Martin Weller does it again!

I’m older than Martin Weller. So his new book, 25 Years of Ed Tech, doesn’t seem to cover a long enough period to me (reminder: print is a technology). Nevertheless, it’s a full and enriching outline of the impact of the internet and associated technologies on education, so you’d better read it. Thanks to Martin and Athabasca University Press, the online version is free.

And it’s important, for as Martin reminds us, “Ed tech …  is not a peripheral interest in higher education but is increasingly framed as the manner in which the future of all higher education will be determined.”

This is not a ‘standard’ history book. Yes, it does follow a chronological sequence, but does so in an innovative way, by choosing an appropriate specific ed tech topic for each year, from ‘Bulletin Board Systems’ in 1994 through to ‘Ed Tech’s Dystopian Turn’ in 2018. This manner of structuring the book works well, and few of us would argue with Martin’s choices of topic for each year (perhaps with the exception of ‘Blockchain’ for 2017). And the topic of some chapters might better be termed an educational approach (e.g. ‘Constructivism’ and ‘Connectivism”) than an educational technology, but we’ll allow him that flexibility. So we are presented with a neat discussion of the ed tech innovations we’ve seen come (and sometimes go – ‘Learning Objects’?) for the past two and a half decades.

You can browse, of course, and one of the first I read was Chapter 5: 1998 – Wikis. It’s a nice outline of the emergence and potential of wikis, culminating in their ultimate achievement, Wikipedia. As we are rightly reminded,

Even now, when it is thoroughly embedded in our everyday lives, Wikipedia seems an unworkable idea. An online encyclopedia that anyone can edit should result in chaos. The disdain Wikipedia is held in by much of the traditional media is mainly because of the struggle to understand how such a process does not produce nonsense. It is the rigorous process of editing and focusing on verifiable know- ledge that is perhaps Wikipedia’s biggest contribution, not the actual technology it uses. For content to be retained in Wikipedia, it needs to meet three criteria: neutral point of view, verifiability, and no original research ( What Wikipedia brought to the fore is twofold: 1. The remarkable scaling and distribution of knowledge on many diverse topics across the global population; 2. The unpredictable and dazzling array of topics that couldbe generated by removing the very formal constraints on inclusion in an encyclopedia.

The amazing thing about Wikipedia is not that it sometimes contains errors, but how few of these errors exist within its 5.5 million articles (counting only those in English).

Each chapter is just a few pages (4-5), and not over-referenced. As 2012 was gleefully declared ‘the year of the MOOC’ (not by Martin) it has a chapter for that year, and you’ll find an insightful and balanced assessment, culminating in the conclusion that:

The raised profile of open education and online learning caused by MOOC may be beneficial in the long run, but the MOOC hype may be equally detrimental. The ed tech field needs to learn how to balance these developments. Millions of learners accessing high-quality material online is a positive, but the rush by colleges and universities to enter into prohibitive contracts, outsource expertise, and undermine their own staff has long-term consequences as well. These are all factors that are still playing out.

Whichever specific chapters you choose to read, don’t neglect the Introduction and Conclusions, especially the latter (‘Reclaiming Ed Tech), which is longer than each of the chapters. It would make great reading for a post-graduate class/group discussion.

Overall, another significant contribution from Martin Weller.

25 Years of Ed Tech

PS Martin has added this useful website to support the book in a number of ways:

The battle takes a new twist: mutiny

The rise and rise of the ‘openness’ movement in education is well documented, having gained momentum in the last few decades through open learning, open educational resources and other associated areas of endeavour. A particular hotbed of continual debate and conflict is the area of open publishing, well documented in Martin Weller’s The Battle For Open (2014). Continue reading

Weller on winning … sort of

Martin Weller makes me tired. He does so much, writes so well, is an encouraging and supporting professional colleague (even at a distance – I’ve never met him in person), and runs great distances (1008 miles in 2014). We knew he’d been writing a new book, as he’d been providing updates and ideas on his blog site, but it’s still exciting to see the finished product: The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like a victory. Continue reading

Recent ruminations on higher education … in the US

It started with Clay Shirky. Like many commentators from the US, he can at times come across as somewhat pompous (not just the province of the English!) or grandiose. There’s a tendency of such writers to make pronouncements as though they’re the first to have thought of it, or to take their arguments just a tad too far (or even much too far!). Continue reading

Not just MOOCs: catching up with links

MOOCs are the current hot topic. And you might not be just reading about them, you may also be trying them. If so, are you one of the small band of ‘completers’, or did you discontinue? If you did drop out, then you’re not alone, as attested by the interactive graph produced by Katy Jordan. But there’s a lot more than MOOCs going on at present, and one way I try to keep up is to peruse my links from time to time. Continue reading

A MOOC on open education: go on, enrol now!

It’s only just started, so don’t delay, enrol for the UK Open University MOOC on Open education. Yes, our old friend Martin Weller has been at it again, and this time it’s a version of the Masters unit H817, ‘Openness and innovation in elearning’ made available to all via the UKOU’s OpenLearn initiative. Continue reading

A nice little publication worth a squiz

Martin Weller is certainly a busy fella, isn’t he though? This time he’s a co-author of an excellent new publication from the UKOU, Innovating Pedagogy 2012. It’s apparently the first of a regular series, and seems a great idea: a short (38 pp.) report “Exploring new forms of teaching, learning and assessment, to guide educators and policy makers”. Continue reading