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11 Ideas About Which I May Be Wrong
April 6, 2010 - 9:47pm

We only really learn anything when there is a possibility that our ideas may be wrong. Any assertions that we make that do not include the possibility that we are incorrect, that can't be disproven or changed due to the evidence, have crossed-over from analysis to theology.

So here are 11 examples of things I believe to be true in the place that education and technology intersect, but where I might be wrong.

1. Open Content: Every institution of higher education should learn from the examples of M.I.T.'s OpenCourseWare, Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative and the efforts to place as much of the teaching and learning materials produced at the institution on the Web as possible. Open learning benefits the institution, it benefits the faculty, it benefits prospective students and alumni, and benefits the teaching and learning process.

2. Open Student Blogs / LMS: The transition to having students publish their course work on open blogging platforms, as opposed to the walled-off LMS, will be the most important pedagogical shift this decade. Open blogging platforms encourage and allow students to participate in the larger scholarly conversation, become producers as well as consumers of knowledge, and develop public expertise around a topic. Examples are many, but include the amazing work that Steve Greenlaw has done at the University of Mary Washington, Lanny Arvan at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Jim Groom also at UMW, and Gardner Campbell at Baylor University.

3. Copyright: Overly restrictive copyright (and DRM) poses, in my opinion, a significant risk to our ability to provide quality learning experiences. As educators, we need to advocate for sensible copyright laws that balance the rights learners with those of the rights holders. The balance of fear and paralysis has swung too far in favor of restricting and locking down content, making it difficult for educators to create learning environments where students can create, build and share.

4. Attention: Education, course work, and curriculum is but one competitor in the marketplace of attention. We can spend all of our time saying that our students should devote the sort of attention and focus that we devoted to our classwork, and that we should not pander to their wants or compete with the media. But the reality is that students have far more demands on their attention than we did, and we are in a competition to convince our students to fall in love with the academic material as we did. Therefore, we must find ways to deliver our educational content and and learning opportunities through mediums that are interactive, engaging, and relevant.

5. Open Source: Open source applications and platforms are desirable, and should be pursued when they meet the requirements. All things being equal, it is better to invest in our own people and competencies than pay for investor return on capital. But, open source is not an ends but a means, and should be evaluated as one attribute among many when making technology decisions.

6. Strengths: The emphasis, in our schools, college classrooms, and workplaces on "correcting weaknesses" as opposed to encouraging people to play to their strengths is misguided and unproductive.

7. Grading: For many courses, although not all, traditional grading schemes serve to demotivate and sap creativity and risk taking. The only courses that should give traditional grades are perhaps those that are connected with an admissions/screening test (such as the MCAT…etc.) - otherwise we should work to find a more authentic way to assess and motivate our learners.

8. Blackboard: Blackboard, in my opinion, has been a significant force for good in learning. By developing a sustainable business model, Blackboard has insured a solid foundation for the adoption and continuance of the LMS at a diverse range of institutions. The future of the LMS market, with the emergence of community/open source models such as Moodle, and the entry of new players in the space means that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Whatever the shortcomings of the product or the company, we all must give the Blackboard credit for catalyzing a revolution in how learning is constructed and delivered.

9. Apps: Apps, those developed for the iPad, Touch, iPhone, and Android devices, will change educational delivery and learning technology. Apps will complement the capabilities and benefits of browser based learning technology delivery. This is a both/and and not an either/or story.

10. Mobile: Mobile learning will be become as essential and ubiquitous as both browser and classroom based learning.

11. NCAT: The National Center for Academic Transformation, and its methodology and program for course redesign, is the most important policy initiative to come out of the higher ed community during the 10 years that I've been in the field.

Hope you can convince me where I'm wrong. What are you wrong about?


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