EduPunk Movement Gains More Attention

If you haven’t already read the interesting article on how some colleges are weighing using blogs instead of Blackboard at The Chronicle, check it out here:

Colleges Consider Using Blogs Instead of Blackboard

It has a fairly balanced look at both sides of the issue. The last paragraph proves my point that I have made over and over again about Blackboard: the people in charge just don’t know what they are talking about.  Here is the direct quote:

Blackboard is trying to keep up.

Michael L. Chasen, the company’s chief executive, has told The Chronicle that the latest version of the software integrates some Web 2.0 tools and still offers plenty of features that blogging packages can’t match, like online gradebooks.

Good point.  Except, of course, for the fact that WordPress has a grade book plug-in (well, two actually). And some really cool social networking plug-ins, too.

My question has always been – why do you need an LMS or program of any kind?  Why limit your students to just a blog or a LMS?  Why not create a simple platform that aggregates whatever tool they use into one spot for easy of collaboration accross tools?  That has been the question we have been asking with our New Vision for Learning Management Systems idea, that will hopefully morph into an open source project soon.

UPDATE:

I forgot to also respond to this legitimate concern raised in the article:

Some professors asked whether it was possible to run a blog that only students could see, noting that they had concerns about making course activities public.

The short answer is, in WordPress and a few others, yes.  The University I work for installed WordPress MU for anyone (student or teacher) to use.  They were easily able to connect it to our university system – you log in with the same ID/password you use for email, and your blog is automatically set-up. Custom blogs for, say, groups or departments can also be created.  There are also a few instructors that keep it private for only their classes.  Our IT department was able to connect specific blogs to specific class rolls.  But even if you can’t do that, there are plug-ins that let you authenticate with users you want and then only authenticated users can see the blog.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

11 thoughts on “EduPunk Movement Gains More Attention

  1. I teach part-time for a college that has been on Blackboard Vista (WebCT) and is currently in the middle of a transition to Angel.

    Much like what you suggest here, I am planning in the Fall to use a combination of a blog space (blogger), a portal (netvibes), a wiki/site (google sites), a microblog (twitter, for announcements), and a discussion group (google groups) to deliver all content and instruction. I plan to facilitate learner’s creating personal learning spaces for the class; any written assignments will be posted via their blog spaces which I’ll be aggregating on the portal.

    The *only* element of the LMS I plan to use is the gradebook. I’m not comfortable having learner grades sit on a WordPress blog that’s not run/managed by the institution – general FERPA concerns.

    -cmd

  2. Related to the conversation we’ve been having over at my blog space, PLE’s and the new vision you’ve advocated…. Given several widgets/plugins for Google Wave, it very well could accomplish much of what many would like to accomplish in a new vision for an LMS. The layout of Wave actually made me think of two interfaces I’ve seen previously – one of those was the new vision protoype you demonstrated at TxDLA. The other was an interface demo’ed at NMC Summer Conference 2007.

    -cmd

  3. Matt Crosslin

    I think looking at the New Vision idea, Google Wave would be a good way to look at the “Connect” tab. I think the problem that some have with Blackboard, and others have with WordPress, or you name your tool, is that it is like creating a big box full of stuff and then telling the instructors – you have to use this one-size fits all box to teach all courses. Using Google Wave for the course would essentially do the same thing with a cooler box. The idea behind New Vision is to dump the box and come up with a bucket that you hand to instructors. Tell them – “hey, you can use any thing you want, have your students do what you want, and then add the finished project to this bucket so you can grade it and store those grades on your school server. Oh, and the bucket will easily and automatically organize the stuff you put in there so that it makes it easier for you to see what they are are doing, and easier for them to see what other students are doing.” So, when you first sign into a class, you see a FaceBook like page that shows what all students have been doing around the web. Behind that are tabs to a page that looks like a Moodle page, with basic activity instructions and maybe basic micro-lectures for students to start with, and also a page that might look like Google Wave.

  4. In that analogy, I think Google Wave is the bucket. The native functions of Wave, the widgets – including hopefully a gradebook widget at some point – and other tools provide an wide range of things to put in the bucket.

    OR…

    One segment of the video I didn’t include in my post – but may go back and do now – demonstrated any organization/individual with the skillset can develop their own Wave interface; you don’t have to use the Google Developed UI. They demonstrated a simple, text only Unix, commandline type interface.

    Here’s the cool thing then… Wave is a platform on which you could build what you’ve talked about, and enabled within that is all the collaboration and composition tools that Wave makes possible.

    -cmd

  5. Matt Crosslin

    I still don’t really see Google Wave as the bucket. It might be more of a box that is open and you can add more to it – but there is still a lot in there that you will have to go in there and do their way, or customize it the way you want. In the New Vision bucket model – there is nothing. You port in everything from somewhere else. You find what you like out there, and link it in. Even if there isn’t a widget out there. Google Wave will probably appeal to DIY EduPunks out there. But for the average professor, they want something that is ready to go out of the box, without customization or widgets. Most of the profs here at UTA probably don’t even know what a widget is :)

    Ultimately – I’m not sure if the platform that you build the New Vision on would matter. I could even see there being a Google Wave version, a Moodle version, WordPress plug-ins, etc. In fact, we’ll probably build New Vision based on Moodle before Wave is even released.

    Google also has a 50/50 track record with delivering on hype. Sometimes, they just hype stuff too early before discovering they can’t safely do what they want. We can’t bank on anything in that video becoming reality – until it does. I’d rather LMS be a new way to think of the LMS in general – but not tied to the way one tool does things.

    Also – university IT departmetns do get in turf wars over tech. What if they block Wave on campus, but allow Wimba? Wouldn’t we want the Wimba users to still be able to use the New Vision?

  6. Matt Crosslin

    @Linda – I always have a lot of thoughts! You brought up some tools that get overlooked in the Blackboard/Edupunk debate.

    @Chris – I was talking with Harriet – we decided that bucket is a bad analogy for New Vision. It pretty good for Google Wave. The thought is that the bucket is going to only have a finite number of things you can put in it. But at least you can put what you want in there. And that is true of Google Wave. But, as an instructor, you are still going to be limited by the plug-ins you have access to. Even if is is installed on your school server, you are still going to be limited by how it is customized from the top down. If you don’t like how it is set-up, you are still going to have to go EduPunk.

    The goal with New Vision is to create a light weight system that is like handing a piece of play dough to instructors and saying: “here – stick whatever you want to this. No limits set from the top.”

  7. Matt Crosslin

    Well… ummm…. that’s just the way a bucket is. It has a capacity limit. Once it is full, you can’t put anything else in there. New stuff will just bounce off and get lost because the bucket is full.

    If you want to put anything new in a full bucket, you have to dump everything into a bigger bucket, or remove things from the bucket to make room for a the new. From a constructivist viewpoint, this is bad because you need to keep the old stuff around to make connections with the new stuff. Buckets are a good analogy for a better way to learn than a box, but since buckets are made with a fixed capacity, they aren’t what we should ultimately want. We ultimately should want something that has no limits, and therefore ready to for any ideas for anyone out there.

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