[iDC] iCollege

Elizabeth Losh lizlosh at uci.edu
Sun Jul 4 05:15:58 UTC 2010

Hi All,

Since Jon opened with a disclaimer, I'll start with one too: I help run
large thousand-student-plus programs for the University of California and
have participated in the accreditation process that some of these postings
have raised questions about.  I just left this program
(https://eee.uci.edu/programs/humcore/Student/AboutCore.html) and am
taking on a new role directing this one (http://cat.ucsd.edu/). So I'm
hardly a disinterested observer when it comes to the debate about distance
learning, particularly at a time when the state budget crisis has spurred
discussions about creating an "11th campus" that would be a "virtual
campus" able to grant degrees.

Based on the fact that my blog posting on this subject was called  
"iCollege iDiocy"
), I've probably already tipped my hand, but I do think the Daily Show  
incident and the discussion around it points to how the rhetoric of
instructional technology gets associated with certain ideologies about
property, labor, and markets that are hostile to public

Don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not arguing that higher education  
hasn't been in trouble for a long time.  As they say, distance
learning begins in the second row, and a typical episode of reality TV  
probably shows more real learning than a stroll down the aisle of an  
average college lecture hall of passive spectators.  Learning is social,
and learning is public, and students need incentives not only to solve
problems creatively, but also to form alliances and manage reputations.

When a producer from Good Morning America contacted me about my work on
YouTube cheating videos that feature DIY techniques for smuggling answers
into exams, she was horrified by my lack of sympathy for traditional
faculty members who had been duped by charges who had seen through their
pro forma methods.  I also tend to agree with WJT Mitchell's critique of
Ivy League branding that predicts the era of static coporatized campus
"lovemarks" that alumni fundraisers count on now.

That said, I tend to find myself in the odd position of being a reformer
who often defends traditional university bureaucracies, as I do here
(http://dmlcentral.net/blog/liz-losh/crowdsourcing-scholarship) and here

When education becomes a consumer product to be delivered electronically,
it can come at great cost to the ecology of the community college system,
which provides low cost education to a diverse student body that includes
non-traditional learners of all ages.  All four of my household members
have taken courses at our local community college (http://www.smc.edu),
which offers everything from foreign languages to computer programming to
life drawing to sewing.  Five, if you include the forty-year-old
babysitter who went back to college to become a science educator.  See
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/collegeinc/ to see how we all also
end up paying as taxpayers when for-profits get all the incentives for
so-called innovation.

It's when distance learning breaks down that we learn how it operates.  My
next book opens with the "baked professor" incident
to tell a story about academic labor, which often gets less attention as a
value challenged by new technologies in the classroom than academic
freedom or academic honesty.


Sent from my iPhone and thus more likely to include nonstandard
spelling or syntax.

> As a homeschooler ambivalent about college for my kids, I'm enjoying
> discussion on education. In response to Ian's query below:
> On Jun 21, 2010, at 11:32 AM, Ian Condry wrote:
>> Collaborative learning is a keyword these days, and for me, this
suggests thinking of learning less as one-to-one relationship in a group
space (teacher to student in a classroom) and more as a
>> networked process of discovery and action.  I'm quite taken by
>> Christakis and Fowler's book "Connected" and the idea that "three
degrees of separation" tend to define our spheres of influence.
Following from that insight, we can view the "porous boundaries" of the
classroom not simply as a general call to "act in the world" (a noble but
too-big goal), and rather to encourage us to ask, as
>> students and teachers, "who among our networks of people that we know
can help us solve the problem(s) at hand?"
> ...
>> Yet here too, I ask with Trebor, what are the best examples of showing
how this works?
> Still Water Senior Researcher John Bell and I presented some related
research at NetSci 2010 in May. Rather than focus on pedagogical
> centered on the teacher, we looked at students' use of The Pool
> (http://pool.newmedia.umaine.edu), a collaborative network where success
is an emergent property of feedback from one's peers.
> At any given time about 300 students in universities across the U.S. are
active in The Pool, proposing ideas, building projects, and reviewing each
> other's progress. Right now most are from the University of Maine, USC,
and the UC Santa Cruz. The Pool currently tracks 6000 reviews of over 2000
> examples of creative work in art and code.
> The Pool departs from a conventional social network in that the primary
nodes are creative projects rather than people; Pool users themselves are
> indirectly connected to each other via their collaborations on or
> of each other's projects. In fact, a node has several measures of
connectedness, such as the number of contributors, the number of
> or the number of relationships to other nodes. That said, a node's
> in The Pool is typically measured not by the number of connections but
> the average approval bestowed by its reviewers.
> We were initially concerned that The Pool would evolve into a so-called
"aristocratic" network, in which student projects with the highest ratings
> would simply attract higher and higher ratings with time. But we found
that didn't happen. There seems to be a mechanism at play, unintended by
its creators, that keeps the most active projects from getting rated too
> It turns out there are many real-world networks that similarly resist
> "rich get richer" paradigm, whether woven from worm neurons, electrical
relays, or airline routes. Social networks aren't a panacea for
> education's ills, but when harnassed for creative ends they remind our
students that there are alternatives to the hierarchies of academia and
> You can read a meshed version of our presentation here:
> "When the Rich Don't Get Richer: Equalizing Tendencies of Creative
> http://still-water.net/writing/when_the_rich/
> --Jon "Death to PowerPoint" Ippolito
> ______________________________
> Still Water--what networks need to thrive.
> http://still-water.net/
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