Two Kinds of People

Easily Distracted » Blog Archive » Getting the Cool Job

One old colleague of mine used to say that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t. (This was followed by Beker’s corollary: there are 10 kinds of people in the world–those who get binary and those who don’t.)

Timothy Burke, an associate professor in the Department of History at Swarthmore, wrote an interesting post yesterday in which he divides the world of work (all 20,000 titles in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles) into two types of jobs–Cool Jobs and Everything Else. In writing about the job prospects for new liberal arts graduates, he touches on the unpleasant reality that plagued my conscience during my years as a career counselor:

Right around September, a lot of last year’s graduates from liberal arts colleges are discovering that they appear to be qualified for approximately none of the jobs that they might actually want to have.

As Tim notes, few colleges are very forthright about acknowledging the fact that most postgraduate jobs aren’t very glamorous. The alumni review articles tend to focus on the folks that become Assistant Travel Editor for the Bride Magazine Honeymoon issue rather than on those who become an assistant terminal manager at the local Rodeway Express hub.

One of the ways we fail students is to let them spend four years and tens of thousands of dollars without helping them spend at least some time thinking and writing about where they might fit into the world when they graduate. It wouldn’t corrupt our liberal arts curriculum too much to require that students apply some of their critical thinking skills to identifying and articulating their passions, strengths, values and then trying to understand sorts of jobs in the economy that match as as closely as possible. Ideally process of matching their interests with jobs in the real world would happen while they were still in school and could do something about it if there were a mismatch.

There are a few cool jobs, and obviously there are lots that suck big time. But there are lots of jobs that fall clearly in between those poles. Some parts are cool, so aren’t, but they need to be done and someone is going to get paid to do them. There’s something missing from our educational process when 21 year old graduates aren’t more knowledgeable and realistic about their own economy.

Teaching Project Discussion

I had the opportunity for an excellent discussion with a group of about 20 faculty today who are participating in the University Teaching project:

Many teaching programs at other schools follow what might be called the “expert model,” where purported pedagogical specialists dispense their wisdom to a passive audience of faculty. Our Teaching Project follows what we call the “collegial model,” where faculty learn from each other’s insights and experience in the classroom, often working in the same kind of flexible small-group settings that foster student learning. In short, the University Teaching Project models good teaching practices at the same time that it institutionalizes a dialogue on good teaching practices across campus.

I used the time to focus on two key questions that I’m wrestling with:

  1. To what extent do should William and Mary be trying to understand and respond to the changes in student learning preferences of the “Net Generation”.
  2. To what extent should the College be paying attention to some of the technological opportunities that could be made available by the move from a instructional paradigm to a learning paradigm.

The discussion was very far-ranging, but I was taken with how thoughtful most everyone was about the best ways to teach within their disciplines. My notes are on my mediawiki

Attracting Students to Adult Education Programs

Inside Higher Ed :: Registration Rave

Interesting article about the “registration rave” hosted by Morton College outside of Chicago. The college runs a 29 hour event, staffed by volunteers from the various offices of the college, where prospective students can register even if they hold down jobs that keep them from more traditional registration events.

It’s Morton’s round-the-clock “registration rave.” Some people are there for the music or the Sno-Cones, some so their kids can play the carnival games, and others to take placement tests and meet with academic advisers.

The all night-event is an initiative of college president Brent Knight, who had formerly worked as VP for Meijer Inc., “a ‘big-box’ retailer in the Midwest; like a ‘super Target,’ as Knight puts it”.

The comments are worth a read, as well. Some are sceptical:

I completely agree with the previous commenter. Unless classes are offered in the middle of the night to serve the same students who were available in the middle of the night, how are the students going to succeed? Also, isn’t it a bit of trickery to create a party atmosphere when education, although it can be fun, is serious business.

Others are more supportive:

That people who work shifts would show up in the middle of the night to enroll or register for classes is not surprising: there is a whole world of such people and there are services and industries that schedule to accommodate them. I have thought and advocated that higher ed also accommodate them for the longest time. Unfortunately, many in higher ed either have never worked outside that rather small world and cannot conceive of offering not only services such as admissions, registration, financial aid, advising, etc., outside the usual hours, but also courses when there is good reason to do so. For example, nurses and police officers (and other shift workers) typically get off work at hours like 7a.m., 3 p.m., and 11 p.m. If you wanted to offer degrees, or simply coursework — whether for credit, non-credit professional development, or CEUs — for such people, why not offer it when they get off work? Even, in their workplace? Whether through face-to-face instruction or via technologically-assisted instruction, there is no reason why that is not feasible today.

Wikipedia Article Challenges Blackboard Patent Claims

History of virtual learning environments – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Word that I have stopped blogging because I’ve been curled up in the fetal position in response to Ted Stevens tubes speech and the moronic decision by the US Patent office to give BlackBoard a patent on virtual learning environments is not quite true. I’ve been working on a number of other projects that are nearing completion and that will be making up a little space for playing around in the blogosphere. (I seldom spend more than a couple of hours a day in the fetal position regardless of any particular day’s insanity.)

One bright spot in the BlackBoard fiasco has been watching the growth of the this Wikipedia site on the “prior art” of the LMS’s and other virtual learning tools. In just a couple of weeks the site has gone from this to a fully blown chronicle of the history of virtual learning tools. Hard too imagine collecting this much data using Microsoft Word’s track changes feature!