Be Smart-Eat Your Thanksgiving Leftovers a Day Early!

by Staff Writers

Each year I take the opportunity during the Thanksgiving week to tackle some leftover topics that I had intended to write about during the previous year but never got around to. Some proved to be not quite big enough to devote an entire post to. Others were too large to cram into 1,500 words. This year, as a special treat, I present my Thanksgiving leftovers before the actual holiday so you will have the opportunity over the long weekend to explore some of these fascinating topics that never made it to the Education Unbound blog.

Appetizer: edX Update
This turned out to be a very insubstantial morsel with little more than the fact that a first pilot class had been conducted and some very superficial lessons learned from the experience. The most interesting of these tidbits from Anant Agarwal, edX's first president, was that the depersonalization inherent in the massive format of the course was partly overcome by the introduction of game elements. In this case, a green checkbox that illuminates when a correct answer is given. Unfortunately, this weak effort at "gamification," to use Agarwal's word, is exactly what game designer Elizabeth Sampat criticizes as a dilution of gaming in education.

Appetizer: Mythbusting the 5 Myths of Game-based Learning:
This offering from the Sources and Methods blog kept me waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th myths to be busted, and I'm still waiting for numbers 4 and 5. To recap the three posted to date: Game-based Learning is New, Games Work Because They Capture Attention, and I Need a Game That Teaches . . . All three posts completed to date present interesting points regarding the efficacy and potential of games for education.

One interesting point, given in refutation of the idea that games work because they capture attention is that games, by definition are voluntary. People play because they want to and are interested. Education, according to the author, is not a voluntary endeavor. My counter argument to this point then is, "Why can't learning be something that people want to do?" I look forward to the completion of the series.

Main Dish: Conflicted: Faculty and Online Education, 2012
The June 2012 report by Inside Higher Ed and the Babson Survey Research Group, Conflicted: Faculty and Online Education 2012, compiles the results of two surveys of educators and ed tech administrators regarding their experience with and attitude towards online education. The report shows a surprising division between the attitudes of educators and administrators in regards to the efficacy of e-learning and the future of it in higher ed.

The study focuses on "attitudes and practices related to all aspects of online education – including views on the quality of learning outcomes, issues of institutional support, and institutional rewards" (Allen, Seaman, Lederman, & Jaschik, 2012). It is a rich and detailed offering that has information from faculty survey data about faulty optimism for online learning, the quality of online education, the potential of online education, the perception of online education at other institutions, whether online learning is being pushed too aggressively, and institutional policies and support for online learning. For any interested in the medium and particularly what higher education faculty members think about the onrushing tsunami, this report is an excellent source.

Side Dish: Bloom's Digital Taxonomy
The concept of adapting Bloom's Taxonomy for Digital learning is great, and the interactive taxonomy wheel associated with this site is really cool to look at and play with. Ultimately though, this effort ends up not being particularly useful or insightful. It is engaging as a starting point as it provides some interesting examples of activities for each dimension, but in the end, it is a digital version of Bloom's Taxonomy rather than a re-envisioning of Bloom's Taxonomy for digital learning. This is a project that may be tackled in depth in this space in the future.

Side Dish: Gates Foundation Next Generation Learning
The purpose of the Next Generation Learning program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is to identify, support, and build off of schools that are doing exciting and innovative things in education through the use of technology. Here is their vision for the future:

"In order to support this vision of next generation learning the education sector needs three things: instructional building blocks for students and teachers; innovative learning models to demonstrate what's possible; and an enabling environment that allows innovation to take root and thrive.

  • Building Blocks: The creation of innovative learning paths requires some basic instructional building blocks, including: assessments aligned with college-ready standards; engaging digital content; systems that match student needs with content and delivery methods; technology-enabled professional development; and online platforms to deliver these diverse components.
  • Learning Models: Building blocks are a top priority, but equally important is the support of innovators willing to assemble building blocks to create next generation learning models. This "test kitchen" approach—using innovative solutions school-wide or in particular subject areas—will help demonstrate the feasibility of work in a live environment to increase student achievement.
  • Enabling Environment: In order for schools and districts in many states to adopt the building blocks and implement new learning models, policies such as seat time requirements, student-teacher ratios and charter caps must change. Also, entrepreneurs seeking to drive innovation in education must have access to funding and viable markets to adopt their next-generation models or tools." (Next Generation Classroom Technology)

This is a great project and one that has a lot of potential for helping to move the education system into the 21st Century. Look for future updates as this project progresses.

Dessert: The Internet and its Impact on the Future of Higher Ed
The PEW Research Center, in conjunction with Elon University's recently published The Future of the Internet seeks to answer the question: "How will the Internet change universities by the year 2020?" The online survey presented selected experts with "potential-future scenarios" to which the respondents were asked to give their expectations based on current knowledge and attitudes. Here are some of the trends that the experts polled expect to see in the next decade:

  • Economic realities will create a rigid class structures in higher education
  • New teaching methods and old mix
  • Increased diversity of what education looks like
  • Distance learning becomes mainstream
  • The residential vs virtual battle heats up
  • The academy will struggle with accepting change
  • There will be a more pronounced split between adopters and laggers
  • Collaborative and peer to peer learning will challenge lecture-based education
  • Competency-based credentials become a reality . . . but will meet resistance from universities

This is a rich dessert and one worthy of savoring, so I serve it here so my readers can take the time to dive into it as deeply as it deserves and satiate themselves during the Thanksgiving holiday.

If you are like me you are always too sick of cooking to truly enjoy the Thanksgiving feast by the time it is ready to eat. That's why leftovers always taste better. More importantly, you can eat them any time you like. My hope is that by providing these Education Unbound leftovers a day early, you will able to take your time, savor them, and give them the attention they deserve while you relax over the next several days. Bon Apetit!