Saturday, January 1, 2011

Local vs Global - Learning and Teaching Today

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It may be that free, open source software is the last refuge of the paranoid--those unwilling to embrace the power of the cloud and the host of services available for free (to suck you in) or at a minimal cost. So suggests a comment from Tim Holt in response to my suggestion that we are having to pick our poison when it comes to such services:

Poison? Why Poison? 
A tool is a tool. Craftsman vs. Cobalt...

Free is free.

I blogged about how the open source crowd cant compete with the free online offerings like Aviary because the business model has changed.

The comment from the Mynotes article I grabbed earlier highlights something I've read or heard before--essentially, because being connected is such a powerful experience, no one is interested in free, open source software, owning their own is the refuge of the paranoid, the privacy fanatics. Openness, transparency dominate in such conversations. Schools, like these people, seek to maintain control over their content and as such, find their in-house teams of staff--no matter how talented--can compete with the host of services available in the cloud. To suggest they can is to ignore the data, the servers, the money...something education-in-authority decision-makers cannot discard at the start of a tsunami.

Alan Hodson suggests this response:

" is a place to "really" go to talk about the main technology issues. Mac vs PC is a subset of Linux vs PC and the whole proprietary software issue, including Operating Systems, We live in a brainwashed-by-commercials society that refuses any discomfort that learning something new might bring along, even if the financial savings are huge. 
As early as 2006 statistical analysis ( showed that the trend towards FLOSS was irreversible - some of our districts (and IT movers and shakers) are just not listening, or perhaps don't understand... " (Source: Email from Alan Hodson)

One thing is clear--when the need for such no-cost, strings-attached services arises, it will come with unparalleled fury and immediacy. The decision to switch to GoogleApps for Education, as well as other services, can happen in the blink of an eye...all it takes is for a savvy superintendent or CTO to take a hard look at the cost of doing business under the old model (host and support technology in-house) and realize the money saved on equipment and technical services can be best put back into the classroom and the instructional supports for classrooms (e.g. professional development).

Even professional development can be outsourced. Why keep a stable of incredible trainers and thought-leaders when you can have your pick from around the country or the world? Would you rather have a district trainer teach you about flat world project collaboration, or bring in Vicki Davis/Julie Lindsay via Skype with a facilitated book study of Friedman's The World is Flat? Or some other title? Want to focus on project-based learning in a technology-enhanced environment? Why mess with local providers of professional learning when you can go straight to Boss and Krauss' Reinventing Project-based Learning?
Why struggle with building professional learning communities online, dedicating one person 100% to the effort when you can bring in Will Richardson, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and a whole cadre of thought leaders actually doing what you want to see modelled in your own school district?

What is the value of local, when global is as near as a video-conference call? One can easily foresee the end expensive curriculum departments, instructional technology teams, technology department "techies" focused on providing service. A more slimmed down model is called for. I'd suggest that being a person who knows how to "mesh" it all together becomes all the more critical.

And, it all comes back to the point that Tim Holt suggests in his comment. The "education model" has changed...the rest are the equivalent of "walking dead." The question is, what will it take to re-animate the corpses, to move from zombie-like stupor to phoenix rising?

Undoubtedly many will continue to cling to free, open source solutions. They offer freedom from expensive desktop software. For example, the entire two weeks I've been on holiday break, I've worked on an UbuntuLinux machine. All my blog entries have been posted from UbuntuLinux, and I've managed to do quite a bit with the operating system. Did it require extensive technical knowledge? No...less so than Windows 7, with its unfamiliar interface.

The new Chrome netbooks are on their way to people all over. I chose not to request one...I can easily load Chrome OS onto a netbook and see how that works. For my purposes, access to a local machine means that I have some measure of privacy. I still encrypt my confidential data before sharing it anywhere. I still create encrypted volumes using TrueCrypt. And, I admit that these habits are those of someone who understood the value of keeping confidential data protected, but knowing that many others never bothered to do so. How many computer hard drives from school districts get sold in bulk with confidential student or employee data on them?

Local vs global. What's the value added of your presence in schools today? Are we supporting an aging system, working to build a new one? The message isn't clear anymore...educators put their livelihoods--and those of their families--in danger every time they speak out against the status quo in "dangerous, economic" times when the Organization demands compliance.

Yet, speaking out is the full measure of the requirement...doing the work of education differently. I offer no answers, only share thoughts as I take down the Xmas tree and look forward to innovating within the bounds of the permissible.

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Phoenix -

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Vicki A. Davis said...

Innovation is tough. Schools are going to find that their competition isn't around the corner it is all over the world. Innovate or die - formerly the record industry - is now coming to publishing education and publishing in full steam. What it was to music is now happening to information and learning.

There will be casualties but as you've so aptly said there will be the phoenixes also! New education rising!

Profound post, my friend.

David Deubelbeiss said...


This same post/thought process has been building in me too. Glad to see you voice it so well. I'm with you...

When you see "free" and all the experts beating on the doors, don't think for a minute it will stay that way. Some are just able to look more long term at how they might "rope the horses".

And someone like myself finds it harder. I have given heart and soul to online education but the facebooks and twitters make it all so "easy" .... but just for the moment. they are corraling, even today, saw FB will now javascript whole blog posts onto FB when sent....

I'm an open source guy. Just built a conference room using the Big Blue button code. 2 years in the making. Countless hours. What if someone had told me to give up, why do it etc... We need innovation and it will only only only be local. Faceless and far away won't give us anything but empty pockets.

Thanks for the thoughts and getting me thinking of Holt again...


by the way - no marketing but I am testing our "on the fly" conference rooms. built by hand not handbills.

The Courage to Lead