Making a difference

I’ve spent a lot of time committing a lot of stuff to paper – digital or otherwise – and a similarly large chunk of my life waffling on to whoever’s in the vicinity.

I must’ve talked to everyone from taxi drivers to state politicians about how education is being ruined by technology – how the transmissive, stifling, market-driven pedagogies of the Blackboard and WebCTs of the world are taking us back twenty or more years in terms of what we actually know about teaching and learning.

CC Jenkin

Shit, it’s been said not just by me but at every conference in every corner of the world in which I inhabit that we’re in trouble, that learning isn’t about content management and quizzes and that these social technologies, web2 if you like, are going to save us.

And I agree, these technologies have to potential to be absolutely transformative: By incorporating subversion into the design of our educational technology, by focusing our efforts not on thr ‘class’ but on the individuals who make up the class and by moving beyond the ‘oh so painful’ discussion board and ‘chat room’… we can make changes that will influence teaching and learning for the better.

We know that teaching and learning isn’t about the technology, but we also know that if you put every teacher you have into a lecture theatre – odds on most of them are going to give a lecture. The technology does matter. It shapes what we do as much, if not moreso, than our physical environments shape our everyday lives.

But I’m sick and tired of talking about this – and not sure that I agree that the best way to make a diference is to attempt to excert political pressure. We can talk till we’re blue in the face and Blackboard will pick up more licenses.

The only way we can make a difference is by offering viable alternatives, which are so damn pedagogically, technologically and economically attractive that they can’t help but work. And it’s not too hard, we know how to do it, that’s what we’ve been talking about all this time.

CC DH Wright

And it’s happening. Tools like Elgg go a long way towards that. Moodle may well be premised on some pretty conservative ideas of how online learning can actually work, but it’s a project to be admired.

It’s exactly what I’m trying to do with Edublogs and Edublogs Premium. To make a positive difference to teaching and learning through technology. And I don’t want to stop at offering blogs.

Let’s actually get in there and take education forward, I’m sick of saying the same things all the time.

Install a copy of Elgg, set-up a Moodle, get an Edublog – and spend your time offering a viable alternative rather that voicing a well worn complaint.

9 replies on “Making a difference”

  1. Don’t forget OLPC, which, if they can pull off the software (and who knows if they will), would be a big step beyond everything you mention above.

    Congrats on Edublogs Premium, I think it is the right move.

  2. Good post James – I must admit to becoming a little more than frustrated by the whole situation, you are right, everywhere I go and nearly everyone I talk to will tell you about all the problems they are having and how the CMS route is not the way they want to go but in the end they always go back to it and I am not sure why – there are alternatives.

    It almost feels like most of the people talking about this don’t actual know what they want, therefore, end up falling back on what is familiar – we need more people to actually get stuck in and explore the various options – not just at the bottom level but throughout the institutional hierarchy.

    What is interesting – the most common reason we are given as to why people will not use Elgg – there is no support (even thought there is) – yet at my old institution where they use WebCT, since the takeover is has been taking up to four week for Blackboard to respond to critical bug reports – we get lambasted on Elgg if we don’t reply within two days! It is kind of strange.

    BTW – could you change the link for Elgg to – we no longer keep our code on Eduforge? Thanks.


  3. Hey Dave,

    Have done – Akismet thought you were spam!

    Cheers, James

  4. Um, I though that was fairly apparent – do you have something a touch more substantial for me to go on here?

  5. James,
    You’re right, and after the unscrupulous behavior of blackboard with regard to patents, lawsuits, market stifling tactics, etc., we need to be looking elsewhere. I wanted to add one more option for people to think about – the wiki. Blogs and wikis go hand in hand in many ways, and it’s important that people see how to use the wiki successfully for the many roles it can play – course website, organically updated syllabus, collaboration space, etc. I’ve just launched a new community resource called which is intended to give anyone, anywhere, using any wiki tool, a source of information on how to successfully introduce a wiki to their organization and catalyze collaboration.

  6. Thanks Stuart, you;re quite right I should’ve touched on that and it looks lie a fascinating project you’ve got there – I’ve a lot of time for Alexander.

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