Is it all just hype?

Even upperer update:OK, some people get it. Here’s Sean Fitzgerald in an Artichoke comment:Another way to describe this is in terms of power – there is a very different power dynamic between a teahcer and their students in a classroom (or LMS) than there is in a learning environment using social software.

You know, you really should all go and read Gatto (OK, Artichoke’s already done so), then I wouldn’t keep having to go on about this. Nor would Brian.

Upper date: This post by George Siemens is again on the same subject, and says Enough already with Web 2.0. George posits

We don’t have a new version of learning (i.e the act of learning itself). We do, however, have a new climate in which different approaches need to be taken to foster learning. Our old systems don’t work today. But the problem isn’t that we need to rethink the act of learning

then asks

How can we portray that we are at a new place in regards to method of learning, but still in the same place in regards to the act of learning? How can we grow our scope, our image, our conception of learning and learning design (especially when we break from courses and classrooms)?

(And I already blogged about how George is one of the few to tackle the issue of power, which I also whined about here).

Update: Brian’s comment on Borderland’s blog mentions “critical literacy”. I’m not familiar with the term, but it affirmed a growing feeling I have had that there is a very strong and close connection between the kinds of posts I mention below (and in Borderland’s Deschooling Revolution post) on the one hand, and something I am more familiar with, critical pedagogy. The only complete book I’ve read on this fascinating subject is Critical Pedogogies and Language Learning

Bud the Teacher asks Is it [Web2.0] all just hype?
Aaron asks Is it really a waste of time to introduce “low level” [EFL] students to the Web 2.0?

Artichoke ponders a crowd of invisible ducks and includes a cornucopia of excellent links (as always), including a post by George Siemens on why LMS are the wrong place to start learning, in which he writes

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are often viewed as being the starting point (or critical component) of any elearning or blended learning program. This perspective is valid from a management and control standpoint, but antithetical to the way in which most people learn today

thereby being one of the few to mention the context of power that is all too often absent in these kinds of discussions.
(Compare Gatto’s “Schools are not designed to teach the way people learn, but they are designed to employ people and spend money.”)
And while I’m at it, here’s another unequivocal quote from George

Learning itself is different – it is not a process to be managed

, a statement which, if true, at a stroke invalidates pretty much the entire education system, which according to Gatto’s history was essentially designed as a utopian social management tool. And another quote from Siemens, which encapsulates much of the excellent advice that Aaron has been dispensing this past year:

The intent is to give the end user the control needed to respond effectively to personal learning goals (that extend beyond those identified by the course designer/instructor). Learners learn (at least according to constructivists) in chaotic ways based on personal interest, context, opportunities for application, etc. The learning ecology and tools utilized should permit learner control – both for the type of content explored and the manner in which it is explored (variety is the basis for most many theories of learning: brain-compatible, learning styles, multiple intelligence, etc.)

James Farmer quotes Stephen Downes on how LMS are already being superceded by ple’s,
which leads to an interesting conversation right here, and then there’s Auricle editor Derek Morrison’s interview with Oleg Liber, Professor of e-Learning at the University of Bolton, UK, which touches on (but skirts around) some of the same power and control issues of ple’s versus LMS’s, which interview I got from a post by James Farmer.
Auricle’s Derek Morrison blogs about what might be considered only a slightly different facet of the same issue, the industrial model of education and learning, and how

we are in the midst of a transformation to an industrial model of mass education, a transformation made possible, of course, through the mediation of information and communication technologies.

and the following quote could have come straight from Gatto:

But make no mistake that what lies at the core of the industrializing proponents is a belief in the need for control and management

Artichoke‘s previous post is on the same topic (more or less) and also chock full of references: seeming to lend weight to Brian‘s cynicism, Artichoke quotes Looi, Lim and Hung 2005 in proper scholarly fashion,

“Since the advent of information-communications technology (ICT) decades ago, reseach on how ICT can be used in education has been incessantly conducted. Despite “decades of funded study that have resulted in many exciting programs and advances these have not resulted in pervasive accepted, sustainable, large-scale improvements in actual classroom practice, in a critical mass of effective models for educational improvement, or in supportive interplay among researchers, schools, families, employers, and communities.” (Sabelli and Dede 2001). Looi, Lim and Hung 2005.

. (Indeed, Brian made his unconvinced point of view more forcefully and compellingly in a comment to Borderland‘s Deschooling Revolution post, of which this one of mine is merely a reprise or pale echo). Had Stephen Downes read Brian’s comment on Borderland, he might have responded differently. I would be very surprised if Stephen has not written about these issues (Downes’ writing is so prolific, I’m afraid to even start digging around to find it! See!! I knew it; I just popped over to Stephen’s OLDaily and right there at the top of the heap is this! Oh, wait, that disproves my point that it would be hard to find…!).

Yet Artichoke remains joyfully, perhaps foolishly, optimistic: Yet I am not disillusioned, I am helplessly addicted to potential and I still believe that the interconnectivity of the web might well be a deus ex machina for education.

Artichoke quotes Gatto (tho the link seems to be wrong):

#15. There is no reason to believe that any existing educational technology can significantly improve intellectual performance; on the contrary, to the extent that machines establish the goals and work schedules, ask the questions and monitor the performances, the already catastrophic passivity and indifference created by forced confinement schooling only increases. John Taylor Gatto

and (blogwhore warning) me, then goes on to echo Borderland in quoting Illich: As a curious edu_blogger I will affirm that many of these e learning opportunities have the potential to faithfully capture Ilich’s three purposes of education

A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at anytime in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known. (Illich Deschooling Society)

3 thoughts on “Is it all just hype?”

  1. Doug,
    Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out. I’d like to hear from people who are familiar with “critical literacy” and “critical pedagogy” if these two things are similar, as I suspect they are.

  2. What is Critical Literacy by Ira Shor is good background information about critical literacy. One sentence, “Essentially, then, critical literacy is language use that questions the social construction of the self” may generate some interest.

    I don’t think anyone has had the last say on all of this. I feel like we’re all looking at a smoking scrap heap, trying to decide what to do with it – if anything.

  3. Hey Autono,
    Thanks for the tip about the Gatto link – have fixed it up – I get helplessly overexcited when I unwind into a blog post, and do not exercise proper caution in checking all links.

    Re: “Yet Artichoke remains joyfully, perhaps foolishly, optimistic:”

    You will enjoy the fact that the first time I noticed your changing photos I was bemused by all those pictures of home – I wondered for a moment if you had somehow managed to link your photo libraries with the location of your visitors. LOL I remain foolish.

    Though perhaps this will be a blogging tool development for 2006

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