Changing Learning through Critical Thinking and Technology
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  • At the start

    Posted on September 25th, 2013 John No comments

    I’m looking forward to watching the replay of the final America’s Cup race this evening. It has been an amazing comeback, and is compelling in spite of the fact it is the ultimate rich (white) man’s sport. The most sailing I’ve ever done was in a tech dingy on lake Mendota when I was at UW Madison. It was fun, but after about a half hour I was ready for beer on the Terrace.

    But the point is that at the start, these two ungainly sail boats are thrashing around, trying not to run into each other and generally looking very clumsy. This part of the race is both crucial and the one thing sailboats of this type are not designed for. And it reminds me of where we currently are with instructional technology. On the one hand we are trying to fit into the century’s old tradition of the university, and on the other hand computers just want to catch the wind and fly. So we stumble around and try not to run into each other, making things like learning management systems and MOOCs. And this is as it always has been; Tyack and Tobin many years ago observed that the institution of school takes things like technology and tries to whittle it down to fit the practices of the school. It’s a catamaran at the starting line, hobbled by rules and trying mightily not to go too fast.

    But that’s a metaphor that has gone too far. I will enjoy the replay of the race and the beauty of all that technology flying across San Francisco Bay in the hands of highly skilled teams working at the peak of their ability. Then I’ll go back to working on Blackboard and trying not to run into all the flotsam that the rules surrounding higher education throw at it.

    Someday the starter pistol will fire.