Do You Care About The Classics?

My Audrey Watters’ tech savvy trend of 2012 is about two A’s: automation and artificial intelligence.

(If you have to look these words up, don’t be ashamed, I had to as well.)

Simply put, it speaks on the use of machines and information technologies to be the most productive regarding any certain service. These services can range from something as simple as brushing our teeth to driving and in an educational setting, teachers grading students work.

An example would be the pictured self-driving car or something a little less subtle like this here:

It seems like any little thing us humans can do to make the most of our 24 hours in a day, we’ll do. The technologies act as our cheat codes to save time during our daily routines. I could see why Automation and Artificial Intelligence were chosen as a Top Ed-Tech of 2012 because society has seemed to stray away from the ‘traditional’ way of doing things. It can be said that it began with something as little as replacing good ‘ol dish washing with an actual dish washing machine or skipping on plugging in the vacuum for Saturday morning chores and having the robot vacuum take care of the mess all on its own.

Even letting Siri text for us, make calls for us, put our appointments in our calendar for us and help us look for anything and everything just so we don’t have to use our ten little fingers are examples of how time has taken us from conventional to fancy.

In regards to efficiency and learning —

Why would we want to automate it? Why, for the sake of efficiency, of course. We have to scale. Process more students. We have to assess more content. Write more. Grade more. Test more. Cut costs. Etc.

Education may soon stray away from old fashioned paper, pencils and textbooks to laptops and smart boards. Pretty soon, we’ll start seriously questioning the purpose of a teacher in a classroom. Technology in education: is it really saving us time and money or is it in fact making us lazy and destroying us slowly. Some may favor one over the other and some can argue for both, but this will continue to be a debate. The question is who will win and if that answer is technology, what purpose would you and I serve?


What’s your [Data] point?

Audrey Watters describes “data” as one of the top trends of 2011 and predicts that it will be even more important in 2012.  Big data has been a hot topic in the corporate world for about a year and half.  Corporations realized that with the explosion of social media and willingness of the public to volunteer their private information when it comes to cyberspace, they have a massive amount of data collected.  Not just any data, but specific data about potential customers and their preferences.  As the line between education and business draws closer, our politicians (often times former business leaders) are realizing that if there is a formula to predict consumer spending habits, why can’t we predict student progress and/or success?   Or the even scarier question, “why can’t we correlate students success with teacher performance?”

The problem with “big data” as an education data warehouse is that it cannot be easily used as a prediction engine.  There are too many dynamic variables in the life of a student.  For example, a model student in which the big data analytics formula would normally predict as a successful student could be experiencing a divorce situation at home which would affect his study habits.  In essence the problem is not in mining the data that is available.  The problem is what information is needed to determine student success?  This following quote sums up this issue…

”It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – William Bruce Cameron (1963)

Watters points to an article on her blog about a study that was conducted on the virtual classroom.  The study concluded that the virtual classroom students did not perform as well as their traditional school counterparts.  Perhaps this can be attributed to the presence of a traditional school environment and instructor?  In my opinion this is also a topic that is up for debate because the study does not disclose the prior history of the subjects academic performance.  We don’t know if they have failed out of the traditional schools and enrolled in the virtual classrooms while this study was conducted.  This proves the point that big data has its place in education for some analysis but it is certainly not ready to be used as a tool for predicting student success or teacher evaluation.

Big data


Invoking Education Platforms?

The trend of Internet platforms in education is important because of their programmatic aspect. The term “platform” is used when referring to software and hardware, from applications to operating systems, from websites to the Web and the Internet. In tech-speak, this term is often defined as to invoke aspirations and goals. In her article titled Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2012: The Platforming of Education, Audrey Watters focused on major Internet platforms such as Amazon, Google, Chegg, Blackboard, Pearson, etc. Web browser pioneer, Marc Andreessen wrote an interesting blog post about Internet platforms.

“A “platform” is a system that can be programmed and therefore customized by outside developers — users — and in that way, adapted to countless needs.”

I believe this trend was chosen because platforms in education offer functionality such as content, course administration, assessment, analytics, communication/collaboration, and external apps. Watters explains that specifically Internet education platforms are a fairly new development and that the Web is her favorite education platform because she views it as a resourceful means.Department of education found that those students who studied in online learning environments performed modelstly better than peers who were receiving face-to-face instruction. Sarah Kessler wrote an article titled Get Paid to Teach Anything With New Online Education Platform which discusses how much Internet platforms influence education.

“Department of education found that those students who studied in online learning environments performed modelstly better than peers who were receiving face-to-face instruction.”

Watters chose to embed this linked resource The Chronicle of Higher Education as part of her trend description because it explains how technology can actually advantage education rather than hinder it. Don Smithmier, chief executive and founder of Sophia, another community-based learning system that is backed by Capella Education, the corporation behind the online educator Capella University. LMS is a term which stands for learning management system.
“I believe the world will be shifting away from a classic LMS approach defined by the institution. Openness and social education is a very powerful idea.”
As mentioned in Watters article on platforms in education, she believes that platforms can provide lots of benefits for all and they allow functionality to be extended and customized which is a positive aspect for education since both teachers and students can have more personalized user experiences.

Anybody want some free textbooks?

Audrey Watters is an education reform enthusiast. She has written many blogs about the various reforms taking place in our world today. Among them is the idea of “open textbooks”. After reading her post I was left with a feeling of both excitement and disappointment (more so of the latter). Allow me to explain this cnocept and why it may or may not be happening in a town near you.

David Wiley Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University speaks about the wonders of open textbooks

First let’s define the terms . Open in this case meaning free or cheap (but preferably cheap) access as well as digital access. And of course the next part “textbook” an arbitrary tool students are forced to purchased at usually astronomically high prices only to be devalued as soon as they turn a page and possibly never to be read again at the end of the term, not to mention a restrictive tool used ot teachers usually in lecture form. So when we put these two words together what do we get? The free and cheap access to a once arbitrary tool which allows flexibility for teachers as well as the ability to edit content as they see fit. Sounds great doesn’t it. Sadly Water’s goes on to state in her post:

most professors (88%) still prefer (and assign) the printed versions of textbooks and other class materials. The survey also found that while 32% of faculty reported making digital versions of textbooks available, just 2% of students said this was the primary way in which they accessed the materials..

From these numbers it is clear that not all professors have taken advanage of this radical idea. Even thogh Watters goes on to share that “Coursesmart said that among the students it surveyed, more said they were likely to bring a laptop (51%) than a print textbook (39%) to class” Disappointed yet? Well ld school professors aren’t the only obstacle. If you haven’t guessed it by now its big business textbook distributors. Surprise! Free doesn’t come easy.

The issue of copyrighted material has led to lawsuits such as Boundless v Pearson, Cenage, and McMillan. This type of bad publicity is a hinderance to the open textbook movement. As well as companies attemps to cash in on poor desperate students with digital access to textbooks at a reduced cost to their paperback counterparts.

Alas their is a glimmer of hope. The state of Utah is taking a step towards open textbooks in an announcement made in February. Also innovative professors such as Erik Christensen professor at South Florida state college have utilized open textbooks with great results. Take a moment to listen to his own testimonial.

Allow me to reiterate some key points that stood out to me:

1. 700 pages worth of material for $13

2. The flexibility for free flowing class structure in opposiion to the rigors of a table of contens

3,4, and 5. 700 PAGES WORTH OF MATERIAL FOR $13!!!

In all the idea of open textbooks could be a great way of using the benefits of technology to lesson the cost of materials as well as allow educators more flexibility in teaching. Change is hard to come by, but this is a change that could do wonderful things for education