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Jim Groom is Watching Me

February 12th, 2010 jonmott Leave a comment Go to comments

Jim Groom, aka Rorschach, is watching me. He apparently took umbrage with my ELI presentation in which I–very much tongue-in-cheek–suggested that he and Michael Chasen could live together in harmony, perhaps even sitting down to sing Kumbaya.

Jim appears to be concerned that I’m advocating a “middle-of-the-road” approach that validates the LMS paradigm. Lest anyone else be confused, let me state that nothing could be further from the truth. If you listen to my entire presentation, I hope it’s clear that I’m not advocating the perpetuation of the single, vertical, integrated technology stack that is the LMS. Rather, the AND that I’m really advocating is the blending of the secure, university network for private, proprietary data (e.g., student records) and the open, read-write Web.

David Wiley and I recently argued, the “open learning network” model is “revolutionary primarily in its refusal to be radical in either direction.” There is value in both the LMS and PLE paradigms. However, blending the best aspects of both does not mean keeping either or both in their current forms. It means leveraging the best of each and mashing them up into something completely new and different. By doing so we can create a learning network that is both private AND public, secure AND open, reliable AND flexible, integrated AND modular, and that is supportive of both teachers AND learners.

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  • > David Wiley and I recently argued, the “open learning network” model is “revolutionary primarily in its refusal to be radical in either direction.”

    So you ARE advocating a "middle of the road" approach, even as you say you are not. Jim Groom is right.

  • Jim



    I think you know I love you, right? So with that said, I'll be clear here, Rorschach's Journal is not something I have any real control over, it's art, and to be clear, I am an artist, possibly one of the premier artists in North America right now. I get very little credit for being so, but that makes me all the greater in my opinion, and possibly only my opinion.

    As for the Chase/EDUPUNK mashup, I have seen you presentation and I am a fan of what you are doing in terms of institutional integration of small pieces---that said I think the larger picture allows for a sense of the persistent need for an LMS that I continue to believe is both mostly imagined. The LMS paradigm is not a learning system at all, as we both know, but an administrative framework for grading, testing, etc. What you are doing with Agilix frees us up of much of the necessity for the LMS in that regard, and allows us to focus on tools that are cheaper, looser, AND personal. That is for me the biggest push that the LMS can't afford. here is an example I just found, and will be blogging about soon, of how the LMS paradigm, however bent, is still increasingly an obstruction rather than an innovation in open learning networks. I was checking out the College of Wooster's WPMu/BuddyPress instance, and I was really impressed, the have BuddyPress Groups acting as courses some open AND some closed, but none the less I can find and access those that are open, and even contact professors of those that are closed if I want more information or to share---there goes the silo logic even though we still have the possibility of privacy---that's an AND which doesn't depend upon the false dichotomy of the LMS and the Open Network.

    Now, there is one course at Wooster that is open, Geog 105 Natural Hazards (http://voices.wooster.edu/g..., and look at the way Wooster is using groups to expose the work happening there, and it is quite a course blog. It just so happens that there is a course this semester at UMW, Natural Hazards (http://hazards.umwblogs.org), that is using a blog and I can now work towards bringing these two course in touch with one another so that there may be some cross-pollination of ideas, sharing, and a larger network. That element of learning has little or nothing to do with tests, gradebooks, and the administrative exigencies of managing courses, it is a bridge that opens up th work between two courses, and provides a platform that allows professors and students to find themselves on the web in novel ways---open for sharing and working together if the desire hits. That is a key element to that open learning network that depends as much on the architecture and online environment people are placed within, and I find that the more we advocate a kind of bending of existing environments online that demand money, extensive hacking, and compromise on the basic premise of sharing quickly and easily, the more we sacrifice what's rather cheap, simple, and effective in terms of infrastructure, the more we sacrifice an investment in people to make these connections beyond the specific learning environment we are locked into. We need alternatives and options, people working with faculty and students suggesting the possibilities and providing a means to aggregate their distributed work into a model that exposes the possibilities while at the same time allowing their work to be private if needs be. This can be done in frameworks outside of the LMS, and I think using th LMS as the idea where privacy and security live harmoniously alongside the open and connected is in many ways a disservice to the open source architecture that is providing so many opportunities out there right now that are just beginning to catch on. If that's the case, why advocate for a space in between when we have the possibility to harness the power of the web for learning and networking in new and powerful ways. That can be the standard if we make it so, and I believe we can if we challenge some of the core ideas of what a LMS and PLN have in common, which I think is nothing. Come up with tools to deal with grades, tests, etc outside of the PLN, that's fine, but I'm not sure that is an argument for the LMS, rather a long overdue need for disaggregating teaching and learning from administrative overhead.

  • (these are my personal comments, not offical statement of any company or organization)
    Back in late 1999 and early 2000 it was clear to me and a number of my colleagues that a monolithic CMS was not the wave of the future. I had a bit of a hand in developing a technology called Blackboard Building Blocks specifically to solve this problem of creating connections beyond the CMS into learning networks. Since then we've seen hundreds of these connections emerge and get shared between institutions, we've even seen the emergence of what I call learning network derived companies like Starfish and Learning Objects.

    Still the work has been slow going. A network of a few hundred is not insignificant but I'd like to see it grow to millions of applications. I'd like every tool on the internet to be connectable to a learning experience. This will require standards such as the BasicLTI spec which will enable developers of web based tools to easily connect and share. Lowering the barrier to building the connection to the equivalent of the anchor tag is key to my view of enabling a broader wave of loosely joined learning tools.

    I don't think the emergence of this network makes the CMS less important, I think it actually will magnify it. In the same way that the long tail enabled companies like Amazon to sell low volume books that normally vanished from print, but also enabled Amazon to push out the Harry Pottern novels to every bookshelf in america in days after publication. THe basic use cases implemeneted by the CMS may narrow a bit to focus on a more core set of features. The underlying decomposition of features into modules may be adjusted as well. I think that students will still find the the CMS as a valuable starting point to support many learning activities.

    It is often forgotten that CourseInfo (Blackboard's predecessor) was developed originally by students who created a solution to solve their own problems. Many students I talk to still just wish the professor would all put the syllabus and weekly reading assignments on the CMS and perhaps answer questions in a forum occasionally.
    I'm planning on having a more detailed blog post up the state of the PLE, LMS, VLE, and Learning Netowrks on my personal blog, as part of my ongoing open seminar on the future of education and technology. This discussion between Jim and Jon is fascinating and I hope to take some excerpts. Also looking forward to @jaraedsteins videos.

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