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Well, it’s been a wonderful journey thus far, hasn’t it?

Thanks to everyone for an incredibly rewarding semester of class sessions and for a stimulating project Faire. From my conversations with you since, I know that many of you feel like your colleagues asked thought provoking questions and forced you to refine and clarify your thinking. I’m very sad that time didn’t allow me to personally visit with all of you, but I’m certainly willing to meet with anyone in the days ahead to discuss your work further.

You have two final tasks ahead. The first is to complete and submit your projects, along with a reflective essay. The second is to submit a reflective essay for your participation in our online networked community.

Logistically, both can be accomplished at the Canvas site. Scroll down to the bottom for the assignment submission spaces. Prompts for the project reflection and participation reflection are online.

I want to share one further piece of advice. In discussing projects with many of you, I’ve frequently found myself recommending a kind of “three-part” structure for projects, especially those of you that built a thing. The first part is an “Executive Summary” of some kind. This short document/post would briefly set out the context for the project and then highlight the most important insights. The second would be the main media or document component— the research, the slides, the course, the presentation materials, etc. The final piece would be a longer document that explains the work more holistically— provides more background on develop, on methods, and ultimately details the most important findings from the work. That structure isn’t the right answer for every project, but I keep coming back to it.

Part of the point of that structure is to give people a short hook into your work, one that both summarizes the project and highlights the most important findings. Then present the project itself. Then, if someone says, “wow, this is awesome, how do I learn more,” there is a longer document providing more background.

The other thrust of my feedback to folks has been to pause and reflect on the key insights from your work. Many of you are still in the weeds of your thinking, focused on details and particular pieces. As you figure out how to communicate your final project, I’d encourage you to ensure that the most important insights from your design or research are stated clearly and boldly.

If you have any questions, please let me know. Otherwise, have a wonderful holiday break and good luck wrapping up your work across your courses.



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I am incredibly excited for our upcoming Project Faire.

We will meet in the Gutman Conference Center on Wednesday evening.

We will have set up time from 4:00-4:20. At 4:20, we’ll have a brief convocation, then half of folks will staff their stations whilst the other half wanders. Then we will switch. (People can briefly leave their own stations, during their time, to view the projects of others in their cohort).

The class will be open to anyone, so please encourage your colleagues to come and visit.

We’ll have two shifts from about 4:20-5:00 and 5:00-5:40. Then we’ll take a short break, and in the last hour of class, we’ll try to wrap things up for our time together.

Here’s what we’ll do for the final activity. I will invite each of you to give a brief final reflection on the semester in the form: “I used to think…. but now I think….” The prompt encourages each of us to reflect on one specific way that our thinking has evolved this semester. Ideally, the statements will be pithy, so we can hear from everyone. Be brief, don’t feel like you have to explain everything you say, and don’t feel like you have to be original; the weight of repetition can be useful in this exercise.

So between now and Wednesday night, as you prepare for the Faire, please think about your “I used to think… but now I think…” to help us bring closure to a wonderful learning experience together.



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--Originally published at Greg H.

A conversation with Harvard Business School Lead Instructional Designer, Andy Hyde.

If you were to ask 100 instructional designers what they perceive their key strength to be, you’d probably walk away with nearly as many different answers.

Some may tell you that they have backgrounds in documentary filmmaking and are especially strong at shooting and editing high-quality instructional videos.

Others may tell you that they have backgrounds in IT and are strongest at navigating the myriad hardware/software concerns inherent in online learning.

And still others may tell you that they possess little technological know-how, but instead are best on the pedagogical side, helping content experts express their ideas effectively in an online format.

Whatever an instructional designer’s strengths may be, there is nevertheless one common skill shared by most instructional designers: project management.

I recently spoke to Andy Hyde, a recent HGSE alum (TIE program) and Instructional Designer for Harvard Business School. Andy and his department provide instructional support to the entire school, including HBS’s MBA, Doctoral, and Executive Education programs. For these programs, Andy is largely responsible for the development, implementation, and analysis of the various learning technologies these programs utilize.

Having recently finished a tutorial on macroeconomics, Andy took a few moments to share his experiences as an HGSE student and to discuss the extent to which he relies on his project management skills in his day-to-day work.

Designing a course? Start by designing your time.

When making the transition from HGSE to HBS, Andy was surprised by the extent to which he had to balance competing priorities and tasks.

“Instructional design work is mostly project management,” Andy says.

Andy explains that HGSE gave him but a small glimpse of this fact. “As a student at HGSE, you mostly work on your own projects. You’re doing the design work. You’re doing the implementation. You’re pushing the project online.”

But in the “real world,” most instructional designers have to work with multiple team members, numerous departments, and balance their projects between competing organizational priorities.

“You really have to be next-level organized.”

To Andy’s aid were a number of project management software tools, including an internal tool, ServiceNow, as well as OmniFocus, which he acquired on his own in order to more closely track each project’s phases and deadlines. (Relatedly, several other instructional designers with whom I recently spoke mentioned the followings apps as worthy project management tools: Basecamp, Zoho, and Wrike.)

Andy also said that faithfully documenting progress was especially helpful given that he would frequently have to switch back-and-forth between many different projects. “Staying mindful of key considerations and committing them to paper [rather than memory] provides you with a way back into projects once you have set them aside for days or weeks.”


A major part of project management involves communication. That is, when interfacing with different departments, how do you phrase your concerns in such a way that they become a priority to all.

“I have to write a lot of project proposals and I have found that applying principles of UDL helps.”

Developed by HGSE Professor David H. Rose, UDL (or universal design for learning,) is an educational framework that helps teachers accommodate individual learning styles and variations. UDL does this by encouraging curriculum developers to present information in different ways, to differentiate the way in which students can demonstrate knowledge, and to stimulate interest in and motivation for learning.
Andy says that incorporating UDL into his proposals ensures that his projects accommodate a wide range of individual learning differences—something that those reading his proposals have been sure to take note of.


As a part of managing projects, Andy also finds himself delegating tasks to fellow colleagues, as well as interns from the greater Boston area. Given that those doing course development often come from vary different backgrounds and have very different skillsets, Andy has found that the task of delegation is not always an easy one.

Andy says delegation is difficult because it often requires a lot of his time up-front. “It takes a lot of initial meetings and conversations and often feels like you could do the task faster yourself,” Andy says. But those willing to make this initial investiture usually see the payoff in the end. “Teaching others about your work almost always pays off in the long run.”

Andy also explains that delegation is an ongoing process. “ Just because I have done the initial handoff doesn’t mean I am finished. I need to constantly check in with my co-workers, interns and stakeholders to make sure that everything is on track, and correct early if it looks like we are going to miss a deadline.”

Instructional design is many different things to many different people. But as straightforward or as varied as an instructional designer’s tasks may be, Andy Hyde helps to remind the budding instructional designer that much of his/her job is project management. Managing your time, communicating with peers, and delegating tasks are essential instructional design skills.

“And making Gantt charts,” Andy jokes. “There are a lot of Gannt charts.”

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--Originally published at thenewlearningsystem

The recent controversy at Harvard College about using secret cameras placed in classrooms to document student attendance has raised concerns about surveillance on campuses.  Questions are swirling about whether it was justified in pursuit of better teaching, who should have been told, whether consent was necessary, whether the type of data collected matters, and how it should have been collected, stored, and analyzed.  This controversy is merely indicative of a broader struggle between individuals and institutions over privacy.

Rebecca MacKinnon, in Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, argues that we implicitly give power to governments to collect our data in exchange for a service – security.  However, we expect that there are limits on the scope of that bargain. What we’re now facing is that our bargain’s boundaries are being tested in new ways due to the reach of technology, the erosion of governmental accountability, and the emergence of private companies as actors in the surveillance.

  • In “The Ecuadorian Library,” Bruce Sterling notes that surveillance and opposition to surveillance have existed for a long time. The difference today is that because we now live so much of our lives online, the activities that can be efficiently monitored by the state have increased dramatically.  In No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State, Glenn Greenwald uses the classified documents obtained by Edward Snowden to show that the scope of surveillance in the US is massive and growing, with the NSA operating under the mantra of “collect it all.”  There are fewer and fewer spaces where we can be outside the reach of monitoring.
  • MacKinnon writes that crucial to our implicit bargain is that the state is transparent and held accountable for how they use data.  But that accountability is eroding in the US, with new laws that grant immunity for companies participating in surveillance, that allow warrant-less monitoring, and with intelligence agencies feeling license to lie about their activities to the bodies that are supposed to be holding them accountable.
  • Emily Parker observes, in Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground, that companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, have essentially become part of the public policy apparatus on issues of privacy.  These companies have choices about how to use the data they collect, and many are choosing to cooperate with the government.  Yet they are even less accountable than government is for their role in these policy decisions.

The grand bargain on surveillance, then, is up for renegotiation. But who is at the negotiating table? Most of us can’t be bothered. Instead, it’s Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, people that Jaron Lanier describes as “vigilantes,” people who decide to take matters into their own hands.  The problem is that these vigilantes are not impartial and can cause more harm than good. Raffi Khatchadourian’s portrait of Assange in The New Yorker shows that these vigilantes are inherently anti-institutional, believing that only by giving data to individuals can the natural corruption of institutions be stopped, and this is necessary regardless of the destruction caused.

So what’s the answer? Lanier and Khatchadourian call for more accountability for the vigilantes, MacKinnon and Parker call for more accountability for government and corporations and they place the responsibility for that accountability on all of us. But what these writers miss is that accountability is only necessary to the extent that you don’t trust institutions.  If you have complete trust, there is no need for accountability.  This is an issue of institutional trust, then, rather than one of accountability, and the question then changes from “How can we hold institutions accountable?” to “Why don’t we trust our institutions?”

And that brings us back to the situation at Harvard.  Harvard and other educational institutions have long had an implicit bargain with their students and faculty that data would be used to improve the service they are offering.  However, Harvard’s recent use of secret cameras and other initiatives to collect and use student data, such as inBloom in the K-12 setting, have put the bargain up for renegotiation.  What these debates boil down to is trust in school systems – do we trust them to use the data to do the right thing for students? It’s worth considering why, for many people, the answer to that question is no.

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--Originally published at Believe It or Not

I can’t believe how close we are to the end! Just one more class to go – it’s amazing how time flies. It feels like just a few weeks ago we were reading about actor-network theory and World of Warcraft. Now, we’re talking about access and equity and projects I can’t even begin to describe. Crazy.

I originally envisioned this blog as a sort of beacon, a place to call for and justify the need for information and media literacy. However, I quickly came to realize two things:

1. As a student who is involved in writing many, many other things, I don’t always have the time to sit down and write out a polished analysis or argument.

2. I don’t always want to write about media and information literacy! Sometimes, I find other topics to be equally if not more interesting. It’s very difficult to write about the same thing each week.

That being said, thank you (to my small in-class readership) for indulging me in my half-formed thoughts and musings about all things Massive-related. I didn’t realize blogging could be so rewarding!

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--Originally published at Language, Literature, & Inspiration

One of my initial purposes for this blog was to examine the purpose of English education and of education in general. My coursework, discussions, and readings in all of my classes this semester have strengthened my belief that stakeholders in education (including policy makers, administrators, teachers, parents, and students) need to agree upon a clear purpose of teaching and learning before we can successfully reform education.

This lack of a common purpose of education is most clearly reflected in the ways that different groups define success. Too often, a new program or intervention is only deemed successful if it raises students’ test scores. Without this marker of success, these reform efforts may be disregarded, despite other benefits that could have resulted from them.

The following quote, from an article I read for a class about technology and education, demonstrates why this limited definition of success in education frustrates me:

  • “Although there is solid evidence of academic payoffs from school computing, success is by no means assured. Some well-financed interventions have yielded disappointment. The best known among them is Apple Computer’s Classroom of Tomorrow project that initially created computing-intensive environments in five schools. Although students’ attitudes toward learning improved over a five-year period, students’ skills in tests of mathematics, reading, and vocabulary did not (Baker, Gearhart, and Herman 1994)” (Attewell, 2001, p. 256).

What if the last sentence of this quote were written in a different way?

  • “Although students’ skills in tests of mathematics, reading, and vocabulary did not improve, students’ attitudes toward learning did” (my words).

The first statement, as printed in the article, clearly reflects the widely-held view that test scores matter more than students’ attitudes toward learning. If preparing students to be good test takers is the purpose of education, then the intervention mentioned above was indeed a failure. As a classroom teacher, however, I do not believe that preparing students for tests should be my primary goal. I believe that improving students’ attitudes toward learning is an important purpose of education – more important, in fact, than improving test scores. For my purposes of engaging students in the learning process and preparing them to be lifelong learners, the intervention seems more like a success (as reflected in my rewritten statement above). Of course, students’ attitudes about learning are not the only outcomes I am concerned with; I also believe that education should help students develop academic skills, including critical thinking and communication skills, which are not always accurately measured by standardized tests.

I am not intending to criticize this particular article or to take a position on the Apple Computer’s Classroom of Tomorrow project; rather, I point to this as one example of how a limited and controversial purpose of education – to improve test scores – can negatively affect reform efforts that produce positive results beyond the scope of skills-based tests.

Citation: Attewell, P. (2001) Comment: The first and second digital divides. Sociology of Education, 74(July), 252:259.

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What a fantastic week in class! I’m so grateful to you all for your creative contributions to our discussion, and for playing with me and with the Unhangout team. Many thanks to Tressie, Katherine, and Grif for bringing the session to life.

Next Week

Next week we’ll be exploring issues of Openness and Equity. The only additions to the syllabus are that I have posted the prompts for the  Project Reflective Essay and the  Participation Network Reflective Essay, and you should read them. Both can also be found in their respective sections of the T509 course site.

We will have two optional sessions for the third part of class next week. Doug will be giving a session on how to turn a blog site into a portfolio site as well, and then the rest of us will be offering consultations as you make final preparations for the presentation faire.

For the Final Week

Just a heads up that our presentation faire will be in the GCC. Each student will have a table and/or wall space for a laptop and displaying visual materials like posters. The class will be split in half so for the first part of class we will have half the students manning their stations and the other half on the move. In the second part of class, we will switch. For the final part of class, we will remain in the GCC and have a final course reflection.

After all of the creative energy this week, I am very much looking forward to learning from you at this terrific culminating event.


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Next week, Massive goes open and online!


There will be no class in G-08. Rather, we will meet at 4:10pm at

The room will open around 3pm. Feel free to come chat or just log in, test, and go watch cat videos. You should be logged in by 4:00pm so that you don’t miss a minute. You will need to log in using a Gmail address that supports G+, so your Harvard email won’t work.  Please log in from a space with good internet with a quiet background where you can talk. We recommend wearing headphones. More details for participating in an unhangout are here.
If you have log in difficulties, tweet me at @bjfr or email me at or text me at the number that I’ll send you by email.


Any of your friends, family, colleagues, or enemies are welcome to join us online in the unhangout for class. Forward the unhangout link to anyone who you think would be interested in participating in class:


Your assignments for this week include a few short readings, a talk from our special guest pessimist Tressie McMillan Cottom, and an assignment. You need to post by Tuesday at midnight a dramatic rendering of a worst case scenario for large-scale learning technologies in education. Poems, videos, skits, stories, fake news articles, or any other genre accepted. Put up on your blog, or on Twitter, or email me by midnight on Tuesday. We’ll use the best of these to kick off our discussion.


More details on the agenda for the session are at



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--Originally published at thenewlearningsystem

The 2012 Obama campaign has been heralded as a turning point for leveraging technology effectively in political races.  With the benefit of hindsight, those analyzing the digital strategy of the campaign boil the success down to three things: personalization, experimentation, and empowerment. In the MIT Technology Review, Sasha Issenberg notes that the campaign’s big data strategy was, at the core, a transition from viewing voters as an aggregate to thinking of them as individuals about which they could gather more and more granular data on preferences and responsiveness.  Having the ability to collect, manage, and analyze individual micro data also allowed them to follow the Silicon Valley trend towards A/B testing. Issenberg describes how the campaign embraced this rapid and frequent experimentation to learn on how different people responded to different outreach techniques and messages. Zack Exley diagnoses how the campaign used all this data and new management tools to empower its volunteers. By passing all this information down the campaign food chain, they created a massive, decentralized, yet coherent, field organization that the Romney campaign could not match. However, while the strategy delivered the results that the campaign hoped for in the short term (Obama’s reelection), I can’t help but wonder if the strategy was a bit myopic, failing to give enough weight to the long-term implications of their choices on brand perception, their volunteer base, new learnings about effective campaigns, and on future supporters. Brand perception: In a Harvard Business School case, “Obama versus Clinton: The YouTube Primary”, Deighton and Kornfeld discuss how a campaign can lose control over its volunteers and the message they are putting out (e.g., I don’t think the campaign was thrilled with Obama Girl video). Even if it can control its message, a strategy based on driving receptive people towards specific actions (donating, attending an event, voting, etc.) may not be thinking about the impact on the overall brand perception of the candidate, the party, or the office. The decisions being made now about who controls the message and what the messages are about will impact the public perception far beyond the end of the campaign or the length of the term. Volunteer base: In another HBS case about the 2012 campaign, Piskorski and Winig discuss the risk involved with giving front-line staff the kind of autonomy that the Obama campaign did. If the promise of empowerment turns out to be a myth, you can risk forever alienating the people Exley calls the “new organizers,” losing a whole generation of supporters. The overpromising could make future campaigns face an increasingly disillusioned population. Learnings about campaigns: Brian Christian, in “The A/B Test: Inside the Technology That’s Changing the Rules of Business,” describes some of the hazards of a culture built on rapid, frequent, incremental experimentation: “No choices are hard, no introspection is necessary.” There is no premium on understanding why something works, just that it does. In the long-run, this may be inefficient for future campaigns; without the reflection that can help uncover the underlying drivers of results, the next campaign could repeat mistakes, head down an avoidable rabbit hole, or miss out on new opportunities to extend the theory to other areas. Future supporters: The personalization strategy, which focuses on allocating resources to outreach that will drive behavior most efficiently with the fewest resources may also leave some future voters on the table. While an individual may not appear to be immediately responsive to outreach, it’s possible that the effect of outreach may build over time. By targeting only voters seen as responsive, campaigns may neglect to lay the groundwork for individuals who are less responsive in the short term but may convert to engaged supporters in future. By optimizing so exclusively around short term actions, parties could risk losing a bloc that could have been patiently built over time and yielded fruits in future elections. This last one seems most important to me, and yet hasn’t been addressed in much of the retrospective analysis of the campaign. What does this have to do with education? In education, too, there are lots of fancy new tools, but to what end? The answer may be at the core of the Obama strategy: personalize, experiment, and empower. But in order for it to work, we will need to consider, as the Obama campaign did, how we enable that strategy by investing in infrastructure, defining new roles, training in new ways, and facilitating a cultural shift. And, impatient as we are for quick results, we should keep on eye on what our decisions today imply for teachers, students, and the definition of schooling in the future.