July 18, 2012, 10:08 am
“Why does a stationary skater remain stationary?” That’s a question that Lou Bloomfield asks his students in the opening lecture of “Physics 1050: How Things Work,” which he has taught at the University of Virginia for 21 years.
Many physics students think they understand inertia. But they might not actually understand how profound inertia is unless we see it in … uh, inaction.
So Lou stands up on one of those huge lab tables that anchor science lecture halls and places a smaller table on top. On that table he places a crimson tablecloth, a plate, a glass of wine, and a flower vase. Then he whisks the table cloth out from under the items, leaving them intact. It’s one of his simpler demonstrations, but it frames and illustrates inertia better than any diagram or sentence ever could. Students never forget that trick.
Lou is an outstanding professor in every sense. His…
July 6, 2012, 1:50 pm
One of the most interesting and maddening issues to emerge from the debacle at the University of Virginia over the past month has been the obsession that people far removed from the actual work of teaching college and university students have for MOOCs.
MOOCs is the acronym we use to describe “Massive Open Online Courses,” such as those offered with great fanfare by Stanford University, MIT, Harvard, and others. We saw this obsession expressed in the e-mails that UVa Rector Helen Dragas exchanged with the recently resigned Vice Rector, Mark Kington. The e-mails were released after the UVa student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, issued a Freedom of Information request for them. It seems that both Kington and Dragas saw these recent moves by America’s elite private universities as something of a missed opportunity for UVa.
President Teresa Sullivan’s scholarly, intelligent…
June 27, 2012, 4:03 pm
As much as I like and respect President Teresa Sullivan of the University of Virginia, the two-week struggle to restore her to her office was never about her. It was about who gets to guide the future of a great public research university. And in a sense, it was about how all great public research universities will be governed and guided in the next few years.
That’s why it was so gratifying to receive supportive correspondence from people around the world. Alumni and students were the most vocal. They saw the potential hijacking of UVa by a small cabal of market- and techno-fundamentalists as a clear danger to not only the traditions of their alma mater but to the very value of the degrees they have earned.
I have had a day to reflect on how it all went down. I compiled a few bullet points that I hope outline a bit of how we accomplished what two weeks ago seemed impossible….
June 25, 2012, 4:04 pm
Here at the University of Virginia, we have been going through a traumatic couple of weeks. As a result of a reckless and radical move by the Board of Visitors to drive President Teresa Sullivan from her office, we have lost financial support, students, and talented colleagues. The board has damaged the reputation of this great institution. So we on the faculty are fighting to restore the reputation.
When the rector of the Board, Helen Dragas, declared late last week that she was unsatisfied by the fact that she saw the University of Virginia falling behind other major universities in the deployment of digital classroom innovation, we were shocked.
Why didn’t she just ask us? UVa’s innovative digital reputation is one of the reasons I moved here five years ago. I have taught online, and so have many of my colleagues. If she had asked, I would have introduced Dragas to six or…