borrowed time | demi-brooke

Mouthing off. CCBy: borrowed time | demi-brooke

The incredible ability of the education sector to seperate itself from reality is just incredible. I guess we have to accept that it has been common practice in education for a long time. Rather than teach in the real world we taught in the classroom, and with rules and regulations to sustain that very system. So its little wonder that the same embedded cultural drives in the sector will cloud over the development of new practices and absorb innovation and subversion so that no change is possible.

This is another hissy fit about LMS, VLEs, PLEs and now ePortfolios.

I remember when the backlash to the LMS started brewing back in 2004 as the social web star rose.. defendants of the LMS started side stepping and compromising with a new definition to Managed Learning. Definitions that described the LMS/VLE as a process rather than a product. A process described with a variety of tools at hand to do the thing, rather than necessarily a single central tool like say Blackboard or Moodle.. Nice one, that way we all got to keep our jobs and didn’t have to explain the great waste of resources into LMS development and content. The obvious success of social media services compared to the giant failure of educational technologies should have resulted in mass redundancies, but it didn’t. Instead we find people flogging that dead horse with open mimicking within broken toolsets.. MyLearn comes to mind as an attempt to keep those very costly resources somehow relavent…

Next, when the social media affordances starting to dawn on the education sector in 2005, some bright spark programmers in the education sector thought they’d try and “invent” something that would attach them to the giant nipple of the education cash cow.. they brought us the Personal Learning Environment (PLE). It was going to be a solution to the chaos of the social web, it was going to give all those slack education managers something to spend money on so they could say they were on to it, and help with assessment, validation, auditing and mind control.

But then the likes of me and a few others started shouting “snake oil” and thankfully the PLE movement side stepped it again and described it more as a process rather than a product. Another win for freedom, flexibility, personal choice and financial savings.

Now, the “ePortfolio” just won’t go away and we have products like Mahara knocking at our door today, getting big public money grants, and distracting our teachers and students from just jumping into the Net and learning core transferable skills such as managing RSS, editing Wikipedia, loading to Youtube, using Google Docs, Maps, and learning how to manage their online identity across all the platforms they are REALLY going to use (and yes, including that abomination called Facebook!)

I’m still waiting for the side stepping from the ePortfolio crowd, the bit where it becomes more about the process rather than the products.. in the meantime it seems like everyday I am having to explain to colleagues that the word ePortfolio is a sales pitch gimmick for something we already freely have access and do!… since, well.. the Internet.. but more realisticly 2004 when Google bought Blogger etc.

One such colleague who I constantly harass with this gripe (poor thing), is Sarah Stewart. Thankfully, I think she is agreeable to my brain washing now and will be a loan voice over in Brisbane for the Australia ePortfolio Symposium (trade show?)…

Man! When will these distractions and money diverters cease! Probably when the education cow stops waving its teats around and focuses on reality. There is a life time of usefulness and need to know right here on the WWW of information and communication that we need to be showing people how to use  well. We have a real world of it to learn in and we don’t need classrooms to put up technical and designed barriers to it, or delete our presence when we stop payingtheir fees, or say something unsavoury. We don’t need, and shouldn’t want some out-of-date-before-its-off-the-shelf product to interface with our use of the Net just so education bean counters can have an easier time assessing, validating and reporting to audits. Just get in there and use the web as it comes, and learn to use it intelligently, and help education managers learn how to save a couple of million dollars on software gimmicks and adjusting job descriptions to suit the “changes”.

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Update: Just found this post from Derek Wenmoth relevent.VLEs slow to take off.

Ah well – I guess we’re still embarking on the journey. What I’d hope we’ll see though is an equivalent amount of energy, effort and expense put into understanding the pedagogical value and opporutnities of a VLE/LMS/MLE as we are seeing go into the development (and sales) of products, systems and applications.