Category Archives: Education


Got my travel plugs for SAS and labeled them so I know which one to bring in my bag each port!

So while scrolling through my Facebook feed I saw this post by EdSurge – “Minerva Project Proposes A $500K Prize For Higher Ed Teaching”

I’ve been following the Minerva Project since their inception (how can you not when they’ve raised $25 million!). I’m interested in how the project is going to work in finding these top professors to teach their courses. It seems this might be one way. They plan to give an a yearly $500K prize to faculty members from any higher education institution “whose innovations have led to extraordinary student learning experiences.” Wow that sounds great. The founder and CEO, Ben Nelson, even said “The existing system of hiring, tenure, and promotions often emphasize research and publications over teaching.” Which is totally true. You are unlikely to find a professor who is an amazing researcher and teacher at the same time. It just takes up so much of your time, that most tend to focus on one or the other.

After reading that article, I had thought of a professor I wanted to nominate so I went to the nomination page on the Minerva Project. That’s when I saw the “Requirements For Nominees”

1. Nominees must have personal experience teaching in a higher education institution (past or present).
2. Nominees must have a substantial number of highly cited publications.
3. Nominees must be living at the time of nomination. The Academy and Governor will select an alternative winner should a selected winner be deceased prior to accepting the honor.
4. All nomination entries must be made in English.
5. Minerva Academy members are eligible for nomination. However, they are not eligible to vote for the prize winner in a year in which they are a finalist.

All of them except #2 make sense to me. But wait you want the professor to have a “substantial number of highly cited publications?” Not just to have published many papers, but to have them “highly cited?” So in other words they don’t really want a teacher. They want a researcher. Those are the people in higher ed who write all of the publications.

This prize that is meant to put the spotlight back on teaching is actually feeding into the same existing system, that in the CEO’s words “emphasize research and publications over teaching.”

What a waste.

 

This article from the New York Times sparked my interest: Say No to College

Personally I think too many students are going straight to college for the reason that it’s expected or to get a good job, not to expand their minds, make friends, networking, and find what they are passionate about.  I feel this way from the encounters I’ve had with students on my campus – those who are angry they have to waste their time on a stupid humanities class – they are here for engineering or those who feel they are entitled to their full grade because they submitted an assignment…that was poorly done.

From the article:

“Education isn’t a four-year program,” Mr. Goering said. “It’s a mind-set.”

Yes! And if students feel they can get the education they need without attending college than thats awesome! With the amount of MOOCs and other online tutorial website/videos if you want to pick up a still you can. If you only reason for going to college is to get a good job afterward, then skip college and get a job now.

I’m all about people going to college – I mean I do work at one! I just want to make sure it’s for the right reasons and that they know there might be other options out there.

 

 

This blog post from Dr. Keith Devlin, a mathematician at Stanford University, is great. I’ve had the same thoughts about humanities MOOCs that he has. You really need to craft a community of students to have them succeed. By crafting assignments and having tools available for them to interact in many ways with each other and the professor can help foster this.

From Dr. Devlin:

…having now completed my first MOOC, I am now even more convinced than previously that the eventual (we hope) success of MOOCs will be a consequence of Facebook (or social media in general) rather than of Internet video streaming.

The reason why I felt sure this would be the case is that (in most disciplines) the key to real learning has always been bi-directional human-human interaction (even better in some cases, multi-directional, multi-person interaction), not unidirectional instruction.

YES! I am all about maximizing the advantageous utility of social media and learning technologies to foster student/faculty and student/student engagement.

This is what I think MOOCs are struggling with and learning how it works as they go along. The computer science courses offered so far are linear/instructional learning – watch this, do this, and eventually you’ll have a program/website to show for it. There is not a lot of learning why, or applying critical thinking.

More from Dr. Devlin:

…while the popular image of a MOOC centers on lecture-videos and multiple-choice quizzes, what Humanities, Arts, and Science MOOCs (including mine) are about is community building and social interaction. For the instructor (and the very word “instructor” is hopelessly off target in this context), the goal in such a course is to create a learning community.

YES…again! John Boyer (prof I work with) have traveling regional, nationally, and internationally on using technology in the classroom and how we use these technologies to create communities within the course. Within a large class you’ll have many communities with hope that they’ll overlap and push towards an overall sense of community in a course. It all about getting the students engage with the material in different ways, and ways that they enjoy!

 

 

I came across this post from Audrey Watters, who I follow on twitter and get her weekly newsletters. Her blog Hack Education is a great resource for whats happening in education, especially education technology and start-ups.

The post is from Ian Bogost, “Senior Associate Vice Provost of Something.” On the top-heaviness of universities. Which was a response to this Business Week article “The Troubling Dean-to-Professor Ratio”

This was from the Business Week article:

At universities nationwide, employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 to 2009, 10 times the growth rate for tenured faculty.

From Ian’s post (I totally agree):

There aren’t too many deans at universities, generally speaking… Rather, there are too many other executives and administrators, many of whom hold posts that operate outside of the purview of faculty governance, and risk becoming political moves on the part of presidents and provosts who create them.

Having been at a university for ten years now as a student, graduate student, and now working as a staff member, I do feel as though there are way too many administrators.  I remember as a graduate student in Geography having to get all of this paper work done for the Graduate School which was a pain. Why did I have to go to another place for paper work when I was doing my degree in Geography?