Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Service of MOOCs

Monday, February 4th, 2013

univwisconsin

I first heard about massive open online courses–or MOOCs–when I read Caroline Porter’s Wall Street Journal article, “College Degree, No Class Time Required.” Since then what Thomas Friedman called a revolution to hit universities in a New York Times op-ed piece a few days later has hit the mass media.

Porter wrote: “Now, educators in Wisconsin are offering a possible solution by decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting.

“Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity.”

Scott Walker, Wisconsin Governor

Scott Walker, Wisconsin Governor

The state’s governor, Scott Walker, expects to join the program. He never finished earning his degree.

The purpose of the program is to strengthen the state’s workforce according to a university spokesperson. As noted in the title of the article, you can get a degree that’s equal to one earned in a traditional four year program without spending a moment in a classroom.

Time and money saved are obvious benefits as are recognition of bits of courses taken over a lifetime in addition to validation of on the job training. David Lando is the 41 year old whom Porter describes in the program who will take hours of tests at home so as to finish a degree “based on knowledge–not just class time or credits,” she wrote.

third-worldWell beyond Michigan residents, reporters address the impact of MOOCs from the fact that a professor who previously reached a few thousand students over a lifetime can potentially teach hundreds of thousands around the world in a semester. With a computer and facilitator, students in the poorest countries will take part in learning from recognized professors.

Porter quotes professors who warn about potentially watering down degrees. Do you think this might happen? Will traditional college degrees continue to be given to teens/20-somethings to give them a leg up so as to enter the workforce with knowledge? Or, will a college education become a dinosaur, a parking lot for the children of the one percent? Does the world benefit now that millions [who understand English] can benefit from learning from the best ? Should performance, rather than a degree, once again determine who is eligible for certain jobs as it was for the Wisconsin Governor?

watering-down

Service of Cheating III

Monday, September 10th, 2012

studentsstudying

Cheating is as old as the hills and will outlast us all.  I’ve written about variations countless times, from a high school student caught taking tests for others to grade inflation and from ghost writers of college and graduate student papers to winning at all costs. In fact the first in the “cheating series” on this blog was about an epidemic in America’s schools as reported a few years ago by Primetime on ABC.

The Pollyanna in me has a hard time understanding why the smartest among us feel they need to cheat. It doesn’t compute.

I first read about the 125 Harvard students in question on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend in The New York Times in “Harvard Students in Cheating Scandal Say Collaboration Was Accepted.” A few days later I read “Harvard Students Fighting Allegations of Cheating on Exam,” in Bloomberg News.

Over the same Labor Day weekend The New York Post ran a story, “History Lesson in how to cheat: Stuy kids have done it for years.” Stuy refers to Stuyvesant High School, one of the best public schools in NYC and among the hardest to get into.

studentscollaboratingBack to Harvard, John Lauerman wrote in Bloomberg News: “About 20 students and graduates have gone to the media to tell their side of the story, saying skipping classes, sharing notes and collaborating on tests were all tacitly condoned by the professor and teaching fellows of the course being probed, students who took the class said.” Students told Laureman there were 279 freshmen through seniors originally enrolled in the class.

congress2Ironically, Introduction to Congress is the title of the course.

Lauerman reported that Harvard undergraduate dean Jay Harris said punishment for cheating on exams [which in my day was almost always automatic expulsion] range from being “asked to withdraw for two semesters, or” [a student] “may receive a warning or be put on probation.” In the earlier New York Times story I read that some graduates could lose their degrees. Laureman wrote that Harris “wouldn’t say whether the board would consider taking away graduates’ degrees.”

The backstory:

The instructor was Matthew Platt, an assistant professor. Quoting a senior Laurerman wrote: “Platt said, ‘I gave out 120 A’s last year and I’ll give out 120 A’s this year.” The senior told him he was taking difficult courses and needed to get A’s.

In both the Times and in the Bloomberg article, Platt was said to have told the class that he didn’t mind if they skipped class. Laureman wrote, “Students frequently shared lecture notes, which probably contributed to the similarities in people’s answers, those who took the course said. ‘That’s how people understood this course worked,’ the senior said.

“Platt’s exam instructions say that ‘students may not discuss the exam with others — this includes resident tutors, writing centers, etc.’ That contradicts the way the course was actually conducted, students said.”

I’d like to point out that of those registered in the class, over 150 aren’t involved in allegations of cheating.

I don’t need to learn the outcome of the university’s administrative board to observe that whether or not they are reprimanded, the 125 students are cheating themselves. Why not get everything you can out of college? Isn’t that the point? Do I assume correctly that if you got into a place like Harvard or Stuyvesant High School you’re an exceptional student, so why cheat? What do you think about all this?

studentscheating

Service of Perspective II

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

crossingstreetmakid

You might see a child and a grownup walk down the street ahead of you and hear the adult exclaim, “Good job!” The child is licking an ice cream cone or holding the adult’s hand or crossing the street, nothing more.

I thought of this when Jim Roper, a friend and writer/editor, told me to listen to David McCullough’s commencement speech at Wellesley High School where McCullough teaches English. Dubbed the “You’re not special” speech by the media, it’s worth some 13 minutes of your time.

wellsleyhsHis message to the graduates was to “make for yourself extraordinary lives” and “selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself” and “do whatever you do because you love it and believe it is important” and “get busy, have at it, get up and get out, explore.”

To wake up the students he told them throughout the speech “Don’t get the idea that you are anything special.” He noted they were among 3.2 million seniors graduating from 37 thousand high schools this year which meant that there were 37 thousand valedictorians etc.

blue-ribbonHe also said:

** “If everyone is special than no one is

**If everyone gets a trophy then it has no value.

**A ‘B’ is the new ‘C’

**By definition there is only one ‘best’

**I hope you recognize how little you know”

The son of the author/historian of the same name, I get the feeling he shares this point of view with his four children, three of whom are teenagers.

I was surprised to hear John Gambling, father of three boys, former school trustee and a NYC morning radio personality who has consistently shared McCullough’s point of view, say that the media unanimously cheered the message. I’m not so sure that was the first reaction by them all.

Some considered his message a downer and questioned whether it was appropriate to the occasion. On “CBS This Morning,” Gayle King interviewed McCullough. She sounded tentative as she began: “When I first heard the speech, I rewound it a couple times and said to myself, ‘Did he really just say that?’ What was your intention, and were you surprised by the reaction?”

I’m glad his message went viral and feel that one reason service suffers is an overdose of people focusing more on how special they are than on their customers or the quality of their work.

Do you think McCullough’s “you’re not special” reality check/admonition was shocking for a high school graduation speech? Is there too much collective breath-sucking-in and finger-wagging when someone punctures a hole in the school of thought that we should praise people all the time and for no special reason?

 reality-check2

Service of Response

Monday, June 11th, 2012

fashion-students

I’m so grateful to readers of this blog who respond to my posts. It’s quite remarkable, especially when you consider the many instances of people whose job it is to take action or in whose best interest it is to reply–yet they don’t.

I asked Erin Berkery-Rovner, senior career advisor at Parsons the New School of Design, how she inspires students to respond. “Sometimes we scare them,” she advised. “Let them think that there are dire consequences if they don’t.”

studentfacebookShe observed that students don’t regularly check emails or the Internet, so she resorts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and traditional posters along with emails and frequent website updates to reach them.

She noted that the readers of this blog might have confronted other roadblocks to communicating with students. When she was in grad school, some of her classmates confronted their social media addictions by using smartphone applications [apps] that disable all Internet connections for a period of time. “They lock themselves out so they can concentrate on work and not be distracted by beeps signaling a text or Tweet to read and respond to,” she said.

Even so, when she would like or requires responses, she takes action when she hears crickets. For example, she asks the students which companies they would like her to invite to Parson’s annual Career Day where they and the fashion companies explore internship possibilities and candidates, respectively. Parsons is considered by some-such as Eric Wilson of The New York Times-as “the premier design school for fashion in the United States,” referring to the perception of Seventh Avenue designers and European luxury conglomerates.

So if she doesn’t get a healthy response, she tells the students that they can’t be upset with the companies that participate in Career Day–”I warn them that I’ve asked who they wanted me to invite, and I sent out invitations based on feedback.”

womanmegaphoneStudents aren’t the only unresponsive people Berkery-Rovner deals with. She needs intern evaluations at the end of a semester and some company contacts neither send them nor react to three emails and two phone calls. “As a last resort, we send an email to the students with a subject line, ‘Possible incomplete on your internship.’ When we enroll students in this way,” she admits, “it works.”

When I request information from a group I try to make responses easy by giving them options in a mini survey. They can click “send” after noting “Answer B.” Most often, they add comments. At the least, I get enough responses to feel an accurate pulse.

What tips can you share to encourage people to respond to queries, surveys, emails and phone calls? We all know individuals who hide behind voicemail and are unresponsive to letters and emails no matter what, but as a whole, are people more unresponsive these days and if so, why?

pleaserespond

Service of Time-Outs from School

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

wish-you-were-here

Tom Brokaw, in a repeat of “In Depth” on Book TV–C-Span2–last weekend, took calls from readers about all his books, the most recent of which was “The Time of Our Lives,” [Random House Publishing Group].

In this book, and on the program, he addressed the benefits of drastically shortening two to three month student  summer vacations. He felt vacation time is wasted and detrimental especially to children in homes where both parents work and the kids hang out for months both unsupervised and uninspired. They lose the thread of what they’ve learned the prior year especially if their family doesn’t encourage them to continue to learn over the summer.

The long vacation originally came about because farmers needed their children to help with planting, farm chores and harvest. While this isn’t true anymore, think of the reaction of teachers, day and overnight camp owners and youth hostels that depend on these stretches of free time for rest or income.

tenementOne of the callers to the show said she was from the greatest generation-the title of another of Brokaw’s books. She was born to a family of seven children who lived with her parents in a one bedroom apartment in the Lower East side of Manhattan. She said she was calling from California, and a home with a view of the ocean. Education–free to her and her siblings–is what she attributed to their success.

This brings me to what a reader of this blog wrote to me the other week. After she found what she needed at a well regarded national discounter, she stopped a clerk to ask if the store carried paperbacks. He waved her toward the electronics section. She explained that she was looking for books and he stared back at her. She observed that his English was perfect, she put on her “best version of a good face and ran off to find customer service,” and concluded, “Sing praises to the wonderful school system!”

readingpaperbackI can hardly believe that the clerk, even if he was 18, used e-books throughout his stint in school because they haven’t been around that long. I wish I could figure out where he’s been. Although this didn’t happen in New York City, the next paragraph gives a hint about where the clerk hasn’t been: At school.

In “New Ad Campaign Will Fight Chronic Absenteeism and Truancy,” on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s blog, he wrote: “…far too many students are missing school. In New York City, one out of every five students missed a month or more of school last year – that’s over 200,000. And those rates are highest in our high need communities where school offers students the best chance for a brighter future.”

What do you think of shortened school summer vacations and efforts to encourage children not to miss school? Is there hope?

summervacation

Service of Creating an Edge

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

helicopter-parents

On “60 Minutes” in early March, Morley Safer reported about the trend for parents to redshirt.

Originally “a college athlete who is kept out of varsity competition for a year in order to extend eligibility,” according to Merriam-Webster, redshirting is also what parents do when they hold back children from kindergarten.

Parents redshirt for a variety of reasons. Some consider the date of their child’s birthday which, if on the cusp of eligibility, could make them the youngest, smallest and least mature in the class–possibly creating a lifelong disadvantage. Others want to give their child an edge so that he/she is bigger and more coordinated than classmates, a future sports star perhaps and hopefully head-of-the-class material.

easter-egg-huntThe Associated Press wrote about an Easter egg hunt in Colorado that was cancelled because intrusive parents pushed their way into the festivities to ensure that their little darlings got an egg. According to the AP: “‘They couldn’t resist getting over the rope to help their kids,’ said Ron Alsop, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up, which examines the ‘millennial children’ generation.”

The AP further reported that Alsop said : “‘It seems everything is more and more and more competitive, fast paced, and I think parents are going to see they need to do more to help their kids get an edge.’”

amy-conaboyAnd then there are those who sharpen their own edges. Take Amy Conaboy, whom I met at a mentoring hour when she was studying for her MBA at Baruch College. A graduate of Parsons School of Design in NYC, she was creative and artistic and she wanted to be equally skilled in business. Currently, she is honing her web development skills by taking classes at NYU while working fulltime and volunteering on several New York Women in Communications committees where she implements important initiatives. The organization recognized her contributions by awarding her Young Communicator of the Year in 2009.

Do you know people who create their own edges, like Amy, or who depend on others to sharpen their competitive advantage for them? Do you have suggestions for those who are on their own in this regard?

sharpenpencilwithknife

“Service” of Starving our Children

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

children1

Children in public schools are being starved by the processed food served at lunch according to a range of articles and op-ed pieces: “Processed foods still dominate school lunches,” “Finally Revealed: Processed Food Rebates Dominate School Cafeterias,” and “How the Food Industry Eats Your Kid’s Lunch,” to pick just three. This is an especially shameful state of affairs because much of the food given schools is of the fresh variety, ruined of nutrients, if you’ll excuse the expression, in the process. 

But the school children here aren’t being starved only by nutrition-free food. According to retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor on “Bloomberg edu” and in countless articles since spring, Americans don’t know a whit about civics and the situation will become increasingly dire as many schools don’t teach it.

children2Schools receive Federal funding for math, science and reading programs through the No Child Left Behind Act, which also requires testing. They get $zero for teaching civics. Only half the states require that children study the subject. Justice O’Connor finds this alarming for the obvious reason that our government is designed for citizen participation.

On Bloomberg edu, the Justice noted that children spend some 40 hours a week in front of a screen-TV or computer. This is why she founded the icivics initiative and free website-icivics.org-with its games and lesson plans that make learning fun for middle schoolers and easy for teachers to include in their curriculum.

children3In a December 27 article in the LA Times, “Sandra Day O’Connor promotes civics education,” Howard Blume wrote “Only about a third of American adults can name all three branches of government, and a third can’t name any. Fewer than a third of eighth graders could identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence.”

Blume reports that surveys by the Annenberg Public Policy Center find that “15% of adults correctly named John Roberts as United States chief justice, but almost twice as many (27%) could identify Randy Jackson as a judge on the television show ‘American Idol.’”

Might this be a reason so few vote in this country? As we approach a major election, does this alarm you? Do you think the majority of us realize how we are literally and figuratively starving so many children?

children4

Service of Research

Monday, October 17th, 2011

research

Before 6 am Saturday morning I heard on a tri-state news station that in 2012 and 2013, there would be a study to evaluate kindergarten students to refine early childhood education accordingly. I was waking up but I’m pretty sure it was in New York State.

Why a study? If someone discovers a way to better teach preschoolers how to focus, read, count, memorize, identify colors, solve puzzles, write, draw, dance, play baseball, follow instructions, exercise or sing, do they require a two year study to show that their idea is needed because first graders already do or don’t perform whatever’s in question pretty well?

suggestionbox2Companies are always asking employees–some get rewards-to share more efficient, cost-saving and effective ways of performing tasks and solving problems. Should it take two years to figure out that by switching to vendor A you’d save $X, compared to your current vendor, and perhaps save time to boot?

focus-group1I love reading the results of studies and research. Medical research may well have saved dear ones not to speak of myself.  I realize that research can be skewed to prove any point, but I’m still fascinated about what people [say they] think.

At the same time, I hate waste, which the kindergarten study is, and an attempt to extrapolate behavior from too narrow a study group, as in the following example.

In last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Christopher Shea reported on Shane Frederick’s research project, “Overestimating Others’ Willingness to Pay,” in his “Behavioral Economics” column. According to Shea, Frederick found that “People significantly overestimate what other people will pay for consumer goods and other experiences.”

My problem with the project: Frederick studied only students–at MIT, Harvard and Michigan–343 in all. The fact that students said they’d pay $690 to have perfect teeth while they thought others would pay $1,350 tells me what some students might think. Does that mean that a mother of two or a father with kids in college, a retired couple, single man of 35 or 50 who begins to worry about signs of aging, or an unemployed farm or construction worker would think the same? Doesn’t it matter who your friends, co-workers and acquaintances are?

Do you know of unnecessary studies and/or flawed research that annoys you? Can you help me understand the validity of studying kindergarten students when you’d be better off spending that money to improve early childhood education? Do you think a study of 100 percent college students’ consumer behavior reflects what the general population thinks and/or does?

 kindergartenstudents

Service of Sound Bites

Monday, September 26th, 2011

soundbite1

A radio newscaster reporting on the hour from a reputable network Saturday morning explained the stock market dip last week as having been caused by Europe’s shaky economy and banking industry, then dashed off to another subject.

Am I Rip Van Winkle? What about grievous problems in the US on both the job and real estate fronts with solutions batted back and forth by politicians whose eyes are no longer on the ball but frozen in simplistic party slogans or directed toward their own reelections?

How many more seconds would it have taken to say, “….on top of stagnant job stats and decreasing real estate industry sales here at home.” [It's always easier and more palatable to blame someone else, but that's not the point.]

Television and radio news helped hone the sound bite syndrome that’s been cut in half by Twitter, Facebook and texting. Concurrently we’ve watched the national attention span reach the depth of a photo caption or length of a one-column headline. Under such constraints, accuracy is especially important. Increasingly, people believe what they hear and rarely question.

irs1The “make it simple and be quick about it” trend may be the feather that sinks our shaky ship. Millions accept positions such as “Tax the rich and jobs are doomed,” without thinking through the ramifications. Wouldn’t it be grand if true? Leave things as-is and life will be back to dandy while we face zero pain to get there?  Tax wise nothing’s changed of late and we’re still in an economic mess with no new jobs. Proof enough?  

The scariest part is that all a person-any person–with a microphone, computer or pulpit has to do is repeat a slogan often enough and it becomes fact.

Past nodding “That makes sense,” the “don’t tax the very rich” proponents haven’t dug deeper. Do they question the motives of most of those who chant the phrase? My bet is that the loudest voices don’t want to pay $1,000 more of their $ half million a year income. Let some dummy who can’t afford a canny accountant pay!

Isn’t another missing part of today’s education learning to question what you read and hear? Is that because there’s no time for either teaching or doing that?  Are my observations as simplistic and inaccurate as my criticisms of our sound bite mentality and shallow thinking process?

 question-what-you-hear

Service of Charity II

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

donationbox

In “The Do-Good Zeal of the College Bound,” Caitlin Flanagan reported that “many of our most ambitious high school students now prefer combining international travel with community service experiences in desperately poor countries. The elite college-bound teen now wants–with the zeal of the convert and the focused intensity of a safe cracker–to ‘give back.’ Never, ever get between a Yale applicant and his or her chance to give back. You will be mowed down in an instant.”

waving-goodbyeIn her Wall Street Journal article Flanagan answers the question of how parents can feel comfortable sending their teen to these remote areas: “The answer, as always, is to throw money at the problem.” She notes that for $5,000 plus $2,400 for the flight from JFK Airport, organizations like Global Routes and Global Works will deliver a student “to an unpronounceable village in Cambodia” or for a “service and surf” experience in the Fiji Islands.

peace-corps1The students do what their Peace Corps predecessors did-”build schools, teach English, advance the cause of global understanding,” Flanagan maintains. “The difference was that the Peace Corps generation (who are the parents of the Global Routes kids) did not see their efforts as quid pro quo. Yet I doubt there has ever been a Global Routes kid who hasn’t uttered the incantatory phrase, ‘This will look good on my college applications.’”

Flanagan, a former college counselor at a prep school, observes, “Admissions officers at elite colleges see these trips for exactly what they are: worthwhile endeavors undertaken by well-intentioned kids, but no different from a Grand Tour of Europe–just the current fashion for wealthy youngsters, who are supervised and pampered at every step.”

shopping-bagsFlanagan adds “The ‘I just want to give back’ kids are starting to exhaust all of us because what they’ve really become good at is taking. They take up most of the spots in the best schools in the country, they wrap any scurrilous activity they can think of–from fraternity keggers to middle school make-out parties–in the banner of heart-rending causes…”

I also question the intention of most of these kids. The strategy is clearly to pork up their resumes and their parents are on board. That’s OK, but in this economy, the way they are going about it gives me pause. I mentored a public school graduate who excelled at a city college, took a full course load and strenuous, high profile paid internships at the same time. On graduation, he earned a fabulous if stressful job at a Fortune 100 corporation where is is now. At 25 he continues to make time to mentor high school students and run charitable initiatives. He’s helped others since high school, all on his own. In addition, I’ve met scores of scholarship students who beef up their resumes the old fashioned way: With incredible internships combined with any paying jobs they can get and excellent grades.

There are so many essential ways that these Global Routes/Works students could help while feeding their resumes right here in the good old US of A and in most cases, not 50 miles from home. Shame on them and their parents for supporting an empty suit approach to charity. Instead, they might send to charity the money they spend to ship their kids to these offshore programs and watch their children grow by really helping others, close to home. Agree?

bronx

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics