Friday, February 20. 2015
MOOCs and companies partnering with MOOC providers to offer mini/microdegrees are a new approach to higher education that can be viewed as a threat, alternative or innovation. In the past decade, the entrance of for-profit colleges and universities were seen as a threat. Some of those have failed and some have succeeded. The latest news in this line is that The New York Times will be entering education in a bigger way.
The new NYT EDUcation is a collaboration with the CIG Education Group. This not the paper's first attempt to enter education. Their Knowledge Network was an online education program started in
2007 that partnered with colleges (including Stanford University and USC) that eneded in 2012.
NYT EDUcation is in the process of assembling its management and curriculum development team, planning courses and programs and expects to offer its first courses in fall 2015. “All the options are on the table,” said Michael Chung, chief executive of CIG. Some courses could be online, others could meet face to face, or they could be hybrids."
Wednesday, February 18. 2015
Are those words frightening to higher education? The quote comes from an article with a frightening title: "Meet the New, Self-Appointed MOOC Accreditors: Google and Instagram."
Rather than a university seal-of-approval, these MOOC/certificate programs have approval from these companies which may be more appealing to the job-seeking graduate or the employee looking to upgrade skills for job advancement.
Monday, February 16. 2015
Vint Cerf has been talking lately about how future historians looking to study the 21st century will find an "information black hole" because the programs needed to view our digital files will soon become be obsolete. He argues that the world needs "digital vellum" – some way to preserve digital information over a long period of time so that in the future, our files will be readable.
Vellum (from the Latin "vitulinum" meaning "made from calf") is the hgh quality parchment made from calf skin, that was was used to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books that were meant to last over the years.
"The emails, the tweets, and all the other things that we take for granted today may have evaporated into thin air because nobody preserved them," says Cerf.
Here is an except from a recent interview with him.
"Vint Cerf, a “father of the internet”, [and currently Vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google] says he is worried that all the images and documents we have been saving on computers will eventually be lost.Interviewed by Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News, San Jose via http://www.bbc.com/news/
In a talk this month, Cerf discussed his ideas about "Digital Vellum and the Expansion of the Internet into the Solar System" and the challenge of "preserving meaning of digital objects over very long periods of time. That such a capacity is needed is surely unarguable. We already have examples of the loss of digital content, not because the bits are unreadable but because they are uninterpretable. The Internet, itself, continues to evolve and is already going off the planet, albeit on the back of a new set of protocols designed to deal with the delay and disruption encountered in deep space environments. Connectivity is not continuous and delays brought about by the inadequate speed of light are inescapable. We will discuss the current state and future aspirations of this work."
Wednesday, February 11. 2015
A colleague forwarded me a link to an article online with the title "Degrees don’t matter anymore, skills do." She said she thought it might be good blog fodder for me because "you have written about this before." Have I written about this?
The article is by Miles Kimball, a professor at the University of Michigan, and it is about a transformation of education. I suppose it might fall under my category here on the blog of "School 2.0" which looks at big trends that are often said to be "transformational." Kimball starts with some "destructive beliefs" about education and learning. He considers some of those beliefs to be that: "some people are born smart and others are born dumb; those who get low test scores think they are just not as smart and avoid tough majors that lead to some of the best jobs; talent is innate."
I would agree that those are destructive beliefs, but I'm not sure how dominant they are in our educational culture today. He references the 1964 experiment by Harvard psychology professor Robert Rosenthal that I learned about in an education course back in the 1970s. When Rosenthal told teachers that certain students were about to have a growth spurt in their IQ, those students did show an increase in IQ to a greater degree than other students. The key to the experiment was that those students identified as having that spurt were chosen completely at random. The conclusion was that when the teacher believed the students could succeed, they made conscious or unconscious choices that changed the way they treated those students.
The article touches on many trends that I indeed have written about here, such as using technology, flipped learning, innovative university, Christensen's ideas about innovation and teachers as coaches and motivators.
All this leads Kimball to say that one other force will propel the transformation of education: "a shift from credentials to certification." This particular force may be picking up more energy the past few years as we saw MOOCs, competency-based programs and other trends that questioned educational institutions' emphasis on diplomas and degrees. Credentials, measured in credit hours, seat time and exam scores, are probably being questioned more today than ever before - although they have been questioned throughout the history of formal education.
The issue with certificates and other alternatives continues to be how to "credibly attest to someone’s ability." Even in some innovative alternatives to credentials, the measures seem to return to the old measures, like testing, because other methods, like performance, are so difficult to use.
I think I agree with the ideas in the article, and I agree that skills are important. But I also feel that School 2.0 is still as far away as the Jetsons' flying cars. Today, degrees still matter. Perhaps, the next phase will be somewhere between - degrees that better reflect skills and abilities and are less a show of evidence that you have paid enough tuition, sat through enough classes and done enough coursework to indicate that you are ready to be promoted to the world of work or the next degree.
Thursday, February 5. 2015
Professional learning (still called professional development or PD by some) has gone through a lot of changes since the Internet hit us. Virtual or online learning, webinars, the MOOC and Personal Learning Networks have all been covered on this blog over the years.
An Edcamp is a kind of unconference designed for teachers by teachers. Unconferences are not like the traditional conferences that many of us attend. The usual call for proposals and schedules set up months in advance by the organizers are not a part of the process. The bulk of the agenda is created by the participants at the start of the event. The events are usually held in a school building on a Saturday or during a school break with the district donating the space. There are also very few person-in-front-of-the-room sessions and more discussions and hands-on sessions.
On the edcamp.org website, they give the criteria for an Edcamp as:
Monday, February 2. 2015
This blog has passed another anniversary (or is it a birthday?) today. Since the first post in 2006 ("Why Serendipity35?") as a test of blogging software, we have now amassed 3,133 entries.
Sometimes posting these articles seems like throwing out a message in a bottle because I don't usually know who might find it or read it. Tim shut off commenting a few years ago because he got tired of the hundreds and (on some bad days) thousands of spam hits. But we have our stats and the blog with its wagging long tail still gets a lot of hits. Last month Serendipity35 had 1,024,502 hits, so even allowing for some spammers and bots, someone is reading.
So, I'll keep writing. I do want to hit double digits in blog age.
Friday, January 30. 2015
You might have heard the term responsive web design. It is generally associated with designing to give an optimal user experience on all devices.
Since more people may be viewing your website on tablets, smartphones (or just feature phones), and large TV screens than are looking at it on the more traditional computer and laptop screens, it has become incumbent on designers to learn responsive web design.
It is something that anyone who is involved in the process of creating websites should know something about. That means more than just developers and coders. Marketers, social media workers, UX (user experience) and UI (user interaction) designers all need to understand how a site works on other screens and with their users.
Of course, it is more than screen size, but also about improving the user experience based on how we use devices and maximizing their capabilities. If your website can be viewed in a vertical and horizontal format, how can you maximize that? What does a touchscreen or a retina display allow you to do? Or, on the bad side, if you do not design with all of that in mind, how bad will your site look on other screens?
All this means that you start with content strategy before creating a visual design. (It turns out most designers start with the default design being for the narrowest screens.) A lot of this is still using HTML elements and CSS properties, plus media queries to display different CSS styles based on a device’s viewport width. And you need to rethink all the "old" design elements like images, typography, and navigation.
I also like to think of responsive design as meaning that the designer responds to the needs of the client and their users. That is an area that takes more than tech skills. It seems a bit insulting to call those "soft skills" but sometimes they are viewed as softer than than the hard coding types pf skills.
Designers use performance optimization techniques to make sites lighter and faster, especially on mobile browsers. The answer is not to design two websites – one for mobile and one for larger displays - but to have the site know what type of device is being used and adjust automatically.
I'm no pro at this and I am still learning responsive web design. and how to think outside the desktop box. As with many things in technology, we all need to be, like these new designs, flexible and wanting to deliver the best experience to our users no matter who they are and how they interact with us. That is why you will also hear about having a responsive design "workflow."
My first experience was making a demo site in Blogger using a responsive web template and then studying the code. Those tools have responsive elements because it is getting easier and easier for people to build websites (including responsive ones) using WYSIWYG tools like Blogger or WordPress without knowing much about HTML, CSS, or responsive design. But it definitely helps to know some of that. There are plenty of templates for sites like a portfolio site to showcase your work that includes the ability to display an image carousel and that automatically adjusts according to the device. If you resize your browser window or switch devices, you can see how that template responds.
Want to learn some responsive design on your own? Try these two titles: Learning Responsive Web Design: A Beginner's Guide and Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and CSS3
Thursday, January 29. 2015
It was on January 28, 1754 that the word "serendipity" was first coined. It was long before this blog and yet we feel a kind of connection. We like that it means "the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for" and that it was listed by a U.K. translation company as one of the English language's 10 most difficult words to translate. Easy definitions are never any fun.
Back in 1754 the writer Horace Walpole wrote in a letter to a friend that he came up with the word after a fairy tale he once read, called "The Three Princes of Serendip."
"as their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of."Those three princes were from modern-day Sri Lanka and "serendip" is the Persian word for the island nation off the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka.
I was reminded on today's entry on the Writers Almanac with Garrison Keillor that many inventions can be attributed to some serendipity, including Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Charles Goodyear's vulcanization of rubber, inkjet printers, Silly Putty, the Slinky, chocolate chip cookies, Fleming discovering penicillin. Viagra had been developed to treat hypertension and angina pectoris, but turned out to be better at something else, just as the discoveries of radioactivity, X-rays, and infrared radiation all turned up when researchers were looking for something else.
Brother Tim and I had our reasons for choosing the name back in 2005 and, as we approach our 10 year anniversary, if you sometimes find valuable or agreeable things not sought for by reading these posts, that would please these two modern day princes of serendip very much.
Tuesday, January 27. 2015
Thursday, January 22. 2015
I was pleased to see a post on chronicle.com that focuses on one reason I have been promoting the idea that colleges should offer free online courses of any size: Alumni Engagement.
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