Dixie Darr

Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

In Learning on March 16, 2009 at 9:20 am

One thing leads to another

First Rule of Independent Scholarship

All education should be customized for the learner, according to Clayton Christensen and Michael B. Horn, the authors of Disrupting Class. One way to do that is to start with a topic you are passionately interested in and see where that leads. For me, that would be books and bookbinding. I love reading and writing, so of course, I would want to study literature and English, which could lead to linguistics and possibly other languages.

Studying the history of books would lead to ancillary knowledge of what else was happening in history. Science and agriculture contributed the materials needed to make books. Math enters the picture in figuring out the number of pages needed, the cost of publishing and determining the price. Marketing and other business topics naturally grow from the business of books.

Back to languages, which would take me to the study of anthropology, sociology, geography, religion, and art. Of course, any topic these days requires some knowledge of computers.

You get the idea. I’m convinced that this would work with any topic. As usual, “When it comes to innovations in teaching and learning, higher education seems like the last to know and the slowest to respond,” according to Randy Bass and Bret Eynon, who collaborated on a recent issue of Academic Commons devoted to new media and the technology of teaching and learning.

I see the frustration in my students who come to school to learn about accounting, say, only to discover that they have to spend two years taking general education classes before they can even look at an accounting class. How much more sense would it make for them to begin with an immersion into the field of accounting and see where that leads them. Ethics, for example, is a big issue in accounting, and that is closely related to cultural studies.

Okay, enough on this. Let me know what you think.

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In creativity, Learning on March 9, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Is More Money the Answer for Higher Education?

Is the answer to the crisis in higher education more money or less cost? Colleges and universities, which have a vested interest in keeping the status quo, clearly believe what they need is more money. With continuing cuts in public funding and diminishing endowments the cost of higher education has been rising at 2-3 times the inflation rate. Students routinely graduate with debts nearing $100,000 only to discover that their degrees only qualify them for entry level jobs.

The initial proposal from the new administration calls for more grants and loans for students to pay for the rapidly rising costs of a college education. Students, on the other hand, are searching for more cost effective ways of earning a degree. Enrollment at some community colleges has grown as much as 10-15% in the past year.

Savvy educators will seize the opportunity to find innovative ways to deliver education, including credit for prior learning, testing programs and ACE evaluated training. Programs like the competency-based learning at Western Governors University and open courseware at the University of the People.

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In Learning, Learning Tools, presentations, work on March 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm

The University vs. The Universe

The university has always been a poor substitute for the universe as a learning resource.

The world’s first universities were established in the 5th century CE in various places including Constantinople, Egypt, India, China, and Persia. The University of Pennsylvania, the first university in the U.S., was founded hundreds of years later in 1740 by none other than Benjamin Franklin. They performed adequately, if not always admirably, through the industrial age. These days they aren’t doing such a good job.

As John Naisbitt pointed out twenty plus years ago in his groundbreaking research on Megatrends, “Things are changing too fast for people to specialize their education.” Therefore, the most important skill to master is learning how to learn. “Tasks are going to change, careers are going to change. If you know how to learn, you can continue to grow. If you don’t you’re going to be handicapped.”

Now that the Internet brings the universe into our homes, if we know how to learn, we no longer need huge bureaucracies to standardize learning for us. Three sites allow all of us to listen to lectures covering just about any topic we’d like to learn.

TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public for free.

Academic Earth is an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education.

This non-profit is “working to identify these barriers and find innovative ways to use technology to increase the ease of learning.” It vows to give internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world’s leading scholars.

Launched less than two years ago, Apple’s iTunes university offers college lectures on everything from Proust to particle physics to students and the public. Some universities make their lectures available to all, while others restrict access to enrolled students. New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person.

Podcasted lectures offer students the chance to replay difficult parts of a lecture and therefore take better notes, says Dani McKinney, a psychologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who led the study.

As the iTunes website, explains, learning no longer happens only at a desk. Students now expect constant access to information, no matter where they are, which is exactly why more and more faculty are using iTunes U to distribute digital lessons to their students.

The next time you have an immediate need to learn something, check out these sites and learn from the best.

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