Recent Post on LETS Blog: Freeing The Course Part 2: Course Readings

So now we come to the next part in our series on “Freeing the Course.”  In the first part, we dealt with free programs and tools, this time, we're looking at free readings and material for your class.  We all know that textbooks are a significant challenge for any course.  The prices are challenging for students between affording them, getting them from the bookstore, and glitches or problems with financial aid.  Then, of course, there is the problem of ordering them online on their own and waiting.


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So What's Social About Social Media?

Currently, I'm reading Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power: A Memoir by Wael Ghonim, which thus far feels more like a guy who works at Google talking largely about how Facebook helped to generate the revolution in Egypt in Spring 2011 (I'm sure it's more than that but at the 1/2 mark, that's still largely my impression).  Coupled with this is an ongoing discussion through email, GoogleChat, Facebook posts, Facebook Chat, and Twitter that I've been having with a friend.  And friend is an interesting choice in this context.

Jane and I met in college.  She was a freshman when I was a senior.  Over the year, we ran into each other a handful of times, were friendly enough.  After college, like many people, we fell out of contact.  It was early 2000s.  The extent of social media was instant messaging, which I'm sure if I looked back, we were "Buddies" on AIM.  But largely, no real interaction after that.  Fast-forward into the late 2000s, and like so many others, we reconnected on Facebook.  Conversation was largely sparse at first.  Occasionally, we'd comment or like on one another's boards or get into discussions on a post with each other or among 2-4 people.  But then something clicked and the conversation and interaction went deeper.  We've spent the last few weeks dialoguing in these different formats asking questions, responding, recommending, and pushing each other to learn more. Since then, we've exchange pages of dialogue back and forth and found great reward in doing so.   In thinking about the ways that we are connecting, there were several things that I became aware of:

  1. Jane currently lives across the country from me.  Without social media, this would never have happened.
  2. Even if somehow the star aligned so that we did randomly encounter, without the glimpses and impressions we absorbed from one another over the last few years within social media, we'd be highly unlikely to engage in the meaningful exchanges we've had over the last two weeks.  We're still be playing the basic introductory interview, "How are you doing?  What have you been up to?  blah blah blah."  
  3. The asynchronous environment allows for me to pause and deliberate what it is that I wanted to say--affirming and even helping me to clarify my points and thoughts--providing what I hope is more substantive response to her and most likely, her to do the same.  It is comparative to the exchange of letters witnessed in much of history.
  4. Jane is not a fluke.  She is among several friends whom I've connected with or developed a deeper friendship with online than in real life would have offered.    

There's much talk about what social media has done for what are considered superficial relationships such as the Facebook hookup or the Craigslist NSA feature (though I would argue that these too aren't as superficial as many suggest--but that's a post for another time).   Many still undervalue the connections made via the internet, even though we are meeting people online more and more including 20% of couples.  What I find curious is that without social media, Jane and I's real-world connection would have remained superficial.  She would have been the echo of some impression that was lost to the annals of my past.  Instead, social interaction online solidified her as someone who has gotten me to deeply think and engage in the world.

  For those that say our interactions are less meaningful, useful, or substantive, from an educator's perspective, I find that almost silly.  In our interactions, I've written thousands of words as has she.  And these were on complex subjects such as religion, identity, relationships, sense-making in a complicated world and others.  These were not merely words in a conversation cast out without substantive or responsibility, but written with deliverate though and consideration.  Questions probe areas that are often hard to discuss and made each of us think profoundly.  That we wrote it down is equally important as we advocate to students all the time--writing down thoughts pushed us to articulate things we may not completely understand or process singularly in our heads.

What is social about social media?  It facilitates relationships that wouldn't happen otherwise.  It enhances relationships that weren't to the degree that they were.  It helps to bridge the gap between the outer and the inner.  And that's not to say that it always does, but that it's a tool to allow for that and there are a great many people who have benefitted from it.  I'm not about to say it's without risk, but all social relations contain risk.

So what about your experiences with social media enhancing your life?  I know this isn't quite a new topic (even not for me), but one that was just made all the more poignant because of my interaction this past and forthcoming week.

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Recent Post on LETS Blog: Freeing The Course Part 1: Course Programs

We know that the cost of education is high and continues to escalate for various reasons; even at community colleges. This is problematic since we do serve as a gateway of economic and intellectual opportunity for a wide range of students who might not get into or finish college without us. But costs are prohibitive to many people and in digital age, finding ways of making class and class tools cheap is quite important. So this will be a short series of posts on Freeing Up Course Programs, Course Readings, Course Delivery, and Course Extras filled with great resources for you to use in your course that are entirely free for you and your students.  

For the full article, click through to the blog!

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The Right to Fail at College

Success is possible in the 21st century without post-high school training or education, but it’s increasingly unlikely.  (Success is hard to define; but in this context, I am largely thinking success in terms of employment and compensation; that is not the final say on success, there are many other ways of valuing and understanding success as the Happiness Index indicates.   With the context of employment and compensation, I then would say that success is being gainfully employed in a way that is not directly exploitative to one’s mental and physical health while simultaneously covering one’s needs and a reasonable amount of extra compensation for savings and basic upkeep of one’s life; it’s vague, but that’s largely because success will look different for everyone).  In the globalized interconnected world, more training is needed to fulfill the more complex jobs of that world and we are not giving people a good opportunity to fulfill those jobs (or their own potential for that matter).

In an ideal world, I would love to see advance education given the same access level as elementary, middle, and high school.  I can only see a more educated population being better for us.  After all, as Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn point out in Half the Sky with regards to women, when you optimize your population, the return on productivity, invention, and economic expansion is significant.  But that’s unlikely—at least in the US.  If recognizing reasonable access to healthcare in a world where our understanding and ways of healing are extremely complex (and highly industrialized) is something enough to cause uproars and claims of “socialism”, then recognizing how costly and inaccessible college education is for many, despite their need for it in order to be successful, is not going to fly either.  And that’s a shame.

Appreciating Failure in Education

So, my compromise—or rather what’s been toiling in my head a lot of late is failure.  My failures, students’ failures, our culture’s failures.   Kathryn Schulz’s take “On being wrong” makes me rethink education in many ways while BrenĂ© Brown’s "Listening to shame" is equally humbling.  But taken together is this idea that we miss some great opportunities to fail and learn.  So many of our greatest lessons are from failure and recognizing the things that we are ashamed of about ourselves.  We never get to have these conversations—because we’re too worried about being wrong and being ashamed.  But there’s such powerful learning right there.  That’s where this is leading me—recognizing that some students will need to fail and that we should give them the opportunity to fail…free of charge.

The income gap between people with advance education and those without is significant.  In recent years, a college degree equals an increase of nearly 70% in the big picture. Whether intuitively or factually, many people realize this and set off to college whether they can afford it or not.  And a lot do not succeed for a variety of reasons.  But failure results in not just lost time, poor grades, expulsion, etc, it results in significant financial lost that the student will have to pay back (if school loans were involved) or has lost.  That’s a serious hit when one considers the cost of the course, books, transportation/parking, time spent in and out of class, etc.  Even at a community college, the direct costs could run upwards of $600-800 and another $600-1000 in indirect costs for just one course.  That calculation is based upon the following:
  • The course is about $500
  • The course text is about $100
  • Transportation at least $1-5 per visit depending upon resources
  • 40 hours of class time that could be spent work at minimum wage $300, 
  • $600-900 for additional class work outside the classroom that the student could be earning money.
 That’s what a student needs to put in (well, multiplied by 35-38 courses), if the student is going to potentially get the return of an income 70% higher than a non-college graduate.  The financial burden of that hits lower income students disproportionately and unfairly, particularly if the student fails (and the challenges for poorer students to succeed entails many more obstacles as well).

Let me tell you about Jane.  Jane wasn’t ready for college.  But she had no way of really knowing that until she got into college.  She had not yet developed the intellectual skills to discuss the material at a level which proved competency nor did she have the communication skills that are reasonably expected at the college level.  But she did know she needed more for her life in terms of work; especially after being laid off.  Enter a unversity that encouraged her to enroll at their school (and though in this case, it was a for-profit school who has been under fire for its “recruitment” tactics, this happens in various ways at nonprofit schools as well).  But Jane couldn’t afford it—they showed her how to apply for loans and encouraged her to fulfill her dreams, get the education, and make a lot of money.  Money was tight, but with the loans, she could afford going to college.  So she did.  And she failed.  So now that Jane has failed, she’s not moving up in any economic sense and is left to now start paying for those school loans, limiting her options even further.

That seems wrong to me.  Yes, Jane wasn’t ready for college and someone might have been able to see that ahead of time, but there are many out there who just won’t know until they are there.  There are many who have to try college to know that they are not ready for it.  There are others who will never try college because of the prohibitive costs or that they are not intellectually ready for the challenge (only to find out that they are).  I don’t think we will get to a point where advance education is the right that we recognize secondary education to be, but I think we should recognize at least the opportunity to try (and even fail) at higher education without penalty is worth exploring. 

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

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A New Direction (and Update)

Greetings and salutations one and all.

So it's 6 months since last we met and many of you have faded off into the sunset--for good reasons.  A blog doesn't live on lack of posts.  But much has been changed over the course of the last 6 months and clearly this blog is taking on a new direction (Not to be confused with EC Comics' New Direction).

So what is this new direction(s)?  Well, I am no longer a hitch-hiking adjunct (or rather not as much).  In the fall, I interviewed for and started my new position as Coordinator of Instructional Design at North Shore Community College.  This means that I have "largely" reduced to just teaching at 3 schools (soon to be 2--all for good reasons) and I've started work on my 3rd Master's Degree (what a nerd!).  Ok--that's a lot of shuffling and I can break it down.  I got the new position (yay) and quite most of my teaching gigs to the capacity that I was teaching them (6-8 courses per semester).  Because teaching 6-8 courses is really like 2-3 jobs (calculating transporting time, grading, prepping for 4-5 different classes, etc), meant that downgrading to 1 full time job is awesome, but clearly, not going to keep me fully engaged.  Additionally, a Master's Degree that aligns with my job a bit more directly than the other two masters I have is a great idea (or so I'm told-hahaha).  Thus, even with teaching a handful of classes (3 online, 1 face to face) and working full time, starting the Masters Program actually works fine (plus, I'm only taking 1 course for starters).  Despite all of this, life has slowed tremendously (and wonderfully).

Thus, I find myself looking at this blog and still wanting to maintain it, but realizing that "Hitchhiking Adjunct" doesn't work so much any more (A moment of silence for its passing).  I still want to use this as a means of reaching out to my students as I still fully intend to teach.  But I also want it to flesh out ideas and hopefully with some of the downtime now, I can seek more opportunities to develop my writing and get out those books that are percolating in my head.

So what does this new direction look like?  Probably much like the old (though more frequent posts, yes?).  I'm still engaging in popular culture, education, technology, politics, environmental thoughts, and the world around me.  While I'm not longer blogging as a Freeway Flyer, I am now also blogging regular for the North Shore Community College's Learning, Education, Technology and Support Blog (LETS Blog), which I will likely repost regularly here too.

I hope--whatever readers are still around or come back or arrive anew, will engage with me, challenge me, and share your own thoughts about what I might ramble about here.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

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