15 September 2010

Thoughts of the day

David Jones posted an entry to his blog today in which he refers to a 2003 interview with Alan Kay.

Kay says, in the interview:
"But I think the big problem is that schools have very few ideas about what to do with the computers once the kids have them. It's basically just tokenism, and schools just won't face up to what the actual problems of education are, whether you have technology or not.
Think about it: How many books do schools have—and how well are children doing at reading? How many pencils do schools have—and how well are kids doing at math? It's like missing the difference between music and instruments. You can put a piano in every classroom, but that won't give you a developed music culture, because the music culture is embodied in people.

On the other hand, if you have a musician who is a teacher, then you don't need musical instruments, because the kids can sing and dance. But if you don't have a teacher who is a carrier of music, then all efforts to do music in the classroom will fail—because existing teachers who are not musicians will decide to teach the C Major scale and see what the bell curve is on that.

The important thing here is that the music is not in the piano. And knowledge and edification is not in the computer. The computer is simply an instrument whose music is ideas.

Educators have to face up to what 21st-century education needs to be about, and start thinking about solving that problem long before they bring the computer on the scene."
Not unexpectedly (to those of you familiar with my opinions on such matters, at least), I find myself immediately attracted to this idea. We all know that giving people hammers and chisels won't turn them into master carpenters any more than putting pianos in classrooms will turn students into musicians. Why then do so many of my tribe* persist in the belief that merely giving university teachers and students access to an LMS will either change teaching practice or improve the learning experience?

Of course, it won't – not without many other changes, most of which can be traced back to the need to ensure that all university teachers are expert in both the body of knowledge that comes from their discipline and also in the practice of teaching.

So ... can we please stop talking about e-learning and focus our attention on good curriculum design and excellence in teaching?

But that's enough of that old groove.

Here's something much more interesting ...

This afternoon I am playing in the background a presentation by the very excellent Michael Feldstein. Feldstein works for Oracle as "software strategist and product manager", and maintains the e-Literate blog. He knows more about Learning Management Systems than most – the culture and the history as well as the architecture and the coding. His presentation – W(h)ither the LMS? – explains why the world is ready for the next generation of LMSs, what they might look like, and how they will be designed and built. Forget discussions about mythical PLEs – listen to Feldstein and imagine a future where online learning environments are properly integrated and truly permeable.

Ahh-hhhh ....

* ... and by "so many", I mean "any".

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