Victorian hubris opined, “All that can be invented has been invented,” and so we entered the 20th century emboldened with a Titanic which was unsinkable, and a hydrogen-packed Hindenburg. The invention eureka moment is chance, perseverance, sweat — but also danger. Gone is the slow iteration of change; upon us, the sudden rupture-rapture of the new. No one expects thousands will die in the North Atlantic; no one expects academics to throw themselves on gangways as luddite voices of restraint. If teaching is what we do, do we not owe those seeking to learn a reassurance they are at least on a seaworthy ship? How much of the good ship MOOC is built on the same blueprints as many noble vessels whose buoyancy has long since proved questionable? Somewhere Leonardo di Caprio stands on the bow of Google Reader.
E-learning necessity, the mother of e-learning invention, guarantees a certain degree of e-learning development. Yet how much of the history of e-learning isn’t our inventions from our necessities, but instead the co-option or shameless scavenging through web 2.0 technologies looking for inspiration? Imagine e-learning without blogs, or Twitter, or Facebook, or forums. Do we really think of our LMSs as built for us? How many are seaworthy? Disaster might be too rich a term for this, but put 50015 people on board the good ship MOOC and now it is something akin.
As an invention matures the society around technology often alters how the technology is used. Sweden and Finland pioneered mobile phones as snow brought down phone lines, but the mobile phone is now a ubiquitous facet of city living. Technology may appear as the panacea, but be repurposed and reused as something else entirely. The teacher is now the maintainer of a technology which wasn’t built for her, or for her purpose – and over which she has no dominion. This isn’t passage on the Titanic, this is us cast adrift in an alien vessel.
If forward movement is haphazard, then can we plot a course of pedagogic safety, through the “here be dragons” of iceberg and hydrogen disasters? The greatest 20th century disaster comes not from a machine directly, but instead from a reply to a question “how do I get rich?” To which, the almost witty, but sadly truthful response comes: “… invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each other’s throats with greater facility.” This sentence birthed the Maxim gun, the first mass produced machine gun. In seconds at the Somme and Sandepu more died at the hands of this device than upon the Titanic or Hindenburg.
These small battles and micro-questions ignore perhaps the educational elephant in the room? Or are they vital? When was the last time someone asked you to help develop a teaching tool? When was the last time you developed a novo a new teaching tool? Have you ever specified a dream tool? Pull your head out of these blue skies and clouds — you have a right to the tools you need to do your job.
So we can stay with the status quo, and wait for the next Maxim (as invention) or maxim (as truth), or risk the hybrid (sometimes you get grapefruits, sometimes you get killer bees) — but beware, the e-learning software side of the splice is often compromised before it can start.
As a developer I apologise, for I am complicit; but to do nothing is to let us others have dominion over your pedagogy.
In the time it took you to read this article:
7 died or were wounded at the Somme. Of 2,575,000 who fought, this was 40%.
7 enrolled in a MOOC, and of those 0 will complete their course. This is 5%.
Pat Lockley (@patlockley) has no real affiliation, he's peripatetic. www.pgogywebstuff.com Interests : Sailing closer to the wind, sailing closer still. 1 cat, some plants, mostly vegan, music, experiments, experience.