August 22, 2014, 01:03 PM ET
Digital music has made it easier to buy and share recordings. But
try telling that to librarians. In March 2011, the University of
Washington's library tried to get a copy of a new recording of the
Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, playing
Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique
that the library could
lend to students. But the recording was available only as a digital
download, and Amazon and iTunes forbid renting out digital files.
So the librarians contacted the Philharmonic to see if there was
some way they could get a copy of the album that they could lend
out like a compact disc. The orchestra referred them to a
distributor, which referred them to the publisher, the Universal
Music Publishing Group. At first the corporation said it couldn't
license the recording to the university,
according to the librarians.
Later it offered to license 25
percent of the album for...
August 21, 2014, 03:08 PM ET
Designing a textbook or
lecture with the average student in mind may sound logical. But L.
Todd Rose, who teaches educational neuroscience at Harvard
University’s Graduate School of Education, argues that doing so
means that the lesson is designed for nobody. In a TEDx talk last
summer, the professor explained that most learners have a “jagged
profile” of traits when it comes to learning. One student might
have an affinity for science but have below-average reading skills.
Yet standard teaching practice assumes at least average skills
across the board. “Because our science textbook assumes every kid
is reading on grade level, we’re in trouble,” he said in the talk.
“For her, science class is first and foremost a reading test, and
it’s doubtful that we will ever see what she’s truly capable of.”
Mr. Rose believes that technology can help, by giving educators
detailed data on students ...
August 20, 2014, 04:56 AM ET
Earlier this month, a puckish Twitter user going by the handle
@ProfJeffJarvis managed to provoke two actual professors into fits
of outrage. Rurick Bradbury, the technology entrepreneur who runs
the account, has been sending up the jargon of contemporary
“thinkfluencers” since 2012, amassing 11,000 followers. He named
the account after Jeff Jarvis, a writer and professor at the City
University of New York’s journalism school, although the object of
Mr. Bradbury’s satire is not necessarily Mr. Jarvis but a
of new-media seers. Tweeting in character, Mr.
Bradbury got into a
with Nassim N. Taleb, a writer and professor of risk
engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic School of
with Mr. Jarvis himself, who said Mr. Bradbury “crossed a
line” by imperiling his reputation in the eyes of Mr. Taleb. We
hunted around for other...
August 5, 2014, 03:30 PM ET
People now buy songs, not albums. They read articles, not
newspapers. So why not mix and match learning “modules” rather than
lock into 12-week university courses? That question is a major
theme of a 213-page
released on Monday by a committee at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology
how the 153-year-old engineering powerhouse should
innovate to adapt to new technologies and new student expectations.
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“The very notion of a ‘class’ may be outdated,” the report argues.
That line appears in the context of online courses, but one of the
report's authors, Sanjay Sarma, who leads MIT's experiments with
massive open online courses, said in an email interview that the
sentiment could apply to in-person settings as well.
Students want to pick and choose.
August 5, 2014, 04:55 AM ET
Facebook and academe aren't exactly friends. Over the years, the
social-media company has been the source of ethically
research, the purveyor of
uncomfortable teacher-student interactions,
and, of course, the
scourge of lecture halls the world over. At least
on that last note, however, one researcher says higher education
has unfairly maligned the social-media behemoth. Kevin D.
Dougherty, an associate professor of sociology at Baylor
University, has spent the last two and a half years measuring how
the Facebook group he created for his introduction-to-sociology
course affected student performance. He found that students
who participated in the online group enjoyed the course more, felt
a stronger sense of belonging, and got better grades than those who
did not participate. In short, Mr. Dougherty says, the class's
Facebook group helped...
August 1, 2014, 04:55 AM ET
One narrative that has driven widespread interest in free online
courses known as MOOCs is that they can help educate the world. But
critics like to emphasize that the courses
students who already hold traditional degrees. So
when Coursera, the largest provider of MOOCs, published
a blog post
about how a professor had used one of its online
courses to teach refugees near the Kenya-Somalia border, it sounded
to some like a satire of Silicon Valley’s naïve techno-optimism:
Hundreds of thousands of devastated Africans stranded in a war
zone? MOOCs to the rescue!
July 29, 2014, 03:25 PM ET
Some professors are worried that the federal government will stifle
their ability to teach and do research with unmanned flying
machines. In a letter sent to the Federal Aviation Administration
last week, 30 professors argued that its recent pronouncements on
drones would unreasonably restrict scholars' ability to use the
small aircraft for academic purposes, the Associated Press
“To the best of our knowledge, no fatalities have
resulted from academic research with model aircraft,” says the
letter. “It is difficult to identify any other high-value activity
that occurs in the outdoor airspace and has such an extraordinary
safety record. Even baseballs are statistically more deadly.”
Colleges have been trying to use drones—the peaceable kind you can
buy online for a few hundred bucks, not the $4-million killing
machines used by the U.S. military—for academic...
July 23, 2014, 04:55 AM ET
The name of the company was 2gnōME. 2gnōME is pronounced "to know
me,” according to the company’s website (although in my head it
sounds more like a vinyl recording of some actual word playing in
reverse). It is a pun on the word "gnōme," which means "thought" in
Greek. There’s a “2” in the mix as well because we live in The
Future now. The company's product is a "feedback platform with
novel methodologies that assess 'soft' skills and qualities, based
on situations and behavior," according to its website. A
Pennsylvania State University professor was using 2gnōME in his
courses to raise the interpersonal skills of his students,
explained the marketing person who pitched me on the company in
April. The experiment was going quite well, she said, and did I
want to talk to the company's chief executive? 2gnōME is not alone
in its efforts to sell education products by...
July 21, 2014, 05:00 AM ET
A little over a century after his death, Joseph Pulitzer still
looms large at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
The building that houses the school bears his name. Every year the
school announces the Pulitzer Prizes from the World Room, a
reference to The World,
his New York newspaper. A bust of
the publishing tycoon and school founder peers across the
first-floor lobby and into what has been a construction zone for
the past nine months. But on Monday, professors are to move into
the space, the new headquarters of the David and Helen Gurley Brown
Institute for Media Innovation. In its sleek design and open
layout, it feels like a cross between a newsroom and a start-up. An
official opening is planned for September 16. A gauze-like scrim
covers the interior. By day it will allow students and professors
to project images onto the walls. By night the material's...
July 18, 2014, 02:20 PM ET
When it comes to building campuses from scratch in the information
age, few institutions have a track record like New York
University's. Under its current president, John E. Sexton, NYU has
opened campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. In 2012 it earned New
York City's backing for a new graduate-level institute
Brooklyn. While in New York recently to
cover Cornell Tech
and its ambitious plans to build an
applied-sciences graduate school on Roosevelt Island, I asked
members of New York University’s IT brain trust how they’ve
approached similar challenges. Many of their responses mirrored
what I heard at Cornell Tech: Don’t focus on individual
technologies. Make flexibility a priority. Keep a long-term
outlook, even if all the eyes will be on opening day. Those are
principles, though. Some might call them platitudes. What
universities actually do often reveals the hard...