Many interesting things have begun to surface in education recently — some encouraging and some questionable. Let’s take a look:


From a Washington Post article by Nick Anderson, “Elite Education for the Masses“:

“Brian Caffo teaches a public-health course at Johns Hopkins University that he calls a “mathematical biostatistics boot camp.” It typically draws a few dozen graduate students. Never more than 70.

This fall, Caffo was swarmed. He had 15,000 students. . . .

These students, a sliver of the more than 1.7 million who have registered with Coursera since April, reflect a surge of interest this year in free online learning that could reshape higher education. The phenomenon puts big issues on the table: the growth of tuition, the role of a professor, the definition of a student, the value of a degree and even the mission of universities.

“Massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, have caught fire in academia. They offer, at no charge to anyone with Internet access, what was until now exclusive to those who earn college admission and pay tuition. Thirty-three prominent schools, including the universities of Virginia and Maryland, have enlisted to provide classes via Coursera.”


Sample questions from an Arlington, Virginia Public School 3rd grade test with my comments in parentheses:

1. “How can readers tell that ‘Schools Around the World’ is expository nonfiction?”
(they may have memorized the word, “expository,” but can they possibly comprehend the conceptual meaning?)

2. “What information does the caption give?”
(again, do they really comprehend the full meaning of “caption”?)

3. “heat”(het) n.
a. The transfer of energy felt as an increase in temperature.
b. One round in a competition, such as a race.
c. To make warm or hot.
(your guess is as good as mine!)

4. Which sentence could appear in the dictionary for the last definition of heat?
a. She swam in the second heat.
b. I feel the heat coming from the oven.
c. If you are too warm, I can turn down the heat.
d. I can heat the sticks by rubbing them together.”
(good luck with your guess!)

Of course, what else can one expect when you realize that a group of EdDs and PhDs were probably sitting around a table somewhere dreaming up Standards of Learning criteria while failing to acknowledge that not every young person is either equipped or interested in attending an Ivy League school.


From a most engaging and potentially valuable website, www.onlinedegrees.org comes a very informative Staff Writers blog posting, “41 Tips to Make the Most from Online Openware Courses,” with the following introduction:

“Once, students had to pay a pretty penny to get access to Ivy League courses and top-tier educational resources. Those days are long gone, as there are now thousands of free online learning opportunities available from some of the biggest names in education and business in the world. As these resources have grown in number and the list of institutions providing them has become ever more prestigious, free online courses are gaining legitimacy with employers as a method of learning valuable job skills. While there’s still a long way to go in terms of acceptance, more and more employers are recognizing the value of cheap, effective educational programs that can keep employees up-to-date and engaged in their field without spending a dime. Whether you’re looking to online education for personal reasons or to get ahead in your career, use these tips to help you get more out of open courses and use what you learn to market yourself, improve your performance, and stand out on the job.”


Finally, and also from The Washington Post comes a very erudite counter-argument to today’s “technology world,” written by Bonnie Gordon, “Forgetting Who We are at U-Va”:

“Last week, I spent seven minutes in one of my University of Virginia classes fighting the fancy projector in my classroom. It may have been unfair to direct my ire at an unsuspecting projector, but as with many of my colleagues here, I am tired of machine-centered thinking — and with administrators who stress the value of machines over people. Lately, opening e-mail often leads to a stream of curses at administrators who issue summonses to town-hall meetings or hand down new projects that have little to do with teaching or research. With all of these bells and whistles, I’m afraid we are losing sight of our primary mission.”

I believe you’ll enjoy reading both Gordon’s article and Anderson’s as well as looking at the “41 Tips.” It’s always good to know that, for the most part, “learning” keeps advancing — although, with a few stops and starts — and, a lot of bumps.

More on Tuesday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Tuesdays & Thursdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com