I Passed College

Link to: Philadelphia Inquirer | 03/28/2006 | Colleges pushed to prove worth

Some time ago, Gardner proudly announced that he had passed 8th grade math. Soon, students at the nation’s 3000 universities may be able to display a little logo on their facebook or myspace accounts proudly documenting that they had passed their grade 16 test and were legitimately able to claim to be college graduates.

Over 100 institutions, including Lehigh, are experimenting with a standardized test that will demonstrate to legislators, business leaders and tuition paying parents that colleges really are doing their jobs and educating students. How will they do it–with essay tests like these:

Sample Writing Prompt: Public figures such as actors, politicians and athletes should expect people to be interested in their private lives. When they seek a public role, they should expect that they will lose at least some of their privacy.

That will be graded by a computer program called “e-rater”. Graduate students will be employed to grade the task performance section, which will include questions such as this:

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Queen Anne Lace: Getting Rid of Cursive Writing?

Link to: Queen Anne Lace: Getting Rid of Cursive Writing?

This was the first time it dawned on me that many students no longer can read cursive writing. (Other than their names!)

Many teachers have stated to me that they no longer teach it because it is not tested on Virginia Standards of Learning. Their claim is further justified in the fact that the SOLs only have cursive handwriting stated one time – third grade. The few teachers that are teaching it, are only having students learn how to write their names in cursive.

This is unsettling to me, and in a different way than the sadness I felt when I no longer needed a slide rule to work with square roots.

Just on a whim, I did my Friday lesson, entirely in cursive. Only a fourth of my students could read my science notes. The kids wanted to know how to write and read in cursive because their parents know it and they can’t read their parents’ notes. This really blew some my colleagues away who did their own gathering of data and got similar findings as I did.

Second in the Swem Sessions

Troy Davis

Here is the second “Swem Sessions” podcast where Troy Davis, Director of the Swem Media Center, Sharon Zuber, Associate Professor of English and I discuss the future of “visual literacy” at William and Mary. (Troy produced this session. )

Some of it is above the oxygen layer and pretty theoretical, but that’s what happens when you stick a microphone in front of a bunch of academic types. (It’s also a little long.) We had fun doing it, though, and Sharon has an interesting perspective on the need for expanded infrastructure to meet future demand.

Link to Podcast

Finding Happiness in a Harvard Classroom

Link to: NPR : Finding Happiness in a Harvard Classroom

Interesting NPR piece on Harvard’s most popular course–Psychology 1504: Positive Psychology. Over 900 students take the course which is offered in a Harvard theater. While some question the “fluffiness” of the course, and its appropriateness as a full credit offering at Harvard, others see a unique role for courses like it. One student noted:

The work is about personal transformation not about the quantity of reading. It’s the one class that I feel like I’m achieving growth in a way that no other class does.

Similar courses are offered at over 100 colleges, and the syllabus, lecture videos and readings for this course are freely shared. Seems to me that it might be a good idea to be reminded a couple of times a week of some things that might make the college experience happier and healther.

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e-Literate: Video Literacy

Link to: e-Literate: Video Literacy

If Microsoft Packaged the IPod
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to use rich media in courses that traditionally have been print oriented. My own background in media–both audio and video–is pretty weak, so I don’t have much of the grammar and vocabulary to think as effectively about the possibilities as I might.

Michael Feldstein’s post on Video Literacy was very helpful in helping expand my conceptual frame. He uses a video from YouTube and suggests:

… while you are watching it, imagine that it is a student-submitted video compare/contrast assignment. “Describe the differences between how Microsoft and Apple present the value of their products and their respective relationships to consumers of their products.

The analysis of the video takes it beyond the typical “Apple Cool” – “Microsoft Bad” rant by offering some perspective on why the video works on a teaching and learning level.

“What moves,” really, is that thought process. Video is a fantastic medium for expressing temporal progression. And interestingly, the narrative is constructive rather than deconstructive in nature. Academic writing tends to encourage students to take things apart but doesn’t show them how to put them back together again. The creator of this video, in contrast, had to dissect the differences between Apple’s and Microsoft’s marketing and then wrap the Microsoft marketing mindset around an existing Apple product. That shows real mastery. The student is effectively teaching the viewer how to brand like Microsoft, rather than just describing the elements that Microsoft uses on existing products.

I hope others in the blogosphere can post similar concrete examples that can help illustrate how rich media assignments expand the learning options available to us.

Blackboard Joins the Read/Write Web

I have to admit that I’ve become a bit of a BlackBoard slacker lately, even though a very large number of our faculty use it extensively. The open world of blogs, wikis and the read/write web has been much more intriguing to me than the black hole of BlackBoard.

My slackerness will change pretty dramatically in the next few weeks as we lay the groundwork for a major upgrade from version 6.0 to 7.0. The feature set will be different enough to require a major communications effort with faculty, and I’ll have to learn enough about the new tools to be a part of that conversation.

According to the Kept-Up Librarian Blackboard has announced four initiatives that have a Web 2.0 cast to them.

Global Learning Objects Catalogue, in which any Blackboard user can publish to or search for learning resources to enhance their instructional experience.

Scholar.com will provide users with the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with other experts in and outside of their discipline and fields of interest.

Blackboard announces a unique “e-Portfolios-for-life” service that will allow Blackboard users to post their portfolios to a central site for long-term use.

Create Network Learning Environments: e-Learning 2.0 is about moving beyond the course towards a more holistic conception of a networked learning environment. One consequence of this shift is a hunger by educators to conduct research and benchmark various e-Learning strategies and programs using data from peer institutions. As part of the Initiative, Blackboard announces a collaborative data warehouse service which will allow clients to anonymously share relevant data and gain better insight into best practices.

We’ll see if these initiatives get beyond the press release stage.

Another Glimpse into the Future?

Link To: Weblogg-ed – The Read/Write Web in the Classroom

One of the themes I’ve been returning to often is that the K-12 teachers in the trenches are shaping the future for those of us in higher education to a far greater extent than most of us in the college and university arena realize. Here’s a partial program lineup from the Illinois Technology Conference, courtesy of Will Richardson.

* “No more excuses, it’s time to start blogging” full day workshop by Steve. (No seats left)
* “iPods in the Classroom” full day workshop with Karen Percak. (Full)
* “Read, Write and Blog” full day workshop with Susim Munshi. (Full)
* “Wikis and Weblogs as School Communication Tools” full day workshop with Tim Lauer. (No seats left.)
* “The New Read/Write Web: Transforming the Classroom” and “What’s Up with Wikis?” by, um…that would be me.
* “Blogging– Revolutionize Education” by Susim Munshi and Susan Switzer
* “Got Wikis?” by David Jakes
* “Web Based Communication Tools for Schools” by Tim Lauer
*Flickr in the Classroom” by David Jakes
* “Using iPods for Student Learning” by Karen Percak
* “Podcasting 101” by Steve Dembo
* “Telling the New Story” by David Warlick
* “Radio For Kids, By Kids” by Tony Vincent”

Interesting implications….