Every uni­ver­sity audi­to­rium should be required to have power out­lets preva­lent through­out the room. Good thing some­one brought their own power adapter to this one. :)

Missing the point with school social networks

I read an Edu­demic arti­cle this morn­ing about the future of school social net­works:

Now, a move­ment is afoot to cre­ate student-friendly social net­work­ing sites, which would be lim­ited to edu­ca­tion and bound to par­tic­u­lar dis­tricts or schools. These sites would give stu­dents the chance to com­mu­ni­cate with peers in per­son and via the com­puter, in a set­ting not unlike an online school. Yet the most desir­able aspect of school-friendly social net­works may be that they would allow stu­dents to work together in a pro­duc­tive man­ner, while pro­vid­ing adults with the peace of mind sites like Face­book sim­ply can­not offer.

This is all well-intentioned but it likely won’t be suc­cess­ful in any mean­ing­ful way.

It reminds me of edu­ca­tional video games. Things that edu­ca­tion exec­u­tives draw up to try to marry tech­nol­ogy with their ver­sion of learn­ing. They don’t work. You can’t cre­ate a video game that kids will want to play by remov­ing its soul.

Sim­i­larly, cre­at­ing a school social net­work by allow­ing for social con­nec­tions which par­ents, teach­ers, and admin­is­tra­tors approve of misses the point. You’re leav­ing out the soul of a net­work. It’s this soul that makes Face­book and Twit­ter so appeal­ing in the first place.

Grow­ing up out­side of a very small, rural town meant being extremely iso­lated in many ways. Had you told a junior high or high school ver­sion of myself that I could use some­thing like Twit­ter, Face­book, or, hell, even my blog to con­nect through shared inter­ests with peo­ple irre­spec­tive of place, age, or social sta­tus I would have been floored.

That’s the soul of these plat­forms. That’s what makes them rev­o­lu­tion­ary for school­ing. If you think cre­at­ing san­i­tized, school-friendly net­works watched over by par­ents and admin­is­tra­tors is going to cre­ate any mean­ing­ful learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties then you’re totally miss­ing the point.

Edu­cate kids on proper usage. Teach them online safety. Show them the power of serendip­i­tous con­nec­tions to peo­ple a world away. But don’t, for their own sake, limit their poten­tial because of fear.

College for $99 a month

Imag­ine if Honda, in order to com­pete in the Amer­i­can mar­ket, had been required by fed­eral law to adopt the preestab­lished labor prac­tices, man­age­ment struc­ture, dealer net­work, and vehi­cle port­fo­lio of Gen­eral Motors. Imag­ine fur­ther that Honda could only sell cars through GM deal­ers. Those are essen­tially the terms that accred­i­ta­tion forces on poten­tial dis­rup­tive inno­va­tors in higher edu­ca­tion today.

Col­lege for $99 a Month

Disrupting College

It’s taken a while but I got around to read­ing the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress report, Dis­rupt­ing Col­lege. 1 It was a really fas­ci­nat­ing read, highly rec­om­mend it.

One quote par­tic­u­larly stood out. While describ­ing the dis­rup­tion that occurred in the com­puter indus­try the authors char­ac­ter­ize the old main­frame model by writing:

We had to take our com­pu­ta­tional prob­lems to these cen­tral­ized com­puter cen­ters where experts solved them for us.

This con­trasts with the cur­rent smart­phone era. We now have the com­pu­ta­tional power for many daily tasks resid­ing in our front pocket. This all got me think­ing about college.

With the tra­di­tional col­lege sys­tem we have the same main­frame model. We take our knowl­edge prob­lems and inex­pe­ri­ence to a cen­tral­ized place where experts with many years of train­ing help solve them for, or in the best case with, us. Carry the anal­ogy from main­frame com­put­ing over to edu­ca­tion and holy mind explo­sion Bat­man! If we could even achieve half of the trans­for­ma­tion accom­plished with com­put­ers we’d be in for some won­der­ful times.

A future where the tools for edu­ca­tion are acces­si­ble on an indi­vid­ual scale and where geo­graphic loca­tion is no longer a lim­it­ing fac­tor makes me really excited.

Construction of space in computer labs

I was read­ing this arti­cle about online courses on the Mind­Shift blog today. It starts off with this image.

What a hor­ri­bly depress­ing vision of a com­puter lab. While it is how the lab in my high school and those at Whit­man were set up it nev­er­the­less seems like such an utter fail­ure at cre­at­ing a place where stu­dents can col­lab­o­rate around dig­i­tal content.

In addi­tion to the great fire­wall prob­lem of web access in schools per­haps a large rea­son why online courses and dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives fail is because they are forced into spaces like this.

This is what makes me most excited about the role iPads could play in schools. The oppo­site of a desk­top machine, an iPad would allow stu­dents to engage with con­tent with­out hav­ing to sit in straight rows with noth­ing in front of them but a monitor.

If a school could cre­ate socially designed spaces for their com­put­ers they might be sur­prised by the type of learn­ing that happens.

College professors and students jump into the wiki world

Col­lege pro­fes­sors and stu­dents jump into the wiki world. It turns out that not all uni­ver­si­ties are con­tent to view Wikipedia as an inac­cu­rate and untrust­wor­thy knowl­edge pool. Pro­fes­sors at var­i­ous east coast schools are hav­ing stu­dents work in groups to improve entries. Sounds like a great use of all that jour­nal access col­leges have. (via Three trends that will shape the future of cur­ricu­lum)