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Friday, September 04, 2015

Culture, Capitals and Graduate Futures: Degrees of Class, by Ciaran Burke

Photo: Huw Morris
Book of the week: Early experience of class has a large effect on the working lives of graduates, discovers Huw Morris, director of skills, higher education and lifelong learning in the Welsh government and visiting professor of higher and further education, University of Salford.

Routes into middle-class occupations for people from working-class backgrounds, and the form and availability of those routes, have been the focus of academic debate, policymaking and political concern for more than half a century.

Academic research has furnished both empirical evidence and theoretical justification to support investment in higher education by both governments and students themselves, from US economist Gary Becker’s Nobel prizewinning account in the early 1960s of human capital formation, to more recent work by the UK-based scholars Phillip Brown, Andy Green and Hugh Lauder on the “Dutch auction” for skills.

The reports of committees of policymakers, from those chaired by Sir Colin Anderson and Lord Robbins in 1960 and 1963 to those of Lord Dearing and Lord Browne of Madingley in 1997 and 2010, have also made the case for using public funds to finance the living costs of students and the running costs of institutions. Through this financial support, it has been argued, the future wealth of the UK and the social mobility of its young might be assured. In the words of Alan Milburn, a Labour former Cabinet minister and now chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, such support works through “unleashing aspiration” and providing “fair access to the professions”.

Ciaran Burke here provides a timely examination of what is often characterised as the linear and meritocratic relationship between higher education and middle-class employment. Culture, Capitals and Graduate Futures, his first book, is based on his PhD research, and draws on a series of life-history interviews with 27 graduates – men and women, self-defined working-class and middle-class – of Northern Ireland’s two universities in the 10-year period before 2012.

He interprets the information that he collected from his interviewees with reference to the work of Pierre Bourdieu, making use of the now-familiar conceptual tools of habitus and field, as well as economic, cultural and social capital. To those not versed in the use of these terms by this eminent French sociologist and his followers (and at the risk of gross oversimplification), these words are used to refer respectively to the way things are done, the social sphere within which action takes place, as well as the money, knowledge and acquaintances available to the interviewees as they try to get a job. Burke seeks to avoid an overly determinist account of his interviewees’ educational and employment trajectories by combining his Bourdieusian analysis with an assessment of their aspirations and expectations, as well as the strategies they use to obtain these goals.
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Additional resources 

Based on the life history interviews of graduates and framed through a Bourdieusian sociological lens, Culture, Capitals and Graduate Futures explores...

The author
Ciaran Burke, lecturer in sociology at the University of Ulster and co-convenor of the British Sociology Association’s Bourdieu Study Group, was born in Belfast. 

Source: Times Higher Education

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You’re Not Actually Bad at Math

"A new way to think about how to reason." writes Chase Felker, Slate software engineer.

Math is generally a required subject for students in the United States until college. You might elect not to take further math classes because of a lack of aptitude—I’m not a math person. But this is the wrong reason to stop.

Photo: Slate Magazine

The idea that someone can be bad at math is wrong, and it hides several harmful assumptions. It’s an excuse to justify individual failure, rather than a real understanding of mental capabilities. Giving up on math means you don’t believe that careful study can change the way you think. No one is born knowing the axiom of completeness, and even the most accomplished mathematicians had to learn how to learn this stuff. Put another way: Writing is also not something that anyone is “good” at without a lot of practice, but it would be completely unacceptable to think that your composition skills could not improve.

Additionally, people tend to judge math too soon. While you might struggle with early math classes, you might not in the advanced ones because the material can differ wildly. A third-year–level class is not necessarily three times as much work as a first-year class; it might actually be less, since the material and methods get easier as you spend more time with them. I had this experience in high school. Until I took a class called Combinatorics, the hardest class I ever took was Algebra I. I had never felt so hopeless and confused, and whenever I was told my answer was correct, I was convinced I was faking it. College math wasn’t easy either, but my struggles were more isolated, and I learned how to break down problems and point to what didn’t make sense.

But the strangest part of math phobia is that math is pure logic, abstract reasoning, and clear writing. I don’t mean this metaphorically: This is literally what math is. Any result can be reduced back to simpler ones until you reach assumed statements called axioms. Simple doesn’t mean easy, but I think math has fewer moving parts than most other subjects. Consider all the things you need to know to be a student of literature: You need a rich understanding of language, history, context, and literary devices. Math explicitly lays out its assumptions in terms that everyone agrees on. Or consider other sciences: They can reduce results back to simpler results like math can, but we are ultimately stuck with whatever part of reality we are able to measure. Math’s foundations rest on logic instead of reality. I don’t mean to compare math with other subjects to advance a claim of math’s superiority or importance. Instead, my point is that, in principle, if students think they can’t study math, then something is deeply wrong.

Source: Slate Magazine

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The Case for Philosophy in America's High Schools - Part 1

"What should be surprising is not that a case must be made for philosophy in America's high schools, but that philosophy hasn't already become an integral part of its schools long ago." according to Frank Breslin, retired high-school teacher. 


Adolescents are a skeptical lot. Anything and everything is fair game to them, and woe betide what is found wanting. Criticism comes easily to these professional skeptics. Irreverence is natural when one is taking the world's measure, cutting one's teeth, and finding oneself. However, American high schools waste this irreverence by failing to harness and turn it to educational use. By not providing programs which could tap into this natural resource, they forgo their most valuable asset -- the intellectual restlessness of youth itself.

By barring this critical spirit from the classroom, high schools are saying that questioning is wrong and has no part in one's education. If one wants it, one must get it on one's own. This is the message schools often convey. This is regrettable, since what could be an opportunity to exploit and sharpen this critical temper is irresponsibly allowed to run into the sand. Not that schools should become coliseums where intellectual gladiators slay their opponents, but training grounds where students learn to think for themselves.

The study of philosophy is one such program which American high schools should introduce to channel this skepticism toward academic ends. This would not be a course which would indoctrinate students into the tenets of a particular school of thought and show why schools which disagree are wrong. Nor would it be a history of philosophy which surveys major figures and movements.

Rather, it would be a course which simply asks questions: Does life have meaning and purpose, and how do we know? What is truth and how do we know that we have it when truth and illusion feel the same way? Does truth change over time? Are beliefs the creations of our subjective needs? Are values discovered or invented? Do human beings have value? Can we know anything beyond this world?

Such a course would consider the various answers which have been advanced to these and similar questions over the centuries; seek to understand the historical era in which an answer arose; empathize with each answer to understand it better; analyze its respective arguments, and suggest objections and rebuttals.

By observing how each position qualifies, complements, or critiques the others, students would explore not only specific questions and their answers, but also the nature of critical thinking itself. Students would learn how to detect fallacies in logical reasoning; how to dissect and refute faulty arguments; how to determine what can and cannot be proven; in short, how to think, and not what to think.

Source: Huffington Post

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What is the best way to track down references?

Follow on Twitter as @MatthewReiszTHE
"Systematic searching and a clear focus are the keys to a successful literature review." writes Matthew Reisz.

Photo: Times Higher Education
Photo: Aurélie Gandour

For anyone embarking on a literature review, says Aurélie Gandour, “one simple step will put you way ahead of all your colleagues: go and get an appointment with a librarian”.

Ms Gandour is herself an academic librarian who has worked at the Paris University Institute for Teachers’ Training (attached to the Université Paris-Sorbonne), now known as L’ESPE Paris, and currently within the NHS in the UK, training postgraduates and early career researchers in precisely these skills. She also maintains the website

Early support from a librarian, explains Ms Gandour, can smooth the process because “all literature reviews need to start with a literature search, and most literature searches will involve using bibliographic databases”. Many are “a little tricky to use”, particularly if approached in a spirit of trial and error, “so do yourself a favour and learn how to use them properly from the get-go”.

The central technique for a successful literature review, continued Ms Gandour, is to proceed methodically, building on “the great articles you’ve already found”: “The first obvious step is to systematically check the bibliography of each article you read. But you should also use Google Scholar (or any other database available to you) to check if those articles have been cited since they were published, and track down those references.

Source: Times Higher Education

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Nazarbayev University fights censorship allegations

"Management and staff at Kazakhstan’s flagship university are disputing recent accusations of censorship from a lecturer, who alleges he is being squeezed out over attempts to hold lectures on the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia." reports Peter Leonard, EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.

The Kazakh president watches a student raise her graduation diploma during the first graduation ceremony at Nazarbayev University in Astana on 15 June.
Photo: Kazakh Presidential Press Service

Photo: Marcel de Haas
In a widely circulated statement, Marcel de Haas, a 54-year old retired military officer of the Dutch army, last month accused Nazarbayev University of using underhanded methods to revoke his contract and exercising censorship. The lecturer claimed efforts to prevent a public talk in August 2014 about the developing confrontation in Ukraine came at the behest of a Russian embassy official in Astana and suggested the university had caved in to outside pressure.

Now, several current and former international colleagues at the university have expressed strong objections over De Haas’ account and instead hailed what they called their employer’s tolerance for the open exchange of ideas.

“I firmly believe that I have academic freedom at [Nazarbayev University], because I exercise this freedom every day at work,” said Charles Sullivan, an assistant professor of political science and international relations.

Nazarbayev University was opened in 2010 with the aim of evolving into a centre of advanced learning capable of competing with its global peers, and helping students develop critical-thinking skills rarely encouraged by Soviet-vintage educational establishments. To that end, the university has invested lavishly in attracting academics from overseas.

Many have been sceptical, however, about the extent to which that approach could flourish in an institution funded by a government that has displayed little tolerance for genuinely independent media or public criticism of the authorities. Legislation approved in 2010 even made voicing remarks insulting President Nursultan Nazarbayev – in whose honour the university was named – punishable by up to a year in prison.

Source: University World News

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Ubongo Kids: Ridiculously innovative African e-learning

Vincent Matinde, international IT Journalist summarizes, "We catch-up with the CEO of a Tanzania based ‘edu-taiment’ company making waves in east Africa."

Learning in Africa is experiencing a small but rapid change with the implementation of digital learning tools. Various African governments, including Kenya, are looking to boost education by adopting comprehensive e-learning channels.

Photo: IDG Connect

One company that is making waves in this sector is Ubongo, a Tanzania based ‘edu-taiment’ company aimed at primary schoolers which is currently extending its reach over east Africa.

Ubongo Kids, an animated children’s show and its flagship learning product is reported to be reaching over 1.2 million households through free-to-air and pay television across the region.

“We also have Ubongo Mobile, a mobile service that allows kids in Tanzania to interact with the TV series and keep learning even after the show is over. It works via SMS and interactive voice response, which means that it can be accessed from any phone, even the ‘dumbest’ phones which only do voice and text,” Nisha Ligon, the founder and CEO of Ubongo told IDG Connect.  

Kids are required to register using a short code and then they answer questions on what they have learnt during the programme. Each user gets one free question per day, but for 500 Tanzanian shillings (USD $0.23) they can receive unlimited access to quiz questions.

“It's also gamified so that each time a user gets five questions right, they receive a phone call from Mama Ndege [one of the characters in the show], with an encouraging message and a sing along song,” Ligon explains.

The great success of Ubongo Kids highlights the need for children’s entertainment across the continent. Yet the supply is almost nonexistent.

Source: IDG Connect

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Free eBook - Digital Marketing 101 - Key Tools for Engagement Marketing

Check out this e-book today on Digital marketing. 

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Digital marketing is fundamental to businesses’ success in today’s modern era of engagement marketing. 

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Why the tech world highly values a liberal arts degree by Cecilia Gaposchkin

"The point of liberal arts is not the teaching of a content. But rather, the teaching of Abelard’s basic instinct to question, to maximize the capacity of human intelligence, and push what we know and what do forward in order to make a new world." according to Valerie Strauss, Reporter — Washington, D.C and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
Photo: Cecilia Gaposchkin
Cecilia Gaposchkin is an associate professor of medieval history at Dartmouth College and assistant dean of faculty for pre-major advising, as well as a Public Voices Fellow. Gaposchkin wrote in an e-mail that people who work at at liberal arts institutions often do “a terrible job” educating their students about their value, and so, she has written this as a “historical explainer” about the purpose and value of a liberal arts education as well as why a degree from one of these schools has, perhaps counter-intuitively, become a hot ticket into the high-powered world of technology.

The Silicon Valley (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Students across the country are leaving home to begin college careers.  Those beginning at liberal arts colleges will almost inevitably misunderstand, or not understand, the function of a liberal arts education.  And those of us who work in higher education and understand innately the multi-leveled value of a liberal arts education must do a much better job of explaining it.

Last spring I taught a course on Medieval France that included a unit on the emergence of the university.  I spent a discussion period with my students reading through the prologue of Peter Abelard’s (d. 1142) Sic et Non.  For me, this is the document that gave birth to the purpose and importance of university education.

It defines what is, and how to teach, the critical inquiry within a scholarly context that led to the foundation of the University of Paris and ultimately the system of higher education based on liberal arts learning to which we are, mutatis mutandis, the inheritors.  It was a great class.  It was a great class in large part because it ended with the students having their “aha moment” about what exactly they were doing in college. It was what we call a “live question” – a historical issue that had direct relevance to their contemporary experience, giving meaning – giving understanding – to their college experience.  But this was itself alarming since they are attending one of the country’s premier liberal arts institutions.

A productive answer can start with just where the liberal arts came from in the first place. The “Liberal Arts” (artes liberales) go back to the ancient world, well before the rise of the university around 1200. They were the skills (artes) taught to free men (liberales) – that is, non-labourers or slaves.  They were what trained free men to be able to think independently, and thus be competent to participate in governance and society. In time, there were seven of them: grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The trivium (the first three) had to be mastered before undertaking the quadrivium (the next four), since a basic understanding of the laws of language and logic were necessary to take on knowledge (artes again) on which they were based.  Their teaching was based on canonical texts.  Cicero for rhetoric; Boethius for music, and so forth.  With the collapse of the Roman Empire and its institutional structures, learning in the West moved into the monasteries. But it remained rooted in the teaching of the seven liberal arts.  After the elementary skills of reading and writing, basic education was rooted in mastery of the canonical texts that defined the seven areas that made up the trivium and the quadrivium.

Source: Washington Post (blog)

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Cengage Learning Launches MindTap Mobile, A Student-Centric App for On-The-Go Learning

Cengage Learning launched the availability of the iOS and Android compatible MindTap Mobile app. Developed based on student feedback, MindTap Mobile allows students to access many features of Cengage Learning’s highly successful MindTap e-learning platform directly from their smartphones anytime, anywhere.


“MindTap Mobile offers the tools students tell us they want and need to be successful in the classroom, and delivers them in a way that seamlessly integrates into their lifestyle,” said Jim Donohue, Chief Product Officer at Cengage Learning.  “From day one, student feedback was the driving force behind the creation of this app.  We listened to the end user- the student- and created a platform that empowers them to take control of their education and learn in their own unique way.”...

Key Features of MindTap Mobile:
Course Notifications: Students can set due date reminders for all of their activities and assignments. They can also receive notifications when due dates change, scores are updated or when their instructor sends them a message. According to Cengage Learning research, messaging and notifications were reported to be valuable tools by 89% of students.

Flashcards: Each chapter in MindTap Mobile comes with pre-loaded flashcards. Students can also easily make additional flashcards of their own and access flashcards their instructor has shared with the class.
Practice Quizzes: Students are able to access pre-built quizzes or generate a self-quiz from any flashcard deck. The quizzing feature is designed to optimize even the smallest pockets of time allowing students to use free time for short but effective study sessions.

Recent efficacy studies conducted by independent research firms found that students using the MindTap digital learning solution achieved significantly higher grades across a number of disciplines.  MindTap Mobile encompasses features from the MindTap platform that most directly align with the needs of today’s students.  For example, student surveys showed that the ability to study course material in a gamified quiz was a highly valued feature and practice quizzing ranked the most popular study tool.
To learn more about MindTap and MindTap Mobile, please visit:
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About Cengage Learning

Cengage Learning is a leading educational content, technology, and services company for the higher education and K-12, professional and library markets worldwide. The company provides superior content, personalized services and course-driven digital solutions that accelerate student engagement and transform the learning experience. Cengage Learning is headquartered in Boston, MA with an office hub located in San Francisco, CA. Cengage Learning employees reside in nearly 40 different countries with company sales in more than 125 countries around the world.

Source: PR Newswire (press release) 

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Must-have smartphone apps this school year

"Life as a college student can be easier with the tap of a few University of Nebraska-Lincoln-related smartphone apps. We’ve listed some of the most useful, free apps for Huskers." summarizes

1. Nebraska
The official University of Nebraska-Lincoln app has almost everything a student needs for college. It includes a list of courses, informational videos about the university, a library catalog and a directory that shows contact information for faculty, staff and administrators.
But the app isn’t only focused on academics. Students can stay in the loop on what’s happening on campus and a news section that keeps students up-to-date on the most recent campus news.
There’s also a map, complete with GPS, that can help any lost freshman find his or her way to class. The “Athletics” tab has Husker schedules, scores and news for fans of all sports. The app also includes a page that allows students to share matters they feel need attention with the university, and an emergency button that shows the phone numbers of the UNL Police. Overall, it’s a great way to stay informed on campus.

2. Blackboard
The Blackboard Mobile Learning app does just about everything the website does. Students can check their classes’ Blackboard pages on the go, which allows them to check grades and announcements, post discussions and add content on blogs and journal posts. There are even some mobile-friendly tests students can take on the go.
One of its best features are the notifications. Students are alerted when tests are available or due, when there’s an announcement, when a course is available and when an assignment or test has been graded.

Source: Daily Nebraskan

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