Showing posts with label massachusetts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label massachusetts. Show all posts

The 4 Fairy Corners of Massachusetts

Sometimes, we do things that even surprise ourselves.  We take what we think is a good idea and execute it, only to find out that it is indeed, a fabulous idea and realize, it is definitely worth sharing.  That, my friends, is what this blog post is all about.

So my partner and I have two anniversaries around our marriage.  When we signed the formal papers and when we had a ceremony.  We know other couples who have done this for various reasons and it's just how it worked out with us.  Somehow, we have decided that I plan something special around one anniversary and she plans the other.  This past May, I executed my surprise weekend and it went pretty well even with several last minute adjustments.  Actually, we had an amazing time.  So, if you're looking for something to do for a weekend in Massachusetts, pay close attention.

It all started in late February or March when I came across an article:  Fascinating Places In Massachusetts That Are Straight Out Of A Fairytale.  I flipped through the article and found that there were some very cool places in Massachusetts.  I had been to a few of them but all of them seemed pretty cool.  Out of curiosity, I plotted them on good ole Google Maps to figure out exactly how it most effectively hit them all.  Once I did that, I saw that it literally took you to every corner of Massachusetts and well into the ocean for that matter.  Instantly, I knew that I was onto something.
Fairy Tale Massachusetts Itinerary Day 1
Itinerary Day 1

Once I figured out this would make for a great road trip, I just had to figure out the logistics such as how many to hit in one day, where to plan for a place to stay over, and how to make sure it was a good mixture of riding and exploring.  I got everything worked out and even developed an itinerary.  Feel free to peruse, borrow, and adapt for your own adventures.  If you do try this, come back and let me know.  I'd be curious what you did or augmented.
Fairy Tale Massachusetts Itinerary Day 2
Itinerary Day 2

We ran into a few snags that I didn't quite prepare for, but we were ok with.  For instance, the Santarella Gingerbread House and the Ashintully Gardens are not generally open to the public and one needs to make an appointment or visit during their limited hours.  We got to look from afar but not explore these.  Also, on the final day, it was raining so we skipped the Garden in the Woods.  We also adapted on the fly, deciding to visit my partner's grandmother and take her out to ice cream as we made our way from BishBash Falls to Sandwich.  And since it was raining on the final morning, we decided to go to breakfast with my partner's family since it was on the way home.
Fairy Tale Massachusetts Itinerary Day 3
Itinerary Day 3

Those adaptations aside, this trip was a lot of fun and though it was something I did as an anniversary with my partner, it really is a great trip for anyone to take.  Most of the places are free or cheap and are just fascinating places to explore.  I've included some of the photos from our trip in the slide-show below.  

Visiting Fairy Places in Massachusetts

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

Degrees of Angst: Where Massachusetts Institutions Can Grow

This is a follow up post to a recent post I had on OnCampus with regards to state higher education in Massachusetts.

If the previous post seemed a bit dark, this one will provide some guiding lights for success and improvement in the overall quality of Massachusetts higher education.  The following suggestions offer ways of breaking down artificial barriers to improving success and attracting students. 
Image of a broken chain.  Source:

Break the Semester

If a student takes a course in the spring semester and must withdraw by mid-February (e.g. a new job, a family crisis, illness), it is a failure of the traditional semester structure that in some instances, the student will not be able to take that course again for six-months to a year.  How does putting a students’ academic careers on hold for four months to a two years make sense?

Transparent Costs

It can take less than five mouse clicks on Amazon to get the full price including tax and shipping of any purchase.  There is no equivalent for colleges.  Never mind that navigating college websites are endless labyrinths, but no state institute empowers students to know quickly and clearly exactly how much they will pay in anything less than twenty mouse clicks (if not more). 

Stop Pretending Fees Are Different

Higher education should quit playing the used car salesperson when it comes to the costs of education.  Breaking up the cost to students with “tuition” and “fees” is often unnecessary noise to the student.  Typically, “fees” elsewhere are relatively small (e.g. A.T.M. fee, overdraft fee, etc), but when fees exceed tuition several times over, it is not only confusing, but produces skepticism about the practices of higher education.  Students are left wondering what exactly they are paying for and why.  Colleges should provide a single clear calculable cost to education and when possible, a clear itemized explanation of the catch-all “fees.” 

Stop Externalizing Costs

Image of books with "Open Education Resources" on the cover.  Source:
The average community college student will pay $1200 a year for their textbooks.  Therefore, by graduation, they will have paid for nearly a semester’s worth of education on books or resources that they might not even be able to access afterwards (especially as publishers switch from ownership to access models with ebooks).  Because such costs vary widely from semester to semester, it means students are incapable of knowing the full cost of a semester often until they are within weeks or days of the start of the semester.  Unstable and costly additions to students’ education, especially when the Open Educational Resources movement increasingly provides highly comparative material seems like an opportunity to

Transparent Learning

Colleges still cling to the course catalogue, an antiquated resource for course information.  In no other context, would someone willingly fork over hundreds of dollars based upon a five hundred character description of a three-month commitment.  This generic explanation of a course cannot provide students with any real understanding of their commitment in a specific section, when there are at times well over one hundred sections of a course.  The description as it currently stands does little to prepare students for learning nor does it resemble any respectable business practice.  That every college does not allow or require more information about specific sections seems a tremendous waste in the digital age especially when students are registering more online than through mail-in or face-to-face registration. 

Though faculty lament the use of, students use these sites because colleges fail to provide accurate and timely information about their courses.  When faced with one hundred sections of Composition 101, how does the student determine what is the best fit for his or her learning beyond what fits into a schedule?

Flex The Course

Brick and mortar colleges need to think about what they can do that that online colleges or MOOCs cannot.  In particular, colleges need to ponder how students can have more flexibility.  For instance, allowing students to move from an online course into a face-to-face course or from one course section into another could improve completion and student success.  This is something that the MOOCs and the online colleges cannot replicate—flexibility and seamlessness across platforms of learning.   

State institutions provide innumerable services to their students and communities.  They have helped many improve lives and achieve dreams.  The Degrees of Urgency report coupled with the overall trend of declining support for public higher education paint a dark picture for the future of state education in Massachusetts and elsewhere.  Colleges and universities that wish to avoid the ensuing turmoil would do best to incorporate some or all of these practices.  Their students will thank them for it. 

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.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International 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.

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.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.