Tuesday, February 25, 2014

History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education - Week 5 - lecture notes

Week 5 is about pedagogy and assessment.

Pedagogy: "How you teach shapes what you teach."

  • To change the paradigms of pedagogy, make learners into leaders. Let students lead the way. 
  • Piaget, Vygotsky, and Dewey

  • Don't stop at critical thinking; continue on to creative contribution. (Translating ideas into practice constitutes real learning.)
    • Critical thinking should be the beginning of action, not an end in itself.
    • e.g., Anne Balsamo's Digital AIDS Quilt which everyone can contribute to/edit
    • Cyber Infrastructure for Billions of Electronic Records (CI-BER)
      • a virtual recreation of a poor community in Asheville NC, decimated by urban renewal
      • "Making Data Matter" teaches technology, ethics, community action and collaboration and tried to answer the question of how prosperity can help everyone, not penalize the poor.
  • Encourage students to lead.
    • e.g., Duke's Surprise Endings  (student-driven curriculum and discrete mini-courses) (C.N. Davidson and D. Ariely)
  • Make diversity our operating system (not an add-on). Without it, we cannot be accurate.
    • John Hope Franklin, 1915 - 2009: "My challenge was to weave into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of blacks so that the story of the United States could be told accurately."
Assessment: "What you count is what you value." (My wicked thought:  Often, we count what we count because it's easy to count it.)

  • So make sure what we value is what we count.
  • In the past, standardized testing, codified in 2002 with No Child Left Behind, was supposed to improve K-12 education nationally, but the result was that the method has taken over. Now, failing schools can be closed or privatized (despite lack of evidence that privatizing has a positive effect). This leads to teaching to the test in a big way; learning, inspiration, and knowledge go out the window while everyone focuses on trying to pass the stupid tests, which test only 20% of the content anyway (and don't forget how difficult it is to write a good test! Most people can't do it.)
  • Standardized tests = giving everyone the same test: this is inherently unfair. Is a penguin deficient because it can't climb a tree? Tests should help, not hinder, learners and learning. Tests should not tell learners that they are stupid, deficient or disabled.
  • A different way to demonstrate mastery is through performance. What if instead of drilling for the test, we challenged learners to apply what they have learned to do some good in the world?
  • Badges can recognize other skills.
In the end, content is a fiction because knowledge is constantly changing. We can, and should, teach the tools, the methods of learning, the self-confidence in one's own abilities to enable learners to keep learning (and unlearning) throughout their lives. That is Davidson's future of learning.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education - Week 4 - lecture notes

This week, we turn to the future of education; Cathy will be showing us examples of innovative approaches to (higher) education within 100 miles of Duke University. (Her point is that innovation is happening everywhere; if we are only open to it, we can find it wherever we are.)

The lecture segments were mostly very short, so I was able to listen to everything in just two sessions. Then I took the "quiz". Cathy's quizzes are really just lecture notes. Everything is true; all you have to do is check it off, but reading through the quiz is a great way to review the main points for the week. (How I wish I could give tests like this!)

First, she reviewed the guiding principles of the course:

  1. We looked at the history of education in s purposive, activist way.
  2. There is always someone behind the camera (someone making things happen, even though we may not be aware of them).
  3. Local and global knowledge(s) are related. (I am having trouble with the idea of knowledge as a countable noun.)
  4. MOOCs may have begun as unidirectional are can evolve into peer-to-peer collaboration.
  5. It's important to be a lifelong UNlearner.
  6. Proximity: There are moments of brilliance and inspiration all around us, if we only look for them (cf. first paragraph).
  7. Art allows us to see the brilliance and transforms the mundane into something magical.
Second, she listed important digital literacies which we must develop if we are to behave as responsible world citizens and educate our young people to do the same:
  1. best practices in attention (multi-tasking, etc.)
  2. participation (why do women account for only 14 percent of Wikipedia editors?)
  3. access (who doesn't have it?)
  4. privacy (multiple concerns about that!)
  5. security (ditto)
  6. sustainability (how to preserve stuff online; who preserves it)
  7. credibility (whom can you trust online?)
  8. ethics (people are not data)
Third, we should find creative ways to model unlearning: we can do this through art and through culture shock. An example was Barkley Hendricks' series "Birth of the Cool," which uses ordinary street people as examples of who is cool. Remembering Kant's belief that we filter the world, unlearning is a way of changing the filter through which we experience the world.

Finally, in an interview with Laurent Dubois of Duke's Haiti Lab, we consider how to "rethink liberal arts as a start-up curriculum for resilient world citizens." The Haiti Lab features independent studies projects that brought together students from many fields after Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake, including medical, historical, and arts projects among others. There are all kinds of resources, videos, and other materials at the Haiti Lab website (link above). This was one example of an innovative curriculum based on liberal arts methods but incorporating science and technology as well.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education - Week 4 - Reading: The Worst Student

I start out with one of two assigned readings (the other one is to watch, again, Michael Wesch's video, A Vision of Students Today, which I just watched a few days ago.): What I Learned as the Worst Student in the Class, by Adrianne Wadewitz, on the HASTAC site. Wadewitz asks how teachers can possibly understand their students' struggles with a subject that they themselves found easy and excelled in? I confront this question every day, as a teacher of English as a second/foreign language. I was a language geek from the get-go. Hearing and making weird sounds (like the French [y] in words like tu) came pretty easily to me, and I picked up new modes of expression fairly easily also. I was fascinated by grammar (I used to spend hours discussing Russian grammar with my fellow language geek Ivan Sag over breakfast at the Men's Dining Hall (aka Frederick Douglass Dining Hall) at the University of Rochester). My students, on the other hand, don't hear those sound differences, hate grammar, and struggle with every aspect of English. What worked for me does not (usually) work for them. So I am interested in what she has to say on this subject. 

Wadewitz approached this issue by enrolling in a rock-climbing class, specifically because she is klutzy and knew it would be extremely difficult for her. In fact, she had to hire a private coach because she was unable to learn in the class. She learned to set the bar lower for herself, selecting "small goals." She writes, "For students that struggle, goal-setting and repetition [are] necessary." A writing teacher (as am I, most of the time), she comments that we do not give students enough chances to repeat and practice what we want them to learn (like how to write a thesis statement). I totally agree with her there. I recommended revising our writing curriculum to decrease the number of organizational patterns we need to cover in a level so that students will have a chance to write more than one piece of writing for each type. Even so, I am fully aware that I don't have them practice enough. 

She considers how to praise students for small (but vital) successes even when they do not merit a good grade overall (but has not solved this problem so far). She plans to encourage students to focus on and "embrace" their failures as a way to learn and describes how repeatedly (and publicly) failing at what she was attempting to learn required a discipline very different from the academic discipline she had acquired in her own field. She ends by describing how she has "switched subject positions" by becoming a climber--one of those people she used to marvel at.

I remember back to 1975, when I signed up for a beginning Greek class in night school to try to experience what my students experienced learning English. (Of course, I was still me, signing up to do something I am good at.) I chose Greek because it was the only language offered that I had no experience with at all, and because I had recently met a Greek immigrant in the neighborhood whom I could practice with. Reader, I married him!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education - Week 3

Lecture notes:
3.1 Teaching like it's 1992

(My daughter was born in 1992. I never put together the fact that she is about as old as the (public) Internet. Sometimes it seems as though the Internet has been around for much longer than that. I still remember when I first heard about email and it seemed like just another opportunity to receive stuff I didn't want to read! Then I got a computer on my desk at work, and a home computer too, and slowly my life changed to include these machines. However, it was not until 14 years later that I "became a Webhead" and started this blog. Before that, I had essentially no Internet presence. Now I have a multitude of (mostly defunct class) blogs and I coordinate the Electronic Village Online! I could never have predicted any of this in 1992.)

Davidson's main points:

  • History is not linear. Changes lead to other changes. 
  • Kant said that we filter the world through our own perception. Education helps us to filter the world; and we are educating kids to filter a world that no longer exists (in the developed world). The world we live in is "a multi-tasking, double-dipping world." Expertise is no longer as important as it once was, but our educational system continues to be hierarchical, top-down, uni-directional sage-on-the-stage.
  • Lifelong (un)learning means we need to realize that our institutions may be telling us the wrong thing about teaching, learning, and assessing.
  • Let's learn together for the world we are living in now!
3.2 How We Measure
  • I am re-reading Chapter 4, "How we Measure," in Now You See It. This is where I learned about how Frederick Kelly invented (and later came to dislike) the multiple-choice test ("as American as apple pie) (see post for Week 2).
  • In this section of the third lecture, Davidson focuses on the Finns, who abolished standardized testing 20 years ago but whose kids can compete (on standardized OECD exams) successfully (in the top 5%) despite not having experience with standardized summative tests. In the Finnish system,
    • All teachers must have at least a master's degree.
    • Once a week, all teachers work together to develop new and improved lesson plans.
    • Nobody fails. There is no bell curve. Teachers decide on the standard of knowledge they think should be attained and then everyone works together to help all the kids reach that standard. The quicker students get to help the slower ones reach it. No one is left behind. (unlike our No Child Left Behind which ends up failing many children and schools).
    • Even the summative testing giants in Asia (such as Singapore) are interested in how the Finnish system works because summative testing does not make happy learners (or teachers or parents), and people graduated from those systems are less productive as adults than the Finns are. Summative testing is "a disincentive to learning"; the stress makes everyone unhappy; and it doesn't prepare you well for living responsibly as an adult.
  • What we value should be what we count.
  • Peer teaching should be the way of the 21st century: See one, do one, teach one, share one.)
3.3 Neoliberalism (aka Neoconservatism??)
  • Davidson describes the defunding of public education in the United States, starting with the Reagan Revolution in the 1980s. 
    • In California, students have to be better than perfect to get into UC Berkeley, and there are almost half a million students on the waiting lists for community colleges.
    • [And in India, only the top 2% of the 1% allowed to take university entrance exams are admitted to universities.]
    • The US, formerly #1 in numbers of college graduates, has slipped to #11--the direct result of the decline in public support for higher education.
  • But despite the campaign of "College isn't worth it," a college education still pays off:
    • Federal, state and municipal governments profit $231K for each college graduate, not only from tax dividends but also because they are not spending money on unemployment, welfare, and prison for most of those people
    • And both men and women college graduates earn a profit ($365K for men and $185K for women) from their college degrees over their lifetime.
  • How to scale higher education for the masses? Are MOOCs the answer?
3.4 Crowdsourcing How We Learn
  • I rewatched Michael Wesch's seminal 2007 video "A Vision of Students Today" which I first encountered, probably, in Becoming a webhead in the 2006 EVO. This version seemed slightly different (edited, maybe, to add information on how the video came to be) but it still focuses attention on the antiquated education system 21st century students are learning (or not) in.
    • A kind of "see one, do one, teach one, share one"
    • Examples: Wikipedia, ReCaptcha, Duolingo, Foldit, Surprise Endings with Davidson & Ariely
  • Crowdsourcing works because humans enjoy experiencing things together, and we enjoy collaborating on a project for the public good.
    • Writing, contributing, using ideas and translating them into the world are more engaging than just listening to ideas, and we learn more and remember more from doing these things.
    • When learners control the topic and product and create something useful, they enjoy learning more.
  • MOOCs have inspired DOCCs (Distributed Online Collaborative Courses)
  • Learning the future together: HASTAC (check it out)
3.5 Who's Your Favorite Teacher?
       5-6 short interviews with people about their favorite teachers and whether they used any particular methods or strategies to teach. There was a film teacher who taught a person that art can "confront, can infiltrate"; a pastor who teaches that church is for everyday, not only Sunday; a dad who was also a physics educator who taught his son to reason out answers for himself; a teacher who taught the pleasures of caring for others; and more.

Wow, 10:16... no snow day tomorrow, I had better go to bed.

A few thoughts about multi-tasking

In Now You See It, Davidson says that human brains that develop connected to the Internet are different; those kids born in the Internet Age, the so-called "digital natives," think differently than we do in my generation (the TV generation? ugh), they process things differently, and one of the assumptions here, I think, is that they are better than we are at multi-tasking. They are able to text, talk, watch TV or listen to a lecture all while updating their Twitter feed and Facebook page.

But recently I have read the results of several studies that claim the opposite: these young people are no better at multi-tasking than anyone else, because human brains did not evolve to do more than one thing at a time. When they multi-task, the result is that nothing gets done well.

Then I thought, maybe those studies are just part of a backlash against novel ideas about thinking, brain research, education.... Maybe there is a deep-dyed plot to discourage us from teaching differently! Paranoia! I can't believe anything I read. Whom can I trust?

I brought this up at a f2f meeting of the graduate section of Katie's "Experiments in Feminist Learning" seminar on Wednesday. Katie responded that she had read research supporting both sides of the argument: some studies support the multi-tasking abilities of young people, while others debunk them.

The answer, of course, is to keep an open mind, read up on both points of view, and try to come to an informed conclusion.

It's a lot of work, but it's the only way.

P.S. That graduate seminar meeting was a lovely break from a hectic day. For two hours, I sat in Katie's cozy office in Woods Hall, listening to and sometimes adding to a thoughtful discussion about measurement in education (aka grading) as well as other topics that happened to come up. It was supremely peaceful and made me realize how I never do that--quietly sit and discuss something.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education (Week 2)

I've gotten a slow start on Week 2. It's already Thursday night and I have listened to only one lecture segment, and I was not able to attend Katie's class on Wednesday as I had planned to do; but I reread the introduction and third chapter of Cathy Davidson's excellent book, Now You See It (reviewed by me here).

In Part 1 of the lecture, Cathy noted that the antecedents to the modern university included Taxila (619 BC, Pakistan) and Plato's Academy (380 BC, Athens), and that Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, mistrusted books (he thought they "clouded the mind"). Denis Diderot systematized the knowledge he had access to at that time in his Encyclop├ędie (1751-72). In the 18th century, Immanuel Kant said in his Critique of Pure Reason (1788) that our mind filters our experiences of the world (brain scientists are finding this to be true, I think). Cathy suggests that we need to ask who shapes this filter? How can education help shape a more egalitarian filter? Can we fund/support public education to shape the filter?

Seminal quotation by Alvin Toffler, seen at the beginning of each lecture segment:
"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

Lecture Segment 2: the origins of the research university (the Humboldtian university, after Wilhelm von Humboldt, a German educator)

  • The emphasis on producing new knowledge--not just repeating and memorizing old knowledge
  • labs, seminars, student research under profs' tutelage
  • create the most productive, innovative thinkers
  • to encourage innovation and exploration
  • compare French (disciplinary, hierarchical, interested in requirements) and German (modern, develop the filter) and British (some of each; influenced the American colleges like 
    • Harvard 1636--of which the primary focus was to train young men for the ministry)
    • College of Wm. and Mary - second American college - taught liberal arts (trained the mind, helped create the filter, provided rigor)
  • Method: repetition: memorization, recitation
  • 18th/19th c - emphasis changed to a more Humboldtian model of research and writing in US higher education
  • Keywords:
    • timeliness: being on time, doing things on time
    • Hierarchy: carried over from the French system
    • Productivity (Humboldtian)
    • standardization
    • scientific method and metrics from industry and science to assess productivity
    • 2 cultures: scientific/technological/math vs the interpretive/creative/artistic/historical knowledge
    • teaching, not learning
Lecture Segment 3: 19th century industrial age schooling: training farmers to be factory workers
  • 1876 Johns Hopkins U, first research university in America
  • industry needed a certain kind of worker; education a major component in creating that worker
  • the school marm's job: to enforce this education
  • the advent of compulsory public (primary) education - justified by the need for timeliness (how to teach farmers to do things "on time"
    • farmers need to be flexible about what they do and when they do it - lots of choices
    • they collaborate with others a lot
    • nobody else above them is measuring their productivity
  • public education instilled the values of timeliness, standardization, hierarchy (rows, lines - training for the assembly line)
    • small units of learning (math from 8-9, etc) independent of student interest ("an odd view of learning that worked so hard to segregate one tings from another")
    • emphasis on age - everyone beginning school at the same age, narrowly defined (absurd)
  • Think of the role education played in preparing us for the industrial world. What role should education play today, in the post-industrial era?
Lecture Segment 4: Attention
  • William James 1890, Principles of Psychology - the first to write about attention: focused, linear attention to task, and distraction; how we stay focused on a task
    • important because most of 20th century education is about focusing on a task
  • Frederick Winslow Taylor: 1890s: factories are the future! applying ideas about attention to the workforce: scientific labor management (how to make human beings as much like machines as possible)
    • how to keep people working on an assembly line
    • reward the worker "soldiers" who didn't seem to get tired at the end of the day
    • "malingerers" showed their exhaustion, worked at a variable speed
  • Industrial Educational Complex - 1875 to 1925 (scientific learning management)
    • kindergarten
    • mandatory public secondary schooling
    • land grant universities
    • US Office of education
    • majors and minors
    • certification
    • graduate schools
    • collegiate law schools
    • nursing schools
    • education schools at universities
    • business schools
    • degree requirements
    • grades
      • Mt Holyoke was the 1st to adopt grades in place of expository explanations (1897)
      • reduce all the complexity to one standardized letter grade
      • (the American Meatpackers' Association was the second entity to adopt grading)
      • it spread like wildfire throughout the world of education, for grammar school, secondary school, and higher ed
    • statistics, standard deviation
      • Francis Galton invented the idea of deviation from a mean and standard deviation. A famous eugenicist, he proposed that the British gov't pay aristocrats to have more children and sterilize the working class (ugh)

    • spreadsheets
    • blueprints
    • return on equity
    • punch clocks
    • IQ tests
    • learning disabilities
    • multiple choice tests
      • Frederick J Kelly invented them; in 1914 as a PhD student. He wrote about variability in teacher grades.
      • His method allowed anyone to grade a test.
      • (I think I heard somewhere that Kelly later changed his mind about the fficacy of multiple choice tests. He decided it had been a really bad idea, but by then there was no getting rid of them.)
    • rapid response/item response college entrance exams
    • school rankings
    • tenure
That's it for tonight. Vicki and I are going to read Chapter 3 of Mary Poppins (seeing Saving Mr Banks last weekend inspired us to re-read it).

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Future of (Mostly) Higher Education (week 1 "field notes")

In my continuing journey to become a lifelong learner, I am now enrolled in my third Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Taught by Cathy N. Davidson of Duke University, the course is called The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education. As part of the MOOC, we are encouraged to participate in a f2f learning community. My friend Katie King, professor of Women's Studies at UMD, has organized such a community in association with her course Experiments in Feminist Learning and has invited MOOC enrollees to participate to the extent possible in the course. She suggests that we make "field notes" as we go. I am not exactly sure what this means, but I do know if I don't keep any kind of record of what I hear and read, I will forget it as completely as if I never encountered it.

Last week was the first week of the 6-week MOOC (although Katie's course is for the whole semester). I listened to Cathy's lecture and took notes--too long to transcribe here. A few high points:

  • We are living in the 4th great information age (the age of the internet).
    • 1st - the invention of writing
    • 2nd - the invention of printing (movable type)
    • 3rd - the advent of mass printing
  • In every information age, nay-sayers have feared and decried the same things as a result of new technologies (loss of memory, skill, authority figures; distraction)
  • Each time, society poses the question: What is the function of education?
    • Is it to prepare the next generation for their future?
    • Or is it to ensure the status quo?
  • In the Internet Age, we require new literacies, e.g.,
    • privacy (how to maintain it)
    • security (how to ensure it)
    • intellectual property (who has the right to it?)
    • safety (how to get it)
    • "crap detection" (Howard Rheingold)
    • collaboration 
    • global consciousness
  • As online learners, we all have the responsibility and the right to be teachers as well as students.
We were to ask people who their most important teacher was.

Who was my most important teacher? I find I cannot really answer this question. Were it phrased differently (Who was one of your most important teachers?), perhaps I would be better able to pick someone. I am thinking: at what level? K-12? I do remember some favorite high school teachers: Donald Otis, Mario Picarelli, Al Eyde (not actually my teacher), Paul Hannabury (Why are they all men???). Do their teachings (or their personalities) continue to inform my life? I can't see how, really. What about college? My very favorite professor, who was also my dear friend, was Alexander (Sasha) Wieber. How does he inform my life now? (Now I am feeling guilty because I have not contacted him in years.) Grad school? I remember David Harris, who taught history of English and testing. He impressed my with his dedication. I would ask an offhand question, and he would go off and research the answer and bring it back the next time. He worked extremely hard for his students. As a teacher, I have tried to do the same. At least, my husband always assures me that I must work harder than anyone else at my institute. Whether that is true or not, I cannot say. But I find myself spending many hours at my job--even when I am supposedly on vacation, so perhaps that is what he means. Whether David Harris inspired this (self-destructive?) behavior, I do not know.

Also last week, I dropped in on the first meeting of Experiments in Feminist Learning, but due to a meeting and a bus schedule I had to arrive late and leave early. I doubt I will be able to devote much time to this. But I will try to follow a little bit. Katie has been very encouraging, and I would hate to disappoint her. 

Although it is already week 2, I am reading "How a Class Becomes a Community: Theory, Method, Examples" by Cathy Davidson. This was a reading from the first week. In it, she describes how in every class she teaches at Duke, she and the class collaborate on a manifesto or constitution for the class. They decide together what the class will be about. I cannot figure out how this can actually happen in real life--certainly not in my life, where I am required to teach certain things (particular grammatical structures or language skills--I teach English as a Second Language) and I have to order textbooks long before the semester begins. What if my students decide they want to learn something else? (Most of my students, if asked, would prefer to be in a test prep class for the TOEFL or IELTS. They see getting into a university as their end goal; they never consider how they will survive and learn once they get there--kind of like an infertile couple who focus on getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term, rather than on parenting an actual child.) Could I defer to their wishes? (no) Would I want to? (no) And if Cathy Davidson has the freedom to let her students choose the direction of a course, does she relinquish her authoritative role as professor by admitting that they are all learning together? (apparently yes) If the answer is really yes, why would the students want to pay a lot of money to be in the course? Couldn't they learn as well in a (free) MOOC? Do they need to enroll at Duke in order to get what they are going to get in the course? (Clearly, I am struggling with this concept of getting off the stage in my own classroom.)

Reading further, I see that she is describing a process she initiated with eight graduate students, and she confesses having played "a professorial role" in creating the document. She chose the textbook (but then "morphed, mashed, remixed, hacked, and modded" (???) it for the purpose of the class. (how?)

The project for the class was the book that this reading begins: Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies. (The class was entitled  Twenty-First Century Literacies: Digital Knowledge, Digital Humanities.) And they did produce a book. I have not finished the first chapter. It seems to be circular: a link to the manifesto brings me back to the same document? I am confused.

A second week 1 reading is Forum: A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age. But it's time to have some dinner here in the real world....