TED Talk: What we’re learning from online education

MOOCs are still the buzz in 2013. The best quote I have heard about them is that they replace an in-person class like Facebook replaces a social life. Of course, Facebook is my main social life….

I do sense a hope that MOOCs will replace a whole education or at least credits (think AP courses).

If the video below does not work, then try Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education.

A Conversation with Ray Bradbury

My favorite quote from the video below.

We should learn from history about the destruction of books. When I was fifteen years old, Hitler burned books in the streets of Berlin. So I learned then how dangerous it all was because if you didn’t have books and the ability to read, then you could not be part of any civilization. You couldn’t be part of a democracy. If you know how to read and you have a complete education about life, then you know how to vote in a democracy. If you do not know how to read, then you do not know how to decide. That is the great thing about our country: we are a democracy of readers and we should keep it that way.

I got here from reading a quote:

Imagination should be the center of your life… Stand at the top of a cliff and jump off and build your wings on the way down.

If the above video does not work, then try A Conversation with Ray Bradbury

Weekly Roundup for Jan 20, 2012

This is my first attempt at something like a weekly roundup like I said I should try in To Blog Or To Share?. Hopefully I can maintain it.

  • Martin Luther King Jr on education:
    1. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the ligitimate goals of his life. Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking… We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”
  • More quotes:
    • Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
    • I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
    • Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
  • Apple to announce tools, platform to “digitally destroy” textbook publishing

Rethinking Education

A new Michael Wesch video.  He wrote as the introduction:

This video was produced as a contribution to the EDUCAUSE book, The Tower and the Cloud: Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing, edited by Richard Katz and available as an e-Book athttp://www.educause.edu/thetowerandth… or commercially at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0967…Produced in 2007 as a conversation starter in small groups. Released in 2011 as a conversation starter online.

STEM Celebs

This interesting article on the need of more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates in the United States to compete with other countries strikes me as the kind of thing said to Romans right before the fall. Maybe also to the English just before World War I. Of course, predictions of the future are fraught with misreading the most crucial factors.

In fact, scientists and engineers are celebrities in most countries. They’re not seen as geeks or misfits, as they too often are in the U.S., but rather as society’s leaders and innovators. In China, eight of the top nine political posts are held by engineers. In the U.S., almost no engineers or scientists are engaged in high-level politics, and there is a virtual absence of engineers in our public policy debates.

Why does this matter? Because if American students have a negative impression – or no impression at all – of science and engineering, then they’re hardly likely to choose them as professions. Already, 70% of engineers with PhD’s who graduate from U.S. universities are foreign-born. Increasingly, these talented individuals are not staying in the U.S – instead, they’re returning home, where they find greater opportunities.

Global leadership is not a birthright. Despite what many Americans believe, our nation does not possess an innate knack for greatness.  Greatness must be worked for and won by each new generation. Right now that is not happening. But we still have time. If we place the emphasis we should on education, research and innovation we can lead the world in the decades to come. But the only way to ensure we remain great tomorrow is to increase our investment in science and engineering today.

How would someone determine whether someone is a celebrity? This article did not define it other than as a leader or innovator. If one used by number of Twitter followers, then Lady Gaga is the current leader with the current president trailing at number four and with only 81% the number of followers. Well, even the President of the United States was a lawyer and not a STEM educated person.

I thought maybe the Secretary of Energy would be a good place to look for a leader with scientific credentials. It appears Chu (physcist) and Bodman (chemical engineer) were. The three prior to them were lawyers at best. The rest of the cabinet were mostly lawyers or political administrators. Chu is the only scientist on the list. The president’s science advisor is a physicist, so that is good.

Conservatives do after all say government is the worst of society not the best. They look to corporations to take the societal lead. So maybe top CEOs from the Forbes top 500 list would be a better metric? Three of the top five is pretty good.

  1. Walmart – Michael Duke – Industrial Engineering
  2. Royal Dutch Shell – Peter Voser – Business Administration
  3. Exxon Mobil – Rex Tillerson – Civil Engineering
  4. BP – Bob Dudley – Chemical Engineering
  5. Toyota – Akio Toyoda – Business Administration

Personally my favorite scientific celebrities are Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, Jamie Hynaman, and Adam Savage. We Americans like to see people fail. Each of these have: Neil and Pluto, Stephen lost the black hole bet, Jamie and Adam often misjudge what happens in a test. The spectacular blunders of science are reported as a discovery. Reports on the discoveries in the news usually sound as though it was the intent all along. We get the impression scientists and engineers spend every hour successfully making cool new things.

What scares me of having scientists are leaders is the over expectation of them to be better than anyone else. A smart person is only as good as the decisions they make. Even a good engineer can make mistakes. The ability to acknowledge and work towards correcting errors is not an exclusively scientific ability.

Changing Education Paradigms

Sir Ken Robinson, who has the great TED talk on how education kills creativity, Schools Kill Creativity, has a new one. A key concept is divergent thinking, an essential capacity of creativity, is the ability to see multiple answers or approaches. Education appears to kill off divergent thinking. Creativity is important to problem solving.

I had not considered the big risk for public education is the degree is not a guarantee of a good job. Certainly, people warned me my degree was useless for getting a job in the bachelor’s level, so I’d planned on getting a Master’s or even Ph.D. However, even those were no guarantee. This probably ties in with Anya Kamenetz’s idea maybe the better approach is to provide the content openly and turn education into services to help students master the content. I would agree education has aligned itself into an industrial production of graduates with increasing standardization.

How the current model is bad for kids and various things would solve it has been the discussion a parent and educator friends of the parent have discussed since I was at least in high school and all through college. Montessori and charter schools were all predicted to break public education yet it still stands. DIY Y is the latest. Why do they still stand? Because while experts know public education is not sustainable and the general public would agree, they rely heavily on politicians to make their decisions. It is easier to campaign about fixing education than it is to correct any of the systemic issues. My prediction is until public higher education tuition rises so high about 50% of potential college students cannot afford to attend even with available scholarships, things will not change much.

Ken’s stance on ADHD is eerily similar to the ideas presented in The Edison Gene.

Another Ironic Keynote

Earlier today, Blackboard announced the keynote will be given by Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U as the DevCon keynote. It continues the tradition of ironic keynote speakers in even years:

  • 2008 Michael Wesch who spoke on how the traditional one-to-many classroom model isn’t good for helping students learn. The two LMS products Blackboard makes continue the one-to-many model online. He advocated using free online Web 2.0 tools to aggregate the information students collectively relevant research and provide to the many-to-many class discussion.
  • 2006 David Weinberger who spoke on how digitalization changes how we organize information. He was previously a contributor to The Cluetrain Manifesto, whose point was corporations need to have honest conversations with customers because we do talk to each other and discover deception.

How does DIY U continue the irony in 2010? Well, the idea is to get rid of the education model where students solely look to experts (aka professor) to provide information. Students use the abundance of information available online for free such as OpenCourseWare and use the experts to give practical application experience. An LMS is designed to place the expert (the instructor role) as the provider of the information, the exact opposite of what Anya advocates.

Ideally, Blackboard arranges these to pressure themselves to adapt to the changing landscape.

If so, then based on the 2006 keynote, Blackboard should have a culture of engineers and developers willing to frankly talk to me about the products. They should be hanging out on the email lists where I seek peer solutions offering their own given their insider access. They should be on Twitter. There are a few who do this, but they are by far rare.

I’ve already argued how the LMS is Web 1.5 not 2.0.

Maybe in 2012.

Stalking Students

On the BLKBRD-L email list is a discussion about proving students are cheating. Any time the topic comes up, someone says a human in a room is the only way to be sure. Naturally, someone else responds with the latest and greatest technology to detect cheating.

In this case, Acxiom offers identity verification:

By matching a student’s directory information (name, address, phone) to our database, we match the student to our database. The student then must answer questions to verify their identity, which may include name, address and date of birth.


The institution never releases directory information so there are no Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) violations.

However, to complete the course work the student is forced to hand over the information to Acxiom, an unknown and potentially untrusted party. Why should students trust Acxiom when institutions cannot be trusted?

Due to the decentralized nature of IT departments, higher education leads all industries in numbers data breach events. Acxiom’s verification capabilities were designed so that student and instructor privacy is a critical feature of our solution. Institutions never receive the data Acxiom uses in this process. They are simply made aware of the pass/fail rates.

In other words, high education institutions cannot be trusted to handle this information. No reason was provided as to why Acxiom can be better trusted. Guess the people reading this would never check to see whether Acxiom has also had data breaches.

This Electronic Freedom Foundation response to Acxiom’s claims their method is more secure was interesting:

True facts about your life are, by definition, pre-compromised. If the bio question is about something already in the consumer file, arguably the best kind of question is about something that is highly unlikely to be in one’s consumer file and even useless commercially–like my pet’s name.

Answering these kinds of questions feels like more of violation of than a preservation of privacy.

Too Hot Out There

When I saw online school enrollment soars in summer in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, I thought Duh! Our traffic this summer is way up. Normal enrollment pattern is Fall term peak, 90-95% of Fall term in Spring,  60% of Fall term in Summer. By contrast, our online system usage until 2008-2009 had a Spring term peak. The 2008-2009 school year showed a pattern consistent with the normal enrollment pattern in the Spring without as much drop off as expected in the Summer.

We run a higher education online learning system. The article was talking about K-12. Maybe for the similar reasons our usage is way up as well?

Loving Day 2009

guess_whos_coming_to_dinnerLast year, I blogged about Loving Day. To recap:

Loving Day is an educational community project. The name comes from Loving v. Virginia (1967), the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. Loving Day celebrations commemorate the anniversary of the Loving decision every year on or around June 12th.

There is a list of Loving Day celebrations around the world. The Georgia one happened last month? Oh, well.

Do you have any plans? Maybe I can find a copy of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by then?