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Beginning Week 5

February 9, 2010

Week 4 got away from me. I don’t think I read/watched/did anything on the syllabus! I am twittering more regularly than before and I have installed TweetDeck on all the computers I use, including my brand-new laptop (which I am using now–my very first laptop). I am home today for a snow day (the Washington DC area is buried under over 2 feet of snow which feel Friday and Saturday, and we are bracing for more snow tomorrow) and after baking bread, having lunch with friends, and doing some financial work with my husband, here I am finally turning my attention to evomlit.

I started out by reading a blogpost by Jim Groom, “The Glass Bees.” This includes a rant about how BlackBoard takes ideas from other people and sells them for its own profit. He writes, “The insanely irreponsible advertising for BlackBoard 8 suggests that Academic Suite release 8.0 will “enhance critical thinking skills” and “improve classroom performance.” What LMS can do this? What Web 2.0 tool can do this? This is total bullshit, how can they make such an irresponsible claim? These things are not done by technology, but rather (by) people thinking and working together.” I so agree! It is a very irresponsible statement and is not provable.

Even though we webheads love using web tools for ourselves and with our classes, I don’t think any of us think that the tools by themselves result in enhanced learning. They may lower students’ resistance to what we are trying to teach them; but the students do the learning (I guess teachers are ideally learning along with them), teachers do the teaching (sometimes students), and the tools are just tools.

Jim Groom continues, “Blackboard makes an inferior product and charges a ton for it.” Aha, this hits home. I teach at the Maryland English Institute at the University of Maryland, which provides ELMS (Powered by BlackBoard) as its LMS. I am encouraged to use ELMS; there is lots of support, weekly webinars and MEI’s CALL Coordinator also helps us to use it. But I hate it. I have forced myself to use the Gradebook for a couple of semesters now, whereas I used to use the free gradebook Engrade. I much preferred it. It was easier to use and I liked the interface better. I felt I should become more familiar with ELMS, so I started using it for my grades. But I have never liked it, and I have never been able to use it for anything other than grades and an occasional homework assignment posting. I don’t use Wimba, which is provided as part of the package. There just doesn’t seem to be any reason to use it. I am not tempted to use it. It is not inviting to me. (To be fair I have to add that grades on ELMS are backed up automatically, while grades on Engrade aren’t, or at least weren’t, making it necessary for me to backup my grades or risk losing them in the event of a crash–which did happen, one time in the several semesters I used it, but maybe once is once too many.)

OTOH, it’s worth remembering that for me, a lot of web tools don’t make sense because I see my students for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. Why would I use a discussion board? My students are living in an English-speaking environment. They don’t need to interact with other non-native speakers around the globe, even though it might be really interesting.

Reading the 100 responses to the post is quite interesting too. This is a discussion board right here on the blog. I liked the post on Corrie Bergeron’s blog (linked in the comments) explaining why he rejects edupunk; he calls himself an edufolkie instead. After the comments there is a list of trackbacks and pingbacks. I understand that these are created when someone else links to the post, but I still don’t know how this happens.

I note that this post and the comments on it are already two years old. What about edupunk today? Is it still being discussed? I google it: at the top of the list is a Wikipedia article (!) I learn that Jim Groom is the one who originated the term in a blog post (the one I read!) I next read Stephen Downes’ response to Jim Groom’s post. Actually most of the links that came up in the search are those recommended on the Multilit Week 5 page.

It seems that edupunk has to do with freer student-centered learning, less about a curriculum, more about what students feel the need to learn.Leslie Madsen Brooks calls it a “scrappy, DIY spirit” (I wonder, is there any connection to Dogme language teaching?.) Unfortunately, the reality for most of us is that there is a curriculum that we are responsible for teaching and students are responsible for learning. No Child Left Behind, oozing up from K-12 into Higher Ed, and the need to be accredited, has underscored the need for a written curriculum (which unfortunately turns into a laundry list of things to make sure we teach).
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2 Comments
  1. Nina Liakos permalink

    Thanks for your comment, Vanessa. Yes, I think you may be right that many GED students must have been square pegs trying to fit into round holes in school. No matter what we do, it seems that some students will not be happy! If we are structured, some of them chafe. If we are unstructured, others fall by the wayside, unable to structure their own learning.

  2. Vanessa Vaile permalink

    Comforting to hear that I am not alone… the week totally got away from me too. I’d ‘think’ about getting to readings, blogging, etc but accomplished nothing more other than a dash of Diigo…<br><br>I’d come across "unschooling" before but not "edupunk." Groom mentions a connection and also edupunk in homeschooling. Elsewhere in the US though … not in the system for the reasons you lay out so well. Maybe charter schools. I would have loved it but also suspect that not all students would thrive on it… learning styles and having a handle on know *how* to learn as a prerequisite. I think it could have enormous potential for a self-paced GED program since so many GED students fell through the cracks in the first place because they did not fit into the standard classroom learning model

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