How to Save College

Posted by Debby on 7th February and posted in Innovation, Random Education

Distance ed courses are nothing new. They’ve been around since people actually sent stuff through the postal mail system (if not before). My kids are all enrolled in MOOCs this semester. We’ll see how that experiment works out. However, we really do need to ask ourselves (especially those of us in academia) – how do colleges stay relevant in a world where access to information is almost a non-issue. What added value do we bring to the table, and is it worth the price? I’m not sure 4+ years racking up student loans is a viable answer anymore given the economic models developing in front of us. There are some tradeoffs for mass information distribution and educational individualization. Are they worth it?

When she shared this article on Facebook, Linda Polin commented:

“Shirkey on MOOCs, or rather on what the MOOCs stand in opposition to… (sadly Pepperdine gets named in this; fortunately, it is not thrashed in the process)… Shirkey has a gd pt that we often forget — that is, who actually makes up the bulk of the college population (it ain’t kids at Harvard, Stanford, etc). Best parts of the essay are below the fold so read it all…to wit:

I’ve been thinking about the effects of the internet for a couple of decades now. I’ve watched industry after industry forced to renegotiate their methods and models, in the face of a medium that allows for perfect copying, global distribution, zero incremental cost, ridiculously easy group-forming: The music business. Newspapers. Travel agents. Publishers. Hotel owners. And while watching, I’ve always wondered what I’d do when my turn came.”

From the article: 

Forget private school. Tuition and fees at public four-year colleges went up 72% last decade, even as the market value of a bachelor’s degree fell by 15%.

The value of that degree remains high in relative terms, but only because people with bachelor’s degrees have seen their incomes shrink less over the last few years than people who don’t have them. “Give us tens of thousands of dollars and years of your life so you can suffer less than your peers” isn’t much of a proposition. More like a ransom note, really.

This is the background to the entire conversation around higher education: Things that can’t last don’t. This is why MOOCs matter. Not because distance learning is some big new thing or because online lectures are a solution to all our problems, but because they’ve come along at a time when students and parents are willing to ask themselves, “Isn’t there some other way to do this?”

MOOCs are a lightning strike on a rotten tree. Most stories have focused on the lightning, on MOOCs as the flashy new thing. I want to talk about the tree.

Read the rest of it here: What do you think? 


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CES 2013

Posted by Debby on 20th January and posted in Cool Tech, Innovation

For several years now I have had a pass to the exhibition halls at the Consumer Electronics Show. This is the largest show of it’s type in the world and a total geekfest. Major companies use this event to launch new innovations and start-ups use it to get their foot in the door. It is in Las Vegas, so I’ve never managed to get there… until this year. All I can say is WOW. It was HUGE. The stats said there were over 3,200 vendors and 150,000 attendees there. I believe it. We stayed on the floor all day Thursday and 2 hours on Friday and we didn’t even touch on what was there. We did manage to see all of the 3D vendors, had a good talk with the Afinia guys, had a couple of very interesting random encounters with people and inventors (including someone Steve knew from Cleveland!). The entire Las Vegas Convention Center was filled, with overflow exhibitions at the Venetian ballrooms and the Las Vegas Hilton.

One of the best parts was walking through the start up area and seeing all of the new ideas with big hopes. It was fun talking to those people. I’d like to go back next year for all four days… if I can manage to detox every night somehow lol. As always, Las Vegas makes me twitch. The bright lights, miles of new technology, and wall-to-wall people made my ADD self crash into my introverted self to the point where I was worried the implosion would collapse into a black hole and take the universe with it! I’d sure hate to be responsible for that! 






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Real Learning

Posted by Debby on 19th January and posted in Quotable Quotes

“Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we recreate ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we were never able to do before. Through learning we ‘re-perceive’ the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generation process of life.”  ~Peter Senge


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Another semester ends

Posted by Debby on 15th December and posted in Teaching and Learning

<sigh> Last night of class is always my least favorite, especially after a good semester. I was very nervous starting this one out, about getting back in the f2f saddle after several semesters away, but it was a ton of fun. Every class has a personality, and this class had LOTS of personality. So many stories. So many places they are heading after here. I had one tell me that she told her son to take my class next semester. A couple of the re-entry students stayed afterwards and thanked me for teaching them. I had a chance to chat with the class overachiever (the one who did ALL of the extra credit and was still worried about his grade) about taking the time to be a student of himself so that he could make wise choices when it comes to his career path ahead. I told them all to keep in touch and let me know about their academic adventures ahead. Some might. Some won’t. Maybe one or two I’ll hear from years down the road. That’s the nature of the job, I suppose.

All semester long we talk about technology. We talk about the nuts and bolts of computers. We talk about the past, we look at the present, and we wonder about the future. We try things out and push a few comfort zones. We think through the ethical, social, financial, and personal issues around technology and we become producers instead of just passive users. More than anything, I hope they become intelligent consumers of information, able to take a critical look at all of the stuff that they are immersed in every single day, and I hope they feel empowered to make a difference out there somehow. I am thankful that the VVC guys took a chance and let me into the classroom and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to share ideas with these guys every Tuesday evening for the past 16 weeks. What a great way to spend a semester! 

CIS 101 Fall 2012




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Your Anti-Social Media Rant Reveals Too Much About Your Friends

Posted by Debby on 11th December and posted in Social Media

The Atlantic posted an opinion piece that nicely responds to people who complain about social media. This is pretty much what I say to people who whine that social media is full of mediocre, meaningless crap. What you see is what you cultivate. If all you see is garbage, that says a lot about your “friends”. If you want to read interesting things, build up an interesting network!

“My diagnosis is simple, Roger: your friends and associates are terrible and boring. Being that you are a smart and interesting guy who would distill only the finest information from any social network, the problem is the garbage going into your feed, which can only come out as garbage in your column. And that garbage is being created by the people who you choose to follow and know. “


Posted by Debby on 3rd December and posted in Teaching and Learning

I get to go to CUE! It’s one of my favorite conferences. They accepted my presentation idea so that means the registration is waived. I just need to figure out a place to stay and a food budget and I’m on my way 🙂 

Here’s the 100 word abstract: 

How do you manage discussions in large online sections? How do you connect students to each other and help them “stick” with the course? How do you keep your sanity when juggling dozens of students? Start by going in circles!


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The value of things

Posted by Debby on 3rd December and posted in Quotable Quotes

Wow. This fall certainly got away from me, for lots of reasons! It wasn’t for a lack of things to write about, that’s for sure. I will be jumping back into my educational writing soon, but for now, here’s something to think about:

“Do not educate your child to be rich. Educate him to be happy.
So when he grows up, he’ll know the value of things, not the price.”

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One small step…

Posted by Debby on 28th August and posted in Innovation

I was only a few months over three years old when astronauts landed on the moon and took the first steps away from our planet. I don’t know how much I remembered from the event itself but it must have made a huge impact on the national thought process because at some point very early on I became completely obsessed with anything to do with space.  I’m pretty sure I had all of the planets memorized and I knew the distance from the earth to the sun before I had memorized my multiplication tables. While most other little girls loved barbies and ballerinas, I wanted to go to the moon just like Neil Armstrong. He was my first hero. He blazed an amazing trail for others to follow. Space travel almost seems common place now with all of the shuttle trips and an international space station and even landing rovers on Mars. That is because of Neil and his fellow astronauts who led the way. He could have had anything he wanted in the wake of that accomplishment – fame, fortune, the world at his fingertips – but he choose to live a quiet and unassuming life, eventually becoming a professor for many years.


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