I was watching the movie “The Internship” over the weekend. In it, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play middle-aged salesmen who lose their job selling watches, and decide to get an internship at Google in order to jump start their careers. Yes, it’s as dumb as it sounds (and I cannot believe it’s only rated PG-13), but there’s a scene near the beginning that’s absolutely priceless.
John Goodman, doing a cameo as their old boss, explains to Vaughn and Wilson why they’re dinosaurs. While salesmen were once a good way to convince businesses to buy merchandise, he explains, big data (he didn’t use that word, but that’s what he meant) has made them obsolete. When Vaughn argues that customers like the human touch, Goodman yells back, “People hate people!” The argument must have worked because Vaughn and Wilson lie their way into Google, where they drone on about face-to-face meetings while their fellow interns try to code.
Tomorrow, I leave for my very first MOOC conference and I feel a little bit like Vaughn and Wilson already. After all, when it comes to MOOCs, I’m entirely self-taught. All I know about technology I picked up reading ProfHacker or from Audrey Watters or from having one of the two excellent technology staff members devoted to faculty here at CSU-Pueblo explain it all for me. The idea of going to a technology conference, therefore, scares me to death. Like Vaughn, I’m really bad at bluffing when I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Unlike Vaughn, however, I do know something about an important part of the particular technology that I’m getting myself into here – namely teaching. My goal in participating in this thing is to remind the participants of what we who teach in the face-to-face world do right, and to try to push their deliberations to respect what we do well, even if they cannot duplicate it exactly. You’ll see this when you read my paper, which I’m giving Thursday morning and will post in this space immediately afterwards. While I’m not going to pour buckets of pig blood over the podium in the name of the displaced professoriate, I’m comfortable with the fact that I’m not pulling any punches.
I saw a rather good MOOC piece over the weekend which explains why I’m confident that I won’t be lonely. This is from the very last paragraph:
Playing seer is tough, but the future make-up of higher-ed and the role that MOOCs play in it depends on how we as a society view education. Is it a transaction or a relationship?
Those of us in the “People Need People” camp are obviously in the “relationship” camp, while the “People Hate People!” people believe education is just a transaction. While there may be more of this latter camp in Silicon Valley, ultimately this is still going to be an education conference. Therefore, I suspect my faction will be well represented, if not an outright majority.
I’ll report in this space starting Wednesday night on whether that’s right.