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Todd Suomela

the mass defunding of higher education that's yet to come - the ANOVA - 0 views

  • I am increasingly convinced that a mass defunding of public higher education is coming to an unprecedented degree and at an unprecedented scale. People enjoy telling me that this has already occurred, as if I am not sufficiently informed about higher education to know that state support of our public universities has declined precipitously. But things can always get worse, much worse. And given the endless controversies on college campuses of conservative speakers getting shut out and conservative students feeling silenced, and given how little the average academic seems to care about appealing to the conservative half of this country, the PR work is being done for the enemies of public education by those within the institutions themselves. And the GOP has already shown a great knack for using claims of bias against academia, particularly given the American yen for austerity.
  • But his critics can’t see something that, for all of his myopia, he always has: that our political divide is increasingly bound up in a set of class associations and signals that have little to do with conspicuous consumption and everything to do with a style of self-performance that few people ever talk about but everyone understands. It is the ability to give such a performance convincingly that, in part, people buy with their tuition dollars.

    That this condition makes egalitarian politics a part of elite class formation has gone little discussed in my political home, the radical left. I have been excited to see a recent groundswell of young left-aligned people, and many of them are bright and committed. But almost none of them seem aware of the fact that their ironic Twitter accounts and cultural references and received opinions on all manner of political issues are as sure a sign of their class identity as a pair of wingtips and a blazer once was. And until and unless they understand how powerfully alienated the great mass of this country is from their social culture, we cannot hope to build a mass left-wing movement and with it do good things like defend public education. I agree: it’s the economy, stupid, and we must appeal to them by making the case that things like universal free college are good. But if recent political history tells us anything it’s that no economic policy, no matter how sensible, can win if its proponents refuse to grapple with the politics of resentment. The left, broadly, has not done a good job of that. The professoriate? My god.

Todd Suomela

The Necessity of Looking Stupid | Just Visiting - 0 views

  • I’ve found students to be very insightful when it comes to understanding and assessing their own learning and very forgiving of my “mistakes.” Just about 100% of what I now do in the classroom has been “authorized” by student feedback, not given through end-of-semester evaluations, but collaborative discussion.

    Ask students if something worked, and they will tell you.

    The best part of moving the professorial pedestal out of the room is that all of us get to be a little less fearful, and little more brave.

Todd Suomela

MOOCs Find Their Audience: Professional Learners and Universities | EdSurge News - 0 views

  • In my last year’s analysis of the MOOC space, I concluded that there’s been a decisive shift by MOOC providers to focus on “professional” learners who are taking these courses for career-related outcomes.

    At the recently concluded EMOOCs conference, the then CEO of Coursera, Rick Levin, shared his thoughts on this shift. He thinks that MOOCs may not have disrupted the education market, but they are disrupting the labor market. The real audience is not the traditional university student but what he calls the “lifelong career learner,” someone who might be well beyond their college years and takes these online courses with the goal of achieving professional and career growth.

  • One of the lessons I learned from running Class Central is that to make money, you need to make others money. By targeting professional learners, MOOC providers are trying to exactly do that.

    To better serve this audience, every MOOC provider has launched products that range from tens of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. As a professional learner, I feel a certain amount of comfort knowing that high-quality educational material exists for skills that I would want to learn in the future. But if you are true lifelong learner—the ones that helped start all the hype in the first place—the MOOC experience has largely been reduced to basically a YouTube playlist with a cumbersome user interface.

    Unless, of course, you are willing to pay.

Todd Suomela - 0 views

    "The simulations on this site are meant to give students the ability to experiment on traditionally static textbook problems and examples. We believe experimenting with a flexible, dynamic system can give students deeper insights into core engineering concepts than that gained from solving for single snapshots of a system. Tweak variables; solve for unknowns; experiment; see what happens and figure out why. This site is also used to augment hands-on experiments, by tracking student training on lab equipment and comparing lab with simulated data.


Scholarly, digital, open: an impossible triangle? | Goodfellow | Research in Learning T... - 1 views

  • Scholarship is discussed below from both institutional and individual perspectives. The view I am starting from is that ‘scholarship’ refers to a set of epistemological and ethical practices that underpin the social construction of an enduring record of objectively validated knowledge. By this definition teaching and learning is not scholarship, although it may draw on scholarship and be done by scholars.
    • jatolbert
      Hugely disagree. The first part may be reasonable enough, although I disagree with the notion of "objectively validated knowledge" as a necessary component of scholarship (how is it "objective"? how can it be "validated"?). But to claim that teaching is separate from scholarship is problematic.
  • Research in this area always runs the risk of collapsing into reflexivity, as digital scholars turn the lens of enquiry onto themselves, but grounded and critical research into situated practice in areas of research, teaching and public engagement where both scholarship in all its forms and digitality in all its manifestations are prominent is possible and should be pursued.
    • jatolbert
      Is reflexivity a bad thing? In the social sciences it's a sine qua non.
  • There is an inherent tension between practices that aim to open up the social construction of knowledge to universal participation, and those which aim to deepen the understanding of specialist communities and establish a stable and enduring record. Nevertheless, it is the role of many scholars to be involved in both. To bring scholarship, teaching and public engagement closer together must surely be the aim, but first we need to understand the ways in which practice makes them different.
    • jatolbert
      I mostly agree with this bit, although I prefer the proper reading of Boyer's model, i.e., that research, teaching, and "public engagement" (which falls into Boyer's category of Application) are -all- forms of scholarship.
Todd Suomela

The Internet as existential threat « Raph's Website - 1 views

  • Our medical systems have terrible Internet security… MRI machines you can connect to with USB that still have “admin:password” to gain root access. That’s horrifying, sure, but that’s not an attack at scale. More frightening: we’re busily uploading all our medical records to the cloud. Take down that cloud, and no patients can be treated, because nobody will know what they have, what meds they are on. Software swallows your insulin pumps and your pacemakers. To kill people, all you need is to hack that database, or simply erase it or block access to it. After all, we don’t tend to realize that in an Internet of Things, humans are just Things too.

    As this software monster has encroached on stuff like election systems, the common reaction has been to go back to paper. So let’s consider a less obvious example. We should be going back to paper for our libraries too! We’ve outsourced so much of our knowledge to digital that the amount of knowledge available in analog has dropped notably. There are less librarians in the fewer libraries with smaller collections than there used to be. If the net goes down, how much reference material is simply not accessible that was thirty years ago? Google Search is “critical cultural infrastructure.” How much redundancy do we actually have? Could a disconnected town actually educate its children?

    How critical is Google as a whole? If Google went down for a month, I am pretty sure we would see worldwide economic collapse. How much of the world economy passes through Google hosting? How much of it is in GMail? How much is dependent on Google Search, Google Images, Google Docs? The answer is a LOT. And because financial systems are now also JIT, ten thousand corporate blips where real estate agencies and local car washes and a huge pile of software companies and a gaggl

  • But just as critically, governments and state actors seem to be the source of so many of the problems precisely because the Internet is now too many forms of critical infrastructure, and therefore too juicy a target. If software eats everything, then the ability to kill software is the ability to kill anything. Net connectivity becomes the single point of failure for every system connected to it.

    Even if the Net itself is designed to route around damage, that doesn’t help if it is the single vector of attack that can take down any given target. It’s too juicy a target for the military, too juicy a target for terror, too juicy a target for criminal ransom.

    The old adage goes “when they came for this, I said nothing. When they came for that…” — we all know it. Consider that the more we hand gleefully over to the cloud because we want convenience, big data, personalization, and on, we’re creating a single thing that can be taken from us in an instant. We’ve decided to subscribe to everything, instead of owning it. When they came for your MP3s, your DVDs, fine,. not “critical infrastructure.” When they came for your resumes, OK, getting closer.

  • As we rush towards putting more and more things “in the cloud,” as we rush towards an Internet of Things with no governance beyond profit motive and anarchy, what we’re effectively doing is creating a massive single point of failure for every system we put in it.
Todd Suomela

Author discusses new book about how American higher education has always been 'a perfec... - 0 views

  • The typical university is in constant tension between autonomous academic departments, which control curriculum and faculty hiring and promotion, and a strong president, who controls funding and is responsible only to the lay board of directors who own the place. Also thrown into the mix are a jumble of independent institutes, research centers and academic programs that have emerged in response to a variety of funding opportunities and faculty initiatives. The resulting institution is a hustler’s paradise, driven by a wide array of entrepreneurial actors: faculty trying to pursue intellectual interests and forge a career; administrators trying to protect and enrich the larger enterprise; and donors and students who want to draw on the university’s rich resources and capitalize on association with its stellar brand. These actors are feverishly pursuing their own interests within the framework of the university, which lures them with incentives, draws strength from their complex interactions and then passes these benefits on to society.
  • The biggest problem facing the American system of higher education today is how to deal with its own success. In the 19th century, very few people attended college, so the system was not much in the public spotlight. Burgeoning enrollments in the 20th century put the system center stage, especially when it became the expectation that most people should graduate from some sort of college. As higher education moved from being an option to becoming a necessity, it increasingly found itself under the kind of intense scrutiny that has long been directed at American schools.
  • The danger posed by this accountability pressure is that colleges, like the K-12 schools before them, will come under pressure to narrow their mission to a small number of easily measurable outcomes. Most often the purpose boils down to the efficient delivery of instructional services to students, which will provide them with good jobs and provide society with an expanding economy. This ignores the wide array of social functions that the university serves. It’s a laboratory for working on pressing social problems; a playpen for intellectuals to pursue whatever questions seem interesting; a repository for the knowledge needed to address problems that haven’t yet emerged; a zone of creativity and exploration partially buffered from the realm of necessity; and, yes, a classroom for training future workers. The system’s organizational messiness is central to its social value.
    • Todd Suomela
      The idea that colleges should be valued for their organizational messiness is also quite interesting. Where does this messiness fit into Bucknell?
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  • The American system of higher education emerged in a unique historical setting in the early 19th century, when the state was weak, the market strong and the church divided. Whereas the European university was the creature of the medieval Roman Catholic church and then grew strong under the rising nation-state in the early modern period, the American system lacked the steady support of church or state and had to rely on the market in order to survive. This posed a terrible problem in the 19th century, as colleges had to scrabble around looking for consumers who would pay tuition and for private sponsors who would provide donations. But at the same time, it planted the seeds of institutional autonomy that came to serve the system so well in the next two centuries. Free from the control of church and state, individual colleges learned to survive on their own resources by meeting the needs of their students and their immediate communities.
Todd Suomela

For Google, Everything Is a Popularity Contest - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • PageRank and Classic Papers reveal Google’s theory of knowledge: What is worth knowing is what best relates to what is already known to be worth knowing. Given a system that construes value by something’s visibility, be it academic paper or web page, the valuable resources are always the ones closest to those that already proved their value.

    Google enjoys the benefits of this reasoning as much as anyone. When Google tells people that it has found the most lasting scholarly articles on a subject, for example, the public is likely believe that story because they also believe Google tends to find the right answers.

  • It’s as if Google, the company that promised to organize and make accessible the world’s information, has done the opposite. Almost anything can be posted, published, or sold online today, but most of it cannot be seen. Instead, information remains hidden, penalized for having failed to be sufficiently connected to other, more popular information. But to think differently is so uncommon, the idea of doing so might not even arise—for shoppers and citizens as much as for scholars. All information is universally accessible, but some information is more universally accessible than others.
Todd Suomela

Ways to Compute Topics over Time, Part 1 · from data to scholarship - 0 views

    "This the first in a series of posts which constitute a "lit review" of sorts to document the range of methods scholars are using to compute the distribution of topics over time."

The "Digital" Scholarship Disconnect | EDUCAUSE - 0 views

  • Digital scholarship is an incredibly awkward term that people have come up with to describe a complex group of developments. The phrase is really, at some basic level, nonsensical. After all, scholarship is scholarship. Doing science is doing science. We don't find the Department of Digital Physics arguing with the Department of Non–Digital Physics about who's doing "real" physics.
  • Soon, people wanted to start talking more broadly about newly technology-enabled scholarly work, not just in science; in part this was because of some very dramatic and high-visibility developments in using digital technology in various humanistic investigations. To do so, they came up with the neologisms we enjoy today—awful phrases like e-scholarship and digital scholarship.

    Having said that, I do view the term digital scholarship basically as shorthand for the entire body of changing scholarly practice, a reminder and recognition of the fact that most areas of scholarly work today have been transformed, to a lesser or greater extent, by a series of information technologies:

    • High-performance computing, which allows us to build simulation models and to conduct very-large-scale data analysis
    • Visualization technologies, including interactive visualizations
    • Technologies for creating, curating, and sharing large databases and large collections of data
    • High-performance networking, which allows us to share resources across the network and to gain access to experimental or observational equipment and which allows geographically dispersed individuals to communicate and collaborate; implicit here are ideas such as the rise of lightweight challenge-focused virtual organizations
  • We now have enormous curated databases serving various disciplines: GenBank for gene sequences; the Worldwide Protein Data Bank for protein structures; and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and planned successors for (synoptic) astronomical observations. All of these are relied upon by large numbers of working scientists. Yet the people who compiled these databases are often not regarded by their colleagues as "real" scientists but, rather, as "once-scientists" who got off-track and started doing resource-building for the community. And it's true: many resource-builders don't have the time to be actively doing science (i.e., analysis and discovery); instead, they are building and enabling the tools that will advance the collective scientific enterprise in other, less traditional ways. The academic and research community faces a fundamental challenge in developing norms and practices that recognize and reward these essential contributions.

    This idea—of people not doing "real" research, even though they are building up resources that can enable others to do research—has played out as well in the humanities. The humanists have often tried to make a careful distinction between the work of building a base of evidence and the work of interpreting that evidence to support some particular analysis, thesis, and/or set of conclusions; this is a little easier in the humanities because the scale of collaboration surrounding emerging digital resources and their exploitation for scholarship is smaller (contrast this to the literal "cast of thousands" at CERN) and it's common here to see the leading participants play both roles: resource-builder and "working" scholar.

  • ...2 more annotations...
  • Still, in all of these examples of digital scholarship, a key challenge remains: How can we curate and manage data now that so much of it is being produced and collected in digital form? How can we ensure that it will be discovered, shared, and reused to advance scholarship?
  • On a final note, I have talked above mostly about changes in the practice of scholarship. But changes in the practice of scholarship need to go hand-in-hand with changes in the communication and documentation of scholarship.
    Interesting short piece on challenges of digital scholarship
Todd Suomela

A Guide for Resisting Edtech: the Case against Turnitin - Hybrid Pedagogy - 0 views

  • At the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institutes where we’ve taught, there’s one exercise in particular we return to again and again. In our “crap detection” exercise (named for Rheingold’s use of the term), participants use a rubric to assess one of a number of digital tools. The tools are pitted, head to head, in a sort of edtech celebrity deathmatch. Participants compare Blackboard and Canvas, for instance, or WordPress and Medium, Twitter and Facebook, Genius and

    We start by seeing what the tools say they do and comparing that to what they actually do. But the work asks educators to do more than simply look at the platform’s own web site, which more often than not says only the very best things (and sometimes directly misleading things) about the company and its tool. We encourage participants to do research — to find forums, articles, and blog posts written about the platform, to read the tool’s terms of service, and even to tweet questions directly to the company’s CEO.

    • Here’s the rubric for the exercise:

      1. Who owns the tool? What is the name of the company, the CEO? What are their politics? What does the tool say it does? What does it actually do?
      2. What data are we required to provide in order to use the tool (login, e-mail, birthdate, etc.)? What flexibility do we have to be anonymous, or to protect our data? Where is data housed; who owns the data? What are the implications for in-class use? Will others be able to use/copy/own our work there?
      3. How does this tool act or not act as a mediator for our pedagogies? Does the tool attempt to dictate our pedagogies? How is its design pedagogical? Or exactly not pedagogical? Does the tool offer a way that “learning can most deeply and intimately begin”?

      Over time, the exercise has evolved as the educators we’ve worked with have developed further questions through their research. Accessibility, for example, has always been an implicit component of the activity, which we’ve now brought more distinctly to the fore, adding these questions: How accessible is the tool? For a blind student? For a hearing-impaired student? For a student with a learning disability? For introverts? For extroverts? Etc. What statements does the company make about accessibility?

      Ultimately, this is a critical thinking exercise aimed at asking critical questions, empowering critical relationships, encouraging new digital literacies.

Todd Suomela

Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.) - Reas... - 0 views

  • Video games, like work, are basically a series of quests comprised of mundane and repetitive tasks: Receive an assignment, travel to a location, overcome some obstacles, perform some sort of search, pick up an item, and then deliver it in exchange for a reward—and, usually, another quest, which starts the cycle all over again. You are not playing the game so much as following its orders. The game is your boss; to succeed, you have to do what it says.
  • Instead of working, they are playing video games. About three quarters of the increase in leisure time among men since 2000 has gone to gaming. Total time spent on computers, including game consoles, has nearly doubled.

    You might think that this would be demoralizing. A life spent unemployed, living at home, without romantic prospects, playing digital time wasters does not sound particularly appealing on its face.

    Yet this group reports far higher levels of overall happiness than low-skilled young men from the turn of the 21st century. In contrast, self-reported happiness for older workers without college degrees fell during the same period. For low-skilled young women and men with college degrees, it stayed basically the same. A significant part of the difference comes down to what Hurst has called "innovations in leisure computer activities for young men."

    The problems come later.

    A young life spent playing video games can lead to a middle age without marketable skills or connections. "There is some evidence," Hurst pointed out, "that these young, lower-skilled men who are happy in their 20s become much less happy in their 30s or 40s." So are these guys just wasting their lives, frittering away their time on anti-social activities?

    Hurst describes his figures as "staggering" and "shocking"—a seismic shift in the relationship of young men to work. "Men in their 20s historically are a group with a strong attachment to the labor force," he writes. "The decline in employment rates for low-skilled men in their 20s was larger than it was for all other sex, age, and skill groups during this same time period."

    But there's another way to think about the change: as a shift in their relationship to unemployment. Research has consistently found that long-term unemployment is one of the most dispiriting things that can happen to a person. Happiness levels tank and never recover. One 2010 study by a group of German r

  • A military shooter might offer a simulation of being a crack special forces soldier. A racing game might simulate learning to handle a performance sports car. A sci-fi role-playing game might simulate becoming an effective leader of a massive space colonization effort. But what you're really doing is training yourself to effectively identify on-screen visual cues and twitch your thumb at the right moment. You're learning to handle a controller, not a gun or a race car. You're learning to manage a game's hidden stats system, not a space station. A game provides the sensation of mastery without the actual ability.

    "It's a simulation of being an expert," Wolpaw says. "It's a way to fulfill a fantasy." That fantasy, ultimately, is one of work, purpose, and social and professional success.

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