Wednesday, December 18, 2013

From now on our troubles will be out of sight

Or even better, exposed to the world in the brightest light?

I love Pinterest! Another tech example of some tiny webby idea that didn't have a "purpose" except the obvious: let people pin up web images - linked quickly and easily with simple search tagging. It's an online, social pin-up board. How simple and silly is that?

And then, something more than the sum of the parts emerged. Themes became gorgeous reflections of how we see the world (Sunset...), collections became shared commentaries on life (Is there anything more disconcerting and funny than #Nailed It?) and we began to collectively re-imagine the instantly meaningfully visual in a visual age. 

So I start with that odd wander through thoughts on Pinterest as a way to say "Happy Holiday Season" without having to say anything. Let's see it. Wander in and just let the collective vote your visually-aware self to recognition of the season's look and feel and meaning - the way we did with the 647 Repins and 100+ Likes of this link to Central Park in the snow. The Pinterest community hopes yours is as merry and bright as the way we imagine it should/could be. 

But I can't stop there. This is not my wish for you. I wish you quiet time away from the chaos of the roads and stores and expectations, and if you're one of my ID peeps,  I send you to this lovely Pinterest collection started by Tracy Parish on Instructional Design/eLearning Books. She asked the ID community to pin their fave books, and maybe even tell why. They did, and they did a great job. Some of my faves are there at the vote-getting top of the heap, and others are now on my list. 

Let us rest, let us read, and let us renew so that we can charge into 2014 with our troubles in or out of sight. Your choice. Feel free to pin it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Shout out for multiple choice tests

Don't drop your jaw, your drink, or your keyboard but today's post is in praise of the multiple choice test. 

Readers know that I've pondered "best practice" with quiz agents in recent years, due to the surge of the LMS, and I've promoted the rich feature set in quiz options. 

So many options. Randomize questions, randomize answers, allow multiple attempts, accept highest attempt, and even the wide range of question types now available. It changes the game, certainly, but it's still a "multiple choice test" (said with disdain in my best teaching excellence voice) and I cautioned time-savings for us ("It grades itself!") vs meaningful learning. 

I was torn. I loved allowing multiple attempts as a self-assessment tool and loved the tie to research on value of in-situ, timely feedback. 

So, ambiguity in place, I was doing a workshop recently exploring the "flipped classroom." Participants who had tried flipping noted difficulty in motivating students to do the work before coming to class - a requirement in flipping. We talked about solutions and the best offered? Use of multiple choice, online exams that closed before start of class. A required pre-quiz gives students incentive to prepare, read, study before class. Participants offered the idea hesitantly, for it was recommending - yes, that inner voice again - multiple choice exams.

OK, here's the news for which my stories prime the pump: researchers recently publishing in Psychological Science (Little, Bjork, Bjork, & Angello, 2012) make a convincing case that, when constructed properly, multiple-choice tests can and do engage the productive retrieval process and do so effectively. More than that, the authors claim that multiple-choice can actually help with learning in a more effective way than cued-recall as multiple-choice questions aid in recall of information pertaining to incorrect alternatives, whereas cued-recall questions did not. 

Read it and weep, ancient souls still fighting the adoption of the LMS and online learning resources. Combining the deep feature set of online tests with the evidence for value of reinforcing retrieval and enhancing understanding of incorrect, common choices puts me firmly in the "I love Canvas, I love the LMS, I love self-assessment" camp. 

Thanks to ISPI for publicizing to the design community  and for those who can get through the firewall via your university library, here's the primary research. 

GREAT reads. Guilt relievers. Emotional support for new practice in time-saving teaching and deeper learning. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Top 100 Learning Tools for 2013

Here it is, patient readers. Jane Hart's popular-vote list of tools you should be looking at if you're pondering digital life in teaching and learning. Regarding the Top Ten, I don't have much to say about them except "Well of course!"  - similar to past years and make perfect sense - but after that things start to look interesting.

Take a look at the top shifts:
  • Skydrive shot up +55 positions
  • Keynote shot up +40 positions
  • iMovie shot up +32 positions
  • Tumblr shot up +30 positions
  • Symbaloo shot up +29 positions
Now, that's a movement of ideas and suggests some interesting and more visual approaches to learning and knowledge-sharing. Well, let's ignore Skydrive, which is just Microsoft pushing their cloud file storage into educational licensing. This brings it to #43, far behind Google Drive (#2) and distracts us from what we mean by a learning tool.

Some in the cognitive science world say that knowledge and learning have changed in the digital age and are no longer what we know/have memorized ("Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere...blah blah blah, Google the rest). Now, it's how we find and organize and make sense of what we need to know.

So, in an age of insane amounts of digital resources and sites and noise, you'll see organizational tools up near the top. That makes sense. AND you'll see new media resources - sharing/creating/publishing - finding new places near the top. Visit Jane's list, and if you see a top tool you don't know, create an account and check it out. It's sure to have value.

Until today, I was clueless to the existence of Symbaloo. My account is now up and it's my home page in three browsers. It's beautiful! And makes me feel efficient. Or at least not lost in sea of my own links, sites, obligations. As soon as I have a few moments, I'll install it on my Android phone. Isn't technology just the best fun?

Now, back to work!

Symbaloo tiles linked from

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 SAT Report on College Readiness

open etc.usf/clipart
"Reading the news and it sure looks bad", said Joni. 

I don't think she meant the just released 2013 SAT Report on College & Career Readiness, but I can't help humming the tune as I read. It says that only 43 percent of 2013 SAT exam takers will graduate high school academically prepared for the rigors of college-level course work. SAT exam takers are, of course, students who intend to go to college. Unprepared. Well, that...sure looks bad. Dig deeper and the news seems to get worse.

The people who administer the test, The College Board, compile data around their success benchmark - a score of 1550. Of the students who ARE prepared and met the benchmark, our best and brightest, the College Board's long-term studies show that only 54% of this population reaches a college degree within 4 years. The College Board thinks this is good news, because for those who do not reach the benchmark? Only 27% reach a college degree in 4 years. 

Then, things get goofy. College Board looks deeper at who succeeds, and surprise: wealthy kids going to elite schools do well. Who would have thought that when you hand someone deep pockets and huge safety nets, chances are good they'll finish college? Wow! Here, College Board stretches correlation like silly putty and offers help: 

"More than 50 percent of high-achieving low-income students attend less selective
schools where students are less likely to graduate and earn a degree. To date, the
College Board has produced and sent nearly 7,000 packets of customized college
information to high-achieving low-income students in the class of 2014. The goal of
this work is to ensure that these students have the necessary information to help them
more effectively find the colleges that best fit their academic performance. Over 20,000
additional students are set to receive packets in early October."

Yes, of course, why didn't we academics think of that? Let's create pamphlets that suggest more low-income students go to elite colleges! Not to our pesky, urban-serving, first-generation-focused, regional schools. Not to schools that are driving distance from their homes and social networks. Not to schools with small class sizes and instructors who understand and are committed to providing support. Not to schools addressing the problems of disadvantaged students daily. Let's send low-income students to the Ivies!

Oh it gets so lonely
When you're walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
Just gives you the blues. Just gives you the blues.

We'll assume these students are too disadvantaged to choose what's best for them and we'll send them pamphlets about Harvard and Yale! Because students who struggle with 1000 issues that the College Board has never considered (financial issues, family issues, first-generation doubts, class issues, race isolation, connection, the $$ barriers that add up to high costs...) will do fine by some loose correlation of privilege and success. Proximity to the uber-privileged offspring of high-income parents should take care of low-income graduation rates. A nice and well-intended notion, but not backed by practice or fact

There were lots of pretty people there
Reading Rolling Stone reading Vogue
They said "How long can you hang around?"
I said a week maybe two
Just until my skin turns brown
Then I'm going home...

If wishing could make retention so I'd be blowing on dandelion puffs. If standing next to the elite rubbed off like the common cold, I'd be working to close the doors of our campus at University of Washington Tacoma where we work so hard to support and encourage persistence despite heart-breaking challenges. I would pass out fancy pamphlets that suggest our students just go sit next to trust-fund babies and prep school naifs. I'd send them on a bus to Seattle.

But everyone needs to do more than wish privilege. We, the not-Harvard, need to do better. There are things College Board is now getting right: SAT cost waivers and options for testing during class time is a start. Start with your own barriers and take them down.

There are things all of us not-Harvard could do better: create access, affordability, diverse learning options, shorter time to graduation, reduced seat time, expanded hours for support services, online and hybrid options, flipped classrooms, competency-based curriculum, and richer analytics to prevent conclusions like the above. We can be there for our learners when they fall. We can admit that students going to college now are not the ones of old. 

Oh will you take me as I am?
Will you take me as I am? 
Will you? Will you?
Will you take me as I am? 

More questions than answers in higher education today. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Let's Talk about Teaching

With Fall quarter speeding at us like a runaway train, our talk will be short but like any difficult moment in a relationship, someone has to sit down and say "We need to talk..."  or vital parts of the relationship begin to die. Figlio, Shapiro, and Soter (2013) did some interesting exploration of the "need to talk" moment regarding the question "ARE TENURE TRACK PROFESSORS BETTER TEACHERS?"

The answer is no, they're not. They're worse. You need to read the study. It's impeccably done. They don't hypothesize on why, but I'll take a crack at that here. I have a not very complicated theory about focus: where we put our energy is where we see meaningful results.

Tenure-track colleagues are torn. Teaching, research, service. The interesting question is whether this vortex of tensions affects learning in measurable ways. Northwestern suggests it does, and in stronger ways for more struggling learners.

This confronts a theory of mine that students know what grade they will receive when they enter a course. I watch students choose a lower grade (not retaking multiple attempt quiz, not making requested changes to a draft paper, not turning in assignments, not doing optional assignments...the list is long). They choose their grade, based on a history I do not know. Sometimes this comforts me. Not my fault! Other times, I want to change their history.

The article suggests my hypothesis is only partly true: yes, the best prepared students aren’t affected by teacher. An A student will still get an A, perhaps the same with B students. I can choose what I teach them, but I can't make them learn. I can make it more engaging, I can choose my content, I can create meaningful assessment of learning but I will still watch self-selection of effort and grade happen.

Where it gets interesting is where Figlio, Shapiro and Soter (2013) suggest that teaching matters in much larger ways:  "While we find that the best prepared students at Northwestern appear to perform about the same regardless of whether their first class in the subject was taught by a non-tenure line or tenure track/tenured professor, the estimated positive effect of having a non-tenure line faculty member is present and strongly statistically significant for all other groups of students.” (p14)

The political and economic decisions being made in higher education regarding the balance of tenure-track and teaching-track, tenure and non-tenure, full-time and part-time? That's not my conversation. When it's evident that the decision affects student success, we should start talking. About teaching. Even if it's a hard conversation.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tipping Point

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

Sounds like he's talking about higher education, no? And if you don't know who "he" is, then you know what to do. What any 16-year-old would do: reach for your cell phone and Google any part of the poem. You'll know who and when and what before I can move on to the next stanza.

My point? Knowledge is no longer power. Bandwidth, the tools, and the smarts to use them are power. The man in the front of the classroom ceded power to Google years ago; he just doesn't know it. Here's a sign he'll continue to ignore, but is leaving some of us gasping:

Yee hah! as cowgirls say. Thrun snuck in the back door of HE through a pilot at San Jose State University. The first quarter went a bit rough, as we've come to expect from MOOCs, and then, they looked at the data and re-engineered the courses. They improved the experience overnight and the results look like SJSU retention and grades.

Without the cost, without the commute, without the lecture, without the pain. Open to all. 

My favorite lines from the short blog post?

Another way to achieve high pass rates is to be highly selective in the student admissions process. Elite private institutions are masters at picking the very best students, and consequently their graduation rates are amazing. We wanted this program to be the opposite. 

Yee hah to learner-centered courses and learner-centered cost. Yee-hah to access and doing the right thing. Read it. A few paragraphs that speak volumes on the future of education. Disruption from the outside is coming in.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Crazy Talk Time

Crazy talk here there and everywhere in higher education. To beat it back at UWT, we started each of our recent iTech course redesign workshop mornings with mindfulness sessions, just to quiet the inner chatter and fear that kept popping up and out. My friend Bryan Alexander addresses some of the causes of the fear in his latest blog post Dark discussions with educators.  He's hit a lot of the conversations I hear at University of Washington - on campus and more loudly at the mother ship in Seattle. We could dig deep, but summed up? "Change hurts."

cc NC-SA, see link 
We can each take a piece of the crazy fear puzzle and amplify from our individual street views (Adjuncts! Accountability! Standards! MOOCs and for-profits, oh my!), but it all still comes down to the elephant in the room: we have got to change. We have got to be responsible for a nation now going to college - a nation that needs an educated work force; a nation demanding better outcomes and affordable tuition.

This change agenda is causing interesting self-examination in the e-learning design community (my peeps!) where doubt and angst and inner divisions have created a kind of crazy 2.0 wars. My favorite is a growing surge of those who want the profession to begin calling ourselves "Learning Concierges." No, really. Google it. We are so conflicted, we believe changing our name to something...gentle, quirky, service-minded...will create a stress-free zone in e-learning design.

But here's the thing: it's NOT in a name, It's the disengaged learning. It's old wine, just stuck in a new bottle (Vineyard LMS) by your helpful e-designers. If we do it right, that, more than anything,  must change. Currently, we're creating Classroom 2.0 online and it's just not working. Flexibility in time and space doesn't mean better outcomes. 

OK, the Department of Education demonstrated that it does mean slightly better outcomes, but reinventing the same wheel means worse retention - especially in the disadvantaged populations we most clearly need to serve. This isn't a trade-off we should be willing to accept. Slightly better outcomes isn't the goal! Technology promises much more than that, but fear of change means our faculty, our leadership, our culture has to be willing to CHANGE teaching to leverage possibility.

I've been writing about "affordance" to describe new tools and technology: leveraging data, mobile, the power of the nudge, and personalized learning. I recognize it's mostly falling on deaf ears and I need to start thinking about changing the message. I'm beginning to fear Christensen is right and that disruption is only possible from the outside - no matter how hard a minority of us on the inside try to be innovative in increments.

A friend of mine says burn it all down and start again. Crazy talk.
Another left HE administration to work for a vendor, saying the only meaningful innovation is happening there. Crazy talk.
Another claims asking faculty to change what they love to do is unfair. Crazy talk. 

I say it's darkest before the dawn and everything we need is now in place to make education affordable, meaningful, and engaging for each person who chooses to seek it. It is time for HE administrators, faculty, innovators and our leaders to make good on the promise of a better life and a better America that educational attainment assumes.

WE are the New Colossus and it is time to embrace the crazy talk that defines us:

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Saturday, June 29, 2013

In Higher Education, No one can hear you scream

Money, you've got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you're gone, spending ends
They don't come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don't take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

And now reporting from Sacramento, CA: Between the community college and 4+ year schools (Hah! Who graduates in 4 years now, besides the elite and privileged?), it is estimated that approximately one-half million students in California are on course wait lists. Yes, the number is correct: more than 500,000 California students can't graduate because they can't get the courses required. Why? It's the way they do it. Few offerings, once per year, when the faculty choose to offer. It worked well when only the wealthy went to college. But things have changed, we hit a recession, times are tough.

Still, we slog on as if we're all at Oxford. Hello? Except for a few schools that will get away with educating only the rich (who will always be with us) we are not Oxford. We are a nation that needs to educate more than the elite and the clergy. We are the USA, entering a rapid-knowledge age, and being left behind. Higher education should step up, look for solutions and do the right thing. But we can't because we won't. Technology, the internet, new media, evidence of deeper learning be damned. Death of the industrial age be damned. Outcry of society be damned.

You've read about the wait lists, the student debt, the dissatisfaction of students, parents and society. You've read about grade inflation and poor learning outcomes. You've read that it doesn't work and students are academically adrift, not learning. Still, little changes. Oh wait, expenses have changed. Students now pay 6-9% more PER YEAR to attend college.

Jerry Brown tried to step into that mess and offer $20 million dollars if UC and CSU would explore developing online course offerings. This, along with demanding that CA universities accept courses taken online elsewhere by determining equivalencies. Don't change, just get out of the way of change. The faculty fought back, sending petitions to the legislature asking them not to approve the bill requiring universities to accept course credit earned online. The legislature told the faculty to take a hike. And the bill went to Brown to be signed. All he needed to do was sign it. His own bill.  

But months had passed and his arm had been twisted and he took the money approved by the legislature and he told UC and CSU to do whatever they wanted with it. Because they've been doing such a great job of educating the new student who isn't rich and privileged, young and on a free ride from their parents. Because they need even "greater flexibility" (Brown) to remain inflexible. Because his office is sure that they'll do the right thing: "The expectation is that UC and CSU are going to move forward with online education, understanding it's a high priority." (Brown's Finance Director)

Read more here:

Sometimes, when I've been called too many names and taken too many hits for having skills, passion and determination to get the next generation the education they deserve, I just want to run. When everything, except the will to get it done, is in place, I want a new career. I want to find a job where I don't daily confront the tragedy of an institution dying at its own hand and taking millions of citizens down with it.

Shame on Jerry Brown. In these moments, I want to throw in the towel and accept that public institutions of higher education would rather go the way of Detroit than change. I want to let them go: go the way of Blockbuster and US health care. I want to step back as a flailing generation of leaders  prop up selfish interests, laziness, and elitist belief that the masses (and disruptive innovation) will not rise.

I am tired of this struggle, but I know history is on our side. Rise up, rise up. Start a school that serves the people. Write code that puts learning in the hands of the learner. If you're a student, ask questions! Find a school that will take MOOCs and CLEPs and offers online courses and competency-based assessments. Join the social, collaborative, personalized-learning movement made possible by this lovely, extraordinary, amazing internet. #RiseUp. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

University of Washington Shows Canvas the Love

OK, a few colleagues now call me the UWT "Canvas Evangelist" and I'm just resigning myself to wearing the title openly rather than groaning or explaining my passion. Canvas! Loud and Proud. 

For compadres, faculty of the University of Washington system who love Canvas, and perhaps even more so for those who don't yet feel the love,  the Provost's Office has released a few new 2y2d-produced mini-videos on advanced uses of Canvas. 

Check them out as they feature some of the innovative and thoughtful uses of technology that we recently saw featured in the paper report series you'll find at the 2y2d Teaching and Learning site.  (If you'd like a lovely, color, paper copy of any of the reports, come to the Faculty Resource Center. We still have a few left from our Spring workshops.)

 If you've accessed the UWT navigation links recently, you may have noticed that Blackboard is gone - gone - gone and  Canvas is in full production. Let's pause for a hearty thanks to central IT services, 2y2d, the Provost's Office, and of course the great state of Washington that pushed us to  join Washington higher education institutions in adopting the state-supported system. We're now on a seamless path for UWT's transfer students and Academic Technologies is able to leverage a wealth of shared knowledge in Washington instructional support folk, which we've already tapped into at the first meeting of the Washington Canvas User Group  - where Darcy and I rocked the house with two presentations. 

So, check out the UW YouTube site when you have a few minutes.  The new videos are great resources in exploring the WHY and the HOW of our new learning environment and its built-in engagement technologies. They offer faculty-to- faculty practical advice on using Canvas features in some very pedagogically thoughtful ways. The new videos are:

Grading Tools:
In Class collaboration:

These complement the introduction to Canvas video that the Provost's Office created earlier this year and that now has over 1300 views and counting.  They are each part of the "teaching with technology" UW push for 2013.  The faculty featured are examples of innovators who use technology in new, exciting, pedagogically sound ways. And Canvas makes it easy! Whether you're interested in enhancing your own classroom presence, greater participation and collaboration by students in the classroom, or thinking of moving to an anytime-anywhere learning modality with hybrid and online offerings - these videos will spark creative fire and having you clicking into new Canvas territories. 

Canvas. It's not your big brother's LMS.

Ch-Ch-Ch-CHANGES! Turn and face the strange.

Bowie's song blasted from YouTube to open one of the last days of UWT's summer initiative on innovative course redesign. Ch-ch--ch-changes! It is strange,  to turn and face the idea that we can reinvent ourselves after teaching in a classroom, very well, for a very long time.

But this is what University of Washington Tacoma iTech Fellows 2013 worked on this week, hunkered down together in a collaboration classroom talking - working - sharing - talking about redesigning courses for the digital age.  And by the end of the week, we were TIRED. Learning is hard. Relearning seemed to be harder, for it included doubt, skepticism, a bit of grieving, and a lot of frustration with technology that whimsically stops working whenever it chooses. A meme one learns when developing courses and teaching online? "Technology will let you down. Love it anyway."

Here's the thing that makes the iTech Fellowship the sweetest and most amazing initiative: we are working harder, faster, and with less resources than other institutions doing the same explorations and we are coming to the same conclusions. We don't have the $200 million dollars PER YEAR that the University of Phoenix is now spending on applied research to improve their learner experience and engagement. (Clayton Christensen, Why Online Education is ready for disruption, now). And we don't have the $40 million dollars in HILT money that Harvard is spending to bring its best and brightest together to reinvent the classroom. (Learning to the HILT). But we have a dedicated faculty who care deeply about our students, about retention, about doing our very best.

As researchers, we can use what others are learning to reinvent our tiny campus because we have something that we believe is just as powerful as money: a commitment to our students to see that they walk with us through the doors of the Tacoma Dome and become graduates. IF reduced seat time, flexible schedules, online opportunities, and technology-enabled personalized learning can help do that, THEN we will get it done. Even if it's risky. Even if there will initially be bumps, lumps, lower evaluations and technology frustrations at every turn. Even if this is hard, hard work on top of the full-time research, teaching and service we already are committed to doing.

Here's some things we considered and will continue to address:

  • Access is not enough. Reduced seat time helps students TAKE classes, but online courses see higher drop rates. Students need to feel connected. Truthfully, we really don't know how to design for that. Yet.
  • Online doesn't work for everyone. How do we guide our students to understanding their own learning preferences and lead them to the courses which are right for them? Enjoying your pajamas doesn't mean you'll learn best IN your pajamas. Older learners, independent learners, self-motivated learners and reflective learners do better online than auditory, kinesthetic and under-prepared learners. 
  • There's enough research evidence that students who are less academically prepared do worse in online courses than in classroom settings. UWT faculty feel an obligation to note this evidence and move forward with a commitment to advocate for institutional support in providing "online skills for online learning"  for under-prepared students. We spoke to campus representatives of the library and to campus tutoring services regarding plans for virtual, anytime, extended support. We also note here that the "Chicken Little" noise raised in reporting generalizations aids little in understanding the data regarding performance differences which can be very small. When addressing a % difference of grade points of 2.77 vs 2.98 in overall online vs classroom for 500,000 courses? Statistical difference IS important AND relative. When the issue is opportunity, students are willing to suffer 2/10ths of a grade point and UWT is willing to be the institution that works to improve even that difference. Access is not enough, but access is a start.
We are sailing our ships forward, coming back together with beautiful courses for peer review using the Quality Matters Process in September. For June, amidst the doubts and wonder and all the technology, there was laughter and joy and food and even inspiration from Jessica in her daily affirmations.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Shout Out to UW Bothell!

Our colleagues at the campus up north are rocking the higher education world these days. UWB Learning Technologies made the coveted EdTech Magazine's 2013 Dean's List: 50 Must-Read Higher Education Technology Blogs

Each year, EdTech combs the HE blogosphere watching IT professionals grapple with the rapid change and challenges we all face. Each year, they choose 50 - just 50 - of the 1,000s of online IT publications as must-read pubs. With such diversity in topic and approach, it's hard to imagine how EdTech does it, but the criteria is clearly facing change and challenge head on. 

We're delighted Learning Technologies at UW Bothell are getting national recognition for the work they're doing, and even more delighted that the folks up north walk the talk of mission. Andreas Brockhaus, Director of Learning Technologies at UWB, tells us the staff turn much of the selecting, crafting, and writing their blog to student workers. Solving the "sticky" problems of creating meaning out of the mess o' technology is rightly left, with a bit of guidance, to the generation for whom learning with technology will be a life-long activity and pursuit. 

So, a shout-out to the students that created a "must read" publication in the eyes of the EdTech community. I''ve been following your blog since I arrived at UWT, and now the entire HE eLearning community will know why. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

SXSW edu: Mostly Doing It Different

Dateline: Wednesday, Noon, SXSW edu in Austin.

An amazing couple of days, hearing more than my eyes and ears can absorb regarding new emerging tools and practices for infusing technology into the curriculum from K-12 - higher education. 

My own presentation, with colleagues Jill Frankfort and Angela Paprocki - More Diplomas -went well and here be my slides at Slideshare. Given it was sxsw, no talking heads us, we did the presentation part as Ignite! sessions (20 slides, 20 seconds per slide). A challenge for talking head HE administrators, but a hit as it kept us from what we do well - drone.

So, SXSW: Lots of start-ups, entrepreneurs, and new ideas. Some don't seem to have a bit of sense, business model, or grounding in what's real, but that's the energy and spirit of innovation at work.  A lot of stuff is going to fail and the innovators will pick themselves up and learn, do better next time. Some crazy ideas may just work and for some that I just sighed and slipped out of conversations on, I may be very wrong. Meanwhile, I comb the rooms, salons and halls looking for ideas that I can imagine in place and able to provide solutions. Those that held my attention definitely addressed the key challenges that hinder student success and keep me up at night:

  • solving/enhancing lack of academic preparation
  • the rising cost of an education
  • lack of informed choice of those in school
  • poor retention and even poorer engagement
  • changing faculty culture so that all the above matter to them
Lots of talk about MOOCs (of course), about DIY, about BYOD, about big initiatives from the research 1's with deep pockets, and about how the little guys (that's me/UWT!) innovate on a shoestring, a prayer, and a deep commitment to our students and to public good. 

I passed out copies of the hot-off-the-press UW Provost's report on faculty innovators at UW - sixteen risk-taking, inventive faculty, SEVEN (yes you read that right: 7/16) of whom are from tiny UWT (W00t!); evidence that you don't need to be one of the very few, super-endowed, research 1 elites to do good work. UWT is doing innovation in small pilot projects and thoughtful implementation of the UW tools that we do have. A great conversation that started some possible collaborations with young, hungry, entrepreneurs at the conference. 

Past that, it was loud music and schmoozy moments. We are on the cusp of change, my head is full, and in a few hours I'm heading home. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Sky IS Falling, Dammit!

Ok, maybe that title was just to get your attention. 
The sky is not falling, but there are ugly signs of a of a huge storm building off higher education's coast. Some of my colleagues at the University of Washington Tacoma don't see it, laugh and suggest I'm Chicken Little. But John Hennessey, president of a cute little place called Stanford, agrees with me and recently said "There's a tsunami coming," regarding the change that will be forced upon higher education in the digital age. 

MOODY'S just entered the conversation by downgrading higher education to a negative rating. How can society make it any clearer to us that, like any living organism, we have to adapt and grow and change to survive in the new age in which we find ourselves? 

Young people, unmoved by our love of tradition and ritual, are weighing in with an incredibly dark sense of disappointment. They too offer predictions of failure regarding our ability to see ourselves through this coming storm. Nathan Harden's recent essay, The End of University as We Know It, was so depressing I had to read it in parts. 

The thing that is most disheartening is that these entities outside higher education have taken over the conversation and now may certainly shape the outcome. Because of our silence, our stuck-ness, and our unwillingness to change, society is changing its ideas about us. We squandered centuries of goodwill and wonder why we're feeling besieged.

Sadly, this is happening not from inability to innovate, but from simple hubris. As the world changes, HE proudly refuses to talk about what we must do to prepare ourselves and our students. We're happy as we are; teaching as we always have; researching as we please. We've got it handled!  

Except for the world beating at the gate suggesting...we don't. The cost, relevancy, value, and meaning of an education today are being questioned. Higher education must respond. We must talk about transformation from the inside to meet the challenge of educating "as many students as possible, as well as possible, as affordably as possible," as Harden says. If we don't change, we will BE changed.

WE have to make a case for what is worth preserving and also acknowledge what we are clinging to simply because we hate change. There are so many insulting rules and regulations against new practice, lowering cost, or increasing engagement at my university, my head spins. Tradition is protected and change is fought and innovators questioned every step of the way.  

We have a problem, reflected in the Moody's rating and the noise growing outside our gates. We know that. The cost of an education is too high and too many students are going into debt that they may never pull themselves out of in getting their degree. Too many students are not completing, disappointed and in debt. We have to be sympathetic to this problem, we have to be creative in helping them achieve more affordable and meaningful education, and we have to do it while preserving what we hold dear and valuable. 

WE have to fight for equal access to education as it becomes once again more the right of the elite and a struggle for the less advantaged. And it seems we have to do it while frightened, stressed and stretched to our limits.

Batten down the hatches; we can do this!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Never Can Say Goodbye

I keep thinkin that our problems
Soon are all gonna work out

But there's that same unhappy feeling and 
there's that anguish, there's that doubt

The Jackson 5 song keeps playing in my head as the world says goodbye to Aaron Swartz this week. He was 26 and he did more for an open internet, for freedom of information, for access, for digital rights - for everything I believe in and hold dear - than peers three times his age. 

He was a co-author of RSS. He was the founder of Demand Progress, and one of the most ardent and effective voices against SOPA/PIPA. He created Reddit. He wrote code that tapped into academic library resources - opening them up to those not privileged to the secret society of the Academy, and he made government documents available to people not as smart as Aaron. He believed publications on academic research, paid for by citizens, should be available to all citizens and he used his coding talents to make that belief a reality. 

And for that, for access to academic research for all, for access to government documents that we still pay 9 cents a page for citizen-owned information, Aaron willingly took heat for his actions, for his beliefs, for social justice and information free and unfettered. 

He was braver and smarter than any of us, but not smart enough to know the cost he would pay for prosecutorial over-reach and how the powers-that-be like to make examples of our best and brightest. Aaron, who had no interest in making money from his brilliance, faced insurmountable legal costs and tens of years in prison for his belief in freedom of information.

To lose a talent like Aaron - skills of code, of kindness, of creativity, of dedication to social justice - because the U.S. Justice Department and MIT knew choosing him as their scapegoat would stop other digital freedom fighters? It's heart-breaking and the consequences are provoking sadness, rage, and revenge across the land. 

Some are working inside the legal system and some, well, not so much. Here's to the beginning of push back - too little, too late, but a tribute nonetheless.
Aaron was our hero. And he's gone. And a collective response is just beginning.