« The morality of scale | Main | Dickens & open scholarship »




Hi Martin - superb post.

Couple of thoughts
1) link to the unmissible Edukashun is brocken tumblr should be http://brokeneducation.tumblr.com/

2) Have you read Eugene Morozov on Tim O'Reilly and "openwashing"?: http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_meme_hustler


Great post Martin.

Just like OpenTextbook, I suspect open badges may have more impact long term than MOOCs. But once more, they do not fit the Silicon Valley narrative.


Thanks David and thanks for the dodgy link spot, now fixed. Yes, I have read Morozov's piece - he crops up a couple of times in what I'm writing elsewhere, which is why he isn't in this bit, but as a standalone piece then he probably should be (the dangers of culling blog posts from longer pieces).
And thanks for the list of articles I used for the word count exercise, saved me compiling a set.


I agree with your argument up to a certain point. But one aspect of, say, OCW vs. edX is that OCW just isn't all that consumable by most people for most purposes. You can reasonably argue that OCW wasn't really intended to be consumable; it was designed more as building blocks that could be used to construct a class. The point remains though that when the topic of OCW cropped up on sites like Hacker News, the comments were filled with people writing about how they looked at OCW but it was nothing but a bunch of notes, syllabi, and so forth. (And the textbooks that formed the backbone of most classes still had to be purchased.) So OCW or OER more broadly was always going to be primarily of interest to a specialized audience as opposed to the average education consumer.


Hi Martin - all points that are difficult to disagree with. Have you followed the work of Neil Selwyn (from our LNM research group)?. His 'Distrusting Educational Technology' is all about how the different interest groups pushing ed-tech allign in some way with dominant neoliberal ideology. There was also a post on the Silicon Valley mindset and education 'disruption' ....

'Silicon Valley goes to school – notes on Californian capitalism and the ‘disruption’ of public education'

Finally, I know that Scott Bulfin (also from LNM) is finishing off one of those MRI research projects which analyses the discourse of over 450 newspaper articles on MOOCs from 2011-2013 ... his findings chime with your general sense of outside change + economics of HE ... with very little/no consideration for matters of pedagogy, learning, social justice etc.


@Graham - thanks, yes good point, I haven't really put badges into the mix.

@Ghaff - you may be right, but I think that argument would struggle to stand up looking at openlearn. I wasn't really arguing whether MOOCs or OERs are better (although that would play into media coverage I agree) but more about how readily the media were to basically reprint PR leaflets from the MOOC companies in a way they didn't with OER. It appealed to something in their cultural perspective, I would argue.

@LNM - yes, in fact the chapter I pulled this from quotes Neil as well. I didn't know about Scott's work, that sounds fantastic, and so much better than my 5 minute study. Any results from that anywhere, would love to include it. Thanks for the article link, I'm not sure I have seen that. What a useful comment - that's why it's worth blogging stuff as you go along!

Phillip Kent

Thanks for this post. Silicon Valley Narrative is a idea that I wanted and it's good to be able to grasp it now. For me, your post connects to a recent argument that's been going on about TED [ http://www.ted.com ], the California cool ideas communicator. Benjamin Bratton [ http://www.bratton.info/ ] challenged its Silicon Valley Narrative in a blistering speech [ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/30/we-need-to-talk-about-ted ]. So MOOCs are one part of a larger intellectual (and political) trend.

Mark Smithers

Hi Martin,

Great post. I completely agree that the silicon valley narrative is a key reason that MOOCs became preeminent in popular reporting. Having said that, just because MOOCs fit that narrative doesn't mean that the reasons they fit that narrative aren't mostly correct. I happen to go along the the higher education is (mostly) broken meme. There is a technological fix available (although it is not xMOOCs in their current form). Disruption does exist (although I agree the term is vastly overused). I don't agree that the solution has to come from commerce. It is interesting though that public higher education could, if they so wish, set up their own MOOCs very easily; the technological hurdles are minimal. And yet they don't. Why not?

In terms of the necessity for a revolution; I'd much rather have rapid (by higher education standards), incremental change but all I see is higher education repeating the same adoption mistakes they've been making for the last 20 years.
Finally, I don't think the silicon valley narrative is necessarily dangerous as long as we recognise it for what it is as you have very eloquently described here. In the end it won't really matter as long as public higher education and non profits stand up to be counted.




@Phillip - thanks for the links - I'd read some criticisms of TED, but not this one. You're quite right, TED is part of the whole silicon valley 'solutionism' of which MOOCs are just one part.

@Mark - I really disagree with the education is broken meme. It's dangerous and lazy. People never say what exactly is broken - sometimes it's funding (in which case we should debate models of higher ed funding, but they never want to do that), other times it's pedagogy, where they offer a couple of anecdotes (eg the don't go to school brigade). As Mike Caulfield says, broken frames it as a crisis (and therefore we need outsiders to come in and fix it) whereas if you frame it as opportunity, then it's more about working to make things better. To stress - being against the education is broken meme is not the same as saying 'everything is fine'. Indeed that's part of the problem, this meme wants to frame it as a revolution, so you're either with us or you're one of those old dinosaurs. And disruption is an almost entirely bankrupt concept in my opinion, that doesn't want to be useful, it just wants to sound sexy.

Mark Smithers

Thanks for the reply Martin. I think that is a fair and correct distinction when you say "being against the education is broken meme is not the same as saying 'everything is fine'".

I'm still not sure why you think disruption is a "bankrupt concept". Christensen and others present plenty of evidence for it as a concept. I just think the idea is hugely overused.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • www.flickr.com
    This is a Flickr badge showing public photos and videos from edtechie99. Make your own badge here.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter