Unfortunately I was a little disappointed, leading to some frustration over there being no time allowed for discussion after each 10 minute presentation, seeing me tweet spiky comments and questions instead. Perhaps that lack of discussion is a good thing though.. we have the technology to carry on a discussion here, and maybe the face to face is better used to cover as much ground as possible in terms of ideas and content... I dunno, I tend to think the other way around would be better. Presentations online, face to face for discussion.
One of the presenters, Tom Worthington has been gracious enough to ignore the tone of my tweets and respond to each, at length on his blog. I should have tagged my questions according to the presentations I was referring to though, because not every one was to Tom. My frustration at the time was only added to by the 140 character limits, typing on an android with only one bar of signal and no open wifi in the room. Even more frustrating was the 4-10 seconds for a question or comment after a presentation, just as everyone is told its time to leave.. all of which is hardly conducive to discussion.. especially for someone like me who is yet to develop the virtue of patience.
Tom's come back to my main question:
LB Tweets: What if anyone could pick and chose anything from anywhere to make a degree? Why limit it to institutions?Tom's point is one that is often cited to refute Connectivism or networked and open learning, similar in ways that schooling refutes deschooling. That some professions require quantifiable skills and assessment, and that institutions provide that is a fair point in the context of "higher education" becoming more like vocational training, and a point that is exactly what is being challenged. Do the institutions really provide effective guidance and quality, or are they simply enjoying a governed monopoly over the idea? Many parallels have been made here with recent challenges facing newspapers and journalism - one being the institution, the other being the social value it keeps. What happens when that social value is more effectively found (or realised) in places outside that institution?
Tom blogs: You can pick and choose anything for your education. But it may help to have someone help you pick and choose. That is part of what institutions do. They also provide a form of quality control for you, and for others, to say what you studied and what you did with it was worthwhile. This particularly applies to education for professions which effect on people's lives.
It would surely be a possible point of agreement that formal education and curriculum does more than simply guide and make quality. There is much more to the formalised learning experience than that. If we then extend that line into questions of what institutions displace in people's learning, and what those institutions might do if faced with evidence that their social value is being met elsewhere, then I think we would be having a discussion on something that is what Gaggle should be about. But this argument perhaps puts me in one historic camp and Tom in another. The argument is impractical to here and now, decades long, with my camp having become absent from most public dialogue within the institutions (Illich, Frier, Holt, McCluhan, Chomsky, and more recently, a medium sized network of blogging educational commentators).
Even in the areas of simple quantifiable education and training, we can find evidence of efficiency gains in self directed and networked learning - largely thanks to recent communications media reawakening old social ideas and the willingness of a % of people to try those ideas again. The values of guidance and quality Tom refers to, is it being diluted by inflated fees, bureaucratic overheads, open educational practices, open courseware, and more broadly - efforts to add value opportunities for learning through social media and connections? If this dilution continues, perhaps the only value left in institutions will be assessment and credentialism, and the learning that credentialasim rewards, finds more opportunities to take place everywhere else but the institutions. The rise in the practice of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), and Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) for example.
To be honest though, I am relatively inexperienced with the Higher Ed sector, having spent 8 years on the vocational training sector, and a few years in secondary. Even there, are threads of philosophical wonderings about competency based curriculum, assessment, and the wider stuff generalised as critical, ethical, social, creative and analytical learnings. All of it leading to what I think ought to be an identity crisis for institutions, and a massive topic of consideration at forums like Gaggle.
There was one presenter positing these questions at ANU #gaggle, Megan Poore. I would have liked to ask her the nagging question I have inspired by reading Illich. Do the utopian ideas of networked learning and socialism through these new technocratic devices actually displace more people than it empowers? Are we utopians watching that ball?