Need-to-Watch-Videos: Three Clips that Promote Thinking Outside-of-the-Box

iStock_box7XSmallI interrupt this regularly featured ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series to bring you three media clips that may promote thinking-outside-of-the-box—a different way to look at three much discussed and researched issues in education. I engaged with three media clips this week that were not targeted to educators specifically, but provided deep insights; each clip presents a unique perspective on a provocative topic in education.

1) What predicts Student Success?
Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit

Much researched, pondered and discussedwhat predicts a student’s success? This Ted Talk features Angela Duckworth, an educational psychologist who left teaching seventh graders to search for that elusive factor that predicts student success in school. She conducted extensive research to find out. Her research revealed that it’s not IQ, family income, precociousness, or talent, but it’s grit. Grit is defined as passion, perseverance, and relentless drive. Students and adults with grit are in it for the long-haul, they don’t give up when faced with obstacles, but continue moving towards a goal they have set out to achieve.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, the book by Paul Tough discusses Duckworth’s work and writes about schools and programs that aim to teach grit through character building education. I read this book recently, and would recommend it to parents and educators interested in learning what contributes to the grit factor [though it’s still inconclusive].

2) Educators and Artificial Intelligence
Interview: Charting technology’s new directions: A conversation with MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson.

This clip featuring MIT’s professor Erik Brynjolfsson shifted my [resolute] viewpoint on the role of machines in teaching and student learning. Brynjolfsson discusses recent innovations in artificial intelligence and how it will impact society significantly over the next five years. Though Brynjolfsson didn’t mention education specifically, his talk motivated me to think about the relationship between man and technology quite differently.

I posted several comments this week in response to a blog post about this topic on e-literate, Getting students useful feedback from machine learning. This is the second post on e-literate about machine learning, and both have generated much discussion. My position has been one in opposition to machine assistance, regardless of how it is used. This specific post describes a conversational agent that supports student dialogue in small group discussions by a technique called accountable talk.  When I watched this interview clip something clicked. As I listened to Brynjolfsson speaking of how machines, artificial intelligence can be used in conjunction with humans to create better conditions, I thought of the potential that machines might be able to create with teachers to create better learning conditions.  I haven’t changed my mind completely, but I am looking at this topic from a different point of view.

“… humans and machines are complementary. Machines aren’t perfect or even very good substitutes for humans in some areas. But by working together, by racing with machines, we can do more than the machines by themselves or humans by themselves could do.

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 9.36.09 PM3. How an education icon adapted to the Internet
An interview with Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopedia Britannica

The Internet is disrupting traditional models, ways of doing business in all sectors including education. This interview highlights the issue of adaptation and a change of thinking in response to technology.  Many organizations have adapted quite successfully, some have failed and others continue to struggle.  Which is why I found the interview with the president of Encyclopedia Britannica most intriguing. One would think this iconic company, relied upon for over two hundred years as a primary source of information would be doomed in the age of the Internet. Yet it is not so. Encyclopedia Britannica is flourishing and successful  even though it ceased to print its famous set of reference books last year after 244 years. The company has shifted its model by responding to the societal shifts resulting from technological advancements. In the interview, the president speaks of the natural evolution of the product.

We had known for some time that this day was coming. Given how little revenue the print set generated, and given that we had long ago shifted to a digital-first editorial process, the bound volumes had become a distraction and a chore to put together. They could no longer hold the vast amount of information our customers demanded or be kept as up-to-date as today’s users expect.

The way the company adapted to the digital age is most remarkable. It made me think about how Encyclopedia Britannica was able to respond to the digital age where others have failed. Are there any parallels between Encyclopedia Britannica and education institutions? Some would say absolutely not—Encyclopedia Britannica is a business. I see it differently, what about you?

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Click this image which links to HBR’s webpage featuring the recorded interview and its transcript.

I hope you enjoyed these videos and were inspired in one way or another.

Need-to-Know News: Globalization of MOOCs, $500,000 Prize for Faculty & Ed Tech Tools

In this ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series I share noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform the traditional model of education.

ImageThis week MOOCs go global with the launch of OpenupEd the newest MOOC platform supported by the European Commission, and at the same time several discussions on the blogosphere about the cultural implications of American MOOCs.  Minerva, the yet-to-be launched elite online school announced a hefty prize for an ‘extraordinary professor’ akin to the Nobel Prize according to Minerva’s founder, and two slick new tools for creating online transcripts and portfolios.

The Globalization of MOOCs
The MOOC platform OpenupEd that launched this week has a different approach than its counterparts in the United States. One distinction between OpenedEd and US MOOC platforms is the course delivery method. Rather than a common platform for courses, as Coursera and edX provide for example, each institution uses its own learning management platform. OpenedEd acts like a portal, or gateway to course providers own sites.  The selection of courses is impressive [40 courses currently], and can reach a broader audience given the range of languages available, of which there are twelve represented.

With the different platforms for each course, I see some potential barriers to learning based on my brief review. I found several courses available in English that piqued my interest. Yet one, Brain, Lifestyle and Learning appears to be a version of a previously run course with recorded lectures. It ended on April 13, 2013, and has a fee of 100€ associated with it.  Another, Psychotechnology and learning processes, sounds excellent, though I couldn’t register for it 😦 , but there was an email address provided for those seeking information. Disappointing. This doesn’t seem to fit the open criteria.

Likely it will take some time for each university to work out the details, and streamline the open process. Overall, this initiative is a positive development – opening up education to thousands of individuals with courses that cater to regional differences by language and topic.

Cultural Implications of Global MOOCs
MOOCs with their global audiences highlight cultural differences – and not just language but value systems.  An article published this week The World is Not Flat (Rivard) discusses the challenges of implementing American MOOCs in other cultures. American educational values are not universal, and certain course content and methods may not be well received by some students of other cultures. Quite telling was a comment quoted in the article from Stephen Carson, spokesperson for the MIT Open Courseware Project:

“Educational materials are not universal, but they are very, very informative for other universities to see the context in which other universities are working.”

Apparently the idea for MIT’s Open Courseware was not to create content applicable to a universal audience but to share with others for adaptation purposes. Perhaps this is why many MOOCs attract participants with advanced degrees from other countries—those with an interest in examining education principles and curriculum from American universities.

Screen Shot 2012-04-11 at 9.01.58 PM$500,000 Prize from the [New] Minerva Academy
Effectively it is a Nobel Prize for teaching,” said Ben Nelson, founder and chief executive of the Minerva Project, a for-profit online school yet to open its doors [launch date is 2015]. The prize is open to faculty from any institution with a track record that “stimulates innovation in higher education” [Anderson, 2013].

The winner will be chosen by a newly created non-for-profit Minerva Academy, led by Stanford professor and Nobel winner Roger D. Kornberg.  The Academy is now accepting nominations. There are three broad areas upon which a nominee’s work is considered and evaluated—Innovation, Impact and Inspiration, as well as a list of five criteria—all seem reasonable except for point #2:

“Nominees must have a substantial number of highly cited publications that demonstrate the impact the innovation has had on teaching.” Minerva Project

In my opinion this criteria contradicts the idea of innovation in education—the requirement that faculty applicants have numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals and rankings as per the impact factor, is grounded in the traditional model of higher education, exactly what innovation in education is trying to transform.

New Ed Tech Tools

  • Accredible launched this week, appears to be an online resume and record of accomplishments and education from unaccredited sources. It seems similar to Degreed.com, which I mentioned a few weeks ago, but this platform seems to be more of a resume than transcript.
  • Seelio, the portfolio for network for students and doers.  Details on this new start-up covered in-depth in the TechCrunch article.

Have a great week!

How the Student Voice Can Make Education Better

Young Couple Sitting with a Pile of BooksHow can school be better?  Student answers: “More practical courses (like consumer math, finances, life skills)“, “Internships and real-world experiences“, “Students grouped not by age, but ability and interest“, “High expectations but more freedom” and “Meaningful work [with a] purpose; no more busy work; students need to be able to make connections (esp[ecially] to real-world)”. Student responses in class, IB Theory of Knowledge, as recorded in a teacher’s blog post, FutureSchool: A Teen’s Perspective.

I wrote in my last post about a vision for the future of education—Sal Khan’s vision of a One World Schoolhouse. It seems the education community didn’t take him seriously, reviews were mixed on his idea for reforming K-12 and higher education. Khan proposes K-12 classrooms not be formed on ages or grades, but a mix of students working collaboratively, with opportunities for hands-on [practical] learning. Khan’s view includes setting the bar high for all students, and giving college students real world experience through meaningful internships. Which is why when I read the student comments in the blog post mentioned above, I was intrigued—what students want in education was almost identical to Khan’s vision for education. This got me thinking about the voice of students. Students are perceptive and intelligent. Yet in discussions about education reform, students are often overlooked, not included, or at least not integrated in the process. Their voices are muffled, perhaps even moderated. Furthermore, students rarely have the opportunity to identify factors contributing to real-world problems, to explore and analyze solutions.

Value of the Student Voice
The student voice as mentioned, is garbled at best, which is [unfortunately] a sign of an institution-focused education system. Which brings me to the purpose of this post, to highlight the value of the ‘student voice’ and provide suggestions on how to include students in the reform process. I’ll also share recent sound bites of student voices from recent events in higher education venues.

Stakeholders in Education
Students have a significant stake in the education system, in terms of their time, energy, intellectual development and money. They are primary stakeholders, where stakeholders are defined as individuals or entities who stand to gain or lose from the success or failure of a system or an organization. Other primary stakeholders include faculty, administrators, and government bodies, depending upon the type of institution. There is an outer circle of stakeholders in higher education that includes its surrounding community, businesses, and the vendors and suppliers of products and services that support the institution. K-12 institutions have another unique set of primary and secondary stakeholders that differs from higher education, though the student is still central.

Group of teenage students enjoying outside.The Problem Solving Process
As stakeholders, students have the potential to be a valuable resource in all phases of the reform process. The process, ideally should include not just solutions but steps to address the problem in its entirety:

1) identifying the purpose of  education in the 21st Century.
2) determining the current problem(s) and barriers to achieving the identified purpose.
3) developing alternatives and finding solutions.

Who better than students to describe the school experience, identify what doesn’t work and why, describe what they need to learn and aren’t, explore options for a revised experience, and evaluate alternatives.  I’m speaking here of high school and young adult college students. It is these stakeholders who are experiencing first hand the education provided, and are the ones that are failing, frustrated, dropping out of college and high school, are not prepared for college, are bored, and/or can’t find a job. However, even successful students are perceptive enough to identify with the challenges many of their peers are facing.

The Student Voice in Higher Ed
Granted, some organizations do try to include students in the reform process. Just last month for instance, the Twenty Million Minds Foundation, whose mission is to ‘grow access and success by eliminating unnecessary hurdles to affordability in higher education‘, hosted a day long event with key players [terminology from their website] in California’s higher education system. The event, Re:boot California Higher Education purpose was to bring together a group of stakeholders [policymakers, faculty, politicians, students and representatives from Coursera and Udacity] and discuss key issues regarding the potential for online education and lower the costs for higher education.

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Image from Twenty Million Minds website featuring the Key Players at the event

However, student contribution was minimal. The agenda devoted fifteen minutes to three students speaking of their school experience. The fifteen minutes represented 5% of time allocated to discussion on these issues. Hillary Hill one of the three, spoke as the voice of thousands of students in the California public higher ed system. Hill spoke of the online course she took from a local community college, which apparently was the only way she could get the prerequisite needed to transfer into her major (Selingo, 2013). Hill shed light on the fact that classes are over-crowded, which is delaying time to graduation. I’m not sure this was the most effective use of students time or talent, to state the obvious. Alas, this symposium, like many similar events, featured much discussion, and no action (Watters, 2013).

Another significant event, which occurred recently, the meeting to create a Learner Bill of Rights for Learning in a Digital Age, was most irksome in that it included not one student, but a group of twelve: educators, technologists and journalists including Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity and instigator of the event. The goal of the meeting was quite noble “to inspire an open, learner-centered dialogue around the rights, responsibilities, and possibilities for education in the globally connected world of the present and beyond” (Lederman, 2013.)  It was a significant omission [bordering on arrogance] not to include any students in the discussion, which negates the value of this document altogether.

Suggestions for Integrating Students in Problem Solving
I don’t have the answers for transforming education, though I see the potential that lies in student voices that is going unheeded for the most part. This post is meant to encourage readers to consider how students might be part of the bigger picture of education transformation, and problem solving in general. Perhaps strategic analysis and planning skill development needs to be integrated into the curriculum that will teach students to be effective problem solvers. Students would benefit from learning how to identify and analyze  problems and the effects. Perhaps even engage students in real world problems, create teams that work with businesses or organizations where students work together to develop and implement viable solutions. An example of a real-world, hands-on team approach was in the course Designing a New Learning Environment. Though team participants represented a spectrum of ages and professions, college-age students were among the many who contributed.

Conclusion
Students can be part of the solution to transform education, they can identify and analyze problems, provide alternatives and explore solutions. All too often the voice of the student goes unheeded. My hope is that students don’t give up on higher education institutions, will contribute to finding a way to keep education relevant and meaningful for the 21st century, but that goes both ways.

Resources:

Need-to-Know News of the Week: A ‘Bill’ to Protect Online Students and a MOOC2Degree Program

In this ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series I aim to share noteworthy stories with readers that speak of developments within higher education and K-12 that have potential to influence, challenge and/or transform the traditional model of education.

MP900405500This week there were two interesting developments in the education news —I’ve briefly summarized each, highlighted key need-to-know points, and included links that will take readers to sites that will provide multiple perspectives on the issues. The announcements are significant enough that at some level educators will likely encounter the topics in discussions, meetings or learning communities.

1) “A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age”
This ‘Bill’ released this week, was not put forth by an organization or institution as one might think, but by a group of twelve: educators, technologists and journalists including Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity. The document has garnered much attention this week in higher education newsletters and blogs, though not without considerable criticism. Granted, the intent is noble “to inspire an open, learner-centered dialogue around the rights, responsibilities, and possibilities for education in the globally-connected world of the present and beyond”,  but the result is quite irksome for numerous reasons.  I will not cover all the irritants in great detail here, though one is the title, Bill of Rights which suggests an enforceable, legally binding document, which clearly it is not. Why not use the term manifesto as higher education journalist, and one of the twelve Audrey Watters suggested?

The ‘Bill of Rights and Principles’ is a need-to-know for readers more because of the depth of coverage its received rather than for its usefulness. However, I do recommend that educators involved in online education read it, as we may be hearing more about it in the future. I say ‘may’ because it’s not quite clear how the Bill of Rights will be used, or who or which institution will use it.  It appears to be written for students, [yet not one ‘student’ was involved in its development]. Thrun initiated the development of the bill, apparently as he felt that students taking online courses (specifically MOOCs) need protection [from whom I am not quite sure], though it appears that it is the for-profit purveyors of online education that are posing the threat (interesting fact, Udacity, Thrun’s company is for-profit). This point is addressed in the ‘The right to financial transparency section‘ of the bill.

One or more individuals of the group of twelve had the idea to put the document on a Google doc for anyone to review, modify, add or delete part of the document. It is quite interesting to read the comments of the contributors. Though from what I could see when reviewing it several times there appear to be few ‘students’ engaging, it is mostly one or more of the creators and several educators. [I appreciate that the title as of 17:00 PST, January 24,  was changed to ‘Rights and Principles for Online Networked Learning’]

Previous Documents outlining Online Learners Rights
There have been similar documents developed that address what the group of twelve created, yet it appears neither of these individuals were consulted or involved in the development of the most recent charter. Stephen Downes, Canadian scholar and researcher [co-founder of the original MOOC] created a ‘Cyberspace Charter of Rights‘ in 1999, which speaks to many of the issues referred to in the recent document. I wonder why Dr. Downes was not included in this discussion?

As recently as last year Quality Matters published QM Bill of Rights for Online Learners, which was developed using research conducted by the Penn State World Campus that included more than thirty institutions nationwide and 3,000 students.

Further Reading:

  • A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age, Hack Education, Audrey Watters
  • Help us Edit the Learners Bill of Rights, P2PU, Phillip
  • Authors of ‘Bill of Rights’ for Online Learners Face Criticism, Wired Campus, Steve Kolowich
  • Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age, University Affairs, Leo Charbonneau
  • Bill of Rights’ Seeks to Protect Students’ Interests as Online Learning Rapidly Expands, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Steve Kolowich

iStock_graduate_social_XSmall2) MOOC2Degree provides Incentive to Students
Every week there appears to be an announcement about MOOCs, yet here is one that stands out, MOOC2Degree. The announcement by Academic Partnerships  is BIG news. From the press release:

Through this new initiative, the initial course in select online degree programs will be converted into a MOOC. Each MOOC will be the same course with the same academic content, taught by the same instructors, as currently offered degree programs at participating universities. Students who successfully complete a MOOC2Degree course earn academic credits toward a degree, based upon criteria established by participating universities.

Public universities are attempting to embrace the MOOC movement by offering a MOOC course for free, AND granting academic credit to those students that complete the course successfully (details to be determined), if students continue their studies within that school’s degree program. The program is promoted as ‘the first step towards your degree’. There are still details to be worked out, and some exceptions apply, but that is the basic concept. This is a tremendous undertaking as courses will need be developed and customized for the online environment which requires numerous resources, and a high-level of collaboration with faculty and respective departments.

What this means to educators is that because the traditional path to a degree for students is changing, the instructional design and teaching model will need to adapt and transform accordingly. Some Instructors will be affected in the short-term, those that teach general education courses for example, specifically faculty that teach at public institutions. But there will be a ripple effect throughout institutions that begin to adopt this model; administrators, support staff, curriculum decision makers, IT departments etc. will all be affected by this shift.

This development is significant, as we are starting to see how MOOCs will affect the middle-tier schools, the significant number of institutions that serve a large population of students of all ages.

Further Reading:

  • Further Evolution of MOOCs with Academic Partnerships and MOOC2Degree Launch, e-literate, Phil Hill
  • MOOCs the Perfect Storm, HUFFPOST Students United Kingdom, Helena Gillespie
  • Universities Try MOOCs in Bid to Lure Successful Students to Online Programs, Wired Campus, Steve Kolowich
  • Press Release: Academic Partnerships Launches MOOC2Degree Initiative (Massive Open Online Courses), January 23, 2013
  • Q&A with Randy Best on MOOC2Degree, Inside Higher Ed, Joshua Kim

Closing
We will no doubt be hearing more about these developments and stories over the next few weeks – stay tuned!

The Middle Crises: Middle-Tier Universities and the ‘Middle’ Skills Gap

Success and achievement business conceptWith a crisis in two sectors, higher education and in the labor market – could each be the solution to the others problem? I suggest so. In this post I examine both crises, provide suggestions for educators and community institutions to come up with viable solutions, and share examples of education programs that have done just that.

Crisis #1: The Middle Skills Gap:  I recently read Who Can Fix the “Middle-Skills” Gap? from the Harvard Business Review.  It’s not the first time I’ve come across the ‘skills gap’, employers grumbling that they can’t fill jobs, can’t find applicants with the ‘right’ skills. Estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that 47% of all new job openings from 2010 to 2020 will require middle-skills (Kochan, Finegold and Osterman, 2012).

Crisis #2: The Higher Education Crisis: Rich DeMillo, author and professor defines the crisis in higher education most succinctly in his book Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities where he shares the new value system for higher education, one of universal access, open content and new technologies all of which is forcing schools to evaluate how they deliver traditional education. There is a disconnect between education that is needed and what is currently offered. Not to mention the value of higher education is under scrutiny as families question if a degree is worth the investment. The top-tier schools will survive, but it’s the middle-tier schools that will struggle; they will need to differentiate themselves by demonstrating how they offer value for a unique educational experience.

More on the Skills Gap
So we have two problems, 1) a gap in the labor market for workers with a unique and specific skill set, and 2) higher education institutions that need to show relevance and value.  Before we discuss solutions, there is more to the story of the skills gap. This is not a new topic of discussion, and one that both sectors have addressed at some level. A good article by Jeff Selingo in Chronicle of Higher Education covers this in-depth. In a nutshell, employers complain about lack of ‘skilled workers’ yet feedback is at times contradictory, as they want workers with strong interpersonal skills, effective written and oral communication skills, teamwork, and the ability to think critically – claim that college graduates don’t have these skills, and don’t have the technical skills either. And at the same time, employers list experience as a requirement. Yet college students question— how can we have applicable experience fresh out of college? Good question.

On the other hand, we have higher education with it’s long held value that its purpose is to provide knowledge, expose students to new concepts and ideas, and to teach critical thinking. Preparing students for a ‘job’ or a vocation is not what universities are geared for [with some exceptions like law and medicine]. As an educator, I agree that students need to be exposed to a core curriculum that includes a liberal arts focus, and development of critical thinking skills.  But, as a parent of three, with one child that has just earned a four-year degree, at a price of over $100,000, and two more close behind, I would hope that my kids receive not only an education that includes exposure to the liberal arts, [rigorous] higher level courses in their chose major, but also schooling that will prepare them for a career or at least a full-time job upon graduation.

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Baltimore Collegetown Network, Coppin State University and other area colleges and universities at fifth annual Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Conference: “Community-Based Learning: Paving the Way for Change.”

What to do?
I believe there is a way for higher education to hold on to its core values, protect the integrity of its educational purpose, yet at the same time adopt a sense of ‘openness’ by thinking of the businesses and the institutions in the community as partners. Educators can work with leaders in the community to educate a body of students together, using the community as a place where students gain experience in the real world, while getting an education at the same time. This can take many forms, internships is just one example, co-ops, problem-based learning initiatives and service-learning. Below is a list of innovative programs that cover all of these options and more.

Real Solutions:

  • Service-Learning programs provide application of academic skills and knowledge to address a community need, issue, or problem and to enhance student learning, one example – the program at University of Georgia
  • University co-operative (Co-op) programs are entrenched in the Canadian university system and numerous US universities. Co-ops provide paid job opportunities [for one or more semesters, during which students work full-time] that relate to a student’s major. Click here for a list of programs at the University of Ottawa.  A co-op program at Auburn University, NC State University, and at Concordia University.
  • University-Communities-Schools: Partnership For Change: A  program that involves students becoming involved in the community to solve complex, interconnected problems for the benefit of the school, community and society.
  • Campus Connect: educating citizens, and building communities.
  • Government sponsored co-op programs that offer a tremendous opportunity for students interested in working in the government sector, particularly for engineering and computer science undergraduate majors.
  • Apprentice Programs: Community College of Rhode Island collaborated with an IT company Atrion, to create an academic program for students, who also gain real-world experience.
  • Pearson College in the UK a new model – a ‘school’ where courses are designed by business.

Closing
Who can fix the middle-skills gap? I suggest it is a team effort that could begin with educators partnering with community institutions for creating new academic programs, project based learning, and work experiences. This requires a different way of thinking, essentially a culture shift within higher education. Opening up to community leaders who may not have the same educational background as instructors and educators and collaborating on how to educate students may seem counter-intuitive. Yet if we examine what is happening in our society now, in this digital era, one can see that institutions need to change and adapt and embrace the community as a place to learn and grow, for students, educators and businesses that will benefit all.

Resources:

Photo Credit: Service learning conference, UMBC Community Photostream

The Digital Scholar – How Educators Can Be Part of the Digital Transformation

Every aspect of scholarly practice is seeing changes effected by the adoption and implementation of new technologies (Weller, 2011). It is the effects that Weller speaks of that are challenging traditions and creating rifts within the academic world. “The Digital Scholar” explores how technology is transforming higher education and not only describes the possibilities for new forms of scholarly practice, but suggests how educators can become part of that possibility.

Weller addresses every aspect within academia [including publishing and research], how each is changing, and incorporates suggestions of how-to adapt to each. Educators will be better prepared to handle change, and even use it to their advantage when they are familiar with how a given technology is influencing an established practice within academia.

Though this book is available from Amazon in various formats (e-book, softcover and hardcover), you can read it free of charge through Bloomsbury Academic [Bloomsbury publishes a select number of its research publications under open content licenses, click here for full list of titles].  In this post I review two of the most provocative chapters – ‘A Pedagogy of Abundance’ and ‘Network Weather’, the latter which refers to the unintended consequences of technology.  For a full list of the chapters click here.

Chapter Overview: ‘Network Weather’
What a great title for this chapter — ‘Network Weather’ which is a metaphor for the influence of open, digital networked approaches to scholarly practices. This chapter uses a traditional academic event, the conference, to illustrate the point. Most educators have likely experienced the technological influences on the traditional conference, with options such as virtual attendance, teleconferencing, and the sharing of content [and opinions] post-conference through various platforms, blogs, Slideshare, Flickr, etc. Then there are the unintentional consequences that happen through back channel platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. Conversations or comments happening in real-time, during the presentation/conference can generate constructive and positive discussion, however negative and damaging feedback is not uncommon. The author also delves into the implications of an amplified event, where a conference incorporates input from remote participants.

Weller presents excellent suggestions, strategies and even a case study in this chapter for educators involved in preparing for and participating in conferences, and concludes with an astute observation, that suggests such events [the conference for example] will eventually be able to seamlessly include technology so that it becomes transparent.

Chapter Overview: ‘A Pedagogy of Abundance’
The author begins this chapter with the idea of content abundance which he suggests, is one driver of change for reform in pedagogical methods. Content from scholastic experts at one time was limited to lecture halls and expensive textbooks, creating a model based upon scarcity.

“[W]hen goods become digital and available online then scarcity disappears. They are non-rivalrous so that if a copy is taken, it is still available for others. They are distributed free on a global scale (if we ignore infrastructure costs which apply to all content).” (Weller)

Another driver for pedagogical reform is our digital society; our daily life which depends upon social platforms and Internet connected devices. Educational methods must adapt accordingly.  Weller suggest five possible pedagogical methods that would be appropriate and relevant for educating learners in our digital world, all of which are based upon the principle of active learning.  I’ve listed each below, though have included linked resources with each that are my own recommendations.

1. Resource-based learning (RBL): Resource-based learning relies students’ own initiative, where learners select from a variety of resources, print, media and even human resources that they deem appropriate to meet their learning goals. Learners are given responsibility for selecting resources that appeal to their own learning preferences.

2.  Problem-based learning (PBL): This approach is unique, yet we’re seeing many instituions within higher education incorporating this method.  Students begin with a problem, it is  first step in the learning process. The problem is often ill-structured or open-ended. University of Delaware promotes a PBL program on its website, “PBL is about students connecting disciplinary knowledge to real-world problems—the motivation to solve a problem becomes the motivation to learn.” Further PBL resources: cooperative learning series, UC Irvine, and USC, Dental School.

3. Constructivism: This theory gained much popularity in the 1990s, particularly with the advent of e-learning.  The learner is central in this model, an active part of the learning process. Constructivism is grounded in Vygotsky’s theory of social development.

4. Communities of practice: Lave and Wenger’s (1991) book on situated learning and Wenger’s (1998)  influential book on communities of practice highlight the social role in learning and the importance of apprenticeship. Internships and working in the community are examples of this method in action.

5. Connectivism: This learning theory developed by Stephen Downes and  George Siemens is based upon the premise that knowledge is created through a series of connections (nodes) within a network that the learner interacts with. Information can be chaotic but the learner is able to make sense of information based upon his or her own objectives and motivations. Further resources: e-learnspace.

Conclusion
I highly recommend this resource for educators working within Higher Education.  At least one chapter, if not more, would be relevant to educators, whether technology devices are used or not. The author writes from the perspective not of the user of technology, but from the academic practice’s point-of-view, and how it is affected by technology. A subtle but effective approach that sheds light objectively on the changes within each scholarly area. I am optimistic that each reader will find something of interest and value.

Resources:
The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Academic Practice, 2011, Martin Weller