All Posts Tagged With: "learning"
Prof. Pettigrew: You’ll just need to trust us.
The most attractive and least practical idea in the world of Canadian universities is the notion that universities should be accountable for what students are actually learning.
After all, if taxpayers are funding universities, shouldn’t they have some assurances that students are actually learning what they are supposed to be learning? For that matter, if parents are footing a big part of the bill, shouldn’t they have some assurances too? And what about students? If they are trying to build a future based on a university degree, why can’t they guarantee a potential employer that they have some real skills?
When it comes to learning, are we just supposed to take professors’ words for it?
I encounter such arguments frequently, most recently in this piece by Maureen Mancuso. Mancuso quite rightly notes that it is silly and reductive to see university education merely as an investment, but wonders, nevertheless, why we can’t seek some changes to make us more accountable.
Psychologist proves that even adults can learn to play guitar
Like a lot of academics in his field, New York University psychology professor Gary Marcus believed the brain acquires certain skills such as language during early critical periods and, after that, the window of opportunity shuts. Children immersed in a new language learn more quickly than adults, according to some studies, but Marcus was beginning to have some doubts about the “critical period” theory.
In his new book, Guitar Zero: the New Musician and the Science of Learning, he decided to test whether an adult with clumsy fingers and no sense of rhythm like himself could pick up the guitar at age 38.
A defense against those who say lectures should be “social”
There are few long-standing traditions that have as rough a reputation these days as the lecture.
Many commentators on higher education tend to see them as boring, old-fashioned and unsuited to the modern world and the modern student.
Thus American psychology professor Pamela Rutledge in this recent blog entry takes the lecture as typical of the hidebound university because it is “unidirectional and linear,” not social and students don’t get to decide when it’s over.
But despite her arguments, I feel confident that traditional lectures serve a unique purpose. I believe they will serve us well into the future.
Find out why some students are opposed
Back in first year, I remember realizing that the hardest part of university isn’t the lab reports, the chemistry midterms, or the 1000-word essays.
It’s when they’re all due within three days of each other. Before you can even begin learning the material, you must learn how to juggle five course’s worth material that always comes due at once.
That problem could be eliminated for future students at tiny Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which is debating switching to a block plan where students would be taught one course at a time, rather than five at once.
The block plan looks like this. A semester’s worth of calculus is compressed into three and a half weeks, with classes taking three or four hours each day, followed by four or five hours of homework. After a few weeks, there’s an exam. Then students move directly to the next course.
Study that shows students learn little misses the point
It seems Canadian universities are paying closer attention to a study that came out of New York University a few weeks ago. The study argues that students aren’t going to university to learn anymore; they’re going there to socialize.
According to the report, students can spend less than half as many hours studying as they do socializing. The study seems to be making a statement that youth of today are unreliable and unruly, that they are less then the university graduates of a generation ago.
Todd Pettigrew has already pointed out that there is little reason to panic that the study’s finding would ring true in Canada. Recent comments from the vice-provost at the University of Western Ontario would back that statement up.
“For most things in life, you get out of something what you put into it,” John Doerksen said in Feb 3 press release. “It’s possible for students to find the easiest route to a diploma at the end of the day, but on the whole universities are serving populations well.”
Whenever you paint an entire population with the same brush, you risk painting some students the wrong colour. It’s a dangerous game to play. While the study found that “45 per cent of students made no significant improvement in critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years, and 36 per cent showed no improvement after four years of schooling” more than half of students did make critical progress.
According to the study, students spent about 85 hours a week socializing or participating in extracurricular activities. Less than 40 hours per week were devoted to academics.
“This surprises me,” Doerksen continues. “From my own experience I would say that students are spending very significant amounts of time on their academic pursuits.”
Doerksen believes Canada’s post-secondary system is well-equipped to prepare students for the rest of their lives. “If a student wants to learn, there is an appropriate environment for that here,” he adds.
Taking away too much from a study that focuses on less than half of the students surveyed is a bad idea. Those students are perhaps not the best hiring choices for new companies, but the remaining 55 per cent of the student body are eager, learning and increasingly critically-minded people who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
By not showcasing the 55 per cent who are making a difference, the paper fails. If 45 per cent of students are not valuing lessons and skills learned in the classroom, they’ll hit their proverbial brick wall at some point. But lets not lose sight of the majority of students who are benefiting from post-secondary education.
Study says professors don’t put effort into teaching
University students muddle through towards a degree without acquiring much acknowledge, a new report shows. The study, conducted by New York University sociologist Richard Arum, and Josipa Roska from the University of Virginia, was based on their book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.
More than 3,000 students from 29 American universities and colleges were surveyed by the researchers. What they found was startling. Forty-five per cent of students did not show an improvement on skills such as writing and critical thinking. After four years, 36 per cent of students had barely improved. Student learning was measured using the Collegiate Learning Assessment. “These are really kind of shocking, disturbing numbers,” Arum told USA Today.
The report also found that students were studying half the amount of time as students a decade ago, but that the average grade point average was 3.2. “Students are able to navigate through the system quite well with little effort,” Arum said. Professors focusing less energy towards teaching and more towards research, are cited as reasons for the results.
Professors dish on how students can learn more from them outside of the classroom
There is one person in your lecture theatre who is a little different from everyone else. No, I’m not talking about that guy who never bathes, who whispers to himself as he takes notes, and who seems completely unaware that his nose whistles every time he exhales.
I’m talking about the one standing up at the front of the room, talking; the one who everyone who isn’t playing with their computer or phone is watching: your prof.
I’m sure that your prof seems like a lofty intellectual who is much too clever, important and busy to want to talk to the likes of you, but I’ve got news for you: your prof is a human being, and it gets lonely up there at the front of the room when you’ve spent an hour talking and nobody has asked a single question or given any other indication they’ve understood a word you’ve said.
Educating you and making sure that you understand the course material is part of your prof’s job, and talking directly to your prof can make a world of difference to what you get out of a class. What you may find surprising is that your prof (probably) wants to talk to you. Don’t take our word for it; we surveyed an assortment of professors from across the country and two of the most common things we heard from them were that they enjoy talking to students, and that too few students take the time to talk to their professors outside of class.
Talking to students lets profs know that they’re actually getting through. “I love it when students come to me and ask questions,” wrote professor Carolyn Eyles of McMaster University. “It shows they are interested in the material and I’ll always spend time with them.”
The questions students ask provide professors with valuable feedback about their communication style, letting them know what is and what is not being understood by their classes. “I do learn a lot from student questions. I learn to communicate a lot better,” said Patangi Rangachari, also of McMaster.
But what can talking to your professors do for you? Lots. There are reasons why you go to campus every day, instead of just staying home and learning from a textbook.
The most obvious thing your professor can do is help you understand something from the lecture or the readings that you just can’t get. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and there is more than one way to approach whatever concept you’re having trouble with. “Explain to us where we came short in the lecture, and we will offer you another perspective on the issue so you can understand it better,” says Mercedes Rowinsky-Geurts of Wilfred Laurier University.
If you talk to them in person, many professors will give you a more detailed preview of what is going to be on an upcoming exam, to help you focus your studying. Some will even provide sample exam questions to practice on. Profs will discuss essay topics with students, and may be willing to go over an outline or even a complete draft of your essay with you.
Tech tools range from periodic tables and calculators to audio books and news feeds
Calgary students told to turn off their iPods might soon have an excuse to keep the small gadgets glowing – they can say they’re just doing homework.
The Calgary Board of Education is starting a series of pilot projects that could see many types of technology such as iPods, video conferencing and green screens incorporated into classrooms and school libraries.
Most students have grown up used to having digital tools on hand at all times, says Erin Hansen, project lead for the new initiative. Teachers may be able to make learning more personal for students by helping incorporate these familiar gadgets.
“How deeply are students using these tools? Are they just using them to text message and to telephone, et cetera? What deeper purposes can we use them for?”
Hansen is currently trying out some of the tools in the board’s resource library for teachers ahead of a classroom rollout that could begin within a few months.
For example, she’s found a vast variety of educational applications for iPods. While they’re not included in classrooms just yet, possible tools range from portable periodic tables, astronomy charts and graphing calculators to downloadable audio books and news feeds.
Videoconferencing could link classrooms to museums far beyond the reach of a school bus, and green screens could let students put themselves anywhere, doing anything.
Students in Calgary seemed enthusiastic about seeing more technology in their classrooms, but were cautious about whether the gadgets they use for fun could also be educational.
“All teens use technology, but whether or not they learn better, I think it’s on more of a personal basis,” said Derek Vogt, 17. “It definitely can aid, it’s more of a tool or a resource rather than something that creates the final product itself.”
Fifteen-year-old Corrine Tansowny laughed that currently, teachers usually ask students to turn off their iPods in class.
She said while educational applications might be great, an increase in certain types of technology can also present challenges.
“People can put stuff on their iPods and cheat,” she said. “I know that you can put SparkNotes and get the notes off the Internet for a book you’re reading in (English), or whatever.”
Balancing the circus of life with the meaning of life is very hard.
Youth is indeed a time of turmoil, in many senses, which is why I think it’s justified that I invoke these little pieces of wisdom to help me though these uncertain times. Another quote then, this time from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, to describe this week’s turmoil: “When you have to attend to the mere incidents of the surface, the reality fades.”
A little context: Without much protest, I think most people would agree that having a sense of meaning and connection to something beyond yourself is really important in life. Whether this comes through good friends, a hobby, religion, family, or anything else that gives people a sense of purpose, this is what I understand Conrad’s “reality” to mean.
So what exactly is getting in the way of this reality? Well, this week and next are midterms. That involves a lot of work, which, given the choice, I probably would rather not do. It’s interesting stuff for the most part, and I enjoy the initial learning of it, the gaining of new knowledge and perspective, but studying it for 7 hours a day is a bit much. Jumping through these hoops in order to do well in school and come out with a degree is what I understand Conrad’s “mere incidents of the surface” to mean.
This kind of thinking really makes me want to drop out of school and move to Thailand to teach scuba diving, writing off the mere incidents of the surface in favor a soul-searching adventure in paradise, but I like to think I know better. Conventional wisdom would have me believe that by working hard to jump through the hoops now, I’ll be able to enjoy a much better lifestyle in the future than I would if I dropped out now and moved to the tropics. This argument doesn’t hold any water as long as my picture of the ideal life involves living on the beach, but I expect this yearning to subside, only to resurface with the next round of exams. I suppose this balancing act is something I’ll have to get used to, as I don’t expect life after graduation to be any less full of hoops to jump through.
Maybe conventional wisdom isn’t so wise after all…
If you’re looking for work experience, consider going somewhere new
As a part of the Journalism program at College X, students go on four-week internships during their first year (for the second half of March and the first two weeks in April). Second-year students have always done a six-week internship in January and into February.
This year, they’ve changed the rules a little bit. Six weeks has been shortened to four weeks. And frankly, I’m delighted.
I guess Instructor A and B were getting some freaked-out students. (“I have no family out of the area. I need to stay here in City X.”) Well, there’s 11 of us and only one newspaper in the whole town and three radio stations.
As for me, I dished out $1,000 so I could stay at a nice bed & breakfast down the street from the news office, in Town X where I’d previously attended high school and had a couple friends. Generally, I got great stories: people stories, which is the best kind (to me) that a small town newspaper can offer. Although my experience at that news office was a good one, I always felt very out-of-place. There was only one other full-time reporter there who was a woman and she worked evenings so I didn’t see her much.
Otherwise, I was in an office of men. The editor? Male. Both the copy editors? Male. The other two full-time reporters? Male. The sports reporter? Male. Male, male, male. Which makes it look so strange to me that I only have three males in my journalism class.
I had assumed I’d be going back to the same news office this year. I knew the place. I knew some of the people, although several of my friends had since gone to university. But I decided to take a chance and look into accommodations in another town. I do know a few people there and yes, my aunt works in that town… but mostly, I know very little about this town (which I will refer to as UniTown X). But Instructor A once told me, “There’s no better way to learn about a town than being a reporter in it.” So, I’ll keep that in mind while working there.
UniTown X is a university town — and not much else. The newspaper is a weekly instead of a daily, which will likely be a bit different. There is an editor and one other reporter- and she’s a she! And guess what: I’ve found a tiny place to rent for the month of January- only $325 per month! It’s not the Ritz, by any means, but as long as I have Internet access, I don’t even need much else. (Although food is a necessity.)
This post, albeit lengthy, does have a point, I promise. If you’re in college and looking for a place to do your internship, consider going to a town you don’t know much about. If everyone just stuck to their hometown, nobody would go anywhere! Nobody would live anywhere else! Life is too short for that.
- photo by rabbleradio
One of the most important things you can learn at university is that a world, beyond university, exists
First off, let me say that I can’t believe there’s a case undermining the value of the informed and worldly student.
Wait, I take that back. Since I know I shouldn’t put words in other people’s mouths, and probably can’t accurately do so, I’ll refrain from trying altogether.
Some of my recent posts have apparently elicited some head-scratching. Why are you talking about provincial budgets? Media ethics? Why does this concern me? What does it have to do with post-secondary education?
Well, my answer is quite simple:
I could make some absurd connection about the effects tobacco lawsuits will have on provincial university grants, but I think students deserve more credit than that. Besides, I’d rather not preface my posts with “you should care about this because…” or “what this means for you as a student is…”
Jeff Rybak makes the point that “student” is an identity. For him, perhaps it is. However, I know lots of students who coast through their university years feeling no connection to their school, student union or peers. True, they’re united in their debt and coffee-addictions, but I think I’ll remain relativistic when it comes to “identity assignment.” Just because we share similar experiences doesn’t mean we all define ourselves the same way. I’ll let the individual define him/herself.
I perceive my “student status” as a temporary one. Yes, I’m a student, and yes, I’m concerned about student issues. But I’m also Canadian, female, pro-choice, anti-cell phone at the dinner table, etc.; it’s my collection of different hats that make me who I am. Right now I’m immersed in a world of academia, somewhat sheltered from the harsh realities of the real world but accelerating quickly towards post-post-secondary life where I can’t complain to my faculty adviser when things don’t go my way. Straddling these two worlds allows me the privilege of time, resources and encouragement to read and learn about the world around me. Students are taught the latest social theories and scientific breakthroughs; why should we think about them only in abstract terms? Why not apply them to what’s going on in the world today?
I have to admit, some of the reactions to my posts got me scratching my head. Wait… doesn’t the University of Toronto Students’ Union have a campaign against water bottles? Didn’t the Canadian Federation of Students BC call for public transit reforms? What do these initiatives have to do with post-secondary education? Sure, I could draw a connection if I really wanted to, but isn’t that beside the point?
Then—I got it. AHA! I’m not blogging about the popular student issues; the ones the “powers that be” have deemed worthy of student attention. That makes much more sense. After all, the issue of political advertising ethics can’t seduce a crowd quite like “sustainability” written on a poster board.
Back to my earlier point. I’m not trying to suggest that being a student doesn’t mean anything, but just that it doesn’t mean everything. I’m a student, yes, but only for a little while. And during that “little while” I’m fortunate enough to hear lectures about the latest and greatest sociological (and other) theories in my lectures. So I’m going to think about them when I read the paper, and maybe blog about them after. If you don’t like what I write, or find my posts irrelevant, feel free to click over to another blogger.
But perhaps better yet, think about where you come from—your ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, political affiliations, what you’ve learned in class—and debate me on the issues. That’s what the comment section is for, after all. Like I’ve said before, I think one of the most important things you can learn at university is that there exists a world beyond university. So, let’s talk about it.
Can “learning for its own sake” mean anything?
Jeff Rybak calls me out for my offhanded use of the phrase “learning for its own sake” in a comment on one of his posts. He is kind enough to assume I could explain what I mean by such a phrase, though not so kind as to refrain from calling it nonsense: “the phrase has zero content at all. It means absolutely nothing.” I think it can mean something. Let me explain.
On one level, of course, Jeff is right. No one does anything purely for its own sake. There is, for instance, no such thing as real altruism. I might give money to a hospital, but only because it gives me a warm feeling inside. I might help a stranger in need, but only because I would feel terrible if I didn’t. I might obey the law, but only to avoid a painful sense of guilt. All of these have some benefit to me (even if it’s just a good feeling), and so, in a sense, everything I do is selfish. But a moment’s thought shows us that there is a big difference between jumping into the water to save a drowning child and bulldozing a food bank so you can build a Starbucks. Both are selfish in the strictest sense, but if either deserves to be called selfish, it’s not jumping into the water.
Similarly, while no one learns purely for its own sake, we can distinguish between learning that is done for a particular, quantifiable, utilitarian goal, and learning that is done for more noble reasons. Yes, I said it. Noble.
As Jeff has argued, mine is only one view, and one that is tied to a long tradition of academic debates that need not detain us here. But in my view, studying literature only because one wants to become an English teacher and thus get summers off is a bad reason to do it. What are the good reasons? Because it’s exciting, because it allows you to appreciate other forms of art, because it raises profound questions about how we live and how we ought to live, because it fires the imagination, and because it provides a way to better understand others and thus makes us more broad-minded and compassionate. These are all reasons for learning, but they are reasons intrinsic to learning, and thus, are, in a way that makes the term useful, learning for its own sake.
Such an approach need not only apply to English majors. If you are studying law, study it because the law is at the core of what a civilized society is and you find it fascinating, not because you want a Lexus as soon as humanly possible. If you study economics, study it because economics sheds light on how humanity struggles and has always struggled to come to terms with its scarce resources, not because you want a corner office.
This is just my view, but in an effort to get you to make it yours, I ask you to consider the following. First, and ironically enough, approaching learning for its own sake (as I have defined it) may well make you more practically successful in the long run. I have no doubt that the best teachers of English are the ones who really love literature, not the ones who really love July and August. I have a feeling, too, that the best lawyers are those who really love to think and talk about law. Second, even if you land that high-paying job you so covet, what happens when you retire? You will have long days in which to sit and think, and have nothing to sit and think about. Finally, short of your retirement years, when will you have this much intellectual freedom again? Seriously, while you are in university, you can spend your time thinking about whatever big issues you want when you take history, philosophy, sociology and so on. But once that’s over, do you really think your boss will want you to spend the afternoon debating ethics or discussing the moral context of The Merchant of Venice?
There will be plenty of time do what is expected and practical and profitable after you graduate. Don’t start early.
The power of the Internet + you is being redefined
While browsing the stacks of magazines at a local drug store (a favourite pastime of mine), the cover of MIT’s Technology Review caught my attention.
Pictured was the newest in the Google-dominated search engine world — Wolfram Alpha.
Launched on May 15 of this year (2 months, 27 days, 22 hours, 24 minutes, 47 seconds ago, when I asked it) and branded as a “computational knowledge engine” (whatever that means), Wolfram differs from its Google competitor in that it answers your pressing questions and queries from a base of knowledge it curates, instead of pulling results purely from the web.
Like the kid in class, who when asked a simple (usually hypothetical) question during a lecture, chooses to answer in paragraph form — except, with Wolfram, the answers are useful.
When I entered the question, “What is a student?” — something I thought may be too ambiguous to answer beyond a simple definition — Wolfram gave me that basic definition, as well as word origins, frequency of use, synonyms and a variety of other intriguing information — all laid out in an easy-to-use, one-stop-shop page.
Probed with a more difficult question — “What is my diploma worth?” — Wolfram was unable to compute an answer. But if you read the FAQs provided on the website, you’ll learn Wolfram is programmed solely on fact and not opinion.
So instead I tred a more complex input, that required a result that would otherwise be hard to find and that I would have to organize graphically on my own, if I was say, writing a paper on “Employment in the Millennium.”
I enter “U.S. salaries 2000 2009” and it gives me this.
Not bad. Now that’s information tailored to my exact needs with the bonus of a chart I could pop right into an essay (assuming both my professor and I agree the calculations are correct).
Even though Wolfram is still tweaking its know-how, I’m sold on the design and innovation because I’ve never seen an engine as organized as this. Plus, with it being built on the back of a massive software brain capable of millions of lines of code for computing information, I feel confident sourcing it academically.
Combining the ease of Google, encyclopedia-like quality of Wikipedia (without the public interference), Wolfram reminds me of just how innovate and easy learning away from the classroom has become.
Student sues her college because she’s unemployed — but there’s more to this story than a punchline
A reader here reminded me that we haven’t talked about this story yet. Thanks Brian! He linked it back, very correctly, to my discussion concerning consumer attitudes among students. The short version is that a student is suing her alma mater because she’s still unemployed after graduation.
Now this is an interesting story on many levels. We can sit back and laugh at the student, if we wish, and her unrealistic expectations. We can shake our heads at the litigious culture that predominates in the United States. We can talk about consumer attitudes projected in an unhealthy way on the post-secondary environment. But a lot of that’s been done already. Here’s Rate Your Students on the topic, if you’re interested. Fantastic site, btw, if you ever want to get into the minds of your professors.
What I’d like to do is offer you all the next step in this story. This hasn’t even happened yet, but I would be willing to bet that it will. I don’t really know New York law, but every jurisdiction needs a way to keep the real time wasters out of court. In Ontario you’d do that through a motion for summary judgment. That basically means you go before the court and say “this case discloses no genuine issue for trial.” In theory this saves everyone a lot of time and effort when it’s true. But the decision on the motion becomes significant as well.
Now, I’ll bet that the lawyers for Monroe College are going to do something like that. They’ll argue that even if everything in the plaintiff’s claim is true – here are her documents (thanks again, Brian!) – it still doesn’t add up to a lawsuit because you just can’t sue for this. I’m grossly over-simplifying, of course, but there will almost certainly be a preliminary motion of some sort on this topic.
So here’s where it gets interesting. What will the court decide? I don’t think this student has a hope in hell of winning her case. No chance of that. But the preliminary question will be very interesting indeed. The court will essentially have to decide, in general terms, if it’s even possible to sue your post-secondary institution for not doing enough. And that’s a very complicated question, especially in the States where there’s a lot more private education and the market is allowed to decide things that we regulate here in Canada.
The story is funny, yes, on many levels. But there’s some meat here also. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
Questions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even the ones I don’t post will still receive answers, and where I do use them here I’ll remove identifying information.
That’s right, I said it. I actually miss learning stuff. Go figure.
♫ Joel Plaskett - True Patriot Love
- My dorm roommate. She’s not going to be living on campus next year but she plans to live close by. Good. ‘Cause I have a feeling my new roommate isn’t going to just make me chocolate chip brownies whenever I’m feeling blue. Like Roomie did for me this year. (I know, right? Aww.)
- Classes. That’s right, I said it. I actually miss learning stuff. Go figure.
- My instructors. I saw those guys – the Teddy Bear and the Cactus, as I call them – every day for nearly eight months. I miss the former’s sensitive encouragement and the latter’s sarcastic humor.
- My classmates. Well, a couple of them. The ones I talked to regularly, anyway.
- My dorm family. This consists of Jenn, Roomie, Caitlin and Canning. You get comfortable with a group of people and then leave them for 4 months. It’s weird.
- Drinking. I know, that sounds horrible. But if anything good would happen at college (the end of exams, Christmas, birthdays, Tuesdays), we’d all got out for cuatros margaritas at our favorite downtown restaurant. I miss the laughter that goes along with drinking, not the liquor itself.
- City X. Gahd, I miss that town. I miss the music scene. I miss the old buildings. I miss the restaurants. I miss the one-way streets. I miss the culture. I miss the unreasonably high ratio of hipster kids to white gangsters. *le sigh*
- Ordering in. As you might guess, Nowhereville doesn’t have an East Side Mario’s. So, I can’t just call them up and have them bring me my favorite meal. Dammit.
(Image by Mel B.)
People with disabilities still face barriers to post-secondary education
Today is Disability Awareness Day at Memorial University of Newfoundland. A campus Disability Awareness Information Fair and a Panel Discussion have been organized to educate students, staff and faculty about disability issues.
According to the 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) conducted by Statistics Canada, approximately 631,000 (2.5%) Canadians aged 15 years and older report having a learning limitation. Just over one in five (22.4%) considered their learning limitations to be severely limiting, while the remaining 77.6% regarded their limitations to be mild.
In 2006, just one-third of people with a learning limitation had completed education beyond the high school level. A total of 14.7% had obtained a community college or non-university credential, 10.6% obtained a trade or apprenticeship certification, 4.4% held a bachelor’s degree, and 4.0% completed university education beyond the bachelor’s level.
The PALS results demonstrate that learning limitations affect a person’s education in numerous ways. The proportion of individuals who reported that their limitation influenced their choice of careers was 59.3%. A further 53.1% required more time to finish school, 35.6% had to discontinue their education, 34.1% had their education interrupted for long time periods, and 17.4% incurred additional educational expenses due to their learning limitation.
As difficult as it may be to believe, people with disabilities still face barriers to post-secondary education such as limited physical access to facilities and a lack of institutional sensitivity to their unique needs. In addition to reducing their chances of gaining and keeping employment, their lack of access to educational opportunities ultimately limits their participation in Canadian society.
Students learning via podcast scored “significantly higher” on exam than those in the classroom
An article in the current issue of the journal Computers & Education reports on the results of a study designed to investigate how podcasted university lectures affect student achievement. Here is the abstract of the article which is titled iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors?:
iTunes University, a website with downloadable educational podcasts, can provide students the opportunity to obtain professors’ lectures when students are unable to attend class. To determine the effectiveness of audio lectures in higher education, undergraduate general psychology students participated in one of two conditions. In the lecture condition, participants listened to a 25-min lecture given in person by a professor using PowerPoint slides. Copies of the slides were given to aid note-taking. In the podcast condition, participants received a podcast of the same lecture along with the PowerPoint handouts. Participants in both conditions were instructed to keep a running log of study time and activities used in preparing for an exam. One week from the initial session students returned to take an exam on lecture content. Results indicated that students in the podcast condition who took notes while listening to the podcast scored significantly higher than the lecture condition. The impact of mobile learning on classroom performance is discussed.
Reference: McKinney, D., Dycka, J. L., & Lubera, E. S. (2009). iTunes University and the classroom: Can podcasts replace professors? Computers & Education, 52(3), 617-623.
It sounds like a student’s dream school – no teachers, no homework, no grades
It sounds like a student’s dream school – no teachers, no homework, no weekly tests, no grades.At the Lafayette Big Picture High School students get to design their own learning plan, set their own goals and spend two days a week away from school – bending the ear of a mentor.
But far from a fantasy, the school is designed to better prepare kids on the edge for the real world.
“My friends hear that stuff and think we have it easy here,” said 15-year-old freshman Katelin Reusswig. “I tell them I’ve never worked as hard. It’s just different when you’re learning about something you’re actually interested in and care about.”
This small farming community in upstate New York is one of more than 60 across the United States to experiment with the Big Picture approach over the past decade but among the first rural districts to try it. The schools emphasize work in the real world – internships, portfolios, oral presentations and intense relationships between students, advisers and mentors.
At Lafayette, one instructor – called an adviser instead of a teacher – handles all the lessons and stays with the same class for four years until students graduate. Graduates are expected to apply and be accepted into at least one college, even if they choose not to go.
“This program is about helping a kid find their passion,” said Leonardo Oppedisano, a former science teacher who is now adviser to the first ninth-grade class.
“I am not a vessel with information trying to impart it all on them. I am advising them on the path that they should take toward learning. It is much more a co-operative relationship,” said Oppedisano – “Mr. O” to students.
The Big Picture Company was founded by educators Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor, both formerly of the renowned Thayer High School in New Hampshire and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. In 1996, Littky and Washor opened their first student-centred high school in Providence, R.I., called The Met, which became a national model with its continuing success.