What’s new about ‘Adaptive Learning’?

How is anything that is being called ‘Adaptive Learning’ more than the programs of past courseware, such as Plato courseware. I used grammar modules on Plato terminals in the first school I taught at in 1992. Besides the advances in the interface, what has changed behind the scenes that takes the activity beyond the ‘if-then’ design of many of the drills and activities? How much more is the intelligent tutoring system today then from days gone by?

Loved this video about the olden day of Plato and computer-based learning from the website, Plato History:


Dr. Sharon Dugdale says at 1.01.30:

“When I started designing for Plato, I had this notion that was in the air at the moment, that the big thing about computers was the individualization and the diagnostic capability and every key press that can be put in by a student can be analyzed and you can branch students off into all sorts of places. It was taking very seriously everything they input and it is going to revolutionize education in that way.

And I very quickly found, and I’m not trying to cast aspersions on that notion because I think that there are kinds of things that can be designed that way, but the things we were designing really weren’t suited to that kinds of treatment and the very social atmosphere that we were seeing particularly in our elementary schools where students would group around a computer or be looking at the screen next to them. There’s some interaction going on, you’re not really hearing from one kid, and you can’t take too seriously every key press that goes in there.

And to me, it made a big difference in backing me off from that notion and putting me somewhat at odds with the people who became the intelligent tutoring movement and having me much more minimal about what you should really say to the student, you need to be really concerned about the environment you give them.”

Developing learning materials for print publishing

I have had the opportunity over the last two years to work on a print-based student materials project. It was quite a change from working on online and digital learning materials.

The demands of the creating materials for print make the project feel like the stakes are higher, because once the files go to the printers, no more changes can be made. And if there are errors that require changes (so inevitable with 1200+ pages in each series), we just have to accept them since making changes requires another re-tooling and re-launching of the entire production. So the stakes are real; getting it right is important; process and versioning is critical.

Last year, at the end of the first year, I was asked to write a report about the experiences and to make recommendations. After a year, there is no indication that any of my recommendations will be considered; however, I share the report here because it helps me track my thoughts.

Post-Pilot Report: Revising and Resequencing EAP Level 1 and Level 2 Learning Guides Project

What is ‘innovation’ in education? (& I mean something beyond the blah + blah)

Was it a memo coming from the ministry five or six years ago? It seems that all the post-secondaries have either created or re-fashioned existing units into ‘innovation’ departments: Educational Support and Innovation, Centre of Teaching, Learning and Innovation, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning….etc..

But what is innovation in education? From where I sit, all I’ve seen is the whiz-cool-bang of AR/VR attract the flock like an untrammeled field of alfalfa. But AR/VR is not innovative if it’s used to support the tired old demonstrate/test or drill/test pedagogies, right? And gosh – considering the labour and $$$-intensity to develop and use AR/VR makes one wonder about its value as an innovation that reduces barriers, increases access, and generally makes learning better for more people.

It’s so hard to be reasonable with people when they have their senses locked in a techno-ecstasy, so I’ve started a rough draft of a rubric to use to evaluate educational innovation:

Inquiry questions: Yes/no?
Is it innovative? Is it different and better?  
Is the innovation playing a constructive role in improving educational opportunities and outcomes?  
Does it support learner-centred education?  
Is it a needs-driven approach to innovation?  
Does it apply to learners living in the real-world?  
Does it complement and support good teaching and learning practices?  
Will instructors be supported?  
Can it be scaled to accommodate the majority of instructors and teaching environments?  
Is the focus on teaching and learning practices?  
As the innovation develops, does expertise expand from the few to the many – are individual instructors empowered and able to own the innovation in their own practices?  
Is it truly innovative or is it something that is new/novel?  
Is it truly innovative or is it a belated adoption of improved practice? (eg. adoption of PBL to replace lecture)  

Inspired from:

Achieving Development Goals Innovation In Education and Development: http://pcf4.dec.uwi.edu/innovation.php

OECD Measure Innovation in Education: http://www.oecd.org/education/measuring-innovation-in-education.htm

Sorry blog – totally forgot about you

I got the invoice today to re-register ‘learningdesign.ca’ for another 2 years, and oops, where did those 2 years go? I know where they went – busy on the curriculum project I started in June 2016 for trades harmonization.

Getting out my credit card, I wondered if perhaps I should just shut this down. There’s nothing worse than a blog that has nothing to say – that’s why everyone ends up on Twitter. Man-oh-man do I ever hate Twitter.

Here’s to being long-winded and discursive, messy and expansive. Perpetually inchoate.

Open Ed and ‘The Gift’

In November of 2015 I attended the very excellent 3-day Open Education Conference in Vancouver. Among the many lines of thought I encountered and learned about, I was surprised that there was a rather uniform assumption around reified knowledge as a commodity of exchange.

There was a lot of talk around how to make the development of Open Ed resources scaleable, and sustainable, and to get buy-in from instructors, students, administrators, tenured professors, funders, bookstores, libraries etc…. all the players in the various business models/marketplaces where the exchange of reified knowledge for money occurs. Then there was talk about Creative Commons licensing and how it can be implemented/added to this marketplace. It seems to me that Creative Commons has (elegantly) emerged to pacify the anxieties, but from my perspective, it’s still ‘playing the game’ of the exchange marketplace.

But couldn’t open educational resources be taken out of the marketplace paradigm and be re-interpreted as ‘gifts’. From the critiques I heard of open educational resources as part of the greater open ed movement, I’m wondering if it’s this assumption, that open ed has to work within the market paradigm, that is limiting people, and making some of them grumpy #opened15

From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift:

“A gift that cannot be given away ceases to be a gift. The spirit of a gift is kept alive by its constant donation.”

An open educational resource ceases to be open when it can no longer be accessible. The spirit of the open resources is kept alive by its content availability and accessibility. Remove the barriers or don’t call it open.

“There have been times and places in which a person came into his or her social being through the dispersal of his gifts, the “big man” or “big woman” being that one through whom the most gifts flowed. The mythology of a market society reverses the picture: getting rather than giving is the mark of a substantial person….So long as these assumptions rule, a disquieting sense of triviality, of worthlessness even, will nag the man or woman who labors in the service of a gift and whose products  are not adequately described as commodities, the gifts of the gifted man are powerless to make him substantial.”

For those who create and share open educational resources, your power comes from giving it away.  The more you give, the more powerful you are. Let’s recognize that within our various education models. Giving it away, that’s what makes us successful as teachers when working with students. But package that into a product and suddenly it’s different? Make it a gift. Consider the possibility that your name will be lost in association with the resource, assume that you are made anonymous, that other people might mix it up into something new. Release your knowledge product and let it live its own life.

The same can be applied to Open Education in general: let’s give away the opportunity to learn, which as I type this, realize that is what public education is supposed to be. The private-sector ideological attacks on old-time publically-funded democracy-building public education strike us as an affront because it’s the mixing of paradigms, applying the market ideology to the gift that the state makes of education, doing so for the good of the public, the gift we give ourselves as a people.