Universities, community colleges, and high schools can use MOOCs to create an environment to enhance student learning. Last fall a professor at San Jose State used recorded MOOC lectures in an introductory electrical engineering course to create a flipped classroom. Students passed at a much higher rate than usual—91%, compared with 59% and 55% in two other, more traditional sections of the s
Universities should be and are expected to be sources of truthful and unbiased information about controversial subjects, especially in the sciences. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
The respected education reformer Diane Ravitch, previously one of the major architects and proponents of No Child Left Behind, has not only taken a new tack, but reversed course. With her 2011 book, she became a leading voice critical of the Obama-Duncan version, Race to the Top. This essay by David Denby describes her evolution.
Alexandra W. Logue, executive vice chancellor and provost of the City University of New York, reminds us that the ideas and tools we are finally getting around to using have been around for a while.
Tammy Erickson states that our current approach to education was designed for a different age. It was modeled on the needs of industrialization, resulting in separate subjects, standardized curricula, conformity, and batch processing. The model worked well for 100 years because it satisfied the needs of employers. However, the needs of employers have change and the gap between the output of our educational system and the job demands of the current century is big. Traditional schools operate in ways that are foreign to the world in which students live. The students inhabit a technology-based world of multimedia, addictive games, and mobile access. They are living in the most stimulating period in the history of the earth. But then schools require them to put that all away and ask them to focus on one, often-not-that-engaging speaker. It is not surprising that students get distracted and are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. A change the educational system is desperately needed.
Pamela Hieronymi wrote an interesting commentary about the increased need for teachers in the “tsunami” of technology. She readily admits that technology can enhance education and is here to stay. The plethora of technology options will force teachers to reflect on their role in the classroom and to become more effective. Hieronymi aptly describes teachers as “personal trainers in intellectual fitness”. The personal training and individual guidance becomes more necessary, not less, as the information options increase.
Bruce Henderson in The Chronicle of Higher Education calls faculty to be more proactive in defining their contributions to educational institutions. In this time of cuts to education, university and secondary school faculty must help the general public understand the nature of their contributions.
MOOCs, massive open online courses, are gaining credibility. Two organizations offering MOOCs are Coursera and Udacity. These organizations have been fielding demographic surveys to better understand the background of the enrolled students and why they chose to take the MOOC courses. An article by Steve Kolowich in Inside Higher Education summarizes some of the survey data. One pertinent finding was that the majority of the enrolled MOOC students reside outside of the United States.
MIT’s Dan Nocera (soon to be Harvard’s) gave a seminar in our department about a year and a half ago, and I heard him speak again in ACS President Bassam Shakhashiri’s ”Presidential Symposium on Catalysis” at the Spring national meeting in San Diego. The chemistry he described is a beautiful example of how fundamental research can potentially impact the lives of billions of people. Dan and his research group have discovered what appears to be an inexpensive, self-healing, air-tolerant catalytic system to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. We have seen before grand announcements about photocatalytic water-splitting systems, but this one appears not to suffer the fatal flaws of the others – requirement of pure water, expensive ingredients, and short duty cycles.
Suppose that the earth’s atmosphere continues to warm, beyond the levels that we know are already inevitable. Suppose that the arctic permafrost melts, releasing millions of tons of methane, which is about thirty times more effective at warming than is carbon dioxide, as well as much CO2 as is already in the atmosphere. Within a few years, the mean temperature rises by five degrees Celsius or more, sea levels rise, crops fail and millions starve.