Author Archives: Jared

Michael Feldstein starts discussion of solutionism in ed tech

OK, maybe “starts” is not the right word as this discussion has been happening – albeit often in small, sometimes closed circles — for some time (see also Klapdor and Fernandez for example).

But having been on both sides of the ed tech purchaser / vendor fence (I spent over a dozen years in higher ed online learning and currently work for Canvas by Instructure), and still having the desire to turn that fence into something more neighborly, I agree with a lot that Michael Feldstein has said about the challenges that hype-driven trends toward solutionism present to both parties.
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Setting wheels in motion: Mindsets workshop structure at MIT Media Lab

I’ve organized small and medium-sized workshops and even large conferences in my day, so I’m always interested in how others execute their events to encourage engagement and meaningful outcomes. So, setting aside the richness of the discussions, the knowledge-sharing, and the many connections at today’s mindsets, motivation and online learning workshop (hosted by MIT Media Lab) I want to describe the very clever structure and sequence that Philipp Schmidt and team used to combine and re-combine a group of over 30 researchers, teachers, technologists, and administrators from various backgrounds into fully engaged teams of collaborators:
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The Black Mountain SOLE Project

In a recent post on MindShift, Luba Vangelova summarizes David Dobias’ work on self-organizing learning environments (SOLE). The SOLE model encourages self-reliance and autonomy, situating learners in a loosely structured (but deliberately supported) environment with other, similarly “engaged learners.” The Black Mountain SOLE project is a physical gathering place for cooperative, collaborative learning. It’s not an alternative to more formal educational paths; rather, it complements them by addressing those less codified regions of learning and practice. It’s an incubator of sorts for social learning with motivation as one of the key outcomes. According to Dobias, “The point is people getting clear on their passions and taking action.”

Read the full post here.

Cross-posted from Keep Learning

“User innovation” and the opportunity to build broad, innovative teacher communities

Mike Caulfield wrote a great post musing on the origin of and instruments for innovation in teaching over at e-Literate, focusing on an area that I’ve always been particularly interested in, if only peripherally: the users. The following is a slight expansion of the comment I left on that post:
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Richard Talbert on Learner Independence

Learner independence is tied to so many valuable aspects of learning, from critical thinking to lifelong learning (I’m especially interested in how it supports habits of deliberate practice and dwelling in flow states). This is a huge topic that I won’t even attempt to address here. But I do want to reference Richard Talbert’s latest post, “Declaring Independence”, which comments on the experience of teaching a flipped class, and concludes:

…helping people become become independent learners, capable of managing and directing their intellectual growth over their entire lifespans, is the fundamental goal on which higher education — maybe all of education — needs to focus.

New Community-Contributed Blog “Keep Learning” Goes Live

Keep Learning is live, with the inaugural guest post on open architecture and open courses by Jim Groom published at 1:06pm EDT.

Keep Learning Blog

Keep Learning is a new education technology blogging project by Instructure, the folks behind Canvas. It’s a privilege to have a chance to work on this project, and hopefully engage a large swathe of the varied education and technology communities. The project relies on guest writers and cross-disciplinary readers to build bridges to different shared spaces, professional networks, and online learning communities.

Devlin Daley’s Ed Startup 101 Q&A

Of course I’m biased, but I thought Devlin Daley did a great job explaining the vision and foundation of Instructure and Canvas during today’s Ed Startup 101 Q&A. Hearing Devlin talk about Big Picture type things is always reinvigorating for someone like me who has the privilege of working with him and the rest of the Instructure team. Devlin has the rare ability to dive deep below the surface of technology challenges, refuting a superficial answer with a far more elegant, holistic solution.

Here’s the video:


Here are few salient points and quotes from the Twitter stream:

Edstartup: Space: Degreed

Degreed is a new company in the ed tech space–just recently in beta–that aims to aggregate and compile learning experiences, whether submitted by a user themself or perhaps by an official certificate (degree, diploma, badge, whatever) provider. The accumulation of learning experiences could be organized to reflect learning, experience, and achievement in a more holistic, deep, and meaningful way than formal institutions typically provide. The real appeal of Degreed is in the idea that it might provide credentials for informal or even simply incidental learning experiences–you know, the kind of learning that we do everyday, often without thinking about it, outside of an organized classroom setting.


Figure from Don Clark‘s Knowledge Jump, a great source for info on instruction and design

So that’s the pain Degreed is trying to address: people need evidence of both formal and informal learning in order to bolster their career success.

It’s not really a new idea–schools, both accredited and degree-mills– have tried to address this by certifying “life experience”, invariably at a cost.

Interestingly, this concept is not too far removed from the concept of certain xMOOCs, which do provide learning experiences, but ultimately, certification does not necessarily require participation, and may simply be based upon assessment of your ability (a looser, but similarly inspired form of outcomes-based assessment). Tangent: Ira Glass discussed the challenge of assessing broad learning over time in last week’s This American Life where James Heckman asks if a GED–the high school equivalency exam–is a true indication of high school learning?)

It’s a daunting task, but after simply signing up for the Degreed beta experience I was fairly impressed at how much information they’d been able to accumulate on my formal learning experiences just from my Facebook account. There weren’t a lot of details on the coursework (how could there be without a transcript?), and no actual degrees transferred in, but it wasn’t a bad start:

Degreed also lets you add courses from institutions, and suggest new institutions to include. It doesn’t currently support transcript upload in any format (though presumably Degreed will have some method of requesting transcripts–probably at a fee–from the accrediting university).It doesn’t look like there are a lot of ways to inject informal learning, though badge support seems imminent.

How Degreed plans to business model this project is unclear. I would presume they will offer “premium” accounts, or charge for publishing of credentials, or perhaps transcript transfer into or out of the system. They might even facilitate some kind of assessment and certification process for measuring informal and life experiences.