I’m wondering if I have a future in edtech, or a place in that field now. I’m just not feeling relevant or useful. A cog in the wheel, but I’m not even sure the wheel is turning, or if it is, in what direction. You know? I’m feeling so much more energized by biking, photography, geeking out with The Boy™ than I am with “edtech.” Campus blogging? Still? Wikis? OER? I can’t believe how unchanged things are. I may as well still be hammering away at a Learning Objects Repository, for all the effect I’ve been having. Why not just let go of all of this crap and just move on to something different?

45 thoughts on “wondering”

  1. While walking with some colleagues herein New York we decided the future if education was Chat Roulette.

    Just kidding.

    I know that wondering and don’t know the answer. The OER stuff fills like learning objects stuff again.

    Do what energizes you.

  2. The Boy™ (referring in this case to yours, not mine) will never be this age again and there will come a time when he won’t want to spend as much time with Dad. Your love for him shines through in your writing here and on Twitter, and in your photographs. I’ll paraphrase Alan – Follow Your Bliss. I’m pretty sure that I know what a big part of it is.

  3. Do the stuff that you want to do. Your son will never be the same age again and neither will you — we all fade away. Most of it is transience with little change. I have a feeling a lot of this stuff is going to see a paradigm shift in the near future simply due to economics and technology itself. The days of the Ivory Tower are numbered. Perhaps it will take another 20 years, but these guys in the long run are doomed.

    As for whether you have contributed, I think the massive response that your blog generates to certain issues is proof enough, perhaps you need to find someone else to carry the torch who is in ed-tech. If you are asking about having more of an impact, well I have thought for a long time and will continue to think that it’s the entire ideology, not just one aspect, that needs a tweak — or more accurately a paradigm shift. That comes in developing and adopting entire belief systems and that’s in philosophical terms a very difficult task if you want to do it well.

  4. I hear you. I left higher ed for K-12 last October but I’m still struggling to find my “place.” Would love to hang it all up and become a shutterbug, but still need to pay the bills. The starving artist thing doesn’t appeal to me. Maybe more the adventurous National Geographic photog… Guess I’m just disillusioned with the continued focus on the dominant paradigm whether it’s in Canada or here in the U.S. Looking for a life that revels in taking chances while still putting a roof over the family’s head and food on the table.

    My best as you find your way!


  5. I turned 50 this year and am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I agree with Alan. Do what energizes you and makes sense form the inside out. The rest works out.

  6. Why *not* move on to something different? What’s the downside? That’s only partly rhetorical– I’ve been struggling with the same question(s) for over a year… whatever you do, you will kick ass

  7. I’m just thinking out loud. It’s strange – we seem to talk about paradigm shifts changing everything. I don’t see a paradigm shift. I see a funding crisis. I see devaluing of education and Education. I see continued budgetary cuts each year for the last decade or more, with all the fun that goes with them. I can continue tilting at windmills (yay openness! yay sharing! yay personal publishing!) in the hopes that some good comes of it, or I can let go and just do the job – become a lifer. Or, I can find something else, somewhere else. Lots to unpack there, and strong reasons for going in any of the three possible directions. I’m also not planning on doing anything rash.

  8. For you I’m thinking running a bike shop with an attached Battlestar Galactica museum. Photography on the weekends. Tell me that’s not tempting.

  9. Don’t quit your day job. WTO, what used to be GATT, is destroying the middle class. Don’t expect income levels to rise for the next ten to twenty years. Expect unemployment to increase. Expect global nomads that move all over the globe for work. I expect the Ivory Tower to fall when students can’t afford to pay the ridiculous price tags for mediocre education… so the Tower can do more research. Corps will pay for the research, students will learn online and cheaply. In that things will be more open for everyone. That paradigm shift is already taking place. The Chinese will set the new equilibrium, the ball is out of our court.

    1. I repeat, don’t quit your day job… Do something rash, but don’t quit your day job… Finding work in this economy is impossible, and you have a good job.

      1. D’arcy, you’re not average. you’re smart and capable. don’t let fear imprison you in a “good job” when the world is your oyster.

  10. I’ve been wondering lately if dropping the “technology” part of our job titles might be reinvigorating, for us, for our field, and for those we serve. It is the innovation part that matters most – we should make the technology optional.

    And what about better balancing our service between instructors and students? Most of us have changed our titles from “intructional techonologists” to “learning technologists” but despite that change still work primarily with instructors.

    Would a job in a “center for teaching and learning” make more change than a job in IT?

  11. If it wasn’t clear before, I should say I was using the label as a symbol for the whole. It seems many have been shifting the labels alone so far ( that’s why I mentioned the mostly meaningless shift away from “instructional” in many of job titles. I think maybe, ultimately what I’m hoping for is a truer focus on improving learning. Much of edtech has changed the lingo and labels already.

  12. After 10 years in the same position, it’s only natural that you would feel a bit burnt out and like a cog in the machine. But even if you are not feeling it, I, for one, find you incredibly useful and relevant in our field.

    Personally, I’ve done three major mid-career shifts in the past 20 years (not to mention at least a dozen different jobs) as I seem to follow an ever-shifting muse. Each one has brought new challenges, rewards, and penalties. Like Rob, I’m 43 and still wondering what I want to do when I grow up. But each time I have made a change, I have found it has refreshed and reinvigorated me in the same way unwrapping new school supplies used to when I was a kid, with that everything-is-shiny-and-new kind of nervous feeling of anticipation, like anything was possible. Every time I have made a career or job change, it has given me that extra little boost that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning.

    That said, I will add that the wonderful thing I truly appreciate about working within a post-secondary institution is that affords me a degree of flexibility that I never had working in the private sector (or, in fact, other public sectors I have worked in). I’ve been able to continually do something I love to do – learn new stuff – and have been able to pursue educational experiences, take long term leaves and secondment’s, and adjust my work schedule to fit a growing family. These types of benefits were near impossible when working in the private sector, and are a big reason why I came back to an post-sec institution.

  13. Come on over to the other side! The view’s great over here…so’s the biking and photography!

    No seriously, if you can do your job without passion but with caring and then have lots of energy for the things that matter, well, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if your job is deadening and frustrating and just plain old feels wrong (like mine did), then it’s time to do what you can to make a change. And what a role model for your son. My daughters learned far more from me watching me flail about after I left higher ed, learning to make a living as a consultant and then planning a business, than seeing me comfortable and successful in my formal classroom.

    Interesting, too to see Chris and Alan and others having similar feelings. I think those thoughts are healthy ones–you’re questing and questioning, not sitting there going through the motions. Something about the age, too–my husband left a happening environmental law practice at your age because it didn’t feel right duking it out in the courts where everyone lost. People thought he was nuts to leave a good job at the height of his reputation. And now he’s doing he work he really should be doing–he’s happy. And so whether you stay or go, it will be for good reason–you’re too ornery for anything else!


  14. It’s not you, it’s me. I posted on Jan 1 that I think a lot of EdTech has stagnated, and in many spaces and places – lack luster. Reasearch widely supports the last 25 years have resulted in ‘no significant difference’ in the outcomes of students, but I do think that its in the last 5 years that we are far more able to discuss it and maybe that makes us more dissonant in the face of epic internet generated choice. Perhaps the US has a greater capacity to orbit some of the things you talk about, sheer population will support that. Perhaps the consultants that have moved from the classroom to the speaking podium like the problem … who knows … just go with something that interests you and return to it often – writing, photos, killing the filthy Hordes in Azeroth … whatever.

  15. The fact is that you guys don’t make the decisions… and decision making in a monolithic organization was never and will never be democratic. That’s the biggest reason that there is no change. Entrepreneurship does not exist in academia. Creative destruction does not exist in academia. It’s an ivory tower to contain intelligence in a way that is not damaging to society, whatever that means. If the UC has 30,000 students and they spend $30,000 on an education that’s nearly a billion dollars that this thing sucks from people’s pockets every four or so years. If the province matches that it sucks 2 billion. Now seriously, for two billion what value does it really produce? What can be done to destroy this abhorrent waste of resources? How can an ideology or a religion facilitate that? Or for that matter the K-12 system also is a similar abhorrent waste of resources considering the mediocre, compassionless, dehumanizing experience for the mass !

  16. Seems like you’ve struck a cord with your audience- certainly something I’ve been thinking about for some time.

    My longest job in education has been a little over 2 years. I’ve tried K12 in 4 different positions, Higher ed in three. I even tried starving artist wages at a Boys & Girls Club (sadly, many of the same issues Ed has and being tied more tightly the entire time I was there). I blame the system and myself alternately. I want to stay. I want to make education work but often end up so frustrated by the stupidity, lack of progress and rigidness that I leave.

    I keep looking for something that makes sense and lets me do interesting, real work that actually helps people. The more I read and see, the more doomed I feel the whole enterprise is.

    So want to start working on one of these things that will replace all this other educational stuff? I’m thinking ARG style games maybe. I figure that’d let me/you/us hit all sorts of interesting possibilities (photography, technology, writing, bike riding, whatever . . .). Seems like that could make money in a variety of ways and still enable the maker to have a great deal of control over their own work and so allow him/her to keep doing interesting things forever. Plus the interactive way these things work with the participants has all sorts of appeal to me.

  17. This dude is already effectively challenging the status quo, no funding, nothing; just his brain, a few books, and that’s it… http://www.khanacademy.org/ So far 1200 1/2 hour lectures about anything that K-12 can think about. Probably over a million students effectively helped… 1:1,000,000 ratio… Add a few exercises that give metrics, so students can self-improve and see their improvement… and do that for free… Like really wtf is a classroom these days other than a glorified lecture hall; what part of a lecture hall can the online environment not simulate… Nothing whatsoever! People that have been home schooled, and felt that their parents were idiots were able to watch his lectures and get entrance into engineering in college…

  18. BTW, the khanacademy guy, makes an okay money off Google Adsense… He was making $1500/mo a year ago… At this point it’s probably $2000+/mo… Eventually it will be a full salary… Imagine how many real teachers it would take to deliver what he is delivering. Imagine how many jobs are at risk… other than the dogma, what’s keeping the teachers employed?

  19. OK, but I don’t believe that Education is really changing. Khan posts some videos. That’s interesting, but it’s not changing Education. If anything, the use case you describe is only propping up the status quo (repairing homeschooled students so they can fit into Higher Ed). Education (and education) is not about access to content. That’s what frustrates me with the whole OER thing. Content is handy, but it’s only one part of the educational experience. Having a billion movies available online isn’t going to change education – it will make some content available. That is all. A good thing, but not sufficient.

    Given that Education isn’t going to be changing any time soon (it’s been around for a long, long time and the internet isn’t going to change it no matter how loudly we predict it).

    The constant talk of “education is changing!” “everything is changing!” is draining. And incorrect. Sure, some things are changing. But we (myself, people like me, people that read blogs like this one) are so reinforced by our echo chambers that we actually believe this – while those outside the chamber are completely unaware of it. Real change would be visible from outside the circle of people who are promoting change.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this. A general frustration with Education is Changing. A definite frustration with having no impact (at least not sustainably) on campus. And not seeing any viable options at the moment.

    1. Formal, K-12 education of what we know now has not been around a long time, it has a very short history 130 years or a bit more. Universities have existed longer, but they were not what they are now. I will concede the point that the content does not change much, not apparently… But show me where online you have been able to get something similar in a coherent sort of way from one person. There is tons of mish mash out there, but it is in no way consolidated or concise. In the past you have been able to buy certain programs, but there has been in way the depth and scope of what is being provided… as that offering is improved it could make an entire curriculum… Show me where that’s been done online before… A lot of people talk in education, but no one actually does anything practical like this.

      Does it feed into the same system, yes, why? Because there is no alternative for it to fit into… When someone decides to provide an alternative open source curriculum and provide metrics for employers to judge the knowledge, that paradigm has the potential for changing.

      Are things not changing at all? No. They are changing drastically, but it does not appear to be so… UC just raised tuition again… Unlimited hunger for money… While at the same time the economy is being effected by this damned recession, but what’s more is that a critical sort of adjustment is taking hold behind the scenes which is changing the economy completely. I don’t agree that these huge institions with their retarded budgets can sustain themselves.

      Also I think there is tons of hubris about what education is, how it should be practices, etc, that serves to protect and contain the practitioners… at the cost of students… The videos are education… The dogma that they are not, that there is something else — some special sauce is dogma… It exists to reassure the educators that they are providing something more than a glorified lecture hall… When for 90% of the students they are not. Khan’s videos suffice!

      1. If content were sufficient, schools would have been closed when the first public library was opened. Content is important, even critical, but it’s what you _do_ with the content – the activities that involve synthesis and creation rather than just dissemination – that make up the important aspects of education. These are things that are very difficult to do without a good teacher or guide, without a group of students to work with.

        The institutions are now Too Big To Fail. They may have to change revenue models, but they’ll be around for a long time to come.

        1. “the activities that involve synthesis and creation rather than just dissemination ”

          This does not happen more often than not in any modern academic setting. >50% and I will put money on that. I agree that they are worthy of being done, but they are not done.

          “The institutions are now Too Big To Fail. ”

          I will concede this point. I could argue against it, but that argument is worthless. The institutions will be worthless when we stop believing in them… just like Churches are today.

      2. The only elements that I can think of that schools provide that can not be achieved while sitting in front of a computer is interaction with other students. So my use case would be either to home school the kids and help them become autodidactic with this sort of school work or create an alternative institution that provides places for kids to socialize and learn in an ad-hoc environment. Not defined classes, probably learning areas and the concept of credits.. You must pass a certain number of tests in order to show that you have comprehension of the basics… You can take the tests at your own time… etc… The point is an open sort of curriculum facilitates this… The knowledge is there, now what do you as a student or a parent want to do with it and how… Expecting monolithic institutions to change is futile… Expecting the practitioners to change their craft is futile. The people/parents must empower themselves and create institutions that they believe their kids can learn from… Hands off hopes that the State will raise your kid and all you have to do is coerce them is dangerous and yet extremely common…

  20. A very interesting comment thread to a relatively old question — each time I see you we have a discussions similar to this. I have it with nearly everyone, BTW. One thing that seems striking to me within my own Institution is that I have had to take pleasure in not changing the whole system, but impacting small parts of it … at the end of the day that is the only thing that has kept me sane. When I see faculty (old and young) doing really interesting things with the tools we provide in ways that we didn’t predict, I still get juiced. I visit their classrooms and sit in the back and watch the chaos unfold and it is wonderful. Just as an aside, have you taken the time to wander into a classroom where they are actually using the stuff you build/promote? Trust me, that is gratifying to see.

    All the stuff we pushed so hard on the first half of this decade is done — blogs, wikis, RSS, publishing platforms … the question we have to ask is if we are willing to do more work to take them from the fringe and into the mainstream. That is where the change is and that is where the challenge is. Our jobs weren’t meant to be about changing education from the policy side, it was to provide tools that support better teaching practice. No one told you to invent the idea of open publishing via a blogging platform — but you did (along with a few other really inspired pioneers). Now that that work is done, do you have the energy to keep pushing? If the answer is no and you want to invent the next great thing, I’d get busy with that. If the answer is biking, photography, and the boy then I’d get busy with that. But try to remember that those things are not mutually exclusive. Passion for one answer doesn’t mean not holding some for the other. Great post and great conversation.

  21. Now let me sketch out my religion/philosophical/ideological argument. I might as well as do it here rather than anywhere else. The argument is basically that ideology plays an infinitely large role in life, that more or less that is what defines life. That being an atheist is not an ideology but an opposition to an ideology. That science will not save anyone, as it is subservient to business and the economy. That modern liberal humanism is subservient to the economy. That life on this planet is now defined by the economy and only the economy. That the economy for the most part is an ideological construct, not a real one and the focus on efficiency is damaging to the human spirit, damaging to our health, damaging to the planet. We can do without many things that the economy provides. The focus on efficiency is due to over population and profit which necessarily leads to dehumanization. That this assertion is a religious belief, as it can not be proven or tested.

    What I am trying to get to is that look at the way the Amish or Mennonites live, though you don’t have to agree with the ideology. They live this way because of their religion and their beliefs. They live outside of the construct in their own construct. They have ownership of their construct, where we have no ownership of ours. We have this dogmatic belief that we are free and religion is the enemy and if we can only free ourselves from it we will be free… While at the same time we are absorbed in a completely different ideology which is just as permeating, dogmatic, and wrong. We should live in our constructs that we have created ourselves that we have the ability to change. This can only really be done through a religion of some sort, and that we are always subservient to a religion which decides what is of value and what is not. What are the social norms, and so on… and coerces us to behave accordingly… in that coercion it is violent, but it covers up its violence in its dogma.

    That’s the beginning of my understand, comment on it if you disagree… in disagreement we find truth.

  22. who is this crazy Sami character? real person? or your chaotic repressed id, D’arcy? that’s the end of my understand.

    1. 🙂 Sorry I had not slept all night when I wrote that… Anyhow, I am not D’Arcy, nor his repressed ID 😛

    2. my repressed id is most certainly both chaotic and insane, but sami is not it. what? shut up! no! stop. I will NOT. no. what? okay. yes. I know. listen to the voices. okay.

    3. btw davidicus, what exactly did I say which you would classify as crazy? i think deep down inside everyone agrees with me at least to a minor extent, they are too pussy to say it.

  23. its just a come down D’Arcy, from the high we were on all those years. When we honestly thought we were king shits and things were gunna change because of us. The edtech revolution, the EPIC2014, the connectivism and networked learning, the edupunk and 2.0 everything. The drugs don’t work, they just make you worse… so, me too man. If you’re gunna split though, go out with a bang. Get angry.

  24. I’ll be honest with you, these days I am kinda enjoying being a 10-4 laggard, kinda working, kinda thinking, but mostly hanging with my kids, watching baseball, and complaining endlessly to my special lady friend. I burnt out to some degree, and I know it. But luckily my blog was never only about edtech, it took it over for a while, but movies, tv, video games, and mediated culture more generally turn me on. Thee is no job in that I can see right now, so being an instructional technologist, while the pay sucks, has allowed me a lot of freedom to do the other stuff, and I can live with that trade off. But if you are talking about alternative careers, I know what mine would be, and I’ve been dreaming of this for upwards of 20 years. A retro movie house that does double features of themed movies throughout the year. It would be an old school theater, have dots, and buttered popcorn, and 70s carpet. It would be the shit, and I would run it. I’d complain about the death of Hollywood to my punkass teenage employees, and pretend to get mad at all the kids that snuck in the theater through the fire exits. I would play Star Wars (episode IV only) and Jaws as a double feature for a solid month in the Summer and charge 75 cents admission, and I would dress up as Darth Vader and greet the kids with free Twizzlers. I like this plan because it is entirely unfeasible, and if I ever do it I will be broker and crazier thna I am now, and that is what I am constantly striving for. I live for what is gone, which is what is making me enjoy edtech all the more this last year.

    The thing that keeps us right is that you can’t live a wrong life rightly. It has been my credo, and served me very well thus far. EdTech is just a dream, but i still kinda enjoy it.

  25. You and I have talked about this more than a few times I think, so you know I am sympathetic and struggle with many of these same feelings. But I am going to be a bit contrary here and ask you to really look at what you are dissatisfied with. Is it the work or the lack of traction? Because the D’Arcy I know strongly believes in a lot of this stuff, as do I, and what I’m sensing here isn’t so much an exhaustion with the idea that we can help people learn more/better/differently using the network, or the idea that publicly funded education is a bad thing, but that you aren’t seeing the changes in the context you are in. Does that sound fair?

    Seems to me you have 2 (probably more) choices – change the context you are in, or move to a different context? I hear many people acknowledging the latter, but few urging the former. Maybe because we’ve all decided these contexts, these “institutions,” these “systems,” can’t be changed. Maybe. I can’t claim to be very good at changing it and sure get the feeling of being a cog in a wheel. But I haven’t given up; I still feel like there are things worth fighting for in publicly funded education and that if we don’t help it adapt to the changing landscape, that cold-hearted, near-sighted, self-interested FUCKS will use the surrounding turmoil to remove it’s last shaky legs, and not in favour of something better. I wish I could buy into the idea that what is emerging “on its own” is better and will simply leave behind the stilted institutions but increasingly this just seems like buying into a narcissistic pipe-dream sold to us by the very people profiting from the demise of civic society’s dismantling.

    Whatever you do D’Arcy, do it to the fullest, and if you can’t find a way to do that in your current context then maybe it does need to change. But I know there aren’t many other people I have met in this world who I would rather have beside me in this foxhole, and I hope you can find a way to muster the personal power to affect the changes in your existing context that will help both you and it thrive and evolve, because I think it’s worth it, and if you don’t, I’m not sure who will. Peace.

    1. I have a plan. It definitely involves at least one more try at helping on campus. I’ll buy you a beer in Vancouver and hash it out. It’s still a rough idea, but there’s something to it (not enough behind it yet to be bloggable…)

    2. By far one of the better thought out responses to the whole conundrum… formidable odds, boys…

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