Reflection on 25 Years of Ed Tech – Chapters 9 – 18

Sedimentation – Photo by Paul Van Cotthem on Unsplash

Software Sedimentation (Alignment with Current Practice)

One concept that Weller presented in his book that resonated with me is that of software sedimentation (Lanier, 2002, as cited in Weller, 2020, p. 65).  The idea is that a piece of software becomes so entrenched in the way an institution operates, it becomes extremely difficult to move away from it.  In the program that I teach in, we suffer significantly from this sedimentation.  In one specific instance, we use a particular program to schedule the music for our radio station called Selector.  It’s an old DOS based program that functions adequately and does a decent job of presenting scheduling techniques to our students.  It is, however, without question, outdated.  Not only do we know of better programs, we actually have the license for one; a program called MusicMaster.  The issue is that the amount of labour that would be involved in replacing the old system with the new one is so significant that it seems insurmountable.  I don’t have a solution to recommend for this problem, but I suppose the first issue is to recognize there’s a problem in the first place.

Celebration of Failure (A Conflict with Current Practice)

As I continue to read through Weller’s book, I’m beginning to recognize a recurring theme; one of failed attempts to develop mainstream technology adoption in education.  Many chapters tell the tale of grand innovations that were popular with a short period before fizzling out.  What comes to my attention is the commonality in the reasons for the failures.

    • High Overhead (too much work input… not enough return)
      • Learning Objects – Metadata
      • Personal Learning Environments – Customization
      • E-Portfolios – Lack of support from institution
    • Definition Debates (Lack of consensus)
      • Learning Objects
      • Social Objects

One thing we don’t appear to be good at, is celebrating our failures.  New technology that doesn’t reach a certain threshold of adoption into the mainstream, disappears quietly into the night… as opposed to benefitting from a celebratory examination of the failure to harvest what lessons we can to apply them to future projects.  As a result, similar to my previous post on the first eight chapters of this book, we’re condemned to repeat our mistakes.  In a TED (2016) video, Google X’s Captain of Moonshots, Astro Teller, described how they have long employed the philosophy of celebrating failure, which has allowed them to tackle seemingly impossible tasks with some success (13:40).  I find that in the college system, we play lip service to this idea.  We regularly tout the idea that failure is the great educator, but seldomly do we put the concept into practice.  If we could be more vocal about celebrating our failures and exploring the lessons to be learned from them, we would be less likely to repeat the same mistakes in the future.

References

TED. (2016, May 9). Astro Teller: The unexpected benefit of celebrating failure [Video file]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2t13Rq4oc7A

Weller, M. (2020). 25 years of ed tech. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

6 thoughts on “Reflection on 25 Years of Ed Tech – Chapters 9 – 18”

  1. Hi Christopher,

    On a positive note, we are hearing more about the importance of recognizing failures and the importance of using mistakes to better ourselves. Maybe the future of ed-tech will follow this trend.

    1. You’re absolutely right about that, Wendy. While I wish we were a little more honest about celebrating failure… at least we’re now having the conversation. Hopefully we’ll soon be putting our money where our mouth is.

  2. Thank you, Christopher, for these interesting thoughts. Wendy’s point is spot-on and well-taken, too! I am curious: What does “recognizing failure” look like in your course? Or… what could it look like in LRNT 523? In other words, if we’re looking at this course, what changes would you make to address learning through failure?

    1. A bunch of excellent questions, George. Thank you. I’ll do my best to tackle them in the order you present them.

      One course I have taught in media sales (I’ve currently put my teaching on hold while I pursue my own education), is extremely practical. Our students run a real, revenue generating radio station and the curriculum is tied directly to the operation of the station’s sales department. I don’t evaluate them on their ability to successfully close accounts… but rather, on their efforts towards that goal (I would be happy to go into specifics if you’re curious, but will omit it here for the sake of brevity). The benefit is that it allows my students to learn from their interactions with prospective clients without the worry of any repercussions for their mistakes. I also attend as many of their meetings as possible (in the first half of the semester) so that they can have an objective observer to their meetings. We then discuss those interactions… and I do my best to make light of the mistakes they make… and then have an honest discussion of what they could have done differently and how that would have moved the conversation along in a different light. They have enough pressure on their shoulders in those meetings (most of them are terrified in the first few meetings) without also feeling the weight of their marks suffering as a result of a misstep.

      What could this look like in LRNT 523? So far, I actually think you’ve incorporated this concept fairly well. I like that the first couple of weeks don’t include any graded items (outside of the “contribution to the learning community”) which allows us time to do some work, acclimatize to your teaching style, get an understanding of your expectations, and to benefit from one another’s insights in a consequence free environment. I haven’t looked ahead at the other units in the course (I prefer to take it day by day… good for my stress levels), so I can’t comment on the rest of the course, but so far I think it’s been great.

      What changes would I make… generally speaking… to address learning from failure? In the previous course (LRNT 522) I had the opportunity to learn more about the theory of gamified learning. One of the pedagogical applications of that theory was the ability for students to take and retake tests as frequently as they liked until they achieved a grade they were satisfied with. I really like the idea of that concept. I’m still struggling to understand how that’s done in the context of a course with temporal limitations… obviously students can’t just continue to take the test without it impacting their progression through the rest of the course. I need to learn more about this… but I think it’s a good example of how to present opportunities to fail without consequences.

  3. You make a really good point Chris, that if we as teachers can’t try new things, work through the challenges and deal with the possibility of failure, how can we expect students to do the same?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Patrick. Agreed. We should definitely be leading by example. I’m troubled by the example listed in the first section of my blog post. As I mentioned, we definitely have access to a superior product… but the amount of work involved in installing it is seemingly prohibitive. I would love to be able to say that we should just do the work… but in reality, there’s just only so many hours in the day and obviously we have to prioritize how we spend it. Difficult…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *