Thursday, April 30, 2009

Can't get H1N1 from your computer

Not saying I want to live in a purely virtual world. I just want to have a choice about it. If there are exchanges where real world interactions add no value ( bank teller) or the value of the interaction is not over weighed by the risks involved, (club on the wrong side of town). I will use the ABM and watch the music video.

It is a toss up whether most physical interactions for education or work really add any value to the transaction or out weigh the risks. A pandemic flu out break may make that calculation in favor of virtual interactions.

Couldn't happen you say? AIG couldn't go broke, GM will never go bankrupt, US will never elect a black man president.
Too many black swans and to much at risk not being prepared.

Ed institutions need to do all they can to take their operations virtual to ensure that the service that they provide to society is not lost. While that happens, many of the problem aspects of industrial education may be sufficiently disrupted to bring about meaningful change.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sacred, Secret and Cover Stories

Came across this interesting concept as a result of a the Twitter stream during the #tlt2009 conference that I watched via Ustream today at

I tracked down some of the resources for the concepts relating to the notion of different teacher narratives.

Clandinin, J., & Connelly, M. (1996). Teachers' professional knowledge landscapes: Teachers stories-stories of teachers-school stories-stories of schools. Educational Researcher, 25(3), 24-30. doi: 10.3102/0013189X025003024.

Classrooms are, for the most part, safe places, generally free from scrutiny, where teachers are free to live stories of practice. These lived stories are essentially secret ones. Furthermore,when these secret lived stories are told, they are, for the most part, told to other teachers in other secret places. When teachers move out of their classrooms into the out-of-classroom place on the landscape, they often live and tell cover stories, stories in which they portray themselves as experts, certain characters whose teacher stories fit within the acceptable range of the story of school being lived in the school. Cover stories enable teachers whose teacher stories are marginalized by whatever the current
story of school is to continue to practice and to sustain their teacher stories. We do not wish to imply that either secret stories or cover stories are necessarily good or bad.

Campbell, E., Campbell, A., & Groundwater-Smith, S. (2007). An ethical approach to practitioner research (p. 198).

Develops the idea is that teacher narratives are based on three different versions of events,
The Sacred story is theory driven views of practice shared by practitioners, policy makers and theoreticians. This is the story of events that would be provided in curriculum materials and constitutes the canon or the officially approved version of knowledge.

The secret story is the lived experience of classroom practice told to other teachers.

Cover stories=stories in which practitioners agree or collude with a version of events and portray themselves as 'experts', sometimes to protect their professional behavior or the participants in the story.

All this struck me a necessary background for understanding some important issues for critical pedagogy. Leads to the rhetorical question; Why is it necessary to construct different stories?

Of course the answer is obvious because no one has the true version of events although institutions try to claim it, reinforce it and enforce compliance with it. Teachers (or many other people in similar situations) may see the truth differently and may attempt to transmit their version.This could get them in deep trouble so they have to be very careful and on occasion construct a cover story that shows how their secret story and the sacred story are the same.

This may explain part of the reluctance that teachers have for having their classroom activities recorded in podcasts, vlogs etc. They are open to scrutiny by administration, parents, society at large. When it is just the students in the classroom there is a large degree of deniability but when others may be observing there is a large degree of distrust and discomfort.

Reminded me of the precepts of Action Science and the notions of espoused theory and theory in use. Also Glaser's notion of the different kinds of data that can be collected from interviews; baseline,properline,interpreted,and vague.

Don Tapscott in Wikinomics, developed the idea of information asymmetry where the 'experts' wield power because they have some sort of information advantage that they carefully control and maintain by manipulating the facts and limiting access to information resources. The Internet has made the construction of multiple versions of the truth problematic, because it is very simple for individuals to get different perspectives on events and to question the different versions of the truth being presented. This is great for consumers of information but puts greater demands on the constructors of knowledge. If there is too much variation between the sacred, secret and cover versions credibility is lost.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why newspapers are failing

Watched this presentation by Linda McQauig.

Starts with Mark Twain quote about those who don't read newspapers are uninformed, people who read newspapers are misinformed.

Some excellent points that should be repeated. Newspapers are complaining that they are failing because nobody reads the news anymore. But as McQuaig points out they aren't really reporting news, just broadcasting the narrative of the corporate elite. Corporations are blind to their own blindness. If they really want to sell newspapers they would report on newsworthy items. Like:

-Eqos study of Canadian opinion and the gap between what ordinary people want and what the corporate elite want. Elite want small government, less regulation and deeper economic and military integration with the US but 48% of Canadians want exactly the opposite. That's news but it hasn't been reported in corporate media.

-capitalism is collapsing but corporate elite still wants to blame workers for the collapse eg. the auto industry.

-half of all Canadians support an early withdrawal from Afghanistan. That is news that doesn't get reported. Doesn't fit a corporate agenda.

-the story of the Nato bombing mission that mistakenly killed a bunch of people at an Afghani wedding that killed 36 people and injuring the bride. Now that is a big news story with a large human interest element. Given the Canadian involvement with NATO there should be lots of interest. But the G and M buried it deep on page 21. If the newspaper agenda is to sell papers as they claim, that should have been splashed over front pages for days.

-Canadian Civil Assistance plan. Allows US troops to cross into Canada. Interesting to Canadians but it was never announced to Canadians. They would be under the ultimate control of the US Commander in Chief. Didn't hit the front pages because the corporate elites think that deeper economic and military integration with the US whereas most Canadians want the opposite.

So the idea that newspapers have a grievance because people don't want to read newspapers is disingenuous. They don't really want to sell papers by reporting actual news, but their version of the news that furthers the corporate political agenda.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

University as Marriage Market

Found myself quoted in a Christian Science Monitor article about David Wiley at Brigham Young University.

The premise is that most traditional face to face institutions of higher learning are becoming increasingly irrelevant and are facing extinction in their present form. Wiley suggests in another article that

Every college and university needs to adapt, he says, or they won't survive. But BYU, he notes, might be a special case. Students will likely still flock there for the two extra benefits the school offers: a religious education and the chance to meet and marry an LDS Church member.

This led me to speculate on a feature of industrial education that you don't see directly referenced in the university marketing literature but nonetheless seems to be a very important factor in choosing to attend an elite, face-to-face university. That is that you will have an opportunity to participate in a marriage market with people of your own (or higher)socio-economic status, your class, religion. A common pronouncement of the defenders of face-to-face education is that it allows you to build lifelong networks and this maybe true but it is becoming more likely that your networks will need to be beyond a limited geographic sphere.

Similarly, you might want to try another way to meet your mate. One of my favorite writers ( and no-holds-barred critical thinker) these days, Joe Bageant talks about the great American hologram the "feast of bullshit and spectacle: the great American media mind warp",a collective illusion carefully manufactured and maintained.

One aspect of this is the Disney illusion of "one true love' someday my prince will come, your destined mate. But it really doesn't happen that way.
More likely parents want their offspring to go to university to meet a nice girl or boy with good genes, finances and prospects. That may well be a major benefit, however it has nothing to do with education. Given that many institutions of higher learning operated with public funds it appears these funds are being directed towards activities that don't have much to do with higher learning.

It might not even be the best way to select a mate if divorce statistics are considered. It might even be better to use an online dating service for mate selection although theses services may be to new to be able to make any judgments about the relative longevity of marriages that began as online relationships.

So far from the spontaneous process of finding your one true love and "just knowing that he/she was the ONE" is an illusion. People are much more calculating in their choice although they don't admit it to themselves or others.

Checking out this article.

Chiappori, P., Iyigun, M., & Weiss, Y. (2006, November). Investment in schooling and the marriage market. Discussion paper, . Retrieved April 22, 2009, from

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tuition commission report

Just read this report

Levin, B. (2009). Commission on tuition fees and accessibility to post-secondary education in Manitoba. Government, Manitoba: Manitoba Advanced Education and Literacy. Retrieved April 5, 2009, from

Looking for any mentions of online learning or distributed education policy. Conspicuously absent!

The entire report seems to be predicated on the unchallenged assumption that higher education can only be accomplished face to face in a major urban center. This assumption is being very successfully challenged in many jurisdictions world-wide and online learning is steadily improving to the point where it may be superior to bricks and mortar education for many purposes.

There is talk of increasing access by providing better, housing, daycare, better access to student loans, minimum wage increases etc but nothing about online eduction.

The forced relocation of Manitoba people to major urban centers for higher education has disproportionate costs for those in rural communities that aren't factored into this report. Rural communities are deprived of social and economic contributors. Hard to coach a the local hockey team or serve on the local board if you no longer live in the community. Similarly, people who move to a major urban center are deprived of their family and community social supports.

Increasing access to online higher education will take some improvement to the online education infrastructure including improvements to rural broad band access. But this is being done for other public initiatives such as Telehealth where an increasing number of medical support services are being delivered by various online mechanisms.

Increased rural broadband would improve not only access to higher education but would also support rural economic activity generally. As the world moves into the much touted information economy age more people are earning their living online. Potentially, this is just as possible from your desk in rural Manitoba as it is from anywhere.

Not even mentioning online learning in this report indicates a very specific agenda has been chosen, one that supports the status quo industrial education system that exists in Manitoba.