Monthly Archives: February 2012

To Reboot Hit Alt-Higher Ed, for legislators Ctrl-Alt-Higher Ed

Neat summary of the various “alt” discussions (Alt-text, Alt-HE, Alt-Career) taking place:

Many of the alt-career seekers are in the humanities, where traditional faculty jobs are the hardest to obtain. A grassroots movement has emerged to take a new and different approach—that is, an alternateapproach. Expect to see more of this in higher education, where opportunities for starting something new are riper than ever.

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Sir Topham Hatt is not pleased

Sir Topham Hatt routinely chastises his engines when they allow their selfish, and foolish, decisions to interfere with the proper running of the railroad.  He tells them, “You are causing confusion and delay!”

This analysis of the Heartland Institute’s campaign to “derail” the teaching of climate science is one which deserves Sir Hatt’s admonishment!

The documents, from a nonprofit organization in Chicago called theHeartland Institute, outline plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet. “Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective,” one document said.

While the documents offer a rare glimpse of the internal thinking motivating the campaign against climate science, defenders of science education were preparing for battle even before the leak. Efforts to undermine climate-science instruction are beginning to spread across the country, they said, and they fear a long fight similar to that over the teaching of evolution in public schools.


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STEM lecture alternatives

WP : Colleges looking beyond the lecture

The lecture backlash signals an evolving vision of college as participatory exercise. Gone are the days when the professor could recite a textbook in class. The watchword of today is “active learning.” Students are working experiments, solving problems, answering questions — or at least registering an opinion on an interactive “smartboard” with an electronic clicker.

…If we want to get that whole human being out at the other end, we have to offer them a variety of experiences. And the lecture is part of it,” said Hartmut Doebel, a GWU biologist. “I don’t think we will ever get away from it completely.”


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Things to make you go “hmmmm”

James Lewis, Center for International Strategic Studies – spoke on CSPAN 10 Feb 2012 regarding security.  He does not hesitate to put his social security number on the web.  “If they want to get your stuff, they will get your stuff.”

Then there is this NYT story, Big Data’s Impact in the World, from which we get this quote:

Mr. Smolan is an enthusiast, saying that Big Data has the potential to be “humanity’s dashboard,” an intelligent tool that can help combat poverty, crime and pollution. Privacy advocates take a dim view, warning that Big Data is Big Brother, in corporate clothing.

Data measurement, Professor Brynjolfsson explains, is the modern equivalent of the microscope. Google searches, Facebook posts and Twitter messages, for example, make it possible to measure behavior and sentiment in fine detail and as it happens.

Now look at the conclusions from an analysis by NYT on the aggressiveness of government prosecution of leaks, and the reporters who wrote about them, under President Obama.  James Risen was subpoenaed :

“I was told in a rather cocky manner” by a national security representative, Ms. Dalglish recalled, that “the Risen subpoena is one of the last you’ll see.”

She continued, paraphrasing the official: “We don’t need to ask who you’re talking to. We know.

Then, remember the hacks from the newspapers in Britain?  Corporations showing no regard for individual liberties (such as a right to privacy) in pursuit of the quarterly profit.

Speaking of – NYT editorial on ALEC — funded by — large corporations — and its pervasive influence at the state level.

So, while there is much thrashing about over whether the second amendment is being respected, our first, and fourth amendment, rights are quickly deteriorating…

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Eating our own dogfood – alternatives to traditional txtbooks

Chronicle : Temple U. Project Ditches Textbooks for Homemade Digital Alternatives

The pilot project gave 11 faculty members $1,000 each to create a digital alternative to a traditional textbook. To enliven their students’ reading, the instructors pulled together primary-source documents and material culled from library archives. Steven J. Bell, the associate university librarian for research and instructional services at Temple, said the project tried to create new kinds of learning experiences while saving students money at the same time. The textbooks covered a variety of subjects, including biomechanics, writing, and marketing. The Temple program mirrors a similar effort announced at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in December.

Her students reacted “with glee” at the online book’s free price tag, she said.

UMASS Press Release

 UMass Amherst Provost’s Office and the University Libraries launched a program in the spring of 2011—the Open Education Initiative—that supports faculty interested in pursuing non-traditional educational resources as an alternative to the traditional commercial textbook.

Eight faculty members were awarded a total of 10 grants, $1,000 per course, to adopt a new curricular resource strategy using easily identified digital resources. Under the program, faculty developed a variety of alternatives, from creating an online open access lab manual to utilizing e-books and streaming media available through the Libraries’ numerous databases. In support of this initiative, librarians developed a comprehensive subject guide to open educational resources.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, it is estimated this $10,000 investment will save 700 students more than $72,000 – money that would have been spent on commercial textbooks for these courses.

For more on the UMASS Open Education Initiative – go here

OpenStax College is another alternative:

OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials. Our free textbooks are developed and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure they are readable, accurate, and meet the scope and sequence requirements of your course. Through our partnerships with companies and foundations committed to reducing costs for students, OpenStax College is working to improve access to higher education for all. OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University and is made possible through the generous support of several philanthropic foundations.

More info at Techdirt

Flat World Knowledge

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Silly books are for kids

From Inside Higher Ed

 Why Pay for Intro Textbooks?  Using Rice’s Connexions platform, OpenStax will offer free course materials for five common introductory classes. The textbooks are open to classes anywhere and organizers believe the programs could save students $90 million in the next five years if the books capture 10 percent of the national market. OpenStax is funded by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

How do we teach students the merits of personal learning networks?

I decided that this very quick guide, developed by thinking aloud with my Twitter PLN, counts as useful info on augmented collective intelligence. A personal learning network IS a tool for augmented collective intelligence. — Howard 

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Future Ed : New tech meets old models and price controls (no free mkt for University)

From Campus Technology:

 NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition, researchers and analysts identified six technologies that have the potential to break down linguistic and cultural barriers, make education more affordable and efficient, open up new modes of learning, improve students’ chances of success and satisfaction in school, and connect us with the everyday objects in our lives.

From the National Review – a grim forecast:

 many universities may bankrupt themselves by clinging to an educational approach that confuses lecturing with learning and protects highly paid, tenured faculties and administrators from a tsunami of technological change that soon will deliver transformational learning at a fraction of today’s costs.

From the Chronicle:

The problem is, the current financing mechanism for college is far from a free market. Government subsidies account for close to 90 percent of revenues at some colleges when you add up grants, loans, and research funds. Also, nonprofit colleges are exempt from paying many taxes, and they receive tax-exempt gifts from donors.

“In the absence of a government subsidy, most colleges could not fill up their seats,” argues Ronald G. Ehrenberg, a higher-education economist and professor at Cornell University. “It’s silly to think that this is a free market.”

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Educating for surreal environs #21stCHiEd

Lots of discussion can be found regarding the mission of postsecondary schools to train students to process information.  This quote, found in an AP story on the announcement of a guided bullet, paints a surreal picture of what our students will be doing – on the field of battle and in corporate realms:

Firestone and other experts said the battlefield of the future will surely include more capabilities for guiding bullets and bombs, but what will make the difference will be communication improvements and intelligence sharing systems that take advantage of the high-tech weapons while linking each soldier together.

Defense department researchers and contractors are already developing flying nano-bots that can stream live video, contact lenses that would allow soldiers to focus simultaneously on virtual digital images and their surroundings, and smartphone apps that help with tactical operations.

“Where we’re going is to a world where the individual soldier, Marine, sailor or airman lives in a bath of knowledge. The world would be surreal in the original sense of super real. When you look at something, you see what you need to see when you need to see it,” Firestone said. “They will have the ability to make decisions more accurately and that will have a significant impact.”

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