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Monday, July 3, 2017

The Desperate Need for Inspiration and Brilliance As Drivers in E-Learning

When we observe the rising changes in technology and the exponential rise in information and from it new knowledge, we have to ask the question:

"Are we making the best use of these waves of change or are we like mice in a maze going great distances through the lure of a quick meal but never really being able to synchronize these forces of change to achieve greater meaningful progress in e-Learning?"







However, the question, despite its length, does speak to a problem that exists in the way that we view e-Learning. In order to save time in whatever our daily pursuits are whether in the business or academic world, we are constantly in search of the quick fix that doesn't require of us to do much thinking beyond the bullet points.

In following this pattern, what are we sacrificing or missing as a result?

"Are we mastering the increasing forces of change in technology, pedagogy and individualized learning or are they mastering us?"

Where have those who use to inspire our imaginations to see things in a different light gone? Where are the Nikola Teslas, the Da Vinci's , the Michelangelos, of the 21st century? 






Credit: www.quotesgram.com




We have young people who need such people as a source of inspiration so that they too can be nurtured and mentored so that they in turn may be an inspiration to others. We need to recognize and celebrate the appearance of brilliance in young people and not shuttle them off to their own intellectual ghettos to be with their own kind as we presently do. 





Credit: www.hacklibraryschool.com

The debilitating cycle of cynicism that seems to be the driver in many of our societies needs to be broken so that young people can become the architects of a future that has hope for the improvement of the quality of life for all people. E-Learning represents a vehicle that when orchestrated and driven by a vision that believes in hope for the future can have a tsunami effect both in education and in the business world that reaches out and connects young people globally so that what they are tasked with is no longer a local initiative but one on a global scale. Not to persevere in creating such an environment results in young people who will learn and use technology to subvert and use  to increase their own personal gain to the detriment of the good of all people.




"As a business organizations, what kind of new employee do you want to have, one who seeks to use their brilliance to further the cause and health of your organization or one who will use their digital skills to hack your systems and sell your prized innovations to the highest bidder on the web?"

For business directors, some sobering questions to ask your self are:

"How well do you know the intellectual and creative abilities of the employees you depend upon as an organization? Do you have in your midst pockets of brilliant people whose abilities you are not recognizing and as a result are not using to the potential that they are capable of ? Are these the people who are disconnected from your vision for your organization?"

For business organizations, e-Learning when done right can open up a whole new dimension of increased  ROI that you had not possible. The question is how badly do you want it? 

What is the state of your organization's learning culture with respect to the use of e-Learning? Still doing things the way you have always done them?





Or, have you discovered the great benefits of identifying brilliance, nurturing it among your employees and encouraging them to be an inspiration to all?




If you are a business organization, it is time to truly maximize your potential by identifying and nurturing a learning culture where brilliance and inspiration can lead to breath taking innovative ideas that will move you forward in the global economy. If you are in education, your take away from this is to get off the assembly line education model because in today's world one size does NOT fit all and then you will be able to truly appreciate brilliance and be inspired to accomplish great things with young people.




Global Collaboration



We do not need an army of non-thinking, non-creating, non-inspiring conformists. We need those whose brilliance we will nurture, encourage, and showcase through their innovations to the world, so that many of the real world problems that are plaguing our societies can finally be resolved so that quality of life of all people will be enriched.
Effective, well designed, innovative e-Learning is a means to reach globally and heal the wounds of our societies. Build it into our higher education systems and build it into the fabric of the learning cultures of our global business organizations. Our survival truly depends on it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

An Honourable Request

Many of the ideas that I have been exploring in this blog on the evolution of e-Learning and the rising technologies are starting to come into fruition as a result of technological advancement. As a result, I have a request that if you make reference to ideas that have been mentioned here, that you also share the link to this blog which is:

www.darkzoneeducation.blogspot.com







Of Hope and Inspiration!

One of my goals was to stimulate the imaginations of what could be through effective e-Learning and inspire young people to have an active voice in how the future of e-Learning will take shape and how they can be the architects as agents of change of a brighter future that would enrich the quality of life of all people. Unfortunately, too many young people are entangled in the despair of what they see around them and have bought into the cynical mindset that is prevalent in many societies. We see this being played out in countries where living each day is one more day under siege both physically and morally.

If innovation and collaboration are to be nurtured as benefits to our societies, we need to inspire young people to work together for something that is far greater than themselves. This can be accomplished through the effective development of e-Learning in such a way that young people believe that they can make a meaningful difference to their societies as agents of change.



What is required is to mentor them to start to build bridges collaboratively and on a global scale. This process, like any process that is worthwhile pursuing, is not without risks. To take this journey, we need young people who are a "thinking generation" which means a generation who welcomes the challenge of debating ideas that will bring about a transformation that will improve the quality of life for all people instead of a generation addicted to "group think". 

So, my appeal to you is to check out previous posts in this blog in terms of challenging ideas and invite young people to see them and most importantly, use their own imaginations to push the boundaries of all areas of learning to the benefit of all. The future they create is one that we will all have to live in.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Part II--"It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times"--Motivation to Learn

Charles Dickens, in his opening to his work titled: "A Tale of Two Cities"(1859) wrote the following:



Credit: www. Quote Addicts.com



It would be very easy to see the condition of our own world today in this quote but if we did, we would miss that what the quote was leading into was a revolution that would involve great self-sacrifice on the part of the people of France. However, not all revolutions need result in a "winter of despair" but can lead us to a far better place than we have ever been before.

The fateful words of Charles Dickens might very well describe the condition of e-Learning in the highly connected digital world we live in. We can see the contrasts of the "age of wisdom" and the "age of foolishness" when we compare those in education and business at every level refusing to encourage the growth of adaptive, agile, collaborative learning cultures and willing to settle for the status quo in learning that hasn't changed in decades. This is representative of an age of foolishness in which the sacrifices are made by learners who desire and need to learn but see no motivation in learning that stems from curiosity and a very human love of learning.




Credit: Macleans Magazine



The Spring of Hope: Motivation to Learn and Irresistible Engagement

Finding that elusive motivation to learn and fostering an engagement in learning that learners find irresistible is the hope that we have in the development of e-Learning experiences within business training and formal education. True and sustained engagement of the learner can only be achieved when the intrinsic motivation of the learner is more powerful than artificial external motivators. For learners, whether business employees or students in formal education, there are levels of engagement that describe the reaction of learners to the learning experiences that they are exposed to. These reactions also speak to the effectiveness and vision of the instructional design used in the creation of the e-Learning experiences.



Credit: Jim Marteney (2015)



 At the highest point of engagement as indicated in the diagram, you have a learner reaction of high attention and high commitment.



Credit: Jim Marteney (2015)




At the middle level, Ritual Compliance, you have the reaction of a learner that is quite representative of many university students as well as learners in corporate training sessions to the learning experiences.



Credit: Jim Marteney (2015)

At the lowest end you have outright rebellion against engaging the learning experiences chosen for them. In business organizations, the easy manner of dealing with the situation is to eliminate the disruptive influence. Although this may seem like an expedient solution, it is probably not the wisest course of action because in doing so we may be blinding ourselves to serious pedagogical problems inherent in the design of the learning experiences that we are exposing employees to.


Credit: Jim Marteney (2015)

(Editor's note: It appears that this rebellion also applies to the spelling of the word.)


 It is for that reason that we need to see the importance of having someone on staff who does not fit the standard pattern of HR staff but it needs to be someone who is in tune with and current with learning principles that are being uncovered through the research of Cognitive Learning scientists. It needs to be someone who can create learning profiles for employees and is able to convey to employees that they are willing to invest the requisite time in helping them grow in their learning within the organization. It needs to be someone who recognizes that for most business organizations, "blended e-Learning" is the best fit. This learning growth is not to be reserved just for the front line employees but also those who occupy the executive suite of the organization. Leading by example is a priority for a healthy organization in an age of information and learning.


The positive indicators are that students or business employees want to be engaged in their learning but that learning must have important characteristics built into it. Michael Allen, author of " Michael Allen's Guide to e-Learning" (2016) put it very succinctly when he stated that if we want learners to be engaged in their e-Learning experiences, those experiences need to be:


  • Meaningful
  • Memorable
  • Motivational
If we believe that having employees come to training sessions, providing them with trays of snack foods and then exposing them to stacks of PowerPoint slides will lead to sustained engagement in their learning, we are being quite naive and blind to the levels of digital connections to reservoirs of knowledge that employees have outside their work environment. For e-Learning to be meaningful, it means that the employees need to be able to connect with it on a personal level that relates to their goals both in the work environment and outside that environment.








Sadly, there is alot of poorly designed, bad e-Learning on the web. Although MOOCS are improving, they still have a high percentage of learners who never finish courses. Their engagement has become disengagement.

Engagement and Motivation to Learn in High Education

When it comes to college and university, we need to ask in regards to e-Learning, what do students expect from their online education? Solving the simple problems enable us to arrive at solutions for greater problems:

Credit: Caroline Brock (2016)


Credit: Caroline Brock (2016)

As is indicated above, taking care of the daily little things goes along way towards creating confidence on the part of the learner that decision makers have a vested interest in the learning of the employees or students and are willing to demonstrate that interest in credible, non-artificial ways.

This brings us back to the need indicated in Part I that in order to develop effective, irresistibly engaging e-Learning where learner engagement becomes more and more fueled by intrinsic motivation, we need to include the voice of the silent stakeholders in learning, the students or learners themselves. Without their voice, motives that have more to do with profit reports rather than high quality, effective e-Learning design will become the drivers to a continued disengagement of employees and students in formal education. 







Friday, April 28, 2017

Is LinkedIn Everything It Can Be As a Professional Portal? A Rhetorical Question?

Anyone who has been associated with LinkedIn over an appreciable amount of time has noticed a variety of changes, some good and some quite questionable.There are two agents of change in the transformations that we have seen. First, there are the changes made by those who form the administration of LinkedIn. Their primary motive is to attempt to make the overall experience pleasant for all users while maintaining their original mission of creating an environment for professionals from many strata of our societies to connect, discuss common issues and form professional bonds. This mission is useful in that we all have a professional story to tell and as users we have a desire and an essential need to learn and grow.




Secondly, there are changes made by those participants in LinkedIn who make up the subscribers to all the professional forums set up in LinkedIn which represent the many professional interests which have a common thread running through them which is the use of technology as it pertains to the specific interests of groups. Having stated that we should stop, step back and ask an important question:

"Is LinkedIn everything it can be as a professional portal?"

To begin to answer such a question, we need to look at the status of LinkedIn but more importantly, the perceptions of LinkedIn on the part of the participants.


The Nature of LinkedIn and Participant Perceptions

Looking at the stats on LinkedIn, we see some interesting forms of growth:



Credit: www.LinkedIn Blog.com
The stats as they appear show an impressive pattern of growth but to be honest in such as assessment, we have to ask:

"Impressive pattern of growth compared to what?"

The natural response on the part of many individuals would be to compare its growth to social media giants such as Facebook  and Twitter but do we really want to use them as the comparative standard? We claim that LinkedIn is a professional portal but then to compare it to social media portals we run the risk of forfeiting its professional status. This is where we have to take a reality check and ask :


"What are the perceptions of the subscribers to LinkedIn in terms of how they think it is used?"





Credit: www.themommiesnetwork.blogspot.com

In looking at the above survey results, do the responses reflect more a perspective that LinkedIn is a professional portal or that in fact it is another clone of Facebook or Twitter?



Credit: www.entrepreneur.com

It is interesting that two articles have recently appeared that predict the demise of LinkedIn as a professional site due to the ever changing perception that it is steadily transforming into just another social media portal.


Credit: www.LinkedIn.com

In an article by Jaakko Paalanen titled: "The Death of LinkedIn"(April, 2017) , he points out an interesting juxtaposition that is occurring between the focus of Facebook and LinkedIn when it comes to promoting business interests. In a second article by Daniel Tunkelang titled: "How LinkedIn Could Be Disrupted" (April 2017), an interesting point is made that despite the big data that LinkedIn collects on subscriber preferences and offerings, they are not staying ahead of the curve when it comes to innovating and as a result, down the road, an opportunity exists by rising competitors to disrupt it.

The Problem and Potential Solutions

At this point in time one might ask whether or not we see evidence of this drift of LinkedIn towards becoming more of a social media site. For many people on LinkedIn, this has been a resounding yes. Consider the number of times people have complained about the amount of social media content appearing on LinkedIn and the number of likes that such complaints have garnered. To those who are complaining, I would offer these challenges:

"What are you doing personally to change this?"

"How often have you, personally, instigated a discussion that is in line with the mission of LinkedIn?"

"How often do you personally respond to posts in more than the traditional 140 characters of a social media site such as Twitter?"

"How much time are you willing to allocate to a thoughtful response to a post or are you still time's prisoner?"

As much as we dislike the misuse of LinkedIn, it would be hypocritical not to admit that we are also part of the problem. 

So, what are some possible solutions?

  1. Get involved in discussions in meaningful ways that promote the stance that we are all learners and can profit much from the expertise of others.
  2. Promote and encourage discussion. Even though LinkedIn can be a one-stop "tip factory", it needs the help of subscribers to truly help it become more innovative.
  3. Make a point of sharing articles that caused you to stop and think with others.
  4. Stop complaining and making excuses for the quality of LinkedIn by leading by example.

These are just a few ideas but the last word of wisdom, I leave to a cartoon character:



Credit: Walt Kelly


[If you find this article interesting, pass it on but more importantly discuss it. Also, it might be helpful to share this article on LinkedIn itself but I will leave that up to the reader!]



Saturday, April 15, 2017

E-Learning--The Silent Stakeholders--Part I

It is interesting that in the developing story of e-Learning, we have been hearing from the trainers, instructional designers, SME's and those trying to satisfy the growth of e-Learning by marketing products that they feel could be the next big thing in the e-Learning market. We have also been hearing from instructors, technology specialists and their fans.


However, there is one sector of stakeholders who perhaps are hiding in plain sight but we have become so absorbed with our own sandbox that we have in fact neglected them. I am referring to students themselves. I think that they probably would like to be consulted since what we are doing in the development of e-Learning will have a profound impact on their lives and in turn, on all of our lives. It is ironic that in our informed practice and determination to stop treating audiences as passive objects to be acted upon, we are doing exactly that with students at many levels of the education systems we have populating our societies.





Any new paradigm that we seek to use to aid e-Learning development must include students not only as partners in life-long learning but also partners in describing what e-Learning should look like. Since we often refer to them as the "digital natives" of our connected age and we admittedly as adult learners are in the process of catching up, we should be getting and valuing their input as we go about disrupting their educational lives.

Higher Education and The Challenge

If you are an instructor or educational developer working in the realm of higher education, I have a question for you:

" Do you have the courage and curiosity to honestly sample the views of your students when it comes to their education and how you present it to them?"

Credit: www.inspirelearning.com


Credit: www.inspirelearning.com








In order to effect change in e-Learning that will benefit our students and in turn all participants in our society, we need to ask them some critical questions and then brace ourselves for their answers. We may not like what we hear but we should give them a forum to express themselves freely on this. To start off here are some questions to consider for which I will also provide the rationale for asking these specific questions.

  1. As a student, do you consider yourself just a consumer of education or do you consider yourself a creative, innovative contributor interested in the improvement of education for all people?
  2. Would you say that your instructor makes effective use of the tools of online learning in order to enable you to grow in your understanding of what is taught?
  3.  If not, what would you suggest should be used more and incorporated into the design of the lessons you receive that would engage you more, keeping in mind that it must serve a valid educational objective or goal?
  4. Do you keep up to date with changes in education?
  5. How useful would it be in your opinion to harness the use of social media, serious game elements and online, transnational collaboration in your personal e-Learning?
  6. Have you participated in a MOOC before and was it a positive or negative experience? Reason?

The Challenge

I am challenging higher education instructors to share this article and the questions above with your students. I encourage you to share genuine student comments concerning this short article and in particular the questions and post their responses to these questions in the comment section in the area where the article is posted. It is vitally important that we encourage conversations that will add the voices of the most important stakeholders, the students, to the way we design our e-Learning experiences. The future shape of what effective e-Learning is dependent upon all voice being heard. In following through on this, we need to recognize that sometimes in order for education to evolve, risks must be taken.

Next: Part II--"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"--Motivation to Learn

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Exploring the Dark Side of Big Data

 A Big Data Scenario: " I have a story to tell........"


Credit: www.amuellergh108.blogspot.ca

 I confess that I have a fondness for military and espionage fiction. There are many interesting story-lines that authors have exposed me to. As my profile indicates, I am an explorer even when I am reading fiction. When I become engaged in this genre, I try to work out problems presented in scenarios to the characters to not only consider different potential solutions that I would try if I was the character but also to predict the potential outcomes of each potential path. Naturally, risk assessment, performance capability and real time intelligence are all important factors to be considered. With regards to real time intelligence and similar to the game of Chess, it is important to develop an accurate profile of your opponents because in doing so, the accuracy of your predictions as to their intentions and ways of thinking increase dramatically, percentage wise. The more data that you have to work with the higher the probability that you will arrive at a complete picture of what you are dealing with.

This week I started reading a  novel offering by noted military fiction author, Mark Greaney who has taken the helm in continuing the successful series started by the late author Tom Clancy. The title of this particular work was: "True Faith and Allegiance" (G.P. Putnam & Sons, 2016). What was most intriguing was the story line which goes something like this:

"In Mark Greaney’s Tom Clancy True Faith and Allegiance, someone with inside knowledge and access to personal details of key military and government personnel has been selling that information to enemies of the United States.





Credit: www.Military Press.com




 The actual breach occurred as a result of oversight on the part of a security organization tasked by the U.S. military to put their database through security tests to make sure that it could not be breached. However, when the organization was finished, it forgot to delete the database from its servers. Overtime it was forgotten about until a disenchanted but highly intelligent predictive analyst was able to take the raw data and organize it into very precise and targeted intelligence that could be sold to the highest bidder. He was able to make alignments between this data and all other sources of data coming from everything from social media to personal e-mails and text messages from cell phones. This resulted in precise real time profiles of targets of interest."



As I read this it suddenly hit me! What this is really about is how Big Data could be used by a criminal organization to subvert democracy for their own gains. Then a flood of questions came into my mind such as:

  • Is it possible via the use of  Big Data for a gifted predictive analyst to pinpoint what I am doing at a given hour on a given day with precision? My first response was that such precise predictive personal data is not possible even with the high level of technology that we have access to. However, then I remembered how much personal information people routinely place on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and also on simple apps such as common e-mail.
  • With the advance of the Internet of Things technology (IoT), will we be contributing to the growing data on our daily activities? What about technology that takes sensor readings of our vital signs during exercise activities?
  • With the multitude of businesses online and governmental, are appropriate safeguards being taken to protect who has access to the data and for what reasons? Data breaches have happened much more frequently in the last decade than ever before. Well known department stores such as Winners have made headlines with the loss of personal customer data.
In a specific article titled "One of the biggest hacks happened last year but nobody noticed" by Zack Whittaker for Zero Day pointed out that a data base containing detailed information on 52 million people was stolen. With that information coupled to incoming data from many sources such as social media, profiling just took on a whole new meaning within the context of Big Data.
The Nature and Definition of Big Data


Lisa Arthur, Teradata Applications CMO and Forbes contributor, explains that Big Data “is a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis.

 She asserts that traditional data must be included in Big Data because it is an important piece of the Big Data picture. Indeed, incorporating data from all sources is key to optimizing the insights gained with Big Data.




Credit: www.techwhirl.com
 Some of the first organizations to embrace Big Data were online and startup firms. Firms such as Facebook, eBay, Google and LinkedIn were built around Big Data from the very beginning. Surely, as an online worker you have felt a little "creeped out" by Google's uncanny ability to read your mind about your needs and your personal preferences before you had even publicly acknowledged them.

When we look at the characteristics of Big Data, there are three main characteristics:

Credit: Nasrin Hussain
As implied above, Big Data generates volume from the storage and processing of very large quantities of digital information that defies analysis using traditional computing technologies. With the rise of the great potential of quantum computing, these barriers will be wiped away.





Credit: https://community.hpe.com


 


A second characteristics of Big Data is velocity and as can be judged from the statistics below, this complements the power of Big Data.


Credit: Nasrin Hussain

A third characteristic is variety. With the advent of the IoT technologies, the variety of data is about to expand even more.


Credit: Nasrin Hussain

Two other characteristics that are sometimes considered are value and veracity. Summarizing these characteristics in a simple graphic might produce the following:




Credit: www.learnrnd.com






Therefore it is easy to say that Big Data and Predictive Analytics are the most intriguing trends in learning innovation. Naturally, business leaders who are new to the concept have questions. The answers to such questions could have a very profound effect in how their business plans for future growth with regards to global market share move forward. Such questions as:

  • What is big data and how can it impact my company?

  •  Can it be used to help us deliver what we have promised our clients in a more efficient and cost effective manner?

  • Can it help us grow as a company to meet the potential we know that it has and help us find and develop new markets in a very globally competitive economy?







The Seductive Potential of Big Data for Business and Education

With the break-neck pace of the rolling out of new technologies, we have to stop and ask what is its potential for prospering business and education. For business, David Strom(2015), a world known expert on networking and communications technology suggests that there are three main ways that Big Data can help business:

  •  Make it more predictable
  • Replicate your initial successes or trials
  • Enhance customer engagement
 It is the last item on the above list that holds Big Data's greatest promise:



Credit: www.black.ninja.com

 Another very alluring aspect of Big Data is the promise of increasingly positive growth in revenues for business organizations that make use of Big Data.


Credit: www.datamation.com
To add to this positive picture as suggested earlier, the growth in the number of data sources will increase as technology advances making the profiling of customers and competitors all the more precise to the point where predictions about future habits of such groups gain in accuracy making decision making more effective. As early as 2013, the seeds of what Big Data could mean for business organizations were starting to show life.

Credit: www.digitalnewsasia.com

 
Then there is the possibility of expanding the business to capitalize on  national and global opportunities:



Credit: Nasrin Hussain and Pranjal Saikia (2014)




"So, given the positive growth picture, what is the down side of all this?"

Exploring the Dark Side of Big Data

As businesses rush to take advantage of the great potential of Big Data, there are some cautions that business is failing to recognize which could have a dramatic impact on the future health and welfare of the organization. Some of these are as follows:

  1. The Dazzle of New Technology: Business organizations want to not only protect their market share globally but also open up potentially new markets never explored before. New technologies are held up as the "holy grail" by which to achieve this end. Business leaders have a responsibility show distinctively improved ROI to stock holders that make quarterly reports glow. However, in the scramble to adopt new technologies it is important to step back and consider the possible vulnerabilities that such technologies might open up. A case in point is the "cloud" technology. Obviously, with the huge increase in data that is becoming available from multiple sources, storage needs to be effective to meet the new demand. However, not everything is as it appears to be.
 In an article titled: "The dirty dozen: 12 cloud security threats" written for InfoWorld magazine by Fahmida Rashid (Mar. 11, 2016), we are being dazzled by the technology and not taking the necessary security precautions. This is not just an organization IT problem. It is a decision maker problem because it is the decision maker who is being swayed by effective digital marketing that is being applied.

2.    Making Data Security a Priority: The obvious question that needs to be asked is whether or not business organizations and decision makers are making data security a high enough priority. As indicated earlier, the threats are real and a number of very high profile data breaches have caused dramatic drops not only in stock value but also in the confidence that clients and the public in general have in very well known business organizations.
  
 Bernard Marr  a best-selling business author, keynote speaker and consultant in strategy management, performance management, analytics, KPIs and big data in an article titled " Why is Big Data so dangerous?"(Sept. 14, 2016) outlines 5 key risks that Big Data presents to business organizations. Who has access, what kind of budget have business organizations allotted to data security and how the data is used are key ideas for business organizations to pay attention to. As can be noted in the following structural diagram, how secure are the numerous access points especially if the cloud is used as a storage depot?

Credit: www.bigdataandanalysis.blogspot.com
 

3.    The Role of e-Learning and Education: One of the last elements you would ever expect to have an impact on Big Data is education. However, you would be surprised what education is putting at your front door. If we look deeper into how technology handles data, we would arrive at the machine language of the specific technologies. At this level, how a piece of technology will deal with data can be directed right at the very heart of the machine. Another flashy trend dealing with technology is to teach young people at a very early age how to do programming and machine language coding. At first, your response might be, "so what?". However, consider the fact that many attempts to hack the networks of business organizations are coming from very talented young people who are not only curious but also are interested in how far they can go before someone tells them that this type of activity is wrong. We are now teaching them how to access the very heart of computer language but are we doing the teaching with an emphasis on the responsibility of acting in ethical ways? In the atmosphere of social action and moral relativism perhaps we have opened a box that we should not have opened.

E-Learning and education have roles both within the learning culture of business organizations as well as formal education. These tools need to be used not just for training as in the business context but also to help employees and students develop skillsets that help them engage in the vision and mission of making the quality of life of others better. They need to understand the need how to shut the door on dangerous uses of Big Data if not for the fact that their own data is part of the mix.

As suggested by the Tom Clancey novel, some story-lines you never want to see become realities....


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Critical Thinking and the Crisis of Credibility

On numerous occasions I have raised the alarm through posts that students in educational institutions are being taught "what to think instead of how to think". As a result of this entrenched attitude within education systems, education has become less about effective, authentic learning and more about indoctrination of views held on a variety of topics that favour only one side of topics and dismiss other points of view without considering the evidential merit of these points of view. We see the fruit of this on many university campuses where even speakers holding alternative points of view are denied access to campuses or if given access, their presentations are harassed by those with opposing points of view. A case in point here in Ontario, Canada is the case of Professor Jordan Peterson, who is a University of Ontario Psychology professor who is due to speak to a sold out crowd at the University of Western Ontario in London.

Credit: www.ottawacitizen.com


 Due to the fact that Professor Peterson does not agree with the use of gender neutral pronouns in his classroom and openly criticizes the rise of political correctness on university campuses, the university is charging the student group who invited him to speak a $1200 fee to cover security which is not something they do in an equitable fashion when dealing with speakers invited to speak. Professor Peterson has made his views known on YouTube and is open to rational discussion on his views.



Credit: www.the College Fix.com

As a result of this retreat away from rational thought and discussion, societies are experiencing what I would term a " crisis of credibility". A crisis of credibility occurs when foundational systems such as education systems, religious systems, law systems, and systems of labour which were the bedrock institutions originally designed to serve the people, lose the confidence of the people they were mandated to serve. The obvious question then becomes:

"What are the causes of this crisis of credibility?"

Some of the causes that can be identified, as relating to education, the family and society in general might be the following:


  • The increase in priority of asking learners how they "feel" about topics instead of educating them in the skills of thinking about topics, being able to state what position they hold on issues based upon authenticated and verifiable evidence. Learners are repeatedly exposed to a variety of social issues in our societies without being given the necessary thinking skillsets needed to form informed opinions. This happens at the earliest level of education when students have only rudimentary thinking skills but are requested to take stands on social issues. A good example is the issue of bullying. Young people are taught to use emotionally laden terms and  take specific actions but are never clearly given the root causes to the issue for them to have a complete picture.



Credit: Robert John Meehan


Without this, they learn that feelings are what you should base your decisions on and therefore your actions. Anyone who has an opposing opinion, you should not have to listen to and to protect yourself, we have a vocabulary built up to dismiss them altogether thus freeing you from being upset. Please clear on this! I am not saying that feelings are not important because they are and we all have them. I am saying that it is wrong if they take the place of reason altogether.
  • Moral relativism has been a destructive influence on our understanding of the difference between  what should be considered morally "right" behaviour and what should be considered morally "wrong" behaviour in our societies. The end result of this is societies coming to the conclusion that there is no " right" or "wrong" behaviour. A case in point on this is the declaration of cities and states to be "sanctuary cities". Simply put the rationale, based upon "feelings" is that it is o.k. for illegal immigrants to break our laws and by declaring our city or state to be a "sanctuary place", we the guardians of the rule of law are going to help them do it and we are going to feel good about ourselves for doing it. Such acts lead to a very disturbing question:


"If elected officials who were elected to uphold the rule of law in government, encourage the breaking of our laws and abrogate the processes designed to maintain stability of law enforcement and protect the constitutional rights of all citizens then how can we in good conscience hold citizens accountable for the breaking of other laws?"


Stopping a False Paradigm

One of the first steps that we need to take in education is to stop promoting a false paradigm that is relegating reasoning to a frill topic in schools. In the past, the paradigm that has allowed our civilizations to advance may have looked like this:

Important issue---->identify all sides to the issue---->examine the evidence supporting each side carefully through effective research---->take a position on the issue---->defend your position passionately through effective debate

We may have been inspired by an issue that truly moved us and consider an important issue or the events of the day required that we investigate due to a possibly negative impact on our lives. So, although "feelings" may have started us to take action, we followed a paradigm of necessary investigation based upon reason.

So, what has changed?

New Paradigm: 

Important issue----->only one side of the issue presented for acceptance-------> use of selected emotional multimedia assets are used to suggest how you should feel about the issue----> based upon your feelings, put pressure on others who do not share your viewpoint through the use of dismissive vocabulary that uses ad hominem argumentation as a tool to censor debate------> engage in forcing the point of view into enforceable laws upon all people.


The end result of this new paradigm which we even now see being played out in the current events and in social media circles is the systematic sabotage of the great gift that we all have for critical thinking.






So, how do we stop this type of paradigm from continuing to wreak havoc on the intelligence of learners?


The Systematic Re-Integration of Critical Thinking Skills

We can not as civilized societies remain civilized as long as we allow this paradigm to be constantly reinforced throughout all levels of the education systems and the curriculums that they subscribe to. As thinking individuals, we hold that the following truths should be available to all citizens with the understanding that the goal is to strive to help improve the quality of life for all people.

  • Critical thinking skillsets are not frills but as essential for our survival as civilized societies who have to deal with complex real world problems in effective ways that bring solutions that benefit all people. We have already identified what comprises such skillsets:




  • Every citizen is entitled to hold an opinion and have the right to express the opinion giving supporting evidence that can be verified. If I disagree with the opinion, I have the right and obligation by means of providing evidence that disapproves that opinion, to act responsibly.

  • When I hear an opposing opinion and am tempted to use popular dismissive vocabulary terms, I have a responsibility to clearly define those terms. I have an obligation that if others question the validity of my definition to listen to their objections and answer their challenges.


  • I have to accept the possibility that I just might be wrong if the evidence supports that I am in error even if it might hurt my feelings.


E-Learning: The Potential and the Danger

One question that may have occurred to you is:

"What does any of this have to do with e-Learning?"

One of the great advantages to e-Learning is that it is no longer dependent upon local constraints but instead has a global reach. The problem of the disassembling of a paradigm that has served civilizations well in favour of the false paradigm noted above is not just a North American problem. It is evident in the education systems of many countries on a global scale that this problem is pervasive. We see in in discussions in global politics and even as far as organized sports among countries.

The time to stop this paradigm is now so that your children and their children will enjoy a quality of life that puts the needs of others above self-entitlement but even more importantly, that the decisions they make and defend passionately, are based on the building blocks of sound reasoning. 

Together, we can overcome the great crisis of credibility that we now face. We must overcome it....