‘Our Technology Is Our Ideology’: George Siemens on the Future of Digital Learning

[In this Edsurge article George Siemens looks at the future of education with a focus on the learning system. As we gather more and more data on student learning, it’s imperative to use that data to empower the learner, the teacher, the parent, and all of the elements of the learning system. Adaptive learning is not enough; we need to have adapted learners that have the capability to meet the challenges for their futures.]

By Marguerite McNeal Aug 11, 2016

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

What does it mean to be human in a digital age? Some people researching education technology might not spend their days wondering how their work fits into this existential question—but George Siemens isn’t “some people.”

“Maybe my mama hugged me extra when I was a baby.” That’s his explanation for how he thinks about the role of education in the 21st century. A researcher, theorist, educator, Siemens is the digital learning guy. He’s credited with co-teaching the first MOOC in 2008, introduced the theory of “connectivism”—the idea that knowledge is distributed across digital networks—and spearheaded research projects about the role of data and analytics in education.

Siemens’ work is on the cutting edge of what’s possible in digital learning, but he doesn’t want to discuss the latest fads in education technology. Instead he wants to talk about humanity. He’s optimistic that technology can help people achieve a higher quality of life in a future where work is increasingly automated and distributed across the globe. He just doesn’t think our current university systems and edtech solutions will get us there.

“Our technology is our ideology,” Siemens says. He’s worried that, rather than advancing our human potential, many edtech companies and universities are perpetuating the status quo. While machine learning and automation are obviating the need for learners to memorize content and develop routine skills, current edtech solutions still focus on helping learners develop these capabilities, he says. Instead, they should drive students to hone their uniquely human traits—the ones that will help them thrive in an increasingly automated world.

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Building Data Literacy

[In today’s world it’s critical to understand the role of data in our personal lives. This summer the South Fayette School District as part of its STEAM Innovation Summer Institute will offer a workshop for educations on the role of Data Science.]

May 20th, 2016

A new report outlines the need for K-16 students to develop key data literacy skills

Focusing on three specific areas could be key to boosting K-16 students’ data literacy in a world where big data’s importance grows daily, according to a new report.

EDC’s Oceans of Data Institute (ODI) convened an expert panel of data analysts and educators for a workshop on data literacy, and panelists focused on what it means to be data literate in today’s world of big data, as well as what to teach students to prepare them to be part of today’s workforce and society.

The panelists’ recommendations are included in a new report, Building Global Interest in Data Literacy: A Dialogue.

During their discussion, panelists developed and endorsed a data definition: The data-literate individual understands, explains, and documents the utility and limitations of data by becoming a critical consumer of data, controlling his/her personal data trail, finding meaning in data, and taking action based on data. The data-literate individual can identify, collect, evaluate, analyze, interpret, present, and protect data.

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Are schools ready for the power and problems of big data?

[Big Data at AltSchools is creating an environment for personalized learning. Discover in this eSchoolNews article how data can provide the necessary insights on a massive scale for meeting the needs of all learners. For years I struggled with how to combine an a academic program aligned to individual talents and interests with collaborative projects that provide real-world connections. The Manchester Academic Charter School (MACS ) in Pittsburgh is trying to make this happen. Other schools, like South Fayette, are also looking at Big Data as a tool to better meet the needs of their students.)

Imagine classrooms outfitted with cameras that run constantly, capturing each child’s every facial expression, fidget, and social interaction, every day, all year long.

Then imagine on the ceilings of those rooms infrared cameras, documenting the objects that every student touches throughout the day, and microphones, recording every word that each person utters.

Picture now the children themselves wearing Fitbit-like devices that track everything from their heart rates to their time between meals. For about a quarter of the day, the students use Chromebooks and learning software that track their every click and keystroke.

What you’re seeing is the future of K-12 education through the eyes of Max Ventilla, the CEO of AltSchool, a Bay Area startup that represents the most aggressive, far-reaching foray into the world of big data and analytics that the K-12 education sector has seen to date.

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