Adult ed: can we come out of the margins?

Posted on October 28, 2017


Time to make the promised blog post response to Tuesday’s webinar with our Power in Numbers user group.   I caught the tail end of it, wherein Amber Delliger inquired of Dan Meyer:   how can adult ed get more involved in the math ed community?   She noted that adult educators can be tentative because many aren’t official credentialed math teachers (much less professors).
Dan’s response included the phrase “my shame” as he acknowledged that no, he hadn’t really considered adult educators as part of his math community.

At  Thursday Illinois Digital Learning Lab kickoff, Power in Numbers was mentioned, as was the inclusion of “adult ed” as a category in .    Progress, right?
I interviewed at length a month or three back with the folks from American INstitutes for REsearch because they were presenting at OpenEd17 and wanted adult ed to be represented there instead of being out on the margins.

I see close to  zero, zip, nada signs that they were actually at the conference though.   (A single tweet from an attendee who was too tired to take good notes).  There is a big ol’ google doc for “group notes” and … THursday’s almost empty.   The word “adult” is not on the whole document.  Other sessions had their own documents.  Adult ed isn’t even making it to the margins, folks.

Wednesday I got to watch the whole video w/ Dan Meyer. (THe actual video didn’t start ’til 23 minutes in.)

He started w/ an observation/question:   students who are using devices outside a classroom look engaged, w/ furrowed brow, etc. but they don’t look like this — things are more “muted” — when they’re using “learning devices.” What can we do about that?

First question:   advice for older learners who are intimidated by the technology.   (“Digital literacy” was so popular at the ILlinois DLL that two of five cohorts are focusing on that.)  Dan Meyer’s response:  that the cost of tech was not just the cost of buying it — but also learning it and that … the benefit has to be commensurate. THe more it costs, the better it has to be.   THen pretty specific statement that he was skeptical of the ability of people who weren’t in the “education world”  to learn from things like self-paced video resources.   He mentioned a the failure of MOOCS at San JOse State (I found this TechCrunch article suggesting that things got better second semester but this in the New Yorker  speaks to issues for our adult ed students, as well as the changes possible in design.)   Oh, and the courses were especially lousy for remedial math.  (This Slate article  is pretty hard on Sebastian Thrun and Udacity and his statement that “These were students from difficult neighborhoods, without good access to computers, and with all kinds of challenges in their lives… it’s a group for which this medium is not a good fit.” )

Dan then went on to explain much better than I’ve been able to some of the big issues with those videos (he didn’t mention KHan Academy but…):   that the people doing them learned the stuff a long time ago so they show “the most formal method for doing stuff.”

By using the formal and abstract, instead of more natural (but less ‘mathematical’) language, basically math styas in the “procedure you’ll never see as a real thing” category.

HIs answer wasn’t a direct answer to the question asked but … it was great insight in what to look at and think about.  (Full disclosure:   anybody who actively discourages the “just let them watch a video — it’s SELF PACED they can WATCH IT AS MANY TIMES as they want!”  thinking has earned points with me…)

Okay, next question is next post.

Posted in: math education, MOOC