dinsdag 21 juni 2011

MSU2011: The long tail

This morning the master class starts with some feedback on a survey that the students filled in yesterday about their experiences and confdence with ict. The results are (in my opinion) very positive, the ict-things that people don't have experience with or confidence in are very specific things such as using databases and qr codes. The interesting thing is that Punya shows that the results of the students can be depicted in a "long tail" distribution. An explanation of this phenomena can be found for instance in Wikipedia or on the website of the book of Chris Anderson who introduces the term. Anderson focused on "the marketplace" and indicated that people or businesses are "increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail." In other words: do not only focus on that what the general public wants, but look more closely to the things on the other side of the picture to see if you can find a niche market for specific products or.. specific target groups!
The question than of course is: how can we apply this to education? For instance: in this course the students are all using mobile phones, digital cameras and know how to use e-mail. Wouldn't it be interesting for some of the students to learn more about Flash? And for some other students to learn about QR codes? So, instead of giving information about something for a whole group about a topic that is interesting for only some individuals, you could tailor the course more to individual preferences. Sounds great! But on the other hand.. if you have to do this in all your courses.. what does this mean for the teacher? And especially for the flexibility of the teacher and his/her ability (or confidence?) to organise your course in this way? An interesting challenge! And maybe technology can help here? I wrote a related blog post about this last year during my own course. Still not sure how flexible a teacher should (or can!) be..

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