Communities of practice are temporary, they “change over the course of our lives” (p. 6). Communities of practice are of limited size. In a communities of practice, we know the names of those with membership. Communities of practice are inefficient and holistic. Communities of practice are about participation, collaboration, experimentation, action, conscientization, and reflection.
Being reflective about designing learning means asking questions about how and why we situate learning practices within and without social contexts.
Hicks (2002) also argues that the notion of the autonomous reasoner and learner is a myth. In the tradition of radical pedagogues like Freire (2000), Deborah Hicks contends that schools compliment, at best, but cannot and should not substitute for literacy practices at home and in the community. Hicks takes a constructivist-Sociology approach in defining literacy as being lived, i.e., the intersection of the learner’s identities with histories, localities, and peoples. This contrasts with the positivist-psychology approach which views literacy as competencies distant and “waiting for learners to appropriate them in ways that prove independence and mastery” (p. 16). Positivist approaches parallel conservative values and neoliberal practices -e.g., blaming/punishing teachers for student failure -i.e., accountability- and normative tracking. In Reading Lives: Working-class children and literacy learning Hicks (2002) makes compelling argument that avoiding the trap of essentialism requires researchers, parents, teachers, administrators and policy makers to delve into a plurality of learning and teaching theories, and to be extremely wary of any designs that reduce student’s histories to facile categories and fixes. “The field of literacy research, often aligned with philosophical traditions that divorce reason from feeling, belonging, and acting with others, clings desperately to Enlightenment Man even as cultural and critical literacy researchers aim to loosen His stronghold on our inquiries” (p. 17).
Here is an interesting film on the problems of simplistic theories and simplistic solutions.
Hicks, D. (2002). Reading lives: Working-class children and literacy learning. New York:
Teachers College Press.
It is interesting that a neoliberal such as Christensen would support state level management of higher education.
Christensen describes online education as being more appropriate to “address the country’s challenges” (p. 4). How then, will creating a larger labor force of flexible workers ready to fill low-wage jobs help to decrease economic disparity?
Christensen describes online learning as most appropriate for employment-preparation skills training, not for creating well-rounded citizens capable of critical thinking. Christensen describes disruptive innovation as individual-outcome oriented, not community-centered. Therefore, disruptive innovations such as online learning are incompatible with communities of practice.
Focusing on competency-based learning with actionable assessment results in testing-centered learning and teacher accountability-centered policies.
Skills training is the duty of employers. Placing the cost burden of continuous retraining on individuals is part of a neoliberal shareholder-primacy model.
Funding education through a cost-benefit model is racist and sexist. White men enjoy privilege in Western capitalism.
Can exclusively knowledge creation institutions survive? Particularly if they have to compete for federal funds on a cost-benefit model. Christensen is being hypocritical since he has already consigned knowledge creation institutions to the wastebasket of history.
Christensen recommends that university resources be redistributed from teaching and research to an autonomous business model. Such policies result in adjunct teachers replacing unionized faculty.
Privileging a Harvard-style education for the children of elites perpetuates the current wealth disparity and business as usual.
Has access to convenient information made people more caring or more capable of critical thinking? Do we need more convenient access to even more information? We do not go to experts to provide us with more information. We go to experts because we trust them to decide what information is good/important for us?
University used to be far more affordable, at least for middle-class white people. In addition, wages used to be commensurate with tuition costs, so most students could pay for their schooling with part-time and summer jobs. Higher tuitions are the result of state budget deficits exasperated by tax cuts, not because institutions have become more complicated. Furthermore, wages have decreased relative to inflation, making going to college impossible for middle-class young people without also going into debt. The cost of education, including disruptive innovation learning, will continue to push young people into debt so long as neoliberalism holds power over global economics.
The inexorable movement up-market is a myth. Capitalists make most of their profits from the exploitation of workers. Walmart is the largest corporation in the world because it pays shit wages and sells slave-labor products.
Shall I assume blue text is Isaac then? Brandon will take green, forestalling the need for Brandon to refer to himself in the first person from here on out.
While the three readings this week all relate to each other, the range of ideas and concerns I took away from them is too broad to hit them all here. My greatest reaction was to Christensen, I’ll be focusing on that.
First, though, one common thread was the notion (more prevalent in Wenger, but present in Christensen) that all of this is common sense, and all they are engaging in is providing a way of talking about the issue. They are offering a lens through which to view the phenomena of learning, which is massively important to keep in mind, because this entails assumptions which need to be explored. Wenger’s chapter is devoted to establishing these assumptions. Christensen starts with the assumptions as foregone conclusions. They are, as Isaac has emphasized, neoliberal assumptions. However, I’m not satisfied with leaving it at that. I want to do two things. First, I want to bracket out these assumptions and explore Christensen’s proposals for whatever merit they might have. I would assert (and I don’t expect agreement here) that the foundational assumptions of the ideas, even if flawed, do not preclude the possibility of valuable points being made, and useful questions being raised. Second, I want to unbracket that discussion and unpack those assumptions. I have problems with them, and I know I’m not alone in that. Both of these tasks will be abbreviated, as none of us has all day, I hope this document can be more dialogue than polemic, and we have a whole semester to tackle these issues.
So, accepting the piece’s assumptions, the idea of disruptive innovation is quite valuable for a number of reasons. First, it drives home Scott’s point that brick/mortar and online education shouldn’t be compared in terms of which is superior, but rather on what they can or can’t do in a given situation, or assuming a given set of goals. Disruptive innovations are in part defined by the way they sidestep direct competition (at least at first) with the dominant technology (model, paradigm, etc) and serve a group or need that the latter did not. This brings to mind Deleuze and Guattari, a logic not of “A or B” but “A and B and…”. It leads us beyond oversimplified concepts of the situation. Beyond that, it provides a model for change in the face of dominant ways of doing things that may persist through simple momentum and tradition. A viable alternative to a thing can make us ask important questions that we might not have asked otherwise, e.g. why do we do this the way we do, what are we trying to accomplish, and are there answers to the first question that bear no relation to the second.
In terms of higher education, we can question why everything is framed in terms of credit hours (we may conclude that it need not be) or what do we gain from face to face interaction in classes (I think Wenger would contend, quite a bit). Beyond that, I think this disruption model allows us to explore the dynamics of higher ed as an institution, and the ways is has and will have to evolve. There’s so much more to say here, but I’ll leave it at that. I want to get to this business lens.
I’ll put it bluntly: my initial reactions to talking about education in business terms oscillate between distaste and revulsion. Amidst educators and education researchers, mentioning business in education (in my experience) is often assumed to be criticism, shorthand for the assumption that the goals of businesses and the goals of learning institutions are incompatible. In the shortest of shorthand, we can simply call it neoliberalism. As I hope I’ve made clear, I don’t want to do that; I don’t want to simply dismiss something at the expense of what valuable ideas might be cast out along with it.
Let’s put it like this: What is the problem with evaluating and analysing education in business terms?
My answer: The framing. Framing students as consumers, who hire their professors to provide a service, misses many other aspects of what it means to be a student. Just to name one problem, a consumer frame deals with entitlement, but not responsibility. Framing universities as service providers restricts the institution’s responsibility to its consumers and (in many cases) stockholders. Framing the pursuit of higher ed in terms of accreditation and marketable skills, again, restricts the discourse to consumer entitlement and service provider responsibility. Let me be clear: these are not irrelevant. Graduate employment and student return on investment are perfectly legitimate things to consider. However, what is missing from these discussions?
I’ll posit two words: public good. Universities, as institutions, are part of communities and cultures. I would argue that they have the capability to not only invest students with human (employable skills) and institutional capital, but also shape their understanding of the world and the individual’s part in it. Universities can be cultural institutions. They need not necessarily be so. What I see in this discourse of business education is a complete neglect of this potential. It is irrelevant. If this is our guiding discourse, then these institutions can and will operate without the charge of making the world a better place. That goal is not profitable. It negatively impacts the bottom line. That goal was the driving ideological force behind government subsidisation of higher ed, the ebbing of which is likely a symptom of this business discourse. Part of what I’m saying is that I agree in large part with what Isaac is saying, I just don’t want to use his terminology.
I’ll close with this. The potential tragedy (to be hyperbolic) I see here is that there is no reason this disruptive technology of online education cannot also serve the purpose of making the world a better place, but as long as we follow the goals and assumptions of this dominant business model discourse, there’s no reason to expect it to be so.
I promised to stop, but…
I realize this idea of universities improving the world and serving public good is problematic and vague. I’m not getting into that here. That is a conversation that needs to be happening. My point is that, under this business discourse, it won’t. Finally, I wonder if this disruptive innovation model might be appropriated and repurposed against the business discourse? Perhaps that is our mission. I think examples can be found online. Look at wikipedia. Let’s start having that conversation.
I suppose Michael shall be taking red from here on out. To be honest, I’ve read through both of your responses and feel as if I have little to add overall, but I’ll delve into what I can and try to add my own perspective. Let me also add on that I am relatively new to the field of education, so my responses feel largely inexperienced when reading what has been written thus far. I came to Penn State for my organic chemistry PhD and instead became very fond of teaching, so this is my first year of trying to enculturate myself in education. As such, critiques and additional readings I should examine are appreciated and welcomed.
I think we’re all in agreement about how troublesome it is to apply a business model to education as Christensen attempted to do, but I do think we can glean some important information from his ideas. I think most prominently is how disruptive innovations can shape the marketplace and the attempt to apply it to education. While it is true that the business model is perhaps too concerned with the bottom line, it is possible that a for profit university like Phoenix might provide something unique to the realm of education. I personally have been fairly troubled by the recent trend towards receiving a “degree” when so many occupations do not seem to require it. A number of jobs do a significant amount of retraining to teach the necessary skills they desire. Obviously, this does not apply to all education by any means, but it seems that the traditional brick and mortar university may not be in everyone’s best interest, especially with the climbing rates of student debt that we see occurring.
So, how does his idea of applying a business model impact universities? Largely, it shouldn’t. The universities renowned as some of the best or universities that teach a very specific group of academics should not be significantly affected. If anything, I think the desirable outcome would be to provide classes both to a broader market that is traditionally not targeted for continuing education and for individuals who need the training but hardly need to attend a traditional four year school. Granted, there are still a number of problems in offering education to low income, Hispanic, and African-American families. This could provide a step in the right direction though to increasing the availability of education. To be blunt, I doubt Phoenix or any of the for profit universities will be this instrument. I relate it more back to the Shirky reading though in believing (or at least, hoping) that the for profit universities might be our napster equivalent, opening education up to this innovation.
There is a certain amount of truth to the comparison of the Pontiac and the Maysville plant. A track at a university like Penn State is equipped to deal with a wide variety of students, but this also drives up the cost of tuition. I hope for online education to adapt and streamline itself to end up like the Maysville plant, lowering the costs of education and providing an alternative to traditional education that can still offer some advancement. I do not expect this to offer nearly the same benefits or job expectations as a traditional college, but again, I hope this to be the one step in the right direction.
So, I keep mentioning the “one step” sort of ideal. I should mention my family is hispanic. “Banales” should be “Bañales”, but my father got tired of explaining it to people. My grandfather was one of those people who was unable to afford a college education, but with affirmative action my grandfather saved enough up for my father to go to college, allowing him to fund me and so on. So, where is this rant going? I think that opening up a more streamlined and cheaper online education might not provide the equal opportunities we all desire for every individual, but maybe it will let them take a step for future generations. I recognize that this is completely idealistic and largely a result of seeing my own family at work, but I’m content with being an optimist.
I guess one final note would be that I’m not entirely sure how to tie Wenger into this. If anything, it seems like Wenger would be a dissident due to the ideas of legitimate peripheral participation, but there should be some way to provide that social aspect even with online education. I don’t know what the best way to go about that would be, but surely there is some scenario in which that is fulfilled?
I think that’s all for now. Sorry for the delay in getting this up, but I’ll check back periodically today to see what edits are needed and what we are putting up.
Hi all, I’m sorry that I jumped into our shared doc a bit late. I reviewed your responses and wondered how to come up with some consistent issues that we can address in our first blog post. I think the Issac (in blue color) well summarized the key concepts of three readings. And I am not going to spend summarizing the reading, but instead I’d like to share some questions that I come up with while reading the three pieces.
Before I start, I’d like to ask for understanding that there might grammatical errors or confusing sentences in my writing because my native language is not English. So feel free to comment on it if you cannot understand my points while reading.
The questions that I would like to address are as follows;
Is MOOCs a disruptive innovation?
Will this emergence of MOOCs transform current teaching and learning methods?
What makes Higher Education distinct from MOOCs or other online education systems?
What is our perspective on the future of higher education system?
Do you think MOOCs or online education systems benefit higher education? Or life-long education?
If for profit universities adopt the MOOC system, would it still be popular as current free-fee based MOOCs?
To implement high quality MOOCs, do you think the cost can be decreased for institutions compared to operating face-to-face based current University system?
I remember that one professor in my course asked students “why do you go to an University?” as a multiple choice question in a test. 1) To get a job in the future 2) To make good friends 3) To interact with faculty members 4) To gain knowledge…etc. were the options I remember. There should be no right or wrong answer, and the professor expected students to think about the core value of higher education I think.
As for now, I think face-to-face interactions with other students and faculty members are the experiences that cannot be replaced by online education. Formally and informally we creates learning communities while we are engaging in different activities and those activities are the conducted using the affordances an University provide (i.e. curricular activities, club activities, meeting spaces, lab, computers/technologies.. etc).
I agree that (free) online education provide different experiences to audiences. It expanded access with no cost for the audiences. Beyond the time and space limitations, people can freely and voluntarily get information and take lectures through internet. However the online course still is limited in providing such a rich interaction as f2f environments. Also, people coming in to take online course have vast range of goals compared to that of traditional Higher Education commuters. Some want to take few modules of a course that they are interested in and some want to complete a course and get accreditation. We cannot just evaluate the success of online education by the drop-out rates or the grades the students got in the courses.
I think the emergence of MOOCs and growing number of online education systems gives us a big question: What is quality learning?
It brings back us to the Wenger’s Communities of Practice piece. Their view of learning that “learning is a process of social participation”, and engagement in social practice as “the fundamental process by which we learn and so become who we are.” can be used as an overarching perspective we can use to evaluate the quality learning in higher education…
What are the current practices in F2F Universities courses and MOOCs courses? Can we say that either settings promotes “social participation” and “engagement in social practice”? I remember Brandon pointed out the role of universities as a cultural institution. I agree with the ideas.