Showing posts with label college. Show all posts
Showing posts with label college. Show all posts

Review: Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The most important statement I can say about this book is that every student should read this book in their freshmen or sophomore year of high school--yes, high school. Bruni's exploration into 3-Card Monte structure that is higher education when it comes to seducing students should be understood by all students as it has many long-term implications for them. Throughout the book, Bruni systematically breaks down the traditional mindset to aspire to elite colleges, noting how success in getting into them and success as a result of attending them is drastically overrated and over-played. He highlights a range of approaches and strategies that students should use to determine what form of higher education is best for them.

View all my reviews

Giving on #GivingTuesday to #SSUGivesBack

Commonwealth Honors Program Giving Page
This year for #GivingTuesday, one of the places that I'll be donating to will be is Salem State University's #SSUGivesBack crowd-sourcing project.  Specifically, I'll be giving to the Honors Program fundraiser.  Each other year, the Honor Program at Salem State University tries to send a group of students to Washington D.C. (or NYC or Montreal) for a few days to expand their horizons and show them something that some of them may have never seen before.  But as budgets in higher education continue to tighten, the Honors Program doesn't have enough to cover this great trip and so are looking for a means of raising the funds from students 

Giving Levels for #SSUGivesBack Honors Program Project
Giving Levels for
Honors Program Project

So why should you donate?  

Well, I don't claim that you necessarily should, but I will share with you why I am choosing them as one of the recipients of my donations for #GivingTuesday.  I owe a lot to my success as an adult to the SSU Honors Program.  When I entered Salem State, I had an inkling that I would do well and find my way, but it was the Honors Program that was the guiding light that both helped and pushed me to do things beyond "just get an education" which, as a commuter student, is often how we viewed going to Salem State.

Beyond just more rigorous courses, the Honors Program provided a community and opportunities for students to take part in that enhanced my experience every year of the program.  The program and its leadership encouraged students to grow in ways they might not have previously conceived of themselves growing.  One way they did this was through supporting students in travelling to different opportunities to present and meet other students in Honors Programs across the country.  

In my first year, I applied to present at such an event, a regional Honors Program conference in Washington D.C.  In total, I believe there was about eight of us who were attending and presenting.  It was indeed my first conference and my first exposure to any kind of academic conference.  It was scaring (first time presenting to a roomful of students and adults), inspiring (getting through said presentation), exciting (meeting other students from around the country also excited about learning to some degree), and fun (spending time both at the conference and in D.C.).  In fact, one of the more exciting things that I recall was that I got to visit the Smithsonian while they were still hosting the Star Wars: The Magic of Myth exhibit.

In total, it was a great experience and I am still friends with several of the other students that I went on the trip with.  As importantly, it inspired me to do these kind of events more often.  Thus, throughout my college years, I presented at such conferences at least once if not upwards of six times a year at many local, regional, and national conferences.  That made such a gigantic difference in my learning and development.  It played a key role in eventually becoming an educator and even in presenting at dozens of conferences sense.  

So when I look back at my experience at Salem State University, the Honors Program, and the impact such trips had on my adult and professional life, it is palpable.  Such opportunities strongly contributed to who I am today and I'm compelled to make sure to give back so that others have such opportunities as well.  

I hope this encourages you to possibly donate to the Honors Program, but if not, I hope you'll still consider giving something to some charity that you feel is worthy of your money.  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Blog post on On Campus: Degrees of Angst Part 1

The following is part one of a two part guest blog post that I wrote which was published on WGBH's On Campus blog.  It's in response to the most recent report, Degrees of Urgency from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

Snapshot of the Vision Project website.
Snapshot of the Vision Project website.
"In late October, the Massachusetts’ Department of Higher Education released its “Degrees of Urgency” Vision Project report. It addresses challenges for state colleges and universities as demographic shifts in the next decade will result in smaller student enrollments. In New England, colleges can anticipate a 9 percent or more population loss.   

The report arrives on the heels of a dramatic shift in Massachusetts funding for higher education.  The new funding formula focuses significantly on completion rates of students who start full time and complete a program within the expected time. The formula seems likely to exasperate existing problems since state institution populations have continued to grow significantly since 2000, despite over 30 percent drop in public funding during that same time."

For the full post, please visit the On Campus Blog here.

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Recent Blogpost on NSCC LETS Blog: Instructional Technology: The Green Solution

This is a blog post, I wrote for the NSCC LETS Blog.  

An often unrealized potential of instructional technology is the ways it can benefit the environment and reduce waste.  Here are some of my favorite ways to reduce waste through technology.

Online Readings

By providing readings online and allowing students to bring digital devices to class to use when we are working on the class readings, means that students are less likely to print it out.  However, even if they do, I provide them with instructions on how to get the most out of printing by using double-sided and depending on their viewing preferences, possibly 2 pages per side of paper (therefore a 60-page document is reduced to 15 pieces of paper).  Particularly in courses that have massive (and often, overpriced) texts that have lots inside that may never be read, I like that I can provide just the necessities. And with a growing assortment of Open Textbooks that are online for free, it makes it even easier!

Read the rest of the blog post on their website.

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Recommendations on Learning, Education and Academia Books

Given that I work in higher education, have accumulated a handful of degrees, and have taught about 100 college courses, I've spend a good amount of time about learning, education, and academia (yes, those are largely different things with overlapping commonalities) and having just finished a Master's in Education, I thought I'd take a walk down book memory lane to see what are those different books that impacted my thoughts on learning, education, and academia.

Like I warned in this post on social media books, I don't necessarily agree with everything said within these books, but they build an interesting conversation around ideas on learning, education, and academia.  Again, feel free to ask questions or leave comments about your favorites or those you really dislike.

Recommended Books for Learning, Education, and Academia

Book cover: My Word! by Susan Blum.  Image Source:
  • Anderson, Chris. Free: The Future of a Radical Price. New York: Hyperion, 2009. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion, 2006. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Business, 2012. Print.
  • Arbesman, Samuel. The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date. , 2012. Print.
  • Ariely, Dan. The (honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves. , 2012. Print.
  • Bauerlein, Mark. The Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2011. Print.
  • Berger, Jonah. Contagious: Why Things Catch on. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.
  • Bilton, Nick. I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted. New York: Crown Business, 2010. Print.
  • Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2010. Print.
  • Blascovich, Jim, and Jeremy Bailenson. Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution. New York: William Morrow, 2011. Print.
  • Blum, Susan D. My Word!: Plagiarism and College Culture. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009. Print.
  • Botsman, Rachel, and Roo Rogers. What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Business, 2010. Print.
  • Boyle, James. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2008. Print.
  • Brafman, Ori, and Rom Brafman. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior. New York: Doubleday, 2008. Print.
  • Brown, Brené. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Center City, Minn: Hazelden, 2010. Print.
  • Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.
  • Chabris, Christopher F, and Daniel J. Simons. The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us. New York: Crown, 2010. Print.
  •  Chatfield, Tom. 50 Digital Ideas: You Really Need to Know. London: Quercus, 2011. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. Fun Inc: Why Games Are the 21st Century's Most Serious Business. London: Virgin, 2010. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. How to Thrive in the Digital Age. London: Macmillan, 2012. Print.
  • Chertavian, Gerald. A Year Up: How a Pioneering Program That Teaches Young Adults Real Skills for Real Jobs - with Real Success. New York: Viking, 2012. Print.
  • Christakis, Nicholas A, and James H. Fowler. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2009. Print.
  • Christian, Brian. The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.
  •  Collins, Gail. As Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda. New York: Liveright Pub. Corporation, 2012. Print.
  • Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. Print.
  • Dewey, John. Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan, 1938. Print.
  • Diaz-Ortiz, Claire. Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.
  • Dick, Walter, and Lou Carey. The Systematic Design of Instruction. Glenview, Ill: Scott, Foresman, 1978. Print.
  • Donovan, Jeremey. How to Deliver a Ted Talk: Secrets of the World's Most Inspiring Presentations. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace, 2012. Print.
  • Drout, Michael D. C. How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2013. Sound recording.
  • Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.
  • Edery, David, David Edery, and Ethan Mollick. Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business. Upper Saddle River, N.J: FT Press, 2009. Print.
  • Forni, Pier M. Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002. Print.
  • Fraser, Matthew, and Soumitra Dutta. Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World. Chichester, England: Wiley, 2008. Internet resource.
  • Freedman, David H. Wrong: Why Experts* Keep Failing Us-and How to Know When Not to Trust Them : *scientists, Finance Wizards, Doctors, Relationship Gurus, Celebrity Ceos, High-Powered Consultants, Health Officials, and More. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2010. Print.
  • Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Print.
  • Gallagher, Winifred. New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.
  •  Ghonim, Wael. Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power : a Memoir. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.
  • Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.
  • Grandin, Temple, and Richard Panek. The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum. , 2013. Print.
  • Hadnagy, Christopher. Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, 2011. Print.
  • Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway Books, 2010. Print.
  • Herbert, Wray. On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits. New York: Crown Publishers, 2010. Print.
  • Hofmann, Jennifer. The Synchronous Trainer's Survival Guide: Facilitating Successful Live and Online Courses, Meetings, and Events. San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 2004. Internet resource.
  • Horton, William K. E-learning by Design. San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 2006. Print.
  • Howe, Jeff. Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business. New York: Crown Business, 2008. Print.
  • Johnson, Marilyn. This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All. New York: Harper, 2010. Print.
  • Johnson, Steven. Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012. Print.
  • Johnson, Steven. Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation. New York: Riverhead Books, 2010. Print.
  • Joosten, Tanya. Social Media for Educators: Strategies and Best Practices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012. Print.
  • Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. Print.
  • Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Viking, 2010. Print.
  •  Ko, Susan S, and Steve Rossen. Teaching Online: A Practical Guide. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.
  •  Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools. New York: Crown Pub, 1991. Print.
  • Kozol, Jonathan. The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. New York: Crown Publishers, 2005. Print.
  • Lehrer, Jonah. Imagine: How Creativity Works. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print. 
  • Levine, Robert. Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.
  • Li, Charlene. Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.
  •  Lih, Andrew. The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia. New York: Hyperion, 2009. Print.
  • Mager, Robert F, and Peter Pipe. Analyzing Performance Problems, Or, You Really Oughta Wanna: How to Figure Out Why People Aren't Doing What They Should Be, and What to Do About It. Atlanta, GA: Center for Effective Performance, 1997. Print.
  • Mager, Robert F. Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction. Atlanta, GA: Center for Effective Performance, 1997. Print.
  •  Mali, Taylor. What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. New York, N.Y: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2012. Print.
  • McCracken, Grant D. Culturematic: How Reality Tv, John Cheever, a Pie Lab, Julia Child, Fantasy Football, Burning Man, the Ford Fiesta Movement, Rube Goldberg, Nfl Films, Wordle, Two and a Half Men, a 10,000-Year Symphony, and Roflcon Memes Will Help You Create and Execute Breakthrough Ideas. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press, 2012. Print.
  • McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.
  • McQuivey, James. Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation. Cambridge, Mass.: Forrester Research, Inc, 2013. Print.
Book Cover:  Brain Rules by John Medina.  Image Source:

  •  Medina, John. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press, 2008. Print.
  • Mele, Nicco. The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath. , 2013. Print.
  •  Menand, Louis. The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.
  • Merriam, Sharan B, and Rosemary S. Caffarella. Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991. Print.
  • Miller, Donalyn, and Jeff Anderson. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.
  • Miller, Peter. The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done. New York: Avery, 2010. Print.
  • Moss, Frank. The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the Mit Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives. New York: Crown Business, 2011. Print.
  • Nilson, Linda B. The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007. Print.
  • Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things. London: MIT, 1998. Print.
  • Norman, Donald A. The Design of Future Things. New York: Basic Books, 2007. Print.
  • Noveck, Beth S. Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful. S.l.: Brooking Institution Press, 2010. Print.
  • Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.
  • Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2009. Print.
  • Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Viking, 1985. Print.
  • Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Knopf, 1992. Print.
  • Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. New York: Basic Books, 2010. Print.
  • Reese, Byron. Infinite Progress: How the Internet and Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger, and War. Austin, Tex: Greenleaf Book Group, 2013. Print.
  • Rifkin, Jeremy. The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.
  • Robinson, Ken. Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative. Oxford: Capstone, 2011. Print.
  • Rose, Frank. The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2011. Print.
  • Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New York: Current, 2013. Print.
  • Rushkoff, Douglas, and Leland Purvis. Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2011. Print.
  • Sahlberg, Pasi, and Andy Hargreaves. Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?New York: Teachers College Press, 2011. Print.
  •  Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.
  • Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Print.
  • Sommers, Sam. Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World. New York: Riverhead Books, 2011. Print.
  • Standage, Tom. Writing on the Wall: Social Media, the First Two Thousand Years. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. Print.
  • Steiner, Christopher. Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2012. Print.
  • Steiner, Christopher. $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better. New York: Grand Central Pub, 2009. Print.
  • Stiglitz, Joseph E. The Price of Inequality: [how Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future]. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2012. Print.
  • Sunstein, Cass R. Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge. New York ;Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
  • Surowiecki, James. The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations. New York: Doubleday, 2004. Print.
  •  Tapscott, Don. Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.
  • Tavris, Carol, and Elliot Aronson. Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Orlando, Fla: Harcourt, 2007. Print.
  • Tennant, Mark, and Philip Pogson. Learning and Change in the Adult Years: A Developmental Perspective. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass, 1995. Print.
  • Thomas, Douglas, and John S. Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?, 2011. Print.
  • Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
  • Vonnegut, Kurt. If This Isn't Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young. New York: RosettaBooks, 2013. Print.
  • Waal, F B. M. The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society. New York: Harmony Books, 2009. Print.
  • Waal, F B. M. Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005. Print.
  • Wagner, Tony, and Robert A. Compton. Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. New York: Scribner, 2012. Print.
  • Wagner, Tony. The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need-and What We Can Do About It. New York: Basic Books, 2008. Print.
  • Wasik, Bill. And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture. New York: Viking, 2009. Print.
  • Weinberger, David. Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
  • Willingham, Daniel T. Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.
  • Williams, Juan. Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate. New York: Crown Publishers, 2011. Print.

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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School Education: Convenient But Not Really About Learning

This past year, I read a handful of books on education, information, and the brain (see reading list at the bottom of this post for the major influencing texts).  All of it fascinating stuff, but all of it leads to me some rather disappointing conclusions.  As Seth Godin explains in his great TED Talk, Stop Stealing Dreams and Ken Robinson also addresses in his TED Talk turned animation, Changing Education Paradigms, the current education system is not only antiquated, but really, an impediment to learning given all we know about learning.  Given that learning still takes place every day (or rather almost every one of the 180 days students are required to be in school--barring things like field days, ski trips, and other non-education oriented excursions) seems to be a testament to the resilience of children, even when being done a disservice.  

This is not an attempt to bash teachers by any means; their resources and freedom are severely limited and confined.  That teachers are able to find meaningful ways to teach their students despite the impediments put upon them speaks to the resilience and skill of teachers.  Teachers put in an amazing effort to create a genuine learning environment for the students but like their students, that they continue to do so despite such restrictions speaks volumes about their dedication to the artful skill of teaching.  

What concerns me is that we have this rhetoric of wanting to create the best schools possible but often fail at doing just that because it's not convenient or it doesn't work with what school was like when we were children.  I cringe when I hear people say something along the lines of "I didn't do that when I was in school."  That education should be static and standardized during a century in which we have produced entire libraries worth of scientific knowledge about education seems like saying, we should still be treating health according to the bodily humours. 

I don't necessarily think that schools are broken or horrible places, but I do think in many ways we create as many barriers as we remove for different student populations merely for the sake of convenience than actual purposefully chosen reasons.  What follows are some examples of where it seems convenience trumps actual education.

The School "Day"

Typically, school hours for public school are from 7:30am-9am until about 2pm-3pm.  Within that limited and disruptive period of time, students are expected to be exposed to 4-7 topics depending on the school set up in 40-90 minute sections.  Lunch times are truncated to 20-25 minutes, pushing students to wolf down food in order to have what limited time possible to talk and socialize.  But does that format--particularly the 7:30am-3pm slot--actually useful for student education or is it just useful for parents and their schedules.  Would a later start time be useful or would a more dispersed range of time (9pm-1pm and 3pm to 5pm) change learning?  We seem stuck on the this time slot without much reason beyond that it's convenient to the work world, not the learner.

The School "Week"

The 5-day school is meant to mimic the work-week but is that really useful to students?  5 days of learning and 2 days off (of course, that's increasingly not the case for many adults of just working 5 days).  I think about my own experiences and Monday often felt like a throw-away day as we were still settling in from the weekend.  By Thursday, our eyes were set on the weekend.  Would more dispersed education or even less days off improve learning?  It's not that I don't believe children deserve down time, but is the weekend the best form of down time for learning and education.  It just doesn't seem so; again, it just feels convenient.  

The School "Year"

180 days stretched out over 10 months with several vacations interspersed throughout and 5 days a week is the standard rule.  First, why only 180 days?  It equates to just under half the year but is there any other reason for it?  Besides a sense of balance about school and play, it doesn't seem to make much sense (and trust me, I believe there is an essential element of play to childhood and education that we horribly ignore, but more on that below).  And is two months off from education actually conducive to learning since a serious part of the first quarter in the new semester is spent on relearning what has been forgotten or addressing knowledge gaps from the previous semester.  A further extension of this is summer reading where kids are coerced into reading two books among a list of pre-selected books.  This too feels more a product of convenience than actual substance.  I remember my senior year I didn't get credit for summer reading; not because I didn't read (I produced a list of the 42 books I read that summer), but because I didn't read any of the lackluster books on the list.  

The School Classroom

To some degree, I feel this has the most viable change with the introduction of tablets in the classroom and the ways that will change what the classroom means and looks like, but of course, such technology will not exactly be distributed equally for years (that is, until a newer technology comes along and lower-class schools get the hand-me-down technology).  However, having students sit for up to 6 hours a day for their education seems not only detrimental to actual education but to their overall health.  People aren't made to sit for long hours.  It's funny people are quick to yell at video games, computers, etc for making kids fatter because they sit for long hours staring at the screen.  But that's exactly what they do at school; they sit and stare at screens or the instructor or both; allowed to stand up only when it's time to move to the next class or go the bathroom.  We know I'm clearly a fan of the standing desk, but there is something to be said about allowing kids to have some means of control over their body in this regard.  (And I'll even avoid going on a rant about how those chairs and desks are just an invitation to poor posture and back problems).  

School "Activity"

That gym and recess are severely limited instead of highly encouraged is equally challenging.  One of my favorite books of last year was John Medina's Brain Rules. His very first rule is about exercise and how it is connected to learning.  As he says, our ancestors grew up on the move and there was a strong evolutionary tie between learning and moving.  That we virtually banish physical activity and require inactivity seems to do more harm than good.  

Looking Elsewhere for Good Ideas on Education

Overall, I think there is a lot more that we could do with our education than what we have done.  Looking at the Finnish school system and they changed they made in just 50 years, I think there is still much to be done, but so little has.  In large part, I think it's because we're still looking at education through an industrial model--one that treats the parts like automatons being trained to jump through hoops and because it's largely convenient.  If we could throw out the current school model entirely, what would an ideal education system look like to produce learners?

The top list are books specifically, but the rest are books that also influenced and guided my thoughts about this post:


  • A Year Up: Rediscovering America and the Talent Within by Gerald Chertavian
  • The Systematic Design of Instruction by Walter Dick et al
  • Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents, and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis by Lee Hirsch
  • E-Learning by Design by William Horton
  • The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch
  • Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson
  • Learning and Change in the Adult Years by Mark Tennant
  • Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? By Pasi Sahlberg
  • A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas
  • The Global Achievement Gap: Why Our Kids Don't Have the Skills They Need for College, Careers, and Citizenship--and What We Can Do About It by Tony Wagner
  • Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner


  • Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson
  • The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date by Samuel Arbesman
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by BrenĂ© Brown
  • Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman
  • As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda by Gail Collins
  • Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
  • The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human  by Jonathan Gottschall
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath
  • On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits by Wray Herbert
  • Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age by Steven Johnson 
  • Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
  • Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
  • Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina
  • Wait: The Art and Science of Delay by Frank Partnoy
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
  • The The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World by Jeremy Rifkin
  • The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories by Frank Rose
  • Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky
  • Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers
  • Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World by Christopher Steiner
  • The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph Stiglitz
  • Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger

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If Teaching Online Is Easy--Are We Doing It Wrong?

I have heard many people (including myself) claim that teaching online is easier.  When I inquire further, the person often highlights the fact that he or she can do it in their pajamas and even when he or she is sick.  However, I also hear from people as they talk about how much less work they have to do and this worries me about the nature of online education and the value of it.

When someone teaches a face to face class, they have a level of accountability and investment that has a strong possibility of being lessened in the online environment and I guess my concern is that many are offering a lesser quality product than their face to face counterparts.  There's a disparity here that's not really being acknowledged in online learning.  This isn't true of all faculty for certain, but there are faculty that conduct themselves this way and it worries about the nature of online education.  The following are some observations and concerns about opportunities and problems with online learning.

The online environment allows us to fill the course to the brim with content.  

Much of which is not our own, but just relying on other work out there.  Positive:  This means we can have much richer content and find ways of communicating the material in creative ways in which we may not have the time, skill, or resources.  Negative:  If it's out on the internet, then how is what we're offering as faculty, unique, useful, or somehow specialized knowledge?  If we as individuals aren't offering something unique through discussions, continually tuned and tweaked learning guides, or lots of deep interactions, then what are we in the online environment besides over-inflated assignment graders (and in some cases--even that is automated) or marginal curators?

Rather than reproducing the course notes, assignment explanations, rubrics, etc semester to semester as we do in face to face classes, they can be easily copied from semester in the online platform

 Positive:  This can save faculty an inordinate amount of time and energy in course preparation.  Negative:  It's ease of reproduction leads faculty to change and tweak it less than they might in their face-to-face courses.  Since they don't have to directly engage with the content, they are less likely to tweak it (sometimes even on a superficial level--such as changing/adding dates etc).  If you don't have to present your notes--just hit the copy button, are you more inclined to adapt them appropriately? 

Some assessments can be automatically graded through the learning management system and students learn their grades almost instantly.  

Positive:  This saves time (especially when coupled with the copying of the course) and provides immediate feedback on their work.  Negative:  It can often distance the faculty from the actual work their students are doing and as the course evolves, these questions need to be revised and redressed regularly.  Also, automatically graded tests come with auto-responses for scores which are largely the equivalent (no matter how nicely written) to the "We care about your call" messages we get when we call customer service.  Without direct follow up, it feels shallow. 

So what follows are some considerations about teaching in an online environment to bridge the game between the "easy" introduced by teaching online and the rigor of effort implicit in teaching.

Don't rely on automatic features of your LMS to engage with your students.  Make regular specific announcements about what has gone on in the past week(s), directly reach out to students to find out what's going on.  Make sure your presence is palpably felt through announcements, discussion posts, regularly directing relevant resources, and even holding online office hours or making yourself available through a social media environment (e.g. Twitter).

Reaching out to your students early and regularly.  Make sure they know you are regularly engaged with the course and their specific learning.  In an online class, we miss the opportunities to read body language and facial expressions to garner a sense of what's working and what isn't.  We lose that in the online environment and therefore, as instructors do need to compensate for it--otherwise, we're failing the ways in which we teach our students.

Recognize, just like your students, that you're recognizing that you've been allotted a certain amount of freedom (in the form of time), but you still need to follow through with responsibility (doing more than the bare minimum in your course:  grading papers, acknowledging (but not substantively participating in) discussion posts, corresponding in a reasonable amount of time.  That freedom of when still needs to be tempered by the amount of time you put into engaging with your students; the LMS is not a replacement for your "face time" with your students.  

Do not use the rhetoric of freedom or student choice to disregard your students and recognize that some may not really understand the nature of online education.  

In a face-to-face class, we can often given the student the benefit of doubt that he or she does not know or understand a basic component of our class (e.g. citing).  But we seem to lose that patience or fail to see how that is exacerbated in an online environment.  Students' lack implicit knowledge in online class.  They don't always know how to make sense of how to conduct themselves and instructors often fail to help in that regard because each course they step into is a very different maze than the last (in some schools, the set up and execution of courses drastically differs--leaving students hard to figure out the "right" course of action since it is different from what they saw previously).  I hear too many times, "well, they choose to take an online class and didn't do the work, so clearly it's their fault" (and to be honest, I've fell into this trap as well).  It's just not that easy.  Well, sure it is, if you make it so, but you do so at the point of alienating your students or failing to meet them where they're at and guide them to the endgame.  

The online environment allows us to automate much; we as instructors have to be all the more human and engaging or we're failing to give students the full value of their education.

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Students: Why You're Smarter Than You Think

One of the biggest challenges I encounter in teaching is seeing students determined to believe that they are poor learners in general or within the particular field of study they are encountering (in my case: literature or history).  It's frustrating because as someone vested in their learning and learning in general, I know that it's not an innate inability to do the work but more often, their mindset that inhibits them.  In fact, too often I see students believing they are not good enough at a subject matter and abandon it without really knowing if they enjoy it or not (nevermind whether they are good at it--whatever that may mean).  
Cast of the 1939 Wizard of Oz

I teach college level students.  They run the gamut from being just released from the imprisoning and often detrimental high school to having been away from school for decades.  Either way, they enter the classroom with some trepidation; even those that believe they are strong learners (whatever that means!).  They often enter the class with the assumption that I (as instructor) am the "expert" and therein have all the right answers (I don't.).  It would be amusing, if it were so problematic for their own learning.  The role of the "instructor" and  our current conception and execution of learner in contemporary education still holds that the instructor is the authoritative known-all, be-all; the Great Oz if you will.  The best of us (and I'm not implying that I am part of the "best") know that we are more human behind the curtain, than giant monstrous projection.  

Teachers, instructors, facilitators, we are more like Dorothy.  We got some advice from strangers one day when we awoke in a fascinating world that we were intrigued by.  Those strangers sent us down a path to get our ultimate answers and though we strayed along the way, we continue to find the answers we're seeking (though ever rarely reach the true end of that path).  That path is the discipline we study, enjoy and find value in.  

Off onto the Yellow Brick Road

So if I could say anything to my students about their learning and get them out of the frame of feeling they are poor learners or incapable of doing great work, I'd tell them something like this:  

What happens when you get interested in something?  Be it a TV Show, a musician, an artistic style, a style of fighting, a local sports team, a new style of cooking, a model of car, a new knitting design, a new phone model, a sequel to your favorite video game, etc, how do you react to this interest?  

You seek out more information about it, you fiddle with it, you ask others for insight on it, you read about it, you tweet about it, you get into arguments about it, you fight for it.  You become invested in it.  And that investment consists of using your power (physical, mental, financial, relational, etc) to get closer to it.  To know it better.  

That energy expended--it's all in the name of learning. Learning is coming to know something or someone.  And you do this constantly in your life.  In fact, you love to learn.  You love to study too; all that time and energy put in trying to understand that interest--is studying.  You love getting one step closer to the object of your attention because learning in itself is rewarding.  In fact, in many ways, you will often pay (in time, money, attention) to get to know your interest better.  You're willing to sacrifice bits and parts of yourself to get to know it better.  

That "aha!" moment when you figure out something new about the object of your attention on your own; it's awesome.  That moment brings you closer to the object of your desire in some abstract way.  Knowing all the stats about your favorite baseball team does not bring you physically closer to the team, but it does bring you intellectually closer and there's an inherent reward in that.  There is reward and benefits in learning.  You are intrinsically rewarded for getting to know it better. 

You sometimes forget that you're a constant learner.  You sometimes forget that the difference between learning in your life is not any different than learning in a classroom.  The major difference is that you may not come to the subject matter with much interest beyond that the course stands as a barrier between you and your end goal (a grade, a degree, a job, etc).  But if you take the time to consider that the same intrinsic rewards that await you in those things you have sought out to study can also be found in these subject matters, you'll find there is value in getting to know it better.  

Some of the most interesting and rewarding experiences await when you find a way to put down your guard about learning and what you can and can't learn.  It opens up a world where the only thing that limits you and your learning is time.  Time to find all the things that you want to get to know better.

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