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Dominik Lukeš
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I have to agree with Kevin. This analogy does not apply to open data as a phenomenon distinct from others. In fact, it seems to me that knowledge from guerrilla research is subject to exactly the same scenarios as research from "normal" research. Or journalism, or a casual conversation about some bit of knowledge. It's the judgement and situated action that matter. The knowledge itself is only a small part of it. I wrote about this in this very long post on "Epistemology as Ethics" http://metaphorhacker.net/2011/03/epistemology-as-ethics-decisions-and-judgments-not-methods-and-solutions-for-evidence-based-practice
The thing is that both the broken/not broken perspective can be valid at the same time. The "education is broken" rhetoric builds on completely false premises. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the education we have. At all levels most students get exposed to the information they need and have opportunities to make something of it. Teachers are by and large well informed of their subject, care about the students' success and follow a reasonable pedagogical framework. Sure, there is a large minority of students who are excluded both for good and bad reasons, but (following Pinker - although I really hate that book) we've never had it so good. I wrote about that discussing the '21st century education' cliche: http://metaphorhacker.net/2012/01/21st-century-educational-voodoo. I can exactly imagine your history course. It would be just fine. Some readings, some discussions, some assignments. If you want to learn about history, there's only so many ways to slice the cake. Sure, if would be nice if it was a MOOC so that more people could take part, and if the essays were taking place outside the VLE on blogs, etc. But for most participants it must be just fine. But, at the same time, education is completely bonkers. It is an irrelevant, repressive, inefficient and hypocritical system. Most arguments for the organization of schooling are simply cargo cult delusions. From the perspective of social utility I doubt it would make much difference if we assigned grades randomly instead of based on examinations. You could probably imagine a completely different system: http://researchity.net/2012/08/14/space-the-final-frontier-of-online-education-or-flipping-the-school-year. So what to make of that? I always come back to the title of Cuban and Tyack's book 'Tinkering toward utopia'. Make our utopias explicit but tweak what we do rather uproot everything. I guess I could have found a briefer way of saying I agree.
Toggle Commented Dec 5, 2012 on Education in 'not broken' shock at The Ed Techie
As the resident (on the internet) metaphor hacker, I guess I couldn't stay away from this one. What you're describing is basically the concept of "generative metaphor" from Schon (of reflective practitioner fame who indirectly inspired Lakoff and Johnson). He's referring to metaphors that are used as jumping off points even if they don't seem very apt. We use these all the time both consciously and unconsciously. There is a whole branch of therapy based around adapting metaphors and metaphors are used to jump start many innovations. But you need to proceed with care. Successful metaphors can be very seductive (e.g. http://metaphorhacker.net/2011/02/the-most-ridiculous-metaphor-of-education/) and you should always investigate the limits of all the projections that come with metaphors. So I think your 'be the satnav' metaphor can be very useful. But you can play it out in different ways. A satnav keeps a hidden record of where you went and maybe somebody will once hack it and expose all your wrong turns - a Freudian psychoanalysts wet dream... Or you could say a satnav just tells you what to do so always starting from the beginning means that you will never learn from your mistakes. So you always have to be clear about how the metaphor works. People can and do take them in many different ways. PS: I recommend forgiving people for using 'literally' in ways you don't like. See here: http://metaphorhacker.net/2011/02/literally-triumph-of-pet-peeve-over-matter/
Toggle Commented Dec 2, 2012 on Be the Sat Nav at The Ed Techie
You are over interpreting the intent of Hussite theology a bit - kind of in the mold of the Marxist interpretation of Hus as a proto-communist - the one I had beaten into me during my Czech education. And, it's worth remembering that while the Hussites were ultimately successful, their radical wing - the Taborites - got massacred - by the moderate Hussites. But the idea of just doing research is a good one. I have been proposing something similar on http://researchity.net. The problem with the funding councils is that they disburse relatively large chunks of money for inflexible, projects with limited scope. Maybe funding that was a bit more flexible is the solution. How about modeling it on the agile approach to software development. Why not fund "sprints" rather than marathons? Obviously, this should not necessarily preclude the traditional approaches when it comes to funding larger infrastructure-dependent projects or longitudinal studies - but so much of research out there is just too long and cumbersome for the outputs it produces. I'd propose that Mark Liberman's "Breakfast Experiment(TM)" should really be the most common type of research by scholars in the humanities: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3017.
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2012 on The research Hussites at The Ed Techie
I must say I share the skepticism of the audience. 10 years is a relatively short time in the live of a federated institution such as the university system. There are too many preconceptions not just on the part of the universities and academics themselves but also students, parents and employers. But the changes could be quicker if some of the brand name players (Oxbridge, Harvard, etc.) would get ahead of the game. Also, the research assessment exercise and its equivalents would need to extricate themselves from their well-meaning delusion of value. Also there are still some technical issues to be resolved. I suggested a solution here: http://researchity.net/2010/07/08/federated-academic-identity.
I'm reviewing the book at the moment and my objections are very similar. The "West" that was in the ascendancy in 2500 BCE is not the same "West" that rules now. And the 'getting things done' factor is just as relative as geography. But it is a much better book than the title suggests.
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The problem with this view is the well known quote (can't find who said it now) that 'we tend to be reductionist about other people's fields of inquiry and reactionary about our own.' I suspect that if you examine your own blog you'll find yourself railing about other people's reductionism of digital scholarship. Reductionism is a necessary individually cognitive mechanism but can be a really evil mechanism when amplified through social cognition. I'm doing research on metaphors in the discourse on education and it has led me to propose a radical non-reductionism: No matter how strong a similarity or perceived causal connection between two levels of magnification of a particular phenomenon, the explanation of what goes on on one level can never be exhaustively formulated in terms of what we see on another level of magnification. For instance, you can't explain the solidity of walls just by looking at particles, you can't explain evolution of organisms just by looking at genes and you can't explain shared knowledge just by looking at the psychology of individuals. Of course, reductionism itself is both an individual and social phenomenon. See for example: "For centuries the church provided this pseudo-explanation along the lines of 'It's God's will', which effectively means don't look any further." which is problematic at two levels: 1. It's a historical reductionism: From a certain level of magnification it appears accurate but at a more finegrained level to turns out not to be the case (e.g. even the Inquisition was much less blind to problems with testimony obtained by torture than modern portrayals indicate; and it inherited its methods-which were put into practice by secular authorities-from the 'enlightened' Romans). 2. It ignores the fact that present discourse is full of reductionism to evolution or genetics that are no more explanatory than the reductionism to God's will. Dennett's own bland/preposterous division sweeps too much under the carpet. See for instance E O Wilson's "Consilience" which styles itself as bland reductionism but is probably more preposterous. The prestige of certain fields makes us much more ready to accept preposterous reductionism as bland - as the Sokal Hoax revealed. The insistence of randomized-control methodologies for evidence to underpin education policy is another example. I agree with the criticism of the holistic response. Reducing to the general is just as bad as reducing to the particular. My proposal is to always describe phenomena on their own terms. It is acceptable to use terms and methods from other levels of description but only heuristically and never hermeneutically.
Toggle Commented Nov 24, 2010 on Reductionism is your friend at The Ed Techie
I think the problem with the analogy is that it conflates two meanings of the word 'reflective': the commonsense one and Schon's technical one. What Schon was really after was to use reflective practice as a way of bridging the gap between the kinds knowledge academics have and professionals have: "What is the kind of knowing in which competent practitioners engage? How is professional knowing like and unlike the kinds of knowledge presented in academic textbooks, scientific papers, and learned journals? In what sense, if any, is there intellectual rigor in professional practice?" Having the kind of 'reflection-in-action' knowledge Schon described doesn't necessarily mean better practice just like an academic applying rigour to her scholarship may be profoundly wrong. And a closer examination will reveal that in fact many of these failed bankers were reflective practitioners who were being reinforced by the people with academic knowledge. (See Tett's 'Fool's Gold' for examples). Perhaps, this quote of Schon's could apply: "Many practiontioners, locked into a view of themselves as technical experts, find nothing in the world of practice to occasion reflection. They have become too skillful at techniques of selective inattention, junk categories, and situational control, techniques which they use to preserve the constancy of their knowledge-in-practice." But again the questions you propose they should have been asking of themselves don't appear to resolve this particular problem.
Toggle Commented Feb 3, 2010 on When reflection goes AWOL at The Ed Techie
Were you referring obliquely to the New York Times decision that just came out or are you just that prescient? There's an obvious limit to how far I would go to avoid paying for an academic article (which I've done) but starting to put gentle and then not-so-gentle pressure on the publishers to lower their barriers to entry is certainly a good thing. This is an important issue of academic equity because at £25 for a paper that sort of thing is simply not an option for anyone outside the north-western system of subscriptions. I've never taken a product back to TESCOs because I was dissatisfied (even when I was) but if publishers introduced that policy, I'd probably return the majority of the things they charge these exhorbitant fees for (although, I get them for free, now). If the repositories introduced an 'all you can eat' or even tiered subscription for a week, let's say, a lot of my qualms about contributing to the system would go away. But it would be interesting to do a survey of academics and find out how they deal with papers from journals their institutions don't subscribe to.
Toggle Commented Jan 18, 2010 on My final offer is this: nothing at The Ed Techie
As luck (mine good, yours bad) would have it, I was just listening to these great lectures on the Francis of Assisi (http://www.teach12.com/ttcx/CourseDescLong2.aspx?cid=615) and it turns out the Church was dealing with exactly the same issues you describe here in the whole series of monastic and other moral reforms, viz. how to transfer the enthusiasm and zeal of individuals into organizationally workable changes. Obviously, Cuban's and Tyack's 'Tinkering towards utopia' addresses this, as well, but I like the Franciscan comparison for its starkness (btw: speaking here as an anti-spiritual atheist). But I disagree that "in higher education we've got too many stubborn, irritating visionaries and not enough driven pragmatists". There are a lot of people who are frustrated with how little their 'visions' are reflected in policy but very few actual 'good ole' radicals willing to actually upset the applecart, take the consequences and be 'compassionate' in the sense of 'suffering with' their students (here's the St Francis again). I think Steve Jobs is exactly the wrong kind of example here. He's a man with a singular vision but no compassion. He's failed as many times as he succeeded. Only his successes were so spectacular people see his failures as inconsequential: Lisa, Next, Cube, AppleTV, the Mac mouse, Apple Mini - all of those are products that are just about OK but certainly not successful. Jobs is like Lenin without the ideals of Marx. We need some Marxes first and then the Attlees. I don't think there is a real progressive vision in education (higher or otherwise) other than the general malaise over the status quo. At the moment, it is the proponents of standardization, free-marketisation and personalisation that have the vision and the agenda. I don't particularly like the vision but I don't see a cohesive progressive alternative to it that has the same life in it. "Openness" could be it, but I feel, it needs some radicalism before it can mature into a pragmatic policy.
Toggle Commented Jan 7, 2010 on Idealism and Pragmatism at The Ed Techie
Martin, I understand your point about the focus on content (and I couldn't be a bigger proponent of open content and open source myself) but I must agree with Kevin. I think the notion of abundance is a bit of an illusion. (We've had similar claims before with telegraph, telephone, and TV - but all of these failed to transform learning.) As Kevin points out, the real limitation (bottleneck) is the student's (and teacher's) time and mental capacity. I can now fill up my MP3 player with a hundred thousand tracks but can still only listen to so many with the same level of focus. What the digital abundance has made easier is casual engagement. I might hear a snippet of a song, look it up on YouTube, read about it on Wikipedia and then possibly buy it. Before, I might have gone about this in a different way. Bought an encyclopedia of jazz, read the liner notes, etc. and followed up on it. But to truly cover one area still takes about the same amount of time and effort. I can quickly dip in into Britney Spears' output if I want, but it won't make me an expert on modern pop. That's why 'all you can eat' buffets work. The average person can only eat so much. Which is why the role of the educational institution is also one of curator of content and the educator is to a certain extent like a DJ. This applies to this posting, as well. I've come across it because I've made an effort to follow educational blogs. In the past, I might have subscribed to a journal or gone to conferences (I still do those, as well) and while it may seem as more of an effort, a conference aggregates the individual experiences. I follow a many blogs but don't follow even more. The average number of content interactions in my life has remained about constant since the early 90s while the availability of content has skyrocketed. Why, then, is free and open content important? In my mind, it is a question of equality of access. While for me, this is now mostly a matter of convenience (I can get to closed content through other means). There are many (and I used to be one of them) whose access to information is severely curtailed. Plus I believe that freedom and openness are better than their supposedly more profitable alternatives. But I do not believe that this abundance is going to radically transform students' learning. Just look at the progression from 'Boys in White' through 'Coming of Age in New Jersey' to 'My Freshman Year'. The structures of social organization remain constant through four decades of research. Students seem to converge their their efforts around achieving the institutional milestones of assessment. (Just look at the essay sharing and rate my professor websites.) That's why you can't easily apply the abundance model to the pedagogy while the current certification paradigm remains. But I would say we can certainly apply it to the economics of content provision and even more definitely to the politics.
Toggle Commented Nov 15, 2009 on A Pedagogy of Abundance take 2 at The Ed Techie
Great presentation but there's a key element missing in the 'scarcity' model which still doesn't map onto the metaphor. The problem is that universities don't really deal in expertise or knowledge. That's just there for advertising. Universities' main 'product' is certification and that is still scarce and therefore expensive. Teaching is really only an accessory product to the assessment. Universities already realize that pedagogies are not scarce - witness the problem-based learning movement. They will eventually realize (even more than now) that content is not scarce either and release it free. However, as long as universities can convince people that they alone can certify academic (and increasingly professional) achievement, they will still control be able to control this scarcity. We need an abundance model of certification (assessment) to make the freeing up of content mean something.
Toggle Commented Nov 12, 2009 on A Pedagogy of Abundance take 2 at The Ed Techie
I started responding here but as the reply was getting longer and longer, I decided to turn it into a stand alone blog post: http://dominiklukes.net/edunotes/educationistolearninglike