Longs View



I recently renamed my site. It has, for me, two meanings:

1. Longs view as in the view from Longs Peak as in people matter.

I spent a summer at the base of Longs Peak near Estes Park, CO at a formative time in my life. There I clumsily tried to teach and be a good friend to the revolving groups of kids that came to our camp each week. There I quickly learned that curricula and programming were of little use if they weren’t preceded by and infused with relationship and empathy and connection. So those kids and that mountain changed the trajectory of my life. I drove 1300 miles home and decided I’d try to be an educator that cared deeply for all aspects of a student’s life, especially their social and emotional development. Not coincidentally it’s also a path that has been well worn by my parents (speaking of standing on the shoulders of giants, see below).

This was an experience largely devoid of technology (at least digital technologies) that ever so often pulls me back from the brink of rampant techno-centrism and its discontents. Sure, it’s the typical romantic “camp high” narrative, but it put down a marker for me that the core social and emotional processes that shape and connect us as humans should be privileged over the tools we create.


2. Longs view as in our view is from the shoulders of giants. 

There’s a growing movement in the edtech world to reconsider (or simply consider) our roots and take a long-er view, especially as it pertains to open education, online instruction, and MOOCs. To this end, Audrey Watters is dropping F bombs and proposing a MOOC with George Veletsianos, Stephen Downes is bristling about the “Great rebranding” and Mike Caulfield is respondingJim Groom and others are imploring us to #reclaimopenLarry Cuban is trending, Tony Bates is asking “Why is MIT ignoring…100 years research into how students learn?”, and the folks over at Hybrid Pedagogy are diving into the deep end of this sort of thing. This is all generally a positive move. Yet my long view has to do with the need for theory-testing and systematic research in ed tech that draws on the century or so of solid empirical work that’s already been done in educational psychology.

It’s appropriate here to invoke Kurt Lewin’s infamous saying that, “nothing is so practical as a good theory.”1 I would submit that a large swath of ed tech research is atheoretical (or at least neglects to build off of extant theory), poorly designed, methodologically lax, and still too tool-focused. Generalizability is severely limited because there is no developed theory to articulate the mechanisms by which certain methods work over others. It’s the prototypical and now bulging ed tech black box: “we did some stuff on the front end, something magical happened in the middle, and then good stuff happened on the back end.” Take, for example, research on social presence. It’s a hugely important construct, especially in the design of hybrid and online courses. Models such as Communities of Inquiry have a lot of face validity, but fail to draw on the large corpus of extant and related research that might help to explain why certain tenets of the the model work; research such as that based on  belongingness theory, self-determination theory, and social interdependence theory. Thousands of studies have tested the main constructs of these theories, refined operationalizations, articulated key mechanisms, and proved the efficacy of educational interventions. Why are we reinventing the wheel or, at the very least, engaging in a series of false starts? The giants of educational psychology have gone before us and provided many clear starting points.

Some of these thoughts are summed up in the Prezi below.

1Lewin, K. (1945) The research center for group dynamics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sociometry, 8, 126-135.

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