like uber, for education

A long, roaming article in The New Yorker on Anthony Levandowski’s groundbreaking/questionably-ethical work on self driving cars. This is a guy that used to report to Sebastian Thrun, and it makes me wonder how much of this ethos is already pervasive in Silicon Valley Edtech™…

After bypassing restrictions on how to hire staff, purchase supplies (including hundreds of cars), and safely design and operate self-driving vehicles (resulting in serious injuries and property damage), this whopper gets laid:

“The only thing that matters is the future,” he told me after the civil trial was settled. “I don’t even know why we study history. It’s entertaining, I guess—the dinosaurs and the Neanderthals and the Industrial Revolution, and stuff like that. But what already happened doesn’t really matter. You don’t need to know that history to build on what they made. In technology, all that matters is tomorrow.”

Charles Ruhig (2018). Did Uber Steal Google’s Intellectual Property?

Rules are for the weak. History is moderately entertaining but irrelevant. People are inefficient and unpredictable. Nothing matters.

Compare and contrast with Randy Bass’s article in Change:

Technology can best improve education by helping us distinguish ourselves from machines and to make that distinction itself fundamental to the “project” of education.

As we look to the future, and as machines get better at being machines, the primary purpose of higher education must be helping humans get better at being human. Ultimately technology (machine intelligence) will have its greatest impact on human learning through the evolution in human capacity—the ‘complementarity’—that will be required to stay ahead of its advance.

Randy Bass (2018) The Impact of Technology on the Future of Human Learning, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 50:3-4, 34-39, DOI: 10.1080/00091383.2018.1507380

History is important. Humans are important. Pushing toward a techno-centric future with no consideration for history or how the human condition might be improved (not made more efficient. not monetized. not synergized.) seems like the kind of thing a devout libertarian with a Netflix queue full of “because you watched Terminator…” suggestions might want.

why we need a video management platform

I’ve been involved with edtech at my institution for… awhile. We’ve worked on many projects over the years, and one of the common problems has been related to authoring, publishing, and managing videos. It’s been left as an exercise to be solved by every individual, which has resulted in people publishing content in various platforms all over the internet.

DRM Theatre

Which is fine, until you realize that in doing so, they’re hosting university-related content for courses along with their dog videos and vacation videos and whatever else, in individual YouTube/Facebook/Vimeo accounts. And those platforms are injecting their own tracking and surveillance software to monitor who watches what and then connect it with their advertising platforms so you can be force-fed ads and algorithmic recommendations based on what you’ve watched1. And to vigorously defend the copyright claims of corporations by taking down legitimate academic content that legally contains clips of commercial media2.

Personally, I don’t think that’s OK. I think we, as a university, have a moral imperative to provide platforms that simultaneously:

  • make it easy (and sustainable) to publish video
  • protect the rights of our community
  • not force every individual to feed their content to the global advertising machines so they can monetize the data generated when our students view the videos and other forms of media

So, we’ve been in the process of looking for a video content management platform that would serve the needs of our community, in such a way that individuals still have the flexibility to create, edit, publish, view, and manage content without having to give control over to a company that has no relationship with the university.

And, to have rich video content integrated into other platforms ranging from public websites, to wikis, to the LMS. So instructors and students can create and publish content and easily embed it wherever they need (just like with YouTube etc.) – without having to give up privacy and control as part of the bargain.

We’re close – the RFP went out this summer and vendor demos wrapped up last month. This has been one of my major projects this year, and I’m looking forward to getting it launched. There will hopefully be an announcement in the next few weeks, and then we can work on implementing – and, more importantly, on creating videos that can enhance the learning experience.

  1. Vimeo doesn’t do ads or tracking, which is why it’s been our recommended platform – we use it within the Taylor Institute to publish our videos – but imagine the cost of all of the individually-licensed Pro subscriptions, with people needing to keep track renewal periods and billing and account provisioning on their own []
  2. we’ve had instructors stuck in the middle of a semester because YouTube’s content matching software flagged their account and deleted the media for an entire course []