Higher Education

education 3.0

So I’ve been catching up on some blogs and slowly plugging away at my article for On the Horizon on web 2.0 integration into education technology. Anyway, I caught up with this post on edumorphology on "education 3.0." Though Michael Staton, creator of the Courses Facebook app among other things, is certainly coming from a different perspective than I, I think we are seeing some similar things.

Basically my take on emerging media networks and higher education is the following:

  1. Most faculty (and when I say most I mean 80-90%) don’t have a clue.
  2. Students may be getting increasingly familiar with this tech in a social context, but they are wholly inexperienced in using these tools to learn or engage in academic work.
  3. As large, bureaucratic institutions, colleges and universities are not well-designed to take advantage of the possibilities of social media (as Shirky explains in his book).
  4. Corporate interests in educational technology (e.g. Blackboard) operate on in an institutional marketplace, offering management solutions to institutions. In this context, the risk-taking involved in social media pedagogy with emerging media networks hardly makes sense. Besides, most faculty are uninterested.

Staton expands on this last perspective, picking up the theme of the semantic web I mentioned in the previous post. He envisions the collection of personal data about students and faculty that will be interoperable, that means passing along history, preferences, relationships, and so on from one application to another, thus making it easier for institutions and faculty to add new features.

Think of something like the iTunes App store for iPhone or even just software written for a particular OS. The college as an enterprise-level OS if you will that holds all the user data securely. Then you can have any number of developers who produce applications for use within that OS and even to communicate with the larger web, just as you might have a desktop app for Twitter, for example.

Sure, that sounds fine. You get access to variety and hopefully a wide range of innovative contributors. I suppose one question might be how open the system can be. So for example I might be able to choose between some different blogging and wiki applications to use in my class. The students would log in once for the system. I would be able to track them through the main system. We would then be able to make granular decisions about posts and wiki pages that we wanted to make public. Students would have their own accounts also with granular controls so that they could create public perspective, internal personal pages, and course-specific portfolios.

But here’s your problem, and it’s not really a technological problem, though the technology feeds into it. Traditionally we talk about how knowledge learned in one class builds into another, but we don’t really mean it, at least not literally. And when we do mean it, we mean it in a very specific and controlled way. Social media invites users to learn in a different way. Now I suppose you could have a wiki where users are not allowed to contribute material without approval from an editor, but that undermines some of the specific advantage of the wiki. My point is that you need to combine social media with a pedagogy and epistemology. Otherwise it’s just more of the same. Sure, it would be cool to have thorough metadata and tags to do faceted searches of lectures, presentations, and such, but it’s still the banking pedagogy. That’s the tough problem.