Innovating Pedagogy Report 2020 – just a thought . . .

The OU has recently published its 2020 Innovating Pedagogy Report. I really enjoy these annual reports which are very readable as well as being well researchers. However, I don’t always get round to really reflecting on them. In fact, I’ve just deleted a draft post from about this time last year about the 2019 report that I started and didn’t finish! So this is going to be a very short post so I actually do finish and post it. There’s lots of AI, and data but encouragingly lots around ethics, post humanist approaches and social justice.

One thing in particular has struck me around the potential impact and timescales elements of the chosen pedagogies. AI has being given a potential impact of “high” with a timescale of “ongoing“, whilst engaging with data ethics has been given an potential impact of “medium” and a timescale of “ongoing“.

Surely the ethics of using data have to go hand in hand with any work around AI. In fact I would say ethics should be the starting point. I’m sure this was debated by the team, but I can’t help thinking that a trick has been missed here to ensure that data ethics are rated equally with AI in terms of potential impact and timescales.

Unbundling, onboarding, digital futures – where is the love and struggle?

picture of people boarding a plane

Photo by Chris Brignola on Unsplash

Last week I was asked to pull together a short 5 minute provocation around the future for digital learning for departmental away day.  Luckily for me Sian Bayne and Michael Gallagher from the Centre for Digital  Education at the University of Edinburgh had just published two short, but very useful (openly licensed) papers: Future Trends: Education and Socitey,  Future Trends: Science and Technology. You can access them both here.

These were the perfect reference point for me and summarised many of the things I had in one of the many lists in my head.  A couple of points were really relevant for discussion with my colleagues (as we are a department of Academic Quality and Development) –  unbundling and new degree models (e.g. graduate level apprenticeships)  and their discussion about new forms of value (for example blockchain) and the potential to use more distributed networks to store, accredit, pay and share qualifications.  This brings with it the potential for the accreditation of awards to be “opened up” aka commercialised.

The arrival of graduate level apprenticeships  (the most current form of unbundling here in the Scotland )  and the potential revenue they bring, are a very direct concern for my colleagues from both the academic quality and development point of view. We need to maintain the former and ensure that the latter is appropriate and that we are not just doing a bit of enhanced traditional day release.  With all universities (particularly in Scotland where we don’t have the same fee revenue from undergraduate fees as other parts of the UK), chasing the money can all too often be the driving force, and the key “business focus”. The reality of the business of learning and teaching doesn’t get quite as much attention.  The  neoliberalisation of education marches on apace, as Michael and Sian point out

Some critics foreground its decentralising, individuating reduction of all learning to exchangeable value, aligning it with the ideologies of ‘neoliberalism, libertarianism, and global capitalism’ (Watters 2016). Others challenge its vast carbon footprint (Holthaus 2017), and some see it merely as a solution in search of a problem.

On Friday I also spotted via twitter that Anglia Ruskin have appointed a marketing agency to “define and deliver the future experience for the university’s students and staff.”

The agency will:

partner with Anglia Ruskin to help shape its digital strategy, as well as providing long term support with service design and modern digital development capability. Alongside working with ARU to clarify their longer-term ambition for the target customer experience, Friday are expected to start immediate work on two key projects; a website redesign and re-platforming, as well as re-imagining the applicant and onboarding experience.

A representative from the  agency is quoted as saying:

Good digital, done well, has the potential to improve lives. Education, and digital’s ability to support it, is something we’re extremely passionate about. So Anglia Ruskin, with their ambition for digital to materially improve the student experience, is an ideal partner for us – we’re thrilled to be working with them.

“good digital”- now there is a phrase and half, a real wtf statement if ever I saw one. Digital is particularly on my mind just now, as I am currently writing and researching about “the digital” in relation to universities for a book I’m writing with Keith Smyth and Bill Johnston – our deadline is the end of the month so I probably shouldn’t be writing this post!

I see digital as a complex code word, one that has many different meanings, and an equal number of assumptions. It is equally powerful and meaningless , as I think the quote above exemplifies.  As our OER18 presentation highlighted we are looking particularly at critical pedagogy as a theoretical basis for our work and see human understanding and contextualistaion of “the digital” as being key.  It is only through people really understanding and challenging socio-political contexts that the potential of digital technologies can be utilised.  This is completely contrary to neoliberal trends of unbundling and onboarding the student experience.

We need to fight back from the oppression of phrases (and assumptions) such as “good digital”. Unsurprisingly I have been reading the work of Antonia Darder of late, and in particular her article Teaching as an Act of Love: Reflections on Paulo Freire and his contributions to our lives and work (2011).

Isn’t it time that we all demanded less “good digital” and more love and struggle? I leave you with some words of wisdom and reflection from Antonia.

If there was anything that Freire consistently sought to defend, it was the freshness, spontaneity, and presence embodied in what he called an “armed loved—the fighting love of those convinced of the right and the duty to fight, to denounce, and to announce” (Freire, 1998, p. 42). A love that could be lively, forceful, and inspiring, while at the same time, critical, challenging, and insistent. As such, Freire’s brand of love stood in direct opposition to the insipid “generosity” of teachers or administrators who would blindly adhere to a system of schooling that fundamentally transgresses every principle of cul- tural and economic democracy  . .   I want to write about political and radicalized form of love that is never about absolute consensus, or unconditional acceptance, or unceasing words of sweetness, or endless streams of hugs and kisses. Instead it is a love that I experienced as unconstricted, rooted in a committed willingness to struggle persistently with purpose in our life . ..

Thinking about digital dæmons, disruption, and marching back into the future


I’ve been trying to write this post, or a more accurately a version of this post for the last couple of weeks. It all started a couple of weeks ago when I attended  the City of Glasgow College Digital Education Symposium.  It was an interesting day with a good mix of speakers from industry and academia.  Joe Wilson has written a good summary of the day.

In the morning most of the usual buzz words and predictions around disruption, next generation learning, AI, work 4.0 . . . One of the presentations gave an overview of the future – 2037  to be precise.

A world where every child will be chipped to provide them with “vital’ health monitoring.  A world where everyone will have a digital assistant to help with all those annoying little things we have to do ourselves just now. Like remembering “stuff”,  going to a library, activate communication channels. These personal assistants will be able  take you on a virtual shopping spree, link to your personal 3-d printer to print out your clothing selection, book your shared, automated transport device,  know where you are, what you are doing all the time, share your the data with . . .  well actually that part wasn’t mentioned.

As this very positive spin of a potential future was being shared, my mind was drawn to Philip Pullman’s notion of daemons in the His Dark Materials Trilogy.  In that world everyone has a daemon, which takes the form of an animal and is constantly by your side. These daemons are more like a soul or conscious, a vital part of everyone.

In contrast, what I was hearing was more like an oppressive digital daemon. One that would dictate where you could go, what you could wear, what health care you could get based on your demographic and economic profile.  One that was controlled by “the market”,  one that produced a homogenised population. One that is being developed and spoken about with such certainty from a very western/global North outlook.  Education in this context, is personalised through these digital daemons and their AI capabilities. All  based on a foundation of already biased algorithms.  What’s good for your data profile might not necessarily be good for your soul. I suspect some futurologists are not too concerned with our souls.

But as was pointed out in a paper released by Contact North last week, prediction is very difficult, particularly if it is about the future.

In their “Big Shifts are coming! Looking back from 2035, a day in the life of a student in 2035, building the roadmap to 2035 — let’s do some imaginative scenario building” paper there are another round of predictions for the future, and some background to why organisations should plan for the future and it includes ideas about how to scenario build.   There’s also a day in the life of a student, this time in 2035.

Again a vision of perfect harmony between humans, teaching bots, personalised and collaborative (global)  learning. All underpinned by new, harmonious relationships between educational provider and big business. All beautifully data driven, and no mention of who owns the data or how much this all costs.

To be fair there are a number of alternative scenarios given in the paper too,  such as The Eloi and Morlock, The Job-Stealing Robot Apocalypse and The Siege of academe. Not wanting to give away any spoilers, I won’t mention how they turn out for today’s liberal academic.  

It’s easy for me to take a light weight critique at this. I couldn’t have written this paper. I do like the way that it explains approaches to scenario building and looks at the recent past too.  I enjoyed reading the scenarios. They’ve provoked a response which is the point of any paper like this, so I thank the author for that.

The paper gives a list of things to think about to start future scenario planning,  including

  • What will the future of work look like in an AI-fueled world?

  • How might the impacts and risks of climate change shape educationinvestments and thoughts about campuses and student safety?

  • How might heightened longevity affect workforce expectations andtraining needs?

  • How will technology’s bene ts be divided and/or shared?

At least one other exogenous variable stands out:

        • The state of global security.
 . .  . The need for physical security has slowed the march of globalization. Subsequent malware attacks and the use of social networks to spoof elections throughout the world have added cybersecurity to our concerns. For post-secondary education’s future, the key exogenous planning question might be: will nations encourage the movement of people, goods, jobs and ideas across borders, or will mobility be defined by fear and terror and truncated by walls, barriers and concerns over security?

In the UK, Brexit is causing increasing anxiety around this last point.  This isn’t the future  – this  is now. Our current government doesn’t seem to have any clear ideas around this. Our university leaders are rightly concerned.  In fact they are probably more vocal around this issue than anything else just now.  Technology is one part of a wider solution but being able to physically work and travel to in and to other countries is still a vital part of not just academic, but every day life.

So where are the scenarios from the refugees fleeing from Syria? from Africa? Where and how are they going to access (pay) for their digital assistants? Where is the infrastructure going to come from for them to participate in the future? What about China? Who really owns our power infrastructures our technologically driven present and future relies on? Who is actually paying for all of this?

Where are the scenarios where a vital part of the education system is about educating everyone about data, data ownership (could Malta and their plans for blockchain be shaping the future here ); the ethics of the use data, opening up and exploring algorithms?

The paper ends with a quote from William Gibson “the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.”  As I look around the world and see the rising advance of right wing politics, global business, misogyny, all based on the reactions of “the market”, I fear for all our futures unless we can voice alternative scenarios based on the values we hold dear.  Ones where notions of the commons of education are central to developing  equality,  understanding and embracing diversity.   Most importantly a future that isn’t owned and controlled  by a few big businesses and complicit political structures and is human not data centric.

NMC 2012 HE Horizon Report – there's an app for that

Well not quite an app for the report itself which has just been published, but there is now a weekly HZ EdTech Weekly App, as well as a useful short video summarising the key technologies identified in this years report. Mobile apps and tablet computing top the near time adoption trends, game based learning and learning analytics the mid-term and gesture based computing and the internet of things (particularly smart objects) are in furthest term of 4-5 years.

The report itself is also available via iTunes under a creative commons licence.

You can watch the video and download the report and app by following this link

Crib sheet for 2011 Educause Horizon Report

The 2011 Horizon Report from Educause again provides some clear indicators for key trends and drivers for technology in education. As ever the report outlines key trends, critical drivers and short and long term forecasts as well as providing an excellent set of resources for each of the identified trends. But if you haven’t time even to read the executive summary here are the main points.

Key trends (building very much on previous years):

*The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialing.
*People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want.
*The world of work is increasingly collaborative, giving rise to reflection about the way student projects are structured.
*The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized

Critical Challenges:
*Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
*Appropriate metrics of evaluation lag behind the emergence of new scholarly forms of
authoring, publishing, and researching.
*Economic pressures and new models of education are presenting unprecedented competition to traditional models of the university.
*Keeping pace with the rapid proliferation of information, software tools, and devices is challenging for students and teachers alike.

Technologies to watch:
*electronic books – as they develop they are changing “our perception of what it means to read”
*mobiles – “increasingly a user’s first choice for Internet access”

Second Adoption Horizon (technologies expected to gain widespread adoption in 2 to 3 years from now).
*Agumented reality
*Game-based learning

Far term horizon (technologies expected to gain widespread adoption in 4 – 5 years from now)
*Gesture based computing
*Learning analytics