In Praise of Conventional Mid-size Sedans


The best comment about where this “debate” went horribly wrong wins a prize!


12 Responses

  1. Just thrilled you rushed this one off to the presses, thanks a lot. The only thing that might have come quicker from you would probably be my public execution. I’ll remember this.

  2. When there is a tie between a zombie and conventional mid-size Sedan, the tie goes to the Sedan, because the Sedan IS a large enough caliber for killing zombies.

  3. I need to watch the whole thing. Perhaps I needed to be there (well, that’s certain, but for a variety of reasons, not just to see the debate!). What I’ve seen so far, though, leaves me puzzled. Saying there are no hovercraft in the parking lot clinches the argument for diversity in learning environments? Showing the majority to be one type of car demonstrates variety and openness? Seems like the opposite to me. I know it’s painful to explain humor, but maybe someone could explain how that evidence supports a larger argument.

    To be fair, if the argument is “not everyone needs something special and interesting and innovative and agile,” then I’m not sure what evidence *does* support that argument, at least in the land of education. How does a “conventional midsize sedan” help to unlock and share the unique and uniquely powerful contribution each human being has as his or her birthright? And at what point does education throw up its hands and say, “yes, most people are not special, most people just want to get by, most people want a 9-5 and to be left unchallenged, uninspired, unrealized, so as educators we’d better build the system to keep the ruts clear, deep, and inescapable so we can all just carry on”?

    I’d rather dream about hovercraft, thank you. If God had wanted us *not* to fly, he would have made birdsong ugly.

    Thank God no one gave up on this poor white Appalachian boy and told me to lie low, get my content deliveries, and just carry on. Or if they did, thank God I couldn’t hear over the riot and swell of birdchorus in flight.

  4. @Gardner
    I think the big idea was that not everybody is ready to go from 0 to 120 in a couple seconds, and that getting to the same place by different means is okay. We should be open minded about the people using the less open tools in cool ways. Just because somebody is using BlackBoard doesn’t mean they are satisfied with the tool. Some just don’t know enough, or have the resources, to implement something else.

    With the question being whether the LMS is dead or not, he’s merely defending the open minded view of the potential use of the LMS, not any individual LMS. Any tool that works for you to get the job done could be used. In other words, he’s asking us to think about the idea, not the stereotype.

  5. @Gardner

    Steven has explained my intent far better than I could myself. Let me add just a thought or two.

    The debate was about the CMS – if it is dead. Obviously it is not. Jim never stood a chance. Should the CMS be replaced – well that’s a different debate. (Jim is currently studying Scholarpress which basically turns WordPress into a CMS.)

    The debate was not about innovation in teaching and learning. Certainly no one opposes that. Certainly I do not. The debate was not about WPMU blogs. I’m a huge fan. I wouldn’t trade Jim Groom for all tea in CUNY. 😉 Would I debate Jim on using blogs in instruction – no, nor would I want to.

    The use of the sedan metaphor was chosen because many proponents of innovative instructional technologies are so polarized by hatred of the CMS/LMS that they are not capable of considering alternate points of view. The sedan, like the CMS, is a vehicle to achieve a purpose – travel/learning, no more, no less. It is no more evil that a birch branch, although either could be the source of academic abuse.

    As all metaphors, it is not perfect. To quote a blog comment I read some time ago, “All metaphors are imperfect. You can pick at the niggling inconsistencies, like an unripe scab, until they all come apart. Doesn’t do much good for understanding the point, but works wonders for maintenance of cherished prejudices” — Elemenope.

    The point of counting the cars of the participants was to show the audience that innovation is *not* the primary motivator of everyone in all decisions. Instructional technologists are consumed by their interest in promoting effective teaching and learning and therefore put a great deal of research and thought into new technologies.

    However, innovation – in and of itself – evidently is not their primary motivator in automobile purchasing. The majority of cars were conventional. Does this mean they don’t do a good job driving or fail to reach their destination?

    So, the point I was trying to make is that respect for alternate teaching styles is important. Some professors want to focus their energies into learning to apply new technologies in effective ways. Others want to focus their energies on other things – maybe research, maybe teaching better by being more expert in their discipline, or teaching better by preparing lectures, or a countless other things.

    And back to the CMS just for a second. It seems to me that those who want the CMS to die are basically saying that it is not possible to teach effectively inside a CMS. Well, I don’t believe that’s true. Surely it is possible to teach well in a CMS, in WordPress, in Drupal, on a whiteboard, with chalk. And it is just as possible to teach poorly in a CMS, in WordPress, on a whiteboard, with chalk. I think a better predictor of good teaching would be the professor’s academic knowledge and zeal for teaching

    Let me also acknowledge the difficulty of exposition in defense of one’s debate position without sounding defensive. If I have offended, I apologize in advance and would certainly welcome further conversation over a nice cup of tea.

  6. Thanks for that long and thoughtful response, John. I’ll need to digest it and offer you a long one in reply. For now, though, I should say that I wish I could believe the debate is between different means to the same ends, but after a decade of Blackboard I just don’t think I can believe that anymore. In other words, I don’t think Blackboard has the same “destination” in view, so to speak, as more open, flexible, learner-centered, small-pieces-loosely-joined strategies. Rather, I think that Blackboard as a company, and most of the time Blackboard in practice, reflect fundamentally different assumptions about the nature and purpose of education than do tools and affordances like WordPress or ScholarPress. To advance the argument, we’ll need to be careful to distinguish content management from learning management (a distinction Blackboard conveniently collapses), and we’ll also need to think about openness, not just about innovation.

    And what about innovation? I’d say that all learning presents itself as innovation to the learner. It’s something new, and it’s unknown, and it’s messy and risky. If the student doesn’t see the teacher as willing to embrace the new, the unknown, the messy, the risky, the student is much less likely to leave him or herself open to authentic learning. That’s my experience. Information and communication technologies aren’t the only way to innovate or be authentic, but I’d argue that anyone who neglects them or treats them as routine is not responding to the most stirring and vital changes in learning, in civilization itself, since the invention of the printing press (at least).

    Of course we all have to choose where to focus our energies. But I’d close by saying that the choices you outline above–research, becoming more expert, preparing better lectures, etc.–are by no means mutually exclusive. I’d go even further and argue that any system that proposes these as mutually exclusive choices is a system that moves away from integrative learning and thus away from maximal educational effectiveness. Likewise, information and communication technologies are not “yet one more” thing to attend to, to bolt on, to cram into one’s schedule. They’re an essential part of the platform for expertise and integrative learning. If one defines those technologies broadly enough to include everything we do as a species to analyze, celebrate, and share our experience, I’d say that they’re THE platform.

    We agree on the predictors of good teaching, but I don’t think that either academic knowledge or zeal for teaching exist in a vacuum. I do believe that open Web tools foster both knowledge and the social context for zeal in ways that systems like Blackboard do not.

    I look forward to the cup of tea!

  7. Very interesting conversation here!

    I believe there are two key elements:

    1) every course needs a home base – be it a classroom, an outdoor gazebo, a park, a lab, a hallway, a basement, a studio, a mailbox, email box, Ning, Netvibes, BlackAngel, Moodle, WordPress, you name it. The home base would be where the syllabus and important course information are disseminated and found, as well as links to the other bases. An electronic home base should ideally be able to support embedding (even if only with ), and external linking to other sites.

    2) Whether it exists in the homebase or elsewhere, there should be a gradebook or equivalent to which students have consistent access to up-to-date grade/outcomes/assessment information. The advantage of using an LMS/CMS is that these tend to have a built in gradebook, along with authentication that allows an instructor to easily (and efficiently, hopefully) enter assessment/grade information and only have the intended student(s) see that information.

    At this point, there are tons of excellent sites and web-based systems out there to use, but few if any of them really function as a good home base as most of the LMS’s do – for lack of gradebook features, nor integration with a student information system or portal. Until the majority of them support openID or some form of single-sign-on, groups – both exclusive and inclusive, gradebook-like functionality, and the ability to import and export content in some sort of IMS-package-like format, I don’t think this will change.

    It is interesting that one of Blackboard’s ideas of “openness” is to integrate with Moodle. I maintain, to keep the car metaphor, that running Moodle within Blackboard would be like driving a convertible within an 18 wheeler.

    And now I will pour a cup of Rishitea organic sencha for all.

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