Saturday, July 20, 2013

Digital Education Capability Maturity Model

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie are working on  the "Evolutionary Stages of Schooling: Key Indicators". They have identified six stages:
  1. Traditional Paper Based
  2. Early Digital Stage
  3. Digital Stage
  4. Early Networked Stage
  5. Networked Stage
  6. Digital Normalization
The last stage is where education is distributed between school and home on-line.

This is reminiscent of various capability maturity models (CMM) which attempt to measure how far along a path of development an organization is. The best known, at least in computing and engineering, is from the Carnegie Mellon  the Software Engineering Institute (SEI). There have been attempts to apply a similar methodology to education and it may be feasable to produce a "Digital Education Capability Maturity Model". But perhaps education, at least in its traditional form, doesn't support this.

A CMM is an attempt to apply industrial process concepts to other fields. The idea is that if you have a documented, repeatable process, then you can produce a consistent quality product. But this concept has problems when applied to any creative process which relies on individuals, be it computer programming or learning. Just because an organization has had a group of people produce some computer software, or some successful students, is no guarantee a different set of people can produce the same result.

Also it is interesting that Lee and Broadie place an emphasis on "schools". In a networked digital learning environment, what is a "school"? Also they refer to "student’s digital functionality" and the workings of the technology being a student responsibility, not of the school. But there is little mention of what digital skills the teacher will require, nor how the students and teachers will acquire these skills.

It seems to me that discussion of "digital" or on-line education is a passing fad. In using on-line techniques for teaching postgraduate students over the last five years, the novelty of the technology has worn off. What I concentrate on is teaching students, suing the technology as a communications medium. Stripped of the techno-jargon, on-line pedagogy does not differ from classroom teaching.

What I see particularly at universities is on-line technology being used as a way to address teacher and student skills. Rather than directly address a lack of effective teaching skills of teachers and learning skills of students, this is disguised with the introduction of on-line technology. However, just providing some web based services is not going to, in itself, change the behavior of teachers or students.

I suggest what is needed to truly have an education revolution, is the use of the most powerful tool available in education: which is teaching itself. We need to bootstrap from the current situation, by teaching teachers and students new learning techniques, by using the available technology. The best way to teach someone to do something is to get them to actually do it.

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