Archive For The “general” Category

edtech fetishism

By | February 1, 2013

Additionally, educational technology can be prone to cycles of hype and fetishism, where new tools and applications are rapidly adopted by individuals who are seen as innovators in the field, with little time for thorough or rigorous investigation of the pedagogical strategies that may be enabled by the affordances of these new tools.

Norman, D. (2013). A Case Study Using the Community of Inquiry Framework to Analyze Online Discussions in WordPress and Blackboard in a Graduate Course. (Master’s thesis, University of Calgary). Retrieved from

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on hype cycles and easy answers

By | January 22, 2013

David Kernohan published a revised edtech hype cycle, rightly pointing out that it’s not a cycle, and that “progression” to the “plateau of productivity” is not a foregone conclusion. Here’s David’s EduBeardStroke Parabola 2013:

EduBeardStroke Parabola

I’ve seen the Gartner Hype Cycle used quite a bit – I’ve even used it myself on campus briefings and reports. It’s never sat well with me, but I couldn’t articulate why. I mean, Gartner hires The Experts to Make Sense of Things. And this is how they do it. And people understand the simplifications and generalizations, and feel comforted that Everything Will Be OK.

David raises some excellent points. Go read his post.

The Hype Cycle does a few things:

  1. it (over)simplifies a concept, reducing it to a single point on a (curvy) line. The only variable is its position on the (curvy) x-axis. And it implies that time (which is the typical x-axis) is all that’s needed. Invent a new shiny thing. Put a dot on the line. And wait. Continue waiting. BOOM! It’s moved through The Cycle, and is now resting happily on The Plateau of Productivity. Awesome! The reason people don’t adopt something early on is because they are dullards who just don’t get how awesome things are. And those that adopt it later are merely sheep who finally wised up and incorporated the inevitable product of time marching on.
  2. it implies a single shared context. that Shiny Thing #1 is the same thing for everyone, and has the same impact and risks and costs and benefits. That everyone is moving, lock step, together through the inevitable march of time as Shiny Things progress through The Hype Cycle until they reach the point where an organization (it’s always an organization or institution or company – no individuals need apply) is comfortable enough with the risk:benefit ratio and decides to incorporate the inevitable. But this is bullshit. Every organization has a unique context. And individuals matter.
  3. it provides the Easy Answer. Gartner is in the business of selling reports on extremely complicated or chaotic fields – Big Data, Higher Education, etc… – in order to help organizations and companies to understand change. Buy the report, get the latest Hype Cycle, and you’ll see at a glance where things are at, and what your organization or company needs to do. But easy answers aren’t useful. They placate the CYA MBA crowd who mumble things like “due diligence” and “mitigating risk” etc… while not providing an actual analysis of what these changes mean to their own organization or company. Nope. Gartner said it’s not quite at the peak of inflated expectations, so we have at least 6 months before we have to allocate budget resources to addressing it… – this is the kind of thing Scott points out with his comment on David’s post – it’s probably the biggest danger of this kind of thing. All we need to do is buy access to a report, put a dot on a (curvy) line, and BOOM hey, presto! we’re innovating! we’re adapting to change! To the presentation circuit!

Look at something like Learning Object Repositories – according to The Hype Cycle, that is now a mature/old concept. It should be grazing in the Plateau of Productivity by now. Except for most people, it’s a non-concept any more. So, does it drop back to the Trough of Disillusionment? Does it drop off the curve entirely at some point? Or is it Productivity Plateau for the folks that can actually use something like a repository? Which context wins?

So. What to do when the crowd-that-is-paid-better-than-me uses The Hype Cycle as gospel when describing innovation and the state of the art? Yeah. I don’t know, either. But I’m more likely to include a reference to Kernohan’s fantastic Parabola than I am to use the Hype Cycle. Again.

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my edtech predictions for 2013

By | January 5, 2013

So, Dr. Bates calls out Audrey Watters for not making predictions for 2013. I’d love to see her predictions. Fair’s fair, though, so here are mine:[1]

  1. Lots of people will do small-scale innovative projects with no funding or resources, because they love trying new things and doing awesome stuff.
  2. Some companies or institutions will “invent” or “discover” something that one or more of these people have been doing, and it will be branded as their own.
  3. This branded “innovation” will become co-opted and corrupted, so that it doesn’t really do anything innovative, or anything other than building the reputation of the “innovators”.
  4. People will hype the crap out of the “innovation” as The Future of Education, and The Saviour (or Disruption) of Universities, and present it at conferences and write papers and travel the presentation circuit explaining it to the masses.
  5. The people from 1. will largely ignore the hype, shrug their shoulders, and continue doing awesome stuff because they enjoy doing awesome stuff.

I feel pretty safe standing behind these recommendations for 2013, because that’s the pattern of innovation that’s happened pretty much every year I’ve been playing with edtech.[2]


  1. some of the details have been left out, but can easily be filled in as an exercise left to the reader
  2. which, holy crap, has been for almost 2 decades. which, holy crap, is a lifetime or two in edtech

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Tyler Cowen’s Unusual Final Exam

By | August 9, 2012

In a discussion of college education — I believe there should be more allowance for human diversity — sparked by this post, Alex Tabarrok told the following story:
Tyler [Cowen] once walked into class the day of the final exam and said, “Here is…

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on empathy

By | May 17, 2012

half-baked post alert

This is nothing new, but I’ve been internally coming back to it often enough that it’s worth saying out loud.

We’ve been working on identifying and documenting the needs of our campus community, with respect to an eLearnin…

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my hosting/publishing/sharing setup

By | April 18, 2012

Time for another reclaim project update, after nuking my Flickr account. What am I running, and what is my workflow? Well, I’m running almost everything on my Hippie Hosting Co-op account, including:

my main blog

all media is posted there – eit…

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on the role of the lms in higher education

By | April 3, 2012

It’s fashionable to rail against the LMS, to lament the shackles of institutional constraint and to advocate for abandoning the concept in exchange for a DIY nirvana. There’s definitely something to the no-LMS movement, because it emphasizes indivi…

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wesch on blogging etc…

By | February 13, 2012

It was not an isolated incident. As other professors he met described their plans to follow his example, he suspected their classes would also flop. “They would just be inspired to use blogs and Twitter and technology, but the No. 1 thing that was…

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the online filter bubble

By | December 15, 2011

Shaun Inman just posted a link to a TED Talk by Eli Pariser on the “filter bubble”. This is exactly why I haven’t trusted third-party online services (in addition to the data mining and privacy implications). You can’t trust that what you’re …

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protecting wp-login.php

By | November 15, 2011

I noticed a rather severe spike in CPU usage on my Mediatemple server, and dug in to see what was causing it. For an hour, someone was hammering the login form for my blog, accounting for 98% of all CPU usage for my account during the “attack”. Tha…

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