After a two year reprieve, I begun teaching with Blackboard again in August. In ’09 I was using Blackboard 8.0 and now I’m teaching with Blackboard 9.1. Yes, some things have changed but, in essence, all the frustration and rigidity that restricts my ability to employ pedagogical creativity within Blackboard remains. And, to me, the more I teach with Blackboard, the better hacker I become. That’s not right and the rigidity and bugginess of Blackboard is, undoubtedly, frustrating faculty and making creative teachers give up on experimentation which is not a good thing in the context of 21st century teaching and learning. Can anyone out there relate to that feeling?
So, this morning when I read the news about Pearson (which has been funding Ning Minis for educators in North America for more than a year now, including two I use for professional development and community college teaching) and Google joining forces to launch a new, free, social learning management system called OpenClass, I was intrigued. Still in beta, the description sounds intriguing. What I’m foreseeing is an opportunity for OpenClass to engage faculty who are experimental, early adopters, attempting to force Blackboard to “accept” and “tolerate” Google Apps, VoiceThread, Twitter widgets, and other web 2.0 and social media infusions into its system — with not a whole lot of success. But institutions will shake their head and remain skeptical about supporting OpenClass, especially the institutions that have adopted Blackboard across systems.
This could be a turning point. One that will truly separate those committed to a “learning” paradigm and those invested, still, in an outdated “teaching” paradigm (Barr and Tagg, 1995 – PDF). While I have yet to even see OpenClass, I am sensing that the future of college learning just got a lot more interesting.
Which path are you on?