So pardon me if I’m less than impressed by Koller’s new-found defense of face-to-face interaction between professors and students. Say what you will about Sebastian Thrun. At least his company will soon only be shortchanging customers who won’t be wiped out by the experience. Continue Reading »
Archive for the 'happy endings' Category
I assume you’re all familiar with Sebastian Thrum’s “ooopsie–my bad” last week on the argument that MOOCs can educate the uneducated masses and at the same time make money for his deluded investors. I haven’t had the time or energy to say “I told you so,” especially because Jonathan Rees has a nice round-up (with a bonus Monty Python joke and clip) of the issue.
However, I’ll chime in this morning to note this survey of MOOC users at the University of Pennsylvania: 80% of them already hold advanced degrees! This makes perfect sense in terms of what Jonathan, I, and every other critic of MOOCs has pointed out from the very beginning, which is that the people who really need college educations also–unfortunately for the edupirates like Thrun and Daphne Koller–need human beings to teach and guide them. Continue Reading »
After reading Cristina Nehring’s breathtakingly nasty review (described in the previous post) of Rachel Adams’s Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery (Yale University Press, 2013) I just had to read it myself. So, a borrowed copy from our in-state interlibrary loan system arrived this week, and I’ve spent the last few days in my head with Rachel Adams and her family as they adjust to the surprise of having a child with Down syndrome. I found the book smart, funny, and incredibly moving. I also ordered a copy of it for our university library, as I hope it finds a wide audience of readers among parents, teachers, therapists, and people who work in medicine.
Raising Henry is also very self-deprecating–so many of the scenes that Nehring pretended to be offended by are clearly moments in which Adams is holding herself up for criticism or even ridicule. One of the things I really like about Adams’s style is that she doesn’t brook any false piety about motherhood. She doesn’t want to be informed that Henry is an “angel” sent to her by God for a special purpose. She’s a secular (and highly successful) academic: before becoming a mother, she loved having an entire room of their apartment as her office, where she could “work in pajamas and screen my calls, surrounded by piles of books and notes.” (Isn’t that the fantasy of every humanist you know? Those of us who live outside Upper Manhattan, where third and fourth bedrooms are much cheaper to come by, are frequently living that dream, Historiann included!) When she and her husband move into a two-bedroom apartment of their own upon the birth of their first (non-disabled) son, she confesses to “imagining what it would be like to write in his big sunny room, my research spread out in the space that now held a crib, a changing table, and growing numbers of brightly colored plastic toys,” (82). Like youth, expensive real estate is sometimes wasted on the young.
Adams is also the author of Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination (University of Chicago Press, 2001) and a scholar of disability studies, and she incorporates insights from her decades of research in this field into her book about her younger son, Henry. Continue Reading »
Remember my high dudgeon over my students’ failure to appreciate the convenience and effectiveness of Chicago-style citations? I had my panties in a wad over a stack of papers I collected a few weeks ago, in which about half of the students used (or attempted to use) Chicago-style citations, which I thought I had made a requirement of the essay assignment.
Looking over the essay assignment once again as I sat down to record the grades last night, I noticed this instruction on my essay assignment:
As always, your essay must have a clear argument and use proper citations (either Chicago- or MLA-style is fine, so long as you cite both your primary and your secondary sources faithfully.)
The professor who wrote that essay assignment seems perfectly reasonable! The professor who marked the essays, however, is kind of an idiot. Continue Reading »
My own boys, at 8 and 10, are too young for Axe. . . or so I shall insist to myself until they are about 40. But after a single day at the beach this past August, when they shared a bathroom with their big hockey-playing Axe-scented cousin-slash-hero, even the 8-year-old was smearing his small hairless self with the body wash, the deodorant, and, in case he still couldn’t be smelled from the next pier over, the spray cologne. I decided to handle this olfactory terrorism like a mature adult: several days of merciless teasing. Dinners quickly became unbearable, with three Axe-drenched young people fogging up all tastes and smells until your pasta simply tasted like the painful ache at the back of your tongue that occurs when every boy in the house sees a daily Axe dip as part of his grooming. On it went, until the final weekend at the beach, when I found myself trapped in the shower with only a bottle of three-in-one Axe ™ product (shampoo, body-wash, and conditioner). So I broke down and used it.
Sunshine. Harps. It was the most sublimely powerful fragrance experience of my adult life. Truly. After decades of smelling like a flower or a fruit, for the first time ever, I smelled like teen boy spirit. I smelled the way an adolescent male smells when he feels that everything good in the universe is about to be delivered to him, possibly by girls in angel wings. I had never smelled this entitled in my life. I loved it. I wanted more. Continue Reading »
Busy busy day–no time to blog until now, and not much time for that anyway, but: one of my favorite authors, Alice Munro, won the Nobel Prize in Literature today! (See also this nice notice in which she makes a feminist point about being only the thirteenth woman to win the prize, and also includes a link to a CBC story.)
Her work is especially relevant to women’s historians, I think, because so many of her stories span several decades and are frequently compressed little nuggets of twentieth-century North American women’s history. If you’ve never read Munro before, don’t start with her much-hyped (and sure-to-be-emblazoned-with-gold-foil-stickers) latest collection, Dear Life. Start with some of her earlier works like The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (1978), a fascinating document about girlhood and young adulthood in an Anglo-Canadian provincial Ontario town and the relationship between two women of different generations.
Talk about a writer of domestic fiction who addresses universal themes like shame, lust, and all varieties of love and disappointment. Continue Reading »
When Tenured Radical wrote a blog post about the “Grafton Challenge” this summer, I was both impressed and completely intimidated by the blistering pace at which Tony Grafton writes: 3,500 words a day! Amazing. Then when she followed up to report that Matthew Gutterl had drafted a book this summer by. . . sitting down to write every day and cutting out distractions like blogging!. . . I thought to myself: how much longer do I really want to live with the book I’m writing now, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright? Isn’t it time to move on?
So, I decided to finish a rough draft of my book this fall, with Christmas day as my drop-dead date. When I finished the second draft of Abraham in Arms eight years ago, the only time I had to myself that was completely free of familial distractions or responsibilities was from 4-6 a.m. So, several days a week I now get out of bed at 4 a.m. and try to write for two hours. It’s not as difficult as you’d think. Caffeine helps, as does a shockingly early bedtime the night before. I’ve had a cold this week, and the high-test antihistamines I’m on also give me a kick. (I think it’s the stuff they cook meth out of, so no wonder.) I prefer the silence of the tomb when I work, and my brain is freshest first thing in the morning, so 4-6 a.m. it is.
(I was reviewing a chapter I had already drafted, and I re-read something I had written last summer about how the Ursuline nuns I’m writing about would rise at 4 a.m. to begin their day. Coincidence? Continue Reading »
There have been some pretty scary pictures of what’s happening in some parts of the Front Range, but so far as I can tell, if you don’t live in the wildlife-urban interface and/or a canyon, and you don’t live in a mobile home, you’re probably OK. Sadly, the people with the fewest resources were disproportionately affected here on the plains.
The one exception to my rule about living in cities/not in mobile home parks to stay safe appears to be Longmont, Colorado, which is right on the St. Vrain River and which is apparently still really bad. The western side of Loveland, Colorado all the way up to Estes Park–through the Big Thompson canyon–has made for some dramatic news footage, I am sure. Fort Collins, where Baa Ram U. is located, seems to be getting back to normal after the Cache la Poudre River left its banks Friday–some of the lowlands near I-25 look a little floody, but not too bad. Most of the scary photos and videos you’ve seen recently that might have been labeled Greeley are probably Evans, Colorado, which is right on the South Platte River. We live right between the “two rivers” in Greeley, so we are high, dry, and lucky. Continue Reading »
Except maybe. . . profit!??!?!
Here’s a university administrator who apparently sees through the smoke, mirrors, and Thomas Friedmanesque rainbows-and-unicorns technofluff of the Lords of MOOC Creation, Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zeland (h/t to regular commenter truffula. Maybe it takes an ocean of winds and a position outside of the U.S. and Europe to blow away the bullcrap and see them for what they’re worth?) Hayne writes,
The University of Otago has considered the issue of MOOCs very carefully. Over this past January, I personally studied everything that I could lay my hands on about the subject. I sought specialist advice on the issue from international experts in distance education and online learning. I discussed the matter extensively with my counterparts in New Zealand and overseas. The conclusion from all of these quarters is that, although there may be a handful of opportunities in this space, the concept of the MOOC will not displace the traditional university experience and the business case for the future of MOOCs actually hangs by a thread.
Although the current enrolment in MOOCs is extremely high, completion of any given course is very low. In most instances, more than 90 per cent of the students who sign up for a course, never complete it. Given this, we have to ask ourselves two questions. First, why do so many sign up? That one is easy – the courses are currently free. Once this aspect of the MOOC system changes (and it will have to change if anyone is going to make any money), then I suspect that enrolments will plummet. Second, why do so many students fail to complete? There are probably many reasons, but the most parsimonious one is that the courses quickly get boring. Even when you place the best speaker in the world on the internet, the experience pales in comparison to face-to-face interaction. Continue Reading »
How would we do that? Let’s try to learn from those innovators in places like Redmond and Palo Alto, shall we?
- Recognize that “stack ranking”-style review systems for teachers and professors, in which there must be a fixed percentage of high, average, and low achievers, lead only to counterproductive internal competition, not innovation or work of real value.
- Act like innovation matters by reserving time for all teachers and professors to develop creative projects on their own, because as a Google spokesperson says, “the company recognizes people are more productive when they are working on projects that excite them. Google engineers are given a lot of flexibility when choosing projects, and encouraged to pursue company-related interests.”
- Realize the value of human contact by prioritizing and adequately funding face-to-face teaching, because as Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer says, Continue Reading »