by Stephen Downes
Sept 13, 2016
This is a contribution (6 page PDF) signed by 66 NRC researchers, including myself, to the government's consultation on global science excellence. It recommends a departure from the previous policy of having selected industry partners determine NRC research priorities. "NRC scientists will deliver their best creative solutions to the real problems facing Canadians, Canadian industry, and the Canadian environment when under conditions that provide them the freedom to use their expertise and knowledge, including their awareness of the important issues in their scientific fields, related industries, and society at large, to identify important research questions and to find answers to them." View the rest of the submissions here. Read my summary and commentary (long!) on the submissions.
Students at the the University of Manitoba are being sent letters that demand payment and threaten huge sanctions over alleged copyright violations. "It's a tad frustrating when we see some of the messages that have content that really borders on extortion," said Joel Guénette, the University of Manitoba's copyright strategy manager. The university is advising students not to respond and not to pay the requested amount, because this may just spur the companies to ask for more money in the future. "In the past, Guénette said, the school simply discarded the notices, but under the new legislation, the university must forward them to students." All this is the result of new copyright laws that came into effect last year. "Guénette said it's common for students to be threatened with multimillion-dollar lawsuits, especially when the content is pornographic or 'perhaps more of a sensitive nature,' he said. The maximum fine for copyright violation in Canada is $5,000."
Phil Hill summarizes this panel discussion and provides a couple of videos focusing on Kathryn Becker-Blease's experiences using adaptive learning in an Introduction to Psychology course. A couple of worthwhile observations: first, "adaptive learning can mean different things in different contexts," and second, the contrast between this experience and another in which "students worked in the adaptive learning platform, but they also had class time devoted to supporting them with their study and work habits. Learning how to learn, which is very important for students that do not have a history of academic success." When evaluating innovations, you can't just throw people in there and see how they do, especially if they spent a lifetime doing something else.
When both Daniel Willingham and Joanne Jacobs storm the barricades over an article in the NY Times, I figure there's something to recommend it. And novelist Nicholson Baker's Fortress of Tedium is a light romp through his own education at the School Without Walls and the contrasting eyeball-drenching monotony of a more traditional school. "In my experience, he writes, "very high-school subject, no matter how worthy and jazzy and thought-provoking it may have seemed to an earnest Common Corer, is stuffed into the curricular Veg-O-Matic, and out comes a nasty packet with grading rubrics on the back." Lovely. Willingham, ever with the scowl, cites some research that no self-respecting researcher would take as conclusive, quotes Baker as having said something he did not say (specifically, "The school that would have been perfect for me, would be perfect for everyone," which is nowhere to be found in the article), and then writes, "He cannot understand why high school must be so stifling and soulless." I can't understand it either. It probably has a lot to do with grouches like Willingham and Jacobs.
The collapse of ITT Technical Institutes' chain of schools in the United States should counsel as warning about the perils of privatizing education. "U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, at the time of the Education Department action, compared ITT to the Corinthian chain, which collapsed amid federal and state scrutiny. 'For too long, ITT Tech and its executives have gotten rich off taxpayers while misleading and taking advantage of their students with Corinthian-style deceptive and abusive practices.'" Business as usual. The closure involves 130 campuses, 40,000 students and 8,000 employees. A ton of links, via Trace Urdan's excellent newsletter from Credit Suisse:
Next time you're considering the cost of public education as compared to the private sector, consider these costs.
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