Why don’t we create an app for students so they can track every time our “narrow path” narrative makes them anxious or stressed, or every time we deny them the agency to pursue learning that matters to them, or hint at their value as humans by the test scores or GPAs they get, or whenever we deny them fundamental democratic rights, or refuse to act in ways that suggest that we are the problem and not them? We could call it “Ed-mote” or some other silly Silicon Valley play on words, and the software would send DMs to superintendents and principals when an intervention is required, like an immediate two-hour play period for everyone in the school. (We could also, by the way, encourage them to track the many positives about their school experience as well.)
GitHub represents a big Undo button for Microsoft, too. For many years, Microsoft officially hated open source software. The company was Steve Ballmer turning bright colors, sweating through his shirt, and screaming like a Visigoth. But after many years of ritual humiliation in the realms of search, mapping, and especially mobile, Microsoft apparently accepted that the 1990s were over. In came Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, who not only likes poetry and has a kind of Obama-esque air of imperturbable capability, but who also has the luxury of reclining Smaug-like atop the MSFT cash hoard and buying such things as LinkedIn Corp. Microsoft knows it’s burned a lot of villages with its hot, hot breath, which leads to veiled apologies in press releases. “I’m not asking for your trust,” wrote Nat Friedman, the new CEO of GitHub who’s an open source leader and Microsoft developer, on a GitHub-hosted web page when the deal was announced, “but I’m committed to earning it.”
We are too often expected to create classes like the opera house, where a “successful” course gets all students, no matter where they come from or what they care about, to think “glacier” when given the right stimulus. To give the correct answer on a test given a specific predetermined question. But what would our classes look like if they instead replicated the experience of a sculpture garden, with that evocative face, filling me with a sense of wonder, compelling me to physically turn around despite myself and investigate a question I developed on my own? We shouldn’t teach students. We should inspire them. And then we should get out of their way.
A learning management system of one form or another seems ubiquitous in today’s universities. We’ve grown so accustomed to them that we expect to use one even in our face-to-face classes. But their ubiquity brings with it their ability to change the way we see learning. What exists in an LMS becomes the way we see our classes. What if inside that LMS, the button students clicked when they finished a project read, “share my creation” rather than “submit”? How would that small change influence students’ relationships to their own work, much less the class they are a part of? These small reminders of authority structures appear throughout our environments. In my school’s LMS, I work with “users” in an “org unit”, not students in a class. Every time I see the words “org unit” I question how we view our institution and whether we really think we work in the best interests of students.
Friend suggests that rather than ‘teaching’ and ‘submitting’ work, we should be ‘inspiring’ and asking students to ‘share’ their work. Associated with this, rather than dictate the end outcome, allow students to interpret it themselves and provide their justifications for the standards:
My favorite way to assess students? Ask them. Ask them to show what they’ve done for a class. Ask them to show how they know they’ve achieved the course outcomes or standards or learning goals or whatnot. In an engineering class, ask them how they know they’ve solved a particular design challenge. In a science class, ask them how they know they performed a viable experiment and can trust their results. In a music class, ask them how they know whether their performance of a piece accurately or creatively interpreted the intentions of the composer.
Although Friend is talking about a post-secondary environment, this still has ramifications for primary and secondary schools.
ClassDojo has been dealing with privacy concerns since its inception, and it has well-rehearsed responses. Its reply to The Times was: ‘No part of our mission requires the collection of sensitive information, so we don’t collect any. … We don’t ask for or receive any other information [such as] gender, no email, no phone number, no home address.’ But this possibly misses the point. The ‘sensitive information’ contained in ClassDojo is the behavioural record built up from teachers tapping reward points into the app.
Williamson does however close with a warning, that with GDPR coming in, ‘data danger’ is quickly becoming its own genre:
Do I need this tool? Why? How does it really support learning? What are the costs, both monetary and otherwise, of using this service? Do the rewards of use outweigh the risks? Is there a paid service I could explore that will meet my needs and better protect the privacy of my information and my students’ information? How can I inform parents/community members about our use of this tool and what mechanisms are in place for parents to opt their children out of using it? When this tool and/or its plan changes, how will we adjust? What will our plans be to make seamless transitions to other tools or strategies when the inevitable happens?
The Admins are back at it. Discussing new releases, changes, and discoveries in the Admin Console. Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention, special guest is CYRUS MISTRY! (I really didn't come anywhere near close to forgetting that, I just wanted to add a little...
The ability of schools, even the most visionary, to match the learning with the digital provided outside the school walls, is impossible. Schools as public institutions controlled by government, bureaucrats, resourcing, working conditions, legislation, law, accountability requirements, inflexible organizational structures and history can never respond to the accelerating digital evolution and transformation in the same way as the highly agile digitally connected families of the world. Even if governments wanted its schools to change, or indeed to collaborate with the families.
I tell almost everyone I know who’s into web audio and podcasts how much I love Huffduffer.