Stephen Downes succinctly tells us why technology is the necessary equalizer in creating a global learning society:
Classroom teaching, even if supported with technology, will not scale. If we are to provide access to all, we must abandon the idea that education is something that is done for us and support the idea that it is something we can do for ourselves. That’s why we need technology in learning.
New technology, used to support new approaches to learning, is akin to the replacement of scriptoriums by literacy. Just as we no longer need people to read and write for us, we will, in the future, no longer require people to teach for us. The technology should – and will, because people demand it – allow us to teach ourselves. But clinging to the traditional model – in which writing is still done in scriptoriums (albeit, with ballpoint pens and laser printers) is to show a casual disregard for the needs and aspirations of people who not only benefit from writing, but are liberated by it.
In Tunisia I was told that the country had very different demographics than Canada. Most of the population is under 20. In order to make room in the classrooms for the expanding group of younger students entering the school system, the older students’ learning needs were starting to be addressed through e-learning. In this way, the limited physical infrastructure could be reserved for younger children. In Tunisia, classrooms don’t scale well either.
Via Rob Paterson, more on the future of work and business models, with an in-depth paper by George Defermos on the Networked Organisation. From the abstract:
This paper examines the latest of paradigms – the Virtual Network(ed) Organisation – and whether geographically dispersed knowledge workers can virtually collaborate for a project under no central planning. Co-ordination, management and the role of knowledge arise as the central areas of focus. The Linux Project and its development model are selected as a case of analysis and the critical success factors of this organisational design are identified …
This is an excellent synthesis of the rise of the corporate, command and control model, looking at the models of Taylor, Ford and moving on to the work of Senge. Defermos then goes on to a case study of Linux, compared to its competior – Microsoft. Defermos shows that the virtual organisation, as he defines it, is better suited for certain tasks than a centralised structure.
The virtual organisation may be best –
1. When there is a desire for standardisation, in order to increase innovation.
2. To ?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨?ï¿½dethrone a product or vendor?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½ with monopolistic tendencies.
3. To maximise the market web and share in the profits.
4. When all vendors need the end-users’ input.
5. To discourage ?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨?ï¿½corporate backstabbing?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½.
6. When the project is extremely complex.
It doesn’t seem that the networked virtual organisation will replace the centralised corporation, but it I’m sure that we will see more and more of these project-oriented organisations in this networked world.
George Siemens distills the essence of the use of learning objects and repositories in the e-learning field:
… content in context is the real challenge. Or put another way, the extraction of meaning from an object is the real challenge. We can have access to all the content in the world, but if we are not able to find what we need, when we need it, in the format we need it, and for the task which we need it, it’s of no use. Content management takes care of organizing resources. The extraction of meaningful content is where systems fail.
I find that there is still a lot of snake oil being sold as e-learning. If you can help people find what they need, when they need it, in the right context to be useful, then you will have effective content management and/or performance support. The rest is what a friend of mine calls "shovel ware".
I just discovered a number of link errors on my previous posts. I had used the wrong kind of quotation marks when referring to a URL, and the link just pointed back to this website 🙁
I think that I’ve cleaned them all up, and have discovered a bit more about HTML, which I’m learning on the fly.
An article in the New York Times [requires free subscription] discusses a Cornell professor’s small study of student behaviour, and found that they will lie more often off-line than online. At first this seems counter-intuitive, but:
On the Internet, though, your words often come back to haunt you. The digital age is tough on its liars, as a seemingly endless parade of executives are learning to their chagrin. Today’s titans of industry are laid low not by ruthless competitors but by prosecutors gleefully waving transcripts of old e-mail, filled with suggestions of subterfuge.
The Internet may be making us all more honest, because our words can live forever, so we’re more careful online. We also have a tendency to spill our guts a lot more – witness blogs. This essay was referred by NewsScan Daily, whose credo is "Be informative, have fun, and get to the point!"
Stephen Downes recently attended the RIMA conference in Quebec where, among other things, he covered Seymour Papert’s presentation on learning environmentalism. It was wide ranging presentation, and here is an interesting statement on laptops in schools:
"Putting laptops in schools, he [Papert] noted, is not tantemount to educational change, but it’s the seed of educational change. It is the act of putting the change in motion. But it couldn’t have come from within. Ask educators what the proper ratio of computers to students is, and you may hear, %:1, 6:1 – but the proper answer is 1:1 – but that is something that can be said only outside the system."
So it’s not about the technology. It’s about planting seeds of change, and as any internal consultant can tell you, change from within is difficult. The kids want change, the parents want change, Governors and Premiers want change, but those in charge of the education system don’t think that radical change is necessary. Neither did the politburo.
Here is a list of some system evaluation tools and postings available on the web:
The Edutools site is a not-for-profit information resource, with a focus on academic course management systems, both open source and proprietary.
EdTechPost matrix with many links to EduTools.
The Commonwealth of Learning conducted an Evaluation of five Open Source LMS in mid-2003 (Moodle, LON-CAPA, ILIAS, dotLRN, Atutor). The two finalists were ATutor and ILIAS.
Xplana OpenSource Evaluations from May 2003, which groups systems by type (PHP, java, etc).
Simon Fraser University LMS selection committee website, with many resources.
Brandon-Hall offers some free resources and a number of reports for purchase.
Just to show that I don’t only write about open source products, take a look at Groove’s latest peer2peer offering. This is a product that allows for real-time file sharing. Pricing for Groove is not out of this world, and they say that they have academic and non-profit discounts, which I will be looking into for some of my clients. Groove is a unique product, filling a specific niche, not more of the same wrapped in new marketing hype.
Stowe Boyd gives a positive review of Groove 3.0 in Corante after blasting the last version. Make sure that you also read Robin Good’s comments on this review, because there’s always room for improvement.
The Premier of New Brunswick is trying to get a pilot laptop project going for Grade 7 students in one of our schools, but there has been much vocal resistance. His interest in the subject was sparked during a visit to Maine, where laptops were recently introduced into the school system. The initiative appears to be a success in Maine. I’ve already commented that I used to be against the idea of technology for technology’s sake, but laptops give students a wide range of opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have. These include access to courses online, connections with other schools in other countries, use of blogs and wikis for knowledge creation, and others.
Now there is non-profit organisation in Britain lobbying for laptops in all schools. The author of the Digital Equality report from Citizens Online stated, "The very process of education is dependent on technology and not having equal access to laptops is like some pupils using pen and paper while others use slate and chalk."
Human nature is funny. If you say you can’t have something, then everyone wants it. If you have something to give away, then no one wants it.
A recent report by the Rand Corporation The 21st Century at Work: Forces Shaping the Future Workforce and Workplace in the United States is available for +300 PDF pages of reading pleasure. In the report, three factors affecting work are discussed ?¢‚Ç¨‚Äú demographic trends, technological advances and globalisation. The US workforce [read Canadian too] will not grow as quickly as it has in the past. Technology will continue to reshape production, jobs and organisations. There is a worldwide marketplace for goods, services and labour.
This is a comprehensive look at forces affecting labour, organisations, the nature of work and technology. This report combines what a lot of other reports have already mentioned and should be a good reference for the next year or two.
Some interesting extracts:
?¢‚Ç¨?ìJust as individualized medicine is envisioned as an outgrowth of biotechnology, individualized learning programs that are optimized for a given person?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s knowledge base and learning style are expected for the future. Such learning programs will become increasingly sophisticated over time with advances in hardware and software, including artificial intelligence, voice recognition and natural language comprehension.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
?¢‚Ç¨?ìThese workers and others who increasingly interact in a global marketplace and participate in global work teams will also require the skills needed to collaborate and interact in diverse cultural and linguistic settings (Marquardt and Horvath, 2001). Individuals who can exploit diversity to generate new knowledge about customers, suppliers, products, and services will be more likely to succeed in a competitive global environment.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù