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November 27, 2013
For Adults Who Want to Feel Good About Themselves
My daughter on Goldieblox
The toy start-up Goldieblox has been in the news this week thanks to an ugly public fight over fair use and right of publicity with the Beastie Boys (they've since relented). But the company first gained public attention over a year ago when they first launched the Kickstarter for "an ...
October 25, 2013
"Things Could Be Different"
A response to Kevin Werbach on MOOC "rock stars"
Kevin Werbach, a Wharton professor who has been teaching a MOOC on gamification (I know, my two favorite tastes together at last!), has written a Chronicle post decrying the use of the "rock star" moniker for MOOC profs. "The rock-star meme implies that teaching is all about performance," says Werbach. ...
September 3, 2013
The Inverted Classroom
The "cool" origins of flipping
Last week I published an essay on the flipped classroom, arguing that condensation and abstraction might be better descriptions of what happens in such a classroom than flipping. I suggested that the flipped classroom is intimately connected to MOOCs and other educational efficiency measures, and that a truly flipped classroom ...
August 27, 2013
The Condensed Classroom
"Flipped" classrooms don't invert traditional learning so much as abstract it
August 18, 2013
What Grows when MOOCs Grow?
MOOCs scale for bankers and industrialists, not for students
You might want to read this New York Times article about Georgia Tech's new online masters degree in computer science. The article is pretty good, reasonably balanced, and looks at the issue from (almost) all sides. Notable side missing, as usual: what students think. Anyway, I've said enough about this ...
August 10, 2013
What You Can Get is What You Can Negotiate
Advice for negotiating academic jobs. And maybe others too.
Apropos of nothing, some advice for my academic friends who do or may have to negotiate a faculty position, either on the giving or receiving side. It probably applies well beyond academia, but I see the same disappointments year after year in the university. So much dissatisfaction among newly hired ...
June 14, 2013
MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities (Part One)
A roundtable at the LA Review of Books
June 2, 2013
"Of Questionable Value"
Why do we take course ratings seriously in light of the horror of anonymous ratings and comments online?
I woke up this morning to a flurry of Facebook links to Do the Best Professors Get the Worst Ratings? on Psychology Today. Everyone also seemed to be excerpting the same summary, and I now follow suit here: To summarize the findings: because they didn't teach to the test, the ...
May 25, 2013
The ouroboros only eats ouroboroi
Kevin Werbach, who has been teaching a free Coursera MOOC on Gamification, spoke about teaching a free Coursera MOOC on Gamification at the $1k-2k/head GSummit, the gamification conference run by gamification consultant Gabe Zichermann. Now you can pay $15 to watch a video of Werbach talking about teaching a free ...
May 14, 2013
The Walled Kindergarten
The inevitability of corporate content controls on MOOCs
Last week, the Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) president Robert Meister sent an open letter entitled "Can Venture Capital Deliver on the Promise of the Public University?" to MOOC provider Coursera's CEO, Daphne Koller. The CUCFA has published the letter, which is sly, scathing, and deeply entertaining ...
May 5, 2013
Work With Me on Tinkering Platforms
I need undergrads interested in electronics looking for summer work
Under the aegis of the Georgia Tech branch of the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing, my PhD student Tom Jenkins and I have spent the year thinking about and making what we call "tinkering platforms"—those simple hardware prototyping systems like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and so forth. Our ...
March 13, 2013
A Lesson in Offloading
The logic of California higher education funding
Today California announced the introduction of legislation to require schools to accept credit for certain online courses, including those offered by MOOC providers like Udacity and Coursera. Let's review the logic of this process. Massively cut funding to California public education. Simultaneously, reduce public receipts, in part by offering massive ...
January 27, 2013
Two Billionaires on the University
Two conveniently juxtaposable views on universities today, from two billionaires. First, Michael Bloomberg made a $350 million commitment to his alma mater Johns Hopkins, which he credits with establishing his future as a leader. The contribution brings his total philanthropy to Johns Hopkins to $1.1 billion. In addition to funding ...
January 26, 2013
The Cost of Fees
Would I be doing what I do now had I been subject to today's University of California graduate tuition and fees? Probably not.
My graduate school experience was unusual, at least for someone pursuing a humanities PhD. While I did teach some, for much of the time I was in grad school I was also working in the technology and entertainment industries. In part this is because I was an immovable ass who ...
January 25, 2013
Open, New, Experimental, Aspirational
The rhetoric of "The Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age"
The Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age is a new document authored and signed by twelve scholars, technologists, and entrepreneurs including Duke professor and author Cathy Davidson, organizational technologist John Seely Brown, and Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun. It's been making the rounds among those of ...
January 21, 2013
The Microethics of Informal University-Corporate Partnerships
What are universities giving away when we host hackathons, game jams, and the like?
Everyone knows that creativity and productivity are increasingly given away for free these days, particularly when it comes to technology products and services. For example: we contribute to the business of companies like Google and Facebook by giving them our data to resell, and we contribute to the business of ...
January 16, 2013
Inequality in American Education Will Not Be Solved Online
With funding tight, the state of California has turned to Udacity to provide MOOCs for students enrolled in remedial courses. But what is lost when public education is privatized?
January 5, 2013
Educational Hucksterism
Or, MOOCs are not an Educational Technology
My colleague Mark Guzdial argues that MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how learning works. In the post, Mark argues that MOOCs misconstrue educational practice, mistaking lectures and rote-exercises for the central activities of classes in higher education. Reading Mark's post I found myself reflecting on a seemingly unrelated article ...
December 7, 2012
The McDonald's of Higher Ed
Nigel Thrift wrote a somewhat mind-bending article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about the Cheesecake Factorization of higher education. You should read the whole thing, but here's a choice excerpt: What I think we will see is this same chain model gradually taking over higher education. There will still ...
November 24, 2012
Senior Associate Vice Provost of Something
On the top-heaviness of universities
An article in Business Week has been making the rounds this holiday weekend, The Troubling Dean-to-Professor Ratio. It's about the top-heaviness of universities and the growth of senior and executive administration. The "money quote," so to speak, is this: At universities nationwide, employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 ...