What should every techie know about education?

I recently found this post by Audrey Watters, an edtech journalist, that compiles a list of questions that she thinks people who want to get into or is in the edtech space should know. So, in the hopes of becoming a more educated edtech enthusiast, I thought I would take the evening while it is raining in the streets of Laos to answer the first section of “The Audrey Test.”

1. Who is Seymour Papert?

                        Seymour or Santa?

According to Google Images, Seymour Papert could be Santa Claus. But according to Wiki, Seymour Papert is one of those guys who was born with better brain synapses than me, (maybe) you, and probably half of the US population. He pioneered the study of artificial intelligence and was one of the creators of the Logo programming language—a tool (manifested into a physical/digital turtle robot) that he developed to help children learn programming. He also built on Jean Piaget’s theory of Constructivism to define his own term —“Constructionism.” More on this later. 

2. What is Logo? Squeak? Scratch?

Sounds a mouse makes?

Logo is defined above, more info here.

Squeak is an open source vehicle implementation of Smalltalk.” I’m guessing Squeak is another programming language built to enhance the world of programming education for children. I have no idea why they called it Squeak—perhaps due to some affiliation with Disney at the time?

Scratch was built off of Squeak and is a program that allows beginning programmers to create, program, and share their own applications, games, and animation. 

3. What is PLATO? 

PLATO was a computer assistant program that was created in the late ’60s by engineers at the University of Illinois to account for the growing number of college-bound students and the lack of people to instruct them. PLATO allowed students to create lesson modules and to share them with others—a sort of pre-pre-precursor to the share button on Facebook? But this venture seemed to have backfired—instead, what students made instead of “lesson modules” were a bunch of low graphic computer games that people on Youtube seem to still have a nostalgia for. PLATO, although not in use today, has been attributed as the pioneer of many on-line concepts that we millennium children take for granted, oh like email, instant messaging, chat rooms, message boards, and multiplayer games. 

4. Re: all those technologies listed above:  what’s happened?

Time. Change. Better technology. Java replaced Logo as the programming language for kids. Blackboard (and every social network) seems to be what PLATO wanted to be. High speed internet opened up a whole new world that made these technologies as old as Latin—well, maybe not THAT old. 

This answer seems a bit too obvious—if anyone has something better, let me know. 

5. What’s a MOOC? Where did it originate, and why?

MOOC = Massive Open Online Courses

Ex: Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity, EdX; all those tech companies that have been on my radar recently. 

The idea of establishing an open educational experience has been around since the 1960s, but a MOOC didn’t actually exist in digital space or in our vocabularies until 2008 when Dave Cormier and David Siemens offered a course called, “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” at the University of Manitoba and coined the term MOOC. 

Side note: Dave Cormier pronounces it “moo-k," not  "M.O.O.C." It should sound like the name of a cute furry creature that belongs on Star Wars (kind of like an ewok). 

Lastly, “why?” I’m going to interpret this question as “why now?”


The chart shows the immensity of internet growth in the past 5 years.  There are 800 million active users on Facebook; 400 million on Twitter.

I’m currently in Luang Prabang, Laos—5 years ago, there was nothing here. Now, I can get high speed internet just about anywhere in town and my friend can get internet in a remote countryside village using one of those usb internet cards. 

At the operational core of MOOC is connectivity, social networking, and internet access—before, this just wasn’t possible. 

Stay tune for more answers to “The Audrey Test!”

The most important and paradoxical fact shaping the future of online learning is this: A brain is not a computer. We are not blank hard drives waiting to be filled with data. People learn from people they love and remember the things that arouse emotion. If you think about how learning actually happens, you can discern many different processes. There is absorbing information. There is reflecting upon information as you reread it and think about it. There is scrambling information as you test it in discussion or try to mesh it with contradictory information. Finally there is synthesis, as you try to organize what you have learned into an argument or a paper.
— David Brooks on the campus tsunami that is #edtech

You often hear people talk about how technology is so “engaging” for kids. But that misses the point. It’s not the technology that’s engaging, it’s the opportunity to use technology to create something that is valued by the community and by yourself. Yes, a new device can be entertaining for a while, but when the novelty value wears off, what are you left with?

Engagement is not a goal, it’s an outcome of students (or anyone) doing meaningful work. Meaningful to themselves AND to the community they are in. Meaningful because someone trusted them to do something good, and they shouldered the responsibility. This is not something you DO to kids or you GIVE kids, it’s the outcome of this cycle of experiences.

Sylvia Martinez,

Engagement Responsibility and Trust - Generation Yes Blog

(via coolcatteacher)

Reblogged from World-Shaker
The sheer volume of dollars being thrown at Common Core-based initiatives has created an environment where content not mapped to the standards is essentially rendered useless. If content creators, whether they be billion-dollar corporations or committed teachers with spare time and passion, hope to achieve adequate distribution of their material, the words “Common Core” are likely plastered all over their respective marketing materials. We have already reached a saturation point where the words themselves mean far less than would their absence.
— Tom Segal, Rethink Education Analyst—more here 

“Guess What Percentage Of American Children Are Living In Poverty. Seriously, Guess.”


“Guess What Percentage Of American Children Are Living In Poverty. Seriously, Guess.”


Michael Sandel teaching Harvard’s Justice course. One of my favorite classes—online education done well!