Is there an expert in the house?

Wikipedia has an entire article dedicated to the term expert.

An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain...

There are broadly two academic approaches to the understanding and study of expertise. The first understands expertise as an emergent property of communities of practice. In this view expertise is socially constructed; tools for thinking and scripts for action are jointly constructed within social groups enabling that group jointly to define and acquire expertise in some domain.

In the second view expertise is a characteristic of individuals and is a consequence of the human capacity for extensive adaptation to physical and social environments. Many accounts of the development of expertise emphasize that it comes about through long periods of deliberate practice. In many domains of expertise estimates of 10 years experience or 10,000 hours deliberate practice are common. Recent research on expertise emphasizes the nurture side of the nature versus nurture argument.

Some factors not fitting the nature-nurture dichotomy are biological but not genetic, such as starting age, handedness, and season of birth.
I still find it interesting that a field as young as social media can legitimately have those who might be termed "experts" in the field. Notwithstanding, when experts might be crafted through only 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, is it any wonder how many of today's "social media experts" have traversed well beyond the 50,000 tweet mark?

Or have they?

What do you think makes an expert in today's landscape, and why?

The #RoyalWedding and Honest #EdReform

Tom Hoffman helps us identify the motives behind certain recent moves, giving me an updated glimpse of the future. Following Karl Fisch's lead, I call this Darren Draper's 2020 Vision.

Many continue to think that education is - and should be - a game, bought and sold to the highest bidder. I, for one, am tired of it.

Bill Gates is more dangerous today than a three-year-old playing with matches at a gas station; but not any less naive.

The Intrinsic Challenges of Education Reform #edreform

"We can be powerful or we can be pitiful." - Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Even though I don't always agree with Ira Socol, I've grown to appreciate his presence as an honest and straightforward thinker in my network. He threw this nugget my way the other day.

My response: Of course, but with balance. The truth is that when community is embraced without the grounding qualities of science, then we're often left with the consequences of groupthink.  One such consequence rears its head when when "group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints."

A less-than-positive example of this groupthink phenomenon can be found in the comments of this post. Sadly, many members of our community have no idea what it really takes to write a dissertation or to complete a Ph.D. The pedagogical problem, nevertheless, arises when knowledgeable members of the community, for whatever reason, fail to steer the community in the right direction. As a result of this in-community learning, pockets of the community persevere in ignorance, while a hierarchy of true authority eludes existence. Just as the idea of social media mobs can be leveraged for arguably positive social benefits, such mobs can also irrationally spin out of control. Therefore, more than mere community is needed for an effective schooling system.

Ultimately, while leading from both the narrowed lens of science and the wide lens of community might be difficult, a wide range of public schools have been transitioning toward the science-plus-community model for many years (my own District, in its limited existence, included).  When we're tasked with serving an extremely diverse public school community - as each of us in public education is - we often have no choice but to accomodate (to the best of our abilities) the needs and desires of our patrons, however complex they may be. Complex and diverse communities prize complex and diverse outcomes.

When I consider the current reform movement in education:
  1. I agree that educators should be leading, instead of being led by politicians and ignorant philanthropists. The aspirations of many currently leading the charge may be well-intentioned, but merely attending school as a child has never meant that you have any idea about what it takes to run a school.
  2. I'm constantly reminded that balance is still key. While arguments that fill the reform space may appear polarized to the point of paralysis, not every side holds every answer. We must be willing to give and take - for kids first, then adults.
  3. I do feel that standardized students and silenced teachers fly in the face of American ideals.  Ignoring the effects of out-of-school factors and soldiering on with cut-throat academic standardization can never ensure the kinds of differentiated learning environments and life-saving interventions that most of our students will need. Again, balance is still key.
  4. Honestly, I think some teachers have every right to be upset and am saddened that teachers have somehow become the enemy. "It’s hard to think of another field in which experience is considered a liability and those who know the least about the nuts and bolts of an enterprise are embraced as experts."
  5. I agree that parents should have a strong voice in the direction of future reform efforts, but only when that voice has been adequately informed of the realities occurring inside our schools.
  6. I think we'd all do well to consider carefully the advice of Paul Thomas when he states:
Once again, the caution of evidence - advocacy is the enemy of transparency and truth.

Like medicine, then, education and education reform will continue to fail if placed inside the corrosive dynamics of market forces. Instead, the reform of education must include the expertise of educators who are not bound to advocating for customers, but encouraged, rewarded and praised for offering the public the transparent truth about what faces us and what outcomes are the result of any and every endeavor to provide children the opportunity to learn as a member of a free and empowered people.

Education "miracles" do not exist and market forces are neither perfect nor universal silver bullets for any problem - these are conclusions made when we are free of the limitations of advocacy and dedicated to the truth, even when it challenges our beliefs.
Through all of this talk of reform, nevertheless - and barring severe economic or environmental catastrophe - I remain unconvinced that significant and rapid change can take place in public schools across the country under the current climate. Are we really talking about an educator revolt, and if so, then a revolt toward what? Public school educators are not yet unified in their beliefs about reform and remain ultimately powerless in their caring, but selflessly-focused state.

Yes, through all of this, I'm reminded that one of the primary reasons teachers and public schools endure and have endured the barrage of insults and harsh conditions is because of our caring natures. As individuals and professionals, we remain willing to adapt to the conditions we're dealt; not because we think it's right, but because of our deep-rooted convictions that molding the future by creating a responsible and capable citizenry is essential to maintaining a civilized and progressing society. As individuals and as professionals, we know that teaching is the most important profession! We've known it all of our lives, and are merely reminded when doctors and astronauts and presidents and literary giants and even YOU return to our doors to thank us for efforts we put forth.

If positive reform is to take place in our nation's public schools, nevertheless, then many things must happen first.

To begin with, transparency and public relations must become priority one. If public trust really has been lost, then it must be the goal of every teacher, administrator, secretary, and lunch worker to regain that trust through openness and through honest dialogue. To that end, rigor, relevance, and relationships must extend beyond the walls of our schools and into the lives of parents, business leaders, community members, and other voters. As rigor is employed in building lasting relationships with community stakeholders, then the programs and focus of public schools can - and will - be relevant to all. Finally, in becoming a truly public education system, we need not hide the problems that abound within our walls. Instead, I believe that by helping others see the competence and tireless efforts put forth by our forces, we'll all gain a new appreciation for just how far we've come.

Maybe then, the right people will begin to stick up for every child and the profession that matters most.


Thanks for the push, Ira. Naturally, I welcome your feedback.

The Nature of Questioning

I think it's fascinating how answering questions often gives rise to newly discovered questions.

answered questions  additional questions

To culminate my formal graduate schooling, I conducted an action research project that began with four inter-related questions:
  1. What efforts have been and are currently being made in the Canyons School District to meet the instructional technology needs of teachers?
  2. What do school and district administrators, teachers, and other stakeholders hope to accomplish in providing teachers with instructional technology support?
  3. What changes might be made to current support models within the District, such that teacher needs (including those once-unanticipated) might be met?
  4. What forms of evaluation might serve to improve the instructional technology support that teachers receive?

To my eventual surprise, answers to each of the questions were often complex and could have been extremely detailed by nature. Moreover, as the study progressed, a wide array of new-found questions continued to emerge:
  • What new teacher needs have developed in recent years, particularly as a result of increases in technology quantity and quality and the ubiquity of information?
  • How might professional development (PD) better be used to meet teacher needs?
  • While PD can effectively meet certain teacher needs, which others must be treated through other means?
  • How might new learning/technology environments meet the technology access needs of teachers and students, and what support requirements does each new environment entail?
  • Moreover, how do startup and maintenance costs for these new environments compare with more traditional educational technology scenarios?
  • How do environmental support conditions impact the reception garnered through support efforts provided?
  • How might access to technology be more evenly distributed across public schools, and what political and economic changes must be made to enable such change?
  • In what other ways does administrative priority affect school environments?
  • What impact do technology-related support efforts have on non-licensed school community members?
  • How does teacher preparedness and support influence student achievement?
  • How might action research continue to better inform educational and technology policy, organization, and procedure?
I ask, that I might learn. In learning, I'm often led to ask.

Measuring and Its Impact Upon Students and Schools

I think there have been times when those in power haven't fully understood the long-term effects of policy decisions once made in the name of hopeful progress. Not usually prone to blaming individuals for such lapses in logic, I might even naively believe that decisions like NCLB were originally made with good intentions.

Nonetheless, the following three related precepts illustrate precisely why NCLB has been less than successful, and why high-pressure efforts to measure student, teacher, and school efforts will often result in less-than-desirable and even unintended consequences.

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle:

In quantum mechanics, certain pairs of physical properties, such as position and momentum, cannot be simultaneously known to arbitrarily high precision.
In other words, the more precisely one property is measured, the less precisely others can be measured (see Heisenberg, 1927).

Goodhart's Law:
Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes. (Chrystal and Mizen, 2001, p. 4)
Campbell's Law:
The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.
Campbell elaborates by stating:
Achievement tests may well be valuable indicators of general school achievement under conditions of normal teaching aimed at general competence. But when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways. (Campbell, 1976, p. 56-57)
Pep rallies, held (among other reasons) for the purpose of gearing students up for coming tests, might be seen as an unintended and clearly less-than-desirable consequence of the do-or-die pressure put on schools to meet the demands put on them by others.

While these rallies are not new, Will Richardson and others have recently voiced their concerns about the seemingly (likely?) inappropriate efforts made by some in public schools to help their students to pass "the test." I responded to Will's Pep Rally post by wondering aloud:
So Will, what would you recommend that those in the trenches of Public Ed do?

Can you really blame them for giving their all in helping their students to pass the test(s!)? These schools behave as if their very lives depend upon how well their students perform relative to others because - without a doubt - they absolutely do. From charters to vouchers to let’s-all-stay-at-home school, the competition for dollars has never been so fierce.

Nevertheless, perhaps this post wasn’t written to those whose financial backing depends on governmental approval. Perhaps you were writing to the millions of voices out there who don’t read your blog, or maybe even to those voters who once thought they had a chance to actually make a difference.

From a 30,000-foot view, Will, I do believe you’re right! School should be about learning, it should be individualized, and should always feel more HUMAN. But as one on the ground, who’s not yet given up the fight, I’ll applaud those schools for trying to help their kids “succeed” and survive, in order to live yet another day.

Yes, what would you have us do?
I can't wait to read Will's response!


Hat tip to Chris Lehmann for nudging me toward Campbell's Law, and to John Pederson for nudging me again.

Dilemmas of Openness - Conclusion

In the spirit of strengthening the weakest link, I've examined six key dilemmas that can accompany openness in education:

  • Imposing on the rights of others
  • Balance
  • Privacy
  • Scope of employment
  • Competition
  • Why?
I continue to feel that an open path is one that will lead to greater productivity, increased collaboration, and even potentially unforeseen (i.e. "unintentional," h/t David Truss) benefits to adoption. As an educator of fortunate circumstance, I do sense a moral obligation to help others to learn and grow, including those outside my immediate sphere of responsibility. Furthermore, because I feel strongly that the motives behind openness should favor altruism and growth over greed and commercialization, I continue to encourage the inclusion of the non-commercial clause in all definitions of openness - and will maintain my firm stance of "mostly open content" until more universally-accepted definitions change.

In spite of these dilemmas, I wouldn't go so far as to say that the OER movement is flawed. Instead, in order to succeed, the OER movement must admit the reality and ultimate necessity of creative tension, so aptly described by Parker Palmer (1998).
Teaching and learning require a higher degree of awareness than we ordinarily possess - and awareness is always heightened when we are caught in a creative tension. Paradox is another name for that tension, a way of holding opposites together that creates an electric charge that keeps us awake. Not all good teachers use the same technique, but whatever technique they use, good teachers always find ways to induce this creative tension. (p. 76)
Palmer then continues to explain, in The Courage to Teach, how he is aware of six paradoxical tensions that he tries to build into the teaching and learning space. Interestingly, three of his six paradoxes tie in nicely with the six dilemmas of openness I've outlined in this series:
  1. The space should be bounded and open.
  2. The space should support solitude and surround it with the resources of community.
  3. The space should welcome both silence and speech.

When dilemmas force an either/or decision - in this case, usually to share or not to share - the obvious choice for me is most often "to share!" but with caution and careful planning regarding how that sharing is accomplished.  Therefore, in embracing the OER movement and partaking of the goodness that openness can provide, teachers and students should be ever cognizant of the dilemmas inherent to that openness; accepting them for what they are, by welcoming and planning for the creative tension that contributes so essentially to effective learning environments. I know this is a mouth full, but I honestly believe every word.


Update: WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency: Micah Sifry explores the history, successes and failures of online transparency. Should be an interesting read (naturally via Cory Doctorow).

Dilemmas of Openness - Imposing on the Rights of Others

This is the seventh in a series of posts that detail some of the moral, ethical, and other dilemmas of openness in education. I look forward to your feedback and participation!


Ah, students.

Wouldn't this job just be so much easier if we didn't have to deal with the students?

Some students, nevertheless, produce amazing work! Check out these examples of stellar student work, all licensed with the Creative Commons.

Streamlined Learning, by Priscilla K.

Erosion, by Ben

Uploading, by Melissa D.

Letter to President Obama, by Donovan (aka BK).

In many classes, schools, and programs (likely including the excellent Flat Classroom Project and Saugus Union School District), students are taught about the benefits and purposes of open education and its related procedures.

Regardless, as wonderful as it may be for us to say that all teachers should be open in their teaching and curriculum practices, do we really have the right to then ask our students to assume the same stance of openness when publishing their work online? Are students given the opportunity to license their shared work according to their desires, or are they most often forced through ignorant compliance to shoulder the philosophies of their instructors?

Are students given the choice? Does it really matter?


Special thanks to Jim Klein, Julie Lindsay, and Vicki Davis for their willingness to push the envelope toward more open educational environments.

Dilemmas of Openness - Balance

This is the sixth in a series of posts that detail some of the moral, ethical, and other dilemmas of openness in education. I look forward to your feedback and participation!


Sharing and openness on the Internet can have many positive effects and outcomes. Nevertheless, there comes a point wherein the scales tip from healthy practice toward consumed obsession. In spite of any favorable benefits, sharing and openness can easily lead to improper focus.

While the "I didn't know we had a pool" scene from Disney's Wall-E may seem to be an over-exaggerated statement of potential direction, do we not all know someone that may have gone a little beyond imbalanced? Even when done in the name of education - or building our PLE - one of the dark sides of technology-based sharing can be a loss of focus on what's really important in life.

For me, the images below strike a little too close to home.

Sharing in 2011

Finally, I call this last one "Bonding with the Stranger in My Home" or the ever-popular "Sharing. But Not with You."

Certainly not specific to openness in education but promoted by such an attitude, I'm still left wondering. Is the benefit and value gained through online sharing and openness worth the risks of imbalance? What can be done to keep ourselves in check?

Dilemmas of Openness - Privacy

This is the fifth in a series of posts that detail some of the moral, ethical, and other dilemmas of openness in education. I look forward to your feedback and participation!


In his recent TEDxObserver talkCory Doctorow compared Facebook to a Skinner box that reinforces behaviors and attitudes that encourage sharing. "I don't use Facebook... I think it's bloody awful," said Doctorow, arguing that kids today are being taught to under-value their privacy.  By being rewarded socially and psychologically when personal information is shared using the site, there might be times when such sharing simply goes too far.

Is sharing with others worth the online exposure and resultant potential loss of privacy?

Having seen Eagle Eyeentire seasons of Prison Break, and read (and even enjoyed most of) Little Brother, I can see why Doctorow might be a little concerned/paranoid.  Still, is there really that much cause for alarm? 


At the end of the day, Daniel Solove makes a very strong argument as to why all people - regardless of their stance on openness - should be at least somewhat concerned about the issues surrounding personal privacy.
One can usually think of something compelling that even the most open person would want to hide.  As one comment to my blog post noted: “If you have nothing to hide, then that quite literally means you are willing to let me photograph you naked?  And I get full rights to that photograph - so I can show it to your neighbors?” (p. 750)
Solove continues by elaborating on the "I have nothing to hide" argument that many put forth when confronted with voiced concerns about privacy infringement.
As merely a one-line utterance about a particular person’s preference, the nothing to hide argument is not very compelling.  But stated in a more sophisticated manner, the argument is more challenging.  First, it must be broadened beyond the particular person making it.  When phrased as an individual preference, the nothing to hide argument is hard to refute because it is difficult to quarrel with one particular person’s preferences.  As one commenter aptly notes: By saying “I have nothing to hide,” you are saying that it’s OK for the government to infringe on the rights of potentially millions of your fellow Americans, possibly ruining their lives in the process.  To me, the “I have nothing to hide” argument basically equates to “I don’t care what happens, so long as it doesn’t happen to me.” (p. 751)
Don't we all have at least some part to play in the protection of privacy? Is the sharing that occurs online - educational or not - worth the potential infringements on privacy that such openness might promote?

Dilemmas of Openness - Scope of Employment

This is the fourth in a series of posts that detail some of the moral, ethical, and other dilemmas of openness in education. I look forward to your feedback and participation!


As some might consider sharing to be the professional obligation of those in education, it can be difficult to understand the boundaries and scope appropriate for that sharing. Do the benefits of sharing justify large amounts of time and attention that might be spent on others outside of one's professional charge?

For example, in conducting the Open Professional Development courses back in 2007, Robin EllisSue WatersKelly Dumont, and I were intentionally "forced" to spend disproportionate amounts of time and attention on course members outside of our immediate care.  Failure to have done so would have resulted in a course of poorer quality.  More recent examples of sharing through "virtual service projects," and even volunteering to moderate international online conferences have also taken time and attention away from those within immediate care.  Furthermore, the experiences of Alec CourosStephen DownesGeorge SiemensDave Cormier, and many others that have taught open courses (i.e., MOOCs, etc.) have likely paralleled my own - in that considerable attention to outsiders not only contributed to the positive learning experience of local course participants, but comprised an essential component within the local and distant learner's experience.

Consequently, has our behavior been ethical and sufficiently responsible to our employer?

When an employer is flipping the bill, how much time and focus can reasonably be spent in the service of others? At what point does the openness and sharing of an employee infringe upon the rights of the employer?

Dilemmas of Openness - Competition

This is the third in a series of posts that detail some of the moral, ethical, and other dilemmas of openness in education. I look forward to your feedback and participation!


While there exists a wide array of motives behind sharing, both inside and outside of educational settings, the reasons behind not sharing are often (near?) equally compelling. The fierceness of competition in a now-global learning economy illustrates one weighty cause for sheer resistance against openness.

Why share - when competition can be so extreme?

For example, if they have more honors students than we have students (whomever they and we might be), are we really safe to freely give? With merit pay, school choice, publishing or perishing, and clawing to the top, the hesitancy to share is often seen as normal.

Many in history have been trusted with valuable information only to turn on those who once unsuspectingly provided the data.

Do the reasons, benefits, and motives behind sharing always outweigh its dangers? What other dangers exist in sharing that stem from competition, and what can be done to protect against such?

Dilemmas of Openness - Why Share?

This is the second in a series of posts that detail some of the moral, ethical, and other dilemmas of openness in education. I look forward to your feedback and participation!


The principle of using digital technologies to share educational content isn't new. For instance, the OER movement and its culture of open knowledge, free sharing, open source, and peer collaboration emerged in the late 1990's.  The foundational dilemma of openness, nevertheless, lies within the purpose of sharing itself.

Why do/would/should we share - when sharing requires time, energy, and other limited resources?

Researchers have learned that people elect to share for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the reasons for sharing in social networks include benevolence and directed altruism, as well as more selfish incentives of reciprocity, attempts to avoid social sanctions, and the boosting of self-esteem. Moreover, reputation, commitment to building social capital, and other motives move some to share.  Finally, additional motives for sharing can be partly explained by shared goals to do good in support of others' interests (including those of customers, or students).

From a personal standpoint, it feels as if I often share for intrinsic - and what I hope are ultimately altruistic - reasons. As I've written before and as others have so eloquently articulated, I believe strongly that those in circumstances of prosperity have a moral obligation to lift others in less fortunate conditions. For that reason alone, I think that those of us who can, most likely should share with others the knowledge they have gained in an effort to consistently lift wherever we might stand.

Dean Shareski's Sharing: The Moral Imperative

Why do you share and what have you gained by doing so?

NPM 2011: Prompt 11

Playing along with Bud, here, for National Poetry Month. Here's his prompt:

Make all of your marks heavy and dark. Wherever you choose to make them.
And here's my response:
Sometimes pencil's chill with parsley,
Just to keep you on your toes.
Much like teaching with technology,
'Cause school that's boring really blows.
Work with me here...

Openness and Its Inherent Dilemmas - Introduction

Inspired, in part, by a fascinating Educon 2.3 discussion conducted by Alec Couros and Dean Shareski, this is the first in a series of posts that will detail some of the moral, ethical, and other dilemmas of openness in education. All posts will be tagged herein with the Dilemmas of Openness tag to provide consistency and a built-in index of related posts (see also Why Blog and EduBloggerEtiquette).

Having finished my dissertation, I'm no longer required to feel pangs of guilt for researching and writing on topics of personal interest.


Last month, the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) published a definition of "openness" that will potentially serve as a reference point for many in future discussions of open knowledge, data, content, and service.
A piece of content or data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share-alike.
While somewhat disappointed that their definition doesn't also allow for the restriction of non-commercial use (hence my staked claim of "mostly open content" in the footer of this blog), I subscribe firmly to the ideal of openness and think that sharing can largely make the world a better place.

With the OKF, I have experienced and come to understand numerous personal and far-reaching societal benefits to life within a culture of openness. In light of recent events occurring within my school district, I think that an open culture's deep-rooted ability to promote and teach tolerance may be its strongest characteristic.  Take note, for example, of the role that tolerance plays in the OKF's vision, being one of their four operating principles. Other benefits to openness and sharing - particularly within public education environments - include transparency, shared workload, stewardship reporting, built-in opportunities to gain public trust while also leveraging public participation, and others.

Mere openness, nevertheless, neither solves every problem nor comes without its share of issues. In fact, there are potential dark sides to openness in education - or at least there exist a number of moral, ethical, and other dilemmas inherent to global sharing and the free exchange of knowledge, data, content, and service.

In this series of posts, I will highlight a number of these dilemmas, and earnestly look forward to your feedback as we grow in understanding the principles of openness together.

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