'Personalisation' is something that humans do

    Audrey Watters, formerly the ‘Cassandra’ of edtech, is now writing about health, nutrition, and fitness technologies at Second Breakfast. It’s great, I’m a paid subscriber.

    In this article, she looks at the overlap between her former and current fields, comparing and contrasting coaches and educators with algorithms. While I don’t share her loathing of ChatGPT, as an educator and a parent I’d definitely agree that motivation and attention is something to which a human is (currently) best suited.

    How well does a teacher or trainer or coach know how you feel, how well you performed, or what you should do or learn next? How well does an app know how you feel, how well you performed, or what you should do next? Digital apps insist that, thanks to the data they collect, they can make better, more precise recommendations than humans ever can — dismissing what humans do as “one size fits all.” Yet it's impossible to scrutinize their algorithmic decision-making. Ideally, at least, you can always ask your coach, "Why the hell am I doing bulgarian split squats?! These suck." And she will tell you precisely why. (Love you, Coach KB.)

    And then (ideally) she’ll say, “If you don’t want to do them, you don’t have to.” And (ideally), she’ll ask you what’s going on. Maybe you feel like shit that day. Maybe you don’t have time. Maybe they hurt your hamstrings. Maybe you’d like to hear some options — other exercises you can do instead. Maybe you’d like to know why she prescribed this exercise in the first place — “it’s a unilateral exercises, and as a runner,” she says, “we want to work on single-leg strength, with a focus on your glute medius and adductors because I’ve noticed, by watching your barbell squats, that those areas are your weak spots.” This is how things get “personalized” — not by some massive data extraction and analysis, but by humans asking each other questions and then tailoring our responses and recommendations accordingly. Teachers and coaches do this every. goddamn. day. Sure, there’s a training template or a textbook that one is supposed to follow; but good teachers and coaches check in, and they switch things up when they’re not really working.

    […]

    If we privilege these algorithms, we’re not only adopting their lousy recommendations; we’re undermining the expertise of professionals in the field. And we’re not only undermining the expertise of professionals in the field, we’re undermining our own ability to think and learn and understand our own bodies. We’re undermining our own expertise about ourselves. (ChatGPT is such a bad bad bad idea.)

    Source: Teacher/Coach as Algorithm | Second Breakfast

    Chromebooks banned in Danish schools

    Slowly, and then all at once is how a ‘splinternet’ happens. I’m seeing more and more cases of the EU standing up to so-called Big Tech companies like Google over data processing agreements.

    In this case, it’s Denmark’s data protection agency, but I should imagine other European countries might follow suit. There’ll be an uproar, though, because data security and sovereignty aside, Google absolutely nailed it with that operating system.

    Denmark is effectively banning Google’s services in schools, after officials in the municipality of Helsingør were last year ordered to carry out a risk assessment around the processing of personal data by Google.

    In a verdict published last week, Denmark’s data protection agency, Datatilsynet, revealed that data processing involving students using Google’s cloud-based Workspace software suite — which includes Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar and Google Drive — “does not meet the requirements” of the European Union’s GDPR data privacy regulations.

    Specifically, the authority found that the data processor agreement — or Google’s terms and conditions — seemingly allow for data to be transferred to other countries for the purpose of providing support, even though the data is ordinarily stored in one of Google’s EU data centers.

    Source: Denmark bans Chromebooks and Google Workspace in schools over data transfer risks | TechCrunch

    Recalling generative and liberating uses of technology

    I found myself using the phrase “the night is darkest before dawn” today. This post from Anne-Marie Scott is certainly an example of that, and I too look forward to a world beyond “today’s dogpile of an internet”.

    I remember a time when I got excited about generative and liberating uses of technology, enabling people to bring their whole selves to learning, being able to incorporate their world, their context, their knowledge, and in turn develop new connections, new communities, and new knowledge to further explore and build on these things. I think this is still possible, and I think work around open practices, open pedagogies, ethics of care, and decolonisation point the way towards how to do it in today’s dogpile of an internet.
    Source: Hitting the wall and maybe working out how to get back up again | A placid island of ignorance…

    Audrey Watters says goodbye to EdTech

    Sadly, EdTech, the field that I used to feel part of, is never going to change, so this post from Audrey Watters was sadly inevitable. Anything that can be commodified will be commodified, it would seem.

    Thanks Audrey, you’re awesome. I hope you find solace and energy in what you decide to do next.

    I probably do have a wee bit more to say about ed-tech — the "good riddance" part — but I don't feel like posting it on Hack Education. I'll write about it here — therapeutically, I reckon. But I don't really want to continue to churn out criticism of the field/industry/discipline. Sufficed to say: folks will bend over backwards to justify the most fucked-up tools and the most oppressive educational practices and technologies. Some folks will say yes, the technology is bad — if we just had better technology then everything'd be okay. Others will say that it's our educational practices that suck — if we just had better pedagogies, then everything technological would fall into place. Both camps still insist that the future is "digital," and as such, are trapped in a story that will never get them to "better" because the foundations will always be rotten. And so few people in ed-tech, so fixated on their fantasies about the future, want to talk about that.
    Source: Goodbye Ed-tech, and Good Riddance | Audrey Watters

    Saturday scrubbings

    This week on Thought Shrapnel I've been focused on messing about with using OBS to create videos. So much, in fact, that this weekend I'm building a new PC to improve the experience.

    Sometimes in these link roundups I try and group similar kinds of things together. But this week, much as I did last week, I've just thrown them all in a pot like Gumbo.

    Tell me which links you find interesting, either in the comments, or on Twitter or the Fediverse (feel free to use the hashtag #thoughtshrapnel)


    Melting Ice Reveals a “Lost” Viking-Era Pass in Norway’s Mountains

    About 60 artifacts have been radiocarbon dated, showing the Lendbreen pass was widely used from at least A.D. 300. “It probably served as both an artery for long-distance travel and for local travel between permanent farms in the valleys to summer farms higher in the mountains, where livestock grazed for part of the year,” says University of Cambridge archaeologist James Barrett, a co-author of the research.

    Tom Metcalfe (Scientific American)

    I love it when the scientific and history communities come together to find out new things about our past. Especially about the Vikings, who were straight-up amazing.


    University proposes online-only degrees as part of radical restructuring

    Confidential documents seen by Palatinate show that the University is planning “a radical restructure” of the Durham curriculum in order to permanently put online resources at the core of its educational offer, in response to the Covid-19 crisis and other ongoing changes in both national and international Higher Education.

    The proposals seek to “invert Durham’s traditional educational model”, which revolves around residential study, replacing it with one that puts “online resources at the core enabling us to provide education at a distance.” 

    Jack Taylor & Tom Mitchell (Palatinate)

    I'm paying attention to this as Durham University is one of my alma maters* but I think this is going to be a common story across a lot of UK institutions. They've relied for too long on the inflated fees brought in by overseas students and now, in the wake of the pandemic, need to rapidly find a different approach.

    *I have a teaching qualification and two postgraduate degrees from Durham, despite a snooty professor telling me when I was 17 years old that I'd never get in to the institution 😅


    Abolish Silicon Valley: memoir of a driven startup founder who became an anti-capitalist activist

    Liu grew up a true believer in "meritocracy" and its corollaries: that success implies worth, and thus failure is a moral judgment about the intellect, commitment and value of the failed.

    Her tale -- starting in her girlhood bedroom and stretching all the way to protests outside of tech giants in San Francisco -- traces a journey of maturity and discovery, as Liu confronts the mounting evidence that her life's philosophy is little more than the self-serving rhetoric of rich people defending their privilege, the chasm between her lived experience and her guiding philosophy widens until she can no longer straddle it.

    Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing)

    This book is next on my non-fiction reading list. If your library is closed and doesn't have an online service, try this.


    Cup, er, drying itself...

    7 things ease the switch to remote-only workplaces

    You want workers to post work as it’s underway—even when it’s rough, incomplete, imperfect. That requires a different mindset, though one that’s increasingly common in asynchronous companies. In traditional companies, people often hesitate to circulate projects or proposals that aren’t polished, pretty, and bullet-proofed. It’s a natural reflex, especially when people are disconnected from each other and don’t communicate casually. But it can lead to long delays, especially on projects in which each participant’s progress depends on the progress and feedback of others. Location-independent companies need a culture in which people recognize that a work-in-progress is likely to have gaps and flaws and don’t criticize each other for them. This is an issue of norms, not tools.

    Edmund L. Andrews-Stanford (Futurity)

    I discovered this via Stephen Downes, who highlights the fifth point in this article ('single source of truth'). I've actually highlighted the sixth one ('breaking down the barriers to sharing work') as I've also seen that as an important thing to check for when hiring.


    How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory tore through the internet

    The level of interest in the coronavirus pandemic – and the fear and uncertainty that comes with it – has caused tired, fringe conspiracy theories to be pulled into the mainstream. From obscure YouTube channels and Facebook pages, to national news headlines, baseless claims that 5G causes or exacerbates coronavirus are now having real-world consequences. People are burning down 5G masts in protest. Government ministers and public health experts are now being forced to confront this dangerous balderdash head-on, giving further oxygen and airtime to views that, were it not for the major technology platforms, would remain on the fringe of the fringe. “Like anti-vax content, this messaging is spreading via platforms which have been designed explicitly to help propagate the content which people find most compelling; most irresistible to click on,” says Smith from Demos.

    James temperton (wired)

    The disinformation and plain bonkers-ness around this 'theory' of linking 5G and the coronavirus is a particularly difficult thing to deal with. I've avoided talking about it on social media as well as here on Thought Shrapnel, but I'm sharing this as it's a great overview of how these things spread — and who's fanning the flames.


    A Manifesto Against EdTech© During an Emergency Online Pivot

    The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented moment in the history of social structures such as education. After all of the time spent creating emergency plans and three- or five-year road maps that include fail safe options, we find ourselves in the actual emergency. Yet not even a month into global orders of shelter in place, there are many education narratives attempting to frame the pandemic as an opportunity. Extreme situations can certainly create space for extraordinary opportunities, but that viewpoint is severely limited considering this moment in time. Perhaps if the move to distance/online/remote education had happened in a vacuum that did not involve a global pandemic, millions sick, tens of thousands dead, tens of millions unemployed, hundreds of millions hungry, billions anxious and uncertain of society’s next step…perhaps then this would be that opportunity moment. Instead, we have a global emergency where the stress is felt everywhere but it certainly is not evenly distributed, so learning/aligning/deploying/assessing new technology for the classroom is not universally feasible. You can’t teach someone to swim while they’re drowning.

    Rolin Moe

    Rolin Moe is a thoughtful commentator on educational technology. This post was obviously written quickly (note the typo in the URL when you click through, as well as some slightly awkward language) and I'm not a fan of the title Moe has settled on. That being said, the point about this not being an 'opportunity' for edtech is a good one.


    Dishes washing themselves

    NHS coronavirus app: memo discussed giving ministers power to 'de-anonymise' users

    Produced in March, the memo explained how an NHS app could work, using Bluetooth LE, a standard feature that runs constantly and automatically on all mobile devices, to take “soundings” from other nearby phones through the day. People who have been in sustained proximity with someone who may have Covid-19 could then be warned and advised to self–isolate, without revealing the identity of the infected individual.

    However, the memo stated that “more controversially” the app could use device IDs, which are unique to all smartphones, “to enable de-anonymisation if ministers judge that to be proportionate at some stage”. It did not say why ministers might want to identify app users, or under what circumstances doing so would be proportionate.

    David Pegg & Paul Lewis (The Guardian)

    This all really concerns me, as not only is this kind of technology only going be of marginal use in fighting the coronavirus, once this is out of the box, what else is it going to be used for? Also check out Vice's coverage, including an interview with Edward Snowden, and this discussion at Edgeryders.


    Is This the Most Virus-Proof Job in the World?

    It’s hard to think of a job title more pandemic-proof than “superstar live streamer.” While the coronavirus has upended the working lives of hundreds of millions of people, Dr. Lupo, as he’s known to acolytes, has a basically unaltered routine. He has the same seven-second commute down a flight of stairs. He sits in the same seat, before the same configuration of lights, cameras and monitors. He keeps the same marathon hours, starting every morning at 8.

    Social distancing? He’s been doing that since he went pro, three years ago.

    For 11 hours a day, six days a week, he sits alone, hunting and being hunted on games like Call of Duty and Fortnite. With offline spectator sports canceled, he and other well-known gamers currently offer one of the only live contests that meet the standards of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    David Segal (The New York Times)

    It's hard to argue with my son these days when he says he wants to be a 'pro gamer'.

    (a quick tip for those who want to avoid 'free registration' and some paywalls — use a service like Pocket to save the article and read it there)


    Capitalists or Cronyists?

    To be clear, socialism may be a better way to go, as evidenced by the study showing 4 of the 5 happiest nations are socialist democracies. However, unless we’re going to provide universal healthcare and universal pre-K, let’s not embrace The Hunger Games for the working class on the way up, and the Hallmark Channel for the shareholder class on the way down. The current administration, the wealthy, and the media have embraced policies that bless the caching of power and wealth, creating a nation of brittle companies and government agencies.

    Scott Galloway

    A somewhat rambling post, but which explains the difference between a form of capitalism that (theoretically) allows everyone to flourish, and crony capitalism, which doesn't.


    Header image by Stephen Collins at The Guardian

    Friday fertilisations

    I've read so much stuff over the past couple of months that it's been a real job whittling down these links. In the end I gave up and shared a few more than usual!

    • You Shouldn’t Have to Be Good at Your Job (GEN) — "This is how the 1% justifies itself. They are not simply the best in terms of income, but in terms of humanity itself. They’re the people who get invited into the escape pods when the mega-asteroid is about to hit. They don’t want a fucking thing to do with the rest of the population and, in fact, they have exploited global economic models to suss out who deserves to be among them and who deserves to be obsolete. And, thanks to lax governments far and wide, they’re free to practice their own mass experiments in forced Darwinism. You currently have the privilege of witnessing a worm’s-eye view of this great culling. Fun, isn’t it?"
    • We've spent the decade letting our tech define us. It's out of control (The Guardian) — "There is a way out, but it will mean abandoning our fear and contempt for those we have become convinced are our enemies. No one is in charge of this, and no amount of social science or monetary policy can correct for what is ultimately a spiritual deficit. We have surrendered to digital platforms that look at human individuality and variance as “noise” to be corrected, rather than signal to be cherished. Our leading technologists increasingly see human beings as a problem, and technology as the solution – and they use our behavior on their platforms as evidence of our essentially flawed nature."
    • How headphones are changing the sound of music (Quartz) — "Another way headphones are changing music is in the production of bass-heavy music. Harding explains that on small speakers, like headphones or those in a laptop, low frequencies are harder to hear than when blasted from the big speakers you might encounter at a concert venue or club. If you ever wondered why the bass feels so powerful when you are out dancing, that’s why. In order for the bass to be heard well on headphones, music producers have to boost bass frequencies in the higher range, the part of the sound spectrum that small speakers handle well."
    • The False Promise of Morning Routines (The Atlantic) — "Goat milk or no goat milk, the move toward ritualized morning self-care can seem like merely a palliative attempt to improve work-life balance.It makes sense to wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual because you want to fit in some yoga, an activity that you enjoy. But something sinister seems to be going on if you feel that you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual to improve your well-being, so that you can also work 60 hours a week, cook dinner, run errands, and spend time with your family."
    • Giant surveillance balloons are lurking at the edge of space (Ars Technica) — "The idea of a constellation of stratospheric balloons isn’t new—the US military floated the idea back in the ’90s—but technology has finally matured to the point that they’re actually possible. World View’s December launch marks the first time the company has had more than one balloon in the air at a time, if only for a few days. By the time you’re reading this, its other stratollite will have returned to the surface under a steerable parachute after nearly seven weeks in the stratosphere."
    • The Unexpected Philosophy Icelanders Live By (BBC Travel) — "Maybe it makes sense, then, that in a place where people were – and still are – so often at the mercy of the weather, the land and the island’s unique geological forces, they’ve learned to give up control, leave things to fate and hope for the best. For these stoic and even-tempered Icelanders, þetta reddast is less a starry-eyed refusal to deal with problems and more an admission that sometimes you must make the best of the hand you’ve been dealt."
    • What Happens When Your Career Becomes Your Whole Identity (HBR) — "While identifying closely with your career isn’t necessarily bad, it makes you vulnerable to a painful identity crisis if you burn out, get laid off, or retire. Individuals in these situations frequently suffer anxiety, depression, and despair. By claiming back some time for yourself and diversifying your activities and relationships, you can build a more balanced and robust identity in line with your values."
    • Having fun is a virtue, not a guilty pleasure (Quartz) — "There are also, though, many high-status workers who can easily afford to take a break, but opt instead to toil relentlessly. Such widespread workaholism in part reflects the misguided notion that having fun is somehow an indulgence, an act of absconding from proper respectable behavior, rather than embracement of life. "
    • It’s Time to Get Personal (Laura Kalbag) — "As designers and developers, it’s easy to accept the status quo. The big tech platforms already exist and are easy to use. There are so many decisions to be made as part of our work, we tend to just go with what’s popular and convenient. But those little decisions can have a big impact, especially on the people using what we build."
    • The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade (Hack Education) — "Oh yes, I’m sure you can come up with some rousing successes and some triumphant moments that made you thrilled about the 2010s and that give you hope for “the future of education.” Good for you. But that’s not my job. (And honestly, it’s probably not your job either.)"
    • Why so many Japanese children refuse to go to school (BBC News) — "Many schools in Japan control every aspect of their pupils' appearance, forcing pupils to dye their brown hair black, or not allowing pupils to wear tights or coats, even in cold weather. In some cases they even decide on the colour of pupils' underwear. "
    • The real scam of ‘influencer’ (Seth Godin) — "And a bigger part is that the things you need to do to be popular (the only metric the platforms share) aren’t the things you’d be doing if you were trying to be effective, or grounded, or proud of the work you’re doing."

    Image via Kottke.org

    Friday fluctuations

    Have a quick skim through these links that I came across this week and found interesting:

    • Overrated: Ludwig Wittgenstein (Standpoint) — "Wittgenstein’s reputation for genius did not depend on incomprehensibility alone. He was also “tortured”, rude and unreliable. He had an intense gaze. He spent months in cold places like Norway to isolate himself. He temporarily quit philosophy, because he believed that he had solved all its problems in his 1922 Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and worked as a gardener. He gave away his family fortune. And, of course, he was Austrian, as so many of the best geniuses are."
    • EdTech Resistance (Ben Williamson) ⁠— "We should not and cannot ignore these tensions and challenges. They are early signals of resistance ahead for edtech which need to be engaged with before they turn to public outrage. By paying attention to and acting on edtech resistances it may be possible to create education systems, curricula and practices that are fair and trustworthy. It is important not to allow edtech resistance to metamorphose into resistance to education itself."
    • The Guardian view on machine learning: a computer cleverer than you? (The Guardian) — "The promise of AI is that it will imbue machines with the ability to spot patterns from data, and make decisions faster and better than humans do. What happens if they make worse decisions faster? Governments need to pause and take stock of the societal repercussions of allowing machines over a few decades to replicate human skills that have been evolving for millions of years."
    • A nerdocratic oath (Scott Aaronson) — "I will never allow anyone else to make me a cog. I will never do what is stupid or horrible because “that’s what the regulations say” or “that’s what my supervisor said,” and then sleep soundly at night. I’ll never do my part for a project unless I’m satisfied that the project’s broader goals are, at worst, morally neutral. There’s no one on earth who gets to say: “I just solve technical problems. Moral implications are outside my scope”."
    • Privacy is power (Aeon) — "The power that comes about as a result of knowing personal details about someone is a very particular kind of power. Like economic power and political power, privacy power is a distinct type of power, but it also allows those who hold it the possibility of transforming it into economic, political and other kinds of power. Power over others’ privacy is the quintessential kind of power in the digital age."
    • The Symmetry and Chaos of the World's Megacities (WIRED) — "Koopmans manages to create fresh-looking images by finding unique vantage points, often by scouting his locations on Google Earth. As a rule, he tries to get as high as he can—one of his favorite tricks is talking local work crews into letting him shoot from the cockpit of a construction crane."
    • Green cities of the future - what we can expect in 2050 (RNZ) — "In their lush vision of the future, a hyperloop monorail races past in the foreground and greenery drapes the sides of skyscrapers that house communal gardens and vertical farms."
    • Wittgenstein Teaches Elementary School (Existential Comics) ⁠— "And I'll have you all know, there is no crying in predicate logic."
    • Ask Yourself These 5 Questions to Inspire a More Meaningful Career Move (Inc.) — "Introspection on the right things can lead to the life you want."

    Image from Do It Yurtself

    Is edtech even a thing any more?

    Until recently, Craig Taylor included the following in his Twitter bio:

    Dreaming of a day when we can drop the e from elearning and the m from mobile learning & just crack on.
    Last week, I noticed that Stephen Downes, in reply to Scott Leslie on Mastodon, had mentioned that he didn't even think that 'e-learning' or 'edtech' was really a thing any more, so perhaps Craig dropping that from his bio was symptomatic of a wider shift?
    I'm not sure anyone has any status in online learning any more. I'm wondering, maybe it's not even a discipline any more. There's learning analytics and open pedagogy and experience design, etc., but I'm not sure there's a cohesive community looking at what we used to call ed tech or e-learning.
    His comments were part of a thread, so I decided not to take it out of context. However, Stephen has subsequently written his own post about it, so it's obviously something on his mind.

    Reflecting on what he covers in OLDaily, he notes that, while everything definitely falls within something broadly called ‘educational technology’, there’s very few people working at that meta level — unlike, say, ten years ago:

    [I]n 2019 there's no community that encompasses all of these things. Indeed, each one of these topics has not only blossomed its own community, but each one of these communities is at least as complex as the entire field of education technology was some twenty years ago. It's not simply that change is exponential or that change is moving more and more rapidly, it's that change is combinatorial - with each generation, the piece that was previously simple gets more and more complex.
    I think Stephen's got what Venkatesh Rao might deem an 'elder blog':
    The concept is derived from the idea of an elder game in gaming culture -- a game where most players have completed a full playthrough and are focusing on second-order play.
    In other words, Stephen has spent a long time exploring and mapping the emerging territory. What's happening now, it could be argued, is that new infrastructure is emerging, but using the same territory.

    So, to continue the metaphor, a new community springs up around a new bridge or tunnel, but it’s not so different from what went before. It’s more convenient, maybe, and perhaps increases capacity, but it’s not really changing the overall landscape.

    So what is the value of OLDaily? I don't know. In one sense, it's the same value it always had - it's a place for me to chronicle all those developments in my field, so I have a record of them, and am more likely to remember them. And I think it's a way - as it always has been - for people who do look at the larger picture to stay literate. Not literate in the sense of "I could build an educational system from scratch" but literate in the sense of "I've heard that term before, and I know it refers to this part of the field."
    I find Stephen's work invaluable. Along with the likes of Audrey Watters and Martin Weller, we need wise voices guiding us — whether or not we decide to call what we're doing 'edtech'.

    Source: OLDaily

    Getting on the edtech bus

    As many people will be aware, the Open University (OU) is going through a pretty turbulent time in its history. As befitting the nature of the institution, a lot of conversations about its future are happening in public spaces.

    Martin Weller, a professor at the university, has been vocal. In this post, a response to a keynote from Tony Bates, he offers a way forward.

    I would like to... propose a new role: Sensible Ed Tech Advisor. Job role is as follows:
    • Ability to offer practical advice on adoption of ed tech that will benefit learners
    • Strong BS detector for ed tech hype
    • Interpreter of developing trends for particular context
    • Understanding of the intersection of tech and academic culture
    • Communicating benefits of any particular tech in terms that are valuable to educators and learners
    • Appreciation of ethical and social impact of ed tech
    (Lest that sound like I’m creating a job description for myself, I didn’t add “interest in ice hockey” at the end, so you can tell that it isn’t)
    Weller notes that Bates mentioned in his his post-keynote write-up that the OU has a "fixation on print as the ‘core’ medium/technology". He doesn't think that's correct.

    I’m interested in this, because the view of an institution is formed not only by the people inside it, but by the press and those who have an opinion and an audience. Weller accuses Bates of being woefully out of date. I think he’s correct to call him out on it, as I’ve witnessed recently a whole host of middle-aged white guys lazily referencing things in presentations they haven’t bothered to research very well.

     It is certainly true that some disciplines do have a print preference, and Tony is correct to say that often a print mentality is transferred to online. But what this outdated view (it was probably true 10-15 years ago) suggests is a ‘get digital or else’ mentality. Rather, I would argue, we need to acknowledge the very good digital foundation we have, but find ways to innovate on top of this.

    If you are fighting an imaginary analogue beast, then this becomes difficult. For instance, Tony does rightly highlight how we don’t make enough use of social media to support students, but then ignores that there are pockets of very good practice, for example the OU PG Education account and the use of social media in the Cisco courses. Rolling these out across the university is not simple, but it is the type of project that we know how to realise. But by framing the problem as one of wholesale structural, cultural change starting from a zero base, it makes achieving practical, implementable projects difficult. You can’t do that small(ish) thing until we’ve done these twenty big things.

    We seem to be living at a time when those who were massive, uncritical boosters of technology in education (and society in general) are realising the errors of their ways. I actually wouldn’t count Weller as an uncritical booster, but I welcome the fact that he is self-deprecating enough to include himself in that crowd.

    I would also suggest that the sort of “get on the ed tech bus or else” argument that Tony puts forward is outdated, and ineffective (I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past). And as Audrey Watters highlights tirelessly, an unsceptical approach to ed tech is problematic for many reasons. Far more useful is to focus on specific problems staff have, or things they want to realise, than suggest they just ‘don’t get it’. Having an appreciation for this intersection between ed tech (coming from outside the institution and discipline often) and the internal values and culture is also an essential ingredient in implementing any technology successfully.
    This is a particularly interesting time in the history of technology in education and society. I'm glad that conversations like this are happening in the open.

    Source: Martin Weller

    The horror of the Bett Show

    I’ve been to the Bett Show (formely known as BETT, which is how the author refers to it in this article) in many different guises. I’ve been as a classroom teacher, school senior leader, researcher in Higher Education, when I was working in different roles at Mozilla, as a consultant, and now in my role at Moodle.

    I go because it’s free, and because it’s a good place to meet up with people I see rarely. While I’ve changed and grown up, the Bett Show is still much the same. As Junaid Mubeen, the author of this article, notes:  

    The BETT show is emblematic of much that EdTech gets wrong. No show captures the hype of educational technology quite like the world’s largest education trade show. This week marked my fifth visit to BETT at London’s Excel arena. True to form, my two days at the show left me feeling overwhelmed with the number of products now available in the EdTech market, yet utterly underwhelmed with the educational value on offer.

    It's laughable, it really is. I saw all sorts of tat while I was there. I heard that a decent sized stand can set you back around a million pounds.

    One senses from these shows that exhibitors are floating from one fad to the next, desperately hoping to attach their technological innovations to education. In this sense, the EdTech world is hopelessly predictable; expect blockchain applications to emerge in not-too-distant future BETT shows.

    But of course. I felt particularly sorry this year for educators I know who were effectively sales reps for the companies they've gone to work for. I spent about five hours there, wandering, talking, and catching up with people. I can only imagine the horror of being stuck there for four days straight.

    I like the questions Mubeen comes up with. However, the edtech companies are playing a different game. While there’s some interested in pedagogical development, for most of them it’s just another vertical market.

    In the meantime, there are four simple questions every self-professed education innovator should demand of themselves:

    • What is your pedagogy? At the very least, can you list your educational goals?
    • What does it mean for your solution to work and how will this be measured in a way that is meaningful and reliable?
    • How are your users supported to achieve their educational goals after the point of sale?
    • How do your solutions interact with other offerings in the marketplace?
    Somewhat naïvely, the author says that he looks forward to the day when exhibitors are selected "not on their wallet size but on their ability to address these foundational questions". As there's a for-profit company behind Bett, I think he'd better not hold his breath.

    Source: Junaid Mubeen

    The Horizon stops here

    Audrey Watters is delightfully blunt about the New Media Consortium, known for their regular ‘Horizon reports’, shutting down:

    While I am sad for all the NMC employees who lost their jobs, I confess: I will not mourn an end to the Horizon Report project. (If we are lucky enough, that is, that it actually goes away.) I do not think the Horizon Report is an insightful or useful tool. Sorry. I recognize some people really love to read it. But perhaps part of the problem that education technology faces right now – as an industry, as a profession, what have you – is that many of its leaders believe that the Horizon Report is precisely that. Useful. Insightful.
    Source: Hack Education