The Brave New World of Online Learning: Amy Collier at TEDxStanford

Translator: Luiz Paulo De Moura
Reviewer: Dani Peteva If you read too many headlines today you might start to think education
is catastrophically broken Fast company says:
“We know our education system is broken. So why can’t we fix it?” Or: “America’s
education system is broken, here is how to fix it.” Or, my favorite: “Broken education system
to destroy everything.” Now, I’m here today to talk about
open online learning. But I’m not here to say
that Open Online Learning Will save education. You see, The Broken is rhetoric
is often used to push quick fixes on whatever is broken. “Oh! Education is broken?” “Here’s this brand new thing
that we can use to fix it. And quick.” Or to bill on Evgeny Morozov’s latest book on techno solutionism, “Education is broken?
Click here to fix it.” Now, I’m not saying
that there aren’t problems in education. There are big problems in education. Problems of access, inequities,
problems of quality and relevance. Those are big problems. But the rhetoric of crisis, a rhetoric of brokenness doesn’t help. As my friend Mike Cofield says, “A rhetoric of brokenness stifles
important dialogue in favor of quick fixes. It ignores who needs to be at the table
and brings only the powerful. But a rhetoric of opportunity
opens incredible possibilities for transformation and education.” And that’s what I’m here
to talk about today. Because I believe
that open online learning widely catalyzes those opportunities. Now, before we go any further
I need to clarify some terms here. Because the words “open”
and “online learning” are probably some of the most
abused words in education right now. By “open” I mean that at its very core it should be accessible
to as many people as possible. But that’s just the beginning.
Beacuse I think “accessible” can be pushed to reimaginable, editable, changeable, so that ideas can continue to grow. By “online” I mean
that web technologies can connect people to information and to each other. And by learning I mean
that it needs to signifcantly impact the way people think,
what they do, what they say. I’m going to show you some examples today so we get a good idea
of what I’m talking about. And I promise you
that it’s not going to be people clicking on a mouse
to get rid of a speeding ticket. Because open online learning
changes what we can do in the classroom. In 2010 when professor Jim Groom
at the University of Mary Washington decided to open up his course
on digital storytelling he didn’t know what would happen. Would people contribute? And if they did, would they
contribute useful things? Or useless things? Now, if you have been in a classroom
before you know this is actually a pretty common concern. Because you know there’s
that student in the back who is always going to derail
the conversation. Right? But when you open it up to the world
you amplify that fear. Because you have no control. He knew it was a risk. But it was a risk
he felt it was worth taking. So he put up his course online. And he opened it up to the world,
invited people to join. And boy, did they. Before the class even started
at the University of Mary Washington, over 200 blog posts had been written
about the course or for the course. People began crowdsourcing assignments
for the students to complete. And they’d even complete them themselves and share the results
back with the students. Even though they weren’t
getting credit for it. One participant even created
an internet radio station for the course. To allow people to have a voice,
a connection place, associated with the course. And if you ask Jim
what’s really incredible about this is that his students began to connect
to each other and to the world in ways he could have never imagined,
doing things, and taking their learning places
that he could have never done, him alone in the classroom. In fact, if you ask
some of the participants in the class they will tell you
that they are DS106 for life. Now, I don’t know about you,
but I’ve never had a student say that about a course that I have taught. (Laughter) Jim’s students became networked learners and networked learners
can do amazing things. A networked learner can connect to people through her blog
while she’s studying abroad. Connect to people in her host country
and learn from them while she’s studying abroad. A networked learner can start a company with three people
she’s never met face to face, but knows because they worked together
in an open online course. A networked learner can take his learning
far beyond the confines of a classroom. But that’s not all. Because open online learning
changes the way we teach. A couple of years ago,
Stanford professor Jennifer Widom decided to open her course up online
on introduction to databases. And she also made the materials
available for you so that other professors could use
her materials as well Now, I have to stop here and just say what Jennifer did, what Jim did,
that’s really brave. We come from a society where
we want to kind of protect our ideas we want to close around them Make sure we are recognized for them. And the problem with
that mindset is that it’s so limiting. It limits what we can do when we build
on each other’s great ideas. What happened with Jennifer’s course? Well, as you can imagine,
people flocked to it. Including professors
at the University of Puerto Rico, Vanderbilt University and others. What they did is something
I affectionately call “The distributed flip.” They assigned for their students
Jennifer’s materials online since it was an open course
and they could do that. And then they used class time for really engaging, meaningful hands-on
learning experiences for their students. Pretty cool. But they didn’t stop there. Because once they started doing that once they started changing
the way that they taught, all of a sudden they wanted to connect
to other people who were doing the same. They wanted to talk about teaching. They wanted to share ideas, resources,
to ask others, “What are you doing? Can I start doing that?” That only happens
when you open up learning But there is more. Because open online learning can change what happens
outside of the classroom. Because with open online learning
we cannot just foster massive learning communities
at large scale. But we can catalyze
local learning communities micro, intimate learning communities in the places and contexts
most meaningful to people. Where they are. If you’re stationed at an embassy
in Trinidad & Tobago, you might see this course,
“Democratic Development” and think, “That’s great. Democratic Development,
that’s a great course.” But it means something very different
to me when I’m stationed here, than it might mean to other people
who are stationed elsewhere But Larry Diamond’s course
is an open course and you, at your local level,
can launch a learning community to talk to people in your context
about democratic development. That’s what is happening
at at least 15 embassies across the world. They’re holding discussion sections
for Larry Diamond’s course, chats and even graduations
for this course. That local learning community. It’s just happening. If you are facing a health epidemic,
of childhood obesity, giving people information
about nutritional choices through a course, the Maya Adam’s
child nutritional course. It’s great. It’s good information.
It’s a great course. But you also need to reach people
where they make decisions. When they cook, where they shop. Where they decide about
the nutritional choices they make. With an open online course like this we can connect this information
to community partners, to people who help
other people make decisions about nutritions on a daily basis. This only can happen when we open up
far beyond the classroom and reach people in the communities
where they make those decisions. Open online learning
can change everything. Now, are there obstacles to this? Oh, you bet. There are obstacles that are political, there are institutional obstacles, professional obstacles, and we have a long way to go. There is so much more
we can do with openness every example I gave
could be even more open. But is it worth doing? Oh, absolutely. Maybe not to save education, but to help us realize that what we have and what’s possible with open
online learning is worth saving. Thank you. (Applause)

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