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?

Inventing the Education of the Future By Insuring Planet-Wide Activity to Produce Unified Outlooks

Last week EdX announced that 15 more colleges and universities had joined its vision to offer online degrees. What caught my eye about the announcement was that one of the colleges, Davidson, a perennial Top Ten US News institution, had announced last fall that the Duke Endowment was paying it $45 million to “boldly” remake the nature of liberal arts education. So when Davidson’s part of the EdX announcement focused on the “transdisciplinary” nature of its new focus I decided I was looking at what we lawyers call a “defined term that is dangerously missing its actual definition.”

What I found is relevant to everybody everywhere. Whatever your interests. Because the search for that Transdisciplinary definition led me to the manifesto for implementing Agenda 21 and economic, political, and social visions first laid out at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. In 1994 the first world congress on transdisciplinarity was held in Portugal. Its purpose was to lay out how to get the desired mentalities to evolve via education. This is all part of what UNESCO calls its Culture of Peace Project.

In 1996 UNESCO issued its vision for elementary and secondary education globally–the DeLors Report “The Treasure Within.” It laid out the four pillars of a new kind of education: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be. It is based on UNESCO’s idea that education in the future should rely on what it viewed as in “the case of human beings, the decisive ‘ingredient’ is their mental and personal disposition to trust, share, negotiate and collaborate.” And that education in the future should cultivate that quality to “produce unified outlooks.”

Yes that is the origination of all that Group Project push but K-12 is not today’s focus. Remember I am using international documents that were created before the K-12 implementation in the US stalled and became partial in light of the outcry over outcomes based education and School to Work and nonacademic standards from the various disciplines like history and English and math. So we have the DeLors vision that I believe moved into the IB curriculum when those rocky shoals developed and Al Gore lost the election in 2000. The K-12 Transdisciplinary vision hid there waiting for another US President to come along and reignite what was called radical education reform in the 90s when all these documents were created. But the DeLors vision of K-12 rolled forward in other parts of the world.

But UNESCO in the 90s did not have a crystal ball and it knew what kind of complete cultural shift it sought. Basically the same one the World Orders Model Project also sought starting in the early 70s that I explained here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/reorienting-world-order-values-via-the-intervention-of-activist-education-and-progressive-politics/ . I am not throwing out the term Marxist Humanism to be provocative and I have made the case in every post between that one and this one. Other entities have pushed and are pushing similar visions.

But the history of the latter part of the 20th century and education especially only makes sense when you realize that the bounteous wealth created by prosperity in the West was and is coveted for redistribution. ICT-Internet Communications Technology–has been assumed by plenty of MH theorists all over the world to be the long sought technology that could make widespread leisure a possibility if only people could be made to share. And the best way to force people to share is to use education to create new values and mindsets and beliefs. A widespread belief in an impending crisis would also help.

So in 1997 there was a conference in what must have been, as usual, a lovely setting, in Lucarno, Switzerland on the next step after the DeLors Report. The Transdisciplinary Evolution of the University was the topic. But the report issued was far more encompassing than just the higher ed component. It’s basically the blueprint for all the UN pushes that have become so controversial in so many areas. It is THE manifesto for what has come and is coming through related (if you track from the UN backward) initiatives like the US Common Core or Living Cities or Green Growth or the Regional Equity Movement. You name it and it is probably there. As usual I am giving the precise name to allow for searching but not a link since that would take it down before many of you can read this post. At the moment it is on multiple servers in multiple languages.

Called “Educating for a Sustainable Future: A Transdisciplinary Vision for Concerted Action,” it was created as part of UNESCO’s call to action from the Rio Summit to implement Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 to gain the desired global social, economic, and political changes in structures and institutions and especially people’s mindsets, personalities, and values. As usual it was a call to action for the levers of the sought revolution and biosocial evolution–“the multiple partners and broad community of stakeholders in the educational enterprise.” No, they apparently don’t mean parents or taxpayers.

The really nice thing is the report tells us the truth about Sustainability and acknowledges that “sustainable development is an amorphous concept, intended to be:

“an emerging vision…In truth, it is as much an ethical precept as a scientific concept, as  concerned with notions of equity as with theories of global warming. Sustainable development is widely understood to involve the natural sciences and economics, but it is even more fundamentally concerned with culture: with the values people hold and how they perceive their relations with others. It responds to an imperative need to imagine a new basis for relationships among peoples and with the habitat that sustains human life.”

And education, K-12 and higher ed, is how you get those new values. Especially holistic education that targets the Whole Child, emotions as well as knowledge. Particularly if you get to make education about real world problems to be engaging and relevant. And you get to supply the Big Ideas and Conceptual Lenses that students will then use to guide their daily perceptions. It’s an essential part of How to Change and Guide Beliefs 101. And grounded in feelings instead of much actual facts makes those beliefs integrated. Hard to change later. Whatever the reality.

So not only is education globally the recognized vehicle for social and economic change, the idea expressed is that “not only can it inform people, it can change them.” Yes, that does make all that behavioral data being scooped up via computers in the Digital and Blended Learning K-12 emphasis all the more important. That is part of what EdX and the MOOCs are also doing in higher ed as we will discuss in the next post.

In the mean time all these visions are attached to a recognition that education is essential to “a vision of society organized in a new way.” Which all my recent posts have laid out in detail as the vision attached to education reform. UNESCO and politicians globally know that “societies need to be convinced of the need for sustainable development, in order to show their capacity to devise solutions to the problems confronting them.” A recognition that of course always comes down to a belief that direction from governments at the federal, state, and local levels and international agencies are an essential component of every future economy. Despite the reality that government-centric economies in the past have gutted mass prosperity. Cronyism inevitably abounds. See IRS Scandal.

So here is education’s UNESCO-assigned mission in the 21st century globally:

–“bring about the changes in values, behavior and lifestyle that are needed to achieve sustainable development, and ultimately democracy, human security and peace;

–disseminate knowledge, know-how and skills that are needed to bring about sustainable production and consumption patterns and to improve the management of natural resources, agriculture, energy and industrial production;

–ensure an informed populace that is prepared to support changes toward sustainability emerging from other sectors.”

That would translate roughly into students who no longer have Axemaker Minds or unapproved knowledge. Who have what UNESCO calls a Common Ethic or a “new global ethic that transcends all other systems of allegiance and belief, which is rooted in a consciousness of the interrelatedness and sanctity of life.”

It is also the cultivation of attitudes of servitude and what I would call sheepdom.  Willing to move with the herd and not stand apart.

I find this to be an appalling vision for the future. Especially one being delivered largely out of sight by college professors and administrators in higher ed and education professors and School District administrators and Principals in K-12.

With an attitude of “there are promotions and lucrative contracts and grants available if you push this.”

The Education for a Sustainable Future vision actually seems civilization crashing to me. Which UNESCO turns out to agree with. They believe the next resulting civilization will be the peaceable one.

If they are tragically wrong, who will give the tuition or tax refund?