Friday, March 21, 2014


LMS vs Net? Deep decision time on budgeting types of learning software

As schools move rapidly towards widespread rollout of 1:1 computer per student systems, educators and culture also stands at the cross-roads for critical decisions about the kinds of software and learning methodologies to be used. Following the money will indicate what choices are being made, as a great deal of it is going to change hands in going forward. Will instruction be authoritarian, top-down state competency, teacher centered instruction delivered to students as containers for holding and repeating information and directions using CMI/ILS/LMS software? Will it be democratic, bottom-up student-interest centered, envisioning students as generators, composing with the rich interactive multimedia of the age, learners as eduentrepreneurs of inventive solutions to interesting problems and participants whose independence and teamwork grow globally by constructing their own personal learning networks and learning products?  Might it be blended? To what degree? How did we get to these choices? There is a history here worth a quick review.

For a century schools and teaching practices have been increasingly guided by the philosophy and psychology of Frederick W. Taylor (efficiency expertise for the industrial age) and B. F. Skinner (behavioral psychology). Taylor provided the foundation for the thinking that organized factories and later corporations with claims for greater efficiency leading to greater productivity. Such thinking lies behind a school division of labor separated by grades, subdivided into skills levels, and further separated into time segments and into tight sequences of curriculum. Having mastered the training of pigeons and other animals, the most influential psychologist of the 20th century, B. F. Skinner, showed that even humans could be guided and directed to required behavior by reasonably frequent, properly timed offerings of high interest, followed by positive reinforcements of compliments and praise. Textbooks, teaching methodology, educational evaluation and assessment and coursework have long and often been beholden to this line of thought. This thinking was also foundational and reinforcing for the physicist Patrick Suppes at Stanford. His early work with instructional computing in the 1950’s led to books on Computer Managed Instruction which led to a string of growing companies (Computer Curriculum Corporation which was bought up by Pearson; RiverDeep, an effective competitor, was later bought by Houghton-Mifflin). Some of the struggle to determine future directions can be found in the Pearson report Impacts of the Digital Ocean on Education (DiCerbo & Behrens, 2014).The CMI label was later changed to the more palatable marketing labels of Integrated Learning Systems (ILS) and LMS (Learning Management Systems). Many similar companies also have been built up around the e-learning label.

Digital systems are excellent for delivering instructional content that is prescribed, measured, monitored, reported and managed, and content that can be delivered with edutainment’s high-interest state of the art multimedia and interactive response resources.

Others have taken a decidedly learner centered approach. For an even longer period of time, the seminal thinkers of education who have been most deeply involved as actual teachers, inventor of schools, participant observers and creators of instruction, including Montessori, Dewey, Piaget, Freire, Moore and Papert, have advised that learner centered was best. In their writing and practices they used and recommended community and learner motivated projects, student choice, personal planning and multi-age teamwork. The Internet and the Web have been built with exactly this type of social and inventive thinking and this type of productivity by adolescents and adults. The Web stands as a model of the most productive system yet devised by human capacity; the information explosion stimulated from this design yields results beyond any current capacity to contain it, demanding immense growth in personal knowledge in order to use it ever more wisely and productively. Standing on this foundation are a long list of companies inventing new practices, careers and jobs that are beyond the space to list here. They added further and immense creativity, value and efficiency to society and culture.

Digital applications are excellent for inventing, creating, exploring, discovering, assembling, analyzing, sharing, critiquing, posting, producing, composing, building and more, using a digital palette of at least 10 different categories of media: text, audio, still image, video, 2D animation, many forms of 3D composition; sensors/robotics, interaction and coding. The digital palette is also a hot-spot clickable cover page for  the DigiAcademy Web site drilling down into elements of digital literacy and its implications.

In this digital palette infographic, shown on the right, there is a ring or collar around the inner circle of composing and understanding. It is titled team workflow, representing teamwork. That teamwork area represents an ocean of diverse Web apps, that are far too numerous to fit into that space. Most fortunately, they are wonderful charted in the infographic below by Brian Solis and JESS3. Will they are someone turn them all into a Web graphic of hotspots some day that link directly to the apps?

Web apps excel at using some combination of the digital palette media above to stimulate many different elements of teaming.  This network nature of Web includes sharing, evaluation, critique, praise, collaboration, cooperation and more. Twitter is just 1 part of the ocean of local and global team conversations.

Click the image below for a larger view of the circle. Even Blogger and Twitter are just a part of a much larger ocean of the social media of teaming.

Visit Conversation Prism for choices of different much more readable sizes of the full circle of the teaming or social media chart that is above. 

Dr. Young Zhao examined our current national and state efforts at standardization and school reform, along with views of education in China and India, and concluded that: "The only way to go is to liberate human beings so they can create their own space."

See some of his TEDx presentation below.

Which path will the software used in school practices of learning and teaching follow? Do we learn best by following decisions or making decisions? Will the major decisional power rest in the software system itself or in the minds of learners and teachers? What software and hardware will best support these path or paths? In which way should our money and our time go? At the moment, the centrality of the learner, the question of who has the decision making initiative, is not a factor in overall assessment of state educational systems: Digital Learning Now's

What hashtags are engaged in hashing out these themes? A place to start would include:

#PLN #maker #makerspace #LMS #elearning #cosn14

Monday, March 17, 2014


Keeping 21st Century Faith in Middle Level Educational Philosophy

There are certain facts and questions that would be useful to serve as foundation for curriculum planning. New ones have emerged since I wrote, The Long View – Curriculum into the 21st Century, for the NC Middle School Journal (2014).

In short, the adult world is awash in the "new oil", digital information, the product of the silent, invisible and endlessly expanding information explosion; information dominates all other forms of capital, and the economy and culture use digital technology to build new businesses and new careers on it every day.  Over 80% of the population in the United States uses the Net and the Web every day if not through most of its hours. Such a rapidly changing culture requires inquisitive, question-seeking, self-actualizing edupreneurs. To survive let alone thrive in such a current setting requires a learner centered, student centered educational system that graduates everyone with such skills.

Such thinking has long been central to stated Middle Level educational goals and this is reinforced by elements of the Common Core. These goals are further supported by a new movement that is helping to change community perspective about the value of open-ended project based learning. The makerspace movement (see part of global makerspace map below) has been creating community centers to share 3D printers and other digital fabrication devices for personal projects, and individuals, teams and families have begun to explore their potential.

The longer view then shows multiple forces at work pulling and pushing to build a learner centered question and project focused culture: the adult economy; middle school philosophy; the NC legislature requirement for 2017 to be the year in which all textbooks and instructional materials are digital; 1/3 of state schools (map and discussion) on the march by the fall of 2013 to having a digital device for every student in that (see map above); Common Core making higher order thinking skills a priority; and the new industrial revolution creating a new makerspace explosion on top of the cyberspace explosion still underway.

Against that background it is important to look at the resistance to such change. Have conditions changed in the last decade or if it is still the case that  "intelligent inquiry is an illusion at this point in educational practice" (Graesser, Ozuru and Sullin, 1994, p. 122)? The evidence questions our progress: “State  and  national  systems  of  so-called accountability have had a devastatingly negative effect on student-centered  middle  school  programs”   (George, 2014, p.3). Legislative action has treated students as excess labor at a time when we have run out of enough brains to bring in the harvest from the digital information frontier. This is also leading to one more surge to expand the H1B visa program to import talent from other countries. Such argument is being made without equal emphasis on refinancing schools at the level needed. Of equal concern, too many legislatures think finance invents all by itself and are thereby anxious to lower taxes under the theory that this produces jobs. Our state and the nation are left without any evidence that one day we can meet the demands of the digital age with our own citizens.

"We have met the enemy and it is us" (Pogo cartoon). What questions will continue to drive us in the right direction?

George, P. S. (2014). The struggle for middle school in North Carolina: Taking the long view. A speech to commemorate the life and work of John Van Hoose. North Carolina Middle School Journal, 28(1), 1 9. 

Graesser, A.C., & Person, N.K. (Spring 1994). Question Asking During Tutoring. American Educational Research Journal31(1) 104-137.

Shortened Web address for this posting: Hashtags: #50NCMLE14, #makerspace


Saturday, March 08, 2014


Finance builds, schools starve – stupid fixable equation

Finance builds, schools starve – stupid equation.  50 characters

Finance builds, schools starve – stupid fixable equation. How many ways can we Tweet this? 88 characters

Finance builds economic & cultural capacity, our loaded digital buffet; growth’s nub, public schools, begs napkins.   118 characters

Fix! Finance builds economic & cultural capacity, our loaded digital buffet; our key growth lever, the public school, begs to eat napkins.  140 characters

The Truth

There are simple new truths we must comprehend about the divergent nature of the global digital buffet table. The current richness and depth of the World Wide Web is built on a little bit extra. The extra capacity of people’s homes, the garage, enabled individual creativity that led to personal computers;  the extra capacity of people, government’s capital, taxes, founded the Internet and the Web. The extra capacity of people's time plus digital devices and the Web served as additional rocket fuel for the explosive growth of the data that fed the table.  When you fertilize this information age data crop, when you pump its gas, it doubles. If you haven't experienced this, get Twitter literate. The fertile data wilderness that feeds this table of knowledge is the world’s first human-built permanent frontier, an infinitely expanding information and digital age explosion of ideas.

Private and public capital did its planning atop this digital table, wisely using this foundation to plan and execute numerous oil-rig style gushers of value and profit (try listing the companies).  The smorgasbord of opportunities provided by what already sits atop the table of the Net extends over the horizon for everyone that we can seat next to it. Sadly, those seated next to it are accompanied by a sea of empty chairs.

There is also great misunderstanding about this information age table. The root of its wealth, the knowledge explosion, is silent, invisible and a dominant tsunami of power on a scale that spills over any containment that we have devised.  The fundamental nature of the table's wealth, information, is non-rival, radically different than the world of physical possessions. As Thomas Jefferson marveled at our country's founding, non-rival information means that no one loses data and knowledge that they give to others. And we now know that in this process they create more.  The empowering literacy of the digital age is now multi-multiheaded, the twin-hydras of cyberspace and makerspace. Its accessibility and its growth are spreading fastest through the least expensive digital devices that are finding their way into everyone's pocket on the planet. The tech tools are the means to the problem solving end. Note the rich collection of tools for composition and invention in its digital palette.

In spite of such opportunity, state schools and many families are starved for the resources to get to first base in the digital age, a computer with Net access. Students who don't have a personal digital device to take to and from school begin far behind the starting blocks. The map gives some idea of progress in North Carolina. Progress towards the first step in mining infinite information, 1:1 computing, is at a crawl. You will note that despite much desire to do so our major cities like Charlotte (Batten, 2014) and Raleigh (Hibbets, 2013) are not on board.

At the same time that financial interests are arguing for knocking down the door for H1B visa cards to import talent from abroad to drive our digital age; they are not knocking down the door to the funding for schools to support the digital literacy of the kids who are already here. Shouldn't we be making a deal to do both? The key ingredient, the key capital that is restraining future gushers and more economic and cultural wealth for everyone is more educated people that know how to leverage their digital tools. Public schools and universities are choking for the investment needed to exploit this opportunity. 

A brain is a terrible thing to waste. Our culture wastes them when taxpayers conceptualize them as an excess resource on whom tax support is wasted and then teaching those that remain in classrooms as if they were containers instead of generators, using curriculum that is largely blind to to the empowering literacy of the age. It is time to end the stubborn persistence of the digital divide (Badger, 2014). In our age of infinite data, there is long term social and economic loss for every single person that is lost to the capacity of creatively working the digital frontier. It is not a case of someone else picking up the slack. There is no someone else. Everyone else that is digitally literate is already busy with their own little piece of the frontier, which continues to grow.

Politics is the allocation of resources. We have been squeezing state funds out of education based on the belief that freeing financial capital stimulates the most hiring. At a time in which anyone should be able to tap into the immense water tower of information wealth,  this squeeze on schools now does more to perpetuate cycles of poverty than it does for business growth. Too many schools and communities across our nation cannot even provide sufficient safety (For one example, see ABC News report on Strawberry Hill High School. How many of our school principals in NC could produce an all too similar video?)

In the digital age it is the educated that can and must invent jobs; today it is invention that stimulates the most hiring. Unfortunately, the "finance first" framework is a now devastatingly backwards political policy. It has historically grown out of long experience with the logic of the possession of land, goods and finance. A new and non-rival logic has upset that fruit cart of possessions and created a new and very wild vineyard. Our digital age wine needs a new skin.

Let's do the math. Poverty is far too common (Frontline report on Poor Kids). How well can we solve the equity equation by Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize, (Uri Treisman giving the M. Carl Equity Address at NCTM, 2013,

Through dated logic our culture has misplaced priorities for how to create capacity and results in the digital age. Entrepreneurs emerge through the educated that build their own personal learning networks towards their own creative goals, their projects, not those designated by the state or educators. Why is this approach of project centered education best for preschoolers and adults and not those in-between? This is knowledge that the ideas of Montessori, Dewey, Freire, Piaget, Papert and many others have been trying to communicate for a very long time. It is in fact how the rapidly expanding value of the Web builds on itself today. Now that society is deep into the digital age, our culture needs a four-lane highway to their thinking. How quickly can we flip policy designed around problems of possession to policy designed for the new non-rival and infinite fuel of the knowledge society?

Once we comprehend that the prize ingredient for everyone thriving is everyone's opportunity to learn and create from our digital  stockpile, then Treisman's data makes it clear that the greatest restraints on the education necessary for thriving are poverty and income inequality.  Said another way, insufficient quality education fuels poverty. Poverty is not just a personal problem; in the digital age it is the albatross hanging around all our necks. To build finance by starving schools is an especially stupid design in a knowledge economy. Let's work on a smarter equation; finance schools as invention engines; build the knowledge society.

Let's change all the nouns to verbs, and change conditions to actions. Not finance builds, schools starve, but finance schools, starve poverty, build economy. Are you and your organizations building the bridges that will educate every elected official possible and the communities that vote for them?

Given sufficient people capital and a goldmine to work of infinite data, it  is now not just reasonable to have a vision of the future without poverty, it is down-to-earth practical. Let's find the little bit extra. As with the Barclay's ad, "What's a vision without the capital to achieve it?"

Some related "Find your tribe" hashtags for possible allies in this effort - #ncties14  #policy  #H1B #immigration reform #immigrationre #ConnectEd #edtech #edchat #edpolicy #edstem #digln

(50 Hashtags for connected educators)


Updated - 3/20/2014

Thursday, March 06, 2014


Who are the NC edtech bloggers?

Who are the NC edtech bloggers? Great NCTIES question tweet! I've always wanted to know the answer to that question and those Tweeting at #NCTIES14 have provided us with some great answers. Using a TweetDeck (love this online app) search column for blog OR blogger OR blogging over the last 2 days of the NCTIES 2014 Conference in Raleigh led to this list.

I took this to mean the longer form of blogging beyond Tweeting but I've included everyone's Twitter link as well. Our university student teachers need these examples and role models. My thanks to everyone for this dedication and labor of love. This provides a wonderful cross-section of the digitally literate thinking going on in our state.

If more bloggers surface, send 'em my way. I've left them in time order to give a sense of the flow and progression as news and ideas emerge over a two day conference.

My first impression is that more of this group are more active as micro-bloggers, e.g., Twitter composers, than longer form blog sites. Only a few are also maintaining Web sites or least claiming such on their Twitter home page. I wonder how this will evolve in the years ahead.

Text Channels

Out of state bloggers highlighted by Tar Heels educators

Other Media Channels

I saw few examples among Tweeters that were promoting their link(s) to channels for the non-text rest of the digital palette.

Other examples might include (with an example of the genre): still image (Flickr), audio (Podcasts), video (YouTube), 2D animation, 3D animation (Minecraft, Second Life), 3D objects (TinkerCad), or sensor/robotics/Internet of Things projects (Plant Link). That may simply be something that was not mentioned or in the rapid flow I may have missed it. Whatever the reason, it will be hard to expect such work to emerge from student activities in teacher's classrooms until we do more modeling for our learners.  We now have an infinite number of possibilities for invention and creation that are well within our educational grasp.

I'd love to add other channels that NC teachers are modeling so please send as you find them (or elsewhere that are valued).

Shortcut to this post -


Last updated March 7, 4:22 pm

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


Code Red As Brand-New Pedagogical Model

"It’s not about matching traditional models with existing tools anymore; It’s about developing a brand-new pedagogical model and implementing the Next generation Web environment upon it." Antonio Fumero

Fumero, A. (2006). EDUWEB 2.0 - ICAMP & N-GEN Educational Web.  In proceeding of: WEBIST 2006, Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies: Society, e-Business and e-Government / e-Learning, Setúbal, Portugal, April 11-13, 2006.
= = = =

One can feel the pressure to leap into a fully formed new something and the global need for new pedagogical models is not immune. Many see that new facts have been and can be further arranged in new ways for fascinating purposes. Why? Why is such possibility in the air and does it require an antidote, scaffolding or simply the freedom to roll?

Everyone's doing it.

The university scene is excited about MOOCS. Educators unsatisfied with the results from lecture halls of hundreds are pushing for massive online courses of tens of thousands.

Public schools in the United States are close to the tipping point for a massive rollout of 1 digital device per student and North Carolina is an active leader in this effort.

The Federal planners also saw opportunity and planned the roll-out of a new online health care system of education, registration and management.

And with that last thought, we have an educational case study. The resulting national crisis of the health care Web site, its failure and its 6 week resurrection, is instructive. This story is told in some detail in Steven Brill's insightful article, Code Red (Time Magazine, March 10, 2014, pp. 26-36). Some of our cultural leaders have gained sufficient knowledge to talk the talk and dream and envision, but too often lack the operational knowledge and systems to walk the walk, and that's just part of the problem. Is there anyone familiar with IT who cannot tell similar stories just on a more local scale? There is aspirational;  there is functional, and then there is useful. Or as has been quoted many times, the future is here, it's just not widely distributed.

An underlying cause of the vision of opportunity is a disturbingly silent and tragically invisible character, the explosion of knowledge (chapter length), giving us a smorgasbord of options (multiple textbooks). This invisible character may be THE cause. From this overloaded table of goodies of constantly new facts and new tools, inventive minds will create new forms and start to use them. Enter, stage left, invisible character  two,  chaos and self-organizational theory; better understand the former before attempting to understand the latter.  It is important to understand that this is only going to accelerate, not settle out, level off or whatever hopeful term one might invent for the world reaching a point that it might be comprehendible, predictable and controllable. Code Red is the demonstrated new pedagogical model.

A further underlying cause is an educational system that has yet to face to facts of this new world and its new systems of communication and thinking. It is not about the haves and have-nots of hardware. It is about education. University systems have been marinating in a deep pool of the hardware stuff for 20 years and still seek to match traditional models with cyberspace. Such systems appear to continue to pass on the question of defining the actual elements of digital literacy. It is a debatable as to whether MOOCs are the tip of the old system or the tip of the new. Next up are public schools, which have been starved for full-scale digital funding. It is only with the rapid price drops of recent years that they have started taking steps for massive participation in the near future. Which continues to beg the question, participate in what?

It is hard to imagine what it will take for long standing institutions to recognize let alone accept the implications of what is standing in front of them in the digital era. There is a way out. Use models that are working. Edupunk, personal learning networks, social networks and makerspaces are the current most representative role models of the global cyberspace educational system. They form as seemingly the anti-particles of post-industrial culture. Physics appears to have made peace with the anti-particle conundrum; can our current institutions?  A deeper examination than Brill's piece of the training, education and philosophies of the cast of characters that quickly saved the heath care site from cardiac arrest would be informative.

The first national Web catharsis provided some national lessons. I surmise there is no going back. There is no antidote to the knowledge explosion and its role as the fuel injector for ever more intense nonlinear chaos and self-organization, fundamental late 20th century concepts still greatly misunderstood. Green lighting new digital projects will only lead to endless Code Red unless the Geeks get further into the wheel house. They'd like to help and they are a little disappointed at their reception. If a crisis loop of Code Red in digital thinking continues, at some point that might provide just enough incentive for them to all drop out and form their own movement and systems. That may be the long term outcome.

Even as Code Red thinking has now reached recognition on a national political scale, let's stamp it out with the new models that are working. If it has become impossible to get our arms around the future, then what?  Iterate. A revolution, with scaffolding and scaling, can become self-educating for those that will listen.

Twitter "find your tribe" hashtags: #edupunk #makerspace #pedagogy #pln

Updated with links, March 6.

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