E-Clippings; an Interview with Mark Oehlert

Mark Oehlert is here with us today to talk about his views on education. Mark is a recognized expert in education, having worked in e-learning for 10 years and for firms like Booz Allen Hamilton. Mark is currently working at the Defense Acquisition University, described as a “A U.S. Department of Defense university focused on improving the learning outcomes for over 150,000 acquisition personnel.” Mark has also written the book Driving Results Through Social Networks.

1. What inspired you to start e-Clippings?
That’s actually a really important question to me. My blog has always been primarily me talking through stuff with myself and letting other people watch me do that. I have a wide range of interests and what I really enjoy is finding the patterns, the connections between what people would normally see as disparate parts with no real relationships; my blog is where I tend to do that synthesis. I love the interaction with people but I really need somewhere just to get all this information out of my head where I can work on it.

2. What makes the current generation of students different from others in terms of technology?
I think the most important difference has got to be access. Never before in history has the data or sources available to the professor been so readily available to the student as well. The ability to useGoogle during class, during a lecture, that can be a scary moment. When data or knowledge wasn’t very portable, scholars spent years
mastering the recall of all kinds of information; now that kind of “stuffing your head” exercise is almost obsolete. The question is no longer “how much do you know?” but rather “what is the quality of your analysis, observations and conclusions of the same body of knowledge available to everyone?”

3. How can technology change education?
So I’m an anthropologist and a historian and that is a very interesting question. There is this old joke that if someone from 200 years ago got put into a time machine and brought forward to our time, they’d be amazed at almost everything they saw. Cars, TV, lasers, robots, etc….the one place they’d feel right at home is the classroom since so little has changed. So we need to break apart this question a little to bit to understand what you’re really after. BY education, do you really mean – learning – the process by which people acquire new knowledge? Or do you mean – the process by which people are taught (pedagogy)? Maybe you mean the organization of education
into institutions? Maybe yo mean the business of running those institutions? There is a lot wrapped up in there. I actually don’t think technology has that great a chance at changing the face of education, whichever meaning we select; not without a dedication to also change the surrounding business models, cultures and organizational biases that have grown up over centuries. I mean look back at history…the book was going to change everything. The
printing press. The radio. TV. Computers. The Internet. We still have lectures. We still have multiple choice questions. We still have tenure battles. We still have the Texas School Board…so without change, real change to how we view education, technology will only change it on its face.

4. What is the biggest obstacle in integrating technology in education?
See #3. What’s the old Henry Ford quote – “If I’d listened to my customers, I would have just made a faster horse”. We think our customers are parents and school boards and accreditation organizations and teacher’s unions and PTAs and so on. As long as we think that, as long as we put other interests above preparing our students to operate not in the world of 100 or 50 or 20 years ago but in the world of the future, we will always be constrained in how we
change, how we chose to integrate technology.

5. Do you think it is possible to one day have an all-online classroom?
Its already possible but that’s the wrong question I think. The question is or should be, what kind of learning experience should we create for our learners online? I mean we are building virtual worlds with classrooms in them. Why? When did we ask if classrooms were the gold standard for learning spaces? What does a classroom even mean?
Desks, chairs, blackboard? Teacher at front and students in rows? I think we are seriously limiting ourselves if the height of our design aspirations are to re-create classrooms online; we need to think bigger, more expansively.

Thanks for agreeing to sit down with us Mark. Again, you can find his blog e-clippings here. If you want more information about Udemy, see our main site here.