
moocs get all of the press (this year). they’re massive. they’re online. they’re funded.
but, under the cover, they’re not really all that innovative. they still involve students taking courses from experts, almost always by watching (or maybe reading) lectures. occasionally, by making stuff. but that’s not necessary.
the biggest issues with moocs appear to involve how to integrate them into the existing structures – how do people get credit for them? who pays for them? who controls the content of the courses? what is the role of institutions? etc… blah blah blah. boring.
these are just implementation details. exercises in titanic deck-chair rearrangement.
what if the real change that’s needed is so simple that it’s just not seen by the vulture capitalists? what if it’s not a product or a service or a new framework for selling products or services?
the real change is also nothing new. it’s just a shift to emphasize people sharing the stuff they care about. a shift toward internal motivation for learning – I learn something because I want to, not because I’ll get a gold star from teacher. I do stuff because I’m good at it, and/or because it needs to be done. etc…
but this is so fundamentally simple that the gates foundation rupert murdoch ted talk crowds aren’t going to care about it. malcolm gadfly isn’t about to write a pithy and buzzword laden article/book/movie script on the intuitively obvious. this isn’t anything that will Save Education™ – it’s just people. doing what people do.
so do that.
turn on. tune in. drop out. (or whatever variant of that floats your goat.)
and then share the stuff you care about. and make stuff together.
- actually, that’d be a pretty killer mooc