Much like the demise of the innovation on the web and within the blogosphere as the result of the commodification of social media by silo corporations like Facebook, Twitter, and others around 2006, the technology space in education has become too addicted to corporate products and services. Many of these services cover some broad functionality, but they have generally either slowed down or quit innovating, quit competing with each other, are often charging exorbitant prices, and frequently doing unethical things with the data they receive from their users. The major difference between the two spaces is that Big Social Media is doing it on a much bigger scale and making a lot more money and creating greater damage as a result.
Instead, let me make some recommendations to thought leaders in the space for more humanistic and holistic remedy. Follow the general philosophies and principles of the IndieWeb movement. Dump (or at least gradually move away from) your corporately built LMS and start building one of your own. Ideally, open source what you build so that others can improve it and build upon it. In the end, you, your classes, your departments, and your institutions will be all the stronger for it. You can have more direct control over your own data (and that of your students, which deserves to be treated more ethically). You can build smaller independent pieces that are interchangeable and inter-operable. The small pieces may also allow new unpredictable functionalities when put together. You can build to make better user interfaces, better functionality, and get what you’d like to have instead of just what you’re given.
If I had a desert island EdTech, it would be blogging, and that is not just in a nostalgic sense. No other educational technology has continued to develop, as the proliferation of WordPress sites attests, and also remain so full of potential. I’ve waxed lyrical about academic blogging many times before, but for almost every ed tech that comes along, I find myself thinking that a blog version would be better: e-portfolios, VLEs, MOOCs, OERs, social networks. Sometimes it’s like Jim Groom and Alan Levine have taken over my brain, and I don’t even mind. I still harbour dreams of making students effective bloggers will be a prime aspect of graduateness. Nothing develops and anchors your online identity quite like a blog.
No other edtech has continued to develop and solidify (as the proliferation of WordPress sites attests) and also remain so full of potential. For almost every edtech that comes along—e-portfolios, VLEs, MOOCs, OER, social media—I find myself thinking that a blog version would be better. Nothing develops and anchors an online identity quite like a blog.
As Ryanindicates, the planet-like features that OPML subscriptions provide are immensely valuable in general, but also solves a tough problem that some of the best minds in the educational tech space have found perennially problematic.
I want to stress the indie ed-tech perspective. Mainstream ed-tech is very much about behaviorism and surveillance. We need an indie ed-tech that can bring safety to the serendipity without monetizing kids.
We also believe the path to becoming a better reader relies on becoming a writer. Children excel in production based literacy environments. The critical evaluation of online sources is no different. Any classroom exercise around sourcing must involve readers reflecting on their process and interacting in social spaces for reading. We believe the best way to do have students understand how the web shapes meaning is to use the web to make meaning. Part of any intervention should embrace students publishing on their own domain with parents and students in control of their privacy.
We also believe teachers should be central in educational research. Part of any intervention must encourage educators to build, share and remix resources while reflecting on their learning in the open. We can not tackle critical evaluation alone. Furthermore we must recognize that our teaching corps requires a basic understanding of how you read and write on the web and the lack of skills in our teachers is a national crisis. Students will never be ready for computer science classes in middle school and high school if they are taught by educators who can’t add a link in an email let alone build a web page. By encouraging teachers to network through the use of OER sharing we can address the lack of skills.
For the past couple months, I’ve been using this site to keep a log of changes I make to my long-form site. I tag these posts “changelog” and include a link to them in the header menu.
WordPress, which this site runs on, supports querying a tag intersection. I’ve found this helpful when searching through my changelog. For example, to query this site for all changelog posts pertaining to education, use this link formulation.
If you follow education, there’s some interesting stuff in there.
Since these changelog posts link back to the posts they’re describing, pingbacks show up in the comments of the referenced posts. This results in reciprocal links between the posts on my long-form blog and the changelog posts on this site, handled automatically. That’s nice. Unfortunately, since the changelog posts do not have titles, all that shows up in the text of the pingback link is the name of this site. For now, I’m being lazy and living with it.
“We could continue to flock to Twitter and Facebook — we could keep paying those who have and will rip off democracy for a stock price — or we could turn our backs and help the open web instead.”
@wordpressdotcom, how about some love for microbloggers? This is frustrating and unusable, especially given that after peeking at the post and closing the editor the list loses vscroll. I’m trying to have an indieweb moment here. 🙂