These last couple weeks of Summer ’15 have been disappointingly cold…I think we were scheduled to hit a high of 19 today. But that says nothing about a post I found on the interwebs.
When the Reverend speaks, I think it’s worth a listen. If you don’t know, Jim Groom is a guy who has indirectly, through his friendship with Brian Lamb, and directly, through his work with Reclaim Hosting, and DS106, had a huge influence on my ideas about ed tech, and consequently, on my work. Recently, Jim wrote a post about a conversation he had with Scott Leslie about the most important development in ed tech in the last two years. You should read it now.
Jim’s post captures very eloquently the promise and the danger of focusing on the ‘technology’ bit of ed tech. It is extremely easy to get sucked into the (VC-funded) hype around this tool or that tool which is going to revolutionize/disrupt/end/destroy higher education as we know it. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t some interesting tools out there. Alan and Brian’s SPLOT tools, FreshGrade, and Connected Courses are all great examples of good ed tech thinking, as are the numerous ideas that Jim mentions in his post.
What I do suggest is that trying to improve education by building fancier tools is wrong-headed.
Jim gets to this point towards the end of his post.
Thinking more about my answers, the truly important shifts have been around assumptions surrounding gender, race, and class. Arguably the most important voice in edtech the last few years, Audrey Watters, has been on a tireless intellectual campaign to challenge many of the most nefarious narratives as well as interrogate both the future past of the field.
I don’t know of anyone who wants to be a teacher, whether K-12, undergrad, or beyond, so that she can use a particular technological tool. Maybe those people exist, but it seems to me that the vast majority of educators are driven by a combination of two things: a passion for interacting with learners and a passion for a particular academic or professional discipline. So if you want to revolutionize education, you need to focus on one of those two motivations.
Jim’s post, and Audrey’s work, strikes me as being at the heart of changing the ways that we interact with all learners, and especially those who have traditionally been disadvantaged by the system. An example of how the system, at least in the US, disadvantages those who are already disadvantaged was highlighted in the Chronicle last week. How does your school support homeless students?
I don’t know of any initiatives at mine, although I’d be happy to post them here. One thing that we are doing here is supporting the BCCampus Open Textbook initiative. Several of our online and campus faculty have contributed in profound ways to reducing the cost of higher education by publishing Open Textbooks that can be downloaded for free, saving thousands of students hundreds of thousands of close to a million dollars (Canadian dollars, but…still).
I am particularly proud of my involvement with TRU in light of our commitment to globalization and inter-cultural competence. TRU hosts close to 1700 international students annually from 84(?) different countries. Students are hosted on campus and also in local homes and are provided with extensive support and opportunity to experience local cultures while sharing their own. I can think of no better way to improve intercultural understanding than a consistent life of learning with and about other cultures and learning to celebrate our differences and similarities.
[Edit: September 5] Here is an example of both championing the disadvantaged and empowering international students. This video is a promo from Western Sydney University.
Effecting change in our academic disciplines is difficult and slow, but effecting change by championing the disadvantaged people among us and serving their needs is within everyone’s reach.
What will you do?