Friday, September 03, 2004

ITI: Let e-learning go out of control

I really enjoyed Brian Lamb's talk on digital learning: "Go fast, go cheap, and let it go out of control". For those who might want to know the pedigree, this is the guy who sold David Wiley on blogs and wikis, so he's a pretty trend-setting and innovative guy. Instead of a PowerPoint (so 20th century!), he gave his presentation using a bunch of tabbed wikis in his Safari browser. Each wiki was a different section of his presentation. He gave us the URL at the beginning, and encouraged us to start adding to his presentation wikis. How wild! Talk about audience participation. People could add material at the same time as he was presenting it!

Anyway, log these urls well, I think they'll be useful: - His presentation wiki - a list of edubloggers from the IT institute. A great source of IT bloggers!

Brian started his presentation by saying "The digital and academic worlds are butting heads together. Can these work together?"

His argument is that digital media requires that we teach differently than before. We need to move quicker, think looser, and, most especially, let learners go crazy with the technology and not over-moderate how they learn. In this way, he had many similar ideas as Stephen Downes. One example of digital technology butting heads with academia is what Brian called "Mass Amateurism." This is the ability that fast, cheap, and simple technologies can give to the masses to approach a level of professionalism. Brian claimed that this often scares the "intellectuals" and tenured professors because "What is academia about? About being the professional. The notion of allowing the common man to do it makes them uneasy." He gave the example of digital cameras. He's not a professional photographer, but with the incredible cameras anyone can buy, he is "80% there."
Another example is Apple's GarageBand, where anyone can be a professional music mixer. Brian later observed, "The more esteemed a scholar is, the less likely they seem to be to embrace new technologies. The ones who accept new technologies are struggling new faculty looking to get an edge. Those with tenure aren’t interested." He might be over-generalizing, but it is true that technology could change the traditional model of education to some degree.

Brian's actual job is to run the learning objects movement in a British Columbian university. He made the claim that technologies like Furl and Flickr (both of which are AWESOME tools BTW) are really creating types of learning objects because you tag a piece of content (a website) or a graphic with some kinds of metadata (like what categories they belong to, what rating you give these objects, and what keywords you attach to them).

He then attacked the lack of openness and freedom to adapt and "remix" objects (a.k.a. Larry Lessig's keynote). He said that if we could have the freedom to take material and change and adapt it without worrying about copyright infringement, then we don't have to make the difficult decisions about how much context to add to a learning object, or what the granularity of the object should be--because teachers will make these decisions themselves. They will remix the objects and take the amount of the object that they need and adapt it to their own context.

Anyway, he had many other very good points, but ala modern society, he was very all over the place and scattered in his thoughts so they are hard to recreate here. But that's exactly what his point was: we need to let go and let modern e-learners go "out of control" with technology, even if the way they interact and learn is different than what we're used to.

No comments: