“separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”

Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka made this abundantly clear in 1954.  My hope is that it can serve as a warning against efforts to segregate online components of education from “regular” and “traditional” classwork.

From the Associated Press on September 25, 2008:

Nearly 3.5 million students nationwide took at least one online course during the fall 2006 term, according to a report last year by the Sloan Consortium.

The integration of the Internet into the school environment is proceeding at a very slow pace.  One barrier to the evolution of the classroom may be philosophical – instead of a movement to incorporate online technology into all classes where it is appropriate, there instead appears to be a sharp distinction made between online and offline classes.

The Associated Press reports that the University of Illinois has had difficulty with the successful development of an online education program:

An $8.9 million online campus launched by the University of Illinois nine months ago has had disappointing enrollment and fewer course offerings than expected, but the man who created it isn’t giving up.

Instead, University of Illinois President Joseph White said he wants to turn the school’s Global Campus into an independent, accredited university to speed up development of degree programs.

So far 121 students have enrolled in just five degree programs – far short of the 9,000 students White projected would enroll by the end of the Global Campus’ first five years.

When it started offering classes in January, White hoped his professors would quickly create online programs in business, engineering and other high-demand fields.

For the most part, “That has not happened,” White told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. “I’m not mad at anybody about that. I think we’ve come to realize that we have a university faculty that is at capacity.”

I think that it could be a mistake to move the University of Illinois Global Campus into a separate program, because it appears to be a serious mistake for the University of Illinois to segregate online learning from the general college experience.  If this philosophy is taken to the extreme and no resources are invested in bringing online technology into on-campus classrooms, the University of Illinois could lose a competitive edge as other universities bring their classes into the 21st century.

I find it interesting that President White believes that the current failures of the Global Campus are due to “a university faculty that is at full capacity.”  If online technology was being regularly incorporated into traditional on-campus classes, it would be easier for faculty to develop online education programs, because the development work would overlap with and build on the work already required for their “regular” classes.  The transition to fully online classes for appropriate subjects would be a lot easier in an environment that is already moving online.

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Maybe Nicholas Carr is part of the problem

On September 25, 2008, Nicholas Carr appeared on the Colbert Report to promote his new book.  In the interview, he speaks of an evolution of the Internet into a “worldwide computer,” and talks about the increase of people using the Internet as an online storage space instead of their individual computer.  Carr says that the Internet and Google are useful, but he also sees a problem due to how much the Internet is used.  Carr’s concern is that people are starting to think like the Internet. That we are ‘starting to act like the tools we use,’ and “think like a computer,” “jumping from piece of information to piece of information.”

Carr thinks that we are losing the ability to think deeply because of the Internet.  I find this laughable.

Carr believes that the Internet has caused people to lose the ability to stay focused on one thing, that we are losing our ability to concentrate, reflect, and contemplate.  He is concerned we are losing our ability to “slow down and think.” Carr suggests that “we’ve become so connected to everything, that we are actually disconnected from any one thing.”  He says he has noticed that when he reads a paper book, “something that used to come naturally,” he finds that his mind ‘starts to wander’ and wants to do what it does when he is online.

The Internet does allow us to quickly jump quickly between sources of information.  But this is not the same thing as the “superficial relationship with information” that Carr is afraid of.  The Internet permits the exact opposite of a “superficial relationship,” because it allows an individual to look beyond any one source of information, and produce their own connections between the material they find.  The investigation of related information is a form of deeper thinking.  It can be the contemplation of one subject, at a far deeper level.

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Why the Internet will help protect voting rights

The Internet allows people to not only identify “mistakenly published information,” but to also rapidly tell other people about such “mistakes.”  The monopoly on information is over – any agency that attempts to misinform students people about their voting rights can be publicly exposed, and the damage inflicted by their “mistake” can be corrected by the rapid distribution of accurate information.

According to McClatchy on September 24, 2008, there have been several recent reports about college students being provided with “incorrect information” about their voting rights:

Balink issued a statement saying his office had misinterpreted state law and “mistakenly published information that was incorrect.”

Balink’s actions are the latest of several instances in which local election officials, including some in Virginia and South Carolina, have discouraged college students from voting in a year in which legions of students have thrown their energy behind Obama.

… Greenbaum noted that Virginia’s elections board recently revised language on its Internet site that discouraged students from registering after reports of a similar episode at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va.

The New York Times reported Sept. 8 that a local registrar had issued two releases that incorrectly suggested dire consequences for the university’s students who registered to vote there, including the possibility they no longer could be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns.

My first reaction to this news was a thought about how online networks of students can counteract these kinds of “mistakes.”  For example, this is the link to the New Voters Project that is mentioned in the McClatchy article.  This organization  is active on Facebook and MySpace, and has collected information about voting rights, links to state election offices, as well as a list of related links.

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The Internet can promote a happier, healthier life

From the Associated Press on September 21, 2008:

[Kathy] Leeds is one of about 500 people enrolled for the fall semester in a telephone-based educational program for homebound seniors called DOROT University Without Walls, believed to be the largest program of its kind in the country.

While the DOROT program is currently “telephone-based,” it is an example of what the Internet is capable of, if institutions were inclined to develop online educational programs that include the technological advancements that are currently available.

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a new meaning for “public education”

via Slashdot on September 17, 2008:

“Stanford University will soon begin offering a series of 10 free, online computer science and electrical engineering courses. Initial courses will provide an introduction to computer science and an introduction to field of robotics, among other topics. The courses, offered under the auspices of Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE), are nearly identical to standard courses offered to registered Stanford students and will comprise downloadable video lectures, handouts, assignments, exams, and transcripts. And get this: all the courses’ materials are being released under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.”

It is with great anticipation that I await the development of this trend.  The Internet is capable of unlocking the “ivory tower” and it has been a question in my mind about whether educational institutions would start to abandon their monopoly on traditional learning environments and begin to truly make educational opportunity available to anyone who can access the Internet.

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Video Games and Education

Via the Associated Press on September 16, 2008, it appears to be a matter of when, not if video games become incorporated into the school environment:

Ninety-seven percent of young respondents play video games. That’s 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls, with little difference in the percentages among various racial and ethnic groups and incomes.

… And they don’t just play by themselves. Nearly two-thirds play video games to socialize face-to-face with friends and family, while just over a quarter said they play with Internet friends.

“It shows that gamers are social people,” says Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher at Pew who led the report on the survey. “They communicate just as much. They spend time face-to-face, just as much as other kids. They e-mail and text.”

It does seem that this upcoming generation is communicating loud and clear about their needs as learners.  It appears that there is a strong desire for learning to be interactive and fun, as well as a social activity.  This appears to be a huge opportunity for educators, especially in how a well-designed game can tailor a learning experience to the individual needs of a learner and allow them to progress to a new “level” at their own pace.  A video game format also seems well-suited to identify areas where a student is having difficulty, and would allow an educator to have immediate access to this information.

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Waiting for the Internet

I have started reading “Philosophical Foundations of Adult Education” by J.L. Elias and S.B. Merriam (2005) and this post is a reflection of a theme I am beginning to see as I get introduced to the history of the practice of education and the various philosophical movements that have shaped the development of the education field.

There is a lot of interesting material here to think and write about, but for the purposes of this post I am focusing on how it appears that early education movements were almost anticipating the potential of the Internet, and how the Internet seems capable of fulfilling goals of education that were previously far more difficult to fulfill without the technology.

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