Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Open Education Under Seige?

by Jill Rooney, Ph.D.,  

Following on the heels of the recent federal lawsuit against Apple and several publishers for allegedly colluding to set book prices, three of the largest educational publishers, Pearson, Cengage Learning, and Macmillan Higher Education, last week sued Boundless Learning, one of the newest entrants in the production of open education materials. 

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the publishers charge that Boundless Learning simply paraphrases their texts, and that, in doing so, “the young company, which produces open-education alternatives to printed textbooks, has stolen the creative expression of their authors and editors, violating their intellectual-property rights.”

The complaint states,

Notwithstanding whatever use it claims to make of ‘open source educational content,’ Defendant distributes ‘replacement textbooks’ that are created from, based upon, and overwhelmingly similar to Plaintiffs’ textbooks, [and] “Whether in the lecture hall or in a textbook, anyone is obviously free to teach the subjects biology, economics, or psychology, and can do so using, creating, and refining the pedagogical materials they think best, whether consisting of ‘open source educational content’ or otherwise. But by making unauthorized ‘shadow-versions’ of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, Defendant teaches only the age-old business model of theft.

The Chronicle further reported that Ariel Diaz, the head of Boundless Learning, said that the publishers are “wrongfully claiming ownership of open knowledge” and that the publishers are trying to create a monopoly. 

But it is not difficult to see that the publishers may have concerns beyond those raised by copyright infringement: According to Boundless Learning, their resources have been accessed by students at more than 1000 universities across the nation. This could seriously cut into the profit margin of the traditional textbook market.

Why This Case is Important

Regardless of the financial considerations, this case raises important questions about the Open Education movement and its reliance on unlicensed resources. Open Education and open resources have the potential to revolutionize and democratize access to learning, reducing or even eliminating textbook costs for millions of students, which is especially important as the costs of higher education continue to rise and outpace the incomes of those who want to earn college degrees.

However, serious consideration of the way that open education resources might have an impact on the rights of the creators on shared content is only just beginning. In many ways, this is similar to the controversy over downloaded music, which emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s, upon the creation of Mp3 players. 

Recording artists argued that music-sharing sites, such as Napster, eMusic, and others were actually violating copyright law when they allowed users to download protected content such as songs and albums. 

The issue was resolved somewhat with the creation of sites such as iTunes, which charge users for downloaded songs. In the case of textbooks, the publishers are arguing that open education resources created by other parties but based on copyrighted works are a similar infringement on copyright law.

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3 Ways Homeschooled Students Can Ease the College Transition

SAT Subject Tests
SAT Subject Tests (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by ,

Over the past several years, I have seen an increasing number of homeschooled students in my college courses.

Some studies report that homeschooled students generally have better study habits and higher levels of concentration and achievement than their peers [see a PowerPoint presentation of researcher Michael Cogan's findings here].

Even so, many of the homeschooled students I have worked with have expressed to me their initial discomfort with large classes, struggles to balance the different teaching styles of several instructors at once, and the challenges of classroom interactions with students whose experiences and views are widely divergent from their own.

Even some things we take for granted in education can be daunting: according to Brian Ray, founder and president of the National Home Education Research Institute, the biggest problem homeschooled students must face when they arrive on campus is “getting used to strict schedules.”

Clearly, the transition from a homeschooled education to college can be challenging and at times overwhelming for many students. But homeschooled students and their parents can successfully manage the transition to college and any issues that may arise after enrollment and attendance begin.

The following list highlights the three most important ways homeschooled students can smooth their path to college:

1. Gather documentation of your education

One of the more difficult hurdles a homeschooled student must jump when applying to colleges is the need to supply schools with transcripts and other proof of appropriate pre-college education.

The Innovative Educator points out that, “Sixty-eight percent of US universities will accept parent-prepared transcripts. Others will take portfolios, with letters of recommendation, ACT or SAT test scores, essays, and more, allowing homeschooled applicants flexibility in admissions.”

But Jeff Brenzel, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale, spoke for a large number of admissions representatives when he reported in The New York Times that,

“We see only a few homeschooled applicants, and we do occasionally admit a homeschooled student. Evaluation is usually difficult, however. It helps if the applicant has taken some college level courses, and we can get evaluations from those teachers. We are not keen on homeschooled students where the only evaluations come from parents and the only other information available consists of test scores.”

One way homeschooled students can address this is by taking standardized tests to demonstrate mastery of traditional subjects, either by taking the SAT subject tests, a state General Educational Diploma, or other state exam, which is what Ball State University suggests.

Many parents of homeschooled students who contribute to online forums indicate that the best practice is to create a very traditional-looking transcript of what the student has studied, and in some cases, course descriptions and lists of textbooks are required. The University of Indiana provides some good information of what their admissions counselors look for in homeschool transcripts.

2. Use the independence and self-reliance you learned as a homeschooled student in new ways

Homeschooled students are taught by parents, usually mothers, who can tailor schoolwork around family schedules, including vacations, family events, and parental jobs. College courses do not offer the same flexibility. For example, in my courses, there is one due date for all students; no one gets special treatment. It is how professors ensure an equal playing field for all students.

The result, according to, is that homeschooled students often have “difficulties adjusting to meeting assignment deadlines, class schedules and the extensive writing and research that’s required by college courses.” The site recommends meeting with professors at the start of the semester and asking for a “sample of a very good paper or project in order to learn what the instructors believe is exemplary work.”

While this may seem like a professional way to address concerns or fears before classes start, to be honest, I don’t know any professors that would do this for one student, and I know very few professors that do this at all.

If professors provide work samples, they usually do so for the entire class but it's not common. Professors cannot be expected to devote significant amounts of time to each student, and homeschooled students need to be aware of this and adapt as appropriate.

3. Be open-minded when meeting new people

As a professor, one of the most common hallmarks of new college students of all types that I have noticed is the occasional difficulty dealing with opinions or information that does not conform to what they have already learned or believe. Young adults are often passionate about their beliefs, so this is not surprising.

For homeschooled students, this may be more pronounced: according to most studies, religious belief is the primary reason parents decide to homeschool their children. As a result, homeschooled students may have less practice dealing with large amounts of diversity all at once.

This, however, does not mean that homeschooled students are necessarily predisposed to being more judgmental than their peers. For example, Sarah Piper, a current college student who was homeschooled and writes for the Christian website, advises that homeschooled students should “take advantage of the chance to get to know one of the most diverse groups of people you will ever meet; you can learn a lot just from talking to others with different backgrounds, cultures, and interests.”

Have you made the transition from homeschool to college? Share your suggestions for students embarking on this new adventure here!

Follow Jill Rooney, Ph.D. on Twitter and Google+.
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Do Faculty Fear Technology?

Moodle Guide for Teachers
Moodle Guide for Teachers (st0nemas0nry)
by ,

It’s embarrassing to admit this, but there are times when classroom technology just defeats me.

I know I’m not the only faculty member who has felt the deep burning shame of inadequacy when a student has had to come to my rescue in front of all my students by fiddling a bit with some buttons and once again restoring 21st century audio-visual wizardry to my class, while I stand by helplessly.

I never get used to that, because there’s probably nothing worse than appearing incompetent in front of students who seem to have been born with smartphones growing from their palms.

That fact that I’m not the only professor in this situation is small comfort, especially now that online teaching has presented faculty with new learning challenges. In today’s higher education world, even the most experienced educators become students struggling to develop new skills.

This process has engendered all the angst and hesitance you would expect when teaching old dogs new tricks. In fact, the second half of the Inside Higher Ed and Babson College Survey on Professors and Technology shows that most higher ed faculty members are ambivalent at best and resistant at worst to adopting new digital technologies.

Here are the four main points of the survey’s Executive Summary. Faculty members are:
  1. generally “more pessimistic than optimistic about online learning,” in sharp contrast to administrators who are overwhelmingly positive about online learning.
  2. deeply concerned about quality and “believe that the learning outcomes for an online course are inferior or somewhat inferior to those for a comparable face-to-face course.”
  3. more positive about online learning when they have some experience with it and “faculty with direct online teaching experience have, by far, the most positive views towards online education.”
  4. convinced that college administrators are “pushing too much instruction online” and do not have the institutional resources to support such programs and provide faculty support.
Interestingly, the majority of professors (60%) recommend online courses when advising students. That figure grows to 80% when they have experience teaching online. In other words, despite concerns about course quality, they still suggest online courses to their students.

This discrepancy in viewpoint is probably due to the survey’s discovery that professors are, in general, “excited about various technology-driven trends in higher education, including the growth of e-textbooks and digital library collections, the increased use of data monitoring as a way to track student performance along with their own, and the increasingly popular idea of ‘flipping the classroom.’”

Clearly, college instructors walk the line when it comes to new technology: excited about the possibilities, but largely worried about quality.

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Redefining College Readiness

 Redefining College Readiness
Compiled by:

Get Ready to Learn Hindi: Education in the Asian Century

English: South Asian Language Families, transl...
South Asian Language Families, translated from Image:Südasien Sprachfamilien.png, from Language families and branches, languages and dialects in A Historical Atlas of South Asia, Oxford University Press. New York 1992. Author - User:BishkekRocks Translated by User:Kitkatcrazy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Kathe Kirby, Executive Director, Asialink and Asia Education Foundation at University of Melbourne, The Conversation:

The rapid rise of Asia means that Australia and the world find themselves in new strategic circumstances in this century.

And that has immense implications for our young people.

The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper sets out an ambitious roadmap to make sure we achieve an Asia capable skill set by 2025. And that’s not a moment too soon.

Five-year-olds who start school in Australia today enter the workforce in 2025 just as China and India become the world’s top economies.

Complacent for too long, we have needed a major change, and the white paper should give us that. This is not a government report - it is government policy.

A win for language

The white paper positions learning about Asia as business as usual in all schools. All children from the start of primary school will have the chance to learn about Asia including its languages, histories, geographies and cultures through the new Australian curriculum.

Importantly, their progress will be tracked. We haven’t had commitment to do that before - to know how our children are progressing is a vital to ensure that schools take this curriculum priority seriously.

All Australian schools are to be linked to a school in Asia to support language studies and to forge friendships with young people in China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand and across the region.

All Australian students will have the opportunity to undertake a continuous course of Asian language study from Year 1 to Year 12 with priority on Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and now Hindi.

The inclusion of Hindi as a priority Asian language is new. Currently only a handful of Australian schools teach Hindi and scaling this up will be a challenge. But the decision to include Hindi is welcome and consistent with the growing importance of India globally and to Australia.

The fact that only 12% of Indians speak English has been too little understood and we have been complacent about the need to know India better.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The University Experience: Then and Now

West quadrangle at the University of Glasgow
Quadrangle at Uni of Glasgow (euanfreeman)
by Professor Robert Manne, Personal Chair in Politics at La Trobe University, The Conversation:

Before the second world war, a very small minority of the population in Western societies went to universities. Most were men, most were from the social elite.

From the late 1950s that changed. With a growing movement towards gender equality, a progressively larger number of people attended university.

Even though there was talk about the value of liberal education and the virtues of a more highly educated population, it is probably true, as British historian Eric Hobsbawm argued in his masterwork, Age of Extremes, that the central reason for the post-fifties growth in universities was the need to train the upper echelons of the administrative and teaching workforce of what was becoming an increasingly sophisticated manufacturing and service economy.

In the absence of any alternative site of training, universities, the principal existing institutions of higher education, filled that need. In Western societies universities moved in half a century from elite institutions where typically less than one per cent of the population spent their late adolescence or early adulthood to mass institutions where eventually 30 or 40% did.

Hobsbawm regarded this change as so dramatic and significant that he analysed it in detail in his chapters dealing with what he calls the most consequential transformation in human history - the post-war economic and social revolutions of capitalism’s 1950-1975 golden age.

It was inescapable that when institutions that once introduced the elites of society to the great disciplines of learning within the Western tradition and prepared them for some of the gentlemanly professions were turned into mass institutions aspiring both to educate and train almost half the population, their character would undergo profound change.

Universities were once governed by their permanent, senior residents - the professors - according to the principle of collegiality. It was unrealistic in the extreme to imagine that mass universities could continue to be managed by academics.

Universities - communities of permanent and temporary residents dedicated to the idea of the pursuit and transmission of truth - once claimed for themselves considerable autonomy from the state.

It was also unrealistic to expect that especially in those countries, like Australia, where a large proportion of the costs of running the universities was borne by taxpayers, that the kind of autonomy universities had once expected and been granted, would be able to be maintained.

Freedom and purpose

One part of the autonomy universities once claimed for themselves was lifelong tenure for their permanent residents. If the disciplined pursuit of truth was the university’s purpose, untrammelled freedom of thought was its condition and lifelong tenure its guarantee.

The hope that lifelong tenure might be maintained in mass institutions - a central purpose being to train the workforce of a technologically sophisticated and also rapidly evolving economy - was altogether unrealistic.

Another part of the autonomy universities claimed for themselves was the right to choose among the scholarly traditions and among the gentlemanly professions which disciplines or fields of vocational training would be pursued within their walls and which would not.

There was once a time, not so long ago, when the collegial bodies of governance at the universities would debate with some intensity whether or not a newfangled discipline was worthy of being allowed to join the scholarly community of the university.

In the new regime, this form of autonomy was also unsustainable. Now new disciplines or fields of study were introduced by a non-collegial managerial strata responsive both to the pressures of the market and to the wishes of their paymasters, governments. Universities had once rejected sociology, but they now happily embraced information technology or tourism.

Change by degrees

The university systems of different Western countries have been affected to different degrees by the changes brought to tertiary education by the rapid expansion for economic reasons after the 1950s.

In countries where tradition had the deepest hold and where the oldest universities were not reliant on government funding - like the Ivy League universities in the United States and Oxbridge in the United Kingdom - universities were much more able to retain aspects of their traditional character.

In these countries much of the technical training beyond the older professions took place in other, newer, more purely vocationally oriented, higher education institutions, sometimes also called universities.

In countries where all universities were very heavily reliant on government funding - like Australia - the character of the university sector was most deeply affected by the new social pressures.

Australia was, in addition, even more deeply affected because of the impact of the native strand of egalitarianism which was intolerant of the vestigial atmosphere of what could easily be construed as elitism surrounding the traditional university.

The general process which undermined the traditional conception of the university in all Western countries was radically sped up in Australia with the Dawkins reforms of the 1980s where the universities were merged with the purely vocational Colleges of Advanced Education.

A different education

I am not an expert or an authority on universities. I was, however, once a beneficiary of a university education, at a time when the traditional idea of the university was still quite strong, and have since then spent my entire working life at the university, trying to the best of my ability to give to my students an experience of the kind of university education I was fortunate enough to receive.

Let me describe briefly the central elements of what was valuable about the kind of university I studied at in Melbourne in the mid to late 1960s. The university of the mid-1960s could be experienced, genuinely, as a community composed of permanent residents - the academics - and temporary residents - the undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Academics were believed to be, and to a large degree in fact were, the stewards of the university tradition and the governors of the community. Administrators seemed to exist at the margins. I still remember my surprise when I first learned that there was a modest building devoted to those working in administration.

The university self-consciously saw itself as the heir to something which had deep roots in the soil of medieval Europe. It also saw itself and was experienced as an unworldly institution.

The 1960s was a radical moment in the political culture. But because of the self-conception of unworldliness, there was a common - probably mythical - view that draft dodgers might take sanctuary on university grounds because police were not permitted to enter.

As it was thought that the university was always likely in one way or another to betray its essentially unworldly character, the ironic description given to it was “the shop”.

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A Conversation with David Wish of Little Kids Rock

david wish 1by Christian Williams, UTNE Reader:

David Wish is the founder and executive director of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides music education for students in disadvantaged public schools. 
Since 2002, Little Kids Rock has provided meaningful music education to more than 200,000 students nationwide thanks to the support of teachers, volunteers, and music icons such as B.B. King and Paul Simon.
David Wish is a 2012 Utne Visionary; below is our email interview with Wish from September 2012.

Christian Williams: Where were you teaching when you decided to start the after-school lessons and develop the program?
David Wish: I was a first-grade teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and was very upset that my students were not receiving music education. So I took matters into my own hands and started giving free classes after school for my class. More and more kids wanted to get in on the fun so I kept offering more and more classes.

It got to the point where I had to start turning kids away which broke my heart. So that's when I started reaching out to other teachers I knew to enlist their help. Not only did I no longer need to turn kids away, I found their were tons of teachers who wanted to help.

CW: Little Kids Rock has been around for 10 years now. Did you expect this kind of longevity and success when you started?

DW: Time flies when you are having fun! I really can't believe that ten years have passed. I have never pursued success; I have pursued fulfillment. It brings me such joy and satisfaction to watch a young person's life transformed by music. That's where I still keep my focus: reaching kids and making a difference in their lives. That's something we can all do every day of our lives: do something for other people. I don't expect success, I expect impact.

CW: What were your initial goals or measures for success in the beginning?

DW: When I first started, I just wanted to bring music into the lives of thirty first graders. That seemed a big enough goal. Then my goal became reaching another group of thirty, then another. I could see the impact immediately in the way the kids carried themselves, the ways that they expressed themselves and the ways that they connected to school.

That's what motivated me. Today, in year 10, over 1,300 public school teachers have decided that they feel the same way and have brought Little Kids Rock programming to over 200,000 kids.

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Invigorating Innovation in Education

Dell Innovation in Education Social Think Tank...
Dell Innovation in Education Social Think Tank at MIT CSAIL (Photo credit: Dell's Official Flickr Page)
by Paul K Kim

Author Fran Lebowitz once noted that "an extremely discerning audience" is essential to an artist because it makes the artist better.

She also noted that if people leap up into standing ovations to every person who walks on the stage, the artist and the culture are worse off.

In education, the process of discerning what constitutes good teaching is often a process of reverse engineering that makes it difficult to recognize what is good.

Twenty-first century audiences face new challenges in knowing when teachers deserve standing ovations because definitions of "success" or "failure" are not singular or static.

To complicate matters further, forces like globalization and its progeny, data deluge, have both empowered and debilitated education because there are that many more factors to consider when identifying good teaching in our schools.

So, instead of arguing about what constitutes good teaching, perhaps we should consider what constitutes good learning and use that knowledge to inform the process of teaching.

In terms of student deportment, good learning is rooted in engagement and relevance. This relevance itself is often rooted in innovation because it allows educators to set lessons in new and diverse contexts that make them more meaningful to students.

Unfortunately, many of the standardized metrics used to measure "good learning" are narrow and myopic and thereby allow for complacency in the development of teaching practices.

With more understanding that there are different types of learners present in any classroom, teaching practices need to be more innovative. This presents some intricate complexities for teachers - it is easier if there is only one correct answer for all learners and therefore one lesson to plan.

For example, if a teacher explains that 2 + 2 = 4, students will know the answer to the question but that does not mean that the teacher has done good work. In the 21st century, a good teacher using innovative thinking will acknowledge that diversity and context must inform how you answer the question, what does 2 + 2 equal?

2 + 2 = 3 + 1
2 + 2 = 1 + 1 + 1 + 1
2 + 2 = 7 - 3
2 + 2 = 2 squared
2 + 2 = 24 divided by 6
2 + 2 = IV
2 + 2 = cuatro

This is a perspective similar to creativity expert Ken Robinson's analysis about how people lose their ability to ponder the potential uses of a paper clip as they grow older, because they stop asking questions about the nature of a paper clip.

Most people can list about one dozen uses for a paper clip but apparently, someone who is good at this way of thinking can use inquiry to list 200 potential uses.

On the varied paths that lead students to success, teachers may mistake or dismiss innovations as passing trends in education. But the reality is that innovative teaching is good precisely because it allows teachers to adapt their efforts to the "trends" or "prevailing tendencies" in students. The following represent examples of innovation in good teaching in different arenas.

Teaching + Intuition + Innovation

The 2010 winner of the Academy Award for best picture, The King's Speech, is the story of an innovative teacher. Lionel Logue, Prince Albert's speech therapist, is an unorthodox teacher without formal training in speech therapy.

Nevertheless, he successfully treats the stuttering man who became King George the VI, by utilizing age-old teaching tools - humor, humility, patience, and deep breathing - in an innovative manner.

The Interdisciplinary Nature of Our Senses

"When we start looking at things really critically or even very simply, we realize that there's more than one way to actually get the same results... You're deconstructing the components of a course and putting them back together."ii

Grant Achatz is not an education pundit or teacher, but these are his words. He is a top chef who designs and creates 23-course meals at the 2005 best restaurant in America, Chicago's Alinea. Achatz, who lost his ability to taste in 2007 because of tongue cancer (he eventually regained it), runs his kitchen like a laboratory.

He actually uses lab tools to cook and his team never really says "no to an idea." Of his three-hour meals, Achatz says, "We like to think that the food is, in a lot of ways, an intellectual exercise."

To accomplish this, he has adapted lessons that he has learned about the synergy of flavor and fragrance to confuse and enhance the palate based on the molecular relationships of ingredients.

For example, Achatz serves some dishes on top of a pillowcase with tiny holes in it that are designed to release specific scents with meals. Undoubtedly, Achatz's meals must be an innovative educational experience derived from innovative lessons and practices.

Big Problems, Creative Solutions

Tiger Woods has faced some problems in his storied career, but he won three golf tournaments this past season. Although there are still some issues to sort out for the former #1 golfer, it is safe to say that his latest golf instructor is innovative.

In late 2010, Woods enlisted the services of Sean Foley, a teacher who believes: "Teaching is really more a function of how people best learn. If you have a feel player who has kind of an auditory sense to him, maybe you get him hitting balls wearing a blindfold in barefoot, listening to Chopin. Whatever instills the lesson best."iii

Signaling Innovation, Changing the Game

Chip Kelly, the head football coach at the University of Oregon, uses ideas adapted from the Navy Seals and business guru Jim Collins to inform his lessons. His success on the field has earned him the title: the reigning innovator of offensive football.iv

As a teacher, Kelly uses complex signs and a variety of motivational techniques to help his players make smarter decisions as they adapt to the many moving parts within a football game. Some analysts have suggested that Oregon's innovative offense, which is based on speed, is particularly relevant right now, because speed will help to reduce some of the violent hits that have become a concern in football.

Historiography + Design Thinking

In my own efforts to bring innovation to the classroom, I redesigned a World History curriculum into a course called Global Perspectives in the 21st Century, which is based on design Using design thinking, students are learning how to ask better questions, how to focus their analyses, how to be more creative, and how to develop different types of answers to a question.

More importantly, design thinking is proving to be a tool that helps my students engage in projects based on their own unique interests while adding value to discussions based on their own unique abilities.

Although the results of this course redesign are not in yet, there are some early indications that students are cultivating a richer understanding of historiography and a more nuanced awareness of their world. They are also having more fun.

As we continue to foster student achievement in education under a banner of ever-changing slogans, it would serve us to remember that each generation and each student is predisposed to a unique learning style. And if effectively tailoring lessons to students in a particular learning context is the key to winning standing ovations from more discerning audiences, then it is innovation that will help teachers develop more meaningful lessons in the 21st century.

Paul Kim is a history teacher at one of Denver's private schools, Colorado Academy in Denver, Colorado. He is also the creator of the Global Perspectives in the 21st Century course at Colorado Academy.

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Q+A: Asian Studies Must Start in Primary School, Says Uni Expert

UTS Fairfax building, Ultimo
UTS Fairfax building, Ultimo (Wikipedia)
by Sunanda Creagh, Editor - The Conversation, interviewing Professor William Purcell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (International and Development) at University of Technology, Sydney, The Conversation:

Australian universities will not be able to produce graduates fluent in complex Asian languages without a massive funding boost and a rethink of language and cultural literacy teaching in schools, a senior university executive has said.

The federal government’s white paper on Australia in the Asian Century, released on Sunday, said the nation’s future prosperity depended on a huge increase in Asia cultural literacy, people-to-people links and competency in languages such as Hindi, Mandarin and Indonesian.

In this Q+A, the University of Technology Sydney’s Deputy Vice Chancellor and chair of the Universities Australia DVC International Committee, Professor William Purcell - who is fluent in Japanese and Korean - outlines what the sector needs to deliver the government’s vision.

What is your general response to the white paper?

It is a very pleasing report which recognises the importance of Australia’s positioning in Asia. It recognises the absolutely critical role that Australian universities and educational institutions are going to play in this strategy.

Generally, Australian universities, especially over the last five years, have moved from their international focus being on recruitment of international students to their engagement abroad in terms of deepening and strengthening our relationships to develop enduring and meaningful partnerships.

We are more focused on research training links, by which I mean joint and dual PhD programs, which really are the measure of internationalisation. You have students moving between labs in Australia and Asia, they have two supervisors, they spend a year in-country and you develop a range of significant links and resulting joint publications.

At UTS, for example, we have four key technology partners in China and we have dual PhD programs with all of those universities.

At UTS, we have a lot of joint research centres with our overseas partners, [which] provide a really significant infrastructure for research and training. I think all of the Australian universities have moved toward what we call this third wave of internationalisation.

About 25 Australian universities have campuses and courses in Asia already. RMIT has a significant campus in Vietnam with about 20,000 students. I think about 65% or more of our international students come from the major Asian countries.

What more needs to be done to help universities deliver on the goals outlined in the paper?

We also have to increase the mobility level of our students going to Asia, building their global skills by experiences abroad. Traditionally, they have been six month or one-year exchange for credit. But we have more students working full time so we need to find new ways to send them abroad for short term programs of four to eight weeks.

We have worked hard to do this at UTS through our BUILD program. For example, last year we sent our film students to do a Bollywood director shadowing program, we sent our business students to study micro finance programs in India, we sent our design students to study textiles in India.

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Given Tablets But No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves: A Bold Experiment By the One Laptop Per Child Organization Has Shown “Encouraging” Results

olpc one laptop per children!
OLPC one laptop per child (emmma peel)
by David Talbot, MIT

With 100 million first-grade-aged children worldwide having no access to schooling, the One Laptop Per Child organization is trying something new in two remote Ethiopian villages - simply dropping off tablet computers with preloaded programs and seeing what happens.

The goal: to see if illiterate kids with no previous exposure to written words can learn how to read all by themselves, by experimenting with the tablet and its preloaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs.

Early observations are encouraging, said Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC’s founder, at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference last week.

The devices involved are Motorola Zoom tablets - used together with a solar charging system, which OLPC workers had taught adults in the village to use. Once a week, an OLPC worker visits the villages and swaps out memory cards so that researchers can study how the machines were actually used.

After several months, the kids in both villages were still heavily engaged in using and recharging the machines, and had been observed reciting the “alphabet song,” and even spelling words. One boy, exposed to literacy games with animal pictures, opened up a paint program and wrote the word “Lion.”

The experiment is being done in two isolated rural villages with about 20 first-grade-aged children each, about 50 miles from Addis Ababa. One village is called Wonchi, on the rim of a volcanic crater at 11,000 feet; the other is called Wolonchete, in the Rift Valley. Children there had never previously seen printed materials, road signs, or even packaging that had words on them, Negroponte said.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Elephant in the Chat Room: Will International Students Stay at Home?

The Gothic Revival Columbia Law School buildin...
The Gothic Revival Columbia Law School building on the Madison Avenue campus (circa 1860) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Dr Thomas Birtchnell, Lecturer in Social Sciences, Media & Communication at University of Wollongong, The Conversation:

In 1923, a young boy leaves his small village in India and travels by boat to study at Columbia University in the United States.

This is a time when only five out of every hundred of India’s three hundred million people can read and write.

His story, featured in a Boy Scouts’ magazine, was billed as “The Boy Who Would Educate India”.

He would return to India with his degree to “teach the people something besides religion” and put India on the path to development.

The aim of the feature was to be an inspirational story for young Americans - they, too, should strive for an education and help others.

But not all goes to plan. His job at as a messenger boy at the Western Union falls through (most likely due to visa issues). In order to complete his degree, he takes up an informal job as a carer for a wealthy family’s children. And his own family need him back in India.

Unable to balance his lowly job with his study, he makes the long trip home without his doctorate, scrubbing the decks to pay for his passage.

This story will seem somewhat familiar for many international students from India today, who come to Australia expecting to earn a degree, find a secure job and eventually to apply for residency. This is the dream of a better life through mobility.

But in many cases they find themselves balancing study with poor work and living conditions and, once their degree is finished, they are told to head back home.

But does the arrival of free quality online education change all this? Had “The Boy Who Would Educate India” been a student today, would he have still made the journey?

Study Without Moving

New technologies are making their way into the global education system and may challenge the way universities operate.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), for example, offer expert tuition from the world’s most prestigious universities for free - Stanford, Harvard, Columbia and now Melbourne to name a few.

Most seriously for education exporters, these new technologies appear to threaten the lucrative international student market, now a considerable slice of universities’ incomes. The market for Indian students alone is worth over $3 billion to the US, and was expected to grow exponentially alongside aspirant middle classes.

With MOOCs, rich students from poor regions can earn degrees from premier providers from the “comfort” of their own homes. In the future they may even interact with others through iPad Doubles. But at the moment this interaction mostly occurs in chatrooms and quizzes.

Face-to-face tuition could become a luxury commodity. University senior executives and policymakers need to consider this conundrum in how to target infrastructure, tuition, graduate placement, student experience and - much less publicised - pathways to residency.

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Yes, We Khan: Pioneering Education for Anyone, Anywhere

English: Salman Khan, famous for the Khan Acad...
Salman Khan, famous for the Khan Academy, speaking at TED 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Professor Craig Savage, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Australian National University, The Conversation:

From preschool to PhD, education is afflicted by a malaise. Many students, teachers, parents and politicians, feel that with all the effort and money spent, we should be doing better.

Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, is a quiet revolutionary whose book The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined released last week, offers an inspiring vision for restructuring education.

It’s an entertaining and provocative look at how one entrepreneur is changing the world, one lesson at a time.

Khan’s Academy

The Khan Academy is best known for its short educational videos - available online, for free, and for any student.

The idea famously had its beginnings when Khan was tutoring his relatives remotely. Eventually, he developed short videos on YouTube, and added automated assessment and feedback to help them.

The popularity of the videos meant Khan gave up a lucrative job as a hedge fund analyst to develop the idea fully. His is the classic Silicon Valley success story: self-funded and struggling until Gates, Google, and the like noticed, and turned on the money taps.

Where the academy fits

Khan is a leader amongst those who have challenged the education establishment. The effective pedagogy used in his videos has strongly influenced the Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC movement and is part of a larger drive to make education open and online.

Khan’s central principle is that each student should be guided along their unique path to their full potential. They should progress at their own pace in their own direction.

This subsumes the tried and true idea of mastery learning - that students should learn 100% of foundational material before moving on, rather than have only a partial grasp that may come back to haunt them later.

The ideal classroom

In Khan’s ideal school, foundational instruction is provided using the flipped classroom model, in which content and assessment come from something like the Khan Academy.

He claims that this delivers content up to five times more efficiently than does conventional instruction. This frees up valuable, human, teacher time for personal interactions with students. He calls this “humanising the classroom”.

The Academy assesses students’ understanding in parallel with the instruction, providing automated help for students and guidance for the teachers’ interventions.

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Young, Educated, and Deep in Debt

subterranean unemployment blues
Subterranean unemployment blues (Photo credit: Robert Bruce Murray III // Sort Of Natural)
by My Budget 360, Guest Post,

I doubt anyone is opposed to education or advancing your knowledge in life. Who can oppose something so valuable?

Now this lofty aspiration is great but becomes problematic especially when the cost of higher education has gotten so expensive. How expensive you ask?

The fact that we have over $1 trillion in student loans outstanding tells us many students can only continue their educational endeavors via more debt.

One of the most disturbing statistics is regarding young college graduates. These are students that have faced the highest tuition inflation and are also entering the weakest job market in a generation.  This is an issue that cannot be ignored.

Sure, we can turn a blind eye as we did with housing but this bubble is going to burst. We are already seeing fractures in the system and even people questioning the value of an education. Where do we go from here with the US college system?

The tough job market for recent graduates

One dramatic figure coming out from the employment side of things is the under-utilization of those with college degrees:
“(Daily Trojan) Still, California’s unemployment rate remains the third highest in the country, and the L.A. area’s unemployment hovers above the statewide rate at 10.6 percent. The slow pace of job growth could have a direct impact on USC students. Employment rates for new college graduates are very low with nearly half of all college graduates under age 25 unemployed or employed in jobs that do not require a college degree, according to a Northeastern University study that looked at 2011 data.”
Keep in mind this is coming from a selective school that has tuition costs of more than $50,000 per year. It is an interesting figure that half of all college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or are working in a field that doesn’t utilize their degree. This is something that needs to be addressed since the future of our nation will rest on the shoulders of young Americans.

There have been a few studies examining future prospects of those entering weak employment markets and the drag on the economy can be deep and fundamental. There is definitely a structural shift going on.

You will be hard pressed to find anyone going against education per se. Yet what is the actual value? Education for the sake of education can be had for free given the plethora of electronic options:
- TED talks that bring out experts in select fields
- Online learning environments like the Khan Academy
- Free open source courses
- Public libraries offering eBooks through online checkout
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The End of Universities? Don’t Count On It

Ormond College (1879), University of Melbourne
Ormond College (1879), University of Melbourne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Leo Goedegebuure, Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne, The Conversation:

Ernst & Young’s report on the future of universities made a big splash this week, fuelled by apocalyptic headlines heralding the end of the university world as we know it.

No one who has any feel for or interest in the world of higher education would deny that we are living in challenging times.

Nor would they deny where the changes are coming from - funding pressures, demographic shifts, changing student bodies, economic globalisation and technological advances are all having very real effects on universities around the world.

We’ve been researching, writing and reading and their effects on the university business model about them for at least a decade. They are the “global warming” phenomena of higher education - we may not necessarily like them, but we can’t avoid them.

But does that mean that collectively universities are about to go belly up? I don’t think so.

The report is quite shocking in its lack of depth. Talking to a couple of Vice-Chancellors or “institutional leaders” in my books does not equate to serious research. Having selective quotes in tabloid style throughout the report at a minimum is misleading. And I assume everyone sees through the simplistic marketing ploy of Ernst & Young’s own “university model for the future”.

The report also lacks references to similar work undertaken on the topic. Earlier this year Tom Kennie from the British Leadership Foundation, together with his colleague Ilfryn Price, wrote a paper on a new ecology for British higher education, exploring possible types of institutions in a future characterised by competition, disruptive change and market dynamics.

Mike Gallagher recently undertook a similar exercise for Australia. And Harvard’s Clayton Christensen did the same for the US system last year.

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Asian Century White Paper Sets Tricky Targets for Universities

Asia - Satellite image - PlanetObserver
Asia - Satellite image (PlanetObserver)
by Professor Simon Marginson, Professor of Higher Education at University of Melbourne, The Conversation:

In the slip-stream of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, released by Julia Gillard yesterday, there is a one-off opportunity to evolve new programs, open up and engage in Asia at scale. Many of the new programs are likely to evolve in education and research.

The report is short on specific ideas because it wants them to bubble up from below. For a year or two, government will support program initiatives with unusual generosity. Asian Century Taskforce leader Ken Henry has created a window for Asianists with ideas.

Asia for the mainstream

The paper works as a strategy because it is utterly mainstream in tone. It does not rail at middle Anglo-Australia’s lack of Asian awareness from outside, though it could have. It does not dwell on the highly varied specifics of the sub-regions and nations under the heading “Asia”. Nor is it drenched in the rich excitement of 3000 years of Sinic, Indian and Southeast Asian cultures.

Instead it positions itself squarely in the Anglo-Australian mind. It wants to be Tony Abbott as much as it wants to be Julia Gillard. A laconic local drawl lurks behind the spare factual prose and in places you can almost hear it.

The white paper sets out to capture the mainstream, to change its thinking, naturalising regional engagement. Time will tell whether this works but the shift is essential. We must embed ourselves autonomously in the region. Or Australia, that odd nation at the end of Southeast Asia with a union jack on its flag, will be trapped in its history, in denial of its geography. It will become obsolete.

Sending students to Asia

The white paper sets few targets for higher education and science, again fostering an atmosphere where government and non-government initiatives and benchmarks will evolve. It emphasises people-to-people links, local demography and alumni. And it makes all the right noises.

Asian languages in schools, compulsory Asia-related curricula (there will be rearguard resistance to this), more language learning in higher education, stronger research links in the region, and many more Australian students going to Asia during their degrees.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

What Makes a Great Teacher?

English: Teachers from the Exploratorium's Tea...
Teachers from the Exploratorium's Teacher Institute examine the "String Thing" they built (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Janel N Spencer

Some teachers regularly lift students' test scores, while others leave their students with below-average results year after year.

This can happen right next door to each other; same grade, same building. Results from dozens of studies point to the same most significant factor - a good teacher is the single greatest influence on a student's chance of success.

Among the factors that do not predict a teacher's ability? "A graduate-school degree, a high score on the SAT, an extroverted personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and having passed the teacher-certification exam on the first try," sites Elizabeth Green, writer for The New York Times.

"Parents have always worried about where to send their children to school; but the school, statistically speaking, does not matter as much as which adult stands in front of their children," said Amanda Ripley, reporting on the statistical findings of Teach for America.

Teach for America data suggests two major traits that link all good teachers: setting big goals for their students and continually looking for ways to improve their teaching. "Great teachers constantly reevaluate what they are doing," Ripley said.

A teacher needs to be constantly re-evaluating and paying attention to what is working for their students because every classroom is different. This takes patience and dedication, and a love for teaching, to do it right. Teacher Marie F. Hassett asserts, "Good teachers routinely think about and reflect on their classes, their students, their methods, and their materials."

"Another trait seemed to matter even more," Ripley says. Teachers who scored high in "life satisfaction" based on assessment tests were 43 percent more likely to perform well in the classroom. No surprise here, a happier person is usually the better teacher.

Doug Lemov, teacher, principal, founder and consultant for the charter school network Uncommon Schools in New York, has a different approach when thinking about good teaching.

Lemov, who conducted his own research and published a "Taxonomy of Effective Teaching Practices," believes that what often looks like "natural-born genius" is actually "deliberate technique in disguise." He suggests that good teaching is not purely instinctive, but that good teachers can be made through acquiring knowledge of pedagogical techniques.

"Lemov's view is that getting students to pay attention is not only crucial but also a skill as specialized, intricate and learnable as playing guitar," Green explains.

In a study conducted by German researchers in 2010, Baumert and his colleagues tested 194 high school math teachers and found that although content knowledge is essential, teachers who possessed strong pedagogical knowledge as well as knowledge of mathematics were the most effective.

What about passion, and talent?

Author, educator, and activist Parker Palmer argues that good teaching isn't about technique. After many conversations with students about what makes a good teacher, Palmer says, "All of them describe people who have had some sort of connective capacity, who connect themselves to their students, their students to each other, and everyone to the subject being studied."

"Good teaching often has less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude towards our students, our subject, and our work," says teacher Teacher Marie F. Hassett.

To add to the debate I asked my colleagues for their input on what makes a good teacher, and these are the traits we came up with here at 360 Education Solutions:

Making it fun

Using different teaching styles, a hands-on approach, and being adaptive are all markings of a good teacher. Good teachers have to stay in tune and up-to-date on educational standards, while also keeping their students involved by making it fun and including activities in their lessons.

If a teacher can keep their students engaged and constantly make things a discussion, they are doing well. A good teacher should challenge their students to think creatively, and influence them by being creative with how they teach.

Being invested

A good teacher is invested in the subject and their students. It is important to know the subject material well but also to understand how the students might understand or misunderstand it, and to be aware of them and what they need.

Getting to know your students on a personal level - such as what is going on in their lives - is important not only for connection but to understand what they need as a student. Elementary school teachers and even high school teachers are often required to play the role of both teacher and parent.

Preparing students for 'battle'

One colleague gave me a very descriptive example of how he sees a great teacher. Their job is to give their students "the sword and the shield," he explained, "so they can go into battle." Because when they complete their challenges, it's empowering, he says, and when they've done it themselves, they can claim ownership over it.

"Good teachers are the ones that don't give you the answer ... they open the door for you but let you walk through it," he says. "And the reason I'm saying this is because the stuff in my life that's important happened because of teachers and mentors like this."

Being tough

Nobody likes a teacher who is mean, spiteful or who over-punishes. But one co-worker likes a tough teacher because they challenge him. "It seems like the teachers everyone hates for giving the most work and not letting you get off easy end up being the ones you learn the most from," he said.

Other qualities we recalled about our favorite teachers:

• Relate-ability
• Have respect for their students
• Have enthusiasm
• Present new perspectives
• Care about their students and what they teach
• Are wiling to go the extra mile

Most importantly, good teachers are the ones that have the patience to give their students the attention they deserve, and are dedicated to helping them go further than anyone else thought possible.

"Good teaching is not a static state, but a constant process," Hassett concludes. "We have new opportunities to become better teachers every day; good teachers are the ones who seize more opportunities than they miss."

Remember: good teaching means students' success but this success cannot solely be judged based on test scores. Also, a student's success is not only dependent on a good teacher but on their own motivation as well.

A good teacher can only "show them the door," the student must walk through.
360 Education Solutions is an advocate group that promotes the education and professional development of teachers around the country.

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Who Mucked Up "Muck Up Day"?

Muck up day song
Muck up day song (Photo credit: Jetekus)
by Jane Caro, Lecturer, School of Communication Arts at University of Western Sydney, The Conversation:

“Most schools used to call it Muck Up Day, but we saw that as being something negative.”

So said year 12 co-ordinator Annette Hall of Presbyterian Ladies' College - one of many schools who have changed the name given to end of year festivities for graduating students to “Celebration Day”.

Negative? Muck Up Day? What school did you go to, Annette Hall? What kind of young person were you?

I remember looking forward to Muck Up Day from the moment I entered Year 7 (then called 1st form). Far from being negative, it was a major incentive keeping kids at school (now called with typical modern-day pomposity, student retention).

After 13 years of the frantically increasing pressure that now characterises what passes for our education system (if only passes were all that were required) is it any surprise some students might actually feel like mucking up? But all the control-freaks like Ms Hall will allow is an appropriately decorous “celebration”.

Personally, I suspect the exam bound (and shackled) Presbyterian ladies would probably benefit from an anarchic blow out more than most.

Every time I look at school age kids today - from the poor little 5 year old mite in the uniform of an expensive boys private school whose backpack was so heavy he couldn’t actually lift it off the ground to the weary kids, trombone under arm, trudging home late from one of their myriad of after school activities - the more grateful I am that I went to school in the laid back 70s.

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All-You-Can-Eat-Education for $30 a Month

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 All-You-Can-Eat-Education for $30 a Month