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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

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

vSTEM.org - 0 views

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    "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.

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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

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 Hypothes.is.

    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

Rescuing Student Participation Through Digital Platforms - DML Central - 0 views

  • One problem is that participation is largely taken for granted and under theorized in many classrooms. The way we make use of a term like participation is in need of rescuing: moving away from a limited view of participation as it is often linked to motivation, engagement, or hand-raising and toward the view that participation as a concept is more generative when connected to the idea of membership in communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). Our limited view of participation is evident by simply turning to the language included in most syllabi: often, syllabi list “participation points” as part of the grade of the course. I find this to be an odd way to think about participation. What we often mean is that we will give students some points for “talking in class” and “raising their hands.” But demonstrating engagement by hand-raising and talk are fairly limited views of participation, and in fact, these ways of being are more connected to performance — acting like a student — than participation. We certainly want students to participate more than 10 percent, or even half, of the time. Are they participating when they are listening and pondering the ideas of their peers? Of course they are, but how do they demonstrate that? In thinking about course design, we should consider how students become members of our classroom community and our disciplines. Social media sites can open up other avenues for participation, and further, connect students to communities of practice outside our classrooms that they hope to enter.
Todd Suomela

the social-rhetorical challenges of information technology - digital digs - 0 views

  • This is why a survey coming from IT asking me about the usefulness of the technology in the classroom seems tone deaf to me. The problem isn’t the technology or if there are problems with the technology then they are obscured by the limits of the physical space. I would like for students to have enough space to bring their laptops, move around, work in groups, share their screens (even if only by all moving around in front of a laptop), and have conversations without getting in each others way.  I’d also like to be able to move among those groups without worrying about pulling a muscle.
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    For Matt to make his points about the interaction between physical space and technology.
Todd Suomela

Welcome to the GEODE Initiative! - 0 views

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    "The Geographic Data in Education (GEODE) Initiative at Northwestern University is dedicated to improving public understanding of our world through education about the Earth's physical, biological, and social systems. Toward that end, the GEODE Initiative is engaged in a program of integrated research and development in the areas of learning, teaching and educational reform. The GEODE Initiative develops and studies curriculum, software, and teacher professional development. "
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