Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Social notworking

OMG.  An English teach finds some positives from social networking.  By Andrew Simmons, writing in The Atlantic.

However, while Facebook and Twitter have eroded writing conventions among my students, they have not killed the most important ingredients in personal writing: self-reflection and emotional honesty. For younger high school boys particularly, social networking has actually improved writing – not the product or the process, but the sensitivity and inward focus required to even begin to produce a draft that will eventually be worth editing.  
High school is cruel to all genders, an equal-opportunity destroyer of spirit and self-esteem. I'm focusing on boys because I've seen the phenomenon play out more intensely with them. Also, I was a boy once, and so I understand them better than I understand girls. 
 When I was beginning high school in 1994 boys knew not to reveal weakness and insecurity. Girls didn't seem to like guys who vocalized vulnerability. Athletes usually projected stereotypically masculine traits: along with imposing physical size, aggressive, even belligerent confidence, an easy stance, gait, and casual presence, the signs of being comfortable in their own skins. Even the scrawniest punk guitarists wore hoodies like armor and possessed a prickly toughness seasoned by the experience of having been bullied in middle school. The climate demanded stoicism, cool detachment as the default attitude for boys trying not to lose social standing. Young male attitudes were, as they still are, shaped by music and other forms of pop culture. Mainstream mid-90s rappers had cold-blooded personas. Even Kurt Cobain mumbled through interviews, only opening up in cathartic song, where the rawest admissions could be obtuse and readily cloaked in distortion. Everyone agonized over problems—height, acne, academic ability, body size, a lack of attention from girls, parents splitting up, sick grandparents, needy siblings, general alienation—but no one wanted to talk about them much. At age 14, I was small, smart, and artistic. I wrote well, but the prospect of writing anything that would permit even a teacher to know what I really thought terrified me. Spilling my guts in a writers' workshop with my classmates would have been social suicide. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

This is the story continuing educators have heard for 30 years

I suppose as long as it makes news, we have some measure of job security.  Maybe not a lot, but some.  From Michele Willens, writing in The Atlantic.

I am clearly not alone in my quest for academic validation: Well over half a million of the students enrolled in degree-granting institutions are over the age of 50. “One advantage about returning to college later in life is that the student will likely have a greater sense of purpose and focus and thus be able to capitalize better on what is offered,” says Margaret Gatz, a psychology professor at University of Southern California. “Another advantage is that the older student brings a lifetime of experiences and knowledge to the new information being presented and thus can have a richer learning experience.” 
Gatz points out potential barriers, including competing demands. (Every time I tell my adviser that I can’t imagine how students could be taking four, even five classes at a time, he reminds me they are not also running a household and writing plays. Oh, that.) Another hurdle might be physical stamina. “The older student will be surrounded by college-age youth who have agile memories and who can stay up all night to cram for an exam or finish a paper,” says Gatz. “This just means that the older student must be craftier.” 
Fortunately, there is increasing evidence that older students can succeed and that it will even keep our minds sharper. “There is as much variation in an aging brain as there is in a school child’s brain,” says New York psychiatrist Roger Gould. “If you and your brain are healthy, the only limitations to learning new mental skills and information are your motivation and natural intelligence.” 
James Fallon, a neuroscientist at University of Irvine, claims “people are at their maximum cognitive abilities are in their 60s. It’s the ideal time to balance their executive functions, which younger students don’t necessarily have yet, with intellectual techniques which are likely still there but haven’t been used for a long time.” Fallon, who is 66, says, “I have never been more creative and productive.”

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Enrollments and revenue predicted to decline

At a growing number of colleges and universities.  Particularly at risk are regional publics and small privates.  But hasn't that always been the case?  From CBS News Moneywatch.

A new report by Moody’s Investors Service highlights the growing dysfunction among U.S. universities, with revenue falling at many schools even as tuition costs continuing to climb.  
The credit rating agency estimates that net revenue is expected to decline at 28 percent of public universities in fiscal year 2104 and at 19 percent of private institutions. Moody’s also expects net tuition revenue to grow in 2014 at less than inflation for 44 percent of public universities and 42 percent of private ones. 
“Public universities have not experienced such poor prospects for tuition revenue growth in more than two decades,” the report concluded. 
As financial support from states has declined, meanwhile, students are expected to cover more of their education costs. In fiscal year 2012, for instance, student charges covered 44 percent of public university revenue, which is up from less than one third a decade ago. 
While schools are generating less revenue, Moody's expects enrollment at nearly half of public and private universities also to decline during the same period. 
Despite these challenges, the schools with the strongest brand reputations and broadest academic offerings have been able to mitigate the revenue strain. These schools are expected to experience net tuition revenue growth of six percent. Enrollment grew modestly at the largest and most highly rated universities, while smaller and lower-rated colleges experienced median declines. 
Regional public universities and smaller private schools without a well-defined niche will be most at risk, the report suggested.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I find it hard to believe

That we're less courteous than, say, Illinois. Have they ever been to Chicago? From The Atlantic.

Marchex also attempted to measure more general indications of courtesy—using "please" and "thank you," that kind of thing. And you know who came in for another shout-out? Hello again, Ohio. The other least-courteous states, in order: Wisconsin, which took first place, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Tennessee.
And the most courteous? South Carolina (first place!), North Carolina, Maryland, Louisiana, and Georgia.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rethinking developmental studies

We're no longer just throwing remedial courses at students who need help. Of course, this is not just a community college problem.  We call our program learning support.  From Sophie Quinton, writing in The Atlantic.

Algebra Doesn't Have to Be Scary
Arica Hawley used to dread math class. She would look at problems and not even know where to begin. When Hawley, 37, went back to Tacoma Community College last fall to finish her associate's degree, she placed into a pre-algebra course—eighth-grade-level material. 
Her mindset didn't change until she took Statway, a college-level statistics course for students who need to master high-school algebra. She earned a math credit, and gained the confidence she needed to switch to a math- and science-heavy nursing program.

Many community-college students never make it to graduation because they can't pass developmental, or remedial, math. Two courses from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and its partners prove that a more engaging curriculum and teaching method can help students succeed. 
"Math is now my favorite," Hawley says. "Chemistry's even making sense." She'll soon have enough credits to transfer to a four-year university. 
Community colleges serve high concentrations of Latino, African-American, and first-generation students, and adult students like Hawley. At Tacoma Community College, an urban campus in a majority white city, 38 percent of the largely working-class student body identify themselves as nonwhite. 
Roughly two-thirds of new community-college students place into developmental math, says Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teacher's College, located at Columbia University. Of those Of those students, fewer than one in four earn a degree or certificate within eight years.

"It eats up time and financial aid, especially when we have students who have to retake those courses three, four, and five times," says John Kellermeier, the TCC math faculty member who taught Hawley's Statway course. Students who test two or three levels below Algebra II—considered college-level math—have to pass multiple developmental courses before they can take a course that counts toward graduation. 
In 2009, Carnegie founded the Community College Pathways Program, a network of community colleges, professional associations, and researchers determined to improve math literacy. Participants wanted to rethink the content and the teaching method of developmental math, and to draw from the best research available. A number of foundations helped fund the development and implementation of the new materials, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a Next America sponsor. 
The program came up with two one-year courses: statistics course Statway and quantitative-reasoning course Quantway. Statway blends high school algebra and college-level statistics all year, while Quantway is divided into two semesters: one more focused on developmental math, the other more focused on college-level quantitative reasoning.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I got this telegram from a Nigerian prince...

Con artists have always been around.  From The Atlantic.

As Whitaker notes, schemes like this strike us as modern inventions, the provenance of Nigerian email scammers and shady characters on Craigslist trying to get you to wire them money.  Yet the human desire for lucre—and the unscrupulousness methods we often employ in its pursuit—knows few limitations, geographic or historic. As Whitaker describes, the main difference between our 21st-century cons and those of the Victorian period is one of delivery method. 
Whitaker has uncovered documents from 1905 supposedly written by a distressed Spaniard named Luis Ramos and Jean Richard, a prison chaplain. Addressed to a London shopkeeper named Paul Webb, these letters are straight out of the email scam playbook: Ramos claims to have “property valuable to £37.000” deposited “in a sure English Bank,” and he’ll give Webb a cut if the Englishman agrees to send Ramos a small amount of money to bail his 14-year-old daughter out of prison.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The jerk store called

And it's not always a bad thing.  From Time.

You don’t want a reputation as the office bully, but it turns out there are some attributes of narcissistic or Machiavellian personalities that could give your career a boost.  
Social scientists aren’t just looking for a silver lining; they theorize that there must be some evolutionary benefit to being a jerk. The trouble is, those shrewd or sneaky behaviors that kept our caveman ancestors alive don’t translate as well to the 21st-century water cooler. 
But there are things we can learn from the blowhards, braggarts and backstabbers we have to deal with, and there are even a few behaviors that, when decoupled from the rest of a toxic personality, can give you a leg up on the job.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I guess I'm a slacker

I don't check my smartphone until after I've had some coffee.  Unless I'm using it for an alarm.  From Time.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Brush your teeth? Take a shower? 
According to mobile testing firm SOASTA, it’s none of these. A new 10-city survey of the mobile phone habits of smartphone owners has revealed that 84% of us check an app first thing in the morning. 
The study shows that New Yorkers are especially tech addicted – 92% of city residents start their day by firing up a smartphone. Los Angeles found itself at the bottom of the list, with only 75% of smartphone owners checking an app first thing.