Sightings

Updates below

In a bizarre coincidence, when I opened the book to scan the contents I found myself looking at the section about sharks.  In particular, “surviving if you are in a raft and you sight sharks—”… I wonder if anyone would be interested in using this as a model for an edtech field manual for surviving the Higher Ed apocalypse.

Jim Groom,”Survival: the manual” July 7 2014

Thanks to Jim Groom, I’ve been thinking about Jaws in this plainly bizarre week in the short history of commercial MOOCs. For all its singular qualities, and for all the symbolic load placed on it by film theorists, Jaws is at heart an ordinary mystery: something unexpected and unexplained happens, someone goes missing, and everyone else spends the movie piecing together clues, disputing priorities, and dealing with what comes next.

But there’s a small scene in the middle that often gets forgotten, where two kids prank the holiday crowds at the beach with a cardboard fin—and in doing this set up the perfect opportunity for the real shark to glide in to calm water, unnoticed by everyone until it’s too late.

This week’s edtech weirdness had both mystery and something like a distracting prank, involving a MOOC in which the professor was yanked from view, then bobbed up again briefly, before vanishing again. Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a maths lecturer from the University of Zurich, put up a three-week course: “Teaching Goes Massive: New Skills Required” (#massiveteaching) through Coursera. The landing pages raise questions about the Coursera approval pathway and standards: two weeks of short RSA Animate style videos, and a final week where students will do more or less whatever they like in an “Experiment Area”. Dehaye is likeable, clear and thoughtful about his topic, but the videos aren’t elite brand rocket science—certainly, nothing that an informed and curious teacher in the office next door to you couldn’t have thought up.

And that should have been the first clue, I think. The course goal is “personal growth”, for which—thankfully—no certificate is offered, and the content is quite vague: “‘Readings’ will come naturally during the course as basis for discussion. … In the first week, we will provide a short summary of proposed content of the course. The content of the later weeks will be decided on by the students, and should cover the proposed content and more.”

But after the first week some or all of the content was deleted, and then Dehaye was himself removed, leaving enigmatic clues on Twitter, some participation in Metafilter discussions, some blog comments here and there (including on George Siemens’ blog), and a deleted Etherpad document that he wrote to explain his actions.

MOOCs can be used to enhance privacy, or really destroy it. I am in a real bind. I want to fight scientifically for the idea, yet teach, and I have signed contracts, which no one asks me about. If you ask me something, I can tell you where to look for the information. My plan becomes to flip the tables. I want to “break out” and forge an identity outside of the course, on Twitter, because I realize this is the only way for me to fight for this identity, engage with my students, and those big shots all simultaneously (journalists, educational analytics people, etc).  … Meanwhile I want everyone to organize their own learning, which I know is happening by looking a bit around. Some people don’t like my course, which is fine. It’s your choice, that’s part of the point. Still, I get lots of emails from coursera asking what is going on. A lot of pressure from them now. They are confused just like you were, and I intended to confuse them even more because they were not ready to challenge their own pedagogical practices fast enough, judging from past experience.

After blogger Apostolos K pointed out that these strange goings-on hadn’t attracted much coverage, and George Siemens wrote “Something Weird is Happening at Coursera“, the story was quickly picked up. Carl Straumsheim treated it as “The Mystery of the Missing MOOC” for Inside Higher Ed; Steve Kolowich covered it for The Chronicle first as a mystery (“In a MOOC Mystery, a Course Suddenly Vanishes“) and then as an experiment (“University of Zurich Says Professor Deleted MOOC to Raise Student Engagement“). Jonathan Rees had two goes at it, both worth reading: “The worst of the best of the best” on his own blog, and “Even super professors deserve academic freedom” for The Academe Blog. Rolin Moe, whose MOOC blog is touchingly subtitled “Debating, debriefing and defining the learning trend of 2012-“, wrote it up as “Dr Famous is Missing“.

By the end of the week, opinions diverged. Yesterday Michael Gallagher argued in a beautiful post that to exploit students in a research project raises questions of trust that can’t be overlooked even if the intent is to criticise (“Teaching vs. research and MOOC brouhahas“); today George Siemens congratulated Dehaye on starting a conversation about our vulnerability to commercial data mining by companies like Coursera.

I’m still absorbed by the freakishly odd coincidence of Dehaye’s co-authored take on a probability problem that’s apparently well known to mathematicians, involving 100 Prisoners And A Lightbulb, with George Siemens’ July 5 post (published just before all this turned into a thing) on the latent knowledge in any class, involving 100 learners in a room. This is Siemens, but could be Dehaye:

The knowledge and creative capacity of any class is stunning. Unfortunately, this knowledge is latent as the system has been architected, much like a dictatorship, to give control to one person. In many cases, students have become so accustomed to being “taught” that they are often unable, at first, to share their knowledge capacity. This is an experience that I have had in every MOOC that I’ve taught. The emphasis in MOOCs that I’ve been involved with is always on learners taking control, learners joining a network, or learners becoming creators. In a Pavolovian sense, many learners find this process disorienting and uninviting. We have been taught, after a decade+ of formal schooling, to behave and act a certain way. When someone encourages a departure from those methods, the first response is confusion, distrust or reluctance.

I’ll call my theory of knowledge and learning “100 people in a room”. If we put 100 people in a room, the latent knowledge capacity of that room in enormous. Everyone in this room has different life experiences, hobbies, interests, and knowledge. We could teach each other math, physics, calculus. We could teach poetry, different languages, and political theory. The knowledge is there, but it is disconnected and latent. Much of that knowledge is latent for two reasons: 1) We don’t know what others know, 2) connections aren’t made because we are not able with our current technologies to enable everyone to speak and be heard.

At the moment, I’m not sure that we know enough to be sure what the plan was with #massiveteaching. So I’m keeping an open mind to the possibility that what looked like a prank was an attempt to start a different conversation—including, and perhaps especially, with students—about the risks of corporate data mining and the lessons from Google advertisements or Facebook’s experiments with emotional manipulation. The fact that it didn’t work smoothly, and might make Coursera much more twitchy about allowing experimental course design in the future, shouldn’t necessarily be the measure by which it’s finally judged.

Meanwhile let’s keep one eye on the ocean where the real sharks are. As ever, the timely counsel in confusing times is from Jim Groom, who seems to me to be looking in the right direction:

I don’t know what it is, but Sharks remind me we are deeply vulnerable always.

Me too.

Update

People are still writing about this. Two very good posts today:

According to Apostolos K, Coursera/U Zurich have resumed the course without Paul-Olivier Dehaye, which seems to me a reasonably complicated thing to do if the whole designed purpose of the enterprise originates with him. It’s a bit like the Mayor of Amity Island putting on the cardboard fin to prove that there’s no shark.

The view from here

Here come the planes
They’re American planes.  Made in America.

(Laurie Anderson, O Superman)

Being a terrifically slow learner, I’ve signed up for another MOOC.  In my defense, I enrolled a while back and forgot, and now it’s come around just as I’ve been forced to admit that there are only so many chocolates you can eat or stuff down your cleavage before it all falls over.

So now I’m in with x thousand others, trying a constructivist MOOC focused on the current and future state of higher education.

But this time, something’s different.  I’ve scanned the assigned readings, and I’ve even printed one. (Although as ever, being a MOOC student is causing my sympathy for all students to double by the minute, as I realise how much of an obstacle to engagement these practical steps prove to be, and how misleading the sense of achievement when the staple finally goes in. That’s it!  My work is done. The reading is on my desk. OK, back to email.)

Now I’m looking at achieving a personal best by completing the first task, which is why I’ve slumped into a deckchair to reflect on the pressures causing change in higher education, and their possible consequences.

This is a whole skip bin of questions, so I just want to grab a bit I can reach: why isn’t higher education a powerhouse of change, given the innovation talent pool a university typically represents? I have a feeling the devil’s in the small print on this one.  We can change big things, but in the banal and everyday routines we’re not seeing anywhere near the rate of change that most commentators predict. A significant cause of this is that most higher education institutions—whatever the impression created by international rankings—are at heart really parochial. We compare internationally, but we compete locally, and we’re governed by local cultural habits as much as by our locally enabling legislation.

I’ve been thinking about how parochialism operates as a brake on change since reading Ferdinand von Pronzynski’s discussion of the introduction of a Higher Education Achievement Report for British students. To Australians, the idea of a transcript that looks at what students have actually done while at university isn’t revolutionary, but the view from the British system is this:

The expectation that students, employers and others will abandon grades [degree classifications] in favour of a general report is probably naive. Grades are too much part of the culture of higher education and recruitment for employment, to mention nothing else, for that to happen.

And this is how change doesn’t come about: because people look at the way things have always been done in the system of which they’re a part, and they can’t imagine how it could be otherwise, no matter how much evidence there is that this change has already happened somewhere else and everyone is going about their business without fuss.

Taken-for-grantedness is buried deep in our capacity to evaluate the properness of any higher education innovation within our own culture, but it’s also highly exportable if you have enough cultural muscle. This is why education systems in many younger, smaller economies stick with taken-for-granted habits borrowed from somewhere else, from the Oxbridge-esque sandstone quadrangles of Australia’s Big Eight, to the ceremonial language and even the canned music of our graduation ceremonies. And don’t get me started on hats with tassels.

It’s also how the whole world got used to “Facebook”, even though a facebook was a distinctly north American campus phenomenon before it was a social network.

At one level, it does look as though MOOCs have driven a truck through this, by being so big, so free floating, so global. But what’s actually happening is that MOOCs are still mostly made in north America, and the rest of us have an interesting opportunity to experience first hand how they do it, watching their classes, seeing into their lecture theatres, learning about the culturally particular interaction between professors and TAs, figuring out what typical assessments they use. And in this case, we’re also using resources that are for the time being predominantly drawn from north American media commentary on changes to the north American systems, even though there’s a clear mission by the (Canadian) team involved to challenge this somehow.

And there are global taken-for-granteds in play, the hardest ones to unthink—despite our mission as researchers (and teachers) to make change thinkable in many other spheres. Here’s one: even an open, constructivist course that’s not delivering itself as a form of potted TV can’t do without a selection of weekly readings. George Siemens refers to these preselected readings as a “starting point that people want — a contract“, and this expectation certainly matches my experience of removing assigned readings from my own teaching, at which point people looked as though I’d told them I was planning to teach in my underwear.

The capacity to assign the right sort of readings turns out to be a habitual signal of academic expertise, one that we don’t even notice ourselves reinforcing. I know there’s a risk of disingenuous countersignalling in choosing to avoid this when I teach. But for me the alternative is riskier: that we focus our entire teaching strategy on replicating our own expertise in the minds of others, and we close off the possibility that learners may engage more effectively by finding their own resources to share and then seeing how others respond. That’s what keeps Twitter ticking over for many academics, after all.

We were asked in week one what CFHE12 could do better, and after a bit of brooding, this is my practical answer, as a way of thinking about how higher education could change one of its most unexamined habits, and in the same move MOOCs could really make good on their global promise.

Instead of asking participants to introduce themselves “to the class” (awkward, given the constituency) in the first forum, and then respond to the assigned readings in the next, what if participants had all introduced themselves by linking to a locally relevant reading that speaks to the way in which higher education is changing (or not) right where they are?  Curating these in a wiki or social bookmarking system would have created an instant bibliography of the most up to date higher education research and commentary sorted on a country-by-country basis.

It’s a concrete example of something the constructivist MOOCS—who seem to me to treat their mass enrolment as a capable resource, not just an audience—have the capacity to create, that your local university can’t.

Any colour you like, Australia

To the indomitable Australia, where the dynamics of change and choice cause individualism to be the force for doing, and freedom an urgent state of mind–

Art Linkletter, LinkLetter Down Under, 1968

So, there’s been a bit written about the Blackboard acquisition of NetSpot in Australia and Moodlerooms in the US, focused on the philosophical integrity of the open source project.  To a lesser extent it’s got people thinking about whether the LMS as we know it is going away, as Australia’s David Jones suggests.  Or not, which is the persuasive if discouraging argument from Tony Bates.

It’s been an exemplary demonstration of how quickly the North American edtech blogging community mobilises their expertise and their networks to provide fast, rolling specialist coverage of these kinds of events as they unfold. George Siemens has an excellent second post; and there’s serious, thorough background evaluation from K. C. Green at Inside Higher Ed here, and the second part of Michael Feldstein’s reflections here.  (Interesting that Instructure are coming out of this very well; they’re not just big in Utah.)

Australia: not always down under (image taken from Martin Dougiamas, presentation, 2010)

The problem is that all this is unfolding a bit differently in Australia, formerly a dot on the higher education world map; as it turns out, not only NetSpot but Moodle itself is an Australian thing.  So for anyone who’s booked their ticket to Austria to see what the fuss is about, here’s the map you need, with apologies to Martin Dougiamas, who was apparently thinking along the same helpful lines when he used it in a presentation in 2010.

Dougiamas has made very clear that Moodle itself wasn’t the object of the sale. This isn’t just a bit of purist fuss about who owns open.  It has additional resonance in Australia where the most iconic Australian brands (including Vegemite, Holden Cars and Tim Tam biscuits) are the property of US companies; and where there is active political debate about foreign ownership of Australian farms and major industries, not to mention the ongoing domination of Australian cultural life by foreign media producers. In 2011, for example, Australian films accounted for only 10% of the titles released in local movie theatres, and only 3.9% of local box office. So we know a thing or two about import dependence.

Our combined sensitivity to foreign ownership and monopoly can sometimes be hard to hold in a productive balance; the cruelty of market rationalisation being what it is, we end up providing government support to ensure that Australia is protected against the market failure of its local producers, who can’t leverage anything like the economies of scale of their global competitors.  So we fund the production of movies; and we create modest protective shelters in television broadcasting for local producers.  But we’re not wholly parochial in this; sometimes we also fund foreign companies to come here and make things like cars if this keeps Australians in work, and when we do this, there’s no end of PR about how gloriously Australian it all is.

And this is why it’s curious that there has been relatively little media coverage of this little fact, taken from the Australian Campus Review:

NetSpot managing director Allan Christie says there are now 17 universities using Moodle in Australia, 19 using Blackboard, two with Desire2Learn and one with Sakai.

There are 39 public universities in Australia.  This means that give or take a bit of juggling to accommodate a few other higher education players, the alternatives to Blackboard and Moodle are exceptionally few. And as Blackboard has just acquired the company predominantly associated with hosting Moodle on behalf of Australia’s universities, then it’s very hard not to see this as a situation in which modestly healthy competition (that does often come down to two dogs snarling over a bone, when the market is as small as this one) has been replaced by a kind of adroitly managed regime of choice in which a foreign company has acquired a dominant stake in shaping the future of Australian higher education: any colour you like, so long as it’s …

These are interesting challenges for Blackboard and NetSpot to negotiate, not least in relation to trust. How will they handle future LMS bake-offs?  Who will decide what it makes sense for each company to offer to the other’s clients by way of enhancements?  How will they communicate their combined or separate philosophies and roadmaps to the Australian market, and what role will our needs play in their decision about what makes business sense to them, particularly if Blackboard’s circumstances change again? Critically, how hard will it now be for a newcomer like Instructure to wedge its way into the Australian scene?  Given that higher education is so risk-averse in terms of enterprise-wide edtech, which institution will now want to break ranks with The Combine?*

Australia’s used to being managed by strategic negotiation: for years we were led by a political coalition of two conservative parties who often agreed not to run against one another in seats where the otherwise third placed candidate could slip past a divided conservative vote. But we’re also used to our own anti-monopoly investigators taking a keen interest in anything that looks like price-fixing or collusion.  Given all this, any foreign company that has acquired a controlling stake in a critical and politically sensitive Australian cultural sector like higher education would surely stay on its best party behaviour for some time; after the initial surprise, I’m not sure we’ll see any loud outbursts for a bit.

So the more interesting question is this one: what should Australia’s universities be doing about all this?  If the very large majority are now dealing with what is effectively one supplier for the campus LMS, even if it has different divisions offering marginally different products, what should be our combined approach to this interesting predicament?

There are a number of bad options, each of which will probably get a run. We could ignore the situation and its implications.  We could consider ourselves superior—after all, we’ve just discovered that it’s “our Moodle”, just like “our Nicole”, and “our Kylie”, and “our Cadel”, and all those other global celebrities who we call our own when it suits us. Or we could bet on special, and each continue to negotiate independently with our new best friends, because we’re Australian, and we do like to compete.

A much more sensible thing would be for one or other of Australia’s national higher education governing bodies to lead a new conversation about our serious, distinctive ed tech experience and our changing needs as we enter a period of considerable sector reform.  We have a deservedly good reputation for innovation and leadership in online learning, that we’ve acquired by knowing who and where we are: we’ve been overcoming the tyranny of distance in educational terms for a really long time, and we’re famously early adopters of everything that bleeps and sings.  We do have some legacy issues in relation to national infrastructure, including the cost of data, and a wide digital divide in relation to rural, remote and indigenous education, but we’re dealing with them.

What we need now is a coherent, national strategy for education for digital citizenship from K-2 right on up to grad school, that’s founded on our experience in this big country, and our educational mission—and, with respect, not just on what makes sense to the business plans of the latest north American investor to take an interest in our natural resources.

* In 1909, American theatrical entrepreneur J. D. Williams arrived in Sydney, prospecting for commercial opportunity.  As historian Jill Julius Mathews describes it, “J. D. Williams’ empire was built in a world of cutthroat competition, of constant manoeuvring to undermine rivals and to advance one’s own position. J. D. understood that the future belonged to the efficient and the consolidated: the whole film business should be in the hands of only a few well-conducted enterprises. … Emerging on top after an intricate play of mergers, takeovers and court cases, in 1913 he engineered an amalgamation with his chief competitors and became the dominant partner in what was called ‘the Combine’”—a content distribution-exhibition company that dominated the Australian cinema market for many years, with very unimpressive consequences for local producers.  Just sayin’.

Waiting for disruption

This week’s excitement has been the announcement by Pearson of their shakeup of the LMS experience.  On the OpenClass website, where we’re told in very big letters that this is all Open, Free, Easy and Amazing, the promotional video starts with Adrian Sannier, Senior VP, making the big claim that the LMS “as you know it” is dead. Sannier brings serious university research and administrative experience to Pearson’s push into the edtech market, and I’m confident that he knows what he’s talking about when he says that the standard LMS has “only ever been an ineffective administrative tool … it’s closed, it’s clunky to use, it’s costly.”

But his claim is a bit of a heartstopper for all the institutions who’ve woken up contractually handcuffed to the corpse of one or other dead LMS, for several years to come. It’s such a bold prediction that I’ve been distracted by visions of Sannier delicately blowing the powder residue from the barrel of his Colt 45 as he enters the darkened saloon where the frightened townsfolk have been cowering.  Yup, the LMS as we knew it won’t be bothering us no more, no sir.

OK. But before we start lining up the shots at the bar, there’s one thing that seems strangely familiar about our new situation: the things that are promised in the brochure are going to take a while to arrive.  So although the promotional video tells us that we can join OpenClass today, in fact most of us can’t.

If the product really is free and open, surely the hustle isn’t necessary, given the way things are across the LMS market. A genuinely free, open, amazing and scalable social LMS with strong integration with Google Apps has a good chance of selling itself. But over eager marketing is creating a problem that wasn’t there before: if you announce that something is now thrillingly and game-changingly available, and this turns out not quite to be the case, this is actually going to remind people very much of their experience in the game you’re proposing to change. As Joshua Kim puts it in his thoughtful summary of the things that could limit the disruptive potential of OpenClass:

There is no need to “sell” the LMS, only a need to get as many people as possible in the EDU community full access to the platform, and to share every detail about the technical specifications, cloud infrastructure, and product roadmap. … Where is the screencast walking me through OpenClass? If it is cloud based, why can’t I make an account now and play like I can on Blackboard’s CourseSites? Where is all the technical documentation and all the other information I’d need to start my research?

In other words, if we can’t take a look at it, there’s no need to tell us that we can.  Far better just to say that beta testing continues with the pilot institutions that were under the original non-disclosure conditions, and then the first round of others that will be allowed into the lab now that the secret’s out. The original launch of Gmail and more recently Google+ have shown that users are prepared to wait in line until invited in, and understand that there are benefits to robust testing as things scale up. So why not be clearer that whatever OpenClass might be in the future, you cannot join it today? Why not say straightforwardly when the door might open?  Even Disneyland tells you how long you’ll be standing in line from this point.

And the second familiar aspect is that it’s not exactly clear what the real cost of the gunslinger’s favour will prove to be. Audrey Watters has written this up very well, and says that we should be looking much more closely at the small print.  Jonathan Rees is more blunt, when he says that we should beware giant publishers bearing gifts.  Certainly, we’re all wary of the free lunch.

This is why I found it so helpful to read George Siemens’ explanation of the business context for “free, open, easy, amazing”, with his analysis of the rise of platforming as a way of simplifying and streamlining the need for individuals (or institutions) to pull together different tools for different little tasks. The way that platforming seems to make life easier for the consumer helps explain the pattern of competitive acquisition that has been the hallmark of edtech for a while. As Siemens says, “educators don’t want to think about the platform. They want something easy to use – simple, effective, and extensible – so they can get on with teaching and research.”  Justin Bathon points out that this isn’t exclusive to OpenClass, given the way in which other LMS designers like Instructure are integrating with existing public cloud social media rather than wasting design time on their own poor copies, particularly in terms of communication and collaboration tools.

The attraction of platforming over original product development makes sense, especially in a market crowded with solutions in which institutional decision-making is still slow. This slowness means that anyone’s enterprise level opportunities to change the game are limited by the number of times an education enterprise is actually interested in changing anything at all, a point I’ve been debating recently with Phil Hill.  Platforming is a good strategy in response to this sluggishness.

But the platforming model does mean that conservative educational institutions are going to need to get used to contractual LMS arrangements that might best be described as organised promiscuity.  This is the really big disruption on our side, given the fact that all our planning is based on the model of serial monogamy.

Meanwhile, speaking of open, those of us who are genuinely curious to know whether the “open” of OpenClass signals anything more than an opportunistic nod in the direction of open education, will just have to wait in line.

Related articles

In the education space?

“The education space” is an imprecise sort of street address that’s beginning to bother me.  It seems to mean something more than itself: not the precise space within which teaching or learning actually occurs, but the larger territory of business operations that brings together all those with an eye on the profits to be had from the future of education as a peculiar hybrid of market and service.

And this week, there’s been some agitation in the education space.

Firstly, I’ve been compelled by a spirited bit of back-and-forth involving Audrey Watters of Hack Education, writing as a guest on Michael Feldstein’s blog, and Jarrod Drysdale, the developer of a short-lived analytics app, Knack for Teachers. The essence of this fairly average tale from the entrepreneural trenches is that despite close family connection to individual teachers Drysdale found himself smarting when he couldn’t persuade teachers as a profession to take up his innovation.

So he’s been letting off steam on his blog about teachers failing to get with the program of educational reform. I probably do share Audrey Watters’ general irritation with his tone, as do about half of his readers.  She describes him as underprepared and bitter; he defends himself as merely wanting to enable teachers to generate data about their teaching effectiveness, that they could use to change the educational system. He could have left it at that, but unfortunately went on to describe a market he may want to court again one day in terms that can most generously be described as whiny, and in response to Watters he’s come back for a second go.  Oh dear.

Above all, and despite tactful nudges from his readers that he try to get his head around the facts of life for employees on fixed grade salaries, Drysdale seems not to have understood that the main reason teachers invest time or their own money in anything is that they’re trying to make things better for their students, not because they’re trying to freshen up their careers.  And for many teachers, analytics still seem a little indirect, especially if the tools aren’t easy to use.

The question of paying for teaching tools is close to home for me as I was one of many caught out when Ning replaced its free social networking service for a pricing model that meant I ended up paying for the site I use to teach.  And a colleague of mine who uses clickers in his classroom in well-thought out and interesting ways that students really find helpful is currently wrestling with a request that he make a business case in writing in order to get reimbursed for the batteries that these need.

It seems to me that if bricks and mortar teachers were reduced to renting the conference room at a local motel in order to run their classes, we’d be hearing about it. But this sort of demand is entirely familiar to anyone using educational technology to teach: even when we’re not paying our own money for some kind of app or hosted service, we’re setting up our own private accounts in the clouds to help our students access things that we think are more interesting, useable and engaging than the features of the standard campus LMS we’re wrestling with.

About half of Drysdale’s readers seem to be trying to point this out.  But the other half are far more important. These are the app store entrepreneurs who have an eye on both K-12 and higher education as emerging markets for novel little technologies of all kinds, and it’s worth quoting the most recent comment on Drysdale’s blog in full:

Hi Jarrod,

Looking forward to another post, this time focusing on why the product didn’t really take off. It would be great if you can get into details, other than “lousy customers” and “some people didn’t want their problem solved”, etc. Something more specific could be more helpful for other people trying to venture to this space.

Of course people are still going to ask the same question again (did you solve the wrong problem? was the solution is really practical? would it worth in terms of the value that you giving that they use the systems? why do they choose not to use the app? etc). If you can address that, it would be much more interesting and can lead to better discussions.

Then again you had spent a year on this, and even though I really don’t agree with you on principle, you have tried more than I do in this education space, so kudos.

It’s pretty clear from this that “space” is the new “market”, and that we’re going to need to think very carefully about the grounds on which we might like to offer a counter-explanation. If the education space is more (or less) than the sum of its hundreds of thousands of employees who can be harried into buying tech stuff, what is it instead?

This brings me to the second bit of agitation that caught my eye. George Siemens has been provoked by a generalised attack on the value of education institutions in actually sustaining learning. While at the moment I’d be as happy as anyone to see the DIYers and edupunks storming the citadels of higher learning, I can’t dismiss the clear and sensible point that some of most radical initiatives are currently being made possible by the fact that security of employment is still the enabling condition of both critique and innovation:

At this point, I cannot imagine a scenario or situation that will be more damaging to humanities, social sciences, and, to a lessor degree, media scholars, than the large scale breakdown of traditional universities. What system (certainly not patronage) has given philosophers and scholars better support? Sure, artists will produce art even if they are not eating. And have throughout history. However, artists, thinkers, philosophers – people who shape our view of ourselves and enable us to shape our future – are pushed to the margins of influence if they are not connected to a system that amplifies their influence and preserves their freedom to work.

So, you know, kudos to that.

UPDATE: Hello and thanks to Audrey Watters who has popped by in the comments and sparked a memory that the other phrase that has bothered me this year is “education vertical“.