The Future of College Phone Service

More Colleges Give Cell Phones An ‘A’, A Growing Number Of Schools Eliminate Landlines In Favor Of Wireless Service – CBS News

Somtime in the next few years William and Mary will be replacing the College’s PBX system and will have to decide if it makes sense to continue to provide land lines to 4500+ residence hall rooms. Fewer and fewer students even plug phones into the jacks in their rooms and fewer than half activate their voice mail. Email has become passé–particularly the official college address–and instructors, deans and registrars bemoan the fact that many students are virtually impossible to reach through our traditional mechanisms. Colleagues in student affairs relate that this has become a serious problem; it’s difficult to get in contact even with the president of the senior class.

Providing students with College-provided cell phones provides at least one more chance that administrators can get in touch with students–either those in trouble or who are playing key roles in events like commencement. As this article indicates, replacing land lines can also save a lot of money, which can be invested in other services that students *do* use.

One of difficulties of discussing replacing land lines with cell phones is the expectation that has developed among many administrators that universities have some obligation to provide every student room with a telephone.

Officials at Towson University in Maryland worry about potential lawsuits if students don’t have reliable landline service in their dorm rooms in case of emergency.

“While the money we pay for landlines in each room could be reinvested elsewhere, I don’t like the idea of depending solely on a few courtesy phones in hallways,” Towson telecommunications analyst Alex Konialian said.

I think there are real advantages to configuring some of our services so that they can be accessible to students via smart phones, but I’m not convinced that universities have any implied obligation to provide phones–either wired or wireless. (Fogey alert: Generations of students got along just fine with hall phones, even before everyone had a cell phone and IM capability.)

More importantly, I’m trying to figure out what’s gone so wrong with the way that we communicate with our students that we feel we have to issue them telephones because they won’t read or answer our email, provide us with a phone number where we can reach them or otherwise communicate with the faculty and staff they’re paying so much to learn from. Something here just doesn’t compute.

Google Jockeying

ELI7014.pdf (application/pdf Object)

The Educause Learning Initiative produces a series of short handouts that provide concise information on emerging learning practices and technologies like podcasting, wikis, and “little clickers.” Each brief focuses on a single practice or technology and describes what it is, how it works, where it is going, and why it matters to teaching and learning. The most recent entry is on Google Jockeying.

A Google jockey is a participant in a presentation or class who surfs the Internet for terms, ideas, Web sites, or resources mentioned by the presenter or related to the topic. The jockey’s searches are displayed simultaneously with the presentation, helping to clarify the main topic and extend learning opportunities.

Not sure that I see wide adoption of this one at W&M, but it’s an interesting thought in light of the fears of many faculty that students won’t use their notebooks at all for class related work.

Stephen’s Back

Stephen’s Web ~ by Stephen Downes ~

One of my student bloggers from last semester’s course wrote recently and commented on the transitions that were happening with some of the eduboggers that he had been reading regularly. Stephen Downes’ hiatus and Will Richardson’s posts on some of the issues he was wrestling with were raising some questions about the long-term viability of a community dedicated to serious thinking about how to use new web tools to improve (and even transform) parts of higher education. I think the community has staying power because a growing number of teachers/learners have an this kind of internal drive:

What brings me back is a desire to make things better, to contribute my own unique voice to what I see as a rennaissance. Like this: “What edubloggers must do is to continue to engage in critical dialogue, reflect, and communicate with those around us. We must be the ones who stand up and take responsibility for the struggle (If not us, then Who?). We must reflect and act together in a way that offers a new story, a new vision of education can be. Start by looking in the mirror: Meet the new boss; you’re not the same as the old boss…”

Perhaps – but we do not need vision and will, we do not need great leaders. There will be no revolution, no rennaissance, until we change ourselves, until we ourselves become the embodiment of the caring and compassionate society we want to create. How hard that is! I return from my time away more aware than ever of how fallible, how ordinary, how human I am. Oh my yes, I have my apologies to give and my amends to make. Still, no matter how hard it is, we need to believe in ourselves, to believe we can make a difference, to believe we matter, to believe we can live freely. This, above all, must be our legacy.

Thanks, Stephen, for reminding us.

Barnes and Noble as Adult Education Center

I’ve began working seriously on the syllabus and activities for my adult education for the fall. This is the first time in eight years that I’m getting back to my roots in adult learning, and preparing for the course is exhilarating and overwhelming at the same time. There’s lots of new literature to try to access and assimilate, much of it from sources outside the United States, and Web 2.0 has opened up avenues for personal learning that we considered science fiction when I was working on my doctorate at Syracuse during the 80’s.

The most overwhelming part is that the course preparation has heightened my perception and now I see adults learning everywhere I go. I stopped for coffee at the B&N yesterday, and the place was as alive with learning as any university library. As I wandered around, I could see people writing small business plans, studying anatomy, pitching Mary Kay franchisees, copying guitar chords and catching up with their magazine reading of every conceivable type. (I even saw a few people buying books.)

I overheard two teachers sitting next to me apparently planning a summer trip to Ireland. They had the Dummies guide, a pile of books and maps that I didn’t recognize, multiple highlighters, various colored post-it notes. From the snippets of conversation it seemed like this was pretty focused on learning more about the country, its history and how that shaped some of the literature that at least one of two taught in class. From my eavesdropping, it sounded like a perfect kind of high level-learning that we want teachers to be engaged in so that they can continue to grow and inspire students to become life-long learners.

I couldn’t be sure, but it also sounded to me like one of the two had to leave late for the trip because she had to take a required education course to complete the 150 points to get her permanent certification. Seemed a shame to me that after 35 years of research on self-directed learning, those of us in the education establishment still haven’t figured out how to credential and certify the authentic, engaged, real-world learning of our teachers. We should be clever enough to come up with a way to award some permanent certification points to an English teacher who self-planned a tour of Irish writers for her summer vacation and spare her another two weeks in school.

Which User’s Life Have You Changed Today?

Creating Passionate Users: Which user’s life have you changed today?

Back in my former life as a career counselor, one of my favorite articles was social psychologist Albert Bandura’s “The Psychology of Chance Encounters and Life Paths”, a journal article that highlighted how often the intentional career planning advocated in college career centers was subverted by real-life events and choices. I’d often explain to students one main goal of all the work they were doing in the career preparation was to help them become much luckier in the job search. They’d be much more likely to find just the right contact, hear about the perfect job opening, or be offered a very special internship or summer job, if they were clear on what they were looking for.

The right contact, the perfect job, and the very special internship are defined by personal passions and interests; one student’s perfect summer job is another’s hell-hole. Identifying and owning your passion–even if it’s unusual or not popular in the press–for me is one of the key “ends of education”, and one that we all should be thinking more about.

So, some guy (Nick Petterssen, who it turns out wasn’t even a tech writer) working for a small software company (Electric Rain) cares enough about users to go way beyond what’s needed and write a killer, inviting, memorable user manual. As a direct result, an engineering student from Canada will end up as one of the youngest O’Reilly-signed authors. Nick, and Electric Rain, changed the direction of a user’s life in a substantial and unexpected way. All because of a manual.

If a user manual can have that impact on a student, imagine the possibilities for a class, a course or a curriculum.

What Will Happen to My Ratings?

What Will Happen to My Ratings?

This piece from the Teaching Professor has some excellent tips for dealing with faculty fears that using new techniques or teaching methods might lower their teaching ratings. Methods that that put greater responsibility on students and that move the teacher off center stage often don’t map well to traditional institutional evaluations. One of the key points of the piece is to encourage faculty to get beyond the end-of-class “autopsy” evaluation and engage the students in an ongoing dialogue about their own learning throughout the term. The overall thrust of the piece is that by communicating honestly, openly and authentically about the evaluation process, it becomes more valuable for all concerned. (Thanks to the Kept-up Librarian for the link!)

I think that kind of communication maybe tough with undergraduates without a significant cultural change across the university. (I teach only graduate classes–and electives at that, but as the project manager for the restructuring of William and Mary’s evaluation process I’ve spent years up to my eyeballs in course evaluation issues.) On the surface, the findings from the Center for Academic Transformation that I wrote about yesterday certainly don’t argue for a particularly collegial relationship with students.

Continue reading “What Will Happen to My Ratings?”

Freshman Don’t Do Optional

NCAT: Learning MarketSpace April 2006

The latest newsletter from the National Center for Academic Transformation shares some key lessons learned from their ongoing program in course redesign. The Center has supported the redesign of 50 courses to increase learning while reducing organizational costs. (The Center is headed by distinguished William and Mary alumna Carol Twigg–another English major doing quite well in the field of Educational Technology.)

The lead article in the The Learning MarketSpace, April 2006 is entitled Freshmen Don’t Do Optional and confronts a common misunderstanding of courses redesigned by the center. While most of the redesigned courses have offer greater flexibility in times and learning methods than the courses they replaced, few are “self-paced”.

Each has discovered that students need structure (especially first-year students and especially in disciplines that may be required rather than chosen) and that most students simply will not make it in a totally self-paced environment.

Three key findings:

  • Lesson 1. If you know that engaging in a particular learning activity will result in increased learning, you must require students to participate in it.
  • Lesson 2. It’s not enough to require participation–you must give course points for doing so.
  • Lesson 3: It’s not enough to require participation and to give points for doing so—you must also monitor whether students are engaged and be prepared to intervene if they are not.

This is one area where high-tech definitely can complement high-touch in courses in which content mastery can be measured fairly precisely. In traditional classes, it’s hard to tell how much time each student is spending and to find ways to encourage students who aren’t investing the time to be successful. Technology enhanced assignments can provide faculty members with much more information about how much time students are investing in their work and how well they are learning the content.

The entire article is worth reading to get the detail to support the bullets.