Nothing moves fast in higher ed, except for MOOCs.A year ago very few people had heard of the acronym for Massive Open Online Course. Now stories about the courses attracting tens of thousands of
Drs Fernette and Brock Eide at DyslexicAdvantage.com's insight:
Higher Ed, Free Online Classes, and MOOCs continue to shake things up. Some colleges are putting limits to credit from outside sources - while others (state) are trying to get students out quicker if they do have credits in hand.
"Four in ten freshmen arrive on campuses unprepared for college-level work and must enroll in remedial reading, writing, or math courses. Some 75 percent of colleges offer at least one remedial course, which is nothing more than a high-school class. MOOCs can reduce those numbers if some students could take MOOCs to brush up on what they don’t know well enough before they get to college, for free and with little risk...
Last fall, Dartmouth College became the latest school to stop offering college credit for APcourses. Because MOOCs are essentially an outgrowth of college courses, schools could start granting credit for MOOCs over AP..."
MOOCs are a good way for many college-bound students to test the waters and see if they're in the right spots to succeed at college. They won't be able to test readiness from the writing perspective, but at least they're a start.
Parents and students need to be ware that colleges are fighting back - trying to preserve their budgets and revenue streams. Hopefully colleges will also make sure their requirements and offerings keep pace with the changing world. Unfortunately traditional academic is not always the place to go for educational innovation.
Love MOOCs, but also hate them. MOOCs are still very much in beta.
Excerpt"..there's a gulf between the hype and the reality. While these MOOCs can tout huge enrollment numbers - some 160,000 for the Stanford Artifial Intelligence course that jump-started this recent trend - they don't have high completion rates. Just 21 percent of enrollees actually completed that AI class and only 14 percent passed."
If the goal of the courses is to winnow out certain people for certain highly technical jobs, this performance might be fine.
If the goal of the courses is to bring education to the world - well, then much more work needs to be done. Assessing student knowledge, improving fairness of grading, and reducing troll behavior of anonymous participants, and trying to reduce the consequences plagiarism are some of the challenges these designers must tackle.
Excerpt: "American high school Physics courses typically fail to address any modern topics in Physics--intriguing topics, like black holes and antimatter, and applications that play a huge role in our everyday lives, like GPS systems and lasers..."
Excerpt: "Structural studies from Michael Casanova and colleagues showed that the brains of dyslexic and autistic subjects had opposite findings. Microcolumns are repeating groups of neurons that share a common dendritic bundle. The microcolumnar hypothesis is the idea that the microcolumn is the basic unit in the cortex, not individual neurons.
"Dyslexia and autism are on opposite tails of the normal distribution of the width of minicolumns...Autistic individuals have increased number of smaller minicolumns and dyslexic children have decreased number of larger minicolumns..." When the depth of gyral depths were measured of dyslexics compared to controls, "mean gyral white matter depth was 3.05 mm (SD ± 0.30 mm) in dyslexic subjects and 1.63 mm (SD ± 0.15 mm) in the controls." Researchers speculated that longer connectivity in the brains of dyslexics could account for "a greater capacity for abstract, 'visionary' thinking", but also slower development (late blooming?) including a slower development of reading. Its information like this that should reinforce the idea that dyslexic children should have a differentiated educational program (fewer inappropriate demands at early ages) - and recognition of high creative potential and capacity for abstraction...."
"If you want success and know how to get it, why take unnecessary chances? Why risk failure?
Because, as research shows, actual learning comes by making mistakes and figuring out what went wrong and how to make it right. In a world of high-achieving but vaguely lost new graduates, the importance of not always doing well or being told you are doing well is gaining currency. Recently, David McCullough Jr., a high school English teacher and son of the historian David McCullough, signed a book deal based on his popular commencement speech, “You Are Not Special,” which was widely viewed on YouTube.
What young graduates want today, Mr. McCullough said in his speech, is the accumulation of accolades rather than genuine intellectual reward: “It’s, what does this get me?” The book, according to a publicity statement, will argue that “life is a great adventure to swallow whole rather than a checklist to complete.”
This one of three talks we'll be giving at WAETAG (WA Association of Educators of the Talented and Gifted). It's a survey through all those other issues associated with gifted children - intensity, perfectionism, twice exceptionality, memory, organization, motivation, temperament, and more...
I am SO enjoying my video-enhanced Kindle version of the book, Creating Innovators. Tony Wagner interviews many different extremely innovative people (e.g. early Apple designer, MIT grad startup CEO in Tanzania etc), finds out about their education and experiences, even interviews their parents to find out about philosophies of child-raising, schooling, setbacks and failure, etc. It's a treasure trove. All videos from the book are also available here.
Coursera is taking it's massive open online courses to a new level - as more Universities join and employers such as Google indicate their interest in the top students of technically demanding courses.
Our kids just completed their first Coursera course - Human Computer Interaction from Stanford. It's definitey in beta, but clearly a heroic effort that will improve educational opportunities for anyone who's willing to put in the time.
The courses are extremely challenging and perfect for our family's purposes (we have 2 teens in high school) - preparing them for the rigors of college as well as helping them bridge the gap between ideas on the page and action. The first week or two was more the usual -do some exercises, come up with ideas etc. But suddenly, they were challenged to design an app and even make a prototype that fellow students could check out on their websites and critique so that they could upload a new version the following week. The course had no formal prerequisites, but they were glad they had at least some piddly programming experience.
These courses are a great resource for everyone - homeschoolers, regular schoolers, professionals who want to diversify their experience, or even just lifelong learners. Grading still remains a bit iffy - but the process is a good one. Students have their work graded by peers and they grade the work of others. Because other students are clearly putting a lot of thought and work into the courses, it's valuable to see what others have produced.
Hard to remember, but I think this is solid advice, especially for those of us who have grown up thinking being sensible means avoiding risk.
From one of Time magazine's 100 Influential People, Martin Lindstrom:
"As we get older, we become more fearful of change. We are anxious about losing everything we’ve worked for. And yet the paradox of this is that we often lose it all when we do nothing. However, if we grab those (sometimes madcap) opportunities that come our way, the rewards are immense. Why don’t you try it? The worst that can happen is you’ll be given another three opportunities..."
Though the popular real-time strategy game StarCraft II is quickly becoming the game of kings, the leaders of the game are made and not born.
Drs Fernette and Brock Eide at DyslexicAdvantage.com's insight:
"Cognitive scientists are using it to study memory, decision-making, and motor skills..." Starcraft encourages programming with its option for "modding" to affect the look, feel, story, and general game play of the game. True or hype?
Excerpt: "Our local expert and guide on sea life delicately picks up a beautiful orange sunstar. It’s an absolutely stunning species of starfish with multiple legs, a soft body, and a brilliant adaptation for locomotion and conveyance. After a few moments of silent awe, the group bursts into childlike curiosity and questions. “Why is it soft while the other starfish are more rigid?” “How does it stick and release from the rocks so effectively?” “Look at how its millions of little legs moves that piece of seaweed so quickly!...
This crew of people is not composed only of biologists. They are also engineers, businesspeople, and designers all working together. They are on a learning journey to develop the skills to consciously emulate nature’s genius. They are biomimics. As part of their education, they have transformed the way that they view and value the natural world."
Math and language arts seem to run on parallel tracks through conventional educational curricula. But how do we find career "post-rigorous" mathematicians who can see the big picture if we only teach little picture math for the first 12 years of formal education?
"As the mathematician Terence Tao has written, math study has three stages: the “pre-rigorous,” in which basic rules are learned, the theoretical “rigorous” stage, and, last and most intriguing, “the post-rigorous,” in which intuition suddenly starts to play a part. As Tao notes, “It is only with a combination of both rigorous formalism and good intuition that one can tackle complex mathematical problems; one needs the former to correctly deal with the fine details, and the latter to correctly deal with the big picture. Without one or the other, you will spend a lot of time blundering around in the dark.”
Cool idea - World Affairs Council had a game design challenge to encourage learning about world issues. 340 students submitted game design ideas. Winners included Animal Rescue, Lets Trade, and the Syria crisis.
Excerpt: "Argument and debate are common in science, yet they are virtually absent from science education. Recent research shows, however, that opportunities for students to engage in collaborative discourse and argumentation offer a means of enhancing student conceptual understanding and students’ skills and capabilities with scientific reasoning. As one of the hallmarks of the scientist is critical, rational skepticism, the lack of opportunities to develop the ability to reason and argue scientifically would appear to be a
significant weakness in contemporary educational practice. In short, knowing what is wrong matters as much as knowing what is right. This paper presents a summary of the main features of this body of research and discusses its implications for the teaching and learning of science." A great read. Read more.
James Flynn thinks that rising IQ scores suggests that people are getting smarter, but I'm skeptical. Depends on what kind of knowledge.
Excerpt: "A century ago, people mostly used their minds to manipulate the concrete world for advantage. They wore what I call "utilitarian spectacles." Our minds now tend toward logical analysis of abstract symbols—what I call "scientific spectacles." Today we tend to classify things rather than to be obsessed with their differences. We take the hypothetical seriously and easily discern symbolic relationships."
The mind-set of the past can be seen in interviews between the great psychologist Alexander Luria and residents of rural Russia during the 1920s—people who, like ourselves in 1910, had little formal education.
Luria: What do a fish and crow have in common?
Reply: A fish it lives in water, a crow flies.
Luria: Could you use one word for them both?
Reply: If you called them "animals" that wouldn't be right. A fish isn't an animal, and a crow isn't either. A person can eat a fish but not a crow..."
Types of common knowledge have definitely changed from 1910 to today, but valuing abstract knowledge over practical or contextualized knowledge, might also create a person who is "book smart", but "life dumb."
If you really think Flynn is right, it might be time to watch Schneps and Sadler's Minds of Our Own again (online free here: http://www.learner.org/resources/series26.html?pop=yes&pid=76) It interviews graduating Harvard and MIT students and finds out how common misconceptions are even among the best and brightest.
If we really want to make learning deeper and better, may be question more what we do know, rather than patting ourselves on the back for what we've memorized by rote.
Good points from Jonathan Wai - Why do schools neglect spatial intelligence? 1. Standardized tests don't test for it, 2. Most teachers aren't high spatial, and 3. Spatially talented people aren't vocal.
Amazing talk with and 21st Century education activist this morning. Among many things we were hearing about were DIY (Do-It-Yourself) schools that are springing up all over California.
"The closest thing to a curriculum is a series of broad themes that compel students to create and learn, using whatever methods, materials, or tools grab them. On one recent Friday afternoon (theme: By Hand), an 11-year-old boy sat designing a robotic arm on Google SketchUp, a program he had taught himself to use. Another was torching a spoon to try to bend it into a circle, thereby learning the properties of metal and how molecules react to heat. “It’s 23 students on individual educational paths,” Tulley says...."
George Bernard Shaw on School: “... there is, on the whole, nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school.To begin with, it is a prison. But it is in some respects more cruel than a prison. In a prison, for instance, you are not forced to read books written by the warders (who of course would not be warders and governors if they could write readable books), and beaten or otherwise tormented if you cannot remember their utterly unmemorable contents." Read more.
"We’re a busy-by-design society that’s become so concerned with turning kids into baby Einsteins that something critical to childhood, something that Goodenough holds sacred, is fast becoming extinct: free play...."