Showing posts from June, 2015

Really Smart Classrooms

I like to think that my institution is blessed with a student-centered ethos.  In other words, most of us here believe that active student learning is the most important thing in a classroom. 

We've even spent a bit of money leading workshops and bringing in guest speakers to help faculty move away from a professor-centered model in which the most important thing is students' passive absorption of the prof's content knowledge.  Making this change in pedagogy isn't easy.  Old models of what's supposed to happen in a university classroom die hard.

But what about our model of the classroom itself?

The last time we built a new classroom building on campus the architect met with the university community.  The only comment I made was that it was frustrating as an instructor to spend five minutes at the beginning of each class laboriously redesigning the room so it better facilitates teaching and learning, and then another five minutes at the end of class changing the r…

Hunting the house through

I spent five years working construction as a union painter many years ago (IBPAT, Local 246, should anyone care to know).  Even so, it was my milkman grandfather who had the greatest insight about the chore of painting a house.  He remarked once that it was important to paint your house with a good brush every so often (and never to spray it).  The extra work involved allows you to get to know your house more intimately and it lets the house know how much you love it.

I've been painting our house this week, a couple of bedrooms.  They were the last rooms I had yet to get personal with after a decade and a half of living here.  Learned a few things, too.  The walls in this place (built in 1926) are still wonderfully straight and in good shape.  I also ran across some curious choices that were made when someone before my time remodeled and enlarged the closets.  Inspecting empty closets will tell you a lot about a house because people don't worry too much about the quality of t…

Media Memes about Higher Ed vs. Some Actual Numbers

A popular idea floating around in the public consciousness is that we send far too many kids to college these days and not all of them benefit from the experience.  You can add to this idea any number of variant themes.  Here are a few of the more popular ones:
College isn't needed because, hey, Bill Gates and those guys who founded Tumblr, Spotify and Pinterest were all college drop outs.The high cost saddles students with so much debt that a college degree has become a bad deal.College just isn't for everyone. There is some truth to all of these ideas.  If you happen to be a tech genius, insanely lucky and driven, then you probably don't need a college degree.  After all, there are 41 tech companies currently listed in Forbes Fortune 500 and last year there were between 21 and 22 million students enrolled in higher education of some form.  That means our anecdotal dropout has a .000186 percent shot at becoming the next big-time high-tech jillionaire.  So go ahead.  Drop …