I have had the honor over the past few years to see, hear and more importantly get to know a few incredibly gifted educational technologists. A few of those I follow (and swipe ideas from ) regularly because I think they have a great feel for educational technology and even the pulse of culture and society. Jason Cole, author of the Using Moodle
book published by OReilly comes to mind for one as his talks are always thought provoking and since technology has allowed that we can follow people without regard to time and space we can really gain and learn from them while in the past we had to live with our geographic limitations. Although I was unable to travel to Alaska and listen to his most recent thought provoking talk in person because of different availability of time and space I just listened to Jason Cole's Distruptive Technolgy talk
at the Alaska Society for Technology in Education
ASTE 2009 . This is definitely a talk educational technologists and educators in general should listen to as the there are basic changes which are occurring which most educators today don't even know are happening. Essentially if we don't wake up we will become obsolete. Think of DEC computers, US Steel Mills, the vacuum tube technology from the RCA TV and then think about education and how we have applied new exciting technology to an old outdated model. Examples discussed during this presentation include the Bug Scope project
is a web connected multi-million dollar piece of equipment which is now available to school children. One thing that really stuck with me(probably because this so fits the open source attitude which has driven the core of my recent professional career) is the discussion of the concept of Peer Production. Peer production is a new way of producing goods and services that relies on self-organizing communities of individuals who come together to produce a shared outcome. Peer Production relative advantage over that of he Industrial Model is Identifying the best available human capital using it collaboratively to highly refine and increase production. Cole states that with a big enough network of people we can self Identify and allocate our self to the areas that we can add value. SCHOOLS are not set up on the peer production model. We as instructors are allocated to a Classroom! The teacher next door to you can't remedy your problem because we are set up on an industrial production model and they are allocated to their classroom only! My first thought is that although there are great learning management system features available to facilitate instruction in a classroom, what you have seen is instructors putting text and links in the class and calling it instruction. Although great tools are available for Peer Production
(ie forums, wikis etc) often instruction is still distributed via a the industrial model. If I have access to all these great tools, web resources, all the smart people, great documentaries etc can we change and use this to have a very different model of school than we are used to. Can we be IBM rather than RCA ? IBM has successfully navigated the changes discussed here. Data is another area of disruption and how it changes how we do business. What we are finding is that we are not as smart as we think we are. Data can allow us to make better decisions. The reality is most organizations that get disrupted don't adapt they just disappear. NOTE: (2/27/2009 Addendum) Speaking of industries that have gotten disrupted and are beginning to disappear. it is very Interesting that the very next day after listening to this talk that the Rocky Mountain New printed its last paper. Colorado's oldest newspaper, which launched in Denver in 1859, printed its last edition Friday, leaving The Denver Post as the only daily newspaper in town. Very relevant to this discussion as the large daily news paper seems to be going the way of many of these other traditional industries. The E.W. Scripps Co., which owns the News, said Thursday the newspaper lost $16 million last year and the company was unable to find a viable buyer since announcing a sale Dec. 4. "Today the Rocky Mountain News, long the leading voice in Denver, becomes a victim of changing times in our industry and huge economic challenges," Scripps CEO Rich Boehne said Thursday. The are closing the doors because they can't sell enough papers it is interesting that on the final day the morning press run was 350,000, an extra 125,000 papers. Demand was so high during the day that the Denver Newspaper Agency went back and printed another 100,000, for a total run of 450,000.
Another person I've gotten to know and follow, Wes Fryer
, author of the internationally acclaimed blog Moving at the Speed of Creativity
jolted my memory of one of the most incredible technology experiences of my career as he has been touring and speaking in New Zealand this past week. I think we have done some pretty cool stuff over the years but I never took the time to write it down, present it or share it in any fashion. Not because I don't want to, but I think sometimes when your wrapped up in the heat of the battle trying to survive you forget that what you are doing might be useful to someone else. I began submitting presentations to various events as it was frustrating to me to go to a presentation and think, Man, we were doing that 2 years ago." Well anyway enough of that.
This story began several years ago. In 1998 we began using IP base videoconferencing equipment to deliver classes, yes to deliver classes. We were using microwave based technology to deliver a degree program into the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite OK via the talk back television model (ie two way audio and one way video) We were suddenly face in the middle of a semester with losing 15 full time students. As a small rural institution, all enrollments are precious when you have to deal with the political realities of funding formulas within a state. So in an act of survival we investigate a brand new videoconferencing technology introduced by none other than Intel which would run over our data network. We read a little, did a little(actually far less than any respectable CTO would do) research and ordered the product and " Wa la" we were back in business teaching school. This system got us going in the IP based Interactive television world and we soon migrated to Polycom and then finally to the last major video conferencing player to move to IP video, Tandberg did and still does in my "guestimation" the better job of improving the technology. We originally chose them because I always have thought they do a better job with audio and I believe do so to this day.
In 2001 we (Western Oklahoma State College) were featured in a 2001 edition of Tandbergs Face to Face Newsletter
for our distance learning initiatives. This gave us a little bit of publicity and shortly thereafter I received a call from a video reseller in Auckland NZ who had read the article andasked if I would do a training session for a group of New Zealand school administrators who were interested in utilizing videoconferencing equipment for sharing courses and content. This session basically demonstrated how time and space were only a minor problem and that globalization was and is a reality. (NOTE: the only problem I see with this whole situation is that I failed to see that I was dealing with a Flat Earth, did not write a best selling and just showed up for work againg the next day like it was a normal day....well I guess it is not a problem that I showed up for work the next day) I did my session late in my work day while they attendees were just starting their day. Clive Hamill currently at Melville High School in Hamilton New Zealand
was the Principal at Raglan Area Schools
at the time and later told me later the impact of having a workshop conducted from the other side of the world was key in convincing their group of schools to embrace video conferencing. I was subsequently involved in a proposal that would have provided training on distance learning technologies to these schools onsite and that would have given me the opportunity to travel to New Zealand which my dad ,who was in the Navy in WWII
, told me was the only place in the world that he had been to that was worth going back.
Well the proposal bid that I was involved in ultimately failed but I made a connection with some great new people. From this experience I introduced Clive Hamill to a Superintendent of Schools in Aline OK, Mike Woods. These two being a couple of the most highly energetic school administrators that I have met ended up coming up with a plan for collaborative delivery of science and language course during the 2004 school year.
Featured on the September episode of the 2005 Oklahoma Horizons show "High Tech Classroom"
overviews the transition of these two isolated rural school districts. One located in Aline Oklahoma and the other in Raglan New Zealand. The headline on Oklahoma Horizons read "Thanks to technology, the days of the isolated one-room school house are over. Students in the small school district of Aline-Cleo now have classmates on the other side of the world."
Following one of the class sessions in which the students on both sides of "the pond" had the opportunity to build and play Native American flutes under the tutledge of Albert Greyeagle of the Cheyenne Apraphoe tribe, Mike told me this story. " I heard one of he flutes playing and I turned around to tell the student to quit when I realized they were in the classroom in Raglan not in Aline. It was at that point I knew time and space had disappeared."
Unfortunately for all of use both administrators went on to different schools and faced different agendas the following year and the collaborative program ended. As I recall watching this unfold I realize I saw a flat world before I was told to call it a flat world.