Education in the Age of the Technologist

This video presentation was originally given at Bar Camp Orlando 2015 on April 18, 2015. Why do some technology solutions seem to work in education while others don’t? Where are MOOCs missing the mark?

Education in the Age of the Technologist
by Joe Bustillos

Written, Presented & Edited by Joe Bustillos
“NASDAQ” from Smartsound Music (smartsound.com)
Young Girl at School Holding a Computer Mouse — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Bored Kid, http://winnersdrinkmilk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/mp900439553.jpg
Mrs. Wormwood, http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_b0OxpQN4CMQ/S80C2qQ1T_I/AAAAAAAAAZs/JloT1s0fX8g/s1600/wormwood.jpg
France in the Year 2000, Imagined by Illustrators in 1900, http://cdn.openculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/kidsimaginedatschool-e1343712476118.jpeg
edX (screen grab), https://www.edx.org/
Lynda.com (screen grab), http://www.lynda.com/Education-training-tutorials/1792-0.html?bnr=NMHP_blocks
Kahn Academy (screen grab), https://www.khanacademy.org/welcome
Long Beach desktop panorama © 2007 by joe bustillos
Synch-Session Run Thru with Henry Price © 2001 by Joe Bustillos, 08-15-2001
Lev Vygotsky, http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Vygotsky
Frank Smith, http://www.greatthoughtstreasury.com/author/frank-smith
Etienne Wenger, http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/EW-green-full.jpg
CSCL – OMAET Conference OMAET Saturday-200 © 2002 by Joe Bustillos, 01-12-2002
Computer Lab Joe © 2002 by Joe Bustillos, 06-04-2002
Wall of Screens Lifestyle © 2012 by Joe Bustillos 02-09-2012
Little Boy Playing with Cell Phone in Class — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis, http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=classroom%20technology&ctt=1#ai:MP900422528|mt:2|

References/Resources:

Transcript:

  • (Slide 1)
  • Hi, my name is Joe Bustillos,
  • This video is based on a presentation that I shared at BarCamp Orlando 2015, which is fitting because some of the inspiration for this presentation came from talks with folks connected to Code School, one of the local start-ups interested in teaching coding the best ways possible.
  • So, Education in the Age of the Technologist, and when I’m referring to education I’m referring mostly to K-12 Public ed, but my observations apply across the board, public or private, K-12 and higher-ed
  • (Slide 2)
  • The consensus is pretty much universal when we look at the state of education today: it’s broke.
  • I love this kid, I was this kid and when I was a classroom instructor I remembered what it was like to be this kid and tried to work with my students so that we could all avoid this state of boredom in the classroom
  • Let’s face it, Education, as it’s practiced today, is a vestigial institution that’s completely out of sync with how the world actually works
  • So, what do we do to fix this?
  • (Slide 3)
  • Thing is, public education is a bit like puberty, a coming of age thing that everyone had to go through & most weren’t entirely pleased with the process or end results.
  • So everyone has an opinion about what to do based on their own experiences…
  • And when we think about it, many seem to come to the conclusion, though they might not say it out right, that what we need to do is:
  • Get the human out of the loop
    • Reflecting back on the typical classroom experiences one tends to hear:
    • “I didn’t learn anything”
    • “I hate waiting for others”
    • “The teacher never gave me the help I needed”
  • Thus, many have concluded that we could fix a lot of problems if we could just Get the human out of the loop
  • Education, instead of being stuck in the past, could be something where every individual learner would get the support and attention that fits their learning style.
  • This is a dream that’s been thought about for a very long time…
  • (Slide 4)
  • This is a somewhat famous illustration that was published over a hundred years ago, thinking about what the classroom would be like in the year 2000!
  • Automate Education
    • Wouldn’t that be perfect?
      • No more waiting for the slowest person in the classroom
      • Assignments tailored to the needs of the learner,
      • Meaningful grading/assessments designed to help further the learning
      • And no waiting for a damn teacher to get back to you on how you did on that last assignment.
  • It’d be like the perfect video game:
    • Easy to get started, you have a good idea what the objective is
    • Anything you do has a direct connection to your status in the game:
      • If you get things done without errors you move forward
      • If you make a mistake, you wake up in the graveyard and get a chance to learn from your mistake, until you master the level
    • Everything you learn contributes to your chances of success moving forward
  • Automate Education
  • (Slide 5)
  • We actually kind of have that available today with things like Kahn Academy, Lynda.com and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) like EdX or Coursera, and Orlando’s own “Code School.”
  • So, how is this working out? What’s the data?
  • (Slide 6)
  • Video tutorial courses, like Kahn Academy or Lynda.com appear to be very viable (especially when you consider that Lynda.com was just bought by LinkedIn for a reported $1.5 billion).
  • MOOCs appears to be a different story – Though one should approach assessing the effectiveness of MOOCs cautiously because they haven’t been around for very long and the definitions for “success” aren’t entirely clear
  • That said, let’s look at one example of one of MOOCs problems: student completion rate (how many students register verses the number that participates in the class versus the number that successfully completes the course): Duke University course called “Bioelectricity” (Fall 2012):
    • 12,725 students enrolled
    • 7,761 watching a video
    • 3,658 attempted to complete a quiz
    • 345 did the final exam
    • only 313 passed the final exam and got their certificate for the course (Catropa 2013, Jordan 2013).

    • Even after you factor in the difference in engagement one might expect with courses that are free versus when one is paying high tuition… it does seem like something is clearly not working. And we’re talking about making high quality education available to anyone with an Internet connection. This is especially concerning when considering how many institutions (higher ed and K-12) are investigating the possibility of going online and using MOOCs as a model to follow.

  • (Slide 7)
  • My Own Online Experiences (both doctoral studies and MA & teaching in undergrad and grad university program) didn’t suffer from the same level of attrition reported by many MOOCs
    • Again, there’s a big difference in commitment and engagement when comparing programs with huge tuitions versus free course,
    • But there’s an even more fundamental difference…
  • (Slide 8)
  • Let me introduce you to Three Scholars who contributed to our understanding of the learning process that has direct bearing on why some programs seem to work better than others.
    • Etienne Wenger
      • Originally interested in computer science and got his PhD in artificial intelligence
      • But the initial research that pertains to our question, was research he did with Jean Lave, studying the learning practices and the learning processes used by apprentices to African tailors.
        • And what he uncovered was that learning was more than the acquisition of the basic skills or knowledge needed to be a competent tailor. Yes, one needed these skills and knowledge, but there was also a sociological transformation that the learner underwent when going from being someone literally outside of the tailor shop, to being an apprentice to being a competent practitioner to maybe becoming a master of the trade.
        • The success of the apprentices seem to involve much more interaction amongst the apprentices than direction/contact with the master tailor
        • The group of apprentices and the group of the master tailors need to welcome and recognize the learner as being part of the community for the learner to progress successfully
    • Lev Vygotsky
      • Soviet psychologist (1896–1934), his research centered on the role of the instructor resulting in something called ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development), which later researchers used to formulate something called Instructional Scaffolding
      • The idea is that we learn when we connect the new information/data/skill with previous understanding or skills
      • The learning is most powerful/effective when it’s based on previous understanding & experiences.
      • The role of the instructor according to Vygotsky is to guide the learner, to bring them from where they are to where they need to be.
    • Frank Smith
      • Wrote a book called The Book of Learning and Forgetting,
      • He wrote that there’s a dichotomy between what he called the “Official Theory of Learning” and what he called the “Classical view.”
        • The Official Theory is based on early Ed psychologists’ theory that we cannot tell if we’re being effective in our instruction unless we strip out all prior knowledge and see if students retain information when later tested. This philosophy was modeled after successes that were noted in how the Prussian Military trained their soldiers and later when the US Military in World War II needed to train massive numbers of soldiers in a way that was almost 100% consistent across several theaters of war. Rote memorization and constant drilling was the center of the Official Theory.
        • The problem with the Official Theory as it’s become translated into practice is that it’s reduced to studying for an exam, taking the exam and then forgetting everything after the exam. There’s no continued development and there’s no real building on prior knowledge or experience. It’s not connected to any prior learning and devoid of any sociological aspects of learning
        • The Classical View begins with the idea that we learn from those around us with whom we identify with. And then we do what they do until we’re proficient. The African tailors, the kids mastering MMORPGs, rookie technicians working for the phone company… we’re motivated to learn and over time we learn. Surprise, it’s a sociological process that couples doing with being identified with other doers.
  • (Slide 9)
  • So, why does Lynda.com seem to work while MOOCs are struggling:
    • First, what’s the learning objective, what are you trying to accomplish?
      • There’s a huge difference between trying to learn a single thing, like the Basics of using iBooks Author versus much larger learning goal, like becoming an online publishing expert or earning a college degree
    • The kind of instruction offered by well-produced video tutorials is sufficient for the task, but something that’s going to take longer to accomplish is going to require more than nice videos.
  • (Slide 10)
  • What did we learn from the three scholars:
    • Wenger said we learn best in groups
    • Vygotsky identified the best role of the instructor as being the bridge connecting the learner in a way works for the learner
    • Frank Smith wrote that we learn when we’re motivated by those we want to be like.
  • (Slide 11)
  • When I did my masters and doctorate online, we were studying educational technology so we naturally used technology, like IM and group chat, to make stronger connections with one another, beyond what was required. This was almost 15-years ago so our online class sessions were entirely text based, with all interaction flowing across the screen. Several of us added secondary chat rooms where only a few of us hung out during the class session and it had the effect of giving us a sense of feeling like we were all together in the same room and those of us in the secondary chat room were like the kids whispering in the back of the room.
  • There was also powerful aspect to having one’s study buddies always available for assistance or camaraderie via always-on IM sessions – it made learning ubiquitous. I wasn’t waiting for the weekly class sessions or assignments to interact with my friends, and with the interaction came more learning.
  • (Slide 12)
  • In a way, we actually put more humans into the loop, but in a way that worked and didn’t slow us or waste our time.
  • (Slide 13)
  • What we have to do is to recognize that we cannot use a technological solution on a problem that is essentially a sociological problem.
  • Just like everyone one having Word Processing applications didn’t make everyone into a writer, throwing technology at this problem won’t accomplish what we’re hoping for
  • (Slide 14)
  • The Challenge is how do we keep the things that work well with technology, self-paced instruction with instantaneous assessment, but also works with the social part of learning and being part of a learning community. What I love is that the introduction of technology is causing us or allowing us to really look at what works and how different methods work across different populations. We have a real opportunity to reimagine learning.
  • (Slide 15)
  • I’m Joe Bustillos, thank you for watching “Education in the Age of the Technologist”
  • My contact information is listed below and I will have links to my resources also listed below. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions in the discussion area.

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