Archive for the 'technoskepticism' Category

August 24th 2013
Let’s make education more like a business

Posted under American history & happy endings & jobs & students & technoskepticism

Yahoo executives at a retreat

How would we do that?  Let’s try to learn from those innovators in places like Redmond and Palo Alto, shall we?

4 Comments »

August 15th 2013
Another reason to question the Lords of MOOC Creation

Posted under American history & students & technoskepticism & wankers

Go read Michael Lind on the inevitable fallibility of our modern political and media elites.  I think there’s something in there that speaks to the pump-and-dump cycle we’re seeing now with MOOCs:

The politicians and pundits who get the most attention — at least for a while — are those who treat a genuine but limited and reversible trend as evidence of imminent utopia or approaching apocalypse. Such hype is then magnified by an infotainment industry that promotes drama and penalizes nuance.

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When it comes to the hype market, you will seldom err by betting against it. When everybody who is anybody in politics and the press agrees on something, it’s time to raise some doubts.  Continue Reading »

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July 17th 2013
Why Joe Nocera isn’t on Twitter

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers

It’s the all of the convenience and annoyance of the world-wide non peer-reviewed interwebs, x1000:

But to me, at least — and, yes, I acknowledge I’m at the age where I’m losing the battle to keep up with technology — the negatives outweigh the positives. So much on Twitter is frivolous or self-promotional. It can bury you in information. Because people often use Twitter to react to events instantly, they can say some awfully stupid things, as Roddy White, the Atlanta Falcons receiver, did after the George Zimmerman verdict, suggesting in a tweet that the jurors “should go home and kill themselves.”

With its 140-character limit, Twitter exacerbates our society-wide attention deficit disorder: Nothing can be allowed to take more than a few seconds to write or read. [Paul] Kedrosky may prefer Twitter, but I really miss his thoughtful blog. I recently heard Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, bragging that the pope now has a Twitter account. Once, popes wrote encyclicals; now they tweet.

What I object to most of all is that, like other forms of social media, Twitter can be so hateful. It can bring out the worst in people, giving them license to tweet things they would never say in real life. Continue Reading »

22 Comments »

June 10th 2013
Hard Times, indeed.

Posted under American history & art & European history & jobs & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers

“Clearly you need to restrict the dimensions to things that more or less have a right answer or several right answers.”

So says Daphne Koller on the challenges of adapting MOOC technology to teach humanities courses. (Many thanks to Jonathan Rees of More or Less Bunk for alerting me to this story. While you’re there, don’t miss his post on “This is How MOOCs End.”)

What Koller really means is that we need not adapt MOOCs to the humanities. We need to adapt the humanities to the limits and demands of MOOCworld, which operates on the assumption that everything we need to know about student progress and achievement can be effectively measured by essay-grading software and multiple-choice quizzes and exams. Who knew that some people read Charles Dickens’s Hard Times not as a critique of the industrial era and the notion that everything (including education) can be automated, but rather see it as a blueprint for modern educational instruction? Continue Reading »

58 Comments »

May 30th 2013
Nazi pilots on crystal meth!

Posted under technoskepticism & the body & unhappy endings & weirdness

Actual Nazi pilot Erich Alfred Hartmann (1922-93), courtesy of Fuck Yeah History Crushes

No, this is not a gay porn DVD title–amazingly enough, that’s a true headline!  Check out this article from Der Spiegel–they called it panzerschokolade!

It was in Germany, though, that the drug first became popular. When the then-Berlin-based drug maker Temmler Werke launched its methamphetamine compound onto the market in 1938, high-ranking army physiologist Otto Ranke saw in it a true miracle drug that could keep tired pilots alert and an entire army euphoric. It was the ideal war drug. In September 1939, Ranke tested the drug on university students, who were suddenly capable of impressive productivity despite being short on sleep.

From that point on, the Wehrmacht, Germany’s World War II army, distributed millions of the tablets to soldiers on the front, who soon dubbed the stimulant “Panzerschokolade” (“tank chocolate”). British newspapers reported that German soldiers were using a “miracle pill.” But for many soldiers, the miracle became a nightmare. Continue Reading »

14 Comments »

May 20th 2013
When you see Count MOOCbot, scream and run away!

Posted under American history & book reviews & childhood & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

Daniel Luzer on Jeffrey J. Selingo’s College (Un)bound:  The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students, in a review entitled “Revolution for Thee, Not Me:”

[I]f we’re expanding access to college through alternative, technology-based systems, is this really expanding access to college or providing a different experience entirely? Perhaps the biggest flaw of this book is that while Selingo offers a very good take on what declining state funding and innovative technology could mean for both colleges and students, he fails to consider what this “revolution” in higher education might mean for American society as a whole.

“The college of the future will certainly be different than the one of today,” he explains, “but robots will not replace professors in the classroom anytime soon. Harvard will remain Harvard.” He estimates that 500 or so of America’s 4,000 colleges have large enough endowments to remain unchanged by this revolution. But isn’t that a problem? If Princeton and Williams will be unaffected by these trends, what’s really going on here?

It seems that the future won’t unbind higher education for everyone—just for the working and middle classes. That’s because rich people will always be able to afford traditional colleges. Continue Reading »

17 Comments »

May 15th 2013
Guest post on the Lords of MOOC Creation: who’s really for change, and who in fact is standing athwart history yelling STOP?

Posted under American history & class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & technoskepticism

Howdy, friends–Historiann here.  I’m knee deep in research papers and final exams and have no time for posting, so thank goodness someone out there is writing for the non-peer reviewed world wide timewasting web.  Today’s guest post is by two senior history professors who attended last week’s Annual Meeting of the American Council of Learned SocietiesSusan Amussen, an early modern British historian in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts at the University of California, Merced, and Allyson Poska, an early modern Spanish historian in the History and American Studies Department at the University of Mary Washington.  They both attended the panel on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and came away wanting to talk about something thing no one in MOOC-world seems to want to talk about:  power.  So of course, they came to me and asked if they could talk to all of you.

Amussen and Poska ask a number of provocative questions:  Why in spite of the hype do MOOCs appear to be merely a digitalized version of the “sage on the stage” style of lecturing familiar to those of us in the United States and Commonwealth countries 100 (and more) years ago?  Why do MOOC-world advocates appear totally ignorant of feminist pedagogy, which disrupted this model of education going on 50 years ago?  What does it say about MOOC-world’s vision of the future of higher education that the Lords of MOOC Creation are overwhelmingly white, male,  and U.S. American professors at highly exclusive universities?  (And for the Lords of MOOC Creation, is this a bug, or a feature?  Friends, I’ll let you be the judges.)

 

MOOCs:  Gender, Class and Empire

 

Much of the discussion of MOOCs has focused on (alternately) their promise of providing “the best teachers” to students around the world, and presenting cheap quality education to the masses; or the threat they pose to education, in replacing face to face contact with potted lectures, further deskilling and de-professionalizing those of us who teach at less elite universities.  We want to argue that MOOCs raise broader questions than those usually mentioned. In the course of listening to a discussion of MOOCs at the recent meeting of the ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies), we realized that MOOCs must be analyzed in the context of the U.S. American discourse of gender, class, and empire. Continue Reading »

47 Comments »

March 6th 2013
Suck on this!

Posted under American history & bad language & class & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers

What I learned from Thomas Friedman this morning in the New York Times:

  • No one cares what you learn in college, because Google!
  • College professors have no certification that we can teach, and all we do is lecture at students who passively take notes, and then administer tests of their passive learning skills.
  • Lecturing to 14,000 “with audience participation” is a terrific way to share knowledge.

I just love these experts in “disruptive innovation” who trash learning in college classrooms and lecture halls with 15, 40, or 125 students because “all professors do is lecture,” who then turn around and brag about how scalable their educational model is because–wait for it!–it’s based on lectures!  To 14,000 people who swooned like bobby-soxers fainting for Frank Sinatra.
Continue Reading »

30 Comments »

February 27th 2013
Mid-week roundup: it’s never to soon to start the Great Forgetting!

Posted under American history & art & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & technoskepticism & women's history

Up on my hobbyhorse, again!

Howdy, friends:  quick post today as I’m up to my commuter horse Revenue’s a$$ in meetings today and the rest of this week.  As we shall see, it’s never too soon to start the Great Forgetting!  (That is, the tendency of men and women both to choose to ignore, overlook, or hide the importance of women throughout history.)  Here goes:

  • NPR featured a story last night on two women’s efforts to combat the Great Forgetting of women’s role in the Seattle punk and grunge music scene in the early 1990s.  “[Gretta] Harley and [Sarah] Rudinoff also wanted to address the disconnect between the history they had lived and the histories they saw written. In 2011, the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind sparked numerous tributes to the grunge era that didn’t capture the Seattle music community they remembered. ‘We started looking at the books that were written by different authors, and the women were absent, almost completely absent,’ Harley says. ‘And we thought, ‘Wow, this is a story that really hasn’t happened yet.” ”  So, after recording more than 30 oral histories of women who were a part of the scene, they wrote a play called “These Streets” in order to document women’s presence in the grunge movement.
  • Speaking of oral history:  Temple graduate student Dan Royles describes his Kickstarter campaign to raise $6,000 to transcribe the oral histories he has done on AIDS activism in the African American community in the 1980s and 1990s.  As of this morning, he’s at $5,374–let’s raise a little coin for him in the next 36 hours, shall we?  Continue Reading »

11 Comments »

October 5th 2012
MOOCs and the longue duree

Posted under American history & students & technoskepticism

In a recent e-mail conversation with a friend who’s a few decades older than me, he reassured me that online education was a fad that will pass soon enough.  He has seen these predictions before with correspondence courses, then with TV in the 1950s and  1960s, and then with distance learning via closed-circuit TV and cable in the 1980s and 1990s.  Via Jonathan Rees, Nick Carr runs down the “Prehistory of the MOOC,” from the 1880s to the present:

Mail: Around 1885, Yale professor William Rainey Harper, a pioneer of teaching-by-post, said, “The student who has prepared a certain number of lessons in the correspondence school knows more of the subject treated in those lessons, and knows it better, than the student who has covered the same ground in the classroom.” Soon, he predicted, “the work done by correspondence will be greater in amount than that done in the class-rooms of our academies and colleges.”

Phonograph: In an 1878 article on “practical uses of the phonograph,” the New York Times predicted that the phonograph would be used “in the school-room in training children to read properly without the personal attention of the teacher; in teaching them to spell correctly, and in conveying any lesson to be acquired by study and memory. In short, a school may almost be conducted by machinery.”

Movies: “It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture,” proclaimed Thomas Edison in 1913. “Our school system will be completely changed in 10 years.” Continue Reading »

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