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!"