Take a look at this infograph from Knewton to see how something called "disruptive learning" can be a good thing.
Today, the University of Illinois Springfield begins its first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), "Online Learning Today... And Tomorrow". I mentioned these MOOCs before, but it occurred to me today as I was reading this article that the best way to make any intelligent commentary on MOOCs is by participating in one. After all, they're free. They're open to everyone. And, hey! This particular course is all about online learning, which is pretty much perfect.
I'll be posting interesting videos, links, and other resources I come across this week. For now, I'll leave you with these two videos that also serve as an intro to today's coursework:
Via Web Urbanist (one of my favorite sites that showcases fascinating examples of design in art and architecture throughout the world), a bit of eye-candy for you this morning...
As the Ednode team continues to work on developing and marketing the site, we'd LOVE to get a discussion going with the whole office about creating a successful social network.
Please go to this Vialogue, take 10 minutes to watch the short video, and share your insights and ideas.
Online, Bigger Classes May Be Better Classes
U. of Illinois at Springfield Offers New ‘Massive Open Online Course'
These Chronicle of Higher Education articles discuss "massive open online courses" (MOOCs), where anyone, anywhere can sign up for a class at such schools as U. of Albert, U. of Florida, and U. of Illinois. Students don't get college credit, but they don't get a tuition bill, either.
This Queens school has over 4,200 students, but about 700 of them are JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps) kids. According to this video, the integration of this military program into an otherwise typical high school has been highly beneficial to everyone involved.
Blaming shrinking state budgets, William Tierney of The Chronicle of Higher Educatione asserts that uninspired course offerings and increasing class sizes are creating an impersonal and sparing education for students, not unlike a typical online ed experience.
Tierney cites the following as negative trends in higher ed:
-huge classes that enroll hundreds of students
-bare-bones assessments of a student's work and progress (e.g., a letter grade pinned to an assignment with no comments or other feedback)
-fewer writing assignments (even in writing classes)
-teachers and teachers' assistants increasingly unavailable or nondesirous of meeting with students to discuss material
-school presidents, too busy scrounging up funds, are no longer intellectual leaders
He suggests that even in a better economy, the following needs to happen:
-pare down the list of course offerings to focus on the skills and knowledge that are most relevant for this 21st century (also freeing up time for profs to spend with students)
-incentives and rewards to increase faculty-student involvement
-in general, maintaining our core values in ed while adapting to current times and conditions
Do you agree with Tierney's assessment and proffered solutions? Is his approach too conservative-reactionary? Are there other ways to maintain a wide spectrum of course offerings while delivering a more effective education?
An article by Jonah Lehrer in the Wall Street Journal discusses the advantages and disadvantages of our hyperconnected lives. On one hand, we have an overwhelming learning resource at our fingertips. On the other hand, we seem to be losing our capacity for independent thought:
And yet, while the Web has enabled new forms of collective action, it has also enabled new kinds of collective stupidity. Groupthink is now more widespread, as we cope with the excess of available information by outsourcing our beliefs to celebrities, pundits and Facebook friends. Instead of thinking for ourselves, we simply cite what's already been cited.
Independent film blogs are all atwitter about German filmmaker Dennis Gansel's The Wave, a teen political drama about a high school teacher's classroom experiment with totalitarianism.
To sum up: During a lesson about Nazi Germany, Mr. Wenger's students express disbelief that thousands of Germans could blindly follow Hitler's fascist regime. The next day, he constructs “The Wave” - a student movement that emphasizes discipline and diminishes individuality with dress codes, a hand salute, and socialist sympathies. To Mr. Wenger's surprise, The Wave catches on immediately, but not without serious repercussions...
English majors rejoice! When it comes to writing, the federal government is going back to the basics.
With the Plain Writing Act, recently signed into law by President Obama, all federal executive agencies are required to write in a manner "that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience."
The bill goes on to specify that each federal agency must designate an overseeing official to implement the Plain Writing Act through employee training and by creating sections on their individual websites for public input. It's disheartening, however, that no further detailed definition of “plain writing” is given. The implications of this act (should the government take it seriously) could be tremendous: not only can the average Joe browse through bills and legislation with ease, but it helps assure us taxpayers that our elected representatives are actually reading legislation before they vote on it!
Famous advocates for “plain writing” who would applaud this new act include Strunk and White, George Orwell, Stephen King, and this guy, who wrote a marvelous memo back in the 1970s to his colleagues at the Civil Aeronautics Board. Via Letters of Note:
June 16, 1977
TO: Bureau and Office Heads; Division and Section Chiefs
CC: Board Members
FROM: Chairman Alfred E. Kahn (Signed)
SUBJECT: The Style of Board Orders and Chairman's Letters
One of my peculiarities, which I must beg you to indulge if I am to retain my sanity (possibly at the expense of yours!) is an abhorrence of the artificial and hyper-legal language that is sometimes known as bureaucratese or gobbledygook.