Booted and rarin’ to go!
Who’s knows what you want, what you really really want? I do, and what you want is a round-up, of course. It’s been too long. Take a gander, friends:
- MOOC meltdown! (Quelle suprise!) It’s almost as if I know what I’m talking about! From Inside Higher Ed: “A professor’s plan to let students in his Coursera massive open online course moderate themselves went awry over the holidays as the conversation, in his words, “very quickly disintegrated into a snakepit of personal venom, religious bigotry and thinly disguised calls for violence.” But some students have accused him of abusive and tyrannical behavior in his attempts to restore civility.” Cue Nelson Muntz. I suppose there’s something to be learned from internet hatefests, but I don’t think it should be for college credit.
- Speaking of college credit: check out this experiment in using Twitter to engage students in survey classes run by my colleague Robert Jordan. He writes, “The students, primarily freshman, have formed groups of 10-15 individuals tasked with the goal of a producing and publishing a work of digital public history via Twitter over the course of the semester. . . . [S]tudents quickly learn to discern an academic from a non-academic source; work collectively to determine the best narrative structure for the publication of their particular topic; develop an awareness of the opportunities and challenges inherent to communicating information through digital media; utilize digital and physical library resources; construct Chicago Manual of Style-formatted bibliographies for their sources; and become “knowledgeable users” of several digital technologies.” I’d say that’s pretty darn good for students in a 100-level survey course. You can find Robert on Twitter at @rjordan_csu–this semester he’s offering a new undergraduate course in digital history that will in part be co-taught by my colleague, Sarah Payne, who’s teaching a digital history methods course at the graduate level.
- As my late high school French teacher used to say, run, don’t walk over to Vanity Fair to read Joshua Prager’s portrait of Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” behind the key Supreme Court decision on abortion 41 years ago in Roe v. Wade. I’ve heard the moral of this story before–about McCorvey’s ideological flip-flop from pro-choice to anti-abortion, and the argument that McCorvey isn’t so much a political activist as an opportunist. That’s probably not new to most of you either–and really, I don’t blame McCorvey for attempting to profit from her own exploitation, considering that she doesn’t have a lot else going for her. No, I was more interested Continue reading
Howdy, friends! I spent last weekend at the American Historical Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. Here’s what I saw & did, at least the not-unbloglich parts.
- Tenured Radical and I had coffee on Friday and then dinner on Saturday and spent the whole time figuring out how to silence and oppress more junior scholars, in-between her multiple appearances on the program and her incessant blogging and tweeting about the conference. Honestly, those of you who want to take her on had better stock up on your Power Bars and Emergen-C, because her energy and enthusiasm for her work online and as a public intellectual are utterly overwhelming. I’m ten years younger than she is, and I’m already at least a week behind her! For those of you who are interested, see her three blog reports: AHA Day 1: Digital History Workshopalooza, AHA Day 2: Fun With the Humanities, AHA Day 3: Remember the Women, and her always lively Twitter feed. (Excuse me–I have to go have a lie down after just linking to all of that activity.)
- Clever readers will hear echoes of Abigail Adams’s counsel to John Adams in Tenured Radical’s “Remember the Women” blog post. I also keep thinking of that scene from Lena Dunham’s Girls in which the character she plays, Hannah, asks the other women, “Who are the ladies?” (Shosh has been quoting a heterosexual dating advice book aimed at “the ladies,” and Hannah’s question implies that “ladies” is a stupid, made-up, narrow way to talk to real women, who come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities, etc., and both Hannah and Jessa resent being lumped into the notional category of “ladies”–just click the embedded video below.) That was the essence of Tenured Radical’s question for the women on the “Generations of History” panel she writes about in her AHA Day 3 post when she asked what the panel would have looked like if it had included a lesbian, for example, or even some women for whom marriage and children were never a part of their life plan.
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
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
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
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
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?
- 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