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

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