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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Math-Modeling PD Takes Teachers Beyond the Common Core

Liana Heitin, assistant editor for Education Week summarizes, "A National Science Foundation-funded pilot introduces elementary teachers to advanced problem-solving."

Sera Lee, a 5th grade teacher at Freedom Hill Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., works on a problem during a small-group session at a math-modeling training at George Mason University. Experts say that introducing modeling to younger students can improve their critical-thinking and application skills in math.
Photo: Education Week

Many math teachers around the country have adjusted their expectations for students as a result of the Common Core State Standards. But a pilot professional-development program is going above and beyond the new benchmarks by teaching small groups of elementary teachers in three states to teach a math skill that's typically been reserved for high school and college students.

The three-year project, known as "Immersion" and funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, is focused on mathematical modeling.

Young children start using physical models in mathematics as soon as they can count. But mathematical modeling is something different and more complex: It's the process of taking an open-ended, multifaceted situation, often from life or the workplace, and using math to solve it.

"Sometimes making a mathematical argument helps you make decisions that seem too big or messy to understand," explains Rachel Levy, an associate professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., who is leading the Immersion project.

The idea is to get young students seeing how mathematics can be applied to everyday life—in essence, an extension of the common standards' push for critical thinking and application.

Here's an example: A group of students wants to buy pizza for a class party. The teacher asks them to consider the different ways they might select a pizza place (cost, taste, proximity to school, etc.), and to come up with a mathematical argument to justify which pizza place is the best. The students then create a method, or model, that other classes could use for deciding on a pizza place as well.

Unlike much of what students learn in math class, these big, messy problems tend to have multiple entry points and no single right answer.

"Traditionally, students are sort of told and shown everything they're supposed to learn—solve this kind of problem this way, and so on," said Martin Simon, a mathematics education professor at New York University, who is not involved with the NSF project. "But mathematical modeling is a very different kind of process. ... It's engaging students in the process of thinking about a situation and trying to find ways to mathematize that situation."

Because mathematical modeling requires higher-level thinking, decisionmaking, and synthesis of various skills, it's not generally taught to younger pupils. In fact, according to Simon, it hasn't historically been part of K-12 teaching at all...

Padmanabhan Seshaiyer and Jennifer Suh, both mathematics professors at George Mason, opened the session by asking the teachers to brainstorm the kinds of problems they've had to solve in their own lives recently. On poster paper, the teachers wrote queries such as:

Is it worth driving farther to get cheaper gas?

Should I fix up my house before I sell it? What rooms should I do?

We're driving to Atlanta with a 2-year-old and a beagle—when is the best time to leave?

The exercise served to get the teachers thinking about how often they encounter problems that might benefit from mathematical modeling. The participants then tried a problem together. They looked at a larger room in the building that had been split into two smaller classrooms, with a temporary wall and door connecting them. They worked on figuring out how the new configuration of the room would affect the amount of time it takes people to exit in the event of an emergency.

As they worked, Seshaiyer asked the teachers to identify their "assumptions and constraints," words typically used in engineering classes, referring to the factors they believe to be true and those that limit their solutions. For example, an assumption might be that the doors to the hallway could not be moved. The number of doors and their positions would be constraints.

One teacher suggested testing the problem with a prototype—putting marbles into a box designed like the room and tilting it to see how they exit with and without the extra wall.
Read more... 

Source: Education Week

Nine Ways to Improve Class Discussions by Maryellen Weimer, PhD

Photo: Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D.
Dr. Maryellen Weimer, professor emerita at Penn State Berks writes, I once heard class discussions described as “transient instructional events.” They pass through the class, the course, and the educational experiences of students with few lingering effects."
Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog

Ideas are batted around, often with forced participation; students don’t take notes; and then the discussion ends—it runs out of steam or the class runs out of time. If asked a few days later about the exchange, most students would be hard-pressed to remember anything beyond what they themselves might have said, if that. So this post offers some simple suggestions for increasing the impact of the discussions that occur in our courses.

The Teaching Professor Blog

1. Be more focused and for less time – It’s easy to forget that students are newcomers to academic discourse. Academics can go on about a topic of interest for days; hours, if it’s a department meeting. Students aren’t used to exchanges that include points, counterpoints, and connections to previous points with references to research, related resources, and previous experience. Early on, students do better with short discussions—focused and specific. Think 10 minutes, maybe 15.
2. Use better hooks to launch the discussion – Usually discussion starts with a question. That works if it’s a powerful question—one immediately recognized as a “good question.” Prompts of that caliber require thoughtful preparation; they don’t usually pop into our minds the moment we need them. But questions aren’t the only option. A pithy quotation, a short scenario that requires content application, a hypothetical case or situation, a synopsis of a relevant current event—all of these can jump-start a discussion.
3. Pause – Stop the discussion and ask students to think about what’s been said so far, or ask them to write down what struck them as a key idea, a new insight, a question still unanswered, or maybe where they think the discussion should go next. Think short pauses, 30 seconds, maybe a minute. 

Source: Faculty Focus

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Connected learners: 10 trends to watch by Rosebank College

In this information age, where 24-hour connectivity is as much a part of our modern lives as wearing shoes, one key aspect of society struggling to keep up with these changes is education institutions.

Schools and tertiary institutions, and the learning therein, have remained largely unchanged since the 19th century. Pupils still sit in rows of desks, reading words on a board at the front of the class, words put there by a well-educated adult, sometimes several years ago. But how many of us went to work this morning wearing top hats or leopard skin – or riding a horse and cart for that matter?

With the dawn of the mobile phone, digital information and wireless connectivity, society is changing faster than it possibly ever has. Indeed, a staggering 90% of the data in the world today was created in the last two years alone (according to IBM).

Schools have the responsibility to educate the next generation and to prepare that generation with the skills and knowledge required for learning, life and work. But society now moves at such a fast pace that the jobs which will one day be filled by our current students have not yet been invented. It is imperative then, that schools provide students with the ability to learn for themselves, to adapt to new technologies and systems, and to create their own strategies for coping.

"Being online comes naturally to most of our students these days, but they tend to see their time online as 'social' rather than 'useful'. Why not tap into that space? Connected learners of the future will use every day Web tools and social media platforms to enhance learning and teaching. Mobile phones will become a medium of instruction and learning will be localised as well as globalised," according to Delvin Munsamy, Digital Marketing Manager at Rosebank College. Let us explore the top 10 trends to watch out for that will become a reality for connected learners of the future.

Mobile-based courses
Mobile technology is a growing and powerful trend. As an indication, Africa is dubbed the mobile continent and researchers predict that internet use on mobile phones will increase 20 fold on the continent in the next five years –double the ratio of growth in the rest of the world. With this said mobiles will be used in the same way as computers to house and disseminate learning material for students of the future.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online (Press Release)

Ladies Learning Code Crowdfunding 'Mobile Coding Lab'

Ladies Learning Code's latest initiative is the "code:mobile."  

Photo: Indiegogo

The code:mobile is a travelling computer lab on wheels, which will drive across Canada in the summer of 2016 to inspire and empower Canadian kids to become passionate builders of technology.

The code:mobile - Canada's First Coding Truck

The code:mobile will bring hands-on, interactive technology education to an estimated 10,000 kids from May to September 2016, travelling approximately 35,000km coast to coast.

Ladies Learning Code is crowdfunding on Indiegogo to support the initiative.

Photo: Laura Plant
The code:mobile is our big bold move to inspire the next generation of technologists,” said Laura Plant, Ladies Learning Code’s Co-Executive Director. “Since its inception in 2011, Ladies Learning Code has held over 600 workshops and events and reached over 24,000 learners across the country and we keep wanting to push that impact. In May, we announced a goal to teach 200,000 Canadian women and youth to code by 2020 and the code:mobile will help us make a big dent in our goal.” 

Source: Techvibes

High-tech learning: Schools launch STEM training by Melonie McLaurin

Melonie McLaurin inform, "Richmond County Schools’ middle through high school math teachers gathered at the Cole Auditorium Monday for their first look at Discovery Education’s new Math Techbook."
Melonie McLaurin | Daily Journal Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman, curriculum specialist Kelly DeLong and Discovery Education’s Anna Strassner discuss the future of Richmond County Schools technology and math during the Golden Leaf Foundation-sponsored STEM kickoff Monday morning. Photo: Richmond County Daily Journal

Upper-grade students could begin using the software by the first of the year. Discovery Education bills it as a “breakthrough digital textbook that will change the way North Carolina students and teachers experience math.”

Made possible by the support of the Golden Leaf Foundation, the day of professional development began with a catered breakfast from Panera Bread as teachers gathered around tables in the conference room, setting up their electronic devices and connecting to the Internet and greeting each other.

Linzy Hull of Rockingham Middle School shared a few of her thoughts about the training as she signed-in before entering the conference room. Hull is a second-year teacher from Pennsylvania.

“I expect, well, we’re learning about Discovery Education here and it’s a tool to help kids learn,” Hull said. “They have access to videos and other forms that they can see material in other than just the teachers standing at the front of the class and the students just taking down notes. This is a technology-based system, which they love, so I’m expecting to learn how to use it effectively and actually be able to implement it in my class more than just once a semester. I want to use this to help my instruction weekly if possible, but if not, monthly.”

Keynote speaker Hall Davidson of Discovery Education offered a layman’s explanation of the concept as he arranged his notes at the podium.

“We’re here for the math part of STEM today,” Davidson said. “We’re going to be using the Math Techbook, which is all digital, so it runs on machines and in the Cloud. You can do your homework from your phone, from any device. It’s a real transformation and the data is really clear that it’s better for students and better for teaching.
“Taking a day like this is important because it’s not magic. You can’t just go ‘poof!’ and have them (the teachers) know, so we’re going to teach them how to use it. None of this stuff is obvious, so this is a day about investing in people. You can never go wrong when you invest in people. So that’s what this day is about.”

Discovery Education Math Techbook


Source: Richmond County Daily Journal and Discovery Education Channel (YouTube)

How to Kick Off Blended Learning (Hint: It’s Not Just About Tech)

Elena Sanina, Freddy Esparza, Mark Montero
"“Quantity of devices and well-developed adaptive software is the key to a successful blended learning implementation,” said no one ever!" summarizes Elena Sanina, Freddy Esparza and Mark Montero.

Photo: EdSurge

What is key? Teacher appetite and readiness to rethink what is possible.

Over the last four years, Aspire Public Schools has rolled out blended learning classrooms in 23 of its 38 schools in California and Tennessee. Along the way, we've learned some hard lessons about converting whole schools to station rotation blended learning models in short periods of time.

Not all teachers are ready to launch blended learning in their classrooms. That doesn’t mean they won’t be; it just means that schools have to individualize the approach to integrating technology. If you believe in differentiated instruction for students, you should also assume that as professionals, teachers deserve the space and flexibility to rollout out new initiatives at their own pace.

Certainly, the choice of devices and their deployment should be thoughtfully vetted; but technology and personalized learning models need to support great teaching, not undermine it. So we’ve adopted an approach that allows teachers to develop strong class culture and tight management prior to adding technology.

Always “launch” WITHOUT technology It's important to front load procedures, expectations, and mindsets before bringing in the tech; this will lay the groundwork for student success when blended rotations start. Every teacher will have a different pace for building relationships, developing culture, and managing the classroom; that’s perfectly fine–the process should not be rushed!

In K - 5 schools, Aspire uses 21 lessons to help set up these procedures and expectations. These lessons aren’t a science and not all lessons are relevant to all classrooms, but they offer a general framework for launching a successful K - 5 station rotation model. Launching technology practices with great attention to detail levels the playing field for students that may not use technology at home.

The lessons are:

As students use computers to work through challenging lessons, their experiences help them develop grit, optimism, and perseverance. Understanding these concepts helps them go through a series of questions that encourage personal reflection such as, “How am I doing on my blended learning programs? Why? What am I doing well? What can I do to improve?” This Blended Learning Peer Data Reflection goes hand in hand with developing a growth mindset.
Read more... 

Source: EdSurge

What Brewing Coffee Can Teach Us About Modeling Anesthesia

Michael Greshko, science writer based in Washington, DC. reports, "Mathematics that can describe coffeepots, forest fires and flu outbreaks may also underpin the brain’s response to anesthesia, a new study suggests."

Photo: Science 2.0

The mathematical model of the brain, published in Physical Review Letters, marks the latest attempt to simulate the surprisingly complicated effects of general anesthetics across the brain. Despite modern medicine’s 160-year use of ether, laughing gas and propofol in surgery, researchers still don’t know how exactly they tamp down the back-and-forth between the thalamus – the brain’s hub for sensory information – and the cortex, the wrinkly outer layer and seat of consciousness.

“It’s a medical wonder that we really don’t know the molecular mechanism,” said Yan Xu, the vice chairman for basic sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania, and the senior author of the study.

Researchers can track the amount of activity in the cortex by measuring brain waves, the rhythmic electrical crackles in the brain’s outermost nerve cells. A dose of anesthetics caused brain waves to predictably drop off, as activity unsurprisingly ebbs. But how do anesthetics — which act on individual nerves — slow down brain waves as a whole?

This isn’t an easy question. It’s a bit like asking how millions of leaderless ants coalesce and build an anthill. So researchers tried mathematically modeling these patterns in an effort to understand what might be going on.  Xu, his student David Zhou and their collaborators started by building a mathematically generic “brain” with a branch of mathematics called percolation theory, which can be used to model everything from sponges’ porosity to flu outbreaks.
Read more... 

Additional resources
The researchers' model. Layers of mathematically abstract "nerves" were linked together to mirror the structures of the thalamus and cortex. (Yan Xu and David Mowrey | American Physical Society) -

Source: Science 2.0

Monday, September 28, 2015

Teaching with LinkedIn by Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger

Photo:  Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger
"LinkedIn is a global social media service designed for professional networking with business colleagues or future prospects." according to Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger, BellaOnline's Distance Learning Editor.

Think of LinkedIn as a progressive method of discussing your work background and exchanging business cards, minus the actual cards. LinkedIn contains similar features to other social media sites, such as profile capability, security settings, application platform, and the ability to join groups. However, in addition to networking, LinkedIn produces superb search engine optimization results via Google so you can be easily found. This is important because job recruiters repeatedly use LinkedIn. You can advertise your talents or education within a particular field, or if you’re planning on changing your career path, you can begin networking early to broaden your chances of landing your dream job...

Universities use learning tools to measure students’ learning success, and large corporations can also accomplish the same success with internal social media tools. In addition to creating a LinkedIn profile, during your classroom exercise, have students work together as a group via LinkedIn to collaborate on concepts that would benefit an organization if a social networking tool such as LinkedIn existed within their fictitious company. How could social media tools such as LinkedIn benefit corporate collaboration and learning, and what would be the measurable areas to validate the benefits? This is just one idea, but similar ideas could be developed to align with the course’s learning objectives. Either way, LinkedIn is a great tool to use to provide students with a taste of how the real world networks and shares knowledge.

Source: BellaOnline

MOOCs program continues to expand

"Since the UT System move began enrollment for massive open online courses in 2013, also known as MOOCs, the program has expanded to reach a wide audience of students." continues UT The Daily Texan.

Photo: UT The Daily Texan

MOOCs are free online courses and are open to anyone who wants to enroll. Currently, the System has 24 MOOCs across four campuses. At UT-Austin, there are 19 courses with over 493,000 students. This nearly doubled the approximate 281,000 students who enrolled between fall 2013 and spring 2014.

“MOOCs were viewed as a way to project the UT presence globally, accelerate the development of new technology on campuses and showcase our leading faculty,” Steven Mintz, executive director of the UT System’s Institute for Transformational Learning, said. “Since 2013 when the first MOOCs appeared, more than 585,000 students registered in mid August. They have gone up since then so we are probably looking at 600,000 or more.”

As part of this expansion, Mintz said the UT campuses are experimenting with different ways of delivering these courses across the world. Currently UT has a sublicensing agreement with a foundation in Jordan to translate the UT-Austin MOOCs into Arabic, and the University works with universities in China to translate courses into Mandarin.  

Harrison Keller, deputy to the president for strategy and policy, said UT is continuing to address the design of the courses.

“When we started putting courses up on the edX platform, we really didn’t have any idea who might take these courses,” Keller said. “We’ve learned a lot from the data from the part about the learner participation in these courses. We are starting to look within courses about presentations or designs of online learning in general.”

Germanic studies professor John Hoberman, who taught the “Age of Globalization” in 2013 and 2014, said he recalled a lot of people participating in his course from the United States, India, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

Teaching a large group of people, Hoberman said the work they completed showed MOOCs are just another way to educate people.

Source: UT The Daily Texan

4 ways MOOCs are changing professional development

Follow on Twitter as @MyShar0na
Sharon Florentine, staff writer for, covering IT careers and data center topics writes, "Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offer a powerful platform for enterprise training, education and development – at big cost savings and with greater efficiency."

Photo: CIO

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer an incredible value for enterprises looking to increase skills and knowledge within their workforce. What began in the realm of academia has evolved into a powerful platform for enterprise training, continuing education and professional development.

The IT industry evolves at a break-neck pace, and organizations that aren't committed to ongoing learning and education are at a distinct competitive disadvantage. But spending thousands -- even millions - to send IT workers to lengthy training classes or even back to college for additional degrees just isn't cost-effective or practical.

"MOOCs and online learning are addressing three of the biggest obstacles to learning in the enterprise: the cost, inevitable technology obsolescence and accessibility," says Ryan Corey, co-founder of online enterprise learning platform Cybrary.

Inside the cost of training
The cost of sending an employee or employees to complete training is one of the biggest prohibitive factors to continuing education in the workplace. N2Grate, a technology solutions provider for the U.S. government with a staff of about 30, was spending approximately $2,500 per employee for a week of training, plus travel expenses, averaging $7,000-$10,000 per year per employee, before finding Cybrary, Corey says...

Technology obsolescence 
MOOCs are also better equipped to provide bleeding-edge technology topics and training than traditional approaches, which are often based on outdated curriculum.
"For the money, it's so impractical for enterprises to pay for a class now knowing with absolute certainty that 12 months from now the technology will be completely different," Corey says.

Source: CIO

Why Policies Fail to Promote Better Learning Decisions by Lolita Paff, PhD

Photo:Dr. Lolita A Paff

Lolita Paff, associate professor of business and economics at Penn State Berks and is chair of the 2016 Teaching Professor Conference reports, "Policies are necessary. They serve as a warning to students: this is what will happen if you are absent, miss an exam, turn work in late, text or surf the Web during class, and the like. Most institutions recommend teachers spell out consequences in their syllabi. Some schools employ institution-wide policies for certain behaviors like academic dishonesty. If policies are supposed to prevent these unproductive behaviors, why do students still engage in them? Are there reasons why policies don’t work?"
Photo: Faculty Focus

Policies don’t teach students why these behaviors hurt their effort to learn.  
Despite extensive evidence to the contrary, many students believe their learning is unaffected by technology distractions. “No screens” policies are aimed, at least in part, to minimize distractions that hurt learning (their own and peers’). But policies aren’t nearly as powerful as an activity that demonstrates the effects of distraction.
Split the class into two groups. One is allowed to text; the other turns phones off. After the lecture, students complete a short quiz. Ellis, Daniels, and Jauregui (2010) report students in the phones off group score significantly higher. Differences in points or scores will grab students’ attention and are more likely to get them thinking about their mobile technology use in and out of class than a “no screens” policy.

Policies tend to be reactive, not proactive. 
A student engages in a behavior that isn’t addressed in the syllabus. A common reaction is to add a new policy or rewrite the existing one for the following term. The syllabus grows by a few lines. But the new policy assumes future students will behave the same way. Different students may behave in different ways, again, not covered in the policy. And the student whose negative learning behavior precipitated the new policy may not be in future courses. Has the new policy accomplished anything for that student?
Sometimes these behaviors are one-offs. No policy fix is necessary. Generally, a “new” negative learning behavior would be more effectively addressed if the teacher talked with the student individually or thought about what may have caused the behavior, and then identified strategies to prevent it. Adding or editing policies is a quick fix, but not one that advances student learning.

Policies that attempt to cover every possible scenario encourage loophole finding. 
(Think IRS tax code.) The focus is on grades, lost points, and consequences, instead of on learning and the learner. Highly punitive policies may encourage fraudulent excuse-making. Meanwhile, inflexible policies often have an implied message that’s probably unintentional: “I don’t care what is going on in your life. This is the rule. Deal with it.”
Read more... 

Source: Faculty Focus

Book Review: Mathematics of the Transcendental

Photo: Andrej Bauer
Take a closer look at this book review by Andrej Bauer.

The book is an essential aid to understanding the mathematical and logical basis of his theory of appearing as elaborated in Logics of Worlds and other works and is essential reading for his many followers.

Andrej Bauer writes, "When a Notices editor asked me to review Badiou’s book  [2]  I  objected  on  the  grounds  that  I  am no  philosopher,  which  only  strengthened  her determination.  Here  then  is  a  mathematician’s review of a philosopher’s mathematics book."

Mathematics of the Transcendental
Alain Badiou (born 1937) is a prominent French philosopher whose work may be placed somewhere between the continental and analytic traditions, although closer to the former. He has been active outside philosophy, in literature and especially in
politics as a proponent of the radical left. Out of his philosophical considerations of “the multiple” came  the  idea  that  set  theory  was  “the  pure doctrine of the multiple” and that mathematics was ontology.


Related link 
Andrej Bauer (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Source: American Mathematical Society

Is there a ‘special sauce’ for university innovation?

"Cornell University is partnering with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology on its new technology-oriented Cornell Tech campus in New York City." summarizes Philip G Altbach, research professor and founding director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, USA and Jamil Salmi, he was the coordinator of the World Bank’s tertiary education programmes and he is currently a global tertiary education expert and emeritus professor at Diego Portales University in Chile.

According to a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the reason is largely because Cornell wants to take advantage of Technion’s innovative and entrepreneurial ethos and not any particular organisational innovation at the Technion, which is similar to many top-ranked research and innovation focused universities worldwide. 

Photo: University World News

According to the Technion professor leading the New York venture, the institution’s focus is less on creating “spin-out companies" and more on developing “spin-out people”. While the Technion has been highly successful in producing innovative graduates in Israel – 42% of its graduates set up their own company – it is not certain this will be duplicated in New York.

Rarely does academic culture or particular kinds of innovations transfer easily from one institutional culture to another.

Lessons from MIT or elsewhere?
The example of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, might be illustrative. Without question, MIT produces some of the brightest and most innovative graduates in the world. Further, the university seems to have a unique culture that spawns an entrepreneurial spirit and new ideas. MIT hires some of the smartest and most innovative professors from around the globe and works to ensure that they will fit the institute’s ethos as well.

It provides an environment that facilitates the process of translating ideas developed on campus into products and innovations with useful application in the 'real world'. Additionally, the institution offers support for faculty and students who want to operationalise their ideas.

For these and other reasons, MIT has been asked to help universities in other countries to develop 'mini-MITs' – providing the ‘special sauce’ that will turn a highly resourced institution into an innovative and entrepreneurial world-class one. MIT has engaged in a range of collaborative programmes, in some cases helping to establishing new universities, and in others providing significant input to improve existing ones.

Institutions MIT has helped create include the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow, the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi and the Singapore University of Technology and Design. The MIT Portugal project helped build scientific and technological systems, and the Cambridge-MIT Institute has for several decades collaborated with Cambridge University in the UK on a variety of programmes.

While full-scale analyses of these programmes have not been published, it is probably fair to say that all of them have faced challenges and none has in significant ways achieved that ‘special sauce’ – the top secret recipe – that makes MIT so outstanding.

All of these initiatives have been lavishly funded by the partner institutions themselves or deep-pocketed benefactors, resulting in considerable income for MIT. All show the difficulty of transferring an academic culture from one institution to another, something that is even more complicated in a different national context.

MIT and the Technion are not the only prototypes available to the planners at Cornell Tech. It is also possible to look at other highly successful university models directed at generating innovation. Stanford University has been tremendously successful in spawning start-up companies and graduating individuals who have made impressive contributions to IT and related industries in Silicon Valley, where it is located.

ETH Zurich is also well known for its excellence in technological education as well as its links and contributions to industry and technology. Both are quite different from MIT. While the number of universities that combine outstanding quality with contributions to industry is fairly small, there are many examples of different models that work.
Read more... 

Source: University World News

The battle for engaged research by The Open University

The Open University demonstrated its commitment to excellent research in July (2015) when it announced renewed investment in three new priority areas – Space Science, International Development and Citizenship and Governance – plus a continued investment in Technology Enhanced Learning.

Download a copy of An Open Research University

Professor Richard Holliman writes in the preface, "This is the final report of The Open University’s RCUK-funded Public Engagement with Research Catalyst, ‘An open research university’ (EP/J020087/1). The project ran over three years (2012-2015) and involved academic staff andprofessional services from across the large, complex organisation that is The Open University.

Follow on Twitter as @science_engage
Photo: Richard Holliman 
The report has been written by a number of key contributors to the project. The different voices of these authors represent some of the diversity in how engaged research is being conceptualised in different academic domains at The Open University.

Running in parallel with the growth of OU research, there has been an initiative to make OU research more engaged. This was made possible by the OU receiving funding from Research Councils UK to become one of eight Public Engagement with Research Catalyst universities.

The three year project, which has just ended, embedded engaged research within the OU’s strategic planning for research in a way which encouraged researchers to engage more with their publics, measure this engagement, and to benefit from reward and recognition schemes for their efforts.

Spotlight on school-university engagement with research 

In the conclusion to the final project report, Professor Richard Holliman, who led The Open University’s Public Engagement with Research Catalyst Team, argues that there is still a battle to be won for open and engaged research. For a culture of engaged research to be sustainable in the medium to long-term requires ongoing recognition and acceptance of its progressive value(s) by researchers, universities, funders and ultimately, policy-makers.
Download a copy of An Open Research University.

Source: The Open University and Richard Holliman Channel (YouTube)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Philosopher of the month: Hannah Arendt

The OUP Philosophy team have selected Hannah Arendt (4 October 1906-4 December 1975) as their September Philosopher of the Month.

Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from necessity.
Source: Wikiquote

Born into a Jewish German family, Arendt was widely known for her contributions to the field of political theory, writing on the nature of totalitarian states, as well as the resulting byproducts of violence and revolution. Some of her most famous works include; The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), Eichmann in Jerusalem (1965), On Revolution (1963), and On Violence (1970).

Arendt grew up in Königsberg, a city in the Kingdom of Prussia (modern day Kaliningrad, Russia), also the birthplace of philosopher Immanuel Kant. She obtained her doctorate in 1929 from the University of Heidelberg, studying under Karl Jaspers and Edmund Husserl. Due to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the German economy in the wake of World War I, Arendt fled Germany a few years after completing her degree and moved to Paris, France. There she devoted much of her life to working with Zionist organizations, serving as an agent of change and working to fight religious oppression.

You can discover other philosophers via the Philosopher of the Month resource hub. 
Read more... 

Related links
Hannah Arendt  Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Hannah Arendt: Books, Biography, Blog ...

Source: OUPblog (blog) 

What to ask on a university open day

Photo: Liz Lightfoot
"Don’t hold back – grill staff on the details of the course you’re interested in and find out more about future job prospects" summarizes Liz Lightfoot, freelance education correspondent writing for a range of national and specialist publications
Choosing the right course and university is an important decision, so it pays to ask the right questions. 

Quiz staff about your course
The course should be top of your list of things to explore on university open days and a little preparation can make a big difference.

But according to Kevin Betts, acting head of undergraduate recruitment at the University of Sussex, most applicants ask questions about things that are already covered in the provided information available.

So don’t waste time – get in there with a killer question. It’s your chance to interrogate staff and students, and find out exactly what you will be doing for the next three or four years.

Check which modules are compulsory and the options offered for each year of the course because they can change after prospectuses are published. Are there opportunities to study abroad and, if so, will it count towards your degree? How many taught hours will you have? And how are marks split between assignments and exams?

Betts says he has noticed a general lack of preparation by students, which means they do not get the best out of the day. “When it comes to courses,” he says, “90% of the questions asked are whether we do a particular subject and what exactly is on offer – information that is already on our website and in the prospectus. However, some students arrive brilliantly prepared and really interrogate the staff – we enjoy that.

“So try something more searching, such as: ‘All universities offer psychology – so why should I choose Sussex?’ Or: ‘I’m thinking of applying to Bristol and they do x or y – how does that compare?’ We won’t hold it against you, far from it. It shows that you are a serious candidate.”

Once you start to delve you may be surprised at the big differences between subjects with the same name at different universities. Logic and scientific inquiry are central to philosophy courses at the London School of Economics, for example, whereas Durham is known for metaphysics – exploring the nature of being – and linguistics... 

Find out more about your future job prospects 
Studying for a degree is a huge commitment of time and money so knowing what it can offer you in the long term is important. Open days provide a chance to delve behind the university’s published graduate employment figures and find out what leavers on your course go on to do.

Universities know a lot more about the destination of their graduates than they are required to submit to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. While this information only covers the employment of leavers six months after graduation, most universities do longitudinal surveys tracking graduates for three years, says Shaun Harris, acting director of careers at the London School of Economics...

Quick questions to ask on your university tour
  • Are the core and optional modules still as published?
  • Is there a reading list or any past exam papers that could help us understand more about the course?
  • How many taught hours a week do we get?
  • What is the split between teaching hours and self-directed study?
  • How big are the seminars/tutorial groups?
  • How are the marks split between assignments and exams?
  • If we are stuck with an assignment, who can we go
    to for help?
  • How much use is made of information technology in teaching and learning?
  • Lots of universities offer the subject, so why should we
    choose you?
  • How does the subject at your university compare with the way it is taught at others?
  • What are the department’s specialist research areas?
  • Is the course accredited by a professional body?
  • What links does the department have with employers?
  • Do you build employability skills into the syllabus?
  • Are there opportunities for work experience and placements?
  • Do you help find the placements and are they paid?
  • Is study abroad an option and would it count towards the degree?
  • What kind of jobs do your graduates go into?
Source: The Guardian

Philosophy made fun

Ben Steelman, currently works as a features writer, book and movie reviewer and contributor writes, "Wilmington author turns to fiction"
Follow on Twitter as @TomVMorris

"Wilmington-based philosopher Tom V. Morris has spent decades laboring to make philosophy accessible, and even useful, to the average person, in best-selling volumes such as "If Aristotle Ran General Motors," "If Harry Potter Ran General Electric" and, yes, "Philosophy for Dummies.""

What wisdom can equip us best for the journey of life? 
The Oasis Within: A Journey of Preparation

In "The Oasis Within," Morris turns to fiction, but he doesn't stray far from its roots. At its heart, his novel is a philosophical dialogue -- a recognizable descendant of similar works by Plato, Jean-Jacques Rousseau ("Emile") and George Santayana ("The Last Puritan").

In 1934, a caravan is crossing the Egyptian desert, bound for Cairo. One of the travelers is Ali, by all appearances a veteran trader from a small village.

Joining him is his nephew Walid, a bright and eager boy, perhaps 12 years old. (He's too cheerful and talkative to be a teenager -- at least, an American teenager.)

Along the way, around the campfire or at slow points on the trail, Ali tries to tutor the boy on the skills he'll need in life -- not just things like watching for grooves in the sand to beware of vipers or crouching low by your camel, mouth covered, to ride out a sudden sandstorm.

Instead, he talks about how to keep a perspective on one's problems, how to maintain an emotional and intellectual balance, how to expect change and how to cope with it, how to set goals, then build toward them.

Among the first skills Ali teaches is how to find an oasis within oneself: a calm place, where one can think and find rest and solace in the hard times of life.

Related links
Thomas V. Morris - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Visit Tom's New Site and Blog:


Those college rankings crush liberal arts education

Photo: Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D.
"For college educators, September now has been shaped by the thunderclaps of rankings, each with its own data, fanfare and false hierarchies." according to Daniel R. Porterfield, president of Franklin & Marshall College. The English scholar previously worked as senior vice president for strategic development at his alma mater, Georgetown University.

For those who believe that liberal arts education forms young adults and fosters freedom — endeavors that are impossible to quantify and rank — it's tempting to curse the skies, Twain-like, about the rise of “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

But we're better off lamenting less and building a better case for the value of liberal arts education for the world we live in now. And this month we have an ideal invitation to do so with the release of the Obama administration's much-anticipated College Scorecard.

This new online instrument allows users to compare institutions based on price, debt, completion rate and average salary of graduates, regardless of major, 10 years after finishing their degrees.

For families exploring financial aid options, it provides helpful information. But as a tool for learning about the value of college, it has two limitations.

It oversimplifies and over-emphasizes salary data that might not be predictive of future earnings and, more problematic, it fails to bring into view many beneficial aspects of the college experience, especially the value of rigorous liberal arts learning.

For example, the scorecard doesn't quantify whether students can take a broad range of core courses (taught by permanent faculty) in subjects like history, math, science, literature, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, government, languages or religion.

Nor does it measure student opportunities to work individually with faculty, improve their writing skills, do independent research or solve intellectual problems with peers of diverse backgrounds...

If we don't teach our children and youth to value America's freedoms, history, literature, culture, political philosophy, pluralism and regional differences, we'll be eroding from within all that we've built at the precise moment that we're being attacked from outside.