20 Decision that Made History

Fortune Magazine recently released their list of the 20 best and worst decisions in business history. It’s a very interesting read, and the article mixes brilliant business decisions with some really foolish mistakes.

The list coincides well with Apple’s recent decision to move to Intel chips in future hardware. I am starting to feel a bit more positive about Apple’s decision (not sure why), but unfortunately, I don’t yet have the gift of hindsight. Who knows how the decision will reported in the press ten years from now.

It would be interesting to put together a list of best and worst decisions/implementations/ideas in the history of educational technology or related to the integration of educational technology in schools. I think there have been a number of stumbles along the way, but also many triumphs. Generally, I think it’s still getting better … but always, a moving target. Wanna start a list?

Update: Reading OLDaily today, I noticed James Farmer’s post “Open Source in Education – Something Has Got to Change“, and of course, anyone that knows me, knows that this area is my passion. I especially appreciate the passage, “I *despise* the way education is turning into a cash cow for vendors. We should be spending what little money we have on teachers, genuinely valuable resources and teaching and learning”. Allright, so now I have #1 on my list.

#1: Wasting money on commercial applications (as opposed to good open source applications) where such money could be put into acquiring and supporting valuable human resources (i.e., teachers).

4 thoughts on “20 Decision that Made History

  1. Thanks for the link & comments Alex. Hopefully we’re at the kind of point where this is about to bec ome blindingly obvious. Perhaps.

  2. My vote for the worst use of educational technology:  Diploma Mills !

    “There are more than 400 diploma mills and 300 counterfeit diploma Web sites, and business is thriving amid a lackluster economy — doubling in the past five years to more than $500 million annually, according to estimates kept by John Bear, author of Bears’ Guide to Earning Degrees By Distance Learning. He studies degree mills and gives tips to the FBI and other federal agencies on detecting degree fraud.”  

    Diploma mills are forging degrees from prestigious and legitimate universities as well as nonexistent institutions. Generally speaking, you pay for the degree you desire, which is awarded based on life-experiences. The degrees are verifiable, which means when you go for a job interview, your potential employer can call a certain number to receive confirmation that you have completed your education at the university of your choice. Official looking transcripts and class rings are also provided, for an extra fee of course. Most of the diploma mills have professional looking websites, and they often set up phony accreditation sites.

    Unfortunately, these fraudulent programs are increasing because of the growing ease of using the Internet to start and run a fake university, the abundance of advertising opportunities using clever telemarketing and email, the indifference of law enforcement agencies, and the minimal interest of the news media. Sadly, it is often the case that the people who buy into these programs want a legitimate degree but don’t know enough to tell the difference. Regulation is of utmost importance, but worldwide standards are very complicated to define and enforce. 

    As the roles of the public and private sectors are converging, who is responsible to ensure that technology is used responsibly and effectively?  What is the fate epitaph of a greedy world?

  3. Although I vote “diploma mills” as the worst possible use of technology, I also vote, rather ironically, that eLearning over the internet is probably the greatest use for educational technology today.

    eLearning represents a learning culture, in which students are continually surrounded by, immersed in, and engaged in learning experiences. Students have interactive multimedia resources, smaller schools can expand their curricula, and the intercultural learning experiences enabled by the internet are invaluable.

    Online learning is changing education, forging full-steam ahead with a big smile. Everyone is in love with the internet, or else they think they should be. Technology is simply intoxicating, but we need to be mindful of the cultural, religious, political and economic ramifications – and especially the diploma mills.

    There is hope. F. Scott Fitzgerald wisely stated: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

  4. Hi PJ,
    I appreciate your thoughts on this. Although you note that your two posts reflect a bit of an irony, of course, elearning and digital diploma mills likely reflect the same side of the coin. And in a sense, the rise of digital diploma mills, although I centrally don’t agree with most on a technical level, I think this represents a rising thought in society focused on anti-credentialism. Certainly, this is an argument that can’t be fully explained with what bits of commentary we have at this point, but I do think that what will be “recognized” and what institutions CAN “recognize”and grant credentials is up for grabs. Certainly, Universities and Colleges as traditional institutions is a thing of the past. While many digital diploma mills do this in unfortunate ways, they do begin to challenge universities (perhaps) to rethink their own existence.

    I really appreciate your comments here PJ. I like the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote as I do have conflicting thoughts here as well. Thanks for reading, and moreso, for helping me think.

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