Harvard University has roiled the academic twittersphere with its announcement today that all classes for the 2020-2021 academic year will be conducted online. What will not change is the institution's undergraduate tuition of $US 49,653. This has prompted a deluge of criticism, but support comes from an unexpected quarter - Audrey Watters saying "I don't understand why people think that tuition should be lower for an online semester." But as Ryan Cordell responds, "it’s because they don’t see tuition as *actually* payment for instruction—it’s the membership fee to the whole college experience—they only want to pay for instruction, which feels like a fraction of what they’re *actually* paying for." In fact, Harvard is inviting 40% of its students to live on campus, including its entire first year class, to "recapture the residential liberal arts and sciences experience that is core to our identity.... to build their Harvard network of faculty, advisors, and friends or learn about life in the Yard."
For me the big change came a month or two ago when I put on my mask, drove into the office, and brought home my ergonomic chair. My home office chair, a Costco 'executive', had broken down from use. This one won't break, and it looks like it will be in my home for a while. "It's three months into a huge, unplanned social experiment that suddenly transported the white-collar workplace from cubicles and offices to kitchens and spare bedrooms. And many employers now say the benefits of remote work outweigh the drawbacks." I'm more connected with my colleagues working from home than I was in the office, because now everyone is using videoconferencing, Slack, collaborative authoring, and the rest. I don't want to go back. I'm happy where I am, looking at green trees outside my window, able to step out my door and be in the country.
This is a good article looking into just what constitutes the self. Ultimately, it will conclude that we should "to think of the self as a pattern of different processes, dynamically related to one another." What's key here is the self is "both everywhere and nowhere in the brain. That is, so many areas of the brain activate under different conditions involving self-reference or self-related tasks that no one area can be defined as self specific." What this should dissuade you from thinking is that there is a functional information processing architecture - there isn't an 'executive function', for example, and short-term memory is nothing like an 'information buffer'. These are examples of a homonculus theory of cognition, which should be discared in favour of an emergentist account. See more from iai magazine's issue 89 In search of the self.
David Jones documents his investigations into Foam (discussed here last week) along with some other tools that support the same sort of model. I have called it the Aggregate-Remix-Repurpose-Feed Forward (ARRFF) model of personal learning in a network environment, though other names are offered (including Jarche's 'Seek Sense Share' and SecondBrain's CODE). It's a tentative post, and as Jones remarks, "the technical knowledge required to get going is relatively high." But maybe - as these tools evolve and become more useful - we'll have the core of the long awaited personal learning environment (PLE) to look forward to. See also Zettelkasten and SecondBrain.
You may have read a week or so ago that TikTok is reading clipboard data on your iPhone (and presumably sending it back to Beijing?). Before you start banning Chinese apps, it may be worth taking a breath and reading about the other 52 apps taking advantage of the clipboard that is "designed to be silently readable by any app". Today, Reddit and Linked in announced that they will stop copying the data (and presumably sending it back to Washington or Redmond?). Here's the full list of apps discovered (there are probably many more), including the list of those who have stopped. This is why, when I use my mobile phone, I access these services through my Firefox web browser.
What's significant about this story beyond the obvious social and cultural importance is that it shows how education is about much more than simply offering courses. As has often been observed by various pundits, diversity and inclusion courses, however well-intentioned, are most often ineffective. Learning requires a community. Thus we read, "Showing people how their peers feel about diversity in their community can make their actions more inclusive, make members of marginalised groups feel more like they belong, and even help close racial achievement gaps in education, according to a new study" (the study - despite the name of this feed - is behind a paywall).
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