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Adios Ed Tech. Hola something else.

I’ve been involved in educational technology since the late 1990′s when I was at Red River College and involved in deploying the first laptop program in Canada. Since that time, I’ve been involved in many technology deployments in learning and in researching those deployments. Some have been systems-level – like a learning management system. Others have been more decentralized and unstructured – like blogs, wikis, and social media.

But there is something different in the ed tech space today than what I have experienced in the past. Most of my career has involved using technology to help people get better access to learning resources and materials, to better connect with each other, to better access formal education, and to improve their teaching practices and pedagogies. I’ve been fortunate to journey with talented folks: Grainne Conole, Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier, Martin Weller, Dragan Gasevic, Shane Dawson, Carolyn Rose, David Wiley, Ryan Baker, and many many others. At some level we all shared a goal that fairness, justice, and equity underpin the role of education in society and that by enabling access to learning and improving the the quality of learning, we were helping to improve the lives of learners and of society more broadly. Sometimes this meant helping people to develop digital skills to find new jobs or transition into new roles. Sometimes it meant connecting people eager to collaborate with others from around the world. Sometimes it was about righting a wrong or injustice. Regardless of whether the goal was finding a job or developing new mindsets, my focus was always on the learner, on the human.

Emerging technology today departs from my previous vision of improving the human condition. Through AI/Machine Learning, we are constantly hearing that technology is becoming more human and becoming more capable of judgements that we once thought were our domain. In education though, the opposite is happening: educational technology is not becoming more human; it is making the human a technology. Instead of improving teaching and learning, today’s technology re-writes teaching and learning to function according to a very narrow spectrum of single, de-contextualized skills.

Two articles this past week crystallized my thinking. First, Sebastian Thrun, in an Economist article, states: “BECAUSE of the increased efficiency of machines, it is getting harder and harder for a human to make a productive contribution to society”. If that is true, why is his startup trying to teach humans? Why not drop the human teaching thing altogether and just develop algorithms for making the stated productive contribution to society? He also details nanodegrees which are essentially what we in academia have to date called “certificates”. Perhaps we can call them nano-robo-certificates. Making up words is fun when media attention is petitioned. Most discouraging about this is that I’ve met Sebastian and he is a friendly, caring, deeply motivated person. The Thrun-of-media doesn’t align with the thoughtful Thrun-in-person.

The second article focused on Knewton. Jose Fereirra states “this robot tutor can essentially read your mind”. I’ve met Jose on numerous occasions. He’s bright, charismatic, and appears to genuinely care about improving learning. His rhetoric doesn’t align with the real challenges of education where cognitive capability alone is a small factor in learner success. Robot tutors will not make personalized learning easy. Learning is contextual, social, and involves whole person dynamics. In the past, I’ve stated that Knewton is the only edtech company with Google like potential. That is likely still the case, but I’m no longer convinced that this is a good thing.

Both Udacity and Knewton require the human, the learner, to become a technology, to become a component within their well-architected software system. Sit and click. Sit and click. So much of learning involves decision making, developing meta-cognitive skills, exploring, finding passion, taking peripheral paths. Automation treats the person as an object to which things are done. There is no reason to think, no reason to go through the valuable confusion process of learning, no need to be a human. Simply consume. Simply consume. Click and be knowledgeable.

My framework for technologies in the edtech space now, those that I find empowering for learners and reflective of a human and creative-oriented future, includes five elements:

  1. Does the technology foster creativity and personal expression?
  2. Does the technology develop the learner and contribute to her formation as a person?
  3. Is the technology fun and engaging?
  4. Does the technology have the human teacher and/or peer learners at the centre?
  5. Does the technology consider the whole learner?

I go through five year cycles. My early interest was in blogs and wikis in learning. Then my attention turned to connectivism and networked learning. Then to MOOCs. And then to learning analytics. These have all been terrific experiences and I’m proud to have been able to work with leading researchers and exceptional students. But it’s time for change. A curious disconnect has been emerging in my thinking, one that has been made clear with the hype-oriented buzzwords of today’s ed tech companies. I no longer want to be affiliated with the tool-fetish of edtech. It’s time to say adios to technosolutionism that recreates people as agents within a programmed infrastructure.

Over the last several years, my grants and research interests have turned to something…else. I’m not sure what the unifying thread is a this stage. Partly it’s a focus on the whole person. On empowered states of learning. On mindfulness, complexity, integrative learning, contemplative practices, formative learning, creativity, making. The dLRN grant focuses on connecting researchers with state systems to improve learning opportunities for under represented learners. (btw, you really should join us at our conference at Stanford in October). Our grant with Smart Sparrow focuses on multiple dimensions of learning success where the teacher remains central in the learning experience. Our project with Intel involves several post docs exploring how personalization can be improved in the learning process by developing a graph model of the learner that considers contextual, cognitive, social, and metacognitive factors. Two of our NSF grants are focused on language and discourse analysis and using big data to explore roles that learners adopt in variously configured knowledge spaces (Wikipedia, Stack Overflow, and MOOCs). Our MRI grant produced a report on digital learning – an evaluation of how technologies foster learning, rather than foster routine clicking. These are promising narratives to the de-humanizing edtech narratives. Others, such as Lumen Learning, Domain of One’s Own, and Candace Thille’s research on adaptive learning are similarly advancing humanizing technologies.

These transitions in research are part of a broader agenda that will help, at least in LINK lab, to create tools, technologies, and pedagogies that enable creation, personal formation, engagement, fun, and joy. I’m still fleshing out exactly what this will look like over the next several years. Obviously technology will be central in this process, but it will be one where mindful and appropriate learning practices are promoted. Where technology humanizes rather than reduces people to algorithmic and mechanical practices. Whatever this research agenda becomes, I’m more excited for the future of technology enabled learning than I have been in many years.

38 Comments

  1. Andrea Lyman wrote:

    George, How refreshing to read! Thank you. As a teacher of 11 years and a mother I care deeply about education presently and the future of education for our children. So concerned about the focus on testing and the way some educational professionals look at students as mere data, I created a learning platform to establish and preserve an authentic, and meaningful approach to learning. We can use technology to help facilitate our delivery of instruction. We use contemporary music, video clips, artwork and other forms of media to “hook” students’ attention and actively engage them in creative and critical thinking activities(student centered, old fashioned writing and discussion). Technology is a great tool, however, the power and potential of the human brain is far superior as it is connected to our hearts and souls… it is that connection that makes humans so AMAZING!
    Please check out our work! We would love your feedback!

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 10:06 pm | Permalink
  2. Tutaleni I. Asino wrote:

    I don’t remember the last time I read something that move me to leave a comment. It’s the “hola something else” that I’ve been interested in for a while and not the shinny new objects that distracts us from seeing each other. I think We’ve dehumanized education at all levels and I’m happy to see take part in a conversation that refocuses.

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
  3. Jay Cross wrote:

    George, I share your uneasiness and have begun to focus on humanistic learning (even though nobody is going to fund me ever. I think STEM is short-sigthed.)

    We’ve been jousting similar windmills since you spoke at eLearning Forum in 2000 (innovation. A remote participant!). Red River College. Lots of water over the dam since.

    My last trip to the Stanford campus bummed me out. http://www.internettime.com/2015/05/future-of-education-2020-summit/

    Thought leaders not thinking…

    So I’m taking a new tack, too. Trying to empower people to learn on their own without top-down BS, the Gates Foundation, the NSF, analytics groups, MOOCs, or other props.

    JFDI. Experience is the best teacher. Institutions always want to control it.

    You know I live in Berkeley although our meetings have been in Delhi, Barcelona, and Berln. My philosophy in a nutshell: Power to the people.

    http://bit.ly/1MPKRZ4

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 11:42 pm | Permalink
  4. Robin Good wrote:

    Hi George, wish you all the best for the new focus cycle and I am totally in alignment with your considerations about the need for a more active human role in the learning process vs. a technology-driven one.

    Look forward to it.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 12:57 am | Permalink
  5. Steven wrote:

    Hi George, great stuff.
    “Where technology humanizes rather than reduces people to algorithmic and mechanical practices.” -> this is going to be an interesting point in time indeed.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 3:30 am | Permalink
  6. Thank you for this Mr Siemens , it would have been a wonderful talk to have given at ALTc this year. It looks like when you posted it I was keynoting with a talk asking us to seize a chance to be a strong voice in what [ed]technology comes to mean rather than rushing to keep up with what tech does. The reception could not have been warmer and I’m sure that the sentiments you share here are shared by many in the learning tech community.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 6:23 am | Permalink
  7. Barbara Thimm wrote:

    A very though-provoking article. I whole-heartedly agree with the demand to include the whole person in the learning process: learning has the potential to fundamentally transform the learner, beyond the mere conveyance of what we used to call “information.”

    The current anxieties seem to me akin to anxieties (and real concerns) about the introduction of machines and the rise of factories. The industrial revolution witnessed the collaboration of man and machine, but man was at first diminished to a mere “cog” serving the machines. Nowadays we think of machines as freeing man (or woman, always) from hard labor, thus enabling him to do “higher order” work, be more productive & more cerebral.

    I believe that mindwork and learning will go through a similar cycle (in some respects). This is just the beginning and the nature (egalitarian?), priorities (consumption? knowledge? wisdom?) and concerns of the society we live in will determine where it is going.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 7:19 am | Permalink
  8. Tom Reeves wrote:

    Thank you, George, for sharing these thoughts and plans. As you know, I have long lamented the focus on things rather than problems in educational technology research, a topic I’ll be addressing once again at this year’s E-Learn 2015 conference in Hawaii with my talk titled: “”Here’s the Thing” or “Here’s the Problem”? A Reexamination of the Focus of E-Learning Research.” Given that the contents of so many of our research journals continue to be full of “thing oriented” research papers rather than reports of socially responsible research studies that clearly address serious human problems (e.g., why so many children enter kindergarten with unbridled curiosity and creativity, but lose much of these characteristics after a few years of schooling), I feel sometimes like I am just whistling in the wind. I must admit that when I first saw the headline of your post, I thought you were going to go off and become a carpenter or an artist. I was relieved to read that you’ll continue to work with your colleagues at UTA and elsewhere toward solving the enormous challenges we face. I hope I can help as well.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 7:19 am | Permalink
  9. May I suggest we have another look at “Twenty things to do with a computer” (Papert and Solomon, 1971 ftp://publications.ai.mit.edu/ai-publications/pdf/AIM-248.pdf ).
    Have a look at the “this is our moment” keynote of Gary Stager in Vienna at Constructionism 2014 (http://inventtolearn.com/moment/ )
    And then listen to Mitch Resnick who’s explaining “Why Scratch?” at last Augusts Amsterdam conference (scratch2015ams.org/live )

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  10. Hey George…just want to say once again thanks for being one of my best teachers over the last dozen years or so. (Has it been that long???)

    For me, the “hola, something else” has been a circling back to learning, to what it is, to what makes it happen, to what makes it powerful. What’s old about learning is what’s new. We’ve lost that emphasis in what have become teacher centric schools with teacher centric tools. Current ed tech thinking, as you point out, will do little to help my kids “learn a living” as they grow older. Who wants a robot tutor that forces you to learn stuff that you don’t care to learn because it’s in some standardized curriculum created for 19th Century realities? Sigh.

    Looking forward to what you teach me next, and hope we connect again soon.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 8:42 am | Permalink
  11. Moodle was always there https://docs.moodle.org/29/en/Pedagogy

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink
  12. Stacey Clawson wrote:

    George, what an important call to action you’ve offered us. I too have worked in digital learning since the early 1990s And you articulated the inherent concerns that have crept into my mind in the last 3-5 years–and I’ll admit at times even in my own work. But rather than abandon our early goals, we need to come together to create a stronger voice for tech enabled whole person learning. I struggle with how. I’ll try harder.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  13. ZHIJIA MOU wrote:

    Dear Dr. George, thank you for sharing your idea about edutech. As you said educational technology is not becoming more human, it is making the human a technology. Sometimes we are restricted by the current technology function when we conduct instruction with technology.We should have concentrated on leading students to succeed using appropriate technology instead of focusing on tech itself.
    Nowadays, one of the research orientation in edutach space seems to focus on the whole person that you mentioned in your blog. Various research practices are proving it, for instance, we use eye tracking system to know about learner’s attentation and preference; we use brain waves to analyze learner’s mental activity.we use discourse text to analyze learner’s attitude and thinking. we regard persons as a moving point for the purpose of analyzing his behavior and probability event. All these practices display that we are trying to understand the whole person using differnet tech. And only when we gather all the information collected from various aspects of learners, can we provide the right personalized service for the learners. In this regard, we still have a long way to go.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 10:43 am | Permalink
  14. Bernard BUll wrote:

    George,

    Much of what you write here, an attention to the human side of things, is what led me into the field of educational technology over twenty years ago. Before I read a single journal article on edtech, I’d worked through a dozen or more media ecology texts, with tutors like Postman, Mumford, Ellul, Ong, McLuhan, Innis, Boorstin, and Benjamin being my tutors. Then I discovered Sherry Turkle’s work. From there it was the discovery of Friere and Illich. My first presentation at an edtech conference was on the social, psychological and moral implications of technology in education, with a line of software vendors grimacing (arms crossed) along the back of the room. Along the way, I also discovered many of opportunities for life and learning in a connected and digital landscape, which leads me to persist in scholarship that starts with a fundamental assumption. Every approach to teaching and learning brings with it affordances and limitations, some that we can recognize or predict, others that we only discover after the fact (if ever). Regardless, examining such factors becomes an important part of pursuing work in education that amplifies some of my most deeply held convictions about education, teaching and learning that honors the unique gifts, talents, abilities, experiences, passions and callings of each person. I wish you the best on this new direction in your work.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  15. Halleluiah. I’m so glad to see the gathering voices around this idea. Audrey Watters has been pounding away on this and I’ve been adding my own small voice. Last school year I realized that blogs and wikis and some of our other decade+ old tools are still some of the best ones we have. They support student voice, connection, customization and deep thinking. I used to feel bad that I wasn’t “keeping up” and trading in some of my old tools for new ones – no longer. I’m not interested in tools that are meant to mainly make sure that teachers and administrators are micro managing their tracking of standards. I’m interested in helping kids to learn.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  16. Alec Couros wrote:

    I feel somewhat like Clarence in that I’ve stuck to some of the most humanizing types of tech and practice over the past few years as I’ve largely ignored some of the trends that you make reference to. I attribute much of this to my close connection to the Faculty of Ed where I work and our strong mandate for social justice, indigenous ways of knowing, and similar humanistic threads. This has allowed me to continually question and challenge the corporatizing and and dehumanizing trends impossible to avoid in the “field” of edtech. Edtech has lost its former ethos, one that made me fall in love with the area in the first place. Perhaps, we will someday be able to reclaim what was lost, but it certainly begins with posts such as this.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  17. Kim Flintoff wrote:

    I began my teaching career in Arts Edcucation, specifically drama, and have never abandoned the desire to focus on the human face of teaching and learning regardless of how deeply connected with technology my teaching practices become.

    I tend to agree with some of the assumptions about edtech – when it is narrow focus and dricen by economic imperativesit does tend to prioritise the mundane and measurable over the richeness of human experience.

    I don’t believe that has to be the case and my recent discussions with our team here at work are very much focussed on role-base, authentic, rich and complex learnign designs that facilitate not only the “knowledge of” but the beingness of skills, information and beliefs.
    I wrote in 2002 -

    “We may well be able to engage with “computer representations” in place of bodies but surely our bodies are still where they have always been and our experience, knowledge and emotion stems from and returns to the physical body regardless of what negotiated environment our interactions occur within. In computer-mediated interactions we are still engaged with each other – whether we be real or highly sophisticated software systems seems to me to be irrelevant. I ask, does it matter – does virtuality change the essential quality of my experience – I can have connections to books, pets, stuffed toys and develop strong emotional responses to the presence or absence of any of them – why is it somehow “inferior” to acknowledge that I can have REAL responses to situations and events that occur via CMC (computer-mediated communication).

    I am fascinated by these issues and believe our students have every right to engage with them – and what better forum than a Drama class, where the very fabric of our subject is human embodiment.

    For the time being our bodies are in place, but the work of such people as Ray Kurzweil (The Age of Spiritual Machines) and Australian artist, Stelarc certainly challenge the importance of the “soft body”, claiming it may well be redundant. This concerns me as well, but my interest lies more with he ability of Drama to “humanise” the existing and emerging interfaces. What can we do as Drama teachers to ensure that the inevitable use of technology offers opportunities for our students to enhance “the physical, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, social, moral and spiritual dimensions of human experience”?”

    https://www.academia.edu/240187/Drama_and_Technology_the_pursuit_of_uncertain_benefits

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 7:57 pm | Permalink
  18. Hi George,

    I’ve never commented on your blog before. I’m pretty new to your work and this community though I have been around this field for a minute now. I loved what you wrote here and I’m excited that you are motivated to take on this work as a new cycle in your thinking – I think it will do good things for the world.

    But it’s hard for me to say goodbye sometimes.

    I don’t like the idea of letting ed tech go because some have taken it to a dark place. Who are they to dictate the meaning of this field? Who are they to define the underlying foundations and frameworks with oppressive interfaces and algorithms?

    Educational technology as I see it (or perhaps romanticize it) is an intersection; an in-between place that merges these two in balance of one another to form a relationship between them. I realize this is my ideal and I recognize that is not where many are at right now. But is it really time to walk away?

    Is there any hope or merit in appropriation; clearing what was muddied and taking back what what was misunderstood to provide a path that supports a symbiotic rather than parasitic relationship between these two?

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 9:36 pm | Permalink
  19. The web is lost. Academia is ripe with quitivism. And now George is adios-ing ed tech?

    “This negativism will not stand, man”

    I get it, but I am also not quite clear all that is getting lumped in under the umbrella or tossed under the bus of “Ed Tech” along with Udacity and Knewton.

    I must be doing it wrong, because I find on a daily basis, as much, or more excitement for this stuff than I did X years ago.

    FWIW, when I add up those 5 elements I get 106 ;-)

    **** Ed Tech, let’s go bowling.

    Friday, September 11, 2015 at 1:38 am | Permalink
  20. Eric Gulbis wrote:

    Hi. Thanks for the thoughtful and student-oriented essay. I agree fully that students should experience an education which prompts (requires!) “decision making, developing meta-cognitive skills, exploring, finding passion, taking peripheral paths.” However, I think it is a fundamental misunderstanding that ed tech products attempt to accomplish all of those things. Anyone using Knewton or whatever else with their students or children should hardly expect that they can plop the kids down in front of the system and that it will work with them on cognitive, meta-cognitive, emotional and physical levels. Computer learning tools are not intended to do all that. An adult needs to play a role, as is the case if there is no technological element to the learning experience. Ed Tech tools need to be used in creative and productive ways by an adult on behalf of children, just like a textbook: the teacher needs to employ it in appropriate ways, not expect it to do everything. Your ambition to push things forward is terrific, and there unquestionably is potential to develop more comprehensive technologies, but at the moment it is unrealistic to expect an e-learning tool to address the whole spectrum of a good learning experience. Teachers are still needed, and will still be needed in the future.

    Friday, September 11, 2015 at 1:58 am | Permalink
  21. Frances Bell wrote:

    Thanks for your article George – it and the comments have given me more food for thought about something I have been thinking about for the last couple of years. We need to look simultaneously at a much broader context to understand what’s happening and also to dig below the surface to find out about the range of teacher and learner experiences inside and outside of formal education. The actions of teachers and learners are important to those learning experiences but they are often working within broader assemblages with much more complex foci than education and learning. Using Facebook as an example, some research that I am currently writing up with others suggests that the Facebook stream algorithm (not surprisingly)is optimsied for things other than learning and inclusion. And then we see https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101450121376931 and I wonder where that’s going. It’s great that people like Rob Kitchin and Frank Pasquale are looking at algorithms, and Laura Czerniecwyz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEglB5b_msk and Paul Prinsloo are looking at inclusion and inequality more broadly. For me a start would be teachers and learners who are broadly knowledgeable about emerging media and technologies, and (my hobby horse) citizens who are willing and able to challenge Facebook et al and see themselves as agents of change who can help shape these ‘utility’ assemblages. This will need quite a networked and communal effort:-)

    Friday, September 11, 2015 at 4:50 am | Permalink
  22. Bernard BUll wrote:

    While there are many working definitions in the field, I advocate for one that is quite broad. “Technology” is simply applied scientific (or systematic) knowledge.” Educational technology, is simply applied scientific (or systematic) knowledge with regard to education. We work on project-based learning, self-directed learning environments, the design of service learning experiences, inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, learning through mentoring and apprenticeship and so much more. That is the field of Edtech to which I belong. Any skilled instructional designer, for example, knows that you don’t start and finish with a technology. It begins and ends with learners and learning. As such, one need say goodbye to educational technology. In fact, if you are going to explore new themes like mindfulness, George, I suspect that you will soon find yourself immersed in the world of design, technique, and applied systematic knowledge focused upon education. You will also find yourself surrounded by many people in educational technology who have been there waiting for you for decades :-) .

    Friday, September 11, 2015 at 6:59 am | Permalink
  23. Hannu Jaakkola wrote:

    Thanks for the essay! You made me think about edtech in a more refined way. I think that focusing on the intrinsic value of the learning process will be key to finding a way forward.

    For the last several years, there has been a concerted effort in Finnish Universities to promote “Study Ability” or “Opiskelukyky”. The main point of the concept is to look at learning as something happening in a wider context, by integrating personal resources, study skills, teaching and the study environment into a holistic approach.

    If you want to check out some material from the Kyky Project, you can find them here.

    http://www.opiskelukyky.fi/english/

    Friday, September 11, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  24. Dear George
    I have been reading your posts for many years and they have been, perhaps a little unmindfully, guiding my own progress through the edtech landscape. Here, in this article, I find myself mindful that I reached a similar place. Any edtech for learning is meaningless without meaningful pedagogy surrounding it. I have always only been interested in accessible technologies that anyone, regardless of income in particular, can use. This has often made visits to learning technology events an infuriating experience. Nevertheless looking forward to #dlrn15.

    Friday, September 11, 2015 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  25. I simply don’t agree – full disclosure, I’m an employee at Udacity (Program Manager for Web Content). Our product has become increasingly LESS about technology/automation and we’ve continued to iterate, learn, and improve our product. Over the past year, the most significant advances in our product (and the most successful in terms of student outcomes) has been in increasing the human component.

    I believe the feedback within this article is based upon the product Udacity was 2+ years ago. Sebastian has clearly admitted that was a shitty product (refer to any article related to our SJSU partnership). Since then we have learned, iterated on the product itself and we’ve found a niche – a product – that has been extremely successful.

    The Nanodegree product (and I’m not discussing the certification – we all know a piece of paper is not the point) guides the student through a series of portfolio projects that are a representative sample of what employers are seeking in the marketplace today – defined by the employers themselves. No one gets a job based on a piece of paper, they get the job based on proving they have the skillset for the position – and our Nanodegree programs are specifically designed to provide that. The course themselves (which we provide free to the world) are ancillary – if you need to “skill up”, they are there to help you within that effort.

    To address your five elements:

    1) Each project has a rubric containing three categories (Does Not Meet Expectations, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations). In ALL cases the “Meets Expectations” category is directly related to the fundamental skills that project is addressing; furthermore, the “Exceeds Expectations” category directly correlates to instances in which a student personalizes the project, takes it above and beyond the minimum standards and truly makes it their own.

    2) The entire purpose of the Nanodegree program is to contribute to the learner and their formation as a person. Our primary demographic are those individuals making a career switch and the program has been very successful in that department. Not only do we provide the technical education/portfolio to support their desires for a career shift but we have extensive career development services including mock interviews, resume/LinkedIn/GitHub reviews. We’ve directly hired a number of our graduates, industry leaders like Google have hired our graduates, and we’ve partnered with numerous companies that have met great success in placing our graduates. For students not interested in the Nanodegree program, we offer all of the same courses as well as the Nanodegree project description, for free – for self-directed personal growth and learning.

    3) Fun and engaging is, obviously, a difficult and subjective metric. But we spend A LOT of time considering this during our course development process. We do our best to create compelling and meaningful interactions within the course that reinforce the learning. For projects, we spend a lot of time making sure they are compelling, representative of the skills desired, and worthy of being highlighted within a personal portfolio. We’re increasingly encouraging the student to “dive into” documentation and experiment – to discover and learn things on their own. Of course, we could do a better job in this department and we’re always iterating – as I’m sure everyone else that is passionate about education is as well.

    4) Students First is our motto – it’s painted on our wall. It’s the tenant we live by. The teachers, additional mentoring staff and peers are abundantly at the center of the experience. Teachers and mentoring staff directly engage with the students via our forums, one-on-one appointments and vastly attended, regularly scheduled office hours. Each student is placed within a team of their peers that are working on the same projects as they are, so they can support one another in real-time chat and participate in weekly feedback sessions. Each team is assigned a guide (a graduate of the program) that assists in moderating these discussions and helps the students within their team. Student projects are evaluated by the network of professional developers – not only against a functional rubric (does the program do what is expected) but as well as a line-by-line code review and 90%+ of these evaluations are returned within 24 hours. The same is done for resumes, LinkedIn, GitHub, mock interviews. We have an active alumni community that collaborates on open source projects, provides referrals for one another, provides code reviews on personal projects and – generally – is just there to be a friend. The community and network of peers a Nanodegree student develops during the program is one of the most compelling and rewarding results.

    5) The whole learner. There are many interpretations as to what this defines but I’ll lean on my military background in which the “whole person concept” was one of the ways in which we were evaluated. Our job at Udacity is to help people meet their goals. If you want to learn something new in your spare time, everything we do is freely available and we encourage you to take advantage of that. If you’re trying to teach others, everything we do is freely available for you to use in that effort. If you’re looking for a career shift, if you feel you need to develop your skills towards a certain job description, if you’re looking for direct actionable-feedback (both functionally and at the code review level), if you desire a community of your peers working towards a common goal, if you desire a compelling portfolio that proves your skillset to the marketplace, and if you would like to develop your “soft skills” and market presence within the job hunt – our Nanodegree program provides that at a very reasonable price (and we’re starting to explore/develop regional pricing for markets in which $200USD is not feasible).

    Overall (wow – this response got super long), I respect your opinion/feedback but I believe it’s based upon a misconceived notion as to what Udacity is today and the path we’re headed in the future. We’re certainly not perfect, no educational institution is; but we’re honestly approaching this problem in the most humblest of manners. Our only concern is for the students – we consistently ask ourselves, “What is Students First?” Our only goal is to help students achieve their dreams and we’ll do everything we can to make that happen.

    Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 3:31 am | Permalink
  26. This was an interesting article.

    The five step process to the implementation of edtech is great, I think it should be visually enhanced into a great infographic which the edtech community could share.

    Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  27. Rosa Ojeda wrote:

    ¡Hola! A very good calling, George! Although already retired, I keep following you. I think you are saying hello to the original EdTech, instead of saying goodbye. It was always “Educational” before people from Information Technology took over the field (including, you… Lol). I’m really glad to see that many renouned researchers agree with your thoughts. Hope many more make this shift, too.

    Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 11:37 am | Permalink
  28. Jaiza Fernandes wrote:

    Siemens
    thank you for sharing your reflections that are so expensive and relevant, while public school teachers in northeastern Brazil. Mr. presents us with renewed ideas in accordance with the complex and connective contexts in which teachers and students live and live today. Certainly, it is important these teachers and students to distance themselves from the idea of ​​technology as technique and to approach a thought to consider the new sociability. I admire his ideas and I am happy for their renovation projects and research around educational practices with information technologies that consider all aspects of the student, including significant aspects to education and a more autonomous learning with expressiveness and creativity. His texts contribute to a better understanding of my teaching activities and makes me new perspectives, focusing on teaching with information and communication technologies, aimed at questioning and authorship. Happy birthday! Much success in their new projects.

    Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  29. Hi George – many thanks for this thoughtful post. I know you were looped in to some of the discussions at ALTC last week where many of these ideas were in the foreground. Like you and many of those commenting here, I’m deeply motivated by a commitment to justice and equity. I believe these values connect many of us in education — rhetoric of education ‘products’ and ‘efficiencies’ to the contrary. I admire the impetus behind your 5 questions, but I’d like to challenge them also. As expressed above, each of the questions puts technology at the centre — as the subject of the question, the actor. I think your point could be expressed more powerfully by changing that focus, e.g.
    1. How can I foster learners’ creativity and personal expression?
    2. How can I help to develop the learner and contribute to her formation as a person?
    3. Are these learning practices fun and engaging?
    4. Are peer learners at the centre?
    5. Does the learning experience consider the whole learner?
    I think your questions become much more open to possibility by removing technology from the centre, considering instead how technology might support these broader intentions.

    I look forward to learning alongside you as our respective work/research/learning progresses. And I look forward to meeting you at dlRN15 next month :)

    (I linked to this post in my own blog post about ALTC: https://catherinecronin.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/altc2015/)

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  30. Mark Curcher wrote:

    Hello George
    A thought provoking post that seems to have captured the feelings of quite a few people judging by the comments here, myself included. Also interesting to read and reflect on Jon Drons response as well.

    I will say that you do seem to have captured and expressed (much better than I ever could) some of my own feelings that have been growing over the last year or so. I think the there are many reasons, including the writing of people like Audrey Watters and others, my personal context of moving from the Middle East to Finland and working in the education system here and even watching documentaries like Citizenfour and Internet’s own boy.

    So I think it interesting that many are claiming to feel and think the same, despite different personal journeys (often told in the comments above) many are arriving at the same destination.
    Best
    Mark

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 3:15 pm | Permalink
  31. Mauricio Portillo wrote:

    Hi George

    It is the first time I visit your blog. And I am convinced that your change reflects your desire for more inclusive education. I think the sources of conectivo Are good, what is necessaryIt is the first time I visit your blog. And I am convinced that the change reflects their desire for a fairer education are authentic. His thought of good sources, which is necessary to improve its application. seek inspiration from Paulo Freire. to improve is the application. seek for inspiration in Paulo Freire. regards from Costa Rica

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 5:31 pm | Permalink
  32. Ed Murray wrote:

    I’ve taken a year off to contemplate my navel an rediscover my mojo. My last two jobs created serious health problems, Cushing’s syndrome and LADA. I needed the time to manage the diabetes and those jobs left me with PTSD and social phobias.

    That little confession is my back story. I had those difficulties because I am a hybrid psychologist and technologist and I’m made for this work. I evaluate everything I encounter in the context of its use to my work.

    And I never get to work with anybody like that. I get to work with people who, doing the same job, won’t speak to me or tell me I’m wrong because nobody agrees with me or I’m unpopular because I’m weird.

    I get by because I have the comfort of knowing I’m weird like George here, Stephen Downes, Grainne Conole, Martin Weller (who I suspect would have been a little less dismissive if I had also been an academic when we met). But I’m being pushed out of this field by blow-ins from web development and teaching who diminish the marvellous potential of Ed Tech to suit their stunted skills.

    I met several of my old teachers last week at my sister’s funereal. She, too, had been a teacher – dying if ovarian cancer at 50. So, many teachers there. And none of them had a clue as to who I was. Believe me, that disinterest is mutual.

    With Ed Tech, I want a new world, not the same ol’ world with its face cleaned by a teacher’s spittle and handkerchief.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 4:06 am | Permalink
  33. Nick Jackson wrote:

    Interesting read George. Following your work always seems to be a journey of discovery for me and questions of where my thinking, my passions fit in. For the first time, however, I find myself sitting slightly smug.

    I discovered a while ago, that my passion lie in positioning students at the forefront of educational development. From grass roots Student Digital Leader schemes in schools where students are simply provided with positions of responsibility in relation to technology right through to policy decision making, the crux of advancing education is empowerment. I am at the early stages of PhD research in this field and obviously nowhere near your depth of experience or research prowess. Yet, I believe that this ‘humanizing’ (to steal your phrase) of the issue of tech integration in education has so far been largely overlooked. Likewise, it is not just in the issue of tech integration, tech development and wider school development (see Heppell’s work) highlight the power of student agency.

    To my mind, much of the education community has to wake up to the huge benefits in moving from teaching/developing TO, to teaching/developing WITH, to being taught/shown the way forward BY students. Students have changed. We have change the way we approach advancing technology enhanced education

    Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
  34. Thank you for expressing what the Problem is. It is almost like a manifesto. As such let me sign it.

    Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 10:43 am | Permalink
  35. This comment was originally posted on the EdSurge blog, with not much traffic. So here it is again, hoping for further discussion.

    Mr. Siemens: Do I dare to quote McLuhan? “Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man — the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media.

    Whether the extension of consciousness … will be “a good thing” is a question that admits of a wide solution. There is little possibility of answering such questions about the extensions of man without considering all of them together. Any extension, whether of skin, hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex.”

    McLuhan is a philosopher, not a scientist, so this quote does not validate anything I’m about to say. But it at least sets up an epistemological position to which I subscribe in this topic: The human being is the center from which technologies extend outward, and that technologies are ALWAYS a creation of human imagination. This is a one-way pipe, in other words.

    From this perspective, a pencil is as much of a technology as a Knewton-based instructional situation.

    That one *acts* more “biological” than the other is irrelevant. A technology is still, at best, an extension of a facet of biology that someone has determined needs to be amplified or accelerated. But that is all it does, and only within the domain of its affordances.

    “Both Udacity and Knewton require the human, the learner, to become a technology, to become a component within their well-architected software system.”

    Thus rephrased, “Both Udacity and Knewton require the human, the learner, to align [extend] her or himself in to the ecology of a prescribed learning environment.” In this rephrasing, the human still has transactional distance from the technology.

    Robot tutors will serve a practical purpose in serving the need for information and instruction where the patterns of learning are certain enough that they can be predicted. When you call your insurance company with a question about a claim, you will encounter a set of choices that match the most common pattern information seekers tend to follow. This does not turn you (the caller) into a technology. But if you want satisfaction, you will have to align yourself to the technology (or just keep pressing “0″ over and over again!).

    These systems will work very well for narrowly defined problem spaces. But they don’t turn humans into a technology in so much as we are frequently patrons of them.

    And this is where I part ways with the conventions of developer-based learning.

    In the EdTech space, the one operating principle for learning that I have NOT seen is something where the programming of an information system has been based on User-based Design. UbD leverages Dr. Brenda Dervin’s decades of research culminating in her Sense-making Methodology.

    In essence, it flips the developmental principle of an information system around from developer-based criteria for information seeking to user-based criteria, based on the emergent patterns of information seekers within a specific problem space. It is based on “cognitive movement” toward a goal, with knowledge gaps bridged through the intervention of various types of help from those who have previously experienced the process (successfully or not).

    A UbD driven learning system is based more closely to the metaphor of conversation (sense-making and sense-giving) than the current model of a developer-driven prescription for learning. Knewton might try to make this claim since it is adaptive. But unless it can account for the infinite realities that learners bring to the instructional challenge, it will continue to introduce friction into the interplay between learner needs and how they seek information to satisfy them.

    A UbD learning system would require constant changes to reflect the introduction of infinite realities of the problem space. Developer-based systems cannot achieve this.

    Until a learning system is based on user-based criteria, no prescribed learning system will achieve anything close to “humanizing”.

    More here: http://idmodule.com/a-proposal-for-a-user-based-learning-analytics-data-collection-system/

    Friday, September 18, 2015 at 8:22 am | Permalink
  36. Maha Bali wrote:

    Hey George, I did a strange thing with this post – i read the comments first (like i sometimes read book reviews) and this biased me. I have two main issues (maybe 3) with this post:
    A. While the disturbing trends you mention are indeed (unsurprisingly) disturbing, I don’t think they are new and I don’t know why they should turn us off ed tech since you also know (more than anyone) that there is a critical bunch of us out there who care about humanity and social justice – you even mention some projects that makw you optimistic so… I can imagine you going through some paradigm shift or something but I don’t think this blogpost has explained it to me well? Or am I missing some context? (this happens sometimes). For people like me, the powerful potential of ed tech when done in thoughtful human-centered ways can be so empowering and the negative trends don’t erase that at all.

    B. I don’t honestly understand how something like learning analytics either promotes social justice or humanity (i hate humanization Coz it sounds automated).

    C. I think you already do some good work on social justice and I look forward to whatever direction you take next. And I look forward to virtually participating in #dlrn and doing virtually connecting there

    Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 7:11 am | Permalink
  37. Jasleen Kaur wrote:

    Hi George, wish you all the best for the new focus cycle and I am totally in alignment with your considerations about the need for a more active human role in the learning process vs. a technology-driven one.

    Thank you

    Have a nice day ahead!

    Monday, September 28, 2015 at 1:18 am | Permalink
  38. TMcDonald wrote:

    I’m curious as to what other ways we could reach so many individuals and make education accessible to them thus improving not only their life but that of the local, national, and international economies. This is accomplished through educating the individual equipping empowering them to become more productive citizens. The large classes and traditional college campuses has also been described as cold and uncaring. @Tutaleni I respectfully disagree with your comment about education being dehumanized at all levels. Distance-learning, E-learning, and MOCCs have contributed to changing the face of education in that it is no longer exclusively face-to-face. The above-mentioned types of education have elicited a deeper level of effort in communication in order to stay connected, and to be clear. Additionally, these forms of education have enabled the globalization of education created greater access.

    Saturday, October 3, 2015 at 7:42 pm | Permalink