Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wicked Wicked Wicked Problems for November 6

CC No-Derivs
I've decided that the late-emerging theme of 2012 here at GridKnowledge is wicked problems (see Rittel and Melvin 1972, and Conkel 2005 or heck, just go to Wikipedia). It's what we have  in higher education (HE) as we drag ourselves into the digital age. Problems that are:
tough to understand let alone solve, dynamic/shifting/elusive, no stopping rules, lots of possible paths to solution. 

Another type of wicked comes in the resistance to change we're seeing in so many stakeholders who just want the world to stay the way it was just moments ago. And maybe I should add a third wicked: a new generation of learners (choose your pocket: X,Y,Z, D+, or iGen) that will not have the skills to face the next 15-20 jobs they'll do when they leave the halls of the Academy.

Here, we like to pretend younger learners already "get it" so that we don't have to incorporate technology in our 200-year-old lecture format, but as a technology researcher and an instructor, I can tell you that they don't get it. Sure they FB and FourSquare, 18% of them now Twitter, and they love gadgets. They text and they upload pics taken with their cell phone. Many do so inappropriately and publicly. Many have no idea how to use these digital skills in academic or professional ways. Many don't have the digital problem-solving skills to tackle new technologies and they become frustrated when I ask them to use a new tool. This does not bode well for them when they graduate.

I see most of my colleagues abdicating  responsibility for this lack of preparation in basic  digital literacy. We didn't learn, why should our students? We foster fear and resistance in non-technical students by creating a rigorous hold-the-line defense against technology change or innovation. "It makes it harder for them to learn MY material."

I daily fight processes, policies and people in attempt to infuse needed and exemplary technology into the curriculum. It wears me out, this triple wicked threat to the success of our learners. Some days, I feel that without a supportive and dedicated community of practice out on the Inter-tubes (shout out to: eLearning Guild, WCET,  and NMC) and a boss who will not be deflected from her course, I would call it quits. Other days, the sheer force, speed and power of technology to make learning more accessible, flexible, engaging and affordable sweeps me along as I cry for change.

Often, I forget to look up at a bigger picture of progress as I work day by day, course by course, tool by tool, instructor by instructor, learner by learner. Perhaps big ideas never really solved big problems until a tipping point of one-to one-resistance? So please: resist and promote and cry out! Here's my yelps of the month. I'm sending them out into the digital dark right before our national elections. Hope someone is listening and like a fire fighter's response line, passing the bucket hand to hand until it reaches the fire.

  • K-12: Here in Washington, the charter school initiative is up for a vote AGAIN. Why anyone would want to limit a small experiment (40 schools through out the state) in innovation that allows socio-economically disadvantaged parents a choice, and an ability to help their child, is beyond most of us in educational reform. But there it is. Pass the bucket, get out the vote. Whether you have young children at home, whether or not you're seeking options for children at home, take a stand for change that will make for a stronger, adaptable nation.
  • Higher Education: Closer to home, tuition keeps rising and universities are slow to change in responding to need. This is because our hands are tied. Our elected officials continue to cut support to HE institutions, continue to push students deeper into loans and debt, continue to press a new notion that education is a privilege and not a right. The Obama administration took this problem on with the Education Reform Act, but we need much more. Like most of Europe, China, India - education should be sponsored for those who focus, study, get good grades. The GOP's notion that bright young people in need should just "ask their parents for money" massively misses the mark. Whether or not you have college age children, whether or not you're sitting on a nest egg for the tens of thousands of dollars education now costs, the issue of access is vital to a strong America. Please advocate and vote for reform. Vote for candidates that understand the power of an educated nation. 
Vote for a future where we're not afraid of wicked, wicked, wicked problems.
I'm Colleen Carmean and I approved this public service announcement.
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