I Think I’m Done With ISTE

ISTE Expo

I first joined ISTE1 in 1995 when the organization’s journal was called The Computing Teacher.

It was 1999 when I attended my first conference, then called the National Educational Computing Conference, in Atlantic City of all places. I’ve been back 15 times since.

Which means I’ve been watching ISTE grow and change for a long time. But now I’ve reached a point where I may not continue as a member.2

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Getting Our Priorities Straight

EdSurge, an organization that tracks the edtech industry,1 is covering a conference called the ASU+GSV Summit. Here is the opening paragraph from their report of the first day.

Bankers, lawyers, researchers and policymakers. Administrators, entrepreneurs and the Golden State Warriors. The ASU+GSV Summit, now in its eighth year, has assembled yet another potent cocktail of education industry stakeholders from different walks of life. (We’re kidding about the Warriors, who just happened to be staying at the venue hotel prior to Game 4 of the NBA playoffs.)

Notice anything missing from that “potent cocktail of education industry stakeholders”? Like teachers, parents, and the most important stakeholders of all, students?

Just the fact that they use the phrase “education industry” pretty much tells you all you need to know about the priorities of EdSurge and this conference. But if that’s not enough, how about this little observation.

Yet among the more than 3,000 people who poured into Salt Lake City for the event, the bankers were visibly in full force.

In the hierarchy of edtech, bankers are far more important than teachers. And for the entrepreneurs excited about their invites to “meetings in private suites” with those bankers, profits are far more important than children.

The Business of MOOC

Tis the time for year-end reviews, as EdSurge2does with “MOOCs in 2015: Breaking Down the Numbers”.

According to them, the number of students enrolling in MOOCs has doubled with “the total number of students who signed up for at least one course has crossed 35 million–up from an estimated 17 million last year”.

The number of courses offered has also increased, with “1,800 new courses were announced, taking the total number of courses to 4,200 from over 550 universities”.

The usual suspects are still at the top as “Coursera, edX and the Canvas remain the top three providers of courses”.

And lots more statistics – languages used (English fell… a little), best reviewed courses, the top rated universities – along with some trends (evidentally free certificates are dead).

Missing from the report, however, is anything about how many students actually completed the courses. Or about whether the instruction was beneficial to their academic life (or their actual life). Or whether students felt the money, time, and effort they put into the MOOC was worthwhile.

For 2016 “MOOC providers have started targeting high schoolers with the intentions of closing the college readiness gap, helping students to get a taste of different majors through introductory courses, and providing exam preparation (like AP) courses”. And increasing their business.

Because, as best I can understand from reading EdSurge, MOOCs are all about the business, not learning.