Archive for October, 2013

Untethered, But Totally Shackled

I got a chance to play with Google Glass today, and wow — how cool is that?!? If you haven’t seen or played with Glass yet, find someone who has one and try it out. Now. Do not pass go, do not collect….well, you know the drill.

Glass frees us. It — along with  smart phones, tablets, phablets, and other mobile devices — enables us to live our lives completely untethered. On my way to EDUCAUSE this year I responded to emails from 30,000 feet in the air, and engaged with other conference goers via Twitter on the van ride to the hotel. These devices create opportunity — any location can be a classroom, every learner can create and engage his or her own personal learning network (PLN), anytime, anywhere.

But these devices also enslave us. I used to read on airplanes — real books, on paper. Or maybe I’d watch a movie. Now, I work. We used to talk to each other in person, or on the (landline) phone. Now people at the same dinner table communicate with each other via Facebook, Twitter, or text. My phone is the first thing I check in the morning, and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep at night. I sleep with it only a few feet away. And every time it buzzes or bings, I get a slight adrenaline rush. I feel compelled to check it, immediately.

I am not nostalgic for the “good old days.” I believe in the power that technology holds to transform our lives. But I do wonder, is being untethered *and* unshackled mutually exclusive, or is there another way?

MOOCs, MOOCs, MOOCs!

MOOCs, MOOCs, MOOCs! (said in the cadence of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia“…)

I am *so* tired of hearing about MOOCs these days. There are cMOOCs and xMOOCs and blended MOOCs, oh my. There are small MOOCs — called SPOCs, standing for Small Private Online Classes — which defy all logic because, umm….doesn’t the first letter in MOOC stand for “massive”, making it, by definition *not* small?!? [pause rant] Okay, I’m being a little snarky here, SPOCs do bring with them some interesting and new elements to online education. But still…. [continue rant] I cannot go two days without hearing, seeing, or reading something about MOOCs. I mean, I now get *entire* newsletters and ezines dedicated to MOOCs, for pete’s sake. Anyway….you get the point. Seems like these days it’s all MOOCs, all the time.

College campuses like mine are abuzz with conversations about MOOCs. Should we be afraid of them? Do they even apply to us? How do they fit into a liberal arts educational context? Are they the next big business model? Will they replace traditional colleges? For the record, the answers probably go something like: no, yes, figure it out, no, and no (but will they alter it? yes).

As someone who came up working in startups, in Silicon Valley, in the late ’90s, I know something about hype. The first startup I worked for went from 13 to 200+ employees in the first year. We *literally* created an industry that hadn’t existed before — email marketing (yes, for all of you who now get spammed by dozens of “email marketers” each day, you can thank me). We went public after my first year, and had a billion — with a “B” — dollar valuation on day one with only about a million in sales. And we actually had a good business model, unlike so many other startups with similar trajectories but no chance of making money, ever. Now that’s hype.

The MOOC thing? Also hype. But — and this is a biggie — the startup hype of the late ’90s *did* produce ideas and businesses that ended up revolutionizing the way we do things. Like email marketing. And so will MOOCs. It may only be in hindsight — like with the dotcom bubble and burst — that we understand how.


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