There’s a kind of hush…..
The song “There’s a kind of hush all over the world”, made famous worldwide by the Herman Hermits’ cover version in 1967 comes to mind after the last year’s hype of the “MOOC”-phenomenon. The hush – or peculiar silence after the “big noise” is less of a silence than a counter attack from the more sober participants in the discourses of lifelong learning. The editor of this journal took part in the 25Th ICDE World Conference in Tianjin, China in mid-October. We experienced the excited audience that is optimistic for when the MOOCs will swipe over the higher education sector in the developing world and provide access to top quality higher education. However, we also heard the voices of the experienced group of providers of higher education who have worked intensely for the same purpose for as long as the ICDE has existed: 75 years. The irony they express is that while authorities and politicians in all industrialized countries have urged higher education institutions to move in this direction, the adoption of policies and practices has been slow. Many countries have set up their own “Open universities” to bypass some of the most obstructive forces. The most obstructive ones have been institutions that are prestigious, private or simply too protective of their own privileges. The lifelong learning entrepreneurs have always emerged from social agents who primarily argue for the humanist values of education and- gradually - more and more intertwined by human capital arguments. And suddenly – inspired by the social media, by YouTube, Khan and a number of emerging new technologies, the previously most obstructive higher education institutions are on the pathway to “revolutionize” learning, make the best teaching available to everybody and “save” the rest of the world. Five of the highest ranked Chinese universities have now contracted “Coursera” software to “deliver” their Chinese courses to the “masses”. Many, many other universities, world wide, are about to follow their example. Main universities, who traditionally have failed to take interest in provide mass education, are now, all of a sudden, at the front of “the development”.
In the aftermath – or hush – second thoughts start to come to the fore. One of the main entrepreneurs of “MOOC”s, Sebastian Thrun, named “the Godfather” of MOOC, and CEO of Udacity, admits the failure of the project ran with San Jose State University. He blames the poor academic quality of the students for the failure. Rebecca Schuman, a widely acclaimed columnist and educational experts comments that the MOOCs seem to fail exactly the group of students who, allegedly, would benefit the most from this way of teaching and learning. This brings us all back to square one, and underlines what veterans in the field always have said. This is a difficult enterprise. There is no salvations provided by a new technology. I would like to add: thanks for the enthusiasm, and I look forward to what comes after “the hush”.
In this issue we bring a new article from Professor Theo Hug from the University of Innsbruck, Austria. This is an analytical paper that provides us with profound perspectives about what communication related to teaching and learning with media is all about. It claims that when enthusiasts, such as the those providing MOOCs, go about and introduce new trends, they are often helpless in understanding the elementary dimension of media education, or the epistemological issues of the field. Hug sums up his contribution by arguing for polylogical design principles for an educational knowledge organization.
In the paper by Michaela Rizzolli, also from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, we bring another contribution aiming at shedding light on the very foundations of media education. Ms. Rizzolli studies online playgrounds and introduces us to the problems we encounter when we stick to dichotomies in our thinking about this phenomenon. She argues for the need to think wider and inclusively when describing phenomena theoretically and empirically.
In the third paper, Professors Kari Nes and Gerd Wikan of Hedmark University College, Norway report from a project involving interactive whiteboards (IWB) in teaching in schools. In analyzing closely how seven teachers go about their interactive boards when teaching, they see that the IWBs have potentials that not all teachers are able to realize. They discuss what teachers need in order to develop their ability to stage “exploratory talks” with students.
Last we bring a brief research report from Jacques Kerneis, who is a professor at ESPE (École Superiéure du Professorate et de l’éducation Bretagne), France, who outlines experiences from three differents projects aiming at defining digital-, media- and information literacy in a French speaking context. Using a particular vocabulary of « apparatus », « phenomenotechnique » and « phenomenographie » the projects aimed at providing a framework of the evolving interpretations of these phenomena.