Hyping Personalized Digital Instead of Closed-Loop Learning Sounds Better. Omits all that Troubling Data Gathering Too

I really am not opposed to the 21st Century. I simply notice when I am dealing with a slogan for self-interested change instead of the real rationale. For a long time that has been my suspicion about the Digital Learning push. It would enrich the sellers of all that computer equipment and software. But it’s a lot more than that. I have come a long way since a speech by former West Virginia Governor, Bob Wise, hyping Digital Learning by pulling at the heart strings. He had the audience visualizing the children in isolated Appalachian hamlets hungry for knowledge. Suddenly gaining access to the top science lecturers via ICT and having the chance to move beyond their current circumstances.

I remember thinking that I had just read repeated insistences that under the Common Core teaching template lecturing and explaining concepts systematically were out. As in better not do it if you want to keep your job. So the poignant story just came across as a desire to sell Digital Learning where the facts did not fit the sales job. But we have education doctorates now credentialing based on an agreement to make technology the focus of school. It’s central to the accreditation vision of schools and districts going forward. It is central to the UN’s vision of the 21st century “bureaucrats manage us and we don’t complain about it” Knowledge Society.

The one I explained here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/all-that-is-solid-melts-into-air-but-does-it-really/ where knowledge as we know it is mostly missing and intuitions and hunches substitute just fine. I have ed tech conferences going back more than two decades giddily acknowledging that digital learning is a Trojan Horse, weakening academics but doing wonders for social inclusion. We have Basareb Nicolescu, President of UNESCO’s CIRET, writing about “The Transdisciplinary Evolution of Learning” where “mentalities evolve” because “courses at all levels” must now “sensitize students and awaken them to the harmony between beings and things.” Remember that when we get to Learning Maps below. And that this consistency of coursework is best accomplished by extending “networks, such as the Internet, and ‘invent’ the education of the future by insuring planet-wide activity in continuous feedback, thereby establishing interactions on the universal level for the first time.”

Which certainly sounds like what is going on with the MOOCs like EdX and their now global partnership of higher ed institutions. The problem no one is focusing on was laid out in a November 2012 UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE for short) report on Learner Analytics. If you are not familiar with IITE, perhaps it is because it is located in Moscow. Yes, the one that likes onion-domed architecture and seriously regrets the loss of its former Superpower status. In case “Learner Analytics” is a new term for you too, I will include IITE’s definition. Since the US Department of Ed has also quietly put out a report advocating LA and education data mining, let’s all listen up now:

Learning Analytics appropriates [captured digital data to help inform decision-making] for education. With the growth of huge data sets and computational power, this extends to designing infrastructures that exploit rapid feedback, to inform more timely interventions, whose impact can then be monitored. Organizations have increasingly sensitive ‘digital nervous systems’ providing real time feedback on the external environment and the effect of actions.”

So in K-12 Digital Learning the computer system is capturing a great deal of info on each student’s interests, capabilities, responses to questions, attitudes, perseverence, actions, etc. As to MOOCs and free online gaming, well that LA report said point blank:

“The free hosting of learning platforms and courses by initiatives such as Harvard+MIT’s edX are quite openly motivated by the opportunities that come with the ownership of unprecedented data sets from millions of learners’ interactions.”

Which is apparently so useful that MIT now has a Human Dynamics Lab looking at a society enabled by Big Data. http://hd.media.mit.edu/ . Something to think about with Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer and reorganizing 21st century society around systems thinking. And the push at Harvard and MIT for Action Science and a new economy based on needs and distributed capitalism. Not to be paranoid but the National Academy of Sciences really did advocate that the US economy be reorganized around Sustainability and planned with Big Data with the aid of the tech companies like Microsoft and IBM. And at the precise same time K-12 and higher ed are being reorganized to limit knowledge and just rain personal behavioral data on companies like Coursera and EdX and NewsCorp’s Amplify and Carnegie and Gates-funded inBloom. What are the odds?

I read the new book Big Data this weekend and it states that if another company came up with “an e-commerce site, social network, or search engine that was much better than today’s leaders like Amazon, Google, or Facebook, it would have trouble competing…because so much of the leading firms’ performance is due to the data exhaust they collect from customer interactions and incorporate back into the service.” Now if that is true now, imagine combining that inferential data with all the personal behavioral data scheduled to become available from the new gaming focus of K-12 and the expansion of the MOOCs and the online delivery of basic math and literacy skills.

When I had the epiphany that perhaps the real purpose of the Common Core State Standards was to get Digital Learning in place and all the behavioral data that would then start to flow, I searched for a connection to Big Data. Up popped this recent article http://online.stanford.edu/news/2013/02/19/learning-goes-digital-big-data-can-guide-us on Stanford Prof Roy Pea, a big fan of Soviet Lev Vygotsky, who we already met in this troubling Cyberlearning post. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/the-need-to-know-as-we-understand-it-today-may-be-a-lethal-cultural-sport/

I actually listened to the hourlong EduCause keynote speech by Professor Pea and took good notes, Beyond all the data flowing out of MOOCs, both Professor Pea and the OSCon July 2012 speech of Danny Hillis from Applied Minds he referenced (and I also listened to) made it clear that online courses require Learning Maps. Closed Loop Learning Maps of a Domain that the student moves through with a visual interaction via computer. Hillis and Pea said the Common Core takes K-12 in this direction and then each put up a slide of skills with the title: “Example of Competencies That the Map Needs to Show.”

MOOCs then would do the same for higher ed. In fact, Pea lamented that “learning maps are conspicuously absent” in higher ed and that their “development is an ‘urgent priority.” Doesn’t that sound lovely? These are the skills step-by-step we want you to have and we are designing backward from the end view. The skills needed for the UN’s Knowledge Society.  The one of just experiential knowledge and hunches and basic skills as described above and in this deeply troubling recent report   http://www.un.org/sg/management/pdf/HLP_P2015_Report.pdf

Hillis and Pea both talked about the InBloom K-12 database that will make “open access, flexible, useful learning maps and recommended learning resources for every student’s specific interests and needs–a reality throughout US schools.” Which is of course only possible because of all the personal behavioral data to be captured by the computers and software and Amplify tablets etc. Hillis also mentioned that the Gates Foundation funded the buildout of inBloom’s “personalized learning” infrastructure as part of its much broader interests in education that go far beyond the Common Core.

Now the Big Data book says it is now impossible for an individual to limit the flows of Big Data everyday and that we just need to make the companies accountable for what they do with it. But accountable to who? The US federal government wants the tech companies to help governments at all levels rework the nature of the economy. The UN wants the Knowledge Society with a global Mutual Benefit economy that looks like a modern version of that little c communism vision that Uncle Karl came up with so long ago. They claim that will result in a peaceful world by 2030. Transdisciplinarity and Sustainability and MOOCs and Competencies and 21st Century Learning are ALL premised on this revised UN-developed vision of the future.

I know because IITE issued an April 2012 Policy Brief that says precisely that called “ICTs for Curriculum Change.” Where is our recourse if that’s the vision the Gates Foundation is actually funding our transformation to? or Carnegie? or the National Science Foundation?

And through inBloom and Digital Learning and expanding MOOCs we are about to put Big Data on steroids with info on thoughts and desires and feelings for virtually every student in K-12. Professor Pea pointed out that MOOCs will not be about working with a professor. They will be about students working with each other. An online social learning community throwing off personal data.

Community. Community. The omnipresent vision of the 21st century.

Will there be any place for the independent individual in this vision?

54 thoughts on “Hyping Personalized Digital Instead of Closed-Loop Learning Sounds Better. Omits all that Troubling Data Gathering Too

  1. Thank you for the links. They have been downloaded and preserved. Once again, your meticulous research and perception astonish me.

    • I want you to know, I cut and paste your article into a Word document and I link to the sources from there, so as not to bring undue attention to your site.

    • These should be stable links. Although that UN report is awfully graphic.

      OSCon stands for Open Source Convention. Last year Microsoft was the lead sponsor when Danny Hillis spoke. This year inBloom is the lead sponsor. Which I found interesting. It’s not just education.

      Another entity Roy Pea mentions is the Society of Learning Analytics Research–SOLAR. It appears to me that SOLAR’s symbol is the same one basically that inBloom uses for its two o’s.

      I also reread the bios of the 2 authors of the Big Data book after I finished the post. One, Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, says he is on the boards of both Microsoft and the World Economic Forum as well as an Internet governance and regulation prof at Oxford. The other, Kenneth Cukier, is the data editor for The Economist magazine. So Big Data is very much an international agenda.

      Thank you for your kind words. I try to wait to write until I truly understand the dynamics instead of just knowing troubling facts.

      But truly a fiction writer could not make this up.

      • I must have missed a post but what does MOOC stand for?
        also here is a little hidden paragraph on page 11 or 12 of the un doc. third way. it is imbedded into young adult lit also, see the book REVOLVER. also the third way list of change agents from 2005 in comments around here somewhere. also in my 6th graders pearson social studies book, under ecomomies a chapter which states that their are only 3 kinds, capitalism, communism and a mix. third way, the mix of both. hmm.

        “Social impact investors show that there can be a “third way” for sustainable development – a hybrid between a fully for-profit private sector and a pure grant or charity aid program. Because they make money, their efforts can be sustainable over time. But because they are new, neither business nor charity, they do not fall neatly into traditional legal frames. Some countries may need to consider how to modify their laws to take better advantage of this sector.”

        • MOOC is massive open online courses. I have Anthony Giddens Global Third Way book from 2001 and have written about that vision. The Fourth Way is quite similar but not tied to Tony Blair. Many states are being pressured to create these B corporations. For Benefit.

          When you are as far down as I am you realize it is alternative names but a consistent vision for the future.

          http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/who-needs-pitchforks-to-get-political-and-economic-revolution-education-and-time-will-do-fine/ is the vision. Also fits with Senge’s Regenerative Society ans Harry Boyte’s Cooperative Commonwealth. Robert Tucker would say they are all a reworking of the small c needs of all” vision.

        • That is about the first explanation of “Third Way” that has made sense to me. I must say sixth grade has come a long way since I was there under the watchful eye of a teacher who hated me!

          From that short explanation, the whole picture of mutual public-private bribery, public-private partnerships, etc. becomes clear. The government’s incentives to go this way are clear, because the government employees can hope to cash out later on the private side or run money through their friends there. Third way is no longer touchy-feely but very real and practical. And of course corrupt. Now, from that quote for sixth graders, I understand Third Way!

          Perhaps they count on sixth graders not noticing. And still not noticing when sixth grade for them is many years in the past. Is this some sort of “fair notice” that can be deemed to have been given — to minors? The nasty ones do seem to tell us what they’re doing, sort of. By the way my sixth grader doesn’t recall seeing anything about capitalism / communism / third way in his curriculum.

  2. It’s pretty obvious how they’re funding the development of these MOOCs and associated infrastructure.

    US college tuition payments.

    The cost of college here has skyrocketed. While there is less government funding for technology projects (the Cold War is over) the availability of student loans and a growing (if reluctant) culture of borrowing to go to school has brought in a flood of tuition cash. By making this debt non-defaultable we ensure that American students individually pay it all.

    Meanwhile that camera in the back of their lecture hall (or a camera at a better school than the one that the student was able to attend, recording a better lecture) is beaming the same content to everyone in the world for free.

    The stuff in EdX really is good if the student does the work. I’ve been pushing some of it at my own kids and even though they don’t get it all, I think they get some of it and they’ll get more later. Maybe a future unexpected US innovation (the communists are pretty bad at predicting these) is the rise in alternative, maybe neighborhood-based institutions to help students consume this online content. Adults providing a small bit of in-person input to push students over the rough spots as they get an almost-free college education. Is it considered sustainable for me to be able to help my neighbors? Heck they’re probably already doing this in India and China, it’s time for us to stop being patsies.

    • But the info on the MOOCs is they are moving away from lecture. Coursera is a similar model in terms of data being captured. The Big Data book described it in detail.

      This Daphne Koller talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6FvJ6jMGHU where she talks about the data being captured on top of a similar comment from the MIt Media Lab “Play Nice” video I linked to on a previous post is what started the epiphany it was the data.

      You can bet India and China will do what the Soviets did. Protect their best students from the levelling priority. But the US? We are telling our best students there will be no more TAG or acceleration and that ability is not personal. It’s just part of the distributed intelligence in the classroom and they can tutor.

      I am still not done. It will take at least 2 more posts on what is actually a common theme over 4 posts.

      This country is in dire straits though if the only kids getting a decent amount of accurate knowledge or learning to read properly are those whose parents are intervening.

      But in the mean time, let’s keep up the diligence and hiring of tutors and travel.

      • daphne creeps me out. yes we are dupes. the world is maneuvering at an outrageous pace with Americans compliance, those willing and those useful idiots and those who know zero. so we will pay for our own destruction here, thats it.
        only a few left with out there minds shellacked. then what?

  3. Kahn Academy is a great idea. Sounds like Pea wants to hijack something that he didn’t have the imagination to create and turn it into some hyper-managed enterprise. The short videos are extremely useful. Thenewboston.org is good for learning computer code. The Teaching Company offers courses that are incredible. But they don’t give you tests. They’re not supposed to be like school. They’re about learning stuff.

    The Daphne Koller video was similarly interested in the computer giving feedback—to questions in sociology and the like. Trying to over-manage, and ultimately ruin, the good things that came into existence spontaneously.

    • I think this is a case where the initial launchings will turn out not to be representative of what is planned.

      You should look at this link and download the presentations. And tell me this is not about use of technology. Bonus points for noticing how many times Equity is used.

      http://reimaginingeducation.org/

        • I have nothing against expanding educational opportunities. The problem is that there are many ways of doing that without using computer technology and data collection software. And there is nothing said about awarding degrees based on what one knows, rather than on a system based on paying tuition and jumping through hoops. Technically, if one culd earn a degree through independent study and receive credentials accordingly, I would think that is good. In fact, reading books and doing independent research is one way of doing that. Historically, all kinds of people, e.g. Virginnia Woolf, did just that very thing. But I see nowhere any suggestion that all of these open education courses are going to advance young people in America unless they pay huge tuition costs.

          • In the Koller video she suggested giving iPhones to kids in Africa so they could have access to digital learning. My first thought was ‘why don’t they just build some libraries?’ I recently watched the video of Matt Drudge addressing the Press Club 15 years ago and was pleased to learn that he was self-taught, no college degree, knew he was an outsider—but he read, came up with an idea, and developed it. Inspiring stuff.

    • I don’t understand the Kahn Academy business model, if I recall they have funding from a foundation. Maybe that is the type of future lecture that will be available.

      The lectures are easy to consume for a wide audience, but they lack depth. I don’t think that learning a bunch of them would be like earning a technical degree or even a decent freshman year of a technical curriculum. Whereas stuff I’ve seen in EdX and Coursera is the real deal.

      But maybe that’s how we increase the representation of underrepresented groups in STEM subjects and careers. Just don’t count on good quality going forward …

      • David,

        Kahn is funded by Gates. And I have thought about that one a good bit as well. Does it teach knowledge broadly or discrete skills and concepts? Remember knowledge in radical ed reform world is knowing how to do the skill or exercise a described strategy. Or it is knowledge of the desired concepts or Big Ideas that will then get used to frame new untaught material that has no right answer. I am quite sure on that one. Traced it across continents and over decades by very influential people.

        The flipped classroom forces a device equity arrangement of some sort first of all. If kids do not have it, school must supply it. It prevents parents from recognizing just how much actual instruction of knowledge has been outlawed. I have a high schooler in what is called a first tier school in implementing Fulton’s new anti-academic conversion charter that is supposed to be a national model. Technology, life skills, and soft skills is what the language says if you bother to read it. Most parents have not. The teachers were threatened by the previous principal who has now gone to work on a different Carnegie-Gates funded urban utopia ed scheme called “Culture of Opportunity.” If they teach the material, they are out. But they still test on the material. Probably to increase parental demand that the nature of tests be changed. And honestly the focus has shifted to group work. That’s the future except the nature of the assessment will change. Now only an autodidact can manage well and then they wonder what is the purpose of school.

        I am not guessing where this is going. Between the blueprints I have and the reality of being first tier, I am basically reporting from the fields of battle.

        I don’t think the point with MOOCs apart from the data is to charge tuition so much as decree that this is the area Learning Map of concepts and skills and this is knowledge. Circumscribing what is to be known. It takes lots of knowledge to have epiphanies and that level of knowledge would rarely be available anymore to the relatively few capable of unscripted important epiphanies. Secondly, the equity of credentials is a hugely important component. Without genuine knowledge that equity then creates unfulfilled expectations of a middle class lifestyle and coupled with student debt you have a vanguard for radical transformative social and economic change. Just as the UN envisions in that linked document.

        I know all this is going on. Check out Andrew Ng’s travels and talks, Daphne’s Coursera partner, and tell me MOOCs are not important to the future vision. Also notice the MIT Media Lab’s presence at that Reimagining Education event.

        The next 2 posts will also help frame. But it is all racing around my head.

        • Robin, you said it better than I did. Kahn Academy gets you to the level to be able to do those particular steps in your job, but it keeps you well away from epiphany territory. Away from independent thinking territory. Down in the mud where one has to appreciate the expertise of those greater than oneself, rather than mastering the material and becoming an authority for one’s own thinking.

          At the end of it, you learned how to do the assignment, but you didn’t really learn anything.

          And I agree with your other idea too, the amount of homework in my district has grown to absurd levels. In addition to all the projects they’re still trying to fit in tests. I guess the next step is to omit the tests.

          And if they keep the students so busy with busywork that nobody can complete fast, there will be no time for even the good students to learn more from parents or others who threaten the educational mission. No time for something requiring real effort, like consuming a course on EdX.

          My middle schooler has a final project for science this year. 3 guesses what it is. Well I’m sure everyone got it on the first guess: environmentalism and minimizing our environmental footprint! They have to make a display as their creative achievement, an advertisement for living lightly on the land! (There was no option to make an advertisement for a conflicting point of view, or Gold’s abiotic oil theory, or anything like that.) Maybe, as projects these often do, it will involve coloring.

          • Virtually all the curricula I have seen has an environmental theme since that ties into changing consciousness and creating a belief in the need for collective action. For problems only governments and NGOs can face, not individuals.

            http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/when-deep-learning-and-systems-thinking-radicalizes-the-student-factual-reality-ceases-to-matter/ is an old post that lays out what constitutes the oft-mentioned deep learning. Notice how all the activities are environmental in focus.

            When you do not want technology to advance further in unapproved, not part of the reigning group, ways, eliminating access to deep knowledge for those capable of it is an excellent way.

            The funny thing about what I do both here on the blog and when I did health care for example with few precedents is the ability to figure out what you were never told. Honestly you would think it was equivalent to having a Ouija board given the reactions. You just want to ask if anybody knows what a deep analysis of the relevant facts by function does.

            It’s not rocket science but again it requires lots of info. Which is basically what all these MOOCs and digital learning will be throwing off but it will be data for computers to try to infer likely behavior. A dangerous scenario in my mind instead of individual decision-making because it will be captured by self-interests. Except backed by the coercive powers of government and taxpayers wallets to fund the schemes. Which is precisely what is happening now.

          • I don’t think the on-line learning is really a substitute for a degree. There is a prevailing assumption that every kid must, or should, go to college. I don’t buy it. Like Robin said, it takes a lot of knowledge to have epiphanies. Epiphanies can be the first step to a lucrative future for individuals with or without a degree. It begins with taking in knowledge. On the basis of that alone I think Open Courseware is a pretty valuable development. I can’t speak to the nefarious intentions of Big Data, hopefully I’ll learn more about that in upcoming posts. There was a very interesting book a few years back called “Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much.” Interesting reading for those interested in knowing what happened to college tuition since the 1980’s.

          • In my view, the “epiphany” is just the breaking of a wrong habit. I wish we could teach right habits early. That way, it won’t be nearly as hard. They should use the online stuff and “flipped classroom” for THAT.

            MIT and Harvard have put some material on their websites (not sure if it’s within EdX or not) that is geared for high school students and working professionals not on the student track. I would have confidence that it teaches good habits of thought.

            How freakin’ hard is it to draw a diagram showing all the forces acting on an object, then using F=ma and some easy algebra is enough to solve many mechanics problems. This is called AP Physics C level, big whoop, I know just what it is because I’ve looked at a sample exam. If you just start doing this and repeat it over and over for a semester in about 9th grade, or even 6th grade before the students hear that it’s supposed to be hard, almost ALL students will get it. It does NOT require cleverness, just the right habit. It would be better for students to practice that than doing years of coloring, or trying to rediscover Newton’s laws on their own. The whole thing could be online videos.

            There would be a bit of teaching simple algebra along with the physics. Math and physics always go together. So I bet a lot of kids will discover they can do math, when it makes sense about why they would want to. Like how I couldn’t “get” English grammar in school because there was no point, I already knew proper English. But when I had to learn German, I could see the purpose of grammar, and then I “got” it in English too.

            And that is why, I suspect, there is now a full-court press to take over the schools. The opportunities are so great, if students and teachers would just have a bit of time to think. Open source is so great, they have to interpose themselves in the middle or they’ll be swept away into obvious irrelevance. MIT and Yale seem to have split up the work and by combining what they’ve put up, freshman math, physics and chemistry are available now. (This is their real curriculum, including video lectures, in addition to the extension stuff I mentioned above.) If I am looking for real learning, I’ll take those authorities over an accrediting body any day, and the accreditors know it.

          • My 8th grade final asignment ( this is private catholicschool,fyi) Was to choosea posifionpro con about global warming. Despitemy teaching her and showing her balanced articles and scholarship againstthe junk science, she chose pro because it was easy as it was what was taught and in the book and she knew the teacherwould give it a better grade. She did it to please teacherand for the A. This is what is happening. Teachers exposing bias to one side of junk scienceand have no scholatship of their own pasding down the false story. Like whisperdown the lane.

          • Well as long as she knew why she was doing it, I applaud your daughter’s decision. She successfully avoided making herself a victim. And it’s great that you debriefed her on this episode, to help her avoid the confusion intended by the school with this exercise. Debriefing is important, and we as parents have every right to do it!

            It’s important to get good grades, and even in my prehistoric day, K-12 was about giving the teacher back what she wanted. I then had to unlearn that habit in engineering school, but first I had to get in to the engineering school!

            The ability to bs with a smile, all the time feeling the full earned measure of contempt for the person who causes one to do this, is an important adaptation in our society. And what is school if not a place to learn important skills?

      • STEM is fishy business. tell me how palm oil in Borneo and orangutans and the rountable for sustainable palm oil is
        science, technology, engineering and math, like it is portrayed in the commercials and website with test tubes and calculus? Its not. it was a political move just like this year it is the dying polar bears. Outdated, outrageous junk science at private school.
        STEM should stand for SANDBAGGING THEPUBLIC ECONOMY with MAGICAL THINKING.

        • David,

          That sounds great. The world in education may end up being split among the profs and students who still adore a good lecture and believe in the transmission of knowledge vs those who are trying to create and then prime mindsets and altered values to design a different future. Part of the focus on games is to create a belief you can design your environment. You can change society’s direction simply by consensus. So you practice altering reality in the virtual world without recognizing the choices all constrain each other in that classic programming tree and the student doesn’t recognize that in the real world unintended consequences do not follow a tree of steps and they can be completely unappreciated.

          This gaming really does remind me of how to get to the ecology vision laid out separately by Thomas Berry and David Orr in this post from last year. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/we-need-a-radical-change-in-our-mode-of-consciousness-even-a-new-sense-of-being-human/

          And the Gordon Commission did not go away and James Paul Gee and John Behrens were a part of it. The Commission presented at the AERA conference recently and have another show in CA coming up. Gaming would fit with the Appreciative Inquiry focus too. By the way Pinkard has her PhD from the Learning Sciences program that Roy Pea established at Northwestern. It was the first Learning Sciences doctorate in the country and he set it up before moving to Stanford.

          The interesting thing about the small c human development angle is many people think this way without knowing the origins of the theories and philosophy. Others know it but mask it in other language while still actively using education and public policy generally to gain these ends. Frequently making a specialty of speaking for example to conservative groups who accept the speaker as seeking the same ends as they do and so they begin to accept these toxic means. Unaware of the deliberate toxicity to erode the rational, independent mind. That is how I would describe the presentation I heard yesterday. And good people were taking in every word with no ability to discern the fallback being presented to the Common Core was the purpose all along. And I know that because there is a huge body of international scholarship around the fallback. But a legislator or State School Board member wouldn’t know that. And all those heads were just a bobbing in agreement.

  4. With the possible exception of EdX and Coursera, I don’t see what real opportunities these open courses offer. A student of limited means still cannot get credentials for recognition in professions without shelling out a lot of tuition somewhere. I have not examined EdX or Coursera, and I do respect learning just for the sake of learning, but it does little practical good to pursue education if one is not to gain recognition in a desired field. Even if courses were of top quality, which seems dubious, those not already graced with a baccalaureate or advanced degree will not find a way forward in those professions requiring these documents.
    That fact may not be a problem for many, but for me, I can’t see real opportunity here. After all, I can read extensively already, and I prefer not to have profs tell me what to think about what I am learning.
    Without student debt there would be nothing for funding such things as obamacare and other pet projects, or for the manufacturing of useful crises.
    I don’t know if I agree with other of Ivan Illych’s ideas, but I do agree that the higher educational system has served to hold the class system in place. I think that grows truer as tuition rises.
    But it’s not just the class system that is being held in place, the very definition of knowledge itself is controlled. The peer review process is being manipulated through control of academic journals. Ideas are proscribed and students who think independently realize they must keep their heads down until they pass by the gatekeepers.

    • Sara,

      That really comes through on the Danny Hillis talk where he mentions about different professors teaching subjects differently. There really is an effort here to Close Loop Learning in each area. One of the companies in this field uses Closed Loop and personalized interchangeably. And it is a huge part of how those Learning Maps work. But it is a type of censorship of approved thoughts.

      The reasons will be more apparent as I move through what I have in an organized fashion

  5. I think online learning could be, and is, a legitimate means to a degree. I don’t see where in-class learning has that much more to offer in many cases. In fact, it might offer more actual learning than courses that feature 150-200 students to a lecture and work corrected by a professor’s aide.

  6. A disciple of Dewey, William H. Kilpatrick, wrote a criticism of the Montessori approach back in 1914 arguing that her “emphasis on individuality precluded the social interaction stressed in American progressive theories.” Are the Montessori schools still holding their own today despite the collectivist hegemony in virtually all other areas of education?

    • We had the choice of Montessori preschools but we didn’t use them because we felt it was too undirected.

      I encourage teenagers to learn on their own or at least have extra lessons to fill in gaps in public education. This is not my expectation for 3 year olds including my own when they were that age. 🙂

      • Here’s a preview of where I am going next. It’s about 7 minutes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ahYeJ5LmnXI#

        This is Literacy? This is how we assess? This is how we prevent dropping out? What an empty credential.

        And by then as Roy Pea has laid out the MOOCs will have moved away from the lectures they used initially to obscure the actual end game. That is still that Transdisciplinary vision. There’s a reason UNESCO took control of accreditation globally and driving higher ed through the Bologna Process in the same year they rolled out the Transdisciplinary and Education for Sustainable Dervelopment. It’s all the same end. Varying means.

        • That’s bad. I think preventing the dropping out is the main concern, not transmitting knowledge. I liked that Torres ran his presentation on a MacBook.

          Transdisciplinary, Ed. For Sustainable Development, STEM, Gamification—a bunch of Bologna.

    • Yes for preschool. It’s a nice program if children come from educated homes. We did it with my youngest. But I was the one who taught her to read when she was 5 just like I taught her brother and her sister. Then I donated those phonetic readers I had used to the school. When she was in 5th grade another child who had gone with her to M since they were 2 wanted to know why she could read anything.

      For this generation that is just now teenagers the ability to read words you have never seen is rare and about to become rarer. Videogaming a story grounded in Frankenstein and role playing is not my idea of literacy. But it is what the Gates Foundation is up to. And the very odd definition of literacy we are now using comes out of UNESCO. Everything has to be in context and not bolstering to abstract mind.

    • One other comment on Montessori. I don’t think we saw this at the time, but the description here http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Maria+Montessori
      makes it sound like an education for kids who are not expected to achieve full functioning in society:

      Noun 1. Maria Montesorri – Italian educator who developed a method of teaching mentally handicapped children and advocated a child-centered approach (1870-1952)

      I recall reading somewhere else that it was for the children of factory workers, not the elite.

      The wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_Education
      expands on the child-centered nature of it. The children are constructing their own environment with a minimum of adult interaction, at the age where they would absorb adult cues the easiest.

      • Thanks for the information. The adults that I’ve met that came through Montessori always struck me as being pretty bright. That’s just anecdotal—I’m not an expert. Kilpatrick’s criticism of her ‘emphasis on individuality’ struck me personally as a ringing endorsement.

  7. Torres’ video about games learning has some features that I find disturbing. First of all, the game supposedly based on the novel, Frankenstein, absolutely ignores the salient feature of Mary Shelley’s novel–that is that the novel is about a scientist’s rejection of religion, namely Christianity, and the disillusioned scientist’s attempt to substitute science for the Creator’s work by assembling the parts of cadavers into a living being. The novel is about the doctor (scientist) whose name is Dr. Frankenstein more than the monster. The inability of the monster to function normally illustrates the doctor’s human limitations, as well as the pathetic consequences of usurping the role of the Creator. These themes are central to the novel.

    Because the novel was written when Victorian England was experiencing the loss of faith and the entrance of Darwin’s ideas, background context is especially important in the interpretation of this novel. This, too, is left out of the game’s “discussion.” In other words, the unwritten assumptions of this game world preclude the existence of the historical/social background that give real insight into the real purposes of Frankenstein. The novel is not about whether it is socially ethical or legal to dig up dead cadavers. This game actually trivializes the novel.
    I am told that this is precisely the sort of thing that characterizes the Common Core’s emphasis on informational text. There is no background provided to the Gettysburg address. The teacher must read it without inflection, emotion or supplying context.

    • That’s considered informational text!? I thought informational text was travelogues, history, instructions on how to distill alcoholic beverages or make a souffle. Not some random fact from an arbitrary context. (Speaking of missing the main points, is English still going to teach students to identify main ideas? I guess that’s not necessary any more in the old sense, because they’ll be supplying the Enduring Understandings and you just have to select it from a list of those choices.)

      I guess the randomness of the facts involved has the advantage that no other knowledge is required. To understand how a still works, you might have to know some chemistry. To understand a travelogue, some geography. But in fantasy-world, they can set tasks where you don’t have to know any real context. So that makes it accessible to ALL students. And ensures that our schools do not transmit any of our cultural heritage except for that which is specifically approved.

      • David, perhaps I should clarify that I don’t think Frankenstein is informational text. I was referring to the Common Core’s tendency to purge all text, informational or otherwise, of cultural resonance. You are quite right when you say that this ensures that schools do not transmit our cultural heritage.
        This video game is a primary example of the repudiation of Western culture and the past.

        • And, I might add, what you point out about the game’s lack of pointers to the world outside the game should be noted.

    • I found that to be deeply disturbing too. The supposed link to literature and Language Arts appears to be a ruse to me. The visual and role playing to take on new identities is what is paramount. It’s for middle school students and is supposed to be the assessment. I listened to an hour interview with Torres from a few months ago and I think all this is highly ideological. This is just a means of jettisoning the individual rational mind.

      And it turns out Pearson and the Gordon Commission I was so concerned about and the Electronic games industry are all pushing this. It is a public/private shakedown of taxpayers but when it is done there is also a tremendous void left between the ears.

      I am going to put this in the context of the underlying political theory and actual philosophy. It is what I have been working on in last several days and frames how all this fits into what UNESCO is actually up to. The accreditors answer to UNESCO and Pearson and Michael Barber work hand in hand with them as does the Gates Foundation. This is an economic and social vision that is hugely beneficial to existing established tech and communications and media companies. That should not be forgotten in the coverage.

      This entire agenda could hardly be more conflict-ridden and every aspect of the student’s activities and inclinations interacting with that game is being captured. With numerical values assigned for what the reactions indicate about a person’s capacities and proclivities. Which in turn gets added to the data bases on this age bracket that help computers “think.” That needs vast behavioral data and these online games and “tutors” are delivering just that. It’s far more than personal info as everyone seems to be focusing on. It captures driving motivations that may not even be conscious.

      • Yes Robin I missed that — that the students are monitored and data collected in real time during this assessment.

        In addition to going into large databases of summary data, could not all this data end up in the student’s “assessment portfolio” (as you described in earlier posts) that is handed to schools, employers, the government or anyone else who manages to get access to the portfolio data?

        Sara it was clear to me that you didn’t see Frankenstein as an informational text. The unclear writing was mine. My writing can be dry, my humor drier to the point where sometimes even I don’t know if I would describe something as a joke or not.

        • Yes. That is what Learning Analytics is doing. I have been downloading and reading for about the last 4 hours as one report led me to another. All quite graphic and recent.

          MOOCs have been and will be doing the same. As are MMORPGs–Massively-Multiplayer Online-Role Playing Games.

          And insiders are cautioning the companies using this data collection to track children’s activities not to do it. Right.

          I will tell you how I closed in on this. There was an MIT Technology Review that defined Deep Learning as something computers do in response to lots of data. But I knew HP defined it as human and emotional and tied to higher order thinking skills with no fixed answer. That’s when I had the epiphany that what limited the human mind’s ability to think would be simultaneously throwing off the data to allow computers to think. The resident computer whiz kid informed me that computers cannot “think” whatever Daphne said, it can only follow instructions. Later I called to ask if the instructions can relate to numerical variables being triggered by all this info about beliefs and motivations and capacities etc. The answer i got back was yes, of course.

          So then it was just a matter of proving it. Thankfully I can and did. Now I just need to keep writing it up.

          But we are going to have a brief lesson first so it both makes sense and we recognize why we had an invisible bullseye on our society and economy. Then that will play into how UNESCO revised the sell of the story but not the function.

          Now I need to come up with a good joke or two the relieve the quite grasping seriousness of all this.

          If you listen to either Daphne or the MIT Media Lab presentations I link they clearly say this games and adaptive platforms are monitoring data points about the players/students in the tens of thousands.

          • The “resident computer whiz kid”, being a kid or a recent kid, does not know of the years of thinking about Artificial Intelligence that largely started at, yes, MIT. I remember Michael Dertouzos, a professor of Computer Science, pointing out that when computer systems are so complex that no single human knows all the steps involved in producing an answer, it becomes arguable whether they are completely under our control. One could even argue they are thinking independently. This was in the late 1970’s, and Dertouzos saw it as a big ethical problem. And systems have become vastly more complex since then. This independence from human control is in addition to the fact that if you don’t know what the inputs are, you won’t be able to predict the system’s outputs.

            Think also of HAL in the Stanley Kubrick movie 2001 A Space Odyssey. Dave was able to shut HAL down and regain control of the ship only by disconnecting it physically, which ([i]deus ex machina[/i]) he was able to get access to do in that case. And indeed in our daily lives now in 2013, we are at the mercy of the machines. If the bank’s computer is offline, you cannot get your money. We build in failsafes so that if your car’s engine computer goes out, the car will slow down rather than speed up.

            Where are the failsafes for a student going thru this Brave New Education? The system seems designed to ensure that there are none. The students are so helpless in this system they have envisioned. Not like the old days when the student could “beat the system” if he or she learned the subjects well.

          • I was joking. I have several people I run things by none of whom have been kids in decades. But the point is all computers are following instructions at some level even if it is a complex interaction beyond our ability to follow. If you remember the cyberlearning post they brought up this was an attempt to get us back to cybernetics. I just found it fascinating that the same company and an affiliated charitable foundation would be using the same term at the same time to refer to people and computers. One with knowledge in its database and one with its database being deliberately kept quite empty.

            I think if you knew what I had downloaded today you would feel better. For one thing I have now thoroughly closed the loop on 21st century learning and why it just keeps recurring.

            And the foundation for why the UN chose the current terminology and precise vision on ed. I don’t write to upset even though I know it is upsetting. I write to illuminate and say this is just the interim and the cavalry is coming. I believe that. There was an underlying story to all this and it has popped up enough to reveal itself and that was all it took to tie into what had happened in the past. Where the paper trail of intentions is now quite good.

          • It seems that we’re all a bunch of sarcastic you-know-whats on here, eh? Been around the block a few too many times.

            I do like your observation, Robin, that the data is being swept from the young minds and into the databases. While it makes a certain kind of sense (computers are generally a lot better at remembering things, so we should use the tool) the tool should be put at the service of the individual, not the State.

            When do parents get to sign releases authorizing the collection of data from the children? (Or not sign.) We don’t do it now, it doesn’t seem they are going to start doing it, as the quantity and coherency of the data takes a massive step.

            Are we doing need to take the chip (from an officially authorized source) if we want to know anything?

          • Well one of the reasons I explain this is to try to shift the tools to where they ought to be.

            I can teach myself a lot but not science or computers so I rely on what I know I am reading and how it fits and then I talk to the able people who are the first to say a computer is a tool.

            The term I am seeing being used at the low level is trace data. And there seems to be anger that what was being collected for a while is now being looked at and discussed because of attention around the Common Core.

            I don’t take the institutions involved in this lightly. I took your named prof and then thought back to who I knew who was there at the time that might help me put it all in context.

          • Well David. Somebody found yesterday’s exchange enlightening because it triggered someone reading all my posts after midnight and then focusing on certain ones. Particularly those laying out what these urban school districts are really up to. And then emailing links from the looks of it.

            I know I have this story. Apparently others who never thought it could be exposed and if so, not in time, are recognizing that as well. Maybe all of yesterday’s downloading left “trace data.” Like the same IP hitting server after server which is essentially what I did. I can just hear my hubby asking again why I use up so much toner. Enriching the underwriting sponsor of some of what I was downloading yesterday.

            I feel like the character Robert Redford played in Three Days of the Condor when someone asks with exasperation how he can know that and the other character says “he’s a reader.”

        • Lol, I have that problem, too, David. I always have to write some sort of cue to let people know I’m joking. I often write (sarcasm) or (irony) to let them know. Otherwise I’ve had people take my deadpan style seriously.

          • Well Sara–congrats on being blog comment no 1000. If I was not a techo inept I would figure out a way to do a balloon image.

    • In addition to what you already have noted about the game’s misrepresentation of the novel, I was shocked to see the character’s dialogue note that Frankenstein “has worked so hard” and “really cares.” One of Victor’s flaws is his own arrogance coupled with his desire to make a creature simply to prove that he could do it. This is a dangerous game.

      Robin, this site has clarified for me then underpinnings of the “core.” If you haven’t examined it already, do look at the math and English curriculum maps and lesson modules on engageny.org. It is an interesting read.

      • Thanks nimbus. I have and it is important to remember when you read those maps that the headings are important say the creators. Those are the conceptual lenses that will then frame other things.

        I encourage my readers to take a look. And remember assessment is based on framework and maps, not the standards themselves. Those really exist only for political purposes and to redefine what it means to be literate and numerate. A topic I hope to get to later in day after a breakfast presentation that should be interesting. Always good to go and listen to the spin that I am supposed to know and accept.

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