An Epiphany, or Two, of Sorts

The conversion of St Paul, artwork by Luca Giordiano.
The Conversion of Saint Paul by Luca Giordano (1690), Museum of Fine Arts of Nancy.

Has anyone else noticed that nobody really has ideas anymore? It somehow seems too pedestrian to have a mere “idea” when you can have an “epiphany” instead. I heard this on Breakfast TV this last week: “you know I’ve had an epiphany, of sorts.”  Was that you Karl Stefanovic? But epiphany on its own seems too grandiose, so as if to compensate, you add the comma and “of sorts” as an afterthought. Curious! But I caught myself saying the same thing this morning.

You see I’ve had an “epiphany, of sorts” as well. My “new” Chromebook reminded me of an “epiphany, of sorts” that I had way back, in around 2006, about Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). I’ve just connected this epiphany with a new “epiphany, of sorts” that I had this morning, about how great Chromebooks would be for personalized education. OK, this is getting ridiculous, I’ll just go back to having ideas from this point. Certainly, there was no heavenly trumpet or the presence of angels associated with having the idea. But I did have that ah-ha! experience of connecting ideas over 12-years apart.

Getting back to 2006, I don’t remember exactly when  but I do clearly remember that I was “pissed.” Pissed with working with the Learning Management System (LMS) of my then university. The university LMS seemed so inflexible and impersonal, To get even the simplest thing added you’d type, then you would post to the server, then wait for the updated page to be loaded. It might have only been a few seconds on the university network but it always seemed much longer.

The LMS was university-centric, splitting each item of learning and teaching into its university-defined course and unit codes like LS40 and MAB100. To access any piece of work you needed to enter these codes over and over and somehow keep track of work that was coming due in any particular week. For the student, there was a page you could view that would aggregate your work on a week-by-week basis. But, as a teacher, I couldn’t see this because the teacher context didn’t include such a feature. Who decided that it was a good idea that teachers shouldn’t be able to view what their students could view? Looking back it was an awful experience for all concerned.

Over 12-years the LMS has become a lot easier to use and more responsive for students and teachers. Most offer features for mobile usage. However, they still have the same basic institution-centric structure. You might say that the essential DNA hasn’t changed that much even though the system improved.

How much better would it be if, instead of the institutional LMS, you had a personal learning system, personal device-centric, that logged you on when you opened the device, got ready all the work you needed for the next week, synchronized your work and made sure your assessment was uploaded and complete. Reminded you of anything that needed completing or revising, and so on.

Wouldn’t that be an improvement over any LMS you’ve used or currently use? Please feel free to answer in the comments.

Twelve years ago I was pissed and promised myself that I would do something to build a personal learning system that really would put student learning at the center and forefront. Today I’m asking for your support to help me make this a reality. It’s something that requires grass-roots community support. As long as the university administrators call the shots, institutionally-centric learning is going to be what we get.

Support me in Developing a Device-centric Personal Learning System.

Develop and build the components of a personal learning system using Django for the back-end and Electron for multi-platform front-end support. Support is requested, in the first instance, for community-based proof of concept.



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