Friday, 30 March 2012

The Reluctant Pragmatist

Father Ted bannerWhen it comes to rapacious corporations trampling over innovation and diversity in pursuit of a monopoly, you'll always find me in the crowd chucking rotten vegetables at them.  That's why I was as angry as anyone else at Blackboard's disgraceful pursuit a patent for their proprietary software.  I'm also, in my own small, quiet, almost imperceptible way a part of the background noise grumbling at their recent acquisition of Moodlerooms and Netspot.

Their acquisition of these two Moodle support services seems to be, according to people more savvy than me on these issues, an attempt to diversify their activities so that they become an all-round IT and educational services provider. They also have an advantage over their competitors because they already have access to data that is useful for educational analytics, and that's where their attraction to institutions lies, in addition to being an 'end-to-end' provider for the student learning experience, and that's why they won't be disappearing any time soon (although they might change their name). Essentially, their product will be the people who use their VLE, and the data they can provide.

Which brings me to the fact that I have just got a job as a Learning Technology Assistant, with my main function being to work on Blackboard. I'm not going to refuse to work on it due to my ethical or political objections, I have to get on with it and earn a living, and provide a service for the people who use Blackboard. Whether I think a mashup of free and open source products would be pedagogically better than Blackboard is irrelevant - the university uses Blackboard, and probably aren't going to get rid any time soon (they've just upgraded to the latest version).

So, does this leave me as a hapless, forlorn hypocrite - tossed aside and disregarded by yet another corporate behemoth as it trundles on relentlessly in pursuit of increased shareholder value? I don't think so, I have to be pragmatic, I have a mortgage to pay, and I want two foreign holidays a year :-) I will continue to make a small contribution to the background noise and, as the saying goes, it's better to be on the inside of the tent pissing out, than on the outside pissing in, even if I'd rather not be doing either.