Worth a glance #24

by reestheskin on 17/10/2015

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For-Profit Colleges Accused of Fraud Still Receive U.S. Funds. “Consider the Education Management Corporation, which runs 110 schools in the United States for chefs, artists and other trades. It has been investigated or sued in recent years by prosecutors in at least 12 states. The Justice Department has accused the company of illegally using incentives to pay its recruiters. And last year, investors filed a class-action lawsuit, contending that the company engaged in deceptive enrollment practices and manipulated federal student loan and grant programs.” All a matter of degree.

Universities are infected with business speak — profit units, business units, line-managers, and all sorts of other verbiage (world class, cutting edge, ‘experience’). In part this reflects a confusion about what universities are for, and how not all successful institutions need to ape the latest corporate fads. Here is a nice example of how to write — and rewrite corporate memos.

The roadmap is also a plan to change how we work, and what we need to do that work. Product and Engineering are going to make the most significant structural changes to reflect our plan ahead bear the bruntWe feel strongly that Engineering will move much faster with a smaller and nimbler team We’ve got way too many engineers while remaining the biggest percentage of our workforce. And the rest of the organization will be streamlined in parallel and once we’ve cut that group we’ll have too many of everybody else.

Teacher spurns $11m offer in Hong Kong tutor wars. My take is that teachers matter — what happens in the classroom is central to how much students learn. This is not just about ‘experience’, or the curriculum or the student facilities. Economists have tried to model the value of a good versus bad teacher in terms of future earnings. The figures are very, very large: good teachers are massively undervalued. The problem is to work out how to identify and reward good teachers — and I do not know a robust way to do this, that is not subject to gaming. Just like Banking.

Coming, ready or not. I came to this article by Dean Ashenden via a tweet or re-tweet from Mark Gusdial (Computing education blog). I think it is a great read not least because he tells much of the story at his own expense. Lots of important messages about tech, learning and the classroom, going back to some of Larry Cuban’s work:

“From a Cuban perspective, outcomes and computers were merely the most recent in a long series of educational and technological fixes for the troubles of the classroom. Each had changed things somewhat, without really changing the way teachers (and therefore students) actually did their work. The brutal fact is that twenty or twenty-five students constitute a crowd, so teachers have to control and teach to the crowd. Teacher-centred instruction, Cuban argued, “is a hardy adaptation to the organisational facts of life.” 

If we are going to use tech to radically improve teaching we have to change the way we organise the classroom and what we expect of teachers. That is where resistance will be highest. I like Ashenden’s metaphor:

Of course, it’s not really the computer that wins. A combine harvester will not make medieval strip-field agriculture more productive, yet an assumption of just that kind can be found in many ways of using (and researching) technology in schooling. When computers are added to classrooms and nothing changes the conclusion is that technology doesn’t work. In fact, it is schooling’s strip-field system that is not working.’ 

Problem+++ Worth reading in full.