Archive for April, 2011

On the Death of the Book

April 30, 2011

At least that’s the current story people are telling. But Ben Ehrenreich puts it in a broader context. He obviously loves the book (more than I, if you can imagine such a thing!):

I adore few humans more than I love books.  I make no promises, but I do not expect to purchase a Kindle or a Nook or any of their offspring.  I hope to keep bringing home bound paper books until my shelves snap from their weight, until there is no room in my apartment for a bed or a couch or another human being, until the floorboards collapse and my eyes blur to dim.

I own a Nook (recently acquired, to be sure), read books on my Ipod Touch and PC Kindle readers from time to time, am converting elements of my theological library (reference things, primarily) to electronic format, and have even read some general html and PDF formatted books from time to time. Despite all that, there is something wonderful about the book – that tactile and sensate relationship one can have with them. And they fill my house, though perhaps not quite as much as Ehrenreich describes. At the same time, I think he is right to expect a more complicated future, and wishing for the good old days will not make them return (a lesson for us in so many areas of life). This paragraph captures the thought nicely:

Instead we shuttle between two equally hollow poles: goofball digital boosterism a la Negroponte on one side and on the other a helpless, anguished nostalgia for the good old days of papercuts.  Call it bibilionecrophilia: the retreat of the print-faithful into a sort of autistic fetishization of the book-as-object—as if Jeff Bezos could be convinced to lay e-profits aside by recalling for a moment the soft, woody aroma of a yellow-paged Grove Press paperback; as if there were nothing more to books than paper, ink, and glue.

Worth a read and reflection.

H/t Karin Bergsagel at the Bookthink blog.

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In the Basement of the Ivory Tower

April 30, 2011

The New York Times’ review of In the Basement of the Ivory Tower by Caleb Crain notes some of the challenging issues raised by this adjunct’s experience. The author of the book (Professor X) had introduced himself with an essay in the Atlantic:

Although the courses he taught were introductory, success was beyond many of his students, who, he wrote, were “in some cases barely literate.” X found giving F’s to be excruciating – “I am the man who has to lower the hammer,” he lamented – in part because he identified with his older students, who seemed to have lost their way in their careers much as X himself had.

Professor X describes the dismal academic results, and it becomes clear that he is skeptical about the effectiveness of remediation (though his courses were not supposed to be remedial, a lament shared by many teachers of non-remedial courses). Of course, this academic malaise is connected to a broader set of issues, especially how individuals like Professor X who understand the dire state of the academic enterprise are largely shut out of the academic decision making process. On the state of adjuncts as a whole, Crain observes:

To teach a rising tide of students, colleges have increasingly turned to adjuncts, holders of advanced degrees who are lured in by the prestige of college teaching, hired on a piecework basis, paid low wages and shut out of academic decision-making. They’re cheaper, they don’t expect offices of their own and it’s easy to get rid of them if enrollment drops. Outsiders and students often don’t know the difference between adjuncts and ­tenure-track professors, but the adjuncts and the professors sure do.

At the very least, this kind of book should be read and reflected upon as we consider the mission of education and how we shape (and market) our programs.

P.S. If you want the original article, here’s the link to The Atlantic.

On Politics and Television Preferences

April 30, 2011

I’m not at all sure what this means, but it’s an interesting bit of data. I don’t detect any particular partisan preferences among the shows I watch, for what it’s worth.

The Real LMS Failure

April 29, 2011

Hint: it’s not picking the wrong LMS platform. Instead, it is failure to answer this question: “how well we are utilizing the LMS to improve, support and facilitate authentic student learning.”  The concluding paragraph makes the point more explicit:

In evaluating the LMS choices, however, be sure to remember that the choice of the correct learning management system is a necessary but nowhere near sufficient investment when it comes to learning. In fact, the choice the LMS may be one of the least most important decisions, as even the best learning management systems are little more than content bulletin boards if not paired with robust investments in learning professionals, faculty training, and course development resources.

Motivation and IQ

April 28, 2011

An interesting discussion of the role motivation plays IQ test results, and in their predictive power. It doesn’t mean they don’t function, but remind us that it’s not simply about raw intelligence.

More on that $10,000 College Degree

April 28, 2011

It’s looking like it might happen (or at least something close to it). The threat to elements of the existing educational bureaucracy is obvious.

Kindles, the E-book, and the Threat/Opportunity Potential for Higher Ed

April 28, 2011

I think I neglected earlier to comment on this discussion of the potential impact of the ebook revolution on higher ed. Positives include new kinds of library holdings, more accessibility, and cheaper textbooks. Challenges include figuring out what to do with (and how to get students to engage with) traditional library holdings, figuring out how this new model will work, and distraction from the mission of scholarship and education.

Academic Security

April 28, 2011

One of the benefits of working in higher education is that the turnover is low. In fact, the author says “you have to screw up pretty bad[ly] to get fired from Greenback.” Of course there are reasons for that reality:

…working at Greenback is a lot like working for any large, bureaucratic organization. At sales-driven companies, folks get fired. At engineering-driven companies, folks get fired. At product-driven companies, folks get fired. But at bureaucratic companies, you have to screw up pretty badly to get fired. Don’t screw up (or don’t screw up badly), and you should be safe. Of course, the surest way not to screw up badly is to do as little as possible, and absolutely nothing that’s really important.

On the flip side, this really doesn’t work out too well for the bureaucratic organization, eventually.

Campus Leadership

April 28, 2011

Some interesting thoughts on campus leadership, especially geared to presidents who don’t get (or sometimes welcome) good advice. The closing paragraph:

Presidents need to select people who will provide their honest reactions, perspectives, and ideas. They also need to visibly support those who tell it like it is. No president can have all the brilliant ideas; this simply is not possible given the complexity and challenges we face in our institutions of higher education. We need multiple perspectives, intelligent debate, and robust discussions if we are to achieve excellence.

The New Library

April 28, 2011

The University of Denver is moving 80% of its collection offsite. Previous plans to do this with about 20% of the collection hadn’t created much of a stir, but this surprise change has. There is some wisdom in doing this, but the loss of serendipity is something I would feel acutely – even if it isn’t that important to most students.