The Internet can make you “smarter” if you learn how to use it

update: The BBC reports on October 14, 2008:

Areas activated by reading a book in the brain of an experienced web user:

Brain activity in an experienced internet user when carrying out simple reading task

Web use stimulates much more activity in the same brain:

Brain activity in an experienced internet user when searching the web

Brain activity in web newcomers: similar for reading and internet use:

Brain activity in a personal not used to using the web while reading

Read the rest of this entry »

A definition of “adult education”

In The Profession and Practice of Adult Education (2007), Sharan Merriam and Ralph Brockett broadly define “adult education” as “virtually any activity for adults designed to bring about learning” (8). More specifically, they define adult education as:

activities intentionally designed for the purpose of bringing about learning among those whose age, social roles, or self-perception define them as adults (8).

As to the difference between adult education and adult learning, Merriam and Brockett define adult learning as “a cognitive process internal to the learner,” and can include “unplanned” and “incidental” learning experiences (5-6).  This is different than “adult education,” which is a systematic, organized and planned activity, designed with an intent to facilitate learning (6).

Read the rest of this entry »

Internet learning communities

I have been looking at studies and reports related to community colleges and have been really surprised by some of the information that I have found.

For example, in Building a Culture of Evidence for Community College Success: Early Progress in the Achieving the Dream Initiative [pdfBy: Thomas Brock, Davis Jenkins, Todd Ellwein, Jennifer Miller, Susan Gooden, Kasey Martin, Casey MacGregor & Michael Pih — May 2007. New York: MDRC and the Community College Research Center, in the community colleges that were studied, it is reported (at 18, pdf at 44) that:

On average, slightly more than one in ten students at these colleges earned a certificate or an associate’s degree after three years.

In Using Longitudinal Data to Increase Community College Student Success: A Guide to Measuring Milestone and Momentum Point Attainment By: D. Timothy Leinbach & Davis Jenkins — January 2008. CCRC Research Tools No. 2. New York: Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, a study for the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) found (pdf at 8):

… for students who enrolled exclusively in college-level classes. … Slightly more than one-fourth (10,423 of 41,339) of all college-level students achieved any milestone within five years.

But wait, there’s hope:

Read the rest of this entry »

“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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »