Monday, May 13. 2013
UnCollege challenges the the notion that going to college is the only path to success.
About 70% of high school graduates go on to college, even though studies seem to show that a college degree no longer guarantees success.
So, UnCollege www.uncollege.org states its mission as being "To change the notion that university is the only path to success and to help people to thrive in an ever changing world in which it is virtually impossible for educational institutions to adapt."
Some of their core belief are ones that intentionally disrupt how we have thought about post-secondary education and success.
Some of their efforts include a Gap Year Program and Hackademic Camps.
Thursday, May 2. 2013
The New Community College (NCC) at CUNY is a new open admissions college. Open admissions is nothing new for a community college. The planning for this new college started in 2007 when City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Matthew Goldstein decided to refocus attention on the diverse, low-income, first-generation students that are attracted to open access community colleges. One thing that was done was to launch the Accelerated Studies in Associate Programs.
But we he hear a lot today about the “completion agenda” to improve academic success, persistence, and graduation rates. The New Community College at CUNY is focused on trying to change the agenda that currently exists. It opened in summer 2012 with 300 students. Their mission is to rethink community college education in general and that completion agenda is certainly part of that.
NCC reports that the fall-to-spring persistence rate of their first cohort is 92 percent which is well ahead of most community colleges.
They accept applicants who have a high school diploma or GED, including undocumented immigrants. Currently, they do not consider applicants who require an F-1 or J-1 visa to study in the United States, or are only interested in taking courses on a part-time basis or a non-degree status, or are are transfer students.
Their Summer Bridge Program starts students and the "instructional team" in a learning community that continues through the fall semester. NCC uses field experiences along with classroom learning. Students have a city-centered first-year experience before they begin their major coursework.
They seem to be more tied into the city's professional community than most community colleges. Students value real-world experience and opportunities to apply classwork to outside. NCC looks to prepare students for continuing on to a 4 year college or jobs.
Their initial associate degree programs are inBusiness Administration, Health Information Technology, Human Services, Information Technology, Liberal Arts and Sciences and Urban Studies.
I'll be interested to see how things progress. Despite the "new" in their name, much of what I can find about the school (peer mentors. advisement etc.) has been tried before. What will they be doing differently?
They expect enrollment to increase to 5,000 students when the college moves to its permanent home.
Monday, April 29. 2013
I did a post back in 2009 using Jonathan Zittrain's 2008 book title, The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It, as the post's title. It got a good number of hits and comments and is the top post on this blog for attracting spam. It's a provocative title.
I realize that today's post's title might also be provocative. It might even be misinterpreted as being a piece of cyber-terrorism which is certainly in the news a lot today.
Zittrain teaches cyber law at Harvard and before I checked out his book from the college library back then, I had heard a short podcast with him. His talk about zombie computers and the threats from iPods, iPhones, Xboxes, and TiVos were not about how the Net threatens us, but how the Net is threatened by us in the form of companies.
Tethered appliances are something he sees as a threat because they are closed to our amateur play. You can't modify them and that is very much intentional. My father was a real car person. He never left the family car alone. He died more than 40 years ago but I know he would be really pissed off about today's cars that don't allow him to work on them. He taught me to test the tubes in our TV set and how to replace them. We all know that most people don't even attempt to have their TV set repaired by someone if it has problems. Just replace it.
Some people view this as a blow to the kind of innovation that actually enabled those things to be created in the first place.
Another fear in this story is that the manufacturers are getting a deeper hold into our lives. Google monitors your search activities and so does Facebook, Amazon and just about every website. They do it to make money. Scary?
This blog records where visitors come from geographically and what they view. I do it to have a sense of my readers. That sounds pretty innocent. But your TiVo reports back to headquarters about what you are watching. Is that a bit scarier? In North Korea, Zittrain reports, radios are manufactured so that they can't be tuned to non-official sources.
Where is this trend headed? Zittrain sees us on a path to a locked Internet that doesn't allow us to do very much. That sounds like the reversal of the trend we called Web 2.0 and the Read/Write Web that encouraged participation, creativity and innovation.
The optimism in this otherwise gloomy story is that people (probably not companies) will hopefully continue to develop new technologies that do allow users to work creatively and continue to innovate. As Zittrain has said, there is hope in that "generative technologies" like personal computers still "allow us to produce unprompted, user-driven change. You can write code, run that code on a variety of platforms, and share that code with anyone who might want it. Generative technologies are still useful for performing tasks, adaptable, easy to master, permission-free, and share-able."
But the trend still seems to be that consumers are moving away from generative technologies like the PC and towards tethered ones like the smartphone. Is that a choice we are making on our own, or is it something we are being pushed towards?
Trying to stop the Internet may be the aim of some cyber-terrorists, but trying to stop innovation on the Internet just may be the intent of some very well known companies.
Happily, Zittrain's book is not locked down. You can download The Future of the Internet (pdf) under a Creative Commons license.
Tuesday, April 23. 2013
I'm not much of a "gaming" person. Never got into video or computer games. I didn't want my kids playing Nintendo and such for hours and hours. And I don't even like the term "gamification" which is a term I am hearing a lot lately on education sites and at conferences.
I realize that gamification is not synonymous with gaming. So, to "gamify'" a course means to use the mechanics and techniques that make gaming so engaging. Engagement. Another big buzzy word in education these days. If you can use these mechanics to create engagement and incentivize certain activities in a course, well...
I don't imagine many students who will sit at a screen and work on their organic chemistry coursework for 4 hours because it is game-like, or that we should view that as a goal. But gamification addresses some needs that students today say they want addressed.
One that is always mentioned is immediate feedback and validation. That sends me back to my own Intro to Psych class and behaviorism, B.F. Skinner, Operant Conditioning and things like Random Interrupted Reinforcement.
Point, scores, status and rewards are some of the elements used to motivate actions in a gamified course. These mechanics are structured to achieve engagement. You may not feel comfortable about even viewing content consumption, comments and time spent on tasks as "engagement." But whether you call this engagement mechanics, focus mechanics, or gamification, you should be interested in the intended result - more time spent in the course material.
Being that I am currently teaching an online course with about 700 students, I had thought about using gaming techniques in designing that class. I decided not to design in that way because I anticipated that the audience was going to be older professionals in academia rather than traditionally-aged students. (That turned out to be true.)
I did find a course on Gamification offered by Coursera taught by Kevin Werbach (UPenn). I would have taken the class, but I knew I wouldn't have the time to devote to it. (I actually had two colleagues who told me to take it anyway, just to see what he's doing because "it's only a MOOC" - THAT is a whole other issue).
His course description is:
You may not be interested in gamifying your courses, but vendors who provide course content - especially online content - are interested and are including it now. Gamification was one of the 6 technologies in the most recent Horizon Report.
click image to enlarge
Image Source: http://s.knewton.com
Friday, April 12. 2013
Interesting quick note from the Emerging Learning Design 2012 Conference on their upcoming keynote presentation by Dr. Christopher Hoadley. His talk will be "The Death Of Content: Why Universities and Schools are (and aren’t) being replaced by the Internet.
The topic of his presentation is one that I have also been presenting on for several years, and that I feel strongly is a topic educators need to be serious about considering.
He describes the argument of his talk as:
"The current coin of the realm in academia –content– is dying and that universities need to radically rethink their role in the world. MOOCs, homeschooling, and the shadow education system all are evidence that the 20th century role of schools is decreasingly relevant. But does this mean that schools will become obsolete? I argue that schools face a choice: use technology to enhance their current functions but hasten their demise, or use technology to transform themselves and capitalize on 17th century strengths to be a cornerstone of the 21st century knowledge economy. I offer some ideas on how to reconceptualize the notion of ‘schools’ based on the latest research in learning and on ancient ideas about how to teach."
Dr. Christopher Hoadley is associate professor in the Educational Communication and Technology Program and the Program in Digital Media Design for Learning at NYU Steinhardt.
Friday, March 22. 2013
An interesting post by Anthony Cody (who is a 24-year K12 veteran teacher) addresses some views on "Bill Gates and the Cult of Measurement: Efficiency Without Excellence." As he points out, since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001, much of what we call "school reform" has been tied to measurement, testing and numerical goals. Mathematician Cathy O'Neil has offered an interesting critique of the Gates method of solutions via measurement. She writes:
...the person who defines the model defines success, and by obscuring this power behind a data collection process and incrementally improved model results, it seems somehow sanitized and objective when it's not.There is an old saying, "when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." In our schools, standardized tests are our hammers, and as Cathy O'Neil points out, the standards and the tests that measure what has been learned have lots of questionable assumptions built in.
In his letter, Bill Gates draws an appealing portrait of how teaching is being improved at Eagle Valley High School in Vail, Colorado. Reflecting the findings of the Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching project, he points out that they focus on "several measures that schools should use to assess teacher performance, including test data, student surveys and assessments by trained evaluators."
Unfortunately, a closer look at their research shows that the way these various models are validated is by the degree to which they align with test scores. This is circular, as Bruce Baker explains in some detail...
Thursday, March 21. 2013
The NMC has posted interim results from their 2013 Horizon K12 Project on emerging technologies as well as the top ten trends and challenges that they believe will have a significant impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in global K-12 education over the next five years. If anyone who works in higher education thinks that what is happeneing in K12 doesn't affect them, they are very mistaken.
Near-Term Horizon: One Year or Less for adoption by schools
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
Mid-Term Horizon: Two to Three Years
Adaptive Learning and Personal Learning Networks
Long-Term Horizon: Four to Five Years
Virtual and Remote Laboratories
Top 10 Trends (alphabetical order)
The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.
As the cost of technology drops and school districts revise and open up their access policies, it is becoming increasingly common for students to bring their own mobile devices.
Customized learning is increasingly a goal for schools.
Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models.
The focus of assessments are shifting from "what you know (can memorize)" to "what you can do (portfolio)."
Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information — is becoming a value.
People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want.
Schools are beginning to move away from textbooks to web resources and open source books.
Social media is changing the way people interact, present ideas and information, and communicate.
There is a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge based, active learning.
Top 10 Challenges (alphabetical order)
The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.
Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
Innovating pedagogy is a complex process that requires research into impacts, responsive state of mind to technology changes, and understanding what pedagogical strategies can make innovation in pedagogy possible.
K-12 must address the increased blending of formal and informal learning.
Ongoing professional development needs to be valued and integrated into the culture of the schools.
Many activities related to learning and education take place outside the walls of the classroom and thus are not part of traditional learning metrics.
New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of education.
Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies.
We are not using digital media for formative assessment the way we could and should.
Wednesday, March 20. 2013
I have been musing online for a few years about what will become of schools - both colleges and K12 - in the next decade. It's a question that people both inside and outside of my educational world ask me sometimes.
Dave Cormier was recently asked "Where do you see online education in 20 years? and he says he felt "sideswiped" by this question. Everyone in education thinks about the future of education. What made Cormier hesitate is that he's work on a book about MOOCs and adding them to the mix changes his thoughts on the future of online education.
His post gives some answers, but here is a short look at four answers he is considering.
In one case, he considers the possibility that the "MOOC kills higher education." It won't allay the fears of some in academia that he believes MOOCs (and he is one of the earliest proponents of them) as "most potentially damaging to higher education." He wonders what it will mean when 1 or 100 million students are taking first year physics online with a provider like MIT, especially if that course is connected to an affiliated testing center and has some credit associated with it.
I don't think educators will find much solace in his ideas about an "analytics university" either. That's a school (and I don't think I would limit it to higher education) where we have essays being graded by computers and analytics that predict whether students are likely to pass a course and notifications to the student, teachers, administrators and maybe even parents. Of course, versions of those analytics are already here and being used, so the future is really that this trend increases and becomes the norm.
Some for-profits will probably like his thoughts about the "corporate takeover" of education. My first thought is towards the entrance of for-profit organizations and publishers INTO traditional educational institutions. That is happening now. But Cormier is thinking about large, global corporations offering their own credentialing. He imagines a company like IBM recruiting students (high school aged or even younger) and starting their training before college is even considered.
I think about both of my sons, now only a few years from their college graduations, who were both told by their employers that they shouldn't forget what they learned in college, but that they should focus on their new corporate training. Cormier asks, "Why have them learn to do things an entirely ‘wrong’ way just to have to retrain them again when they start at your company?"
His fourth scenario is the most optimistic. It's the potential we have been talking about since the dawn of the Internet about a "community university" and how an Internet generation with this incredible access to information and the world community might be educated. I'd like to see that one be the education of 2023 or 2033 - but I think the first three scenarios are more likely.
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