Minds on Fire!

The IDEL course so far has been excellent at instigating a critical view on things. Given this is the first module of a potential Masters, I think the team has crafted an experience that’s insightful and thought-provoking, whilst also creating a firm foundation for the rest of the course. Understandably then, several of the recommended readings so far have focussed on critiques on popular thinking within digital education.

So I’ll admit it was quite refreshing to read Brown, J. S., & Adler, R. P. (2008). This paper seems to focus on the positive aspects and opportunities of open education. I think that while it’s important not to get lost in the hyperbole, there are many upsides of open education and the increased opportunities technology. I see this as a ‘nice problem to have’, and we are lucky to be able to involved in these discussions at such a critical time in their development.

With the paper, there are some signs that it’s showing it’s age in parts. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and at the time of writing, I’m sure it was difficult to foresee how trends would develop.

One example is the talk of moving from a single career to one of multiple careers. In the increasing gig-economy, there are suggestions that it’ll actually be one of multiple and concurrent careers. I’d certainly describe myself as falling in this category. The point of this in terms of education is that as workers in this economy we’ll need to “acquire new knowledge and skills on an almost continuous basis”, and if anything this could be on a greater scale than imagined by the authors.

I think this illustration from Heather McGowan sums this up rather well visually:

I was also struck on the author’s views of open education, and how these seem to fall victim to some of the inadequacies described by Bayne, Knox, Ross (2015). For example, it seems to suggest that access to resources has been the primary issue and that unlocking this will help solve the problem of increasing educational needs. It also makes the assumptions about self-directed learners that Bayne, Knox, Ross (2015) are concerned about – that they have the skills, motivation and self-guidance to conduct this upskilling largely by themselves.

I found it interesting how social learning was discussed in the paper. I think it makes sense as a topic at the time when social technologies were becoming more commonplace and useable yet find it a little odd that this has to be explained, particularly when the paper is aimed at an academic audience. Just goes to show perhaps how technology had yet to develop to facilitate many of the activities that were taking place in traditional classroom-based learning. Perhaps this is also indicative of a lack of involvement at this stage in educational technology development from those in education?

‘Learning to be’ is not something I had previously seen phrased in this way, and it’s an interesting choice of words. I like how it links in connection to the existing community within this, rather than just about acquiring the skills and expertise associated with that area. It acknowledges the importance of the social connections with the industry of choice, and having these in place forms a critical part of the development process. I’ve heard this referred to recently as the ‘personal learning network’. You can start to see concepts like Charles Jennings’ 70:20:10 rule being borne from papers such as this.

This aspect of community made me reflect on my own involvement in new circles on the back of the IDEL so far. The course certainly feels very far away from the more traditional teacher/student model. To me, it feels like there are circles around the MScDE team, and we’re almost being brought into those circles gradually. This is done gradually in a way to avoid overwhelming us, but also to maintain the integrity of the circles – it’s only as valuable as the contributions made within it. With fellow students, I feel I’ve had touchpoints into their world, but I wouldn’t say there is a IDEL students ‘circle’ (for want of a better word), I think it’s more becoming part of the wider existing one.

Bayne, Knox, Ross (2015) talk about hierarchies being one of the three pillars that ‘open’ attempts to knock down. Given this, it’s pertinent to note the talk of “trusted individuals” and “administrators” within environments in the paper, for example, wikipedia. It could be argued that one hierarchy has simply been replaced by another, although the perception of this within these circles may be different. It begs the question, what does open actually mean? In terms of hierarchies, is this some sense of democratic choice and selection? From the outside looking in, I’m not sure I’d prescribe ‘democratic’ to Wikipedia’s choice of administration. In this sense does open, simply mean ‘crowd-sourced’?

This paper has lots of links to workplace training that I’m currently involved in. It may be that the paper is coming from similar angles, however, it could be that thinking in this area is very much in 2008! I particularly liked the quote:

“We now need a new approach to learning—one characterized by a demandpull rather than the traditional supply-push mode of building up an inventory of knowledge in students’ heads”.

I heard this recently summarised quite neatly recently as “Resources, not courses.” The challenge we have commercially on this for my business is within company cultures, as it often comes to budget choices. Specifically, there are often separate budgets for ‘training’, whereas providing a bank of resources relevant to that organisation that staff could access when required would be difficult to gain funding for. A way of thinking we’re trying to change slowly!