7 Must-Read Books on Education
Brain Pickings - April 11, 2011
As big proponents of self-directed learning — the empowering pursuit of knowledge flowing organically from one’s innate curiosity and intellectual hunger — we’re all over Anya Kamenetz’s DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education — an ambitious, albeit slightly alarmist, look at the American higher education system and the flawed economic models at its foundation. Passionately argued and rigorously researched, the book exposes the greatest challenges to education reform and offers a glimmer of hope for new, more open and accessible models of education that transcend the institutional “credential mill” of traditional academia.
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Rothacker Review - March 7, 2011
You've been a judge for the Miss America contest for thirty years. A person asks you, "Bob, you've been surrounded and engulfed by beautiful women for all these years. How does a woman stand out? How can you possibly choose a winner?"
Bob: "Well of course the women have to score high in the talent competition, private interview, on-stage question and the other categories. But just between you and me, I choose based upon the breath factor. Who leaves me the most winded? Who takes my breath away?"
Okay, switch topic to David, me, and the tens of thousands of books, magazine-n-newspaper articles and online content that I've read in my life. How do I separate talented and engaging authors?
Oooops, sorry to get you all lathered up with the Miss America stuff, but I'm trying to make a point here.
The same way as Bob.
Anya Kamenetz takes my breath away. I remember years ago, the first time she appeared in Fast Company. I thought, how in the world can someone so young write this well? Her talent at that stage reminds me of how well Lebron James played basketball in high school.
Today, Anya brings her talent to the field of education. Or to be correct, to the field of where education ought to be (and is) going. Her latest book is DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. According to Anya DIY U means the expansion of education beyond classroom walls: free, open source, vocational, experiential, and self-directed learning. Her next project, due out this year, is The Edupunk’s Guide to a DIY Credential. k
I bought and am reading (one chapter left) DIY U because I am trying to learn how a person can take the helm of their own education and sail their ship into meaningful employment.
As it stands, I do not believe that K-16 and plus school is preparing students for what the workplace needs and is looking for. It's the driving force behind my Standing out in a Sea of Sameness Facebook page. I encourage kids beginning in their junior year of high school and through college, to seek out people in fields of interest. Sit down and ask them about their educational and work related pathways. Ask them about skills and educational requirements and then stay connected with them on their own journey.
After two months of educational reform research,* I need to tweak my own pathway. I am beginning to believe that one must start their own educational journey at the cradle (with the help of mom and dad). More to come on this in the future, but I am most grateful to Anya for her direction. She is a welcome light in the tempest of educational transformation.
Anya on Twitter
*I have yet to even scratch the surface of the available information on ed reform. It is positively mind boggling how much is out there!
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DIY U By Anya Kamenetz
Suite 101 - February 26, 2011
Information has become a commodity. Just about anything anyone needs or wants to know or learn about can be found for free on the Internet, with more information becoming available all the time. Is this a threat to the traditional university as we know it?
Anya Kamenetz clearly thinks so, and in DIY U she explains how we are at the beginning of a new age of do-it-yourself education driven by advances in Internet-based content delivery and instruction.
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Churchill's Cigar - February 7, 2011
I loved this book. I only wished that I would have read it before I trundled off to college with everyone else, but then again, when you think about it, 2001 was a far different place, higher ed wise than 2011 is today. Opportunities and innovation are expanding in every single direction and the reinvention of education as we know it is underway and many of them- but not all of them can be found within the pages of this compact, slim, jam-packed knowledge filled volume. ...
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Book Review: DIY U By Anya Kamenetz
iPedagog - February 5, 2011
This review is a bit late, I finished the book a few months ago but recently reread it. As a higher education scholar, I find it important to read the critical accounts of our system of higher education. Kamenetz’s approach takes issue with the cost of higher education coupled with the quality of education students receive in traditional institutions.
Here’s the kicker, Kamenetz’s book is good. She still argues for the value of having an education, just that we need to lend credibility to the diversity of avenue to education. From online to progressive ed models, Kamenetz spoke with some of this generations activists, wunderkinds, and innovators for their take on the role of education and the future of college degrees. Kamenetz usually leaves out that many of these non-traditional models are for-profit, and not all for profit institutions are evil, but when it comes to financing higher education, this does need to be taken under consideration. Kamenetz offers discussion of several cheaper for-profit online education models, and the opportunities they represent.
If our student bodies are so diverse, including in their learning styles and enrollment needs, I agree that we need to encourage similar diversity in higher education opportunities. However, we’re still in the age where these opportunities are largely unregulated. The average consumer of higher education is unaware of the accreditation models we operate within. I’m sure Kamenetz wouldn’t encourage students to enroll in programs without being fully aware of how the education will help them meet their academic and career goals.
So I think we should take lesson from DIY U. The traditional university doesn’t meet everyone’s needs. We need to encourage our legislature to require accountability and assessment of all higher education, but with a method for smaller schools/programs to afford the process of becoming “credible.” Maybe as the for-profit trend continues to grow, and online programs evolve their pedagogy, employers will also acknowledge the value of these new types of degrees. Maybe not. Either way, smart and motivated students can piece together a fantastic education, with credibility, and in an accelerated way. Isn’t that an education worth noting?
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Book Review: Edupunks Chart Coming Transformation of Higher Ed
New England Journal of Higher Education - January 6, 2011
DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, Anya Kamenetz, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vt., 2010
Anya Kamenetz, a 2002 graduate of Yale and staff writer for Fast Company, could be an academic’s worst nightmare. Articulate, forceful and skilled—her writing lobs volleys of criticisms that are hard to refute and harder still to ignore. In her last book, Generation Debt, she savaged the higher education world for its ever-rising costs, which in her view are crushing graduates under a mountain of debt.
DIY U aims more broadly—demolishing the pretensions of the most prestigious schools and mainstream institutions with equal ferocity. Higher education, in her view “is the closest thing we have to a world religion.” Its status as a scarce good that everyone wants is part of the reason that tuition costs have continued to outpace inflation year after year. The end result, though, is a good that is too expensive for most people to afford and perhaps not even worth the price.
Still, despite the provocative title and cover, this book is better at reiterating the failures of our current system of higher ed than it is in explaining the revolution it forecasts. Her historical survey—500 years of education in a few dozen pages—hits the key points but distills them into a rather cynical synopsis with few if any heroes. The standout figures that do emerge often have a dubious or elitist purpose; Clark Kerr’s efforts to classify institutions and funnel funds toward some rather than others, being a case in point. “Education is an essentially conservative enterprise,” notes Kamenetz. “If we didn’t believe that one generation had something important to transmit to the next, we wouldn’t need education. So, changing education makes people really, really nervous.”
Another chapter, labeled Sociology, dissects the who-gets-what subject even further. It is neither a pretty nor an equitable picture. According to Kamenetz, although higher ed may get kudos for generating knowledge or even making better citizens, it has been much less effective in terms of what she argues has been its wider role—at least since World War II—as society’s uplifter, bringing more people into the middle class and/or enhancing the nation’s economy. Here, Kamenetz asserts that the earnings premium for college grads is insubstantial when compared to the cost—to the individual student and to society. In many cases (she cites the example of an Ohioan seeking to become a fire fighter), even the requirement for college course work may be contrived and over stated in many fields. Once again, there’s nothing particularly new in the observations, though Kamenetz writes with precision and a degree of passion that makes each paragraph hard to ignore.
But the meat of Kamenetz’s book is in Part II—How We Get There—in which she outlines the ways in which technology and new approaches to education can deliver something that is high-quality, accessible, affordable and relevant. Early on, she outlines the principles that lurk within her analysis:
- The 80-20 rule—the importance of the 80% of institution that are non-selective as well as the growing number of for-profit colleges;
- The Great Unbundling—the notion that colleges will be less inclined to try to “do it all” and may begin to specialize on research, instruction or assessment, for example rather than all three;
- Techno-hybridization—Kamenetz predicts that more and more instruction will be delivered using a mix of online/remote technologies and traditional classroom approaches. It won’t be an either/or world;
- Personal Learning and Pathways—Here, Kamenetz, foresees rapid growth in people choosing to develop (and institutions learning to support), highly individualized education strategies—emphasizing personal goals, assessment of non-traditional learning and delivery through both traditional and nontraditional means. This will implicitly threaten the economic gatekeeper role that higher ed has assumed—determining who will and won’t get access to higher education and, thus, who will succeed or fail economically.
Change is here and most likely accelerating. Certainly, the technological tools already available have the ability or at least the potential to deliver more and better information and to support learning more cost-effectively than ever before. Nor is this only something for learners. Educators, too, can gain insights into learners and into the effectiveness of their didactic approaches, while potentially magnifying their ability to teach effectively and to teach more people. As an example, she cites the work of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, where all kinds of new instruction methods are being pioneered and tested with educators and learners. “When compared to students in traditional lecture-section-paper classes, OLI students learn more, learn faster, and enjoy it a little bit more, too,” she writes. In one case, a grueling statistics course was run through the OLI process and emerged with half as many classes each week and half the number of weeks—yet student results that matched those of the traditional program.
So far steps like these have been mostly tentative. As Kamenetz observes, “Over its long history, and because of the weight of that history, higher education has been uncommonly resistant to innovation in teaching practices.” But change is probably unavoidable, especially when for-profits are lusting after a piece of the $300 billion higher education business. And for the “80%” of learners who aren’t going to go through the doors of the nation’s highly selective colleges, only results matter.
Kamenetz closes out the book with a “Resource Guide,” which takes DIY U from the realm of social criticism into that of self-help. Kamenetz is free with advice for readers seeking to develop a personal learning path and offers pages chock full of web sites, book titles and others connection points—all of which are probably valuable. Still, the departure of the critic’s voice makes one feel as if freshly arrived at some Land of Oz, where one is full of wonderment but also not quite sure whether this was the destination one sought when first opening the book.
Still, Kamenetz has produced a useful piece of work for learners and a valuable reference for those working to keep education relevant and useful in the 21st century.
Reviewed by Alan R. Earls, a Boston-area writer.
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Mediacology - December 3, 2010
Like the word “community,” when we hear the term “education” we feel warm and fuzzy. It can always be good, right? This attitude might not be too productive as demonstrated in a recent New York Times piece railing against social media (check out this nice rebuttal from the Nieman Journalism Lab). In the NYTimes article school came across like a hapless victim of smart phones and Facebook. It compared recent brain research showing how our gadgets and social software hurts school performance, yet the article never challenges this very idea of “performance.” In particular the story featured a young man who’d rather edit a video on his Mac than study Latin. Think about it: making media versus learning a dead language, who’s gonna win that battle? The problem with the article is that it gave school the default position of all that is “good” about schooling and made youth media practice the foil. Sound familiar? I don’t want to equate Facebook with rock and roll, but this is a 50 year-old polemic, with roots going as far back as Plato.
With that said, I don’t want to give social media and wireless gadgetry a free pass. But it also shouldn’t be an either or discussion. By contrast, it needs to be argued that literacy of media gadgets and network usage is ever more necessary. But will it be taught in school? Most likely not. Rather than be confronted in a meaningful way it will just be banned, made forbidden and a non-topic. This is a shame, because if there ever was a place for young people to become literate of the tools that are shaping cognition and impacting culture and economics, school would be a logical site for it.
Unfortunately, “school” is broken. Which puts me in an awkward place, because I am sympathetic to the protests against ed reform policies, but in other ways I’m against school. In light of the financial restructuring taking place in Europe and North American, these policies are part of a general re-feudalization of the world. These reforms are actually a logical progression of education policy going back for decades which has sought to reduce learning to a technocratic and mechanistic activity designed for the information economy. Reforms are designed to break the public gains of the Enlightenment, while preserving the more nefarious benefits of the past 500 years for the “elites” (banking, finance, captains of industrial-scientific “progress,” etc.). There are lots of problems with Enlightenment thinking, especially in regards to ecology, its idealogical co-dependence with capitalism, and the belief in an isolated, autonomous self. Yet cosmopolitanism should be considered a good side-effect, and at one point this was one of the goals of liberal education.
Three books I’ve been reading lately confront this problem. Deschooling Society (Open Forum), written in 1970 by Ivan Ilich, is a remarkably prescient book. Hard to believe it is 40 years-old, because almost every word is a prophesy for the present moment. He argues that schools are an expensive means for conditioning people to accept the institutionalization of learning, and to learn how to be institutionalized (see video pasted above). Learning can only be decided by experts and paid professionals, reinforcing a dependence on the irrational inner-logic of bureaucracy (a la Kafka)* without regard to that which is required or practical for daily life, as is the case with the disconnect between standardized testing and the skills necessary for being global citizens. Though I should have read this book years ago, in a way it is the right book for the moment because many of the solutions he envisioned–DIY education using networks and open source tools–have become reality. Several of the ideas he has for deschooling can be facilitated by the likes of YouTube, Craigslist and alternative educations projects sprouting up all over the net (it would take a much longer post to list them all– you can start by typing “open education” into your search engine and see where it takes you).
Illich differentiates between open (“learning Webs”) and closed networks (“manipulative institutions”), which sounds a bit like the struggle between open education and the privatization of learning. To apply an ecological metaphor, maybe education can be more like a rhizomatic network of mushrooms instead of a monocultural crop of soy beans. I could exhaust my fingers covering the array of ideas in Deschooling Society, but suffice to say it is a tight little polemic at 116 pages and can be read in a day.
Unfortunately, open education has the danger of being a trojan horse for the neo-feudalization of education. DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, a recent book about self-education, features an assortment of advocates for open education that range from artisons, monks to entrepreneurs. Many of the ideas are inspirational and well intended, but their motives don’t all agree. Anya Kamenetz has a valid argument that most students should not have to go deeply in debt for an education which is increasingly suspect. I, for one, am guilty, and will end up at least 50 K in debt by the time I get my PhD. And that is a light load compared to many whose post-graduate debt tops 100 K. For my credential I’ve indentured myself to the banks with little chance that it will pay back my investment. And this is the kind of thinking that Ilich rails against: education should not be about turning students into customers. But the reforms being proposed in the UK use that kind of language, and as a college professor it is well known that we are being asked to deliver a product to the students. But I digress. Going back to DIY U, creating our own education via an assortment of open access resources (including those driven by corporate driven incentives) sounds kinda cool, but the implications for society are complicated. Are we saying that credentialing should be done away with, or even privitized? Are we saying that education is not a public good or right and should be left to the scavenging of the marketplace? This is where anarchism and libertarianism can sometimes feed off each other, which makes for strange bedfellows, for sure.
The last book I want to mention is EduFactory Collective‘s Toward a Global Autonomous University: Cognitive Labor, The Production of Knowledge, and Exodus from the Education Factory. The book is a little of a cross between Deschooling Society and DIY U. It is a savage critique of the economics of university, and also proposes alternatives of the punk rock variety. This is certainly more critical of the system than DIY U, and is written in a much different format (and tone) because it is presented from the perspective of a collective enterprise rather than as a journalistic foray in the magazinespeak of FastCompany (as is the case with DIY U). In this sense, the book models the kind of approach it advocates.
I wish I had time to write a more in-depth analysis of these books and their implications, but unfortunately I’m out of time and must get back to work. Consider this some outloud thinking as I work through these ideas. I apologize for their incompleteness.
* A good example is getting a drivers license in Italy. The Italian bureaucracy is so complicated that you are forced to pay a driving school to handle the paper work for the license. Meanwhile, the horrendous and godawful test takes months to prepare for through rote memorization with a net result that no one follows the laws. In my case it took five months and 500 euros to do what normally takes half a day in the United States for a fraction of the cost.
Read the original review over at Mediacology.
'DIY U' helps readers take charge of their own education
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal - November 26, 2010
Going to college after high school seems as if it is a fact of American life. Or is it? In reality only about three-quarters of teens in America actually graduate from high school.
About half of those who do graduate go on to college and get a degree within five years. And now many of the jobs for which colleges prepared students are rapidly being outsourced. In addition, the cost of a college education has skyrocketed, a 439 percent increase increase between 1982 and 2007, according to a 2008 New York Times story. And on top of that more students are graduating with startling amounts of debt from the loans they take out to finance their education, only to find it difficult to get a job to pay back those loans.
This is the scene set by Anya Kamenetz in her book "DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education."
"We are facing a crisis in higher education," Kamenetz writes, and she begins her book by asking readers the tough question: What is the true value of a college degree? A staff writer for Fast Company magazine, Kamenetz is no newcomer to the problem of debt and college affordability. She wrote about the issue in her first book, "Generation Debt: Why Now Is A Terrible Time To Be Young," where she argued that the debt faced by 18- to 35-year-olds today is greater than in any previous generation. And a lot of that debt comes from financing a college degree.
As a senior in high school, I found her guidance excellent when it came time to make decisions about my own future. As much as I appreciated the fact that everyone wanted to know what I planned to do with my life, the only advice offered by many was "go to college." Kamenetz goes far beyond this, not only laying out the playing field for students but writing about some of the real-world changes going on in education.
In the first half of her book, "How we got here," Kamanetz looks at the history of the university, from its beginnings as a repository of knowledge centered around books, to the current state of the academic world today. She talks about the economic situation faced by college students: debt, soaring tuition costs, financial aid, the shrinking jobs market facing college grads, as well as the sociology behind our ivy-covered institutions.
The second half, "How we get there," talks about how technology, economics and a world-wide sharing of resources are transforming the way colleges operate, moving away from the brick-and-mortar models of the past and ushering in nearly infinite possibilities for learning. She tells us that higher education has changed more in the past 30 years than it has in the past 300. Technology is transforming the university itself. Free, "open" content, is now available to anyone world-wide and hybrid approaches to teaching and learning are changing the way this content is presented. She guides the reader through this rapidly changing world with clear, engaging writing, as she sheds light on the myths surrounding the world of higher education.
Kamenetz backs up all her claims with plenty of facts and resources in true journalistic style.
At the back of the book she provides excellent resources and a guide for a true "do-it-yourself education."
In an e-mail Kamenetz said the response from high school students has been that they are excited by the possibilities of self-directed learning.
"At the talks I've given at colleges and community colleges I've had a mixed response. Students who have already bought into the status quo of higher education, where they are consumers buying a very expensive product, are more apprehensive about the idea that they should have to take responsibility for their own learning. The potential to learn and explore on your own is growing all the time, and so is tuition at traditional Universities. It's more essential than ever to approach higher education with a good idea of your interests and goals. Before you head off to college, get online and explore the topics, professions, and people that interest you. Consider checking out open learning communities such as Peer 2 Peer U and OpenStudy."
With all these online resources is there still value to having a university degree? Kamenetz believes there is. The real question she wants readers to ask in "DIY U" is: is our established system the only way to get a high quality education? Her advice echoes the underlying message of the book which is one of optimism and hope.
"No matter where you find yourself, the key is realizing you have more options for shaping your own education than almost anyone has ever had at any point in history. The future is up to you," she writes.
Whether you want to know why your tuition is on the rise, or how you can finance your four years of college without mountains of debt, or if you want to rock the foundations of our higher education system, "DIY U" is a great place to start.
Read the original review here.
By Ira Laefsky - November 14, 2010
The premises of this brief introduction to the future of higher education are excellent and very much to the point in this era of increasing tuition at conventional institutions, lower economic expectations in developed nations, the availability and quality of resources obtainable via the Internet, and trends toward DIY and seeking one's own path in society and self-fulfillment. This book is also well worth its modest price in terms of the valuable links to free resources it provides. Many of the issues it begins to explore on DIY education, and Open Resources are pursued in limited depth. For example, why did Britain's Open University fail in its U.S. Extension? What about Meetup's and Hackerspaces as in-person resources for self directed education?
The issues of self-directed Higher Education and Open Source Resources deserve a more in depth study in setting directions for US Policy and in personal exploration. However, because this book raises important issues and takes a fresh approach to higher education and lifelong learning, and because of the resources that it makes visible it is a worthy introduction to the issues of US and World Higher Education.
Read the whole review here...
The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy
November 3, 2010
By George Leef
...Another recent (March 2010) book that illustrates this analytical convergence is DIY U by Anya Kamenetz, who labels herself a progressive. The subtitle, “Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education” conveys the phenomenon that interests her—the ways that people are trying to get around the very expensive but often inefficient institutions that Americans rely on for their postsecondary education.
Now that’s a venerable, liberal (in its true sense) concern. Ordinary people are frequently harmed because they’re compelled to deal with well-connected firms and organizations that have used their political clout to lock themselves in. Monarchs of old sold monopoly rights to produce and market consumer goods. Today we have educational cartels that rake in vast amounts of money because government policy channels students to them. Kamenetz understands that existing educational institutions love the status quo that favors them; she wants to see dramatic changes that would benefit vast numbers of students.
Let’s look first at the strength of DIY U. Its core is, Kamenetz writes, “the power of sharing ideas freely.” Her big idea is that it ought to be a lot easier and less expensive for people to do that. The main obstacle is our encrusted educational institutions that are far more interested in their own welfare than that of learners...
Read the whole review here...
Education for Well-Being
July 25, 2010
Here are my book notes for Anya’s latest book. This book is definitely worth a read. You may also want to view Anya’s talk with Steve Hargadon over at Learning Central.
“Any time you are learning established information—names, facts, figures, ideas thunk by thinkers before you—that’s scholastic learning. Empirical knowledge, on the other hand, comes from direct experience and experimentation. Americans tend to emphasize the importance of empiricism, new discoveries, and scientific method. The funny thing is that empirical depends on the scholastic. Last year’s discoveries are this year’s history. p. 6-7
“The university’s ‘hidden curriculum,’ he [John Meyer, professor of sociology, Stanford U] says, has always been teaching its own importance. p. 21
“An African-American man with several Ivy League degrees can get elected president in this country, but would we elect someone who’s never graduated from college? Someone largely self-taught, like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, or Benjamin Franklin? Impossible.” p. 22
“Our learning institutions for the most part, are acting as if the world has not suddenly, irrevocably, cataclysmically, epistemically changed—and changed precisely in the area of learning.” p. 22 Cathy N. Davidson, Theo Goldberg, in The Future of Learning Institutions in s a Digital Learning Age.
“Opportunities to explore spirituality are many and diverse; it’s just that most people no longer feel the need to visit a large, stone building for hours every week, submit to the authority of a cleric, and listen to some garbled Latin or Hebrew in order to connect to a higher power. I have to wonder if organized higher education could someday go the way of organized religion—not to disappear, by any means, not even to diminish in absolute size, but cede its place at the very height of human thought and center of daily action.” p. 23
“The nation’s top colleges seem to assent to the signaling hypothesis when they agree to rate themselves by how selective they are—that is, how many people they reject, the SAT scores of entering students, and so on. That’s like Weight Watchers advertising that they only take skinny people. If elite schools really subscribed to the value-added, human-capital theory, wouldn’t they instead advertise how good they are at improving the very low SAT scores of entering students? Wouldn’t they say, “We take absolutely anyone and use our proven teaching methods to turn them into Swarthmore or Pomona material?”" p. 34
“Now that it’s illegal to discriminate in employment by race, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation, judging people by where and how much they went to school is just about the only acceptable form of prejudice left.” p. 35 (I think it is implied that if you went to a more exclusive school, you are more capable. And we are allowed to discriminate based on capability. We pride ourselves on being meritocratic, even we often aren’t. Example 1: George Bush)
“We need to be open to different ways of measuring the value of everyone’s contributions.” p. 35
“To truly progress in education, and in our society as a whole, we need to redirect our resources and energy from institutions toward individuals.” p. 48
“As Carey [policy director of the think tank Education Sector] has pointed out, 25 percent of US News & World Report rankings come from peer ratings, which is a measure of reputation within a sector. The other 75 percent of the rankings come from either direct or proxy measures of spending per student and exclusivity. That means if a college wants to rise in the rankings, the logical thing to do is raise tuition while accepting fewer applicants. If college A increases tuition, thus spending more on each student, making it harder for poor students to attend and turning more students away, they look more elite and desirable. If college B figures out a way to do more with less and cuts tuition, allowing them to offer slots to more applicants, they lower spending per student and become less selective. College B’s rankings goes down relative to College A.” p. 58
“Currently it’s not possible to on a comparative basis to measure outcomes or learning or student engagement or what is really going on in the classroom.” Bob Moore research director at US News, “defending” the rankings’ validity. p. 58 (Why would you want to measure things like outcomes, learning, or engagement? Really.)
“They found students who classes online learned more and performed better on average than those who stuck to traditional fact-to-face classes. Hybrid approaches worked best of all. The most effective techniques weren’t the use of fancy multimedia like video, pop-up quizzes, or little animated penguins. Instead, online students benefited most in the cases where they were able to move at their own pace, prompted to spend more time on task, reflect on what they’d learned, and collaborate.” p. 92 (Barbara Means et al., Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning, US Dept. of Ed)
“Another possibility to remake the sheepskin effect is for institutions to create competency-based assessments, separate from the other functions of education. Western Governor’s University is a national innovator in assessment-based learning. ‘We said, let’s create a university that actually measures learning,’ the jovial president, Bob Mendenhall, says. ‘We do not have credit hours; we do not have grades. We simply have a series of assessments that measure competencies, and then on that basis award the degree.’” p. 100
“Faculty mentors at WGU are not responsible for grading; that would be a conflict of interest. Instead, multiple-choice tests, math problems, and the like are graded by computer, while essays and in-person evaluations are judged by a separate cadre of graders. This also saves the time of the highest paid faculty. What WGU is doing is again, using the Internet to unbundle the various functions of teaching: the “sage on the stage” conveyor of information, the cheerleader and helpmate, and the evaluator. “We really don’t teach or instruct,” says Dr. Linda Gunn, a student mentor and regional coordinator. “We guide them to learning resources and supplemental information to help them gain their competencies.” p. 101
“Compulsory schools he [Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society] said, with the power of the state behind them, alienate students from their own curiosity and ability by ‘teaching the need to be taught.’ Illich saw firsthand how schools made self-reliant rural people into ‘backward’ illeterates, unable to participate fully in society without depending on state-funded instruction.” p. 112
“‘Deschooling,’ in his world [Illich], means replacing formal schools with a technologically enabled, largely self-directed, free, and open exchange of information. ‘We need research,’ he wrote, ‘on the possible use of technology to create institutions which serve personal, creative, and autonomous interaction and emergence of values which cannot be substantially controlled by technocrats.’” p. 112
“Illich’s strongest point is this: It’s a mistake to identify social welfare fully with the institutions that are meant to provide it. Institutions seek to grow and pursue their own ends, which are not identical with the ends of those they are intended to serve. More prisons don’t mean more justice (see The Economist, July 24-30 for more on more prisons not creating more justice), and more schools doesn’t mean more wisdom.” p. 113
“The university may be too identified with rationality and modernity, progress and justice, to spontaneously wither away. Nor, on most days, would we wish it to. However, maybe a form of genetic engineering is possible. The Internet-enabled “personal learning network” could be the prototype of a lightweight institution that is more open and available to more people, that doesn’t take up more than its shares of resources, especially money, and that interferes as little as possible with individual freedom.” p 113
“John Holt, in his radical 1976 radical critique Instead of Education, speaks approvingly of the Berlitz language school, which judges itself by how well it serves everyone who wants to study, not by how much it discriminates in choosing students. He calls schools like these, “schools for do-ers, which help people explore the world as they choose.” p. 125
Lots of great references in the last part of the book; lots of URLs in bibliography.
Anarchy in the U, eh?
higher ed marketing
May 12, 2010
Graduation season is upon us, and that means colleges and universities across the nation are trotting out celebrities, writers, thinkers, journalists and public intellectuals to deliver commencement addresses to the newest crop of graduates-to-be.
One writer who won’t be called upon to dispense wisdom from the commencement platform this spring is Anya Kamenetz. That would be a little bit like inviting John Lydon to address graduates at the Julliard School. Even though Lydon — aka Johnny Rotten, lead singer of the punk band the Sex Pistols — became famous for creating music, his style doesn’t really fit the mold of the prestigious performing arts conservatory.
Likewise, the message of Kamenetz’s new book, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, probably comes across as nails on the chalkboard for many college administrators.
DIY U is a timely call for our nation’s higher education system to embrace the power of technology to expand access. Even though college campuses were among the first institutions in the world to embrace Internet technology, when it comes to using it effectively as an educational tool, we’re behind the curve.
Kamenetz envisions an alternate university. What if students, rather than following the traditional path of higher education (four-year bachelor’s degrees, hour-long lectures), were able instead to cobble together their own learning path from course materials readily available online? This kind of “do-it-yourself” approach is gaining ground among a growing number of “edupunks” and “edupreneurs” who see technology as the answer to the rising costs and inefficiencies associated with traditional college.
Read the whole review here.
OMG! DIY U Means EM Do RTW!
The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 1, 2010
So when I heard Anya Kamenetz, once the passionate shoot-from-the-hip spokesperson against student debt, was reinventing herself as the passionate shoot-from-the-hip analyst of new media in education, I was prepared to give her a listen. I thought, well, at least she has enough dignity and intelligence not to turn herself into a pimpette for learn-while-you-sleep audiocassettes.
Whoa, was I wrong. She turned out a book that stays relentlessly on its Twitter-sized message: OMG! OMG! The internetz a library! (Speaking of Twitter, you can relieve your boredom with the book by following Kamenetz's real-time feed about her visits to the dentist.)
Kamenetz turns out to be an adherent of the most shopworn education fantasy in history: education without educators! Like untold generations of blatherers before her, she opines that information technology will deliver education without an education workforce—therefore saving untold bazillions of dollars that would otherwise go to faculty salary. These savings will inevitably result in a "free or marginal-cost" education! At least for savvy "edu-punks" and "edu-preneurs."
Read the whole article here.
DIY U: Take 2
June 26, 2010
So in the airport waiting for my flight to the UK I tried to bang out some quick thoughts upon finishing DIY U, only to retract them within minutes of publishing them (though apparently not before Google managed to catch a copy of it).
I retracted the first draft because I realized how important the issues are and I wanted to be clear, for my own sake, if not for yours.
My first reaction, which I largely covered in my initial retracted draft, is that Kamenetz’s book is not a bad one at all taken as a piece of popular journalism aimed at documenting a specific crisis in American higher ed and three different emerging responses to it, variously “artisans” (those working on systemic transformation of higher ed), “monks” (edupunks and open ed types who, whilst often still inside the very institutions they are critical of, are portrayed as promoting education outside the confines of the institution) and “merchants” (those looking to privatize and profit from the crises of cost and quality facing higher ed). I think critics who have chastised for citation errors and the like are basically nit picking, and I honestly believe (based partly on the focus of Kamenetz’s first book) that her desire to raise a clarion call about cost and “quality” issues in American post-secondary education is sincere, and that she is not a particular booster of the privatization of learning. But…
Read the whole article here.
Reading DIY U
Teaching Writing In A Digital Age
June 28, 2010
Just got finished reading Anya Kamenetz’s DIY U. On the whole, I found it a worthy read, sloppy in places, but also usefully provocative. Its main value, I think, is in the early chapters, where Kamenetz traces out the causes of skyrocketing tuition costs. The upshot: a broken system of state/federal aid and loans plus the costs of “bundled” services that have nothing to do with learning. I agree that both of these things need to be fixed.
Read the whole article here.
by Edward Morris
This is a spectacularly useful orientation and guide for anyone who’s contemplating post-high school education or advising someone who is. Enriched with up-to-date statistics and cogent assessments, the book reveals the pros and cons of community colleges, conventional four-year residential colleges, for-profit universities and—most helpful of all—pedagogically adventurous online institutions and services. Kamenetz, a graduate of Yale, is passionate about the subject of higher education and how its many incarnations fit into the larger tapestry of American social values; but she is rigorously even-handed and unsentimental about each educational prospect she discusses. Self-trained as a journalist, Kamenetz writes here in first person and in the informal, readable style of a news reporter.
One of her main points is that there are expensive and depressing mismatches between the much-touted American ideal of a college education for everyone and the personal, political, and economic realities that confront this ideal. Would-be college students have different needs, aspirations, and abilities that must be addressed by different educational approaches. When they do graduate, by whatever avenue, most students will find themselves saddled with crippling loan debts. (Kamenetz suggests the total debt should not exceed the salary one reasonably could expect to receive the first year after graduation.) A college education still gives one a foot up in the job market, but it is not, the author stresses, an open sesame to financial success. Nor is it the hoped-for leveler between sexes and races.
Most of Kamenetz’s report/analysis surveys current online methods of making higher education available to the variegated masses. She covers such new-approach and online-dependent ventures as Western Governor’s University, MIT’s OpenCourseWare project and FlatWorldKnowledge, an open-source textbook supplier. She also interviews educational visionaries who predict great things for online teaching and study. Prominent among these seers is David Wiley of Brigham Young University. It is his mission, says Kamenetz, “not to bring technology into the classroom,” since it’s already there, but “to capture the potential of that technology to both lower costs and improve learning for all.”
The book ends with the chapter “A Resource Guide to a Do-It-Yourself Education,” in which Kamenetz not only analyzes the personal qualities essential to fruitful self-instruction but also suggests a four-step sequence by which to pursue it. Appended is a five-page list of websites Kamenetz refers to in the text. It will be especially valuable to those who want to explore the rapidly expanding universe of online learning.
* DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education
Anya Kamenetz. Chelsea Green, $14.95 (208p) ISBN 9781603582346
Kamenetz, author of the alarming personal finance expose Generation Debt, drops another bombshell on the emerging cohort of young Americans, this time regarding higher education. While she mounts a standard (though illuminating) attack on spiraling tuition and the bottomless pit of student loans, Kamenetz also questions the fundamental assumptions of modern American education culture: the twin, contradictory ideas that college must be universally accessible, and that the smallest accepted denomination of educational currency is a bachelor's degree from a four-year, liberal arts institution. Kamenetz explores those ideas' fallacies as they play out daily in American classrooms, as well as students' myriad alternatives, from community colleges to online learning collectives. In great detail, Kamenetz explains the flawed economic models that underpin higher education, the faulty premises they maintain and the government's failures to address them. Kamenetz's approach is methodical and balanced, showcasing extensive research and thoughtfulness, while acknowledging one of the chief problems with reform: no one wants to experiment on their own child. This volume merits consideration from high school students and their parents, as well as educators preparing a generation for uncertain job prospects, an information economy still in its infancy, and the steady erosion of geographical barriers. (Apr.)
by Andrée Collier Zaleska
posted May 19, 2010
Kamenetz analysis is both rational and radical. She questions whether college is “nothing more than an elaborate and expensive mechanism for employers to identify the people who … had all the social advantages in the first place, and those people then get the higher paying jobs.”
Her point is ultimately practical, which is what makes this book such a good resource for folks questioning and contemplating higher education. While stating flatly that, since the 1970s, there has been no increase in return to match the increasing cost of a college education, Kamenetz also makes it clear that the penalty of not going to college has increased in that time. This penalty is a steep decline in income for those with no college degree. The decision, then, of getting a degree, or not, can’t be taken lightly.
Kamenetz also covers the student loan industry that saddles young people with debt, critiques both the popular and real histories of higher education in this country, and examines the difficulties faced by community colleges.
Read the whole article here.
The Quick and the Ed
April 27th, 2010
America’s colleges and universities were among the first institutions to make use the of the Internet. But while academics have recognized for decades how the spread of technology can have huge benefits for their research and communication, higher education overall has largely ignored the transformative potential of the Internet.
Sure, some colleges use online course management software, such as Blackboard, but this is done to replace administrative functions like collecting lecture slides and handouts or tracking assignments. Online courses are prevalent in the for-profit sector, but not particularly common at brick and mortar institutions, which largely rely on lectures for instruction.
That model worked OK when colleges educated a largely homogeneous group of students and had little funding woes thanks to ample state funds. If that model isn’t broken today, it’s certainly teetering on the precipice. State funding is down, tuition is up, and the students come from a wider variety of socioeconomic backgrounds with varying levels of preparation. With all of these simultaneous pressures, it’s little wonder that graduation rates are largely stagnant and that huge numbers of college students will walk away never having earned a degree.
But what if instead of relying on the traditional institutional-based model of higher education, today’s students used the Internet and related technology to design their own course of study—a “do it yourself university” that doesn’t rely on a single physical space and allows students to tailor the curriculum exactly to their needs. That’s the premise behind Anya Kamenetz’s DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, which was released earlier this month.
Unbundling higher education, as Kamenetz refers to the phenomenon of breaking up the functions of colleges and universities, first requires understanding what it is we hope to get out of our degrees and how the finances of all that work. In that regard, the first half of the book is devoted three chapters that disproves much of our lionized version of American higher education’s liberal arts history, discusses what is about postecondary education that leads to its valuable effect on wages, and addresses what factors cause college to cost so much.
Read the whole article here.
Not Oprah's Book Club: DIY U
April 16, 2010
While we all cheer when Barack Obama talks about creating a nation where every single kid can pursue a college education, the deep chasm between here and there is sobering. Presently, only a third of Americans actually have a college diploma, and the majority of us are mired in school debt of one kind or another. The mortarboard, at least at the college level, is way more elusive and expensive than ever. So what is going to bridge the gap between?
Anya Kamenetz, staff writer for Fast Company, believes that the bridge between Obama's vision and the present reality is open content and online learning. In her new book, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, she argues that huge demand and high cost of higher education, coupled with technological and information innovations, are leading to a total paradigm shift in who learns and how we do it.
Read the whole article here.
A Future Scenario for Higher Education, DIY U
April 14, 2010
For me this neatly sums up the education 2.0 transformation (reformation?) that all higher ed institutions need to take into account. I put myself in the category of exploiting technological tools to improve my teaching with a hint of edupreneur researching social media tools as examples of ‘real work’ for my own information technology students. They, after all, will be writing the social media tools of the future.
Read the whole article here.