on MOOCs as the most important Education Technology in the last 200 years.

Bull. Shit.

Giving people access to didactic lectures by a handful of elite professors at a handful of elite institutions is not the most important educational technology in the last 200 years. Not even close. Sure, it’s good. It’s fantastic that I can have access to the lectures and resources of some of the biggest and most famous institutions. Awesome.

But the most important ed tech in two centuries? Bull. Shit.

turn the crank!

Villemard, 1910 À l’ École

I’d say the personal computer is the biggest ed tech innovation. Followed by the internet. Followed by software and tools that let students create. And explore. And collaborate. And share. Waaaaaay down the list… MOOCs1.

Parrotting the “MOOCs are the most awesome education innovation since, like, EVER!” line is harmful. It implies that nothing important has changed in centuries. It glosses over the last 40 years or so of truly radical and transformative innovation (although I’ll be the first to say that ed tech isn’t always – or even often – implemented in a radical way). And ignores some pretty significant chapters in the history of education.

So. Yeah. Hurray for MOOCs. But also hurray for all of the other incredible advances that have been developed over the last several decades in order to enable MOOCs and other initiatives doomed to be co-opted by corporate branding efforts and their need to rewrite history to make them THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATIONS SINCE, LIKE, EVER!

  1. Massively Open Online Courses. Started out with folks like Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier etc… before getting sucked into the hype factory and becoming Buzzword of the Year for 2012 as EdX, Coursera, etc… hop on the bandwagon []


The Boy’s school is having some awesome-sounding live-action Pirates! show today. Canons. Swords. Pyrotechnics. Sounds like a blast, and I wish I could go watch.

Beavers Pirate Camp - 5

The parents group blocked the school from offering yoga as part of the phys ed program because they didn’t like the message it sent the kids.

Glorifying violence and robbery are fine. Just don’t try to get the kids to have a greater understanding of their own bodies.

kill the e.

Jaymie Koroluk asked the twitterverse about the proper spelling of “eLearning”.


I responded back, a bit snarkily:

@jaymiek learning. There is no e.

It’s too much to describe in 140 characters. But I can’t stand the “e” in eLearning. (I can’t stand the “m” in mLearning, either.)

It’s just learning. The “e” is counter-productive. It forces people to focus on the technology. To see it as separate. As an isolated thing that must somehow be fit into the regular flow of teaching and learning.


It’s all just learning. Technology can provide some pretty amazing affordances – the ability to handle larger scale open discussions, the ability to have every participant in a class to be content producers/consumers/collaborators, etc… Technology is important.

But it is not separate. Viewing it as a separate thing – eLearning/mLearning/whateverLearning – leaves it disjointed and fractured. A class has to shift gears to somehow begin dealing with the “technology section” of a lesson, before returning to the “real” learning. Focusing on “eLearning” pushes the incredible stuff that technology can do into some form of electronic/abstract ghetto.

My team at the Teaching & Learning Centre is often called in to various teaching programmes to provide a “technology session” – we do it grudgingly, knowing that the hour (or two) we’re given out of a week-long programme is likely the only real non-superficial integration of technology and discussion of pedagogy and implications. The “technology session” underscores the “e” in eLearning. The “e” as a separate thing that can be bolted on. A separate thing that is less important than the “real” learning that happens without the “e”.

I understand that “eLearning” is used as a shorthand, much like “Web 2.0” is a shorthand for a constellation of properties and attributes rather than anything concrete. But, we need to stop treating technology as a separate thing, as something in addition to conventional teaching and learning.

Effective learning requires seamless application of appropriate technologies – or the lack thereof – and when this is done, the distinctions and segregation disappear. It’s just learning.

economic vampirism

Great, great article by Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone Magazine.

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.


If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.

and the tie-in to the next bubble – “green” carbon credits:

And instead of credit derivatives or oil futures or mortgage-backed CDOs, the new game in town, the next bubble, is in carbon credits — a booming trillion- dollar market that barely even exists yet, but will if the Democratic Party that it gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised as an “environmental plan,” called cap-and-trade. The new carbon-credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that’s been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won’t even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.

holy. shit.

The greed inherent in unchecked capitalism is obvious. The rich get richer by sucking the less-rich into “investing” their money. They also provide “guidance” in the form of screaming “investment analysts” on cable news channels, ensuring the masses keep funnelling their retirement savings to prop up the pyramids so the rich can get their money out before it crumbles.

Why are there no mobs roving the streets with torches and pitchforks, demanding the heads of Goldman Sachs (and other leaders of this shitstorm)? Why are people taking the economic meltdown laying down?

Also, why are the best, most accurate, least adulterated sources of news and editorial critique coming from Rolling Stone Magazine and The Comedy Network? How fucked up do we have to get before we hold some feet to the coals? Does Mad Magazine need to scoop CNN on something big?

on the nature of conversation on the social web

Just substitute the word “conversation” in your head each time they say “argument”

Monty Python: Argument Clinic

So much of the “conversation” on the social web slash web 2.0 isn’t really conversation. At best, it’s a series of parallel monologues, occasionally overlapping or feeding each other. Or, they are (almost) nothing but superficial fluff, with the puffed up posture of “making a difference” or “changing the world” or “doing my part”.

Bullshit. Text posted to the internet (including this post) is just text. It’s not changing the world. It’s not making a real difference in the way we actually live our lives. It’s what we choose to do with the ideas floated around that can make a difference.

Conversation, on the social web, doesn’t really exist. It’s a mirage. An illusion. A shared mass delusion. And as long as we continue to participate in that delusion, we’re preventing any real, deep, meaningful conversations from taking place.

on the (lack of) usability of rich text editors in Drupal

I’ve been using Drupal to power websites for several years now, since 4.6 was the latest and greatest. One of the constant, ongoing, relentless complaints from our users has been that Drupal is (or seems) too complicated. It seems hard to use. It takes some care and feeding to initially set up a site. For example, when installing Drupal and creating a site, there is no option to have a rich text WYSIWYG editor, out of the box. Sure, übergeeks would rather gnaw off their paws than use a rich text editor, but Real Live Humans™ need them. They need to be able to edit text visually, and to upload and embed media, without having to follow recipes or read through pages of instructions.

I’m in the process of setting up a new website for a prof, so she can use it with her 200 students as a collaboration hub. Setting up the site (Drupal 6) took maybe 5 minutes. Installing extra modules like Organic Groups and Views? Maybe another 5 minutes. The site is working pretty much perfectly, about 10 minutes after starting to set it up. Yay, Drupal.

Except, I can’t get a rich text editor working the way the students will need it. They need to be able to just start typing, and to upload, resize, and embed images. I’ve got the wysiwyg-api module installed (and why in hell does it not INCLUDE an actual rich text editor? seriously.) and have been farting around with various image-assist and image-api and image-embed and image-etc… modules to get an “embed image” function working. And I can kinda/sorta get it working, as long as I can expect students to be geeks. But they’re not. We need a nice, simple, clear “upload image” button as part of the rich text editor. And that’s just plain not working.

Interestingly, while writing this blog post, the WordPress “Upload/Insert” media bar above the text area is exactly what I need in Drupal. I can’t just use WordPress, because I need to use the collaboration features offered by Organic Groups – and that’s just not possible with WordPress.

So, although I got the skeleton of the website up and running in about 10 minutes, I’ve been farting around for 3 hours now, trying to get a fracking “upload/insert media” function working at the level that will be required by the students. I’ve almost got it working, but the result is something only a geek would really use. And a geek wouldn’t be using the WYSIWYG editor in the first place.

Why in hell is a fully functioning rich text editor not included with Drupal Core? And why in hell is it not as fully featured as the WordPress one, with media uploading and embedding? I’d be willing to bet that the addition of a functional WYSIWYG editor would go a LONG way toward improving the perception of usability of Drupal. Heck, WordPress is GPL – just yank the one they use…

Stupid DRM handcuffs

I did a test this morning to check out how well the video recording gear we have would work for recording a presentation tomorrow. The gear works great – it records directly to DVD so I can just walk away with a nice shiny disk after the presentation is over.

But that’s not what this post is about. This DVD, that I made, containing no DRM and no copyright, triggers the evil DRM software that’s baked into the operating system that I use. I had the DVD program running in the background, and went to take a screenshot of something else – and was rewarded with a warning dialog:

“Screen grabs are unavailable during DVD playback. Please quit DVD Player first.”

Great. I wasn’t trying to take a screengrab of a DVD. Of MY DVD. It was paused, behind a bunch of windows. I was trying to grab a portion of a browser window. But, irony of ironies, I was able to capture this:

That’s me in the DVD. But because the MPAA makes software companies bend over to protect their content by baking DRM into the apps that ship with my computer, I’m prevented from doing legitimate things with my own content. Thankfully, there are ways around it (Jing was more than happy to capture a screenshot – I’m sure the MPAA attack dogs will be closing that hole ASAP).

DRM is nothing but a pain in the ass. It doesn’t stop anyone from copying anything if they really want to, but it does get in the way of legitimate use of content. I’m not pissed at Apple for putting this screengrab block in the OS – I’m quite sure they did it to prevent having endless series of lawsuits by the MPAA legal beagles, and/or to abide by some licensing terms.

The MPAA can bite me, though. They have no right to compel anyone to cripple the programs I use to interact with the content I create.

defining ple


If we have to talk about PLE (Personal Learning Environments) (blech. why does every damned thing need a name and/or acronym?), can we at least not define it to death?

“PLE” is a verb, not a noun.

“PLE” is something you do, not something you have. It’s an action, not a thing. It’s a way of interacting with others, not a way of “getting personalized learning.”

You can’t go out and set up your PLE. You are part of your PLE. You have it already. You can’t seek to personalize your learning – if your learning isn’t already personalized, you’re not learning.