Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Power of Reuse: Wikipedia in Action

Summary of a panel at the Hewlette Grantees' Conference. Errors are again my own.

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies
(See also his blog post with resources for this panel at )

In the past we've been saying that it's important to the field of OER to improve content. But really, it's about teaching and learning. So what is it about Wikipedia that is an opportunity for learning?

Jeanette Lee, the Cambridge School of Weston

We are integrating technology in the classroom, and students are always asking whether they can use Wikipedia. We have a handout we created on how to use Wikipedia. One of the students wanted to use the message box from an article, and we had a conversation about how to use it. So, students are using Wikipedia and the question is how to integrate it.

Amin Azzam, UCSF

The peer review process has sort of a stranglehold on academic advancement, but they were interested in partnering with Wikipedia such that if an author updated an article it might be counted as a publication. The meeting on this was just yesterday.

The medical students all go to Wikipedia first when they go o look something up, because it's written in a way they can understand, and then they go to a more reliable source. So then someone suggested that students could contribute to Wikipedia.

Dan Cook, Wiki Strategies

I'm a voracious consumer of Wikipedia. My work is both as a journalist and as a consultant. This week for example there was the experience of going from an article being marked for deletion to the potential removal of the banner altogether. I have these experiences pretty much on a daily basis.

I was part of the 'new journalism' when it was coined in the 80s. Secret sources and fights with the editors and all that. But now Wikipedia is the new journalism of today; leave your ego at the door, don;t use any modifiers, we don't want any spin. But it's a hard place for traditional journalists to work; we have to unlearn everything we learned about journalism.


I compare Wikipedia articles to an expository essay, which students have to learn. So getting them to understand that Wikipedia articles have structure, they have references, etc. So the idea is making the use of Wikipedia in academia transparent. People are using it, they're just using it quietly. It was about how to get a language to move between Wikipedia articles and the more traditional essay.

A funny statistic from Pew, from February: 90 percent of AP and National Writing teachers find information online for their classes; 90 percent use Google, 87% use Wikipedia, but they discourage their students from using it. So there is this contradiction. So we need to get out in front and deal with this contradiction. We need a PR campaign or something, so people know it is legitimate to use in their classrooms.

Amin: Yes, 87-93% of medical students admits to using it.

Dan: If you could just get them to take the next step and look at their sources!

Jeanette: yes, that's what we want them to do, it's a great skill to develop.

Amin: there's roughly 26K articles in the medical field, but a lot of them have room for improvement. One thing wwith my students is they're in the final year of med school, so they can contribute, but they haven't lost the ability to speak English yet.

Pete: the articles I contributed to most were on topics I was learning about. Also, Amin mentioned 'English Wikipedia'. This points to a way where Wikipedia and OER have a lost of aspirations in common. (Reads from letter mourning the death of Babu Gi, from Kerala, and commemorating his contributions).

Amin: discusses the translation of medical articles into other languages. Wikipedia has an initiative called 'Data Zero' to give access to Wikipedia content for free. To me this is a no-brainer. (See )

Jeanette: opportunities for OER to learn from Wikipedia - I don't have students contribute to Wikipedia, but I do have students use materials from Wikipedia and OER Commons - I do hand over a lot of content to students, and then they create the content that everyone uses. I give them the option: either I lecture, or you do this project. Usually they choose the project. And they know that everybody will be using the material for understanding the text. I view Wikipedia as part of the OER community, and it's a way for them to use Wikipedia even if they can't contribute (they're just high school students, I would have too many permissions I have to fill out).

Amin: there's a source of med information by students for students called 'Up To Date', it's called 'crack for medical students', but it's subscription, and they don't realize how much the school has to pay.

Pete: where do students become ready to contribute to Wikipedia?

Jeanette: I think definitely there are high school students ready for that.

Amin: it's a question of what fraction of school work is contributing. For example in my class they have peer review. They need this support.

Jeanette: some projects are individual and some are group. Anything that's a presentation for the class, they grade it, I don't grade it.

Pete: I see this as a new journalism and I would like to see training begin in the classroom, so they don't get the bad habits I got. When will students work on Wikipedia?

Jeanette: there are concerns about privacy, that's the barrier. I do think it would be a hard sell for some districts. Showing districts how they can use Wikipedia would be much easier.

Amin: my students had to create user names, so we could track their contribution. They began with non-descriptive user names, but eventually made it clear they were future doctors.

Pete: there is this culture of anonymity in Wikipedia. It's a major part of the ethos. But then there's the potential for conflict of interest; we don't want the chief of Enron writing the article.

Dan: why did reporters have bylines? So they could be held accountable. Journalists especially need to have user names that are transparent and they should describe themselves in a transparent way. There needs to be a high level there. When I search to see if an article is credible, I don't like seeing that the author is anonymous. Wikipedians will have to grapple with this.

Amin: the concept of anonymity almost doesn't exist any more. They have their Facebook pages, they scrub them clean before going into med school.

Dan: I think it's people in my generation, they don't want to give up their social security numbers, etc.

Jeanette: developing people who are comfortable as Wikipedia users, as they go into college, they're used to working in that kind of environment.

Amin: my future students will be already equipped knowing how to be contributors.

Q: there are now things where you can remix in the OER space; but in schools there is this top-down ethic about who is eligible to do that (it has to be curriculum specialists, etc).

Amin: I consider the medical librarian an equal partner in the course, and the Wikipedia contributors to be equal partners. There's no way for any of us top be experts in everything. It takes a village.

Pete: Wikipedia and OER are characterozed by people coming together in ways that were never anticipated, and saying to previous generations, we're not waiting around for you any more. We want to address content gaps. Etc. The sort of thing that doesn't work well in that crowd-sourced way. Eg. the small number of contributions by women.

Q. Pete said to me, the first thing they do after you tell them about OER, they go to Google and search for it, and find the article on Wikipedia. Do you care about what they're reading? Do you feel this is your responsibility? What ought we be doing in this community?

Pete: it's not an easy process, it doesn't have easy boundaries, you have to decide what's important for yourself, and you have to think about how much you can get in, how to work with other people.

Amin: Wikipedia is not a democracy, it's a do-ocracy.

Q: it seems to be impermanent, in the beginning, anything we thought was of value was not surviving. But the value is where you should be participating. It does compel participation. We made a lot of mistakes, but most of our articles are surviving now; it's about participating in the community. Our students talk about 'surviving the Wikipedia process'. But that's the strength of Wikipedia.

Pete: we see this dynamic a lot. People contribute an article and it's highly imperfect, just what was in the newspaper. And then a few years later an expert comes along, and says there's all these errors. And I say to them, "when were you going to do this?" When would you write the article, without having seen all the errors.

Dan: I tell people, "go to the talk pages". That's where you can see the process at work.

Q: does it make sense to have a Wikimedian-in-residence in OER?

Amin: Brillian idea.

Jeanette: I totally agree with that. And Wikipedia has done a good job partnering with universities. Such a person could encourage partnering with districts.

Q: question was more whether it would conflict with the Wiki education foundation?

Pete: no it would not at all. I know most of those people, I think there would be delight.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

OER Business Models - A Debate

This is a summary of a debate including four participants, listed below, at OER2014. Errors and omissions are still my own.

What is your mission in OER and what is your business model?

David Harris - OpenStax

It's really about access, providing access to the highest quality OERs possible. A whole suite of products beyond the textbook. We've created an ecosystem around learning materials. This ecosystem is the core of our business. Eg. we might partner with John Wiley & sones. We works with multiple partners to provide more options and choice for our partners.

Lisa Petrides - IKSME

Our mission is about maximizing all of these open access tools that enable breakthroughs in teaching and learning. We build tools, develop capacity, support the OER Commons library, etc. There are two main components to the business model: first, the R&D side, and second, the service department, that offers services around the capacity-building piece, showing people how to organize and use their content. The core is, how does it impact the learner?

David Wiley - Lumen

Two-fold mission: save students money and improve student success. We have a particular focus on at-risk students, so especially the community college. The business model is based on helping faculty make the transition from commercial to open textbooks. Any course that we provide support for we charge a per-enrollment fee. All the content is CC-licensed content, and the platform is open source as well.

Gary Lopez - MITE / Ed-Ready

Our mission is to improve access to everyone. The goal of the inrov project is to make sure online K-12 content is available to every person at no cost. The business model supports business and mission goals. In addition tot he content, there is a membership component, whgich supports both goals.

Reactions: To Gary: if your're not a member of the community, what are your rights of access? Gary: if you're an individual you have full rights to use and re-use. We focus on institutions - if you're an institution, we ask that you join our membership.

What does it mean to be sustainable?

Lisa - ISKME is a non-profit. It's very much of a Linux model - the content itself should forever be free and open. Access is always available. It's different from what Gary talked about - it means that any wrap-around services are going to be another type of service, eg., we might to an LTI or API integration, or a workflow process - some such thing. The key to being sustainable is to always ask, how do we keep that part (the core part) free?

Gary - there a fundamental difference between for-profits and non-profits in their goals. In for-profits the business goals are financials, and officers have a responsibility to achieving financial goals. Unless there's a special arrangements to make supporting OERs the goal, the financial responsibility always rises to the top. When a non-profit is set up, the mission is the goal.

David - sustainability is critical to us, especially if you are on the producing side of OER, and especially if you think it has to be a market-based solution, which means it has to be of high quality. I think it is irresponsible of a non-profit to assume you will be given philanthropy. As you move toward sustainability you get greater independence and greater opportunity to pursue strategies that support the mission. As a non-profit we don't have the overhead that for-profits need to generate, so we can produce at a lower cost.

David Wiley - what's my ongoing ability to continue to meet my goals? For Lumen it means being able to continute to partner with institutions and continue to drop the price to zero, and be able to look beyond the grant.

Reactions: Lisa - the two people beside me came from the publishing side. What was that like?

Gary: I dodn't copme from publishing; I was faculty. My company got purchased by Harcourt. You don't have a cost of money. You can go into markets more aggressively. Davis Harris: we started out pro-market, but then it became just about the shareholders, which I didn't like. To provide the greatest access, we have to think about marketplace solutions.

Lisa: let's look at this. What's been working in open food has been from the bottom-up. But we are still working from a top-down perspective (eg., responding to concerns raised by publishers).

David Wiley: we became for-profit to maximize our ability to succeed, eg., we can partner with institutions, and we can get more traditional investment as well, so we don't have to rely on grants. The quality issue Dave prings up is interesting; hostorically nobody talked about quality - it was always some proxy for quality. What's the only actual condition? Whether kids learn from it. So we don't get distracted by how glossy it is.

David Harris: you are misinterpreting what really counts as quality. Eg. there are review boards, etc.

Gary: we're gathering data, that data has to do with efficacy, whether people succeed. It was before that the issue of whether people were actually learning never came into the equation (with commercial publishers).

Lisa: so 'sustainability' in OERs is about learning.

Ho do you define OER, and why do yopur think your busineess is OER?

Gary: we don't think about the definition of OER. We're focused on our mission to provide access to quality education for evertone. Whether or not something falls within the definition is secondary.

David Harris: I don't think it matters what I think it is, that's defined by the license we use. We use the CC-by license, which is critically important, because it provides freedom to the end user. We use this to sell the concept to academics. They realize they can publish derivative versions, for example.

David Wiley: I'm on the other end of the scale; I obsess about it. There's a two-part - there has to be free and unfettered access to the resource; and I have to have free and perpetual ability to engage in the 5R activities. As a matter of contract, any school we work with, the license says the work we produce has tp be OER.

Lisa: how we define OER is that it isn't a thing, it is a practice; it includes content and curation and quality and rigor and standards and change in teaching practice. When we say we are in the business of OErs it is about free and open access to the world's knowledge. It's in the last few years we've really understood our role as a public library; we're not serving an institution. The other thing about OER Commons is we aggregate all of the licenses into four buckets.

David Harris: we have to be careful as a community because over the next 12-18 months we will see more and more 'openwashing' by major publishers, because OER is establishing a brand identity. And questions about who should be producing it?

Gary: anyone who want to. Who shouldn't?

David Wiley: to Lisa, if the category becomes so broad, it's difficult to know what we're ftalking about. Eg. open pedagogy is different from OER.

Lisa: our open speaker used the work 'ecosystem'. You cna't just have the seed: you need the market, and the water. It has to be inclusive of the whole piece. Otherwise you have ssomething disjointed and not sustainable. Eg. if you have contenbt and nobody uses it, how is it that we have OER? It can't just be about this thing.

David Wiley: but each of the parts of the econsystem has a name, the ecosystem is 'open education'.

Gary: but it does show that just creating them and putting them out there has no value. You have to maintain them, have version control, etc. That's hard.

Q3. What does it mean to say we're giving the seeds away for free, but not the water, etc?

Lisa: well that'\s why we say it's a whole ecosystem. As opposed to the strategy of building this part, then that part, etc. If you build the whole thing at once, that's sustainable.

David Harris: yes, but we thionk we don't have to build the whole ecosystem ourselves. If you are going to build the whole system, you can't have everything free, all the time. You are going to need revenue.

Gary: lets get back to access and equity. Free access doesn't mean anything if you don't get back to the mission, which is to help people succeed. So there need to be measures you can measure to show that you can attain that. We should all be thinking about the mission. We don't have to build it all ourselves. We're all working in different ways, but united in purpose.

David Wiley: it's like the whole approach to OERs in the early days was like we set up a table with seeds, and said, here are free seeds, we've solved world hunger. Then we argued a lot about what the boxes look like, And we're learninging we have to add more support.

David Harris: but we're also learned that equity doesn't mean it always has to be free.

Gary: books are expensive because they're expensive to create. That's not free, and we have to find ways to pay for it, to bring the price down but not scrimp on the value we create.

David Wiley: it would be interesting to see what are all the steps involved in producing high quality materials. It would be interesting what happens when we pull out some of the steps and see whether there is a difference in equity.

David Harris: faculty would demand full evidence. That gets into scale. How many of those conversations could we have?

Gary: I think we can always come back to an economic argument to suppoort it.

Lisa: I think we should have an equivalent of true cost accounting for this.

David Harris: I don't think it will be looking at the efficacy of learning systems. But learning systems are not inexpensive to develop.

What is the impact of an open license on a sustainable business model?

David Wiley: two different ways: open licenses completely enable everything we do, because the licenses create the infracture that supports everything we do. On the other hand, because we have this licensing requirement, then  putting that license in a contract (and being willing to walk away when it's not there) helps us snowball the value we can provide every time we work with somebody.

Gary: David is sport on. But th impact is, any license will limit therange of business models that are possible. So a business model limited by an open license means not restricting usage of the system to people with buying power. And if usage is not so limited, then it opens up other models - by selling services, by selling secondary materials such as advertising, etc. You need to build the business model first, then craft the license.

Lisa: our business model depends on having etachers and institutions, etc., to actually work with on these projects. The license acts as a conduit to make this happen. Because without the license we wouldn't have the users. As nice as it is to have big government initiatives, the majority of people have actually created their own kind of license that meets their needs. That's why we've created this mapping into four buckets. One is a free-for-all, another is a remix-and-share, another is share, and another is read-the-fine-print.

Davoid Harris: i agree, you need a common set of licenses sso you have a common language. Gary's system would create a proliferation of licenses, you meet business needs, but not learning needs. people were concered about CC-by licenses, because you lose control. But these concerns were misplaced. I have seen very little profiteering from it. And on the positive side we have 30 ecosystem partners. It may be called an open license, I call it an innovation license.

Gary: yes, there would be a lot of versions. But the question is, how it impacts sustainability. If there are limited numbers of license, there are limited ways to create sustainability. That's what we're doing. A lot of what we have is CC-by, but other stuff has a different license. This was never going to be a debate. Business modles speak for themselves, they either work or they don't.

David Wiley: on license proliferation, even within Creative Commons, we have some Legos, we have some Duplos, we have some knockoffs that don't fit either. At the end of the day we have some questions about whether the different licenses actually fit. There's a finite amount of time and effort we can undertake to make them fit together.

David Harris: David is correct. If there were mnore standardization around a common license, there would be more activity, more remixing.

Gary: Let's get back to mission. If our mission is to help people learn, we can get stuck in a rut on this. There are many ways to help people.

How do you forsee your business models disrupting existing business models?

David Harris: we've disrupted the higher ed publishing industry in the folloing ways: from day one, all students have access to the learning materials; second, we have lowered costs even when open licenses are not used, because there is a ripple effectof lower costs; and third we are leveling the plaaying field of non-standard  producers. We are breaking barriers down. Forth, OER can be blended now, because of OpenStax materialss - people take small pieces and embed them in online learning envrionments. We are supporters of open data; publishers were previously very closed with their data.

Lisa: aside from the cost, etc., the role of what you teach and how you teach is often determined in a top-down way, especially in K-12, but we are actually empowering teachers to take back control of the professionalism of their own practice; they leave and take the practices back to their classrooms and we get calls from boards saying "what's going on?" Also, in some ways as a field, we went to far too quickly gto try to define what sustainability was.

David Wiley: i don't like to use the 'd' word. I don't think we're there yet. I think in some ways we're starting to be annoying to publishers. But I don't think we've broken open the market yet. Once we take a billion dollars oout of the market then we'll be there. Where there has been some stuff going on is this intuition that 'you get what you pay for' - this is opening up some efficacy reserach conversations. I would cite John Hilton's work is more exhaustive on OERs than all the peer-reviewed work on the efficacy of pearson's work.

Gary: we actually may have crossed over this year, and disruption many have happened. Eg. math product - the system has been adopted by states like Montana, Utaha, Hawaii, nd more. And we've been adopted  by hundreds of schools. So what does Ed-Ready disrupt? It eliminates texts, tuitions and time involved in math remediation. And the efficacy is bringing people from secondary to post-secondary at an unrepcedented rate. And those who are using Ed-Ready are remixing it. In Montana there are some 400 versions of it. And we are really upsetting Pearson.

David Harris: it doesn't take 30-40% market share to impact publihers. 10% works.

Gary: that depends on the market. It is true in the book market, but not the assessment market.

David Wiley: one strategy we've had is not to go after individual courses, but to go aafter entire degree programs. When you can flip the entire degree program, now as a student I can actually budget for it. We've now pulled a third of the cost out of a degree program.

Gary: what we're seeing is not opnly are we displaying high-stakes texts, we're creating pathways. We find ourselves being adopted by a college, and then being adpated by their feeder systems. The uptake by feeders systems has been breathtaking.

Lisa: I love and applaude these efforts, eg., the high stakes test alteratives. But what does it mean to ahve the market. We're still doing ecucation pretty much the way we were. It still costs money. I'm still looking to see what's possible in this market. What does it look like to have the corner store? What does it look like to have the seed exchange? We need a way to see what it could look like the other way.

Gary: we're beginning to see this. We're beginning to see what it looks like when people build things that meet their own needs. We're not just seeing people build more stuff. We're seeing people build stuff that works better. Eg. to supporrt personal learning. We're coming up against some of the real tenets of pub,lic education which is not working.

Closing Statements

Gary: I'm delighted we're analyzing and re-examining our mission. Also, though, we should be looking at how to rebuild the connectedness in the community. Perhaps that's because it seems like we're competing with each other. But we don't see that this is so; we're competing with pearson and the commercial publishers. So I hope this will be the start of a clear commitment to OER and to one another.

Lisa: pne one hand we're not competing in a traditional way, but at the same time I think some of our ideas and how we're going about them might be in conflict with others, but that's still OK, but we suffer from the milquetoast that we're all one big happy family - let's have more disagreement. Some people day "don't put a crack in what we're doing" but i think we should be innovative, have arguments - competition does push us forward.

David Harris. First, please recommend OpenStax to others. Now, there was a Gates report - there is great opportunity for OERs. But our market size is 3-4%. So we are an irritant. There is a debate of whether we focus on supply or demand. But of course we need to do both. Yes we need supply. But just building it is not enough. We need to build the tools. The goal is to get to 10% of the market - if we do, we can win the market. If we work together we can do it.

DavidWiley. So, amen and hallaluja to everything else that has been said. Don't make seeds and put them on the table. Pick a problem and go try to solve that problem. Pick developmental math and go try to solve that problem. Pick something concrete and go fix it. If it's concrete enough you'll know that you've fixed it. Everyone on this panel - we've picked a problem. Who is feeling pain, how can we fix this pain, then we went and solved it.

Closing points:

- over the next year or so, there will be ways to continue this conversation - eg.Creative Commons business model project (Lumen learning - )
- we don't all have to agree on things, it's good to have polite disagreements (Oscar Wilde - "friends stab you in the front")
- applause please

A Lexicon of Sustainability

This is a summary of a talk at the Hewlett Grantees' Meeting, San Francisco, March 25, 2015. Errors (and typos, etc) are my own.

Douglas Gayeton
Lexicon of Sustainability

Our food system is opaque. We asked people to develop a lexicon around food sources

We started with the word 'sustainability'. That is one of the most opaque words. I asked a native hunter - he said he watches what the animals eat; they always leave something behind. I asked a farmer; she said it was about survival. I asked Miguel, who started growing organic food because it was too expensive.

How to tell these stories? Photography is great, but it only captures one image at a time, one moment in time. I looked at a place where he grows fishg in boxes, the waste is used to grow tomatos, and he also grows worms. How do you tell that story in one photo? You can't - I made a compossite after taking thousands of photos.

What if I had him tell me what the word 'vermiculture' means? You can combine the words with the picture and tell a good story.

So we went around the United States and created a lexicon of sustainability. We created a book - the focus groups came back: "Nobody knows what 'lexicon' means."

The power of graphical ideas: thought bombs.Photo composites with words all over them. By making things graphical and textual at the same time you engage people's left brain and right brain at the same time. You create a deconstrucive nattarative. Thing Sherlock Holmes: "all the answers were in this room. We just had to piece them together in the proper order." From a passive learning experience to an active learning experience.

Knowing words - learning what they mean - can change the way entire industries work. A loaf of bread - a list of ingredients - most pof them did not exist 20 years ago. The Bible used to be written in Latin only - that is what an opaque religion looks like. But what if we published the book in the language that we speak?

Eg. rBST is the name of a growth hormone fed to cows. A farmer sold milk without rBST - he was sued by Monsanto (they eventually lost). Or consider - what is the "cage free egg"? What does it mean? I asked the producer what it means. Pasture raised. But nobody knows what that means.

What is the real cost of cheap food? People growing food according to values are competing against an industrial system that has externalized all its costs. The concept of 'true cost accounting' looks at hpw much something really costs. Consider a river - it provides free energy, and can be used to dispose of waste. We always pay when we get things cheap.

The best example when we look at food is the 'cow to pickup truck indes' - the value of a grass-fed cow compared to a truck. How can these compete against an indistrial system? Convincing people of the value of voting with their dollars. There's this idea of organics and eating locally.

There's a movement to have producers say whether food contains GMO organisms. It would force food producers to be transparent. It is opposed by Monsanto and others who benefit from an opaque system. GMOs aren't always bad - eg., a variant of papaya that was resistant to a disease, which was in danger of being wiped out in Hawaii. People talk about GMOs as privatizing seeds, etc - vbut that didn't happen here; he open-sourced the seeds.

Or another term - 'antibiotic free' - 80% of the antibiotics are fed to livestock, and they're not even sick, because they gain weight quickly. So there's going to be a movement to lable antibiotics in meat.

In fisheries, the term 'red snapper' doesn't mean you're getting red snapper. There's always the pressure to give you fish close enough to what you always get (so fish are predictable like tomatos). There's an initiative to tag a fish so you know where and how it was sourced.

The concept of 'identity preserved' gives us a sense of where the food that is grown goes - for example, wheat grown in California that is shipped to Italy to become pasta.

Before the second world war we spent 30 of our money on food. But after the war we applied economies of scale to everything. Everything was centralized. Everything was based simply on price. How do you reverse hat? It's a big challenge.

There's a town called Greensboro that died. They went and asked an old man what ahppened, he didn't know, but he said they they used to be able to get a pie of pie in a pie shop. They re-opened the pie shop, and the town began to grow again. You can't have commerce without food. Peopl are beginning to apply the principle of 'terroir' - the idea that everything has a place - to the food industry (in the shellfish inustry it's 'aguoir').

'Community Supported Agriculture' (CSA) - is where they get a box of food every week that is locally sourced. They are being more connected to their food, who grows it, where it's grown. Or a pie shop in San Francisco set up a CSAA for fish. This used to be commonplace. In Italy they knew to never buy fish on a Monday - wait until Tuesday when it's fresh. This is an example of people being connected to their food.

A regional food hub - people are rebuilding what was dismantled when the industrial food system came in. People in the community selling for many producers. Producers pooling transportation costs cooperatively.

There is the concept of a 'food desert' where there was no food in a 6-square mile range. I wenmt to a local supermarket - no food - just candy, chips, alcohol, etc. Consumers non't know they have other choices. There's a new 'corner store' movement - inserting places to buy local food in these corner stores.

It's a system that is made by people. The average age of a farmer is 57. People are scrambling to educate young farmers. The concept is 'green collar' - they give people land and training, for a period of time (then you have to find your own land). It's a 'farm incubator'.

And there's a 'kitchen incubator'. Setting up people with kitchens, business training, etc. - that's how you reinvent local food systems. Systems that are based on value.

So - what's the verdict? I'm not pessimistic when I see seed swaps. Upswaping, to convert lamnd to farmland. We took this to Mexico - in Mexico 'organic' didn't mean aanything. Every Mexican, though, knows the meaning of GMOs - because corn in their national food. We learned, we need to speak to people in their own language.

We do projects based on protability - PDFs you can distribute. We do puppet shows. We do food conferences. We help with street events. You can go to our website, you can download our resources. We have a website, launching next month, the 'lexicon of food'. All resources open sourced and free. Showing what people farms. Doing projects teaching people about aquaponics. We do 'market makeovers'. We have kids in Mexico making inages to explain their food system.

It's very powerful because it's made by people. It's people-sourced.

What will be your 'Road to Damascus' moment?

Q: what about school lunches?

A. people are confronting that problem. Politicians won't spend more money on school lunches until they see the value in it. Right now that's opaque.

Q. I don't know a lot about food, but what I do know about is beer. What I've seen taking over Virginia is craft breweries, where people grow their own hps, etc. Peo[ple are willing to pay $9-$9 per glass.

A. They say people always centralize industries but that's not true. Another example is the music industry.

Q. Often discussion of open educaation is overely cerebral. But food today is your #1 cool thing. You can convince poeple with photos with food, but in education it's harder.

A. Our projeect is not about food, it's about climate change. People don't identify with climate change. But you take all the ideas that contribute to climate change as clear as possible, so you can't mistake the message overall. The idea of the taxonomy is to pinpoint all the individual ideas of a thing and make them clear.

Q. We are using terms in education that people believe they already know and we are using them in different ways. How did you grab people and help explain the complexities.

A. First we make everything as conversational and without jargon as possible. And second, we say we are not out to make the definitivee lexicon of things. Wiords are shifting and changing. It's our biggest problem with Wikipedia - it doesn't have enough context to show all the contexts a term can be used in.

Q. termss - like taxonomy - can acquire baggage over the years. Eg. GMOs - we read all our foods are genetically modified over time. You see that in education all the time - all the different terms for 21st century skills.

A. We did a show; they kept asking for a list of all the images and we set them. It was only at the last minute we set up the GMO image of papayas. They said "what are you thinking?" There was a lot of opposition. All of these terms should elicit the fact that it's not a fixed idea, it's a dynamic idea.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Design Elements in a Personal Learning Environment

In this paper I would like to address the core design elements in the development of a personal learning architecture being developed in the National Research Council's Learning and Performance Support Systems program. This program was developed and approved to address the issue of skills shortages in technical and professional industries in Canada. It is an issue that costs Canadian industry billions of dollars a year while thousands of Canadians remain unemployed. Our solution is to provide each person with a single point of access to all their skills development and training needs, individualizing their learning path, providing learning support, and supporting learning tailored to industry needs and individual performance support.

This program builds on the National Research Council's deep connection to the e-learning industry, including collaboration and commercialization across the sector. The program draws on NRC's research in other fields, such as machine learning and analytics. And NRC is free to take risks on technology that might daunt commercial providers. NRC's track record in this sector includes the leadership role it played in the eduSource network of learning object repositories, the Sifter/Filter content recommender later commercialized as Racofi, sentiment analysis in learning, the Synergic3 collaborative workflow system, and more.

NRC's Learning and Performance Support Systems program touches on all parts of Canada's learning technology, but has the most direct impact on the learning management system (LMS) sector. This is an area that includes content management systems, talent management systems, and the LMS. It also impacts content developers and e-learning distributors, including MOOC distributors and educational institutions. It also impacts end users themselves: not only students and individual learners, but also their employers.

In recent years NRC has become widely known for developing and refining the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), including the creation of the technology behind the original Connectivism and Connected Knowledge (CCK08) MOOC offered in 2008, creating a dynamic connected application to support learning. The MOOC combined several themes which were in themselves becoming increasingly important: the idea of massively multi-user environments, the idea of using open and distributed content, the idea of fully online delivery, and the packaging of these as an online course.

The NRC-designed MOOC differs significantly from traditional courses. The most obvious difference is that the course is not located on a single platform, but is instead a web created by linking multiple sites together. The architecture of this web is intended to optimize four design principles: each member of the web operates autonomously, the web links diverse services and resources together, the web is open and supports open engagement, and the web encourages cooperative learning.

As mentioned, the first course offered using this model was CCK08, delivered through the University of Manitoba and taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. It attracted 2300 students and connected more than 170 distinct online resources during its 12 weeks. In the years that followed CCK would be offered three more times. Additionally, the same platform was used to deliver a course called Personal Learning Environments, Networks and Knowledge (PLENK) in 2010, as well as the 30-week course on Change.

In 2011 Stanford University offered its first MOOC, the Artificial Intelligence MOOC authored by Norvig and Thrun. It differs from the network-based connectivist MOOCC (cMOOC), though, by being centred on a single platform and focusing on content like a traditional course. The xMOOC, as this model came to be known, is characterized by limiting autonomy and diversity - all students followed the same lessons at the same pace. Although it was open, interaction flowed one-way, from professor to student.

It is also worth contrasting the pedagogy of the cMOOC from the xMOOC. Engagement is at the core of cMOOC learning. Participants aggregate resources from multiple sources, remix these in various ways, adapt and repurpose them to their own needs, and then share them. If we look at the structure of the course from this perspective, we see a network of individual learners interacting with each other and exchanging, and working with, diverse resources obtained from a variety of internet sources.

Looked at more deeply we can describe specific support requirements for each student. A student creates a resource, and makes this available to the course where it is accessed by a second student, who via this resource finds a third student's resources. From the course provider perspective, students contribute content metadata and the learning provider may create additional content, all of which is accessed and shared by course participants, who may also attend live online events or access event recordings. From the student's perspective, by contrast, the view is to a set of other students or course instructors, and via interactions with these course participants, to a wide range of resources and services across the wider internet, everything from blog posts to YouTube videos.

To support a student's involvement, therefore, technology design is based on the idea of putting at the centre of a learning network, connecting via a single environment to other participants, course resources, and myriad online services. This in turn suggests a simplified design that supports this student-centered approach with connections to learning support applications, and in particular, to resource repositories, to external cloud media storage, to learning applications and APIs, and to external graph-based analytics. These components form the core of the Learning and Performance Support Systems (LPSS) technology development proposal, which incorporates these connective elements with a personal learning record to support lifetime management of credentials, training records, and learning activities, and a personal learning assistant to manage the system.

The NRC LPSS program is a 5-year $20 million effort designed to develop these core technologies and bind them with a common platform. The program applies this technology through a series of implementation projects with commercial and technical partners, including other NRC and Government of Canada (GoC) branches. These projects are managed through a program organization that maps the technology effort to client demands and the employment outcomes described at the beginning of this paper. Program deliverables include not only the technology development, which will be implemented in corporate, institutional and government environments, but also a series of publications and white papers describing the LPSS learning network, how and why it works, and how to connect to it.

Also LPSS can be viewed as a stand-alone system, it is designed in a distributed and modular fashion in order to enable it to be inserted, for example, directly into work environments and corporate contexts, directly addressing human resources and training requirements. This interoperability is achieved through the personal learning assistant (PLA). Like an LMS, the PLA displays learning resources and plays interoperable learning technology (using standards such as ADL's SCORM or IMS's LTI). But it also the leading edge to much more. As mentioned above, the LPSS program is developing five core technologies, linked by the Common Framework (CF). These are the aforementioned PLA, the Resource Repository Network (RRN), Personal Cloud (PC), Competency Development and Recognition Algorithms (ACDR), and the Personal Learning Record (PLR).

Let us examine these in more detail. The first of these is the Resource Repository Network (RRN), needed to provide connectivity with external resources. This package of applications enables a user to manage and discover lists off sources and resources. In a sense, it functions like the syndicated content (RSS) readers of old, but is designed to access and manage many different forms of content, including calendar information and modern Javascript-based (JSON) descriptions of courses and programs.

A second aspect of LPSS is the Personal Cloud (PC) set of applications. These applications manage personal cloud storage services. Some of these are familiar, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, and some of these are innovative, such as personal home-hosted cloud storage using OwnCloud. But more is involved than merely storing data; resources must be secured, backed up, authenticated and synchronized. This enables LPSS to support genuine data portability, and eliminate reliance on a single provider.

As mentioned above, interoperability is achieved through the Personal Learning Assistant (PLA). In addition to displaying learning resources and running e-learning applications, the PLA is designed to 'project' LPSS capacities into multiple platforms. These include not only desktop and mobile devices, but productivity applications such as Word and PowerPoint, interactive environments such as conferencing systems and synchronous communications platforms, simulations and games, as well as tools and devices. The PLA exchanges information with these environment, enabling them to interact intelligently with the user. One example of this kind of integration is LPSS's integration with another NRC product called 2Sim, which provides virtual haptic training simulations in medical environments. By exchanging activity data (using the Experience API, or xAPI data exchange format) LPSS supports a continuous learning path using these systems.

This points to an additional set of services that can be integrated into a distributed learning application, Automated Competency Development and Recognition (ACDR). This is a set of intelligent algoritms designed to import or create competency definitions matching employment positions, to support the development of learning plans based on these competencies, to provide resource and service recommendations, and to tackle the seriously challenging task of assessing performance based on system and network interactions. It is worth noting that while LMSs and xMOOCs tout learning analytics, only a distributed personal learning network application can apply analytics using a person's complete learning and development profile, and not only the specific LMS or cMOOC.

This functionality is enabled by the Personal Learning Record (PLR), which collects learning records and credentials obtained through a lifetime and stores them in a secure locker owned by the individual and shared only with explicit permission. The PLR collects three major forms of records: learning activity and interactivity records, such as xAPI records; a person's personal portfolio of learning artifacts and evidence; and the person's full set of credentials and certifications, these verified by the issuer.

It should be noted that LPSS recognizes, and is designed to cooperate with, existing personal learning environment and personal learning records, including Europe's Responsive Open Learning Environments (ROLE) project and start-ups such as Known, Learning Locker and Mahara. Additionally, LPSS is designed to work with MOOC providers - not only NRC's gRSShopper but also Coursera and EdX. We've integrated badges in a Moodle and Mahara environment for the Privy Council Office, we're doing xAPI application profile development, and are engaged in collaborative workplace training and development. These implementation projects (as we call them) reinforce LPSS's mandate to be more than just a theoretical exercise, but to apply the technology in authentic environments, supporting individuals in a learning network and feeding this experience back into product improvement.

It may be suggested that there are any number of companies engaged in aspects of learning analytics, personal learning records, learning technologies integration, and the like. But the LPSS approach is different - by creating many small things linked together instead of one large centralized application, many tasks that were formally simple - like data storage, content distribution, authentication and analytics - become that much more difficult. Take analytics, for example - how do you do big data analysis across thousands of separate systems each with its own unique data structure? These are the hard problems NRC is trying to solve.

LPSS launched in an initial pre-alpha version October 1, 2014. Invitations may be obtained by going to and filling in the short form. Users will also be asked whether they would like to participate in LPSS development research (this is not required and all personal research is subject to strict Government of Canada research ethics protocols). Functionality in this early system is limited; the first release focused on content aggregation, competency import and definition, and simple recommendation.

The next release (March 31, 2015) will feature the 'connectivist' social interaction architecture being designed through an implementation project with the Industrial Research Assistanceship program (IRAP) supporting small and medium sized enterprise. The roadmap projects two other major releases, at 6-month intervals, coupled with ongoing client-specific and industry-specific learning solutions. Technology will be transferred to partner companies beginning in 2017.

Notes from ELI 2015 Riyadh - Day One

Rob Kadel
The Untapped Potential for eLearning
Pearson Research & Innovation Network / University of Colorado Denver

- learning to think laterally, or to think divergently (think outside the box)
    - instead of thinking of one answer, thinking of many possible answers
    - example: alternative ways to commute to work

- Research & Innovation Network (Pearson) - Kimberly O'Malley, head
    - turning ideas into useful and usable innovation networks
    - various centres for different projects
    - accomoplishments: collaborative games, essay scoring algoritms, etc

- Student success - what does it mean?
    - beyond school - Oxford Economics survey 2011 - skills most in demand:
        - interpersonal and communication skills
        - digital
        - agile thinking
        - global operating skills
    - CEOs valued these, but said most employees today do not have these skills
        - we can reach this, but have to look at the world students live in today

- The current environment - tech in schools
    - two speeds: full steaam ahead, or, what do we do now?
    - we need to meet students in their own space, in the technology they already use

- Personalized Learning
    - Howard Gardner: individuation, pluralization
    - individuation: each student taught in ways that are comfortable
    - pluralization: anytung being taught should be taught in several ways (to reach more students)
    - in a practical snese - not just 1:1 computing
        - students and teachers customize learning objectives and strategies for work
        - rigorous curriculum framework
        - relevant assessment, teachers as facilitators
    - SAMR model of technology integration

- It takes a village: components of education transformation
    - leadership: establish vision, lead by example,
    - policy: align with outcoms
    - curriculum and assessment - in alignment with each other, must ensure students gain essential knowledge and 21st c skills
    - digital tech - tools and data to support personalization
    - sustinable resourcing - develop resources at scale
    - research and evaluation

- Purposful planning - getting to goals
    - eg. 'all studnets must achieve success in mathematics before graduation'
    - need to clearly define what these thinsg are
    - Goals > Objectives > Activities > Tasks (hierarchal structure)
            - if you can measure the tasks, you can measure all the way up
            - the task level is the easiest to measure
            - eg. Pearson's MathXL
    - importance of verbs (action words) - use Bloom's digital taxonomy (HOTS to LOTS)
    - the full-steam ahead approach is not purposeful
        - need to map out all learning tasks beforehand (example, school with Chromebooks couldn't read MS Word documents)
        - ensure that adequate staff are assigned to each task
        - ensure that budgets are accurate
        - that you can measure the success of your program

- Learning outcomes and efficacy
    - it isn't enough to merely be good, you have to do good (ie., you have to show you are good)
    - Pearson - has taken a strong effort to measure our products and our services
        (video clip from Pearson CEO) (but no, this isn't an advertisement for Pearson, he assures us)
    - "return on investment in human capital"
    - measuring the tasks = measuring efficacy

- Challenges in the Gulf region
    - infrastructure - are all schools and all users connected?
    - leadership - are leaders supporting and demonstrating effective technology use?
    - language - more than half of websites that exist are in English
        - how to maintain rich heritage of Arabic language
        - but how to teach them all English
    - digital literacy - students need basic understanding of how to use devices
        - not just mobile phones, can you work with computers, eg., save and send a file
    - professional development for teachers


    - Q: will tech in the education field cut out labour, the way it has in other fields
    - A: I don't think it will replace teachers
        - there is the danger or potential that it will replace teachers, but that's not the way we want to go
        - want to keep teachers as facilitators
    - Q: you talk about an outcome-based theory, based on tasks, which is a classical theory around for years
        - but do you do tasks first, or goals first?
    - A: just a way of redefining the way we have thought of education in the past
        - it is very difficult to measure goals, but it is possible to measure the outcomes
    - Q: what about social media
    - A: replicate them in the 'walled garden' -- or experiment with tools (but they don't always work)
    - Q: knowledge is non-reductive?
    - A: it depemds on the language we use - 'what does it really mean'?

Olaf Zawacki-RichterThe development of online distance education and media usage behavior in higher education

- traditional students - 1950s - male, <25 br="" from="" high="" school="" straight="">- C.A.Wedemeyer 1981 - increasing diversity in university, beginning of open university, open admissions
    - University of London 1826 "beginning" of open university, distance learning
    - 1889 - sample of advertisement describing correspondance study
    - so correspondance education is closely linked to the development of the postal system in Europe
    - South Arica - UNISA
- The open learning movement - begins in the 1960s
    - list: OU (1969), Athabasca (1970), FernUniversitat (1974)
    - some very large ones - China, Turkey
    - new open universities - Nigeria, Malaysia
- UMUC - development of online distance education
- more open universities - Russia
- traditional campuses - eg. Penn State - 'world campus'

Institutional Structures
    - Oldenberg University, Germany
        - need organizational structure to "manage this process in a profeessional way"
        - Centre for Lifelong Learning (C3L)
    - Structure of the blended learning program:
        - independent study phase
        - 1st cintact session
        - online projevt work
        - 2nd contact session
        - project portfolios

Instructional design model: ADDIE
    - emohasis on first phase, evry important - need to know prior knowledge, media preferences

Media usage behavious in Education
    - does the net generation now arrive at the university?
    - very few empirical studies supporting the claims of Tapscott, Presnky, etc
    - so what are these studients doing? Research questions: wat do they use, what is their value, informal media, etc?
    - exploratory study - data in 2012 - big 276 question survey, 2,339 students fro German universities
        - 99% have access to broadband, 38% use internet 4-6 hours per day
    - media typology (Grosch and Gidion)
    - acceptance rates llfdifferent tools and rechnologies
        - second Life - dead last on the list
    - cluster analysis - 5 groups:
        - ubiquitous web services, email, LMS
        - provuided by uni - eg. online library
        - cooperation & entertainment - comouter conference, social netwirks, iTines
        - external web 2.0 toos, blogs, skype
        - exotic applications - 2nd life, Twitter - not used much for learning
    - high acceptance by traditional studnets just a few, eg. email, non-traditional students use a wide range of tools
    - gap between demand and supply of e-learning, significantly higher demand for e-learning among non-trad
    - media usage typology
        - entertainment - 51%
        - periphrial - 20%
        - advanced - 20%
        - instrumental - 7%
    - Implications:
        - developed authoring tool for courses for tablets - iAcademy
        - C3LLO - mobile LMS - mostly for communications
        - no relationship between age and media usage
        - very high acceptance for LMS and print-based materials
        - the university should not imitate informal social networks

Richard L. Edwards
Executive Director, iLearn Research, Ball State University
Increasing Student Success through Online Learning, Learning Analytics, and Learner-Centered Practices

- student success - students maximizing their abilities
- online education joins: online learning, learning analytcs, and learning processes

- from minister of education: "less teaching, more learning"
    - more learning = more effective teachning

Student Success
    - formal vs informal learning
    - learning anytime, anywhere
    - learning how to learn
    - lifelong learning

Areas of broad agreement at #ELI_2015
    - we have the technology to make online learning effective
    - the demand for online education is growing rapidly
    - 21st century learners were born into a digitally connected workd
    - there will continue to be waves of innivation in e-learning

Claim: students are leading us into the "postmodality" er
    - online learning is no longer a novelty
    - meeting the needs of these students will require institutional ecosystems
        Thomas Cavanaugh, 2012, Educause

Premise #1    - success in online learning requires an ecosystem
    - can't focus on student success in isolation from, eg:
        - faculty development, eLearning support, 3rd party support, IT support, admin & services
    - "we have educated them in terms of their whole mind and body" - clubs, sports, etc
        - we have to replicate that in online learning
    - Ball State's iLearn

Premise #2  - eLearning mindstes andd our cultures of learning affect how we develop our online programs
    - institutions that take risks succeed, institutions thta take a step back do not succeed
    - success is possible, but you first have to believe that onlin innovation is what you want to do
    - "You have to believe"
    - Drector of iLearn - chief moral officer:
        - foster continuous learning among faculty and staff
        - encourage critical and creative thinking, new solutions, etc   
        - turn research into practice, support pilot projects, fail fast
        - build a culture of assessment to identify successes and failures
            "we no longer can talk about what constitutes great teaching without evidence"
    - disruptive innovative - elewarning has that potential, but it won't be destructive
        - educate more of your citizens at a lower cost
        - continbuous evolution
        - the more we talk about teaching and learning and the less about technology the more success you will have

Premise #3  - anticipate great change
        - what is going to change the most? education, work, or society?
        - I would say all of them are going to change a lot
            - the drivers are deep changes in the nature of work - the jobs 20 years from now aren't the jobs of today

Overview of iearn Research Projects
    - new forms of content delivery   
    - open educational resources
    - learning analytics
    - gamification
    - flipped intsruction
    - enhancing student engagement

    Support :: learner Centred Practices
    Engagement :: Blended and Online Learning
    Feedback :: Learning Analytics
    (Research-based model :: Action Research Projects)

    - student in the centre
    - types of anaytics, stakeholders, data quality and transfers, potentiql bottlenecks, scale of analytics
    - speed of anaytics
    - small data: descriptive; big data: predictive

3 Takeaways
    - Adopt best practices for learners (7 principles of good practice - Chickering and Gamson 1987)
        - what are the practices great students do
        - eg. self-regulation
        - eg. Ball State MOOC to give students better skills - note-taking, study skills, historical thinking, writing skills
    - help students develop their metacogntive skills - learning how to learn
        - most of your existing tools can be reourposed to support this
        - eg our HITS project - eg. pretest for foundational skills, then fix deficiencies
        - eg. write metacognitive questions to be answered each week - identify misunderstandings and confusions
            - based on data from online course - students responses result in just-in-time changes
    - start small pilot projects, see how it works in your ecosystem, and evaluate outcomes
        - collqborate with faculty and staff
        - strategic coordination

- teaching is teaching; learning is learning

Q: should we be building one platform for the whole country, o multiple platforms?
A: I tend to favour one platform, because of support costs, but prefer a flexible and customizable approach
    - one platform for all is just good business sense
Q: suggestion to use MOOCs not to teach a course, but to teach the skills hey need - but how do we make sure students use them?
A: we're going to require the prep-MOOC for every student that gets a deficiency grade at the mid-term

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ten Key Takeaways from Tony Bates

Like pretty much everyone else in the field I've been immensely enjoying Tony Bates's work-in-progress, an online open textbook called Teaching in a Digital Age.

Having said that, I think my perspective is very different from his, and this summary post offers me an opportunity to highlight some of those differences. So in what follows, the key points (in italics) are his, while the text that follows is my discussion.

Note that this discussion is focused specifically on the "differences between classroom, blended, online and open learning." We have points of disagreement in other areas too :) but this post offers a way to focus on some aspects of that. Note as well that I'm not offering 'gotchas' here; Bates has discussed many of these points elsewhere and my objective is not to refute him based on this quick summary, only to identify the differences in perspective.

1. There is a continuum of technology-based learning, from ‘pure’ face-to-face teaching to fully online programs. Every teacher or instructor needs to decide where on the continuum a particular course or program should be.

The continuum here is presented in one dimension, the most obvious dimension, with teachers and instructors making the decision as to where some particular course or program ought to lie. I think all elements of this statement are problematic.

First, because online learning provides affordances not available in the classroom, there are multiple dimensions of comparison. For example, we could draw a line from one-to-one teacher on student instruction, to small classrooms, to larger lecture or presentation format courses, to delivery to thousands or even millions of people.

Second, one of those dimensions concerns whether the online offering should be a course at all. Online learning allows for informal conversation, videos, simulations, interactive learning, games, and a host of other models that can be attempted imperfectly at best in a traditional classroom. Understanding, for example, the role informal learning can play is key to understanding the distinction between in-class and online learning.

Third, in online learning the locus of decision-making need no longer rest with the instructor. Unlike a traditional environment, where a student's choices are to "stay" and "leave", an online student can select from many different options - including ion-class, if they're lucky enough to be able to find one that is local and offered at a time they can attend, at a rate they can afford.

2. We do not have good research evidence or theories to make this decision, although we do have growing experience of the strengths and limitations of online learning. What is particularly missing is an evidence-based analysis of the strengths and limitations of face-to-face teaching when online learning is also available.

Here I am first inclined to point to differing beliefs regarding the nature and role of research and theories. I consider what I do to be research, for example, and I do not consider surveys of a dozen graduate students to be research. And I am sceptical of the value of theories based on models employing (what have been termed) folk-psychological concepts and naive understandings of human cognition. Any theory of the form "x causes y" in this field should be considered suspect.

So it follows that to me "an evidence-based analysis of the strengths and limitations of face-to-face teaching when online learning is also available" is an oxymoron. Far too much in such an account is left unstated and merely assumed, with variables to be filled in by the reader's own prejudices. What constitutes a 'strength'? From my perspective, each person learning seeks different outcomes, so a 'strength' for one is a problem for another.

But most of all here is the presumption that we can determine a priori the desirable properties of online or traditional learning. In this regard, I side with John Stuart Mill, and aver that "the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that people do actually desire it." Without an a priori definition of 'effective' most so-called evidence-based decision-making falls flat, and of course, what we do know though observation is that people desire many different things.

3. In the absence of good theory, I have suggested four factors to consider when deciding on mode of delivery, and in particular the different uses of face-to-face and online learning in blended courses: 
- your preferred teaching strategy, in terms of methods and learning outcomes 
- student characteristics and needs 
- the pedagogical and presentational requirements of the subject matter, in terms of (a) content and (b) skills 
- the resources available to an instructor (including the instructor’s time). 

I find it fascinating that three of the four factors are based on the instructor, with only the very generic "student characteristics and needs" constituting the fourth.

I can understand that, from the perspective of the instructor, the instructor's "preferred teaching strategy" matters a great deal. But from the perspective of the student, the response is, "who cares?"  Elsewhere, the many weaknesses of the lecture format, for example, have been documented, as also most instructors' preference for the lecture. This has produced yet another generation of students asleep in their classroom (especially those where electronic devices are 'not allowed').

The characterization even of "student characteristics and needs" is suspect. The phrasing suggests two aspects of concern: first, that we are considering these in the aggregate, as a generalization across an entire class (or generation?) of students, and not individuals; and second, these are factors out of the students' control entirely, as we consider (predefined? instructor-defined?) "needs"instead of wants, and "characteristics" instead of preferences.

Part of this is the unrelenting instructional stance Bates takes throughout his work. It results in an assessment of factors impacting instructional decisions, even in areas where it's not clear the decisions are open for instructors to make. The key difference between in-class and online learning is the shift in the locus of control.

I would also add (cynically) that today the resources available to the instructor are increasingly based on the students' willingness and ability to pay, as our governments gradually remove all levels of support for public higher education.

4. The move to blended or hybrid learning in particular means rethinking the use of the campus and the facilities needed fully to support learning in a hybrid mode. 

No disputing this one.

As the trend toward online learning continues, the traditional school or university increasingly will become a place where local residents access lab and conferencing facilities, no matter where they are enrolled.Meanwhile, classes offered in situ at these campuses will increasingly need recording and conferencing facilities to support their worldwide audience.

5. Open educational resources offer many benefits but they need to be well designed and embedded within a rich learning environment to be effective. 

I mentioned above the need for an a priori presumptions regarding the desirable properties of online or traditional learning. It comes into play here.

For one would ask, what is the basis for the belief that OERs need to be well designed and embedded within a rich learning environment to be effective? The evidence seems to suggest otherwise. The Khan Academy, for example, made a virtue out of offering very low quality videos helping viewers understand math and physics concepts. People exchange and learn from ideas presented in discussion boards across the internet despite these boards having no pedagogical design at all.

I think that only within a very narrow definition of "effective" can we demonstrate a "need to be well designed and embedded within a rich learning environment."

Again, it comes back to what people want to do. Generally, the learning I need to do from the internet is immediate and simple. A (badly designed) Wikipedia page often does the job for me. Indeed, typically, something designed in a rich learning environment just takes too much time and effort to be useful. I don't need a battleship if I'm just trying to cross the river.

6. The increasing availability of OER, open textbooks, open research and open data means that in future, almost all academic content will be open and freely accessible over the Internet. 


7. As a result, students will increasingly look to institutions for learning support and help with the development of skills needed in a digital age rather than with the delivery of content. This will have major consequences for the role of teachers/instructors and the design of courses. 

I also agree with this. I've actually discussed it at length in The Role of the Educator.And my reflections here suggest a very different future than the one considered in this article.

First of all, increasingly, educational institutions will not offer courses at all. Why would they? If you're looking for "learning support and help with the development of skills needed in a digital age" you are very rarely looking for a course. Typically, you're looking for help with a project, or maybe an offer of a project, in which you can apply and augment the skills you're attempting to develop.

And different aspects of your support are offered by different people, at different institutions. Why would we suppose that the same agency offering learning is also the one assessing that learning? Insofar as 'design' (properly so-called) comes into play, it will be based as much on principles established outside education.

Sure, there will be structured learning experiences (and we might even still call them 'courses'). But the idea of an instructor offering a course through a given institution will be the exception, a tiny minority of the cases, compared to the much larger learning and development environment generally.

But of course Tony Bates knows this...

8. OER and other forms of open education will lead to increased modularization and disaggregation of learning services, which are needed to respond to the increasing diversity of learner needs in a digital age. 

Of this there can be no doubt.

But let me add that the phrase"increased modularization and disaggregation of learning services" suggests the repackaging of products and services that already exist. But the defining characteristic of online learning is the wide range of new things you can do to support learning. This leans that there will be a proliferation of new learning services. And additionally, many old learning services will be discontinued.

For example, when I was growing up, there was a thriving industry producing binders and lined paper. Moreover, the concept of blogging did not exist. Today we take electronic notes, blog them directly, and hire blog moderators to ensure children don't get themselves into trouble publishing online.

Learning online isn't simply a shift in modality. It's different. The methods are different, the objectives are different, and the services are different.

9. MOOCs are essentially a dead end with regard to providing learners who do not have adequate access to education with high quality qualifications. The main value of MOOCs is in providing opportunities for non-formal education and supporting communities of practice. 

It is again interesting to see this one thing highlighted. It is interesting to me because this was never the intent of the MOOCs I produced, and with some few exceptions, is not the intent of MOOC producers today.

But more interesting is the question of why MOOCs are a "dead end" in this regard.

The suggestion here (and it's only implicit) is that MOOCs are incapable of providing the learning required to warrant the awarding of a credential. That's why Bates includes the phrase about students "who do not have adequate access to education."This suggests that access to traditional education is a necessary condition, that MOOCs could not provide an education by themselves.

But why not? The role of answering this question is played by the phrase"high quality qualifications." Even if MOOCs could provide qualifications, they would not be"high quality". These, it appears to be suggested, may be offered only by (putatively) high quality formal education.

But I submit that these are not empirical arguments. Indeed, I would go further and suggest that the only reason students cannot earn high quality credentials in MOOCs is that the institutions that offer such credentials won't grant them for MOOCs. And why would they? Their business model depends on requiring students undertake extensive and often extensive coursework before the credential can be issued.

What makes the MOOC a "dead end", in other words, has nothing to do with the MOOC itself, but rather, has everything to do with the credentials.

The more interesting question here is whether a person working from childhood could achieve the same degree of knowledge and (qualification for) credentials taking MOOCs exclusively. Can a non-literate and non-educated person become literate and educated through open online learning? Is there a fundamental property of closed formal learning that suggests that it is the only route to a credential?

There are arguments to be made on both sides here. But I submit that the case is far from closed, and that this is not a takeaway.  

10. OER, MOOCs, open textbooks and other digital forms of open-ness are important in helping to widen access to learning opportunities, but ultimately these are enhancements rather than a replacement for a well-funded public education system, which remains the core foundation for enabling equal access to educational opportunities.

I think that Tony Bates and I both agree on the importance of an open and accessible public education system.

Where we disagree is in the form that system should take.

The existing public education system does a poor job of ensuring equal access to educational opportunities. Major barriers exist across the board, in factors as varied as child poverty and nutrition, access to school materials, fees and access to extracurricular activities, expectations and class backgrounds, travel and work opportunities, opportunity cost and risk, and much much more.

Viewing online learning as nothing more than an enhancement of the traditional system is, to my mind, to preserve the inequalities inherent in the traditional system. It is to misunderstand the role played by the traditional system not only in the provision of an education but also in social netorking and the formation of social classes.

The primary purpose, for example, of a school like Harvard or Yale is not to provide a superior education (their protestations to the contrary notwithstanding). It is to provide exclusive access to a network of potentially rich and powerful individuals who will shape and promote your career through future life. Simply building an enhancement on that system will not change the inequality it represents.

For online learning to truly reach its potential it needs not only to break the educational monopoly of the rich and powerful, it needs to break the social monopoly of the rich and powerful, rending open their cliques, and laying bare the foundations of their influence. We too can form global networks of mutual self-support, but only if we break the existing structures designed to preserve status and privilege.

And in the end, I think that this points to the deep difference between Tony Bates and myself. I think that we disagree ultimately about what constitutes an education.

I think that he views it in terms of classes and content, of subjects and competencies and credentials, in terms of instruction and demonstration, pedagogy, skills and knowledge. This is a common and very traditional view of education, but one which I have increasingly come to question.

In my view, education is more akin to shaping and growing oneself, of acclimatization to a community and to an environment. The learning of any subject is analogous to the formation of a literacy in that subject, based not only in speaking the right words, but also in seeing the world in a certain way, recognizing some things as important (and other things as not). Expectations are as important as knowledge in this view, the way we say something as important as what we say.

This is what distinguishes between the education an elite receives, and an education that is reserved for the rest of us. While the mass of people get facts and skills and credentials, the elite are transformed into a natural ruling class. It's like the difference between someone who is taught the rules of the game, and someone who trains as an athlete. No amount of skills and drills can produce in a non-elite person the social and literary bearing of an elite person.

My objective is to transform learning as a whole into something that produces at least this possibility for everyone. We should embrace this as a public policy objective. Because, with all the capacity, technology and wealth available to us in society as a whole, it's the least we can do.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Advice for David Campbell, Chief Economist

The province has just announced that it is appointing David W. Campbell it's "chief economist". Campbell discusses the appointment here. Regular readers know I have responded to Campbell frequently in these pages. Just before his appointment (or maybe on knowing he will have it) Campbell posted an "economic development magnum opus", outlining the key planks of his development philosophy. I take this opportunity to reply to them

We must move from a financial program-centric to an opportunities approach to economic development 

Everyone is in favour of supporting opportunities as opposed to merely giving out money, but the devil is in the details. What does it mean to "support an opportunity" other than providing money? Yes, there are policy changes that can be made, but the bulk of support is still financial. Does it mean "picking winners"? I think that with solid value propositions there's no harm in that - but it's urgent that such a program doesn't devolve into cronyism, or into giving the same old enterprises more money. But I offer qualified support to this approach, provided the mechanisms are open and transparent.

We need to implement an ROTI model (return on taxpayer investment) – all investments in economic development should be able to demonstrate a return on the taxpayers’ investment.

I used to tell people around here that "we're all in the tourism business", because people don't just see the main attractions when they come here, they see (and touch, and talk to) everything. In the same way, we're "all" in the economic development business. Every investment the province makes - from schools built out in the countryside to a local arena to a resort lodge at Larry's Gulch - has an economic development impact.

But not everything demonstrates ROI to the taxpayer, nor should it. Our schools, for example, are crucial to economic development - people will not move here if they cannot ensure a quality education for their children. But any attempt to represent their ROI is a bit facetious; we would build them no matter what. Conversely, things that seem to generate ROTI might in the larger picture be disastrous. Fracking and uranium mining might fit into that category. They might generate incolme, but they might make the province a place that nobody wants to live.

The economy is a complex system. No individual element's ROI can be calculated. The contribution of one depends on the existence of, and the contributions of, the others. So we really have to be careful about using a one-off calculation like ROTI.
We need to turbocharge the workforce – Less worry on short term interprovincial migration and more concern for long term impact on business investment decisions arising from a tight labour market.

We have to stop the whole harangue about "bringing our children home". We're not some outport economy; we want to be part of a modern technological society, and that means migration. People want to move, they want to follow opportunities, they want to experience new lifestyles. We are lucky that our children can grow and develop in most any province or country in the world. Many societies cannot offer that opportunity.

So, conversely, we need to become attractive to new migration, to people who have never lived in New Brunswick before (like me!) and people who have never lived in Canada before. We are so used to depicting the province as an economic basket case, but to many people around the world, this is a land of opportunity.

And we need to start thinking innovatively when planning to attract these people. Consider settlers' grants: we will grant you title to land if you settle on it for ten years and develop it into viable enterprise. In the long run, that creates far more return than simply giving the forestry rights away for free to some large company that hides its profits in offshore accounts.
We need to target high growth potential entrepreneurs (HGPEs) not just our current small business fetish – we need to create the environment for these HGPEs – not just small business owners/lifestyle businesses.  

I frankly have seen little evidence of a "small business fetish" in recent years. From my perspective the bulk of attention and investment has been to subsidize large local incumbents who don't need the money.

Having said that, I don't disagree in principle with the strategy, though I believe it has to be based on creating a sustainable value proposition for these companies, and not merely in cobbling together a short term incentives package. We've seen enough cases where a company will locate in the province only for so long as the subsidies persist, only to pull up stakes when the government largess ends. 

We want to be an environment where it is easy for small businesses to enter and exit the business playing field – we want to encourage lots of local competition and dynamic local markets.

This ties closely to an urbanization strategy. And frankly, even in tiny New Brunswick, it is expensive to start an enterprise. We need actual markets - places where new businesses and start, compete, and flourish or fail on a dime.But our craft markets have become a monopoly, our malls and main streets too expensive to operate in for long, our farmers' markets small, fragmented, and mostly closed. We have few innovation centres, few places where someone can make a go of it. The only real wayt to succeed in the province is to know someone who can get you a government grant that will sustain you long enough to get on your feet. That's not the way to do it.

But our growth strategies need to be focused on those entrepreneurs that want to use NB as a base to build a global business. 

Then we need direct flights to Europe. Even if they show net losses over the years. We need cheaper energy. We need (and have just obtained) access to global-bandwidth internet. We need, in other words, to be connected to these markets.

I used to tell people that, from a global perspective, New Brunswick is centrally located. We're the last mainland nexus on the western side linking North America and Europe. We should be taking advantage of that.
We need to focus on attracting investment – particularly investment that fosters product or services export growth.

Yes, but again we have to be careful. Investment expects a return. There's no problem with that, unless we are the source of that return. Investment based on extracting wealth from the local economy isn't helpful in the long run. We need investment that attracts income into the region. Investment based on global services, export income, or some such thing. That was the strength of McKenna's approach - people complained about the low wages, but mostly didn't notice the fact that the call centres were bringing money from outside the province into it.

But I think you get this...

We spend way too much of our effort trying to squeeze more investment out of the local business community.  Between PNB, ACOA, CBDCs, local agencies, NRC, NBIF, etc. we have somewhere in the range of 300-350 people working in economic development in New Brunswick – not a single one located out in the actual world where the trade, investment and immigrant opportunities actually exist.

Right. Our people need to be out there, bringing opportunity back home (where, hopefully, there is receptive capacity to build on it). You've just described my current job.

We need to break New Brunswick’s culture of apathy...  New Brunswickers need to believe their province can change, can address its big challenges and can become a younger, multicultural, growing and dynamic place that is developing growth industries

Break the Irvings and you'll break the apathy.

I know that this sounds extreme. But the reason there is apathy in this province is that the only people who ever seem to benefit from growth and development are the Irvings. Moreover, any enterprise that seeks to rise up in (or move into) the province must contend with Irving monopolies. It means that if they engage in any area of business that the Irvings consider their own - and there are many - they must face down the weight of Irving sanctions. It is a huge weight hung around our collective neck and it prevents any real efforts at diversification - or, for that matter, democracy.

We need to fully engage local government and local community and business leaders in our economic development efforts.

I agree with this. This entails a culture of openness and transparency, an end to croneyism and patronage, the development of policy and investments that make sense on the federal level and on the local level. It entails, in other words, a complete change from top to bottom in the way government does business in the province. I don't know whether we're up to it. But I do agree that it's make-or-break time.

We need to be able to develop our natural resources in a sustainable and responsible fashion.

I think we'll find that in the not-too-distant future a dependence on fossil fuels will be viewed as a liability, and not a strength. Even as we rush to enable exports to Europe in response to short-term geopolitical considerations, Europe is rushing to become independent of fossil fuels, hence becoming fully free of Russian and Middle-Eastern politics. They will no more welcome new sources from Canada than they do from Putin or from the Sheiks. 

And then there's global warming, and the damage our current government's indifference to it is doing to our global reputation. When I travel abroad, people ask me, "what has happened to Canada?" Short-term gain here means long term pain.

New Brunswick does have natural resources, but they are not the sort of resources people think of when they think of energy and mining. The abundant rainfall and the temperate climate are assets not to be dismissed lightly.

We need an urban growth agenda.  If you go back to the 1950s until today, rural population growth in New Brunswick was fairly similar to the rest of the country (modest increase).  It was urban growth where we lagged substantially. 

Here again I agree, but with an asterisk. And the asterisk is this: we have to stop developing suburbs, and start developing cities. And we have to do this in a way that makes these cities dynamic and interesting places to live. In the last decades we have gone backwards. Our cities are not livable - these days they're unbearable. Pedestrians have to walk along main roads; our sidewalks are choked in snow while some special suburbs (like Royal Oaks) get special treatment. The summer is little better; our sidewalks are tiny and broken, our transit systems ineffective, our parks being converted to big box malls.

And there's no means to change this because there's little or no urban representation in government. Our city wards and provincial ridings are splinters, each with the small sharp end some part of the urban core, and the larger part a suburban and rural population. Without a voice, people who live in the cities cannot shape policy.

We need to focus on innovation – across the spectrum. ...  I want to bring back the “living lab” vision for New Brunswick. 

I'd love to see this. In my early days in the province I met with people from Service NB, NBSS, the schools and the universities. Not the spark has gone out of their eyes as inflexible and centrally controlled governance has gradually ground them down. The province would do well to set them free, to encourage diversity and innovation across the system, even if it steps on a few well-connected toes.

When messaging we need to target our audiences.  Almost all stories in the national media relating to New Brunswick are negative. Business leaders, immigrants and other key groups see these stories.  We need to change the national narrative.

Fine. But the only way to change the narrative is to change the facts.

We are the Greece of Canada. A tiny number of people control the province, extracting wealth from  it, and putting nothing back in to support growth and development. Our people are depicted as lazy, but in fact they cannot succeed without connections and cronyism. We have abundant resources, but they are sold for a fraction of their value. We grant large tax breaks to companies who don't need it, and who make promises that are soon broken.

The problem with New Brunswick does not lie in the people of New Brunswick, nor in the stories that are being told about the province. It lies in the leadership, which has been an utter disaster for the last decade, a leadership that lies to the people to get elected and sells its soul to the highest bidder within a few months of the polls. These problems exist not only at the provincial level but at the local levels as well, where it is sometimes difficult to believe that key elements of city governance have not been bought and paid for by special interests to wrest personal profit from the public purse.

We have a chance with a new government to change that. I can't say I feel confident that it will change, but the mandate is yet early and perhaps this government has more backbone that we've yet seen. It's easy for a government to stand up to the people and say it will cut services or raise taxes. It is much harder for a government to stand up to major corporations and interests and to say it will govern in the interests of the people and for the future prosperity of the province.