Are MOOCs the technology to break the Education Cartel?

Part 1. The obligatory history lesson:

It happened to the record industry first. While popular music had long been available on radio, it could be argued that a true music industry as we know it today didn’t arise until the 50‘s and 60‘s when distributable media and players became widely available. To summarize – you bought your music on record, then on 8-track, then on cassette, and then on CD once again. Sounds very much like a ‘cartel’, or “association of suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition”. Record companies (not artists generally) held the content and the means of distributing it to us the passive consumer.

But that’s where technology turned. CD drives in computers plus early sharing software like Napster meant that instead of getting good at mashing the pause button on your stereo so recording to cassette stopped before the adds kicked in, you could rip a whole CD to MP3 in minutes and upload it for anyone who was also connected to the net. You could also bypass the record stores entirely by downloading songs, for free. It meant you didn’t have to buy your music a fourth time in some other format – you now controlled the file. No it wasn’t legal, but it was what the people wanted.

Fast forward to 2013 and we can choose to buy tracks one at time instead of ten at a time. NOW we have Pandora, and Spotify and Rdio et al. Now Music gets pushed to me. Now I tap a thumbs up button and more great tunes keep rolling in, for free if I put up with the Pandora Ads like four times an hour.

Imagine if the streaming music app Pandora was the education system. How would that change things?

The ‘cartel’ has been broken, or at least radically forced to change its ways. Dropping DRM restrictions on music files for instance means we the customer can choose when, where and how we want to store and play our music. Funny then that last year was the first time in a decade that the music industry saw an uptick in profits – after finally signing licenses for online services that are very similar to Napster.

Now get ready to lose your job – so says Jon Evans in a recent article at TechCrunch. His argument is that nearly all industries are facing a similar shakeup as the digital revolution enters a new stage and the stuff of the world moves into silicon. He quotes Chris Dixon’s remarkable idea that just as in the previous four technological revolutions, we are at the stage where new tech is replacing traditional jobs before new digital industries that will appear have had a chance to create new ones.

For example, as information has moved online, print newspapers are failing faster than they can hit on a successful digital strategy. Indeed, Wired reported nearly a year ago that some sports journalism jobs have already been taken by software that in part takes advantage of the proliferation of easily accessible data.

Part 2. The MOOC did it: What it all means for Education

“Education is the cartel that technology is going to break next” Heppell, 2011

“Higher education is just on the edge of the crevasse … I think even five years from now these enterprises are going to be in real trouble” Clay Christensen, 2013

So what about the education system? …


TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE, head to EduTechDebate and join the conversation.



#LWF11 Festival of Learning & Technology: My Best Of

I recently had the great opportunity to attend the Learning Without Frontiers ‘festival of learning and technology’ in the UK in January of this year. The conference itself had three streams of Handheld learning, Game based learning, and digital safety. I of course had been interested mostly in attending the handheld learning sessions, but it was in fact the lineup of amazing short talks (what we used to call ‘Keynote’s in a pre-TED talks world) that ended up having the most impact on my thinking.

(Collage created in Moxier Collage on iPad)
So, I’d like to share here which of these talks I found the most inspiring, and hope they may provide the great start to your year that they did to mine: (I’ll include direct viewing links as well as links to download the podcasts via iTunes).
Iris Lapinski – Apps for Good, a problem solving program for young people that leads to their apps being created using Android. Features students themselves talking about the project.
Theo Gray – Creator of the Elements App; Co-founder of Wolfram Alpha; spoke eBooks, creating media, and about the disruption caused by technology.
Bill Rankin – ACU mobile connected initiative. ACU in Texas, USA was the first university to deploy iPhones and iPod touches to all students and faculty, and they now have three years of data showing the initiative to be a success. Bill talked also about eBooks and the future of books and textbooks.
Abdul Chohan – ESSA Academy school UK – this schools was a failing school, until a re-boot saw iPod touches widely and smartly deployed.
Tony Vincent – Learning in Hand – Tony expertly goes through just what’s possible with mobile movie making.
Stephen Heppell ‘Education is the next cartel that people and technology will break’. Inspiring and disruptive as ever, Stephen was great at cutting through to inspire thoughts about what education should look like.
Jimmy Wales, co-founder, Wikipedia – A great opportunity to hear directly from the founder of such a central plank of the digital revolution share his thoughts on the power of information.
David McCandless – Infographics –
Just wanted to take this opportunity to say a huge thanks also to everyone who SMS’d and TXT’d in to support my shortlisting in the Primary Innovator Award category – the win was a  great surprise, and just goes to show the strength of the great networks I’m privileged to be a part of.

Posted via email from Jonathan Nalder’s posterous

Learning at the moment of need

In any field, I’ve often found that my best new learning comes from something slightly fringe to my own area. Not totally removed, but similar enough that I can grasp it and integrate it. Such a new learning has happened recently from the world of corporate or business training, where the necessity of moving to mobile and ubiquitous tools has been addressed better than in my own area of formal education actually. Dr Conrad Gottfredson works in this area, and posits that learning experiences should be planned for from a perspective of need, with these five being a summary of the greatest moments of learning need:

1. when learning for the first time, 2. when learning more, 3. when remembering or applying what’s been learnt, 4. when things go wrong, and 5. when things change.

So what has this got to do with mobile and ubiquitous learning? For me, it speaks to what are the advantages of mobile learning. The first two on this list, as another commentator here has noted, are not so mobile-related. These are the areas of learning we have focused on traditionally. From Gottfredon’s list though its obvious that they are not the full picture, and I don’t think that traditional or even online learning has catered for them very well. BUT, what tool could be better for reviewing previously learnt content JUST IN TIME than a mobile device that is always with you? And what learning tool are you most likely to have on hand, wether out and about during informal learning moments, or in the middle of a busy classroom when suddenly something goes wrong, or a change in direction is required? I wonder…

Read more here and even apply to join Gottfredson’s ning if you like. There is also a podcast here – just remember teachers and educators this is from the business world – but there could be some good fringe learnings waiting for you! Also go here to read how these ideas can be extended into the wider picture of a ‘continuous learning environment’ …

The other great mobile education movement

I am aware dear reader that much of my writings on how learning is handling the inevitable rise of ubiquitous computing centre’s around the iPhone/iPod touch/iPad platform. But in this post I’d like to reflect a little on the other great mobile education movement of the last three years – that of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) ‘children’s machine’. While even the latest version 1.5 of the XO laptop they build and supply  has tech that is getting a little behind, it does have at least three distinct advantages over the iPod/iPhone/iPad platform:

1. Designed for children – yep, rather than being a consumer or business device that crafty educators are able to integrate into educational settings, the XO was designed ground-up to be in students hands. I mean its bright green! When a student first sees one, they know already this is for them – and that means their use of it for learning starts at a unique place. This is a factor not to be underestimated.

2. Automatic collaboration – while there are a growing number of  iPod touch apps that can use wifi or bluetooth to do some basic screen-sharing or sending of files etc, another of the distinguishing features of the XO laptop is that sharing and collaboration is built in automatically to practically every activity, even the camera. Its not something students even have to think – ‘oh can I work on this with someone?’ (or two, or four etc), but is simply a matter of switching to the dedicated ‘friends’ screen and sending the invitation.

3. Dual screen modes – the announcement of the iPad means that one of the XO’s advantages (larger screen) will shortly be neutered, but the ability of the screen to work as a regular colour LCD indoors, and a black and white screen outdoors with full readability in direct sunlight gives the XO a big advantage over the glossy  iPad as far as true mobile learning goes.

4. Ok I know I said three – but this one is not one of mine – Flash support. I don’t use flash hardly at all, but I know alot of educators that do rely on it for hundreds of interactive learning objects that are totally unavailable in the Apple mobile world. How long it takes for these to eventually be ported over to Java/HTML5 or turned into the mobile apps (via Adobe conversion software) that are becoming more of the standard for such software I don’t know, but until then, educators are great hoarders, and so Flash support remains an issue.

Of course there are downsides to the XO laptop also (such as the aforementioned aging hardware, and the fact that a more natural touch-based version may be more than two years away). As a final note to this comparison, I don’t know how many of the 140,000 iPod touch apps are educational, but a developer in that space recently mentioned a figure of 3-4000 to me. Anyone reading out there know how many XO activities (the OLPC name for apps) there are?

updated: TIME between TIMES: the joy of educating during a time of rapid technological change.

time b times wordle

In a few days, I get to present at a massive educational conference – Ulearn09 in Christchurch, New Zealand. This year there will be over 1700 educators present. I’m presenting the following paper. I publish it here now (and at Scribd) so attendees, but also the wider blogosphere and twitterverse can appreciate the great thoughts contributed by several distinguished educators from George Siemens and Stephen Heppell, to practicing classroom teachers. Enjoy! (UPDATE: slides of the presentation are now available at Slideshare HERE)

TIME between TIMES

: the joy of educating during a time of rapid technological change.

Which educator with even a vague interest in keeping pedagogy up to date hasn’t shaken their head when overhearing comments like these in staffrooms or education gatherings:

“I have a school provided laptop, but it just sits in my cupboard.”

“Our network is always down so I’ve just given up trying.”

“All mobile phones in schools should be banned.”

“I’m just a digital immigrant, so can’t be expected to learn that!”

“I’m retiring in 5 years, so I’m not going bother with technology.”

“You’re the guru, you do it!”

At my own large primary school with over 65 teaching staff, I sadly know of several for which the first comment holds true. Anyone reading this could probably similarly pick out the ones they have been exposed to. Day after day, and year after year of being an advocate for transformational learning in the face of these kinds of attitudes can have a pretty disheartening effect. Thank goodness that one of the benefits of the technology that so many educators still shun is that we can now access other colleagues via Facebook and Twitter who feel the same, but just as what is still most needed across nearly all Education sectors is not necessarily more money, but a total mindset change, so can we who are charged with leading change benefit from turning around our thinking.

The Digital revolution is a fast moving beast. Change is now a constant, not a once every now and then event. Mobile, wireless and cloud computing developments are leading very quickly towards a world of ubiquitous, or ‘everyware’ computing. Its no secret that Education has been slow to respond to rise of these technologies. In fact, a 2003 report into the ICT-intensiveness of 55 industries found that Education ranked … last. While its easy to get down about such a result, as well as the responses that many teachers still give today when invited to incorporate digital pedagogies into their students learning, there are plenty of great examples where educators have responded in wonderful ways to the digital revolution. I encourage you to seek them out, perhaps by visiting the sites of the distinguished educators you’ll find below who have responded to this:


This is the time between times for educators working with technology. Before mobile, ubiquitous and everyware computing become the invisible norm, but after a time when educators could sit back and wait for the digital revolution to pass on by. As slow as some in education have been to respond to rapid technological change, this is however the most exciting and dynamic time to be an educator of the educators because …

George Siemens, Canada.

Founder of ‘Connectivism’, Associate Director with the Learning Technologies Centre at University of Manitoba.

“I believe that we are seeing, in educational technology, a rare convergence of technological transformation and ideological development. Twin trends of this sort are infrequent, last occurring with the industrial revolution when (rudimentary) concepts of democracy compounded the trends of industrialization. In education, the last century has provided growing consensus of learning as a social and participative process. While not always ideologically aligned, thinkers like Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget, Bandura, Bruner, Engestrom, Wenger, Lave, Pea, and others have emphasized the distributed, social, and multi-faceted dimensions of learning.

The last several decades has also produced an increase in technologies that enable participants to engage with information in a manner not seen in history. The rise of social networking services, participative web, and growth in mobile technologies and broadband access, provides a compelling argument for change. When the technological movement combines with the ideological shift in learning theory, the impact on education may be transformative. The future of education will be shaped by those who are able to anticipate and understand the impact of the dual forces of social learning and participative technology”.

Tony Vincent, USA.

Former teacher, now trainer and education consultant.

“What I love even more than teaching is learning. And in the changing digital and social landscape, I get to learn constantly and reinforce my learning by sharing it with others”.

Dr Tony Karrer, USA.

CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm.

“My only real formal learning on the metacognitive methods and tools that are the heart of the value I bring as a knowledge worker was by educators.  But I learned in an era of card catalogs, microfiche readers, notes on paper. There were no laptops or mobile devices; no instant access to trillions of web pages; no networks of millions of people; nor free access to thousands of new tools.  Educators today are in the midst of one of the most interesting transformations where individual knowledge becomes devalued but the ability to teach new metacognitive tools and methods is more important than ever”.

Toni Twiss, NZ.

Former teacher, now a director of eLearning for secondary schools and a  lecturer at Waikato University.

Of the opportunity we have to remind ourselves of and rekindle our passion for learning within a truly authentic context. We are forming our own new way forward, often through experimentation, and along the way are experiencing the feelings of satisfaction when something new is learned or achieved.  I think as teachers it is also a timely reminder of what it feels like to be a learner and perhaps at times a struggling learner.  We are put in the shoes of the very students we teach as we explore and experiment with the potential of new technologies and perhaps most importantly reconstruct and refresh understanding of our own pedagogy and practice rather than just doing what we have always done.

We are developing teaching methods to allow our students to be successful contributors to the world that they will be part of when they leave school.   It is exciting because by the choices we as teachers are making about what and how we choose to teach, we are helping to define the values and skills that we see as being key to the future”.

Shane Roberts, Australia.

Secondary HPE teacher, and Advanced Pedagogical Licence holder.

“The change in others that can be realised and witnessed is immense. This could be a time considered for preparation for anywhere, anytime learning and as such the phenomenon of educators learning from each other is a rising river. Innovators and early adopters can educate through means other than direct tuition which is impacting on the teaching and learning methodologies and practices experienced by today’s students. The range of devices available is also transforming ideas about teaching and learning, and the processes that distribute this teaching and learning.

Change is an exciting process, for me in particular as it means trial and experimentation are welcomed. Less effective or productive practices can be discovered, trialled and reported on without fear of being labeled incompetent – as long as learning is achieved and demonstrated. Accompanying this is the ability to gain feedback from a worldwide audience, leading to inspiration within one’s own practice.

Mathew Nehrling, USA.

Sr. Instructional Designer with a Fortune 500 telecommunications company.

“During a transition period like this, many minds are not in the box to solutions and ideas. Everyone is looking for how to integrate the new innovation (be it idea or technology).  After an innovation is standard, creativity is often stifled because people have the baseline as to ‘how it is’.

During the economic downturn as much off the world is having, it forces people to think about real, practical application.  It sharpens the focus like a sword.  How can you take the innovation and produce the greatest ROI?  It takes all the creative ideas and helps one hone in on what is practical.

We are at a point now where we have a perfect combination of the two. There is a technological revolution in anywhere, anytime computing, but with economic downturns, you have to focus on real, productive solutions, thus more energy is spent on what can be produced and static (data asphyxiation) is pushed aside”.

Emma Heffernan, Australia.

Manager Discovery Programs, eLearning Branch, Education Queensland.

“For the first time in history, students and teachers are consciously playing the same role; learners. Technology is a great democratiser of education. It is no longer expected that educators hold the knowledge to impart to their learners, rather that we are all learners. The role of the educator is evolving to one of true facilitator, guide and model learner. We have unprecedented access to people, information, resources and wisdom, and as we develop new ways of learning and working we are reshaping our view of education and schooling”.

Professor Stephen Heppell, U.K.

Founder, Ultralab and

“Because we are in a world recession. Every past recession has seen a step change for New Learning as Keynesian investment boost the new, rejects the old and favours public service; because we have moved from the flat start of technological progression’s exponential curve to the steep part. Where before we had good time to reflect on small changes, now we have little time to reflect on momentous changes – that means there is no time for a top-down quality control model and we must rely on people, practitioners and communities for judgement for what might be effective;

Because technology destroys cartels: music, automobiles, banks and more. Those who sought to build value from vast scale and barriers to new competition see their walls crumble as a people’s century erodes their foundations. It was people that called time on recorded music and rediscovered live performance; it’s small local mutual banks that have survived. Learning is about people, not corporations.

Because all the old certainties of a last century world of factory schools with its formulaic rigours of “met before” learning have palpably failed to meet the needs of a world full of surprises and the unexpected. It’s the death of factory education and, as I have often reflected before, the dawn of learning..


And the winner is … ? Based on all the above responses, and a word count/analysis, LEARNING is now king, and being a learner the key to educators finding a place in 21st Century learning. Many thanks to all the respondents for their key contributions.

- Jonathan Nalder, August 2009.

What I believe about learning

I am currently working towards achieving the highest level of technology in teaching recognition that my employer (Education Queensland) awards. Known as the ‘Digital Pedagogy License, Advanced’, it forms part of the worlds best practice in this area ‘Smart Classrooms framework‘. The main thrust of the preparation work I am doing for the license is not about sounding off about learning theories, or naming the tools I use, but about real, practical ways that I believe and KNOW technology is improving and transforming my ability to lead learning. Its also been designed as an incredibly and deliberately self-reflective process, and I will over the next couple of months share some of my thoughts and the drafts of the different sections I am compiling. Here’s the first – Enjoy!

(excerpt from a draft of my belief statement)

I believe that ICT, while an essential component of schooling students for life in a digital world, is not as important as the learner themselves. Thus any learning experience must start with where the learner is, and be based on a relationship that both challenges and makes a student feel safe.

I believe that ICT exists to serve learning. Thus rather than teaching ICT for its own sake, ie. where students learn specific technology skills that can go quickly out of date, I instead seek to teach life-long skills such as digital storytelling that can be adapted across technology platforms.

I believe that the learner and their understandings of the world come first, and so choose to initially consider student needs, and then choose technology that is capable of enabling their improvement. In this way, my practice incorporates simple, mobile devices that can be taken to the small-group spaces where I work with my students, and which can be learnt in seconds such that they become an invisible part of students learning. These simple voice recorders and PDAs do however allow students to capture their learning experiences and use the technology to help them reflect and improve in ways which their learning difficulties prevents them from doing.

Finally, I believe that I must learn with my students to be a role model for going where I in turn can ask them to go. Thus, if the world of technology is going towards ubiquitous, real-time communication, so must I. And also so must I share this world with them in responsible AND innovative ways.

Technology can help every learner

As a learning Intervention and Support teacher, my adventures in technology have already shown me just how powerful digital technology can be in enabling differentiated learning. This is where curriculum and learning experiences are modified and made specific to individuals learning needs. Step one of course is to know what these needs are – technology helps in the collation and storage/accessing diagnostic data immensely. Being able to call up student progress data on my iPhone from anywhere in my school enables just-in-time conversations to take place with teachers and aides – and is my own way of demo-ing the possibilities of mobile and ubiquitous computing at my site.

Now eSchool News is reporting on an International Society for Education and Technology webinar from last week that provided examples of how technology can provide this same kind of support – but directly with students.  From the article:

According to the presenters, teachers can differentiate four elements of instruction: content, process, product, and learning environment. They also can differentiate instruction based on student traits, such as readiness, learning profile, interest, and affect.

Finally, educators can differentiate instruction through a range of instructional and management strategies, including software, video streaming, and the web.

“Above all, DI should be used to promote 21st-century skills,” said Smith. “This includes digital-age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity. A mastery of these skills will lead to student achievement.”

Head over HERE to read the full piece.