Tag Archive | Evernote

Thoughts on Education – 3/15/2012 – What is college for?

I can’t help but start today with a response to an article that I discussed in my last education post.  The original article had students talking about what they didn’t like about the lecture format.  This one has professors responding.  I will be honest that the professor responses are quite underwhelming in my opinion.  I don’t know if it is a result of editing that makes the professors less compelling than the students or what.  In fact, the best response that I saw there was in the form of a PowerPoint, but the editing of the video made it impossible to read the PowerPoint fully in the time allotted for it.  However, when paused, the best points are there, and they largely mirror the ones that I would make.  That is, the the failure of lecture is the fault of both the instructor and the student.  Since the fault of the instructor has already been raised, I’ll focus on the student side.  Students are raised in our educational culture to see education as both something they will be guaranteed basic success at with not that much effort and as something that is a nuisance and waste of time.  That combined attitude is hard to combat in a semester course, when the student is one of many sitting out there in a semester class.  As well, when they get to college, most students have not encountered the straight-up lecture format before, and it is simply foreign.  As the PowerPoint points out, the students are encountering a different form of education for the first time, and they are being asked to adapt to it.  However, our current educational structure is so student-focused that the students are not expected to adapt anymore.  They should be catered to completely and not asked to leave their comfort zone.  When the students encounter the lecture format for the first time in college, they have gone through a life of having their own educational styles catered to over and over, and so their reaction to the lecture is what you would expect.  They want what they want, not what we want.  What is interesting about this is that I will repeatedly stand up for the right of myself and fellow instructors to grade differently (usually harder) and assess differently, but I am willing to explore different methods of content delivery because the students aren’t responding.  I wonder why this is.  I have made my own comments here about the lecture format, and I guess that’s it.  I do agree that the lecture format is broken, so I have much more tolerance for trying something new.

Of course, what all of this leads into is the bigger question of what college is for.  A couple of articles have passed through my Evernote on this topic as well recently.  It always helps when the current presidential candidates are talking about it, as that leads to a number of related articles scattered throughout the news sphere.  This one from The Washington Post tries to address this broad issue.  I have been reading Michelle Singletary’s commentary on personal finance for a while, so I would have read this one even without the educational focus.  She sets up the standard two sides of education here, asking, “Is college a time for young adults to just enrich their minds, or should students use that time to concentrate on a major that will prepare them for a career?”  She comes solidly down on the second motivation, pretty much dismissing the idea that college should be a time to take whatever classes you want, get whatever degree you want, and just explore.  Her point is primarily financial, which makes sense as she is a financial correspondent.  She believes that the financial cost of education these days means that students do not have the ability to learn for the sake of learning and need to be focused on what they can get for their education.  She does not completely dismiss the idea of education for education’s sake, but she definitely comes down on the side of a practical education.  I can’t say I disagree, but I certainly did the opposite.  I don’t think I ever got a practical degree, and I feel lucky to have looked for a job and gotten one with my MA in History just before the recent financial collapse.  My wife is just finishing up a BA in Art History, and we are currently trying to figure out what to do with that.  So, I can understand.  It is also at the root of why so many of my students ask me what they have to take history, as they see no practical use for it.

I just have to note this article from The Washington Post as well.  It is from the Class Struggle blog on their site, and it gives a nice historical look at the idea of college.  As Jay Matthews notes, “The outpouring of college student support after World War II fueled the unprecedented surge of the U.S. economy and its education system. This would be a good time to remember that before we start slipping back.”  He notes the challenges facing the idea of college education all around, with Obama pushing more students to enter college, while Santorum is saying we should not.  Matthews points out that we see a similar discrediting of education for all that was also seen just before the big push from the GI Bill.  He warns us to remember that the benefits of education always seem to vastly outweigh the cost.  I am never explicit about this when I teach my students directly.  I do, however, always try to talk about the idea of education to my students and to place the education they are getting into a broader context for them.  I hope that I do that reasonably well, but I know I could do more.  I wonder at what level I need to be doing something like this, talking more about college in the historical sense.  I know that the students generally don’t get much direct discussion of the value of college, so we would probably do well to talk ourselves up.

I’m going to close here, as the next article I want to talk about probably needs its own post.  Just as a preview, this is the article I want to discuss in some detail.  Your homework – read it ahead.  OK, just kidding, but it is quite interesting.

Thoughts on Education, 2/1/2012 – Digital Learning Day

So, Happy Digital Learning Day everyone.  OK, so I had no idea it was that day either, but that’s what I found out as I started moving through the educational news that I read every morning.  I guess it’s appropriate that I’m working on this project at this time then.  I certainly envision any changes that I make to my class to include a significant digital element.  In fact, I would like to go ahead and include more of it in my class now, although I am not sure how at this point.  Thus, part of what I am doing is trying to figure out how to use all of these new tools out there and how to use the various ideas that I am trying to accumulate.  I want to make something new and relevant, and I think that digital technology has to be at the center of it.

What is unfortunate about all of it is how hard it is to find good digital tools for higher education.  If I was teaching K-12, there appear to be a lot of apps out there for use, although I, admittedly, have not evaluated them to see if there is real quality or just quantity.  For higher ed, there’s a lot of stuff out there for organization, note-taking, and whiteboarding (did I just make up that word?).  There’s not much that seems of actual use in a classroom outside of access to resources.  in that category, there’s a ton of stuff out there.  Simply get the Smithsonian, PBS, TED, or many other apps out there, and you have a ton of free content at your fingertips.  If you’re not using Flipbook on an iPad, you are missing out on one of the most spectacular apps that I have ever come across.  So, if I want content, I can get it, but that still puts the creation of assignments and linkages on me.  I know that’s part of my job, but I kind of expected there to be some actual premade content out there for higher ed, and there just isn’t very much.  There are things to show, but not much set up to do.  I was talking with my Dean about this, and he suggested that it is because there’s more money in K-12 ed than in higher ed, and that when there is money in higher ed, it goes to research, not to teaching.  Certainly, in teaching at a community college, I’m really at the low end of the totem pole for these types of things, but I just imagine what could be out there.

I guess if I was ever to consider a different career, I would love to go into the educational technology field.  I’ve considered getting a second Masters in Instructional Design or something like that, but this lack of content seems to be a huge hole in the educational ecosystem.  I don’t know if there’s any money to be made in it, but I’m just waiting around for someone to make it at this point.

In thinking about Digital Learning (caps intentional on this day), I have done some reading, and I’ll include a few of the interesting things I’ve looked at here:



MindShift is one of those programs I found through FlipBook.  I like their discussion of education and technology and read it daily.  Again, if you’re interested in the topic, check them out.  Anyway, I like this article, as it evaluates the role that technology can play in the classroom.  I’m going to have to think on it more deeply at another time.  I like the first three points as some basic starting ideas on technology

  1. Don’t trap technology in a room.  This is very true, as the computer lab is something that many of us (like me) have no access to, and so if I want to use technology, trapping it in a single room makes it useless unless you are one of the lucky ones to be able to schedule in that room.
  2. Technology is worthless without professional development.  Completely agree.  We don’t get any of this provided to us, and I remain so busy between my teaching life and home life that I don’t get a lot of opportunities to go out and participate in professional development either.  I’d love it to be a more real part of my actual job, and I really am going to have to figure out how to make time for it, as it is never going to be just given to me.
  3. Mobile technology stretches a long way.  Use the resources that you have.  A good number of people are carrying around high-powered computers in their pocket.  Give the students some reason to use them beyond texting.

Beyond that, I need to follow up on some of the links in the article, and I have it saved in Evernote (another great free app) to do just that later.


Another thing I read every day is Inside Higher Ed.  They have a number of educational technology resources, and this one celebrates Digital Learning Day as well.  Interesting links off of the page mostly, although I like seeing the discussion generally in this blog.


Through the Inside Higher Ed site, I also found this resource.  I will check out the video later (my internet connection at home is not cooperating for streaming video from my living room right now, and I don’t feel like moving to the bedroom for a stronger signal).  But the broader site of Teachers Teaching Teachers sounds promising and worth checking out more.

Anyway, that’s a few links for today.  I have some on gaming in the classroom that I’ll save for sometime in the next couple of days, so hang on for that.