Friday, March 26, 2010

Pricing Point Challenges in University Education

I note with interest that Clark Aldrich in his latest Blog posting is suggesting that it may well be possible in the foreseeable future to obtain the most popular university qualification (MBA) for under $1000US.
Aldrich's argues that the proliferation on reliable online content, social networking technologies and critically, sophisticated business gaming simulations will combine to make the $1K MBA a reality, particularly for business managers in emerging economies.  He argues that the depth and efficiencies (4X) of learning possible using simulations and serious games makes low-cost certification a possibility.
Could this also be the case in other disciplines? 

There are serious implications here for Government Universities across the world who have targeted international students from emerging economies and now rely on this income to top up their funding.

Since 2001 Marc Prensky has been suggesting than gaming and simulation would eventually become an integral part of schooling, so are there parallels her with the $1K MBA?  
School systems, like universities are expensive to run in their current format and government school funding always seems to struggle to keep up with the demand.  If as Aldrich is suggesting, online content, social networking technology together with simulation and gaming will transform university education, what might what we now call schooling, actually look like?

What would the buildings look like? What would the hours of learning be? What would be the role of teachers?  Would this lead to less teachers? Would subject design, development and delivery be centralised (Nationally or Internationally?).  Would children in remote communities finally have a level playing field in terms of learning opportunities?

Definitely food for thought, although not palatable to all! 

All images courtesy of Flickr.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Authentic Learning Revisited

A conversation I had with Clay Burell over the last few days has encouraged him to write is latest Blog posting.  My question to Clay related to school assessment in authentic learning projects and how this could be done effectively and efficiently.  While Clay suggested that summative assessment should only occur when the students are ready for this to occur, the formative process should be ongoing.  While I was thinking perhaps self and peer assessment as an important part of the mix.  Clay then digressed into a description of presentations by gifted and talented students and how their talents could be better appreciated and shared in a public way by having them develop their own Blogs--no arguments here.

Anyway, I've been contemplating this Blog posting for a while and it came to me this morning on my way to work.  In second term /semester this year my wife and I are taking a 3 month break and traveling up into the Australian Wilderness of Cape York Peninsular.  We plan to work and holiday during this time, Sue as a nurse and me as a relief/contract teacher. 
           Image Courtesy of Flickr
Cape York is wild wilderness country with most of its residents indigenous Australians.  Many of the communities are remote and isolated and have some of the worst school student performance statistics in Australia.
A recent conversation I had a human resource person in our education department suggested that I might like to consider designing and developing a 3 or 4 week project for some of the older school students who are disengaged and disinterested in their learning.  I teach my pre-service teachers authentic project based learning so I thought that it would be a good idea to operationalise what I teach and develop a project, so here's what I've thought of so far today:

The community is called Aurukun and is located a 100km or so south of Weipa which is a mining town and the only place in  "the Cape" {a Queenslander way of referring to towns--Mt Isa (the Isa)--Cloncurry (the Curry)} that has significant numbers of "whitefellas".  In Aurukun English is often a third language for school aged students with "Wik Mungkan" the first language and an aboriginal "Creole" the second.  While school attendance has improved recently with the introduction of a strict alcohol and income management programs, many of the older kids have missed a great deal of schooling through absenteeism.  Many of the Aurukun kids also suffer from Otitis Media, often referred to as "Glue Ear".
Disengaged kids call for an engaging project with real and authentic outcomes.
First I thought about making short community stories using digital storytelling, because it's been done before and these students like using the technology and seeing themselves on tape, but I'm not one to necessarily do what has been done before.  So I thought of taking a more holistic approach and have each activity follow on from the last.
In Aurukun everyone fishes. 
The estuary where the community are located has some of the best fishing in Australia with many of the prized eating species can be easily caught.  So the project will be begin with fishing and end with a meal.  The authentic trigger will go something like this:

"In a world where fish stocks are dramatically declining, the Wik people are world leaders in the management of their marine resources in ways that demonstrate sustainability of fish stocks in numbers that existed when Aurukun was formed by the missionaries in 1904.  The Australian government in recognising this exceptional example of "Responsible Custodianship" have asked if the community could prepare a learning package that could be used across all of Australia's schools and be a part of the implementation of the new Australian National School Curriculum.
Your job is to work together in small teams to design and develop learning packages that will teach Australian children :
  • how to fish
  • the biology of healthy fish
  • how indigenous people manage their fishing resources
  • how to clean fish
  • how to cook fish
  • what it means to have a tribal and personal totem
  • how fishing fits into the land, language and culture of indigenous Australians.
Your learning packages will need to be delivered electronically so that all Australian schools can easily access.

Your packages will be reviewed by a team of pre-service teachers from CQ University students undertaking eLearning studies and they will provide valuable feedback to you before the learning package submission to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the honorable Jenny Macklin MP and the Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the honorable Julia Gillard."

 Project Duration: 4 weeks

Learning Areas: English, Media, Technology,  Science, SOSE

Thanks to Clay for stirring  me into a posting.