This Week’s Trends in Education and Technology (January 16-22)
[The Week in Education and Technology is a weekly summary of news, events, and ideas related to education, technology, and culture.]
“What kinds of knowledge and skills are students gaining? How are students developing as human beings and as members of society? How do faculty prepare for their work, get feedback on it, and improve their teaching? How does the larger educational environment within which students are embedded meet their needs?”
In addition to being understaffed and having fewer resources in many cases, rural schools are also under-researched. To remedy that situation, plans are underway to create a new university-based research center that will focus exclusively on rural school leadership within the University Council for Educational Administration, the national group of education schools.
Speaking of rural schools, I enjoyed reading this post about how to combat “rural brain drain” by introducing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities. In case you weren’t aware, the Rural School and Community Trust estimates that rural schools educate more than 9.3 million students in the United States—more than the combined enrollment in the country’s 85 largest school districts.
I also appreciated Scott McLeod’s reflection on questions we should/could be considering when making instructional, policy, and resourcing decisions. Here are a couple of examples (the answers to these and other questions should guide decision making).
- Which is bigger? The number of students who are forced to take math that they never will need or the number of students who, given the choice in high school, might not take the math courses they will need later?
- Which is bigger? The number of students who begrudgingly make their way through required world language courses (like my son) or the number of students who learn to love other languages and cultures through those classes (like my sister)?
- Which is bigger? The number of students who are usually engaged in the learning experiences and tasks that we provide them or the number of students who are bored out of their mind?
- Which is bigger? The number of teachers who need to turn in lesson plans because they’re struggling with instructional coherence or the number of teachers who don’t?
Not surprisingly, the new year has kicked off with a variety of news items and blog posts related to the cost of higher education.EdSurge has a nice interview with Caitlin Zaloom about her book, “Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost.” For the book, Zaloom, a New York University anthropologist, interviewed more than 160 people—students and parents—and got them to open up their financial books and talk about the toll of paying for college. The stories provide a fascinating look at how the burden of paying for college is altering middle-class life for many families.
As the cost of college comes under increasing scrutiny, some universities are taking steps to design learning experiences that demonstrate the value of their courses and degrees more concretely. One example is the work being done at Worcester Polytechnic Institute with project-based learning. Still, navigating the journey to and through higher education still proves difficult for many groups. One example can be seen in the large number of Latino trying to get a degree but struggling with issues of cost and culture.
One organization trying to help prospective students find the best value for their dollar in higher education is TuitionFit, a venture that aggregates data on the actual price of college. When asked what prompted him to launch TuitionFit, founder Mark Salisbury said:
There is a need for this because sticker prices at colleges and universities have skyrocketed over the last several decades, but the actual prices that students are asked to pay are now, on average, less than half the sticker price. Unfortunately, an individual student’s actual price can vary by tens of thousands of dollars depending on where they apply. Since students have to choose where to apply before knowing what their price will be, many students end up stuck with prices they can’t afford.
There are two reports out recently that are recommended reading for anyone interested in higher education trends.
- The 2020 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Chief Academic Officers
- Expanding Pathways to College Enrollment and Degree Attainment
And, finally, Phil Hill has posted quite a bit about Purdue University Global in recent weeks. The bottom line can be summed up in a headline from another publication (behind a paywall): Purdue Global Has Had a Rocky Start. Is It Growing Pains or a Sign of Trouble?
I do find it interesting that large educational technology companies continue to double down on adaptive learning as the key to winning the edtech arms race. To wit, Pearson has announced it will acquire adaptive learning platform Smart Sparrow for $25 million. Of course, the other contestant for the Next Big Thing (TNBT), is Artificial Intelligence.
If I sound a wee bit skeptical, it may be because I spent part of the winter break reading Audre Watters’ decade-ending report, The 100 Worst EdTech Debacles of the Decade.
I highly recommend Harold Jarche’s recent post on working smarter. There is plenty to unpack in this piece, but his introduction gives you a good idea of the value he sees humans bringing to the 21st-century workplace.
For the past several centuries we have used human labour to do what machines cannot. First the machines caught up with us and surpassed humans with their brute force. Now they are surpassing us with their brute intelligence. There is not much more need for machine-like human work which is routine, standardized, or brute. But certain long-term skills can help us connect with our fellow humans in order to learn and innovate — curiosity, sense-making, cooperation, and novel thinking.
I was also inspired by the work being done in the Garland Independent School District to help students close the skills gap around career readiness.
Also of interest is a new report from the Education Commission of the States that provides a “rundown on state efforts to tie education with workforce development. Last year, according to ECS, 258 bills were introduced in 49 states and lawmakers eventually enacted 49 of those in 26 states. In a recent note, one of ECS’ analysts examined three trends that bubble up in those bills, related to connecting education and workforce development.”
While written languages and their alphabets are entirely human-made artifacts, I still feel great sadness when I hear that one of them is becoming extinct. Thankfully, there is a site dedicated to endangered alphabets. According to the Endangered Alphabet Project, 85% of the world’s alphabets are endangered.
And, in case you weren’t able to make it to the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos this week, here’s a look at the top global issues according to attendees.
Well, if the start of the year is any indication, everything is coming up mobile in the near future.
- Samsung and Qualcomm are looking to introduce affordable smartphones to gain market share in India
- Apple plans to start making a smaller, cheaper iPhone in February
- Apple CEO Tim Cook says that ‘AR (via Apple’s mobile devices, of course) will pervade our entire lives’
And, naturally, there’s always news and analysis about AI. To that end, Irving Wladawsky-Berger provides a nice introductory piece on Why Some AI Efforts Succeed While Many Fail.
Episode 1: 5 Big Problems to Solve in Education (an Education and Technology Futures Vlog)
Better Not Ask Why (A Parable)
Episode 2: A Decade of Education Evolution or Revolution? (an Education and Technology Futures Vlog)