Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pay upon graduation

Well, the Texas State Legislature is at it again. As with most states, the number of students not graduating from college has become a grave concern in these economic times. We gotta fix this. That is for certain. However the way in which they are addressing this situation is going to create more grave problems.

The new deal is that the Legislatures Legislatures now want to pay according to students that graduate and not students that attend classes. This is a boom to colleges that have rigorous entrance requirements and, hence, high graduation rates.

For those colleges that are open enrollment, this is a predicament. The same reason we have open enrollment colleges is the same reason these colleges have low graduation rates. We can't penalize students who have had poor preparation in high school, situations that their family and social life create, and just plain immaturity. They deserve a second chance. However we all know that many of thee students take these challenges with them and are not going to make it through college without a great deal of perspiration and support. You can't penalize colleges for doing the right thing by giving students a second or even third chance.

And yes, colleges with extremely low graduation rates should get help re-evaluating what they are doing.

We also know that, like Sara Palin and I (I can see Mexico from my office!), many folks that pay for their own college, have to stop in and out as they regenerate funds and transfer to colleges close to work or family.

So, If a student stops out for a semester or a year to build resources and is committed to go back because of his or her experiences, however transfered to a different school, should the original school be punished? In this scenario they first college would. The second college will win the jackpot.

Well, we just track students; that will cost one cazillioin dollars. We just lost the financial advantage.

We could go on forever with examples that this new way of funding colleges is teh right way to police colleges. Perhaps their is an elephant in the room and we are at a really at a complete stand still here with how/why/where/what for we educate students. The system is beyond tweaking, we are in for some major repairs. This economic condition will make this more immanent.

Tough questions are on the horizon about technical programs, certificates, length of time it requires to educate students, liberal education, and how we pay for education.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where the boys are....?

I remember my high school teachers patting me on the head and patiently explaining that women cannot/should not do science. Much better to find a nice husband to take care of me. When I did get to college, the sea of blonde and blue eyed men was astounding and inspiring to a young co-ed. The ratio of men to women made it even more interesting.

Things have changed. Stats show that the attendance is edging up to 60% women on campuses. Fewer and fewer men are showing up for college and, for those that do, fewer and fewer are graduating. The 64 thousand dollar question is where are the men?

In a recent article in This Week, that talked about an article in U.S. News, the author was discussing that we are graduating too many financial advisors, lawyers, marketing, etc. majors. We are not producing enough people to make the products that made the U.S. the country it is now. Perhaps, he suggested, that we produce more machinists.

Perhaps these disappearing men come from those ranks that are going out into the workforce to make products. Perhaps they can't see how the investment in college is going to help them in their career. Could it be that we need to do some systemic change for what colleges teach, the length of time in which subjects are taught, and what people really need to make it financially? This is not just rearranging courses, but taking a step back and looking again at two year and certificate applied programs. Perhaps this will bring men back to college if they can see a financial value.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How do we get hellicopter parents linked to the kids that need them?

Ok, I am going to start a whole big campaign to link up helicopter moms, dads, grandparents, and whomever to the kids that need them. A new book came out The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up (Free Press).

When at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, we conducted radio interviews with students about what they did to get to college. This is a prestigious, small college that excels in teaching and mentoring students. We use to kid around that there was one club per student and faculty adviser. The interviews were a surprise. Every student we interviewed had relayed that a family member, friend, or counselor completed the paper work, helped find scholarships, terrorized admissions staff, and drug the student along. The graduation rate at Westminster is a whopping 95%.

Now, we look at Hispanic students at UTB/TSC that are not only navigating the system alone, but often against the wishes of their family. Actually, it is not necessarily against family wishes, but the economic need to support the extended family.

So, my solution is that we take these helicopter parents that are terrorizing their kids, preventing them from maturing and living life as their own, and assign them to a student who really needs a helicopter busy body.

Easy solution, how do you implement it? Which is now getting me thinking that there is a way to do this with social media.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Playing nice

Today a friend forwarded me a webpage A day in the life as the director of IBM research that gave some insight as to how we need to view education in the 21st Century.

Some how over the years, the disciplines have become isolated from each other. Courses have become more standardized and narrow in focus; students don't interact with those from other disciplines.

So, how are we, as college professors, going to send students out into a workforce that requires interdisciplinary research?

One of the most valuable courses I took at Ohio State was a class for science, education, medical, and behavioral science students to discuss current issues in medicine, the science behind them, and the pubic perception. The discussion went long past the end time and sometimes meandered into the local pub.

When I attended the first group of Cold Springs Harbor workshops for the Human Genome project as they were setting up the infrastructure, Watson's greatest move was gathering educators, public relations specialists, behavioral scientists, and scientists together to discuss the social impacts of this. When the project disbursed money, they included all the science and technological fields. This project may not have gone as well had he not done so.

Solving problems is not an assembly line process, it is a group sport. We can't solve problems like we can put together a car on an assembly line.

So, the question is, how can we educate students to be problem solvers and how do we get students from different disciplines together?


Monday, June 7, 2010

Technology Supported Learning

For a couple years now I have been struggling with teaching about using technology. We are a bit stuck on teaching with technology means that one has to use it in the classroom. That is not so.

As I started to develop a certificate program in Teaching with Technology I stumbled upon a website that called it Technology Supported Learning. Duh. Am I behind on the curve. They coined it and even had the same challenges I had with trying to quantify it in easy terms. Technology is about learning, not just teaching.

This is what they wrote as they progressed towards a learning model rather than a teaching model.

The name change to Technology Supported Learning & Retention (TSLR) from Technology Enhanced Instruction (TEI) better reflects the focus on student learning rather than faculty teaching - an important distinction. The Technology Enhanced Instruction (TEI) was the name of the original project groundwork done in 2003. However, as the basis for curriculum for 2008 and beyond, a more student-centered title is appropriate. It isn't about us (faculty and course designers), it is about all of us (students and instructors as learners). Interestingly, little needed to be changed beyond the title, as the students' learning was the primary focus of the course materials.

So, from now on, lets look at technology not just in the classroom but a way to promote many forms of learning that students can use on their own to increase their learning. For example, if you have students that need to use audio or video to help them grasp concepts, you don't want to take time in the class to play a video. However, if you have identified resources that students can use as an alternative to lecture or textbook, students can access these on their own. Your part is to make them aware of resources that provide accurate information. Or, you can make Second Life or other social network available to them so that they may have more contact with you and with their fellow students.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

college gospel

The education gospel is that if you go to college you will get a good job. (Good translates to high paying.) But more studies are questioning the economic impact of a college education.

And, it is true. The economic impact is not always there. Some of our lowest paying jobs require the highest degrees (capital investment), like social work, teaching, marine biologist, or marketing.

As a result of the education gospel we have more students in college than ever before. We also have more students flocking to college under-prepared academically, under-advised for financial aid, and under-mentored to maneuver the system, firmly carrying the burning bush of the education gospel.

So what do we do? Stop open enrollment colleges? No. We cannot punish a student who, for whatever reason she is under-prepared, to not have a second chance by attending college. Many of these students described are very surprised that they are under-prepared. It is just as much a shock to them to be sitting in a college classroom staring incoherently at a professor who is equally in shock. Deer in the headlights all the way around.

There are many ways in which this economic impact can be adjusted; not all easy actions to accomplish. But there is one that can do it pretty quickly. Monitor and mentor students about the amount they should borrow.

These easy to get loans have allowed colleges to continually raise costs. Lending agencies are very generous with government backed loans. But this free and easy lending falsely convinces students they can take out money that will pay for college and lead them directly to a high paying job. Didn't the bank and college affirm that they believed it was a safe financial risk for a liberal arts major to borrow $60,000?

So, encourage students to be poor now to be rich later. Low or no loans on graduation makes even low paying professions an economic benefit. And, lets not too quickly blame college for a degree losing its positive economic impact for students.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

And here comes Alex!

We wonder about what students walk away with from college biology courses that they can apply to the real world. Not enough is my opinion. And, while I am stating my opinion, students don't always come out critical thinkers by the teaching methods that are commonly used. (My apologies and congratulations to those using innovative and unique teaching methods.)

Science courses are often burdened with too much textbook. Look at general biology for non-science majors. Students pay $125 to purchase a watered down textbook that is almost identical as the one they had in high school. If they took A.P. it may have been the same textbook. Although in high school they get more pretty pictures of DNA floating around like a star ship.

Lets look at what are the Student Learning Objectives from most college biology courses.

As an example, I put in Student Learning Objectives in Google to get a random sample of what students are expected to learn and exhibit in a typical biology course. As expected, the main objectives are littered with words on critical thinking, real world application, analytical skills, connections between scientists and lay people. Why are the littered? Because those are the most important qualities students can leave with.

I am not too sure how memorizing the stages of the Kreb cycle would be more appropriate to teach critical thinking skills.

Alex will be the name of the first hurricane that might charge up the Gulf of Mexico. It might play havoc with moving the oil spill/blob towards the Florida coast and clear down to the Keys. This is a teaching moment.

If any good can come out of this oil spill, using it as a case study is the perfect way to teach students about biology.

For example a simple question like "How is the oil on top of the water killing organisms underneath? Students would have to look at the ways the oil is affecting the water, how chemicals are getting into the organisms, how it affects the cells, and what happens in the environment that changes the ecosystem.

So lets see what the students will learn:

properties of water
properties of oil
cell structure
bio diversity
I could probably link it to every subject in the $125.00 biology textbook.

More than that, this used as a case study teaches students how science is applied to the real world.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

This is interesting

Pearson Education just came out with a report on faculty's use of social networks.....guess that they found? Four out of five faculty members use some type of social network. Duh

For years colleges have been bringing faculty up to speed to meet the demands of industry and proffessions that require technology literate workers. At first it was a race to get faculty up to the level of students. Now faculty and students are racing ahead together.

In a discussion about learning theories, we were talking about some of the old 80's theories as good foundations, but have not all kept up with the new type of student. In the 80's students were largely white males, full time students, attended middle to upper middle class schools, and came from families that had a tradition or expectation of college. Today's students look nothing like that.

Students have jobs, struggle to complete a bachelor's in five or six years, have to work, live at home or off campus, have vastly different levels of preparedness, and technology is a tool none can do without.

The idea that faculty use social networks is not at all surprising. They are just the most efficient way to communicate with students that cannot come into office hours, can't answer phones at work, and are driving kids to school, soccer, play rehearsal. At 10 p.m. when the kids are in bed, Friday night when they have no work, or Sunday when it is quiet, then they have time to sit and correspond. That scenario actually goes for faculty as well as for students.

So, now that Pearson has ignored this for years and are publishing this "astounding revelation" (about 20 years too late). How are they going to change their products to match the way students are learning and and we are teaching today?

Don't hold your breath on anything quick. I remember one salesperson recently telling me he would open the demo box of electronic textbooks to show customers "when this Internet thing caught on!"

Frankly I am betting on new, young, innovative, exciting, and lean and mean companies coming in with products we can use and at a decent price. We need another .com boom. Or .edu boom to be more exact.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

eTextbooks or Paper: The Battle Turns into a War

The iPad has started a revolution. U Cincinnati and OhioLINK Research Digital Textbook Adoption

Despite the lower price and other benefits of eTextbooks, they have never been as popular in the past as educators would have imagined. Not surprising. Most of the eTextbooks, including the ones displayed on Kindel, are just fuzzy text. Not an innovative and diverse way of learning. It is like comparing apples and apples.

Fuzzy text. Think about it. When we get on an electronic media, we expect to have someone thing interactive, visually appealing, diverse, and text arranged in layers so that we are brought into the text, not bamboozled by text.

The textbook companies, playing big business people, buying and selling companies, on credit, have big businessed themselves right out of the market. Companies that once had comfortable profits are trying to pay off huge loans. There will be no bail out for them. The results are fewer staff people, fewer innovative projects, cutting manufacturing and transportation costs, and trying to increase sales and prices (good luck with that!)

The companies have even been so silly in their business practices, they have become incestuous, buying and selling themselves (or is this cannibalistic). They have been in ugly bidding wars selling books against their own sister companies.

The war that is ensuing has been escalated to critical as the high cost of education has affected everyone in this economy so cuts are ahead. In defense of the textbook companies, they are taking a major hit with colleges as they try and get the cuts to come from somewhere else.

In the argument about the high cost of textbooks, few understand that the bookstores and the colleges are also taking a profit. Colleges are attacking the textbook publishers and blaming them for the high cost of education trying to divert the blame for the high cost of education.

Now educators are doing studies to determine what students want. However, the iPad changes the playing field. Studies showing student preferences will always be bad if it is a dry, static textbook on paper or on line. We gotta throw all past studies out.

Lets watch the iPad and the next generation of digital textbook readers that put the activity back into learning.

Frankly though, i am betting on the eTextbooks that can be accessed by whatever electronic device on the internet.

With a digital reader, the students have to still have to purchase a laptop. With an eTextbook that can be accessed by the Internet and not downloaded, students only need one machine. Colleges won't have to decide on one textbook reader over another.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Give Faculty a Break on Technology

UT Systems bought land on Second Life for all the UT colleges. SL is the largest of the virtual worlds. We have been getting ready to have faculty use it for teaching however we are having challenges. (We don't say problems in PC educational writing. We are challenged; not defeated.)

"what are the challenges?" You ask. There are plenty. However some of us veteran folks could easily just rerun the conversations of the mid 1990's about the Internet.

1. The pornographers are on with a vengeance.
2. Computers are too slow.
3. The learning curve is high but zooms down.
4. Students don't have the right computers.
5. People over 30 won't get on.

Sound familiar? I remember interviewing a librarian in 2000 who said most of her time was spent making sure students were not accessing porno sights. She was exhausted running around in a computer room of 50 computers.

But you know, we figured it all out.

But lets look at what we learned from the introduction of the Internet that will help us as new technologies come in.

1. The pornographers need to be put in their own section. Check.
2. Some computers are too slow, but in a year or so they will begin to match each other...better software and computers better designed for virtual worlds.
3. Develop patience and organize the early adopters to become mentors to the next group.
4. Make sure open labs have some computers students can use that have the software. And, no matter what, the industry will be like hot dog buns and hot dogs; made so you always have to buy more to try and even things out.
5. That is a laugh.

At UTB/TSC we are building a support system for new adopters in technology and those that want to experiment (do research) with new methodologies and tools for learning. SL is just one product that shows promise for learning.

I also remember the bets that were if Amazon could make it. "Who would buy a book on line over going to the neighborhood book store?" And E-bay. "Who would buy something on line when they could go to their local store and see it before they purchased it?" Soothsayers obviously never tried to get a copy of SL Scripts or Cincinnati Chili at their neighborhood shops.

Now for those that say Second Life will never catch on should remember what was said about talkies. "Who would ever want to watch a movie and hear the talk at the same time?

Meanwhile here is an interesting article. Let Faculty Off the Hook

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lower salaries for faculty

According to an article in Higher Education today, nationwide we are experiencing a decline in faculty salaries.

This is not good.

We struggle with 'market value' of hiring new faculty. Universities would like to keep faculty salaries in line across the board because getting a Ph.D. in any field is a challenge. Lots of hard work, long hours, and competition, but that is a Pollyanna point of view.

For example, the market value of English professors, a discipline that has an overwhelming number of talented folks with Ph.D.'s, continues to produce many more graduate than can possibly be hired in academics. Hence, over the last ten years, salaries have dropped.

Market value can cause salaries to drastically raise and fall within a short period of time. At the start of the Human Genome Project, salaries were high for graduate students, post-docs, and faculty. At that time, the millions of experiments that had to be done were all done manually. Labs were huge, often with 20 or more grad students. As a result of the successful project, experiments were automated and didn't require an army of students and faculty to run them. Lots of graduates hit the job market to discover there were no jobs. Thus the starting salaries dramatically shrank.

Market value allows salaries of faculty who are in engineering, pre-med, physics, computer science, and economics very high. However market value keeps salaries of faculty with masters degrees and those with Ph.D.'s in humanities low. This article shows around a minimum of $25,000 difference in starting salaries.

Because of the poor economy, colleges are growing. Austin Community College showed a 26% increase in students Fall semester. Does this keep salaries high with more demand?


College administrators are very cautious about this increase. Bean counters know, that the minute the economy begins to recover and extra money for college stops, most of those students-in-waiting will take off, probably degree-less, and return to work; maybe even their old job.

Therefore, the new faculty positions opening up right now, are for adjuncts; not full time faculty. Colleges will not invest in full time faculty until they are positive that they can sustain them by consistent and sustainable enrollment.

This is a time faculty need to focus on keeping salaries high. Otherwise we will come out of this recession, salary wise, deep in the red.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rethinking Tenure

The President of The Ohio State University is opening conversations about the qualifications for tenure. His point questions if the most qualified are the biggest researchers? Should a research profile be the benchmark?

For those of you who have not attended The Ohio State, this statement there will probably be considered by most, blasphemy or at least crazy thinking. Is this going to get attention with lots of backlash? For sure. However the source is Gorden Gee. In higher education nationally everyone loves him; administrators, deans, chairs, faculty, students, dogs, cats, and probably a space alien or two. I bet Limbaugh would fear to criticize him.

What is he respected for? Candid opinions and well though out discussion topics. For years there has been talk about what constitutes a valuable faculty member to colleges. The benchmark is how close a faculty member is to being a researcher that brings in lots of grant money for big, big research.

The closer someone is to this profile, the better are his or her chances for tenure.

This emphasis on research sharpened and escalated after WWII when we were very aware of the importance of our being scientific ready. Not a bad move. But other factors are here to play now.

In 1949, only 25% of people in high school made it to graduation.(This figure did not include minorities and lower socioeconomic students when they dropped out or were unable to attend high school) Over 75% (educated guess estimate)of students graduate, there are many more students now, and 60% of them continue on to college.

What we are experiencing now is more people than ever are in college; more students than ever under-prepared and under-mature. We have all experienced the wide eyed student in our classes staring as us incoherently and a bit frightened, not quite understanding where they are.

College has changed from underneath us. The challenge is that college is the most economical and easiest way to do original research, something that is needed to keep commercial and government influences out. so we have to keep that intact. The next statistic is very important for how we have to change our thinking. That is only 50% of students nationally graduate. Not all are lost because they are not capable of graduating and we don't know how they will contribute.

What is needed? A core of people that want to teach and mentor students. This is not a new idea at all. Higher education faculty have been talking about this for years. The part that is interesting is now that Gordon Gee, the most popular person on earth, is publicly agreeing with this, will things change? This change will be not to eliminate researchers (no matter how annoying they may be), but to look at a broader rubric for assessing faculty for tenure.

And, will this bring back more tenure professors? With such a narrow benchmark, tenure had to shrink. Broadening the qualifications may allow more tenured faculty because they are not going to eliminate researchers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tuition Raise Again

This week the University of Texas system Coordinating Board has agreed to raise tuition for most of its colleges according to the Brownsville Herald. For our students here at UTB/TSC, the raise will mean an additional $164 per semester hour beginning in Fall of 2011. (This doesn't sound bad until you calculate for a full time student that is $1,680.00 additional each semester.)

What do we do about this? Encourage students to NOT take out loans! Sorry you were probably thinking I was going to give old 60's advice to take over the ivory tower.

Students that take out excessive loans in anticipation of a great paying job, don't always realize what that "great paying" job really may pay. To a student surviving on $10,000 a year, $35,000 starting pay sounds like a lot. We, of course, chuckle at this. The next mistake is thinking that the interest is "really low" on a college loan so it is ok to borrow a lot. They say this until they have to start making payments and not see the principal go down.

Their college payoff is often shockingly close to the amount of money they would pay for their first house. Add a new car to get to the job, a couple business suits, and they are over their head at the starting gate of a new career.

So, encourage the students to consider these things:

  • Economize now to make the college financial investment work.

  • Visit the career center to calculate what jobs in their field really pay. Are they in the right major?

  • Fine tune their bilingual skills and head north after graduation.

  • Remind them that most job applications require a college transcript. Grades are one of the factors employers use to pick the top candidate.

I look at the tuition now and wonder how I would have made it today!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Texas Can Take You Higher!

A report in the San Antonio Express News relays that Texas is actively recruiting faculty from the battled California colleges.

Texas colleges are predicting that the uncertain state of financial affairs in California has top researchers nervous about their future in California. A HUGE ad has been placed in the the Chrony stating the good health of Texas schools and economy.

So, here at UTB/TSC we are facing a 4 million dollar shortfall and a hiring slow down as we look at our financial outlook for next year.

The article states where Texas has channeled additional funding to higher education. Most of it has gone to create more Tier 1 colleges in their efforts to boost research. This is what is we call "revenue generating faculty".

But there is also another type of "revenue generating faculty" those are teaching faculty that nurture students to graduation through excellent teaching by connecting with students with through clubs, undergraduate research, seminars, publishing, service learning, research fairs, and other activities that get students involved beyond the textbook.

When I was at Westminster College, they called themselves a teaching college, but that didn't mean there was no research; there was tons. Because of the research they did in Biology, 5 out of 5 students that applied for medical school got in. Because of the connections with faculty outside of the classroom 96% of the freshman made it to graduation. (Top rated on exit surveys)

The top Texas college administrators said that this is the economic time for states to invest in higher education. To be a teaching college, we also need labs, student gathering places, clubs, and other activities. These cost money. UTB/TSC is also a great investment.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Texas Southmost Math Challenge

Texas Southmost Math Challenge

The Department of Mathematics at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, will be offering weekly sessions for high school students interested in participating in local, state, national or international mathematics competitions or mathematical olympiads.

The first meeting will be on Tuesday, March 2, from 4:30pm to 6:00pm in Tandy 113. Click here to access the flyer for the event along with sample problems.

The math department would like you to share this with your students, friends and family. Please join us as we embark in this new adventure.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Study on People's Perception of College

A new survey has been published about people's perception of college. There are lots of interesting tidbits on here but one caught my eye - class size. As colleges investigate how they balance budgets class size keeps looming up.

Higher Ed Morning published these statistics

* 60% believe colleges could “take a lot more students” without sacrificing quality or increasing costs.

There were lots of interesting statistics but this one stood out. So, if colleges take more students, class sizes will have to grow. The argument has been that class size negatively affects learning so why would the people surveyed say it does not?

Years ago, working on my masters, lots of researchers, including me, looked at large college classes. The results were all over the board. Seems that class size is just one small variable for student learning. It can or cannot be good and it depends on many factors.

Dan Barrick has an interesting take on it in his article for Inside Higher Education, Does Class Size Matter He doesn't have the answer, but he has some interesting thoughts. If we continue to grow colleges and class size, we need to do research on how we can effectively teach large classes without killing the professors and losing the students.

Large class sizes are not going to go away. So, we need to begin investigating what it takes to produce an effective large class, identifying those factors and putting them in our formula for success.

There is one interesting analogy he gave about building autos to illustrate how mass production methods have been laboriously scrutinized and studied by industry. The result has been that many mass produced cars are related more reliable and better built than smaller almost-by-hand manufacturers. We should put the same amount of research in how to effectively teach large classes.

There was a tad bit of a flaw in his example. His analogy was how Toyota has been rated better than Ferrari. Guess that means as we learn how to effectively teach large classes, we should never think we are done.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ken Bain's Visit to Brownsville

Ken Bain, author of What the Best College Teachers Do, use to live in the Lower Rio Grande Valley 25 years ago when he taught at UTPA. So, his trip to spend a day with us at UTB was a very special one for him. He recognized little because when he left UTB/TSC had not been partnered yet and Brownsville was a small, quiet town.

Ok, maybe the image on the left doesn't quite fit the time period, but think about it; 25 years is a long time, especially for a school and town that has grown so big and so fast.

We'll be writing more about the ideas Ken brought up and the reflections and motivation his words inspired, but first we are going to brag a bit here. Ken loved us. Why? Well we did things a bit differently. Rather than large discussions, we had a small, general discussion in the morning for individual faculty. It was a general talk about what makes a great teacher and how he or she promotes deep learning in students.

Over the lunch period, we invited the book club to just sit around, eat, and talk with Ken. Others sneaked in....and I know who they are! The informal discussions were lively, even at the tables where Ken was not.

In the afternoon we had groups from around campus come in and talk to Ken about special projects for some sage advice and consulting. More discussion will come from that.

Ken came back on Saturday and visited with our ARCC program in astrophysics where our undergraduate students are searching for new pulsars. This research contributes to the international effort of scientists attempting to identify what gravity is. (For me the question would be, can we get it to reverse itself when we turn 45? Nip Tuck) This is just one of our students in research programs in the College of Science, Mathematics, and Technology.

Why was Ken impressed with us? Because of the innovative projects we are doing in how we educate and motivate students that have the will but not the preparation and our plans to do more.

After talking with faculty, Ken is going to come back. So all of you that missed him, get ready to sign up! (And, give yourself a pat on the back.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Social Networking and Student Acheivement

The talk in the faculty lounge, beyond the local gossip, is bemoaning the amount of time students spend on social networking.

"People that spend time on Facebook need to get a life. Don't they have anything to do?" was a comment from a colleague.

I looked up from commenting on my grand daughter's first A in chemistry, my excited niece's announcement of her and her husband's fourth pregnancy (she hasn't figured out yet what causes this), my 82 year old mom's hammering out "I''m k..ok and wennt to chruch today" on her Wall, and my sister-in-law's ranting about her latest, and, thank heavens, successful but eventful operation.

Guess I don't.

We have all heard that "students today...." In the late 18000's and early 1900's the dredge of the education world was the dime novels, (the following is cut and pasted from Wipipedia which they in turn had cut and pasted from another source): In the modern age, "dime novel" has become a term to describe any quickly written, lurid potboiler and as such is generally used as a pejorative to describe a sensationalized yet superficial piece of written work.

Educators then were bemoaning that kids were wasting their time non-stop reading these sensational books, rather than reading the classics like Shakespeare (OMG).

Studies are starting to show some interesting results. One of which that just came out that the amount of time a student spends on Facebook doesn't predict anything about their academic behavior.


So, are we just bemoaning the latest type of (in our eyes) time waster and not realizing that students have other things in their lives outside of school? And, maybe for every generation they have amusements they have all identified that keeps them reading and writing.