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2011 Educators' Choice Awards: An Adobe reboot?

Make no mistake. Adobe makes great products. But, it is hard for educators and students to connect with them. First, the company produces professional-grade tools (Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, etc.), and, as a result, they are very expensive for resource-starved institutions to purchase (even with discounted education pricing). Second, these professional-grade tools often come with a steep learning curve. Many education professionals do not have the time or resources to make the most of the software.

To address this second issue, Adobe is launching an initiative to reach out to educators through the Adobe Education Exchange, which is an online community (initiated by secondary-level teachers) to share, discuss, and collaborate on the development of educational resources that make use of the company’s tools. Launched just over a year ago, the exchange also connects educators with software engineers to increase the level of support in the classroom.

To promote the AEE, Adobe announced the 2011 Educators’ Choice Awards this week:

The 2011 Educators’ Choice Awards will recognize and reward Adobe Education Exchange members who submit the most innovative teaching and learning materials. Your fellow members will choose the winners of the Awards by rating one another’s work, so impress your colleagues and compete for valuable prizes by submitting your best projects, lesson plans, curricula, and tutorials. For inspiration and examples, join or sign in to browse the resources on the Adobe Education Exchange.

This is perhaps indicative of a larger, much welcomed, external relations refresh. Previously, Adobe and Apple engaged in a very public war over the fate of the Flash platform, and Adobe lost.

Adobe appears to have reconciled with the reality of a post-Flash Web, and is previewing Edge, a HTML5 development tool that promises much of the same functionality as Flash, but with less of a headache. This enables developers to make better use of standards-based toolsets, and deliver products that can interact better with native architectures. For the end user, this provides hope for speedier integration, better compatibility, and (hopefully) improved reliability. For schools that need to rely on outdated or underpowered hardware (or are using the latest, cutting-edge technology), this is welcomed news.

Adobe’s education reboot is a good sign for content-producing educators and students. The humble remake of core Flash concepts into Edge, along with AEE, suggests that the future is starting to look very bright. Stay tuned…


Note: Adobe provided a copy of their software for evaluation. A thorough review will appear in the upcoming months after field testing in academic environments. Please read our review policy for more details on how we review products and services.

"Reboelje!" – Invisible Learning in the Netherlands

Finally, after several weeks of travel and meetings, I am able to report on the Invisible Learning Tour, which was hosted by NHL in Leeuwarden. The event was an example of self-organization. Given the seed of an idea, three universities, two Sudbury schools, the Knowmads school, and various other partners came together, using social media, to construct a two-day event. The purpose of the Invisible Learning Tour was to raise awareness for the need for innovation in education. Mainstream teaching focuses mainly on the preparation of students for compartmentalized roles and jobs (mainly factory workers and bureaucrats) that contrast sharply with the needs of the modern economy, which requires people that are imaginative, creative, and innovative. We explored ideas, existing options, and new pathways for learning that is relevant for the 21st century.

The first day was built into an open space event, moderated by Edwin de Bree (De Koers Sudbury School) and Franziska Krüger (Knowmads). About 130 participants attended the live meeting, and another 295 joined online. I gave the opening keynote, which is posted on Vimeo (my slides are also posted here):

The first day also included open conversations on how to make Invisible Learning visible, and a few participants self-organized a flash mob (video by Guido Crolla):

The second day involved a media tour to the De Kampanje and De Koers Sudbury Schools, and the Knowmads school in Amsterdam. I produced a short video based on interviews with students and staff members at the two Sudbury schools. What struck me in our conversations was, that despite the fact the students have no teachers (they are responsible for their self-learning), their responses were articulate and cogent — despite the fact they were speaking in a second language:

Unfortunately, my time with Knowmads was cut short as I had to race to the airport to catch my flight back from Amsterdam. As I left, however, one thing was very clear: A tremendous momentum for change is building up in the Netherlands. As Knowmads tribe leader Pieter Spinder puts it, it’s time for a Friesian rebellion: “Reboelje!”

Special thanks go to Edwin de Bree, Franziska Krüger, Christel Hartkamp, Jeroen Bottema, Pieter Spinder, Guido Crolla, and the team at Mooipunt/CMD program at NHL in Leeuwarden (Tom Ravesloot, Tom Klaver, Jeroen van de Bovenkamp, Wout Laben, Peter Klaas, Sanne van der Heide, Julien Hogemans, Robert de Kruijf, Sander Nota, and Robin van Poelje). Without their leadership and contributions, this event would never be possible. Better yet, they turned it into a smashing success!

Thank you!

Will it blend? Social media and education

This morning, MPR’s Midmorning aired a forum on the role of social media and education. From the program’s description:

How can social media and technology influence the way students learn and the way teachers teach? Kerri Miller hosted a live forum discussion with a Minnesota-based entrepreneur who is pioneering a social teaching project called Sophia, an internet (sic) platform that aims to enhance student learning both in and out of the classroom.

I also give my two cents at 30:41 into the program:

Sophia is featured in the broadcast. To request a beta invitation, click here.

Review: Education Nation (by Milton Chen)

Book: Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools
Author: Milton Chen
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Teacher (July, 2010)

Like sunspots, books critical of the education system seem to follow periodic cycles. And, it seems we’ve hit a high point over the past year or so. We’ve seen popular books on the theme emerge from Clayton Christensen, Malcolm Gladwell, Sir Ken Robinson, and others.

Their messages are largely the same.

They converge on a genre that can only be classified as “change manifestos” — texts that are often written by educators (or people on the fringe of education) and suggest that we need a revolution in education. These, nearly universally, fail to tie in research, and lack a real futures orientation. As a result, many of these change manifestos fail to help bring about meaningful change.

Milton Chen deviates from the change manifesto genre somewhat by reflecting on his own experiences and the work undertaken by Edutopia, which he previously directed. The book is so deeply oriented toward the work of Edutopia and its key source of income (George Lucas), that, prima facie, it nearly comes across as a swan song of their accomplishments. Reading beyond this, however, the book emerges as another list of indictments of many of the things wrong with the U.S. education system. Where Chen shines, is in making a case for changing our mindsets so that we can find remedies. Specifically, Chen writes that we need to focus on implementing six edges of “innovation” in K-12 learning — not all of which are mutually compatible:

  1. The thinking edge: We need to upgrade our thinking about education itself
  2. The curriculum edge: Modernizing what is taught, how, and how we assess learning
  3. The technology edge: Meaningfully bringing modern technologies into educational environments
  4. The time/place edge: Realizing that education occurs all the time, not just during school clock hours
  5. The co-teaching edge: Teachers are important, and bringing more experts into the classroom is beneficial
  6. The youth edge: Recognizing generational differences between students, educators, and society

These six edges are just fine, but let’s focus a little bit on semantics: I view innovation as the purposive application of imagination and creativity to produce new benefits, but the edges of “innovations” Chen covers are really frameworks for practitioners, policy makers, revolutionaries, et al, to think about making positive change. Moreover, most of these reframings have existed since the time of Dewey, making me wonder why they’re in a book about “innovation.” What Chen does well, however, is connect his six edges with research and stories — most of which was compiled from his arm’s length relationships with Edutopia and other researches in the San Francisco Bay Area. And, he uses these connections to build support for integrating project-based learning, cooperative teaching, proper technology integration, professional development, and other ideas — except they all emerged from the 20th century, not the 21st century. There are tomes of additional research available, nationally and internationally, that Chen could have folded into his book to make for a richer and deeper read — perhaps one relevant for the 21st century. But, this book is really the story of Edutopia.

And that’s just fine. Unless if you’re looking for innovation.

Whereas peaks in sunspot activity can have real consequences for people on Earth, peaks of change manifesto activity have generally lead to no real change. I have enormous respect for the work of Chen and Edutopia, but the casual rehashing of old themes with an “innovation” rebranding leaves the reader asking “how?” and “so what?” Unless if Chen can address these how and so what questions in a second volume or an update, I’m afraid this book will share space on my bookshelf with other change manifestos.

Bottom line: Chen’s Education Nation is an enjoyable read within its genre, but lacks new ideas.


Notes: 1) Thanks to Carmen Tschofen for introducing the term change manifestos to me to describe the genre discussed above. 2) Wiley provided a copy of this book for me to review. Please read our review policy for more details on how we review products and services.

Is YouTube bursting higher education's bubble? Not so fast…

Last Sunday, Jeffrey Young wrote about the use of the Internet to deliver lectures in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article centered on the work of Salman Khan, who posts home-made lectures on YouTube:

The lo-fi videos seem to work for students, many of whom have written glowing testimonials or even donated a few bucks via a PayPal link. The free videos have drawn hundreds of thousands of views, making them more popular than the lectures by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, famous for making course materials free, or any other traditional institution online, according to the leaders of YouTube’s education section.

Young…

[…] called up one of the donors, Jason Fried, chief executive of 37signals, a hip business-services company, who recently gave an undisclosed amount to Khan Academy, to find out what the attraction was.

“The next bubble to burst is higher education,” he said. “It’s too expensive for people—there’s no reason why parents should have to save up a hundred grand to send their kids to college. I like that there are alternative ways of thinking about teaching.”

A review of the comments appended to the article suggest that many readers agree that higher education faces serious competition from online knowledge repositories. What the article misses however, is consideration of the conversion of information acquisition/collection to personal knowledge. Schools such as MIT, through their support of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, have demonstrated their understanding that the real value of higher education is not the downloading of knowledge through texts and lectures, but rather through the production of new and personal knowledge that their unique environments offer. This tacit, added values provided by the institutions are what define quality higher education.

European colleges and universities are notorious for having embraced lectures over other course formats (i.e., seminars, laboratories). In these environments, student learning does not occur as much within lecture halls as it occurs outside of the classroom — through interactions with other students, individual and informal study groups, independent or directed research, etc.

In the age of YouTube lectures, universities need not worry about their bubbles bursting, but rather, what they should be doing in the classrooms instead of lecturing.

"This is bullshit!" – Jeff Jarvis on the death of lectures

In a TEDxNYED talk that is destined to become a classic, Jeff Jarvis takes on the industrialization of education and the irrelevance of lectures in an innovation-powered world (Knowmad Society!):

From his notes:

One more from him: “It’s easy to educate for the routine, and hard to educate for the novel.” Google sprung from seeing the novel. Is our educational system preparing students to work for or create Googles? Googles don’t come from lectures.

So if not the lecture hall, what’s the model? I mentioned one: the distributed Oxford: lectures here, teaching there.

Once you’re distributed, then one has to ask, why have a university? Why have a school? Why have a newspaper? Why have a place or a thing? Perhaps, like a new news organization, the tasks shift from creating and controlling content and managing scarcity to curating people and content and enabling an abundance of students and teachers and of knowledge: a world whether anyone can teach and everyone will learn. We must stop selling scarce chairs in lecture halls and thinking that is our value.

And:

We must stop looking at education as a product – in which we turn out every student giving the same answer – to a process, in which every student looks for new answers. Life is a beta.

Why shouldn’t every university – every school – copy Google’s 20% rule, encouraging and enabling creation and experimentation, every student expected to make a book or an opera or an algorithm or a company. Rather than showing our diplomas, shouldn’t we show our portfolios of work as a far better expression of our thinking and capability? The school becomes not a factory but an incubator.

(My apologies for deviating from convention and cutting-and-pasting so much from Mr. Jarvis, but his message is THAT good.)

Thanks to Marcel Kampman for spotting the video!

Three alternatives to temponormative pedagogy

When most people mention the word “pedagogy,” they are likely to think of it within a temponormative framework. It is a framework that embraces linear time and Cartesian thinking. This continues to be the most prevalent framework within Western educational contexts. A linear conceptualization of time ensures that the learning process has a beginning and an end, with predictable (and measurable) waypoints between. The causal linearity of the temponormative frame allows for the developmental procession of teaching and learning that is often best suited for transmitting explicit knowledge to learners.

The temponormative approach has worked well in the industrial era, but afforded the purposive use of technologies, can we break away from this old framework to one that is organic and synergetic, rather than mechanical — one that supports the creation of knowledge workers and innovators over factory automatons? Pekka Ihanainen (at HAAGA-HELIA and Ihanova) and I think we can. To start the discussion, in a paper we submitted for a special issue of time in Studia Paedagogica, we propose three alternatives to break us away from temponormative pedagogies: pointillist, cyclical, and overlapping. The following text is excerpted and adapted from the paper.

Pointillist learning

Elements for pointillist learning are masses of fragments and pieces – i.e., as used within Twitter messaging. They transmit, separately, beginnings for events, middle-points of events and endings of events in an order that may seem perceptibly vague. Among others, they comprise experiences, opinions, perceptions, comments, and “what if” scenarios.

The spontaneous nature of pointillist learning has always been a natural part of everyday human activity. When pointillist learning is examined from a pedagogical point of view, it opens itself as an anti- or a de-pedagogy. The greatest challenge for de-pedagogy is that we must trust that learning actually takes place, and that de-pedagogical learning is both valuable and significant. For pedagogical activity, de-pedagogy means that, as facilitators of learning, we have to give up our role as teachers and to start being and working as co-learners and peers within the pointillist environments we are involved.

Cyclical learning

In online forums, where participation (usually discussion) occurs within threads as a more or less dialogical activity, densification and diffusion of learning intensity are present to experience and take part in. The cyclical activity and learning is connected with an ability to observe intensive periods of online interaction and to join them. New competencies emerge in the perception of pulses from within emerging processes of thoughts, emotions, and understandings (among others). Often times, people wish to continue their explorations and re-understandings of pointillist events and contextualize the knowledge to better suit their own needs and interests. For this reason, we label this phenomena a re-pedagogy.

Overlapping learning

The above three frameworks do not necessarily exist exclusive of each other, but can coexist and overlap within simple or complex relationships. Overlapping may occur as 1) fragments within fragmentary entities; or, 2) waves within pulsating content processes. In regard to the former, for example, it recognizes the ability to move from pointillist activities to cyclical learning and vice versa. In regard to the latter, this includes an ability to construct new insights, conceptualizations, and contextual applications for knowledge given pulsating waves of cyclical, pointillistic and/or temponormative pedagogies. Overlapping pedagogies may be expressed through the overlapping uses of technologies. For example, in online education, microblogging (a pointillist activity) may be layered with intense activity within discussion forums (a cyclical activity).

Overlapping learning is knowledge building of everything/anything, everywhere/anywhere and at all times/anytime. In other words, overlapping learning is boundless in its scope and capabilities. When the learning of everything/anything, everywhere/anywhere and at all times /anytime is examined from pedagogical point of view, it can be seen as pedagogy of encoding. The overlapping education is therefore labeled en-pedagogy.

Temponormative

Pointillist

Cyclical

Overlapping

Pedagogy

Traditional

De-

Re-

En-

System

Cartesian, linear

Moments

Pulsating

Chaordic

Knowledge produced

Explicit

Personal (explicit and tacit)

Personal and social

Personal and social

Learning happens through…

Direction

Serendipity

Evolution of dialog

Convergence of direction, serendipity and evolution

Learning outcomes pre-defined

Yes

No

Sometimes

No

Examples

Lectures, readings

Microblogging, podcast

Online forums

Mashups

Our challenge

The problem is, although we are familiar with many of the technological tools that enable these pedagogies, we still view the process and the experience through the lens of temponormativity. Recognition of this framework with expanded temporal characteristics calls on us to develop new, purposive approaches that embrace and maximize the best of any configuration of de-, re-, and en-pedagogies.

Afforded the post-temponormative capabilities of online environments, how can we best leverage these multidimensional understandings of pedagogical time to facilitate multidimensional learning and meaningful new knowledge production?

Uruguay reacts to Plan Ceibal book pre-launch

Roberto Balaguer notes that a book we are collaborating on has captured the attention of the president of Uruguay:

The website of the Presidency of the Republic [of Uruguay] takes the news. On Tuesday, in connection with the [Montevideo International] Book Fair, we held the pre-presentation of the book on Ceibal Plan and the OLPC model, collective work and shared invaluable colleagues in Argentina, Mexico, Spain, USA, and, of course, Uruguay.

Plan Ceibal

Uruguay, through the Ceibal Plan, was the first country to adopt the One Laptop Per Child platform. Roberto Balaguer compiled an international, critical look into the initiative, that provides an extensive review. The following collaborators contributed to the volume:

1. Roberto Balaguer (Uruguay) “Plan Ceibal: Los ojos del mundo en el primer modelo OLPC a escala nacional” [“Plan Ceibal: The eyes of the world in the first OLPC nationwide model”].
2. Fernando Garrido (Spain) “¿Otra vez el mismo error? OLPC, Determinismo Tecnológico y Educación” [“Again the same mistake? OLPC technological determinism and education”].
3. Edgar Gómez Cruz (Mexico) “Domesticación de la Tecnología: una aproximación crítica al proyecto de OLPC” [“Domestication of technology: A critical approach to the OLPC project”].
4. Tíscar Lara (Spain) “Aprender a ser ciudadano desde las prácticas digitales” [“Learning to be a citizen from digital practices”].
5. Guillermo Lutzky (Argentina) “La Escuela Digital, un cambio obligatorio para los modelos 1 a 1” [“The Digital School, a change required to 1 to 1 models”].
6. Mónica BaezGraciela Rabajoli (Uruguay) “La escuela extendida. Impacto del Modelo CEIBAL” [“The school extended: Impact of the Ceibal model”].
7. Alicia Kachinovsky (Uruguay) “La Universidad de la República en tiempos del Plan Ceibal” [“The University of the Republic in times of the Ceibal Plan”].
8. Octavio Islas (Mexico) “Retos que representa la enseñanza en el imaginario de la ‘Generación Einstein'” [“Challenges posed by teaching in the imagination of the ‘Einstein Generation'”].
9. Cristóbal Cobo (Mexico) “Aprendizaje de código abierto” [“Learning from open source”].
10. Raúl Trejo Delarbre (Mexico) “Un niño para cada laptop” [“A laptop for every child”].
11. John Moravec (USA) “¿Y ahora, qué?” [“So, what now?”].
12. Miguel Brechner (Uruguay) “Los tres si” [“The three yeses”].

I join many of the collaborators in dedicating my contribution to the volume to our colleague and co-author, Guillermo Lutzky, who passed away late last month.

The role of teachers in Education 3.0

Note: This article is a part of the Designing Education 3.0 series at Education Futures.

The debate continues: What is the role of a teacher? The sage on the stage or a guide on the side? In a recent Tegenlicht episode, Frank Furedi argued for a return to “classical,” power-based, download-style (banking) pedagogies. I countered that we need something different. Here’s my take:

Download-style education fails when we try to provide students with knowledge and skills that will enable them to lead in a future that is very different from what exists today –and, in a future that defies human imagination. Teaching facts or knowledge that was relevant in the past may not be acceptable today or in the near future. Moreover, if teachers are as unprepared for the future as students, why not learn invent it together?

Teaching in Education 3.0 requires a new form of co-constructivism that provides meaningful extensions to Dewey, Vygotsky and Freire, while building the future. Specifically, teaching in Education 3.0 necessitates a Leapfrog approach with:

  • Adults who are eager to imagine, create and innovate with kids
  • Kids and adults who want to learn more about each other
  • Kids and adults who partner to collaborate in teaching to and learning from each other
  • Kids who work at creative tasks that mirror the innovation workforce
  • An understanding that kids need to contribute to all economic levels, and with better distribution of effort than in the past

This will all require new forms of educational professionalism, tapping well beyond traditional teachers, and blending together with the communities that schools serve. The future that kids and adults co-create can provide the emerging knowledge/innovation economy a boost, greatly enhancing human capital and potentials. How would you teach, learn, and create in Education 3.0?

Going global and purposive

kn-power
Knowledge powers the 21st century

Dan Wallace (@ideafood) forwarded a link to this short essay by TED curator, Ted Anderson. Networking technologies are transforming the potential of teachers:

There are many scary things about today’s world. But one that is truly thrilling is that the means of spreading both knowledge and inspiration have never been greater. Five years ago, an amazing teacher or professor with the ability to truly catalyze the lives of his or her students could realistically hope to impact maybe 100 people each year. Today that same teacher can have their words spread on video to millions of eager students. There are already numerous examples of powerful talks that have spread virally to massive Internet audiences.

Indeed, the Chinese are figuring this out, and are packaging recordings of instruction by their top teachers in mobile devices. Moreover, free tools like Skype, YouTube and Twitter that operate on inexpensive hardware provide new opportunities not only for connecting teachers with a broader audience of students, but also for connecting students to the world. Likewise, both teachers and students can learn from …and co-create new knowledge with… their peers, globally.

In the comments, Michael Rossney makes another point:

When potential students are selecting a traditional school, or course or teacher the deciding factors are likely to be: Proximity, Cost, Availability of time/course places. These just aren’t such an issue online.

This concept is very real for me: Last week I attended an information evening from a prominent college here in Dublin on a business MBA. I wanted not just to learn strategies but to rub shoulders with result focused businesspeople, social entrepreneurs etc. As I left I couldn’t help thinking that I could get more value studying certain TED speakers or similar if I could just harness that information and use it.

So, there we go. The question isn’t access to technologies, but how we make the most of the technologies and knowledge resources available. Rather than blindly advocating for technological adoption, is it now time to focus on the purposive use of technologies for human capital development?