Archive for the 'technoskepticism' Category

November 22nd 2013
MOOC meltdown!

Posted under happy endings & jobs & students & technoskepticism & wankers

Pthbbbbtttttt!

Pthbbbbtttttt!

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 »

12 Comments »

October 4th 2013
Peer review sting of open access journals

Posted under jobs & publication & technoskepticism

Howdy, friends–no time to waste this morning, but did you hear about this sting of open access science journals published in Science today?  From the article, “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?”, by John Bohannon:

Over the past 10 months, I have submitted 304 versions of the wonder drug paper to open-access journals. More than half of the journals accepted the paper, failing to notice its fatal flaws. Beyond that headline result, the data from this sting operation reveal the contours of an emerging Wild West in academic publishing.

From humble and idealistic beginnings a decade ago, open-access scientific journals have mushroomed into a global industry, driven by author publication fees rather than traditional subscriptions. Most of the players are murky. The identity and location of the journals’ editors, as well as the financial workings of their publishers, are often purposefully obscured. But Science‘s investigation casts a powerful light. Internet Protocol (IP) address traces within the raw headers of e-mails sent by journal editors betray their locations. Invoices for publication fees reveal a network of bank accounts based mostly in the developing world. And the acceptances and rejections of the paper provide the first global snapshot of peer review across the open-access scientific enterprise. Continue Reading »

24 Comments »

September 20th 2013
An almost unbloglich level of Franzenfreude

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & European history & Gender & race & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness & women's history

Check it out:  Amanda Hess’s analysis of Jonathan Franzen’s recent essay in which he screams at the children to get off his lawn, and to take their Twitter-machines with them:

Franzen blames the Internet for eradicating “the quiet and permanence of the printed word,” which “assured some kind of quality control,” in favor of an apocalyptic hellscape punctuated by “bogus” Amazon reviews and “Jennifer-Weinerish self-promotion.” Back in Franzen’s day, “TV was something you watched only during prime time, and people wrote letters and put them in the mail, and every magazine and newspaper had a robust books section, and venerable publishers made long-term investments in young writers, and New Criticism reigned in English departments.” He goes on: “It wasn’t necessarily a better world (we had bomb shelters and segregated swimming pools), but it was the only world I knew to try to find my place in as a writer.”

Wow.  Not too many white people can openly express their nostalgia for segregation or apartheid and get their 6,500 word essays published in The Guardian!  But that’s not all:  apparently, guys like Franzen really are victims!  Of something.  The important thing to know is that Jonathan Franzen can no longer “find his place. . . as a writer” in our modern dystopia.  But the pre-internet world doesn’t seem all that awesome in his telling:

And then there is the tale of the German chick, told to pinpoint exactly the moment Franzen became an angry person. Continue Reading »

42 Comments »

September 13th 2013
“A MOOC is only about inputs, not about outputs.”

Posted under bad language & Gender & happy endings & students & technoskepticism & women's history

underpantsgnomes

Where is your profit now?

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 »

12 Comments »

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.

.       .       .       .       .        .
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 »

13 Comments »

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 »

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