07 April 2010
On the system that manages learning
More lately, and I mean 6 years late, attempts to bring features of the highly popular social web into the Learning Management System simply paint a stark picture of just how segmented and irrelevant we have allowed education and online learning to become. Even when it is plainly obvious we do not understand the emerging grammar of the medium, we seek to entrench our ways of operating even further.
Those thoughtful and persistent resisters (David Wiley, Chris Lott, George Seimens, Stephen Downes, D'Arcy Norman, Brian Lamb, Alan Levine, James Farmer, Anne Bartlett-Brag, Barbara Dieu, Teemu Leinonen, Dave Cormier, myself and many more 2001-2010 and welcome Jim Groom, Mike Caulfield, Jon Mott, Anya Kamenetz and yet so few 2006-2010) who point out the paradoxes of content production and managed learning, as well as the breaking of social connectedness, access and equality, the lack of exit or even entry plans, the negative impact on literacy, the gross waste of time and money, the correlation to higher costs and tuition fees, the little to no evidence of need beyond unrealised profits, and the sad closure on hope for the possibility of a deregulated, peer to peer education system, have largely remained isolated to innovation departments, unknown to IT departments, and ignored by managers long enough to allow the LMS to lock itself into standard operations that continue to determine all our educational realities.
The critics' endless and passionate efforts to bring about a more free and socially connected education culture through communications technology have been losing footings of relevance each disappointing year, as the LMS and all it represents as an artifact, wins conservative hearts and minds, and shape shifts to fit the architecture of control that it seeks to serve.
...Anya Kamenetz's book DIY U might just be breathing new life into us yet!...
The LMS and all that it represents (commodofication, control, power, bureaucracy, compliance, exclusivity and restriction, dislocation, dysfunction, irrelevance, status quo, cohort learning, quizzes, tracking, escapism, conformity, risk aversion, and extreme conservatism) has become a central and costly feature to most institutions of academic and vocational education and training. In my experience, it is also the single biggest barrier to people grasping the grammar of communications today, and realising the possibilities discussed in this network.
What little there is that remains of the resistance to this disappointing reality is a firm belief that deinstitutionalised education, connected with social networks who know no borders, boundaries or limits to knowledge sharing, can only emerge from outside the institutions (Wikimedia, P2PU, DIY U, OER, networked learning), but the money and resources locked up inside institutions will always threaten to absorb and corrupt these ideas, and the thing that birthed the LMS will always be there to take another grab.
I was going to attempt a paper for the International Journal of Educational Integrity, (Abstract deadline extended to 7th April 2010) as an academic formalisation that was to revisit the 2004 post: Everything you need to teach and learn online. That post (as are the updates lately) are really just a tired attempt to disrupt people thinking of the LMS as a technological fix.
But sadly, unlike the hey day of 2005/6, I get the distinct feeling that such emotive commentry, supported by 'evidence' that is no longer admissable, or manifestos - where truth is self evident, are no longer sort or welcomed. I don't think many people at all have seriously contemplated the problem it encapsulates, or the reality it dertirmines, just as I am yet to meet a colleague who has really considered the inconvenient truth that Ivan Illich painfully desrcibed.
As always I aim to convince just a few that the LMS and what it represents, is at best a distraction or worse - escapism. It, along with institutional trappings, has little to offer people interested in teaching and learning. I'm hopeful that Anya Kamenetz's book will give us a fresh over view of where we are at, and suggestions on where we might go next. Certainly her interview does already.