Thursday, November 14, 2013

Utopias & Dystopias: Education

Daniel, J. (2002). Technology is the Answer: What was the Question? Speech from Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 27-29 May 2002. 
In this speech, Professor Daniel, at the time the UNESCO Assistant Director for Education, offered the view that ‘in all parts of the world evolving technology is the main force that is changing society’ (a model technological determinist position, you’ll observe!). He argued that, despite popular opinion, education was not exempt from these changes, nor should it be. Indeed, technology could solve the three most pressing problems of education: access, quality and cost. His praise of open universities directly prefigures the current fascination with MOOCs, and you will recognise many of the same arguments about economies of scale at play. He asks his audience to be critical in assessing the claims that are made about educational technology and what it can accomplish. Using Daniel’s four ‘b’s - bias, bull, breadth and balance - what observations can you make about his utopian arguments about education? What currency do they continue to have in this field? 

Noble. D. (1998). Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education. First Monday 3/1. 
Noble’s piece, still a classic 15 years on, shows just how long debates about the consequences of digital education have been circulating. In contrast to Daniel’s speech, the orientation here is clearly dystopic. Where Noble frames ‘administrators and commercial partners’ as being in favour of ‘teacherless’ digital education, and ‘teachers and students’ as being against it, these divisions have never been clear, and they certainly aren’t now. Why does Noble say that technology is a ‘vehicle’ and a ‘disguise’ for the commercialization of higher education? How can we relate this early concern with commercialism to current debates about MOOCs, for example? And how are concerns about ‘automation’ and ‘redundant faculty’ still being played out today? 

Larreamendy-Joerns, J. and Leinhardt, G. (2006). Going the Distance with Online Education. Review of Educational Research, 76/4, 567-605. Access to this article is made possible by Coursera’s collaboration with JSTOR. 

The authors of this review article offer an historical backdrop to the development of online education in the United States (one thing to consider is how this is similar, or different, from developments in other national contexts with which you are familiar). They look at the long history of distance education and its aims of democratization and access, debates about whether it can or should replace on-campus education, and the question of instructional quality. These issues, they suggest, have shaped debates about online education. At the same time, the diversity of approaches to online education, and the interaction it affords in particular, mean that much more diversity, and controversy, is possible: 

the Internet is capable of producing laboratories, classrooms, tutors, lectures, textbooks, and libraries.... Hence we face an environment that has considerably more degrees of freedom than before, one that is flexible enough to be modeled in pursuit [of] opposing educational visions. (p.584)

They identify three competing ‘views’ of online education: presentational, performance-tutoring, and epistemic-engagement. They argue that the way forward for online education of all kinds involves the participation of both instructional designers/learning technologists and discipline-based academics; a move away from simple comparisons between classroom and online learning which may lead to stagnation rather than innovation; and a challenge to the assumption that techniques and approaches that have been successful in one setting are necessarily the best fit for others. In other words, diversity is a positive principle in online education. 

No comments:

Post a Comment