#NRC01PL Choice and Agency

In today’s hangout, both fathers of Connectivism were unanimous.

“There is automation that enables choice & human agency & that which doesnt” (@gsiemens, see @Autumm’s tweet)

It is encouraging that they are on the same side when it comes to the important issues of educational technology.

It sounds simple but it is really very important, and it is easy to forget it because it is easy to be too much enthused about technology. For me, the issue of empowerment vs. patronization has been a central one, see my blog post “Between Empowerment and Patronization: 40 Years IT“.

Of course, choice in IT may also be intimidating, when the user interface is stupid and the help texts mindlessly reiterate nonsense like “select the desired option” — because the programmers were too lazy to think enough about the options themselves.


And some users are easily contented with perceived control. A dashboard — doesn’t this sound great? Indeed I picture my ideal PLE as a dashboard, and start ramp into my PLN.


But openedX’s dashboard means the point where I could navigate to my various edX classes. For me, it is only always an annoying obstacle between the start page and my only one course, NRC01PL. (Besides this, it is annoying during the startup how quickly the “remember me” expires, and that they don’t tolerate a space after my email address, as it is copied after doubleclicking.)

So I think it is important to distinguish between true control and disguised patronization. To learn this distinction, may be even more important than crap detection (if I dare to say this on an April 1st ?). Skills like such distinctions are not acquired through memorization but often through navigating diverse spaces. So Stephen’s formula of March 18 is spot on:

“It’s not that there is nothing to learn, it’s that it’s complex and needs to be navigated… not memorized”

Navigating through choices, not via pre-programmed walkthroughs.

But I should add that I understand the choice to select edX at this stage: because it speaks some LTI language which is needed for LPSS’ interfaces. At the threshold between an old type system and a new type paradigm, I have often met such solutions of gateways, proxies and encapsulations that mitigate the legaccy system.



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2 Responses to #NRC01PL Choice and Agency

  1. George’s Adios Ed Tech blogpost summed my sediment, that Ed Tech (especially adapted learning) wants to transform students into an object within their platform; you can depend on great student results when the student is integrated as a platform component. What is less clear is transferring these platform dependent skills to one’s life.
    Because I’m from Ed Psych, I tend to see things less as choice and more through assessment paths and consequences. After curriculum (learning progressions in Ed Tech), assessment is the teachers most important daily tool. We hear little in Ed Tech about up-skilling teachers, which lead me to believe they see teachers as the weak link in their ability to scale. (It always comes down to money doesn’t it.) But can machine learning really assess skills needed in life. Take Jeanette Wing’s definition of computational thinking:
    Computational thinking for everyone means being able to:
    – Understand which aspects of a problem are amenable to computation,
    – Evaluate the match between computational tools and techniques and a problem,
    – Understand the limitations and power of computational tools and techniques,
    – Apply or adapt a computational tool or technique to a new use,
    – Recognize an opportunity to use computation in a new way, and
    – Apply computational strategies such divide and conquer in any domain.
    Platforms can’t be designed sufficiently clever to achieve computational thinking without high quality teachers. My take on what assessment should be is from here: http://howardjohnson.edublogs.org/2014/03/10/from-objective-data-to-subjective-achievement-more-on-adapted-learning-and-data-based-learning-platforms/
    To see the future, students and teachers should focus on their horizons. Horizons here refer to a point in developmental time that can’t be seen clearly today, but that I can reasonable expect to achieve in the future. Because many aspects of this developmental journey are both precarious and dependence on future actions, this joint vision can’t be wishful thinking, but must be clearly framed in terms of privileges and obligations. When it is treated this way, assessment is not a picture of student achievement, but is a methods for making both student and teacher visible to each other in a way that is rational, meaningful and conducted in an ontologically responsible manner; that is, in a way that is true to who we we want to become.
    When Ed Tech can help achieve this vision of assessment, I will rejoice.

  2. x28 says:

    Many thanks Howard for adding the Ed Psych aspect and for pointing to the assessments. In a way, “objective” assessments seem to reduce the assessing teacher already to automated work and computational thinking.

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