“Look Like Them”

Read an article about pay disparities by gender in the system by which I am employed which mentioned research that students get along best with faculty members who look like them. It made me laugh out loud.

I cannot recall a teacher who looked like me: male, tall, and half-white / half-black. Or at least of brown skin.

The only male teacher that comes close to matching this might be my 8th-grade math & science teacher who lectured by popping his wrist with a rubber band. He is also African-American, tall, and broad shoulders. Cannot say we got along that well so much as we students cowered in fear of him.

Certainly, that year, I got along much better with my literature teacher, but she is short, Caucasian, and female. My recollection of my 2nd-grade teacher was she was African-American but of lighter skin color.

 

Global Higher Education Trends

According to Trends in Global Higher Education (PDF), we should pay attention to globalization, massification,

Globalization is an interesting trend. As a college student, I enjoyed hanging out with international students and as an employer of student workers, half were international students. Exposure to different cultures, meaning values and perspectives and rituals and (the best) food was a great experience for me. It is harder to hate another culture when one has real friends among them. Such ties often become the basis of international diplomacy. But those students also mostly went home and are doing great things as part of the growing middle class.

Employers looking at post-secondary degrees as signals for middle class jobs drives massification. If this signal were terrible, then perhaps employers would seek an alternative. But I don’t think it means what most expect. The expectation is it means highly educated within the major. Instead, I see the bachelor’s degree as a demonstration of successfully navigating the world’s worst bureaucratic disasters. Having the tenacity, patience, and soft skills to deal with process failures all over the place. Secondarily, the degree means the ability to demonstrate some learning on demand to pass an evaluation.

Turning to look at how we here in Georgia compare to rest of the world, the crises facing least developed countries are constraints on research university budgets, constraints on student financial aid, increases in tuition, more part-time faculty, larger class sizes, a freeze on books & journals, construction, etc. This may not be solely a problem for least developed countries. Most of these are happening here in Georgia.

  • State funding was stagnant before the recession and been dropping since. Per student funding state funding has plummeted from about half to a quarter. The legislature and the governor have to make hard choices about what to fund. Higher education does not rank high enough compared to keeping people safe and healthy. Is there a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for government funding?
  • A big source of financial aid here, HOPE, used to pay for all tuition for students who maintain a B GPA. It is lottery funded, but revenues were not able to keep up with the 10%+ annual growth of students. So now the awards are reduced for all but the top most students and may continue to drop.
  • My librarian friends lament about their severely reduced budgets for purchasing journals. Combine this with skyrocketing costs for these same journals and maybe by 2030 the research universities should just sell their collections and close the libraries?
  • The one positive is construction has not stopped. Though buildings are not built fast enough. (Some schools schedule class days to happen on the online class system I help run because they lack the classroom space.)

Even when the Georgia economy fully recovers, the lost ground is unlikely to be regained. But there is also increasing pressure to improve graduation rates and the number of graduates. Interesting problems we get to solve.

Who You Do It With

Study broadly and without fear. Learn a language if you can, because that will make your life more interesting. Read a little bit each day. But most importantly, try to surround yourself with people you like and make cool stuff with them. In the end, what you do isn’t going to be nearly as interesting or important as who you do it with. — John Green

I strongly agree with this and the rest of the video.

Of course, it meshes well with the intent of a liberal arts degree by having students study broadly and learn another language. But it does not necessarily have to be a degree unless that is required to get the job one wants. There are plenty of opportunities to learn.

I have been fortunate to always have had jobs with coworkers I like, even supporting me when I decided to leave. We made cool stuff because we needed to fill something in us. Another rationale was become people needed the cool stuff.

iPad Helps Kindergarten Literacy

iPad Learning

There is a story circulating that the iPad improves Kindergartners literacy scores. This title implies the hardware device or iOS is responsible for the improvements when much more likely there are specific applications responsible. After all, putting an Mac in a classroom with software designed to help literacy is more likely to improve literacy than an out of the box one.

A quote in the article confirms that the apps are the critically important factor over the hardware:

“The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there,” said Muir. “We are paying attention to app selection and focused on continuous improvement — we aren’t just handing equipment to teachers.”

Yet, it does not go into what are those apps. Or the efficacy of certain apps over others. Otherwise, we will head down the rabbit holes of the past of buying technology that is supposed to improve learning, but not seeing good results because people bought hardware and random software.

Back in February, President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams of the Georgia General Assembly wanted every middle schooler to have an iPad to replace textbooks. His Senate just passed a bill to mandate high school students take at least one online class. An online class could be good for students, if it is the right class for the student in the right format by the right teacher. The wrong class could turn off the student to online classes forever. These are interesting mandates to push technology into the classroom. They just ignore that content quality is what is important (and expensive).

Photo credit: iPad Learning on Flickr by Aaron Hufnagel

iPads for Georgia Middle Schoolers

The new buzz is a possible deal between legislators and Apple where Georgia middle school students may get iPads instead of textbooks. It is an interesting move. This sounded like it was about state money.  So I was curious about the math.

  • Assuming the $40 million a year for text books applies for all 1.3 million Georgia public school students, that works out to $31 a student per year.
  • Assuming the $40 million a year for text books applies to just the 311 thousand 6th-8th grade students (1.346 million / 13 * 3), that works out to $129 a student per year.
  • This plan would spend $500 per student per year for a total of $75.3 million a year + whatever the cost of textbooks for other grades.

Obviously this is not about saving the state money. So hopefully it is about improving education. Of course, Apple’s salespeople saying students improve learning is like trusting a tobacco company to say cigarettes improve one’s health. The Use of iPad as a Learning Tool: Final Report by Anders Evenstuen, Jon Torstein Dalen and Øyvind Hoff Midtbø seemed like a decent study though it involved university students not middle school students. They found students experienced difficulty using it to take notes though marking up a text worked better. Not having wireless access at home (like many Georgia students) destroyed the workflow. The time it took to change pages was distracting to them.

I’m curious what studies Apple has done to claim school provided iPads would improve education. This smells like the initiatives to give students laptops to improve education. Those went nowhere because technology for technology’s sake does not improve education. Teacher’s adopting the tools which fit well with what ought to be taught improve education.

Before one can get to improving education, one ought to consider the requirements needed to achieve it. Naturally people who have been through this with iPads in education have composed a list. Some interesting items include whether the school’s network and uplink are capable of handling the students use.

Students First

Yesterday Gina, a coworker, joined me for lunch. She asked about where GeorgiaVIEW‘s attention is focussed since we recently completed our upgrade to Blackboard Learning System Vista Enterprise 8.

She pointed out students are the most affected by and most important constituent for any decisions we make. Yet the student point of view is almost never considered. Capturing what is good for students might mean installing all the possibilities where students and faculty could compare. It might mean surveys, however, I think self-reporting provides so much erroneous data we could do without it.

My job’s focus is more toward what is the most efficient, least problematic system for me to start/stop, install, upgrade, and review logs. I am still mulling what job position we have who would focus on ensuring whatever we do will provide for the best student experience. Guess really that should be all of us.

Hairy


Hairy
Originally uploaded by sneezypb.

Definitely time for a haircut.

About a week ago I decided I needed one. However, its been quite hectic. As most of you know, I work for the University System of Georgia’s Office of Instructional and Information Technology, specifically a project to provide system wide (35 schools) online classes. We have one of the largest implementations in the country (120,000 active students).

Read moreHairy

Videogames in the Classroom?

Yes!!

Videogames in the Classroom? – Newsweek Education – MSNBC.com:

Where parents see hours wasted in front of a screen, these scientists see potential. An FAS study released this week, titled “Harnessing the power of video games for learning,” reports that best-selling games are built in surprisingly pedagogical ways. Players improve at their own pace. Beating a level requires experimentation, failure and learning from mistakes. Most new games can be played online, requiring collaboration and leadership. Game play is precisely calibrated to balance challenge and progress. It’s a stark contrast to a typical classroom in which one teacher tries to engage 30 students with printed information. “It’s like hiring an individual tutor for every student,” says FAS president Henry Kelly of using videogames to teach. “There’s a big argument going on now about whether kids are being tested too much or too little. In a game, you’re continuously being tested and you don’t mind it.”

Admittedly, I agree that most games on the surface don’t appear very educational. Also, saying these things are there and measuring their effects are two different things. What are the negative side affects? C’mon people, hawking something without overwhelming evidence is pretty underwhelming. 🙂

MCDHS Stormtroopers

Maybe this is my stint working in a library back as a college student. There were some shady folks who came into the library to look up pictures of women with huge, obviously fake breasts. Plus the gutteral laugh at the ones where each had twice the volume of the woman’s head. They did this in open view of everyone.

On the flip side, one of my fellow college students consistently did her research on how sexual assaults impaired women. Many of the keywords for that are likely things software to protect children blocks.

Policing Porn Is Not Part of Job Description

Two uniformed men strolled into the main room of the Little Falls library in Bethesda one day last week and demanded the attention of all patrons using the computers. Then they made their announcement: The viewing of Internet pornography was forbidden.

The men looked stern and wore baseball caps emblazoned with the words “Homeland Security.” The bizarre scene unfolded Feb. 9, leaving some residents confused and forcing county officials to explain how employees assigned to protect county buildings against terrorists came to see it as their job to police the viewing of pornography.

After the two men made their announcement, one of them challenged an Internet user’s choice of viewing material and asked him to step outside, according to a witness. A librarian intervened, and the two men went into the library’s work area to discuss the matter. A police officer arrived. In the end, no one had to step outside except the uniformed men.