Productivity Decoupled from Employment

April 27, 2013

Erik Brynjolfsson’s TED talk “Race with the Machines” has a powerful idea. Due to technological advances, human work has become decoupled from wealth and our productivity decoupled from employment. In turn this leads to an ineffectiveness of traditional ways of measuring the economy — especially as a way of viewing innovation.

Lots to think about here. Another “distribution problem”? His point related to the industrial revolution is especially fascinating…. it took about thirty years (e.g. all the managers had to retire) for factory procedures to change when electricity was introduced. While the managers were in place, the factories ran as they had done with steam power – not taking advantage of what the new power source had to offer. The same 30-year cycle appears to be necessary to make best use of computers.

Are MOOCs an example? I certainly understand the arguments that MOOCs are incomplete. But couldn’t MOOCs be a valuable part of a new model, that includes teachers in a somewhat “guide on the side” role with the MOOC content being the central organizer. A different post-secondary economy would be required but maybe the new managers will see it that way — looking more at learning and less at the notion of formal education. Those who really hate MOOCs, often pointing to high dropout rates, lack of support and variable quality, seem to me to be missing the potential of MOOCs (or similar environments) to assist learning. Should we get rid of books since, after all, a person might start to read one, not like it and decide to move on to something else?

Update on May 6 – Bonnie Stewart’s interesting blog post!
“….MOOCs started, in a sense, as a recognition that the credentialing equation was hollow…


December 26, 2012

It’s the time of year where many of us think about all that has happened over the past twelve months (and plan for the next) and I think Heidi Grant Halvorson has described a very interesting approach that can be used at the personal “year end review” where “ego is effectively out of the picture“:

To Succeed, Forget Self-Esteem

Paul Conneally – digital tools transform humanitarian aid

February 17, 2012

Paul Conneally says:
There are no more reasons not to do it.

His TED talk inspires by showing recent examples of how mobile technology brings solutions to crisis situations, taking the humanitarian world from analog to digital.

“Life is just a bowl of Chihuly.”

July 7, 2011

“Life is just a bowl of Chihuly’s.”

There is a strong rule about no graffiti here at Pilchuck, but I *did* see the above quote written discretely on a bathroom door and I have to admit, it made me smile. It completely sums up this place!

Glass, creativity, natural beauty and, last night, an amazing presentation by Bruce Mau that started with the premise “now we can do anything, what will we do?” His bent is the designed life. He spoke of design as the place where the intersection of arts and science (intelligent/beautiful, smart/sexy) can happen. Things that used to be together but got torn apart. And he’s completely into massive change for education (wrote a book called “The Third Teacher” that I have to get hold of.

He described public institutions using public money to select who will get educated. And on the planet, post-secondary is at 1% — a shocking statistic.

And Bruce Mau simply brims with overwhelming optimism (providing we actually get to the next phase – he’s obviously smart enough to recognize the potential peril). He told of a favourite thought about the 20th century, that, in spite of wars, etc., it was the first time that we “dared to imagine the welfare of the whole human race”. I think it’s true. When before was there even a chance for awareness of who else was on this planet? And then he told of a young group of students who told him that the whole of humanity wasn’t enough — it should be all of life. Well, that’s a goal for the 21st century!

He says “sacrifice won’t work”. We won’t stop loving travel, communication, playing, making art and so on, so we will continue to consume things. That means in order to be sustainable we have to make smart things more compelling than stupid things. And that’s a design problem!

I feel sort of giddy to think that “designer” is in my job title. Fellow-instructional-designers-at-my-place-of-employment… you’re going to be hearing me talk about this for quite some time!

Oh, and yesterday I learned about the work of my classmates (amazing stuff), learned to cut glass in two wonderful new ways (if you’re into thick glass, and have never seen a breaker bar, it’s time to discover this amazing tool), learned about sawing glass, saw coldworking techniques that amazed me, had a tour of a metal/wood shop that would make my son think he was in heaven, crafted a little glass fireplace that will be part of my video project, saw that printmaking can be done with etched glass, watched videos that used only a light source moving across a still image to create an amazing feeling of animation — it goes on! Oh and glue! GLUE! Even experts get frustrated when gluing glass. Hextal, Loctite — I’m learning techniques like the razor-blade-as-squeegie.

Can you guess what I'm making?

Online Learning Advice via Tony Bates and other experts

May 2, 2011

I’ll quote the part that represents Tony’s difference of opinion with the overall study summary:

“Although I agree strongly with the importance of design, I’m not sure I agree with playing down the importance of technology. In my view, the technology, and especially web 2.0 technologies, are potential game changers. What makes the difference is the shift in power: web 2.0 technologies give learners as equal if not better access to learning technologies as instructors, and thus more control over their learning. True, if instructors don’t take advantage of this, things may not appear to be changing, but in the end, if instructors and institutions do not adapt and respond appropriately to this technology shift, they will lose control.”

I fully agree that institutions need to incorporate all that’s right about informal learning or they will become less and less relevant to the overall learning picture.

Here’s the link:

And I also believe that the education system needs to ensure that kids/young adults leave the system with good strategies for finding information, evaluating it, thinking critically etc.

Stuff I’ve said before but perhaps it’s time to say it again 🙂

And a recent article by David Parry on what he calls “Mobile Literacy” (I like the concept but almost wish there was another name for it as we’ve had so many ‘literacies’ I suspect people are getting tired of them ) does a good job of addressing the education system’s responsibilities regarding ensuring students are aware of factors involved in information access, hyperconnectedness, and sense of space via mobile devices. Link:

More on Microlending

April 6, 2011

I’ve written about microlending before:

because I believe it is a tremendously empowering concept.

That’s why a story like the one in yesterday’s Globe and Mail is particularly upsetting to me. “Nobel laureate loses final appeal to keep job at Grameen microlending bank.”

Here’s a quote from the article which describes Muhammad Yunus as a pioneer of the concept of microlending, now dismissed from his role as managing director:
“Mr. Yunus has said the dismissal was illegal and alleged that the government was trying to take control of his bank, which pioneered the practice of giving tiny loans to alleviate poverty. His work spurred a boom in such lending across the developing world, earning him and the bank the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize..”

Note that other publications are writing about this as well “US and France lament exit of Grameen’s Muhammad Yunus”:

One has to wonder why the Bangladeshi government would want to take this position. Some reasons are given in the articles, but if those reasons are not valid, then the consolation is that hopefully, in this era where, through transparency and the flow of information, more and more people will up find ways to get to the truth and navigate around this kind of centralized control.

After all, decentralization is what microlending (and social media) is all about.

Free Egypt

February 11, 2011

I’m watching images of the crowds cheering “Free Egypt” as they hear that Mubarak has stepped down.

Having read El Baradei’s article in the NY Times this morning (his viewpoint seems very balanced to me) I feel optimistic that the recent communications technologies will continue to give people opportunities and motivation to address imbalances in power.

Here’s a quote:

“young Egyptians, gazing through the windows of the Internet, have gained a keener sense than many of their elders of the freedoms and opportunities they lack. They have found in social media a way to interact and share ideas, bypassing, in virtual space, the restrictions placed on physical freedom of assembly.”

I love his conclusion in this article as well:

“We are at the dawn of a new Egypt. A free and democratic society, at peace with itself and with its neighbors, will be a bulwark of stability in the Middle East and a worthy partner in the international community. The rebirth of Egypt represents the hope of a new era in which Arab society, Muslim culture and the Middle East are no longer viewed through the lens of war and radicalism, but as contributors to the forward march of humanity, modernized by advanced science and technology, enriched by our diversity of art and culture and united by shared universal values.

We have nothing to fear but the shadow of a repressive past.”

The movement is mass, decentralized, and social

January 29, 2011

Jeremy Littau has written a great blog post that addresses something I was going to write about (the Shirky/Gladwell debate regarding whether social media really has an impact on true social action.)

The past week or so has given a lot of people reason to think about this question.

Emerging Technologies in Distance Education – Defined

July 28, 2010

George Veletsianos, the editor of the new book “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education” is also the author of its first chapter “A definition of emerging technologies for education”. He explains that he discovered there was a need for a definition, since one didn’t seem to exist elsewhere.

The definition he proposes applies to technologies used in formal learning situations. He mentions that technological advancement has created huge societal change (implying informal learning) but that such advancements have had a much more limited impact in formal education/teaching situations.

Here are some highlights from this chapter

Emerging technologies for education:

  • May or may not be new technologies but are not yet in the “must have” category
  • Are in an evolutionary state (there is no consensus about how to use them in the learning context)
  • Go through “hype cycles”
  • Are not yet fully understood and not yet fully researched
  • Are potentially disruptive

Veletsianos also talks about the importance of considering the context when defining a technology as “emerging” because the same technology might be emerging in one educational situation and well-established in another.

And Veletsianos touches on his own Greek roots to show that the very word “technology” comes from the Greek work “techne” meaning  “craft” or “art” –an aspect of technology that I love to see highlighted and preserved. However you choose to define art or craft, I would suggest that there is a human aspect to those terms that also applies to technology. Yet somehow conversations about technology often overlook this, focusing on the times when technology might have a dehumanizing effect.  Fortunately the definition for this book is about the excitement of growth, potential  and positive change — in distance education, through technology.

Finally, Veletsianos expresses his hope that the definition here will lay a foundation for future research and practice. He describes how the definition was developed through Web 2.0 input and I think the process and product serve as an example of how this type of building can take place.

Innovate or die

June 29, 2010

Just a copy of my comment to Tony Bates’ recent posting on  innovation in education.

He references several recent articles discussing crises in education  (funding, concerns about whether online education is an effective solution, etc.)

The articles do talk about human capital and critical thinking but I’d like to see more on how this relates to the new ways we can connect.

Here’s my reply:

Hmmm… I can’t help but wonder if we’re seeing enough about the *purpose* of education in the thinking represented by the references mentioned.

Your statement from OECD about universities and colleges “preparing their students in such a way that students can foster innovation in the workplace when they leave” (and in my opinion this should include k-12 as well) begins to hint at this.  But I’d like to hear more about critical thinking, citizenship, quality of life, etc… things that go beyond the workplace.

To me this idea opens up the topic of informal learning. The innovation required might be described as finally coming to grips with the fact that content AND personal support is ‘out there’ and not necessarily ‘in the academic institution’ and therefore the academic institutional focus needs to shift. Maybe the educational goal should be to work with learners to help them acquire ways of finding, evaluating and making effective use of information and also help them to learn how to form social media connections that will assist learning and focus it to specific areas of interest. Then the institutions could have a role in evaluating how the learning is taking place so learners can gain credentials and move forward in life.

Innovate or die doesn’t seem to be too extreme of a concept to me.  I can visualize a day in the not-too-distant future when what is known about a person’s contributions via social media will be more important than any degree. Employers are already looking there as well as at resumes, aren’t they?