What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fundamental Education Fail

Okay, was going to punt with a post, but I'm sitting here watching Gov. Tim Pawlenty talking about privatizing education (specifically at the collegiate level) and how wonderful that will be. See, why make people schlep books across a campus to fall asleep in an uncomfortable classroom while some old person droned on when you can have them maybe watch an iPhone video when they wanted to and how they want to.

What a load of crap.

No, really. It's populism that lowers expectations (instead of the kind that lifts us all). There's a reason why most online universities aren't getting accredited.

In my own class I've heard the comment about how a student, smart as they are, downloaded the teacher's PowerPoint presentation (which, BTW, she was unable to make them for the class on energy transport and cellular respiration because the instructor could figure out how to translate it to PP) and printed it out so she didn't have to take notes in class.

Uh, yeah.

See, this is a misunderstand of how people actually learn. Now, do I need to read the textbook, take the notes, after listening to the lecture? You know, not really so much. I don't brag much about it, but yes, my IQ tests out at genius level (just barely, but let's say getting Mensa membership, if I wanted it, wouldn't be a problem). For my BFA, I think I read a total of 5 textbooks during class (and most of those were for my first degree in computer programming). Hell, I literally sleep through Psych 101 and still got an A (I was working 1st shift at the Post Office, and 1st shift was 10pm-6am).

And did I mention this is a 100 level course, and in a field my wife teaches in?

But I'm reading the book. And I'm taking the notes (the old fashion way including what is on the board and what the instructor is saying). And I'm attending the lecture. Why? Because I'm reinforcing the material twice (primary lecture, supplemented by the textbook and writing out the notes). Education is hard. There's a reason why it is. I could get more info using Blackboard (an online tool the college is using). However, it doesn't work for me, because I don't have broadband.

So, how am I doing? Since you asked (because, again, I hate the bragging), with 8 quizes and two tests down I have an average of 100% with 10.5 bonus points. We don't have our first report back, and I don't know how I did on it (the second report isn't due until next week, but it's been finished for over a week). Given the level of groaning in the class when tests and quizzes are passed back, I think I'm at the top (although I haven't confirmed that).

There's also three students in the class that I overheard complaining that they have either an online degree, or one from the "business schools," and now they're back to get a "real" degree (well, the employers think it's real). Yeah.

However, I'm sure "it's the future." I'll believe it when I get my jetpack.


Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

Watch a lecture on an iPhone. Yeah, right. I have lots of students who like to sit in the last rows -- most profs do -- and sometimes I have empty rows up front. When I do convince a student to move a number of rows forward, they are shocked that they, wait for it, can read the board! Shocking.

I am getting tired of the mentality that suggests the "solution" to education at all levels is for-profit all the time. Sigh.

Dr. Phil

vince said...

I voted for Gov. Pawlenty (I consider myself an independent and have voted for Republicans, Democrats, and independent candidates), and although I didn't agree with him on everything (I never do) I found him to be, for the most part, a pretty good governor.

Until he decided he might run for president. Since then he's gone more and more wacko. Not totally wacko, as there are still a few areas where I agree with him. But I would never vote for him again.

Online courses can be useful. I've taken some myself, and have a friend that teaches online as well as at a business school. She and the school are good. But I can't imagine teaching physics, higher math, engineering, etc. online. The subjects are complex, and you need the feedback and help of the instructors and, as you move up, graduate assistants.

Because I make my living as a jack-of-all-trades computer person (repair, upgrade, security, web design, search engine marketing, etc.) most of what I learn about new technologies is through books or online. I've even found useful videos.

But as the primary method of education? Yeah, right.

Most of those who advocate this also are big proponents of national security, and yet they have this huge disconnect between that and a well-educated population.

Of course, if you like dancing with the tea party in most of it's incarnations, then actual knowledge is not your highest priority.

Steve Buchheit said...

Dr. Phil, I have to admit I'm one of those "back of room sitters." Although for this class, because I have to make a good impression if only for my wife, I'm sitting up front. I see a lot of self-defeating behaviors going on around me. Fortunately I'm not the only one who tries to break those habits in others (recently I've noticed at least three other students doing the "yes, it's hard, but you can do it if you try" speech on other students). And the whole "profit motive" for higher education (even in the state run schools, where students are no long "students" but "customers/clients") gets me the wrong way. So many "students" are being taken for the economic ride of their lives because of it.

Vince, I think there is a difference between "skill acquisition" (of which online and videos can be helpful) and a "degree" (which implies a much deeper understanding and roundness of information about a subject). Such as, in my design profession I have updated my skills almost constantly (I have fallen behind with my web skills as a result of inattention and lack of need), my degree which gives me the understanding of how visual communications works has remained a constant (while having some lessons leading to deeper understanding as I practiced my profession).

And frankly, as someone who will probably end up with a nursing degree from this retraining (more highly probable than radiological tech, which is what I want, as this juncture at least), would you rather have someone put in a port who trained in person on someone (cadaver or other student), or a nurse who just saw a video about it? Mirror neurons are great, but they're no substitute for the real McCoy.

I've gone to videos and web tutorials for some things. But I only go there when I can't find someone to teach me in person, or can't figure it out for myself (while doing the job).

Dan said...

What struck me was how much of an insult to educators his views were. I taught a few college classes and I knwo how much educators work to make their classes interesting. Maybe even relevant. His stereotyping and generalizations were ignorant at best and pandering at worst.

Dan said...

What struck me was how much of an insult to educators his views were. I taught a few college classes and I knwo how much educators work to make their classes interesting. Maybe even relevant. His stereotyping and generalizations were ignorant at best and pandering at worst.

sheila said...

People asked me how I always ended up on the dean's list, and I would tell them:
1. Talk to profs well before the start of the semester, ask them for the syllabus and the required text.
2. If more than one prof teaches a class, choose the one that you'll do best for (if a prof gives essay exams, great. If they assign papers, even better for me!).
3. Order the textbook ASAP and read the entire text for a good overview of the class (Guess what I was doing on summer and christmas break?)
4. Find a classmate who will provide good notes if you miss a lecture, and do the same for them.
5. Before the next lecture, re-read the text on the syllabus and take notes on the relevant chapters. If you're not sure about something in the material, write a question in the margin of your notebook so that you can ask the prof before class ends (or drop by the office during office hours to ask).
6. Take good notes in class (I used a 4-color pen and switched colors to aid in drawing figures, writing definitions, etc.)
7. If a long paper is required, check with the prof to make sure the topic is okay and start your research the first week of class, while everyone else is skating. Start writing as soon as you can. By the time the paper is due, it is not only finished but has been polished to perfection.
8. Get in the habit of reviewing your notebook frequently, on the bus, with meals or coffee, in between classes, or any other time you have a few minutes. By the time the tests come up, you'll have the material down.
9. If there's a concept you still can't wrap your head around, find a graduate assistant and offer to buy them coffee/lunch or pay them a fee if they will sit down with you and tutor you on a specific topic. Most are happy to help and will very easily see where your hangup is.

After I explained my system, the other person would usually say, "That's too much work." And I'd have to point out that if they thought that way, they really weren't interested in making the dean's list.

I didn't have as high an IQ as some of the people in my classes, but I could out-work them every time!

Steve Buchheit said...

Dan, yep, I think most people in education probably took offense at his statements. Except those involved in making a profit from fleecing the masses, I mean those involved in taking more of your money for less information imparted.

Sheila, it is all about the work. I'm sure people in my class don't understand why I reread my notes constantly before class (whereas from my limited observations they only go over parts and about only one time). I'm studying for the test, not so much for the quiz that night.