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Archive for October 2011

#Change11 :: Change33 – Education’s Future Revealed !

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Following the excellent presentation by Tony Bates and discussing the future of Universities with my old friend Dr Boss the other night, I confessed to lurking around the Change11 MOOC without pontificating much at all. I’d been out of Higher Education for some time and anyway, who can tell what the future will bring? “Biffo from 2033 certainly can!”, he shouted excitedly and came up with a weird story of how he’d somehow hacked himself into a conversation with this ‘Biffo’ person from 2033. I laughed and poured him another drink but he insisted on emailing me the transcript and why don’t I get off the hook by just pasting it into my MOOC blog? Well, OK here it is for what it’s worth and a bit of a cheat too since he’s already published it – make of it what you will while I beat a hasty retreat back to Lurkdom !

Connecting around the Globe (image by iStockphoto)

£g%^ *%%£!_-^dUU ^%FG%”(*] ghj%”` – Sysop validate?: 176467890078: 14th Nov 2033B: Eh? You’re not decoding right! Education for adults you say? It’s usually the kids that keep hassling me for education! Hey! – you’re a lost oldster, right?
DB: Yes, I’m most interested in adult education.
B: OK, fine though I’m no educat and anyway it’s changed a lot for kids since I spent time in real edurooms – classrooms they called them. I guess kids learn like anyone else now.
DB: Have universities had to make big changes?
B: Dunno – never went to one – there’s one or two left but they’re usually too expensive to get to.
DB: I see – so the fees have rocketed.
B: Nooo! Where’ve you been? – they’ve gotten very low since the bottom fell out of the edumarket but unless you’re near one you probably won’t get there because of the carb tax – up again this year! You oldsters have a lot to answer for! Where are you from anyway? – I can’t see a profile.
DB: Umm …. what do you do for a living and how did you become qualified?
W: Hey Biffo!! – Winnie here!!
B: I’m an electronic engineer mainly …….. Yeah Winnie hang on a sec – I got this Boss oldster from somewhere fishy.
DB: “mainly” ?? You have more than one job then?
B: Who doesn’t? – like today I walk the dog, sort out a fault on my auto and do a meal for Jane before I get to the lab in the evening – and then there’s Quadratic Equations of course …..
DB: I meant work – how do you earn a living and so on ….. and what’s quadratic equations got to do with it?
B: Dude – they’re all jobs! And it’s all work though not all for credits and cash ….. but Quadratic Equations sure is – hah!
DB: You’re not making much sense. I’m trying to find out about your education and how you earn your living.
B: I’m trying to tell you. I got into Quadratic Equations when I first joined the electronics COP. For you, COP means “Community of Practice”.
DB: I know about Communities of Practice – so you joined one for electronics.
B: I joined the ElecCOP when I was about 12 and worked my way up, just messing around with the other kids to begin with – we’d all sorts of crazy ideas for bots and stuff that mostly didn’t work but it was good fun and I learned a lot, especially from some Japanese and Indian kids. By the time I finished High School I’d quite a few credits mainly because I’d the patience to write things up and help the younger ones. And I earned some cash even then from the ElecCOP managers. So I really got interested in electronics and worked on the documentation for one or two big projects – a grind it was too but it did get me noticed!

W: I can’t wait Biffo, this 9 yo genius is spreading stuff around about me!
B: OK, OK – what’s he done now?
W: He worked out the formula all by himself – checked it out for the right roots but he thinks he’s not getting enough credit!
B: Wow! He deserves good credits for that.
W: He got the best for the level but he wants a Nobel Prize! – lolcats! – he thinks he’s the first to come up with the formula and now he says I don’t like him and he’s telling everybody I’ve stolen it from him!!!
B: OK, OK Winnie, so right now I’ve suspended half the credits until his school looks into it. Hmmm – don’t say anything yet but put him onto the examples with complex solutions – imaginary numbers should fox him for a bit eh? Go ahead Boss, whoever you are!
DB: So then you enrolled in a formal course on electronics and won a certificate from an accredited institution?
B: Are you kidding? At that time the unis and colleges really were expensive. They’d make you buy old paper books written by their own professors and sit through boring lectures like little kids used to do in these classroom places.
DB: But how did you become a practicing engineer then? You’d need core subjects like maths and physics at college level before tackling real projects.
B: Yeah OK – some real projects do need a bit of calculus for circuit theory and so on but I picked up most of that through ElecCOP’s game projects – got some really good credits!
DB: Games!! ….. ? Who assessed you anyway?
B: Project games are great fun and you can learn lots – though some of the new holographic ones are so good now it’s difficult to drag yourself away from them and the socializing and move on to the higher levels. As for assessment, ElecCOP knows what games you’ve done and the credits – for that matter so does anyone else I want to impress if I’m trying for a contract or something.
DB: But don’t tell me you can get through formal maths or science topics with nothing but a little help from your friends!
B: Why not? There’s all sorts of stuff just waiting for you to use and always somebody there to help, especially if you’ve a reputation for helping the others. OK I know what you mean though – you have to crawl before you can walk sometimes – like in maths I’m lazy. I move on to the more interesting stuff after getting stuck on the boring bits but now I’ve learned to study by myself. I just cut off everything except the visualizer, close my eyes and go through the same stuff again and again until it sticks. Half the time people think I’m asleep – I’ve missed train stops and I walk into lamposts! If I’m really really stuck, like I need info really quickly for a contract or something, then I’ll pay a consultant. There’s plenty of them around now – retired professors, researchers or even students at the real unis and colleges, all making some bucks from knowing a lot about a little – they’re not all that expensive.

DB: So are Open Educational Resources easy to find?
B: Eh? Where have you been Boss? If it’s Education it’s Open. It’s worthless in cash terms when there’s so much of it around and you can get it for free anywhere, any time or from just about anybody. Hey! – last week in the park trying to get my head round a video when the very professor on the video happened to be walking HIS dog in HIS park in Wellington, NZ so – no problem and we had a good chat! OK, that’s unusual but it stands to reason that someone, somewhere on the planet is either grappling with the same problem as you are right now or has done in the past – so how can you fail to find what you want?
DB: But do you always get the right answers?
B: Lolcats! There’s not often one right answer but I’ve lots of friends and I know (OK edunet knows!) what they’re good for. Some jerks out there still peddle nonsense but with ID security really good now we don’t see them so often and anyway, at least in the COPs, there’s not much you can do with little or no credit except listen to others! Talking of that, you don’t seem to have a profile anywhere? Hmmm – I think I know where you’ve been all these years!!
DB: So tell me how good OERs are identified and made available to a user. What about RSS feeds and metadata?
B: Never heard of them! All I know is that the best lecturing academics were somehow prodded into spending hours in the late 2010s, recording and refining their stuff so now it’s all out there for the asking – in any language and complete with transcripts. Then plenty of others came along and mashed it around for other purposes – different age groups or professions and for all sorts of project games and simulations of course.
DB: But if there’s so much material how can you exploit it properly it for any serious purpose? – you don’t become a brain surgeon just by asking your friends!
B: I’d have to join a medic COP first! – but everyone in a COP is a friend so you’re not stuck for choice but I know what you mean. The old edupunks thought education was mainly a matter of swilling around with your peers in a COP and you’d soon know it all but it doesn’t work quite like that. Any hacker with a credit or two can annoy people by messing around in a project that’s above their heads but not in real projects! I know some medics who sit at home all day doing remote diagnoses or operations but mostly they’re simulations and the first time they ever get near a real person for something critical, there’s a senior fac on secure connect keeping tabs on the whole thing – even taking over if there’s a mess up!

DB: Now tell me about the Quadratic Equations – how do they fit in?
B: Oh yeah, QE – well I hope Winnie sorts things out with that kid. She should let the school take care of it – he needs a good talking to and they’ll know how to do it – otherwise he could be disadvantaged if he’s not careful – that would be a pity because he’s such a bright spark.
DB: You’ve lost me again.
B: Sorry! Winnie’s one of my people in QE who worries too much when the pressure’s on. I don’t know what else she does – hmm … sings in Durban I think and knows lots about trees. Sometimes she gets through more than 100 queries a day – more than I ever did! I got into it some years ago. I’m no mathematician but quadratic equations just clicked with me so everybody I knew in ElecCOP who couldn’t do them was at me – even after I’d moved up several levels.
DB: And you’re still involved!
B: Not at the cliff face now – but yes I was for several years after edunet hired me for it. It’s mainly kids from all over getting through school maths projects or people needing maths for real projects and not knowing where to start but you get oldsters too and plenty of others doing maths just for fun. So there’s a lot of variety and it can be interesting on a personal level – that’s how I met Jane but there’s another story! You have to get your answers out quick or people get discouraged and how you deal with a kid can be very different from an oldster – maybe less than you’d think! Anyway, now I look after QE’s group of about 20 facs, including Winnie. A lot of the kids’ stuff gets dealt with by their school facs so we get less jobs than some groups but it’s interesting and fits in well with my other things – and a nice little earner! Look, it’s not rocket science, and I ‘m not saying we’re up for it like LDE or Matrices but every QE query from anywhere on the planet that needs a human response goes through us and that’s quite a thought!
DB: Well … um .. thanks a lot Biffo – I can’t say I understood everything but it’s certainly been very interesting.
B: OK Boss – Look, I’ll say it, you really do need an education – I guess you’re just out of prison?
DB: Excuse me?
Sysop terminate: INVALID PROFILE ALERT!: 176467890078: 14th Nov 2033 &^”))* fq$ %*+” –

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Written by Gordon Lockhart

October 19, 2011 at 11:33 am

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