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Elite education for the masses

Elite education for the masses
They included Patrycja Jablonska in Poland, Ephraim Baron in California, Mohammad Hijazi in Lebanon and many others far from Baltimore who ordinarily would not have a chance to study at the elite Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They logged on to a Web site called Coursera and signed up. They paid nothing for it. These students, a sliver of the more than 1.7 million who have registered with Coursera since April, reflect a surge of interest this year in free online learning that could reshape higher education. The phenomenon puts big issues on the table: the growth of tuition, the role of a professor, the definition of a student, the value of a degree and even the mission of universities. “Massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, have caught fire in academia. “I can’t use another word than unbelievable,” Caffo said. For universities, the word for it is revolutionary. MOOC students, for the most part, aren’t earning credit toward degrees. But it is alluring. Giving it away Related:  Ed Reform

6 Ideas to Avoid the Activity Trap Last week, I wrote about the pitfalls of non-strategic activity in a post entitled, Don’t Confuse Activity with Accomplishment. Most of the leaders I know would admit, we unwittingly find ourselves in this trap from time to time. Or perhaps most treacherous, we find ourselves doing things that add value – but not the highest value. When this happens, we’ve let the good become the enemy of the best. How can we guard our calendars and our lives from these lesser activities? Here are a few ideas that may help. Determine your priorities. Schedule your priorities. Delegate freely. Outsource. Stop doing 2nd tier activities. Reevaluate constantly. The Activity Trap is alluring. Uncomfortable Conversations in Education Click to enlarge. In the past week I have read a couple of posts that mention the importance of uncomfortable conversations in education. Having uncomfortable or unpopular conversations is kryptonite for the echo chamber effect that often plagues meetings, conferences, chats and any other space, online and off, that brings people together. In a recent reflection Going Beyond the Converted: Reflections from Edcamp Leadership BC Aaron Akune, Vice-Principal at Delta Secondary School in Ladner B.C asks “Why is it that we continue to repeat the same conversations?” Aaron writes: I’d argue that too often we are afraid to wade into uncomfortable conversations where we may be challenged to justify and defend our positions. Aaron highlights three important points: 1. I think it’s ok that we keep having these same discussions. Our rehashing of decades old topics also suggests that we are still invested and that is a good thing. 2. 3.

AP Classes Are a Scam - John Tierney The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from the courses -- and, in an uncertain environment, students keep being suckered. Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work, they typically wear a patina of respectability. That's the case with Advanced Placement courses, one of the great frauds currently perpetrated on American high-school students. That's a pretty strong claim, right? The miscellany of AP courses offered in U.S. high schools under the imprimatur of the College Board probably started with good intentions. Sounds pretty good. Interestingly, the evidence providing the clearest positive argument for AP participation is that high performance in AP courses correlates with better college grades and higher graduation rates, especially in science courses. My beef with AP courses isn't novel. AP courses are not, in fact, remotely equivalent to the college-level courses they are said to approximate. The college admissions process today is a total crapshoot.

The End of Education As We Know It By Scott Barry Kaufman Imagine being 6 or 7 years old again, learning about addition and subtraction for the first time. How wonderful would it be, while taking a quiz, to be able to rub a genie’s bottle and choose from a number of on-the-spot metaphors for mathematical concepts, like what a fraction really means? Rather than working through equations in daunting rows on a sheet of paper, your task is to play a game on a tablet computer in which you share a dinner table with aliens. These examples may seem charming and even silly—and they’re meant to be. The new wave of educational tools include fresh ways of deploying phone and tablet apps, online games and videos, and social networking. “We should try to bring back the joy of learning because you want to learn, not because someone is going to give you a grade at the end of the semester,” Schocken said in a recent interview. No Wrong Answers All of this engagement on a huge scale has resulted in rich and copious data. Flipping the Lesson

Get Ready For America’s Next ‘Education Crisis’ - Jeff Bryant “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” has become a popular mantra of the ruling class. Of course, these are not the people who usually experience the brunt of a crisis. But a pervasive narrative in the mainstream media is that Americans are a people beset by near-continuous crisis, whether it’s the fake crisis of a looming “fiscal cliff” or a real crisis like Frankenstorm Sandy that still has many Northeasterners inexplicably living in the dark in unheated homes. Arguably no sector of American society has been cast with the narrative of crisis as much as public education. And the fever pitch is about to go higher. Something’s Rotten In The State Of Kentucky Just prior to the November election, an article in the education trade journal Education Week broke that Kentucky had gotten bad news back from its most recent round of school tests. Disappointing results from a state test is not usually an occasion to stop the presses. Business Loves A Crisis Crisis material for sure.

Moving beyond our vacuous education reform discussions | Reihan Salam Barack Obama is a champion of education reform. So is Mitt Romney. Even in the midst of an extremely polarized political season, the former Massachusetts governor has offered praise for Arne Duncan, President Obama’s secretary of education, and for the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative. The same is true of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, who has emerged as the GOP’s leading point person on fixing America’s schools. To those who lament partisan rancor, this might look like very good news. But it’s not. The reform label applies to at least three broad ideas: (1) standards-oriented reform, or let’s have more testing and accountability; (2) human capital reform, or let’s have better teachers; and (3) choice-oriented reform, or let’s use “backpack funding” that will allow public education dollars to follow the student wherever she chooses to enroll, whether it’s a neighborhood public school, a public charter or (perhaps) a voucher-eligible private school.

Schools We Can Envy by Diane Ravitch Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? by Pasi Sahlberg, with a foreword by Andy Hargreaves Teachers College Press, 167 pp., $34.95 (paper) In recent years, elected officials and policymakers such as former president George W. Nothing is said about holding accountable the district leadership or the elected officials who determine such crucial issues as funding, class size, and resource allocation. The belief that schools alone can overcome the effects of poverty may be traced back many decades but its most recent manifestation was a short book published in 2000 by the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., titled No Excuses. For a while, the Gates Foundation thought that small high schools were the answer, but Gates now believes that teacher evaluation is the primary ingredient of school reform. The main mechanism of school reform today is to identify teachers who can raise their students’ test scores every year.

Sweden’s Newest School System Has No Classrooms There’s a whole new classroom model and it’s a sight to behold. The newest school system in Sweden look more like the hallways of Google or Pixar and less like a brick-and-mortar school you’d typically see. There are collaboration zones, houses-within-houses, and a slew of other features that are designed to foster “curiosity and creativity.” Architect Rosan Bosch designed the school to encourage both independent and collaborative work such as group projects and PBL. The un-schoolness doesn’t stop with the furniture and layout though. Most of all, admission to the school is free as long as one of the child’s parents pays taxes in Sweden and the child has a ‘personal number’ which is like a social security number to our U.S. readers.

Can The Chicago Teachers’ Strike Fix Democratic Education Reform? In 1960, when Albert Shanker and other members of New York City’s teachers union sought collective bargaining rights, they set a strike date for Monday November 7, the day prior to the presidential election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The timing would provide maximum leverage, they reasoned, because the Democratic mayor, Robert Wagner, would not want to come down hard on striking teachers the day before the election. This strategy was vindicated when teachers won an agreement that led to bargaining rights after just a single day on strike. The same logic surely crossed the mind of the shrewd president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, who knew that calling a strike this week would be highly disruptive to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. But if the strike has been bad for Democratic presidential politics, it may ultimately be good for Democratic education policy, which for too long has aped right-wing rhetoric in the name of education reform.

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