Tag Archives: education

We can’t give up on university.


“I’m leaving the university at the end of this year.”

I quickly jolted my head up from the floor, suddenly staring my professor directly in the eye.

Over the past semester, this particular professor and I had developed a relatively close relationship, and I had started randomly popping into his office during open hours some weeks ago, originally to ensure I had a bit of an edge over the other students, but kept re-appearing simply because I enjoyed his company.

“Why?” I inquired quietly, suddenly much more aware of my surroundings than before: the empty bookshelves, the boxes, the official-looking paperwork on his desk.

“It’s been a tough year,” he replied, “…there’s just not much of a future for academics, especially in the humanities. These kids… and their parents… they think they’re here to get job training, and that’s ruining the entire system. I entered academia to do research and write, and with my small [design] business taking off, I will continue do that, maybe go back to France, who knows?”

I nodded, a little upset, but facing another example of what I have long known to be the inevitable — this wasn’t the first case a professor has confided to me about his imminent departure, and, as much as I’d like it to be, it likely won’t be the last.


Even as an undergraduate,I see signs of the so-called “fall of academia” — true, honest, liberal-arts-based academia — everywhere around me.

What these professors are facing — what academia is facing — doesn’t live in a bubble. The decline of the traditional liberal arts education has and will continue to send shockwaves across our entire society.

The pundits argue something along the lines of, “why spend thousands of dollars to a university when you can Google that shit or get an internship for free?” On the surface, their argument seems common-sensical, but their assumptions of what knowledge is, what information is, and what it means to be a free society are fundamentally flawed.


Liberal arts” are called that because, supposedly, they make man free. They may not make a man materially wealthy, but that’s not the point. In as early as Roman times, we see stoic philosophers such as Seneca reflecting on this notion:

“I respect no study, and deem no study good, which results in money-making. Such studies are profit-bringing occupations, useful only in so far as they give the mind a preparation and do not engage it permanently. One should linger upon them only so long as the mind can occupy itself with nothing greater; they are our apprenticeship, not our real work. Hence you see why “liberal studies” are so called; it is because they are studies worthy of a free-born gentleman. But there is only one really liberal study, – that which gives a man his liberty. It is the study of wisdom, and that is lofty, brave, and great-souled. All other studies are puny and puerile.”

Throughout the next several thousand years, we find this debate consistently reappearing:

We call those studies liberal which are worthy of a free man; those studies by which we attain and practice virtue and wisdom; that education which calls forth, trains and develops those highest gifts of body and of mind which ennoble men, and which are rightly judged to rank next in dignity to virtue only. (Petrus Paulus Vergerius, 1400)

But those questions are no longer relavant when discussing education. Undergraduates focusing in philosophy or other humanities get a, “what the hell are you going to do with that degree,” while we somehow ignore the fact that a university education was originally intended to be sought by those with a love of wisdom — in Greek, “philo sophia,” or philosophy:

In truth, liberal arts education no longer exists — at least genuine liberal arts education — in this country. We have professionalized liberal arts to the point where they no longer provide the breadth of application and the enhanced capacity for civic engagement that is their signature. Over the past century the expert has dethroned the educated generalist to become the sole model of intellectual accomplishment.

The progression of today’s college student is to jettison every interest except one. And within that one, to continually narrow the focus, learning more and more about less and less; this, despite the evidence all around us of the interconnectedness of things. As one moves up the ladder, values other than technical competence are viewed with increasing suspicion. Questions such as, “What kind of a world are we making? What kind of a world should we be making? What kind of a world can we be making?” are treated with more and more skepticism, and move off the table. (Liz Coleman, 2009)


This, as throngs of venture capitalists with multi-million-dollar checkbooks purport online education will solve everything. But their assumptions are not only unproven, they’re dangerous. In our capitalistic society, education is one of the few remaining purely social institutions designed not for material profit, but to maintain a secular democracy — in a land where all men are created equal, education is designed to be a tool that allows all young people their right to a fulfilling pursuit of happiness.

But there’s something else they’re missing:

The online education utopians ignore the fact that free learning has existed for decades in the form of the public library and despite that availability, every kid within bicycling distance to his local branch didn’t turn into a self taught entrepreneur. Suggesting that online courses are the cure-all for our educational needs is like saying all you have to do to teach kids in the ghetto is give away textbooks on the corner. (Fransisco Dao, 2013)

Education is not about information. Nearly every member of our society has had access to throngs more information than it could possibly handle since the 16th century.

Instead, education is about knowledge and wisdom. While there is measurable debate over what, exactly, defines the essence of “university,” it seems very clear to me that university is not really about the information contained within individual courses. Instead, it is about the pursuit of the information: for instance, writing papers teaches rhetoric, reading Aristotle improves literacy and perspective, and studying European History allows students to understand a world with a very different set of values and social structures.


Unfortunately, like anything in a market such as ours, university is still bound by simple economic principles, and it doesn’t scale well: thanks to cost disease, the more people seeking a degree, the more expensive it will be for each person to receive said degree. Furthermore, the more people that enter the job market with postsecondary education, the more the material value of that education will deflate. What happens when a bachelor’s degree isn’t enough in a highly-competitive job market?


Based on both personal experiences and statistical data, it seems as though most undergraduates are not attending college to learn, or become free citizens. They’re there simply to get a better job. Or hell, any job.

This wasn’t always the case. Historically, university was designed for the intellectually-inclined, and it could support itself relatively well. But since the 1970′s, the number of young people attending college in the United States believing that that it will allow them “to be very well off financially” has risen significantly, while those attempting to “develop a meaningful philosophy of life,” has plummeted. Do these young people care about philosophy, the freedoms of mankind, and the pursuit of intellectualism? Or do they see college as an opportunity to attend a few dope-ass parties and get a degree so they’re job-market-ready? With billions of dollars on the line, these are questions we need to seriously ask ourselves.

Where the pundits are mistaken, and dangerously mistaken, is when the rhetoric they use to push their mission includes notions that university is simply job training that can be easily substituted. It isn’t. University is the pursuit of intellectualism, of developing a full mind, of vibrant debates, critical thinking, and developing a certain self of self-reliance and self-consciousness. Admittedly, you don’t find that in a textbook. And you don’t find it on Google or YouTube. You find that by by arguing against the textbook, by asking zillions of questions, by writing essays, in one-on-one’s with your professor, and yes, maybe by drinking way too much and making a few stupid decisions.


As I exited my professor’s office, I turned back.

“Thank you.”

He was one of the best professors I’ve had. An amazing lecturer. An incredible researcher. Tough, but only because he cared. I could tell this was not an easy decision for him. It causes me great distress to know that others won’t be near as blessed as I was.

But, unlike him, I still have hope.


We can fix academia. We can create a intellectual class ruled not by bank accounts but by curiosity, drive, and intelligence. But it won’t happen with Udacity. It won’t appear on Khan Academy.Where I think it will appear is in Google Hangouts, coffeeshop meetups, and in the minds of young people across the country. It’s a grassroots effort that, by design, no amount of money can buy (although some will help.)

We’re entering a new intellectual age, an age that will rival post-Gutenberg Europe. We can allow our new tools to enable us to create wonderful things, or we can lead ourselves down a path of destruction. We have the ability to control our own outcomes. But we can’t afford to give up on our universities.

Written by

i write software and stories.

 

8 Things I Learned In 2013


Writing one of those ‘Reflecting on 2013′ statuses on Facebook got me thinking about the bigger picture. This is my bigger picture. Enjoy!

Go Back to the Basics

Coming out of college, I wasn’t sure how to adjust to the ‘real world’ or what that even meant for that matter.

But it wasn’t until this year [1.5 years after graduating] that I learned that I needed to get back to the basics of what made me so happy growing up.

A big one was playing softball. I know, I know, I’m SUCH a lesbian stereotype but give me a second. Softball was a HUGE part of my life growing up; from 1o&Unders to travel ball championships in Seattle to JV softball in high school. By the time I stopped playing in high school, I had actually kind of hated it because of the pressure my father put on me. It wasn’t fun anymore. I was done.

But this year, I got to do it FOR ME. Not for him. I got to do it because it made ME happy and because I WANTED to play again. And so I did. And it was one of the best things I did this year.

The lesson I learned here: If it made me happy at one point in my life, why not try doing it again? Since softball made such a huge difference in my life, I’m going to take up boxing again since it gave me incredible joy for two years in college. Why not right?

Don’t be afraid of the word ‘creative’

For a long time, I never identified as a ‘creative.’ To be completely honest, it freaked me out. Internally I would say, ‘Who am I to say I’m creative? Who gets to be the judge of that?’

And now? I find it mentally freeing and that feels fucking amazing.

The lesson I learned here: Creativity is whatever you make it out to be. So go forward. Be bold with your ideas. And make some fucking noise.

Ask For Help

A lot of you know this about me, but I’m a stubborn motherfucker. It’s bad. I think I get it from my Mom’s hardheadedness (not a bad thing at all, love you Mom). Earlier this year, I started a new position without a direction or guidance. Some of it was to blame on the lack of structure, yes. But the rest was on me. I didn’t ask for help when I was flailing and I thought I would ‘prove my worth’ (what the fuck was I thinking with that?!) by doing everything on my own.

Clearly, I was wrong. Never be afraid to ask for help. I learned from some amazing mentors throughout the year which made a hell of a difference in my professional output (I’m lookin’ at you Megan, Greg, and Ann Marie).

The lesson I learned here: How are you going to grow creatively if you don’t learn from those around you and ask questions?

Quality > Quantity

I used to think having a lot of friends meant something in life. Maybe it was because I was never a popular person in middle school or high school. In college, I used to have lots of different types of friends that I segmented: ‘Boxing,’ ‘Marketing’ ‘Business’ ‘Hip Hop Club’ ‘Dorm,’ etc. But when I was in a crisis, I could only think of 2 people I wanted to call. It actually felt pretty lonely and made me realize that maybe I wasn’t opening myself up and keeping my guard up instead.

The lesson I learned here: It’s about the quality of friendships. When I say I want to grab a drink with you, it’s because I want to know what’s going on in your life because I care about you. I’m not saying it ‘just to say it.’

WRITE.

I love to write. Period. I mean, hell, I wanted to go to college for creative writing (thanks for talking me out of that one, Mom).

Whether a blog post or a tagline, I jot down ideas on the notes app on my phone. Random thoughts or ideas that pop into my head that maybe someday will culminate into a greater idea, who knows?

We all have to start somewhere right?

The lesson I learned here: Whether good bad or ugly, just write it down. Stare at it. Come back to it later. Because who’s stopping you?

READ

And don’t feel bad about it. Confession time: I read a lot of fanfiction about a particular couple on a particular TV show. Is that creepy? Probably. But you know what, I read for hours on end. I escape reality and delve into the lives of these characters which actually helps with content I create for my job. I take a look at the stories that get the most reviews and follows and identify the main themes that people identify with and that I myself love. I then translate those insights into pieces of micro-content for my brands. Yes, I’m a nerd.

I also got REALLY into the Divergent series. Yes it’s YA fiction but holy crap is it good.

The lesson I learned here: Reading something is better than reading nothing at all. As long as I’m enjoying it, who gives a crap what anyone else thinks.

You Don’t ‘HAVE’ to Stick it Out

I’ve been really fortunate in my life to have had the opportunities that I’ve had. Don’t get me wrong, I work my ass off but I’m also incredibly thankful.

That said, I recently changed jobs a couple of months ago and in those two months, I realized that it was not the direction I wanted my career to go in. Again, no regrets here but now I know what I don’t want to be doing. And that’s okay.

Fortunately, I’ve found another position to start off the year in which I’ll be going back to doing what I love so much and be client-facing again. And I can’t wait.

The lesson I learned here: Go with your gut. If you don’t feel like it’s right, it’s probably not. So change your situation and be passionate about what you do.

Positivity > Negativity. Every time.

For a long time, I used to get down on myself for the smallest things or I used to see the negative side to something before I saw the positive. It was a pretty terrible way of living.

In March, I realized that as an individual, I have a set amount of energy. That energy is partitioned into various different actions. What makes a difference, I realized, is HOW those actions are executed.

I wanted to be a positive moving force for not only myself, but for others too. But in order to do that, I had to look at things from a more positive light. For example, instead of regrets, I find lessons. I also realized that when your outlook is positive, people tend to gravitate towards that.

The lesson I learned here (and my personal life motto that I coined this year): Why waste energy being negative when I can be awesome instead?

Written by

Notre Dame | NYC | LGBT | http://t.co/VUvQpV9R | CA beaches, Craft Beer & Life = Love

 

Underestimating clients


How the “Us vs.Them” stigma is muffling creativity, and creating strained relationships.

If  — like me — you have ever worked at an agency, you have most likely also heard statements along the line of “He/she is a project manager at a telco. What does he/she know about creativity?” or “Leave it to the client to ruin a great concept” or maybe even “Clients. Can’t live with them. Period.”

While it is tempting to mock the clients, or harness frustrations when they challenge the concept or solution, it is also a tremendously toxic practice, and we all need to make an effort to steer clear of it.

So how do we do this?

Walk a mile in their shoes

If it were up to me, every young buck starting out at an agency, should be placed in a mandatory internship on the client side. Having to juggle budgets, battle middle management (or even worse be middle management), meet arbitrary KPIs from overseas headquarters and other super fun aspects of life on the client side. I have been there a couple of times. I have left as soon as possible every single time. But I have learned from it. And I do believe it serves me well, when facing clients and listening to their feedback and challenges.

Invite them in

On more than one occasion, I have been part of communities of interest, all with the purpose of heightening the level of creativity and the solutions in the business. Every time, I have been puzzled and amazed that no one thought to actually invite clients. As if they couldn’t possibly pitch in with anything constructive.

Agencies need to face the fact that clients are growing smarter and more creative by the minute. And that there is tons to learn by inviting them in. Let them take part in the creative process. Let them take part in discussions of where the industry is going. And let them talk to each other and share knowledge and challenges. Transparency is key here.

Educate the juniors

But most of all, make sure not to pass on latent frustrations and the mocking jargon to junior employees.

My kid just started school, and one of the most valuable messages from his teacher was that his view of the educational system that he is part of for the next ten to fifteen years is primarily established at home. If we talk respectfully about his school and his teachers, he is likely to approach them with the same respect. Now, I don’t mean to compare junior employees to school children, but I do believe that you can draw an important parallel here. If all you ever hear is your CD, PM or CEO bad mouthing clients, you grow up in the business thinking that that is how things are supposed to be. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

So should we always all just get along?

No! By no means. This is not a question of not arguing. One of the most important roles on the agency side is to push back, challenge and try to move the boundaries. But we need to figure out how to do it without establishing an unhealthy “Us vs. Them” discourse.

There are probably tons of other ways to go about it, but the common denominator here is mutual respect and an understanding that most people are really just trying to do their very best. Agree?

Further Reading

Underestimating clients

 — How the “Us vs.Them” stigma is muffling creativity, and creating strained relationships.

Written by

Founder & Creative Strategist at Magic People * Voodoo People. Father. Husband. Friend. Football fan.

 

Y Combinator Murdered Tech Jargon and Marissa Mayer makes me Twitch.


a rant on feminism and education

At the risk of sounding hyper critical, the media’s coverage of Marissa Meyer makes me twitchy. Every single article reads, “A blonde gal got a high paying job, Can you believe it? She’s not even frumpy but at one point she was knocked up. She went to a meeting at Tumblr today and didn’t even fall down. Sometimes we even let her look at the balance sheets.” The ghastly coverage when women do things and build their own lives has to stop. One kind reader asked for more evidence. Here’s a piece that seems surprised a mother can head up the helm of a major company:

When Paul Graham of fancy tech accelerator Y Combinator said this my heart sank:

“If someone was going to be really good at programming they would have found it on their own. Then if you go look at the bios of successful founders this is invariably the case, they were all hacking on computers at age 13. God knows what you would have to do to get 13 year old girls interested in computers.”

Graham is referencing the small of amount of technology based company founders who are female. What offends me the most is the mold of a proper company founder and the idea that there’s only one way to get an outstanding STEM education.

Who started the barbaric notion that science education ends when you get out of institutionalized schooling?

We throw around these words like hacking, coding, and a dozen different programming languages to intimidate others. We don’t tell women that you just have to know what you want to build and then you research it. You can figure anything out. Instead we tell people to jump on CodeAcademy and wait for Facebook to call. If CodeAcademy fails to turn you into Merlin then it’s your fault anyway for forgetting to go to Harvard.

This is the dirty secret: Programming isn’t deep mysticism. You don’t have to memorize the whole dictionary through osmosis. When we discuss the importance of a programming education, why don’t we ask people what they’d like to build? Education needs to be project-based.

Kids everywhere get science fair projects from books of safe science fair projects, and that is just SO WRONG! It’s not an experiment if someone tells you the result!

During my first trip to product invention company Quirky, I realized that it never occurred to me as ahigh school student that what I wanted to build was important. Aren’t inventors dead?

Your average high school girl doesn’t know she can be an inventor. Why? Nobody told her it’s not just Edison out there. That is the tragic gap in how we educate our daughters and sons.

You’re not out of the race if you never became a systems engineer. There is no right way to get an education. Outstanding education comes from places such asKhan Academy, Tree House, HippoCampus, and Coursera. It’s not Paul Graham’s comments on feminism that make me angry. It’s the assumption that he understands how I should be educated, that my education isn’t worth figuring out, and that it’s over. It’s not over, Paul.

Women don’t code as much, because we were never taught just some of the possible results.

Why do the words personal robot never come up when discussing STEM education for women? I want the robot. I’ll build it by hand. There’s not a girl in the world who wouldn’t love her own drone. I’m not a vapid inventor if I’ve never been to a Python conference.

Written by

Rogue writer who loves adventure. Rockin the design and photography casbah. Say hello.

Updated December 31, 2013

 

The Power of Words – And Letting Negativity Navigate You


My fifth grade teacher was an example of everything a teacher should not be.

To this day, fifteen years past being forced to sit in a classroom where I learned exactly how much trauma the elementary education system was in, I can still see her slamming books down on her desk, red faced, lips pursed, and eyebrows narrowed. I can still hear her voice raising octaves above the “six inch voice” policy. I can still feel her looking down on her classroom of the twenty tiny minions she was responsible for from underneath her black thick-framed glasses.

Ms. S hated her job. She hated kids. She hated me.
On the night of the fifth grade open house, I proudly led my mom around the classroom showing off my accomplishments, mostly words and creations. I read her the story I typed on the classroom Gateway computer. I flipped through daily journal entries in my black and white composition notebook. I showed off my ecosystems diorama, which was nothing more than cotton balls, straw, silver glitter, and grass glued to the bottom of a cardboard box. Naturally, my mom assured me that I was the most creative child she knew.

I skipped the math station, because even as a ten-year-old I knew my weaknesses, and I unfortunately had a teacher who made it a mission to point them out.

“Carley has poor time management.”
“Carley’s division skills are insufficient.”
“Carley writes when she’s supposed to be practicing multiplication.”

Softly, my mother asked Ms. S what I was good at, to which she avoided the question entirely.
You see, Ms. S wasn’t a bad person; she just didn’t understand the power of words.

At the end of what had already been a grueling parent teacher encounter, my mother gently took my hand and decided it was time we leave. On our way out, Ms. S stopped us at the door. Half expecting an apology for the negativity, my mom turned around.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Barton, but your daughter will never be a straight A student.”

Fifteen years later, I’m making my mark on New York City. I graduated college with four years of A’s, an academic scholarship, countless Dean’s List awards, and my dream internship in Australia. What’s more important than academic accomplishments is the way those words impacted me.I never forgot what it felt like to have somebody not believe in me, and every person who doubted me from that moment on became my inspiration for success.

My words have been published in magazines, newspapers, and online journals, and will take me places fifth grade level mathematics never will. My time management and math skills as a ten-year-old may not have been up to par, but as a 25-year-old I’m pretty damn good with words. So here are a few words for you Ms. S:

You were wrong. So, very, wrong.

Written by

Account Manager @SmallgirlsPR. Former producer @VaynerMedia. Lover of whiskey & combat boots. Full of sass. http://findingravity.com carley@smallgirlspr.com

 

Bad Education – Flaws of pre-university education in the UK


Recent years, rankings have been published numerating the disastrous performances of British students generally at aged 16 against their international peers in subjects such as maths and sciences. With this serving as the tone for this writing, I want to look at three main flaws I believe currently exist in the education system which in the future will begin to limit the performances of British educated students on an international platform. These will focus on breadth of knowledge, international coverage and a near ‘pre-historic’ educational system that has done little to keep up with rapidly changing demands to our job market.

My analysis and comparison of education systems stem from interactions at an educational institution largely filled with students from over 150 different countries. Within these interactions, conversations and themes of comparable education systems and requirements have brought to my attention what I call an ‘under education’ of British students* (myself being one)

*under the assumption that the student(s) have studied the standard 3 a-levels required for university

Firstly, when comparing the pre-university education of British students against our counterparts who take the international baccalaureate (IB) or European baccalaureate (EB), there is a clear lack in breadth of knowledge which is demanded at this level. For example, the requirements for IB state that you must study quantitative, qualitative, humanities and a linguistics whilst for a-levels you’re encouraged to study three subjects which should be in some way related and designated for a specific career route.

This is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, this works on the assumption that at 17, when applying for university, students are certain on a specific career path in which they wish to follow. Secondly, the encouragement to specialize in an area doesn’t bode well for a work place that is ever encouraging for well, all-rounded students who are comfortable being able to undergo a range of assignments with varied demands.

Secondly, I believe the British education system serves its students poorly in the provisioning of international coverage through languages. For reasons unknown to man, the education system sees little importance in the promotion and in trying to necessitate being bilingual. This again creates a gulf between many students who can only speak one language vs. many jobs that require bilingual capabilities as a prerequisite. Again, British students lose further in this because whilst we struggle to speak fluently in several languages, our counterparts continue to lead the way in being well-versed in several languages (it’s common to find international students fluent in three or more languages at my university).

Lastly, the education system that exists today largely excludes the championing of necessary subjects which I believe should be high up on the agenda alongside the usual maths, English and sciences. The aforementioned language problem is one which I believe ought to be dealt with within the education system. In addition to this, the changing demands in job skills and anticipated future job growth seeing the need for students to be proficient in programming languages, at a much younger level, both of these should be heavily invested into with the former being carried on right onto the end of compulsory education.

In hindsight, had I been granted the job of education minister, I would work in formulating a pre-university post GCSE education model that champions diversity and creativy. I would most likely adopt a model similar to the EB system in which students are required to study quantitative subjects, humanities/arts and languages to the age of 18.

Like, share, comment and recommend.

Written by

brand architect.

Published December 29, 2013

 

On Re-inventing the University Experience


What does it mean to be a university of the 21st Century?

Yet another education initiative is looking to not unbundle, but re-bundle a product often referred to as a college degree. Founder Ben Nelson, a tech entrepreneur from the Valley with no previous experience in the education market describes the system from a service perspective. Inflation has increased, serves 10% of market demand, and employs service professionals who have no training, are not monitored, and are not offered any penalty or reward for providing the service well. Besides, there are no standardized metrics to use for such a basis, anyways. This is the multi-billion dollar business of education. Now officially surpassing U.S. homeowners debt as the number one largest form of debt facing a new American-educated generation, the Minerva Project is aiming to compete with Ivy League schools to offer a 21st century education based on access and affordability.

As Nelson is quick to point out, 85% of Harvard applicants are fully qualified to attend. Harvard doesn’t have an 85% acceptance rate. Between facility costs and all other expenses it would require to serve all 85% of it’s applicants paired with the fact that accepting all students would be bad for the brand, Harvard can’t afford to, anyways. Besides, most students can’t afford the education. Minerva aims to change that in terms of recruitment, at least, by giving “no weight… given to lineage, state, country of origin, athletic prowess or ability to donate.” It doesn’t have the perfect formula yet, but with a lower overhead cost and current curriculum and the format it’s taught in outdated, much lower tuition rates will be a start.

Nelson has been quoted as saying that he wants to “create structures that are in place 100 years from now.” Are new structures still remaining intact for approximately the same amount of time as it’s been since re-inventing the Ivies (last attempted in 1912) what’s really needed? What’s clear is that a change in mindset is what’s really required in order to re-invent the structures we see crumbling and serve our exponentially-growing complex worldview. While the Minerva Project’s ambition to re-invent such an institution for the 21st century by turning the traditional model upside down combined with a belief that technology holds many of the answers is noble, it hopefully sees the limitations of such models and tools. It would be keen to remember that it is designing a learning process not just within a system but also for inhabitants of such a system.

Minerva recognizes curriculum is available anywhere, can be completed online on an individual basis and complemented with small online/offline seminars. This is where students can go deeper into conversation and potentially create synergies for collaboration. This is also where the educational initiative has the most potential to innovate. By re-inventing the classroom experience, Minerva aims to create “analytical machines.” With it’s non-traditional model, it hopefully also aims to develop individuals past the analytical machines coming out of the traditional Ivy League schools. If it really wanted to surpass the competition, it would strive to create not just analytical machines but whole, well-rounded individuals learning in community. Indeed, that may be the only way it can compete with such a model without turning into what it’s trying to gain independence from.

Nelson claims “students will have outstanding rhetorical skills, from debates to tweets to public speaking, what they call multi-modal communication skills.” How will it develop the emotionally intelligent communication skills also required of our world’s emerging and future leaders? This is a question that is yet to be answered and where the project seems to recognize the limitations of the classroom setting, online or not. Minerva promises all classes will “radically change the way you look at the world.” Students will be encouraged to live in different cities each semester and build campuses based on the local densities that emerge within the network of students.

Escaping the Ivory Tower

Assuming that besides the traditional model of education the project aims to re-invent, it will also borrow from a growing popularity in low-residency distance learning programs that are offering practitioners and students alike the opportunity to collaborate on various issues they work on outside of their respective programs. Gathering at given times over a certain period throughout the learning process has tremendous power for social and academic change. Borrowing from programs outside the already ancient Ivy League must also be considered in order to create the necessary collective learning and collaboration required for a new educational model to truly find it’s place in this era.

The project emphasizes that much learning will take place in the local settings by dedicating one day of the program to the locale the student is based in. How it will do this also leaves room for an incredible potential to train the world’s future leaders in how to collaborate to solve some of our globe’s most wicked problems. Isn’t that what a 21st century education for the best and brightest should look like? I’m not sure that can be simplified into the dedication of one day of it’s program to doing so. An education in the 21st century seems far too complex for that.

Bearing this in mind, the project would be naive in thinking the world’s future leaders have not already thought of how they want to change the world in parallel with theoretical and classroom-based learning. Perhaps they haven’t. Students will be required to complete a two-year project that creates something novel. The curriculum will be designed to create a solid foundation at home the first year in order to go deep in any given area over the next three years. Besides just drilling in basic knowledge during the first year, how will it create a personalized approach to the individual needs of it’s students?

While it seems to take the concern of the amount of social contact it will create between it’s students seriously — something some are arguing only a traditional university setting can offer—the Minerva Project would benefit in thinking about how to accelerate the professional trajectory of these students well before graduation day. Helping alumni find like-minded collaborators, attract funding, grant money, and fellowships is an ambition the initiative has. How much has it considered doing this in conjunction with the curriculum it aims to create?

Given Minerva’s interest in educating any student from around the world who meets its high academic standards, many argue the project will have to create scholarship programs for students in need of financial aid, as well as secure favorable loan rates. Perhaps. The program, capitalizing on the high motivation from applicants looking to make their education, not just take it, should look into alternative financing models. This would make it possible to fund students learning path’s based on merit.

Imagining these young future leaders must be incredibly self-motivated regarding their learning, how will the project harness the power of a network of talented and ambitious students already applying the knowledge they are receiving in the “classroom” to the real-world? How will it help connect these promising individuals in a meaningful way to not only benefit their collective learning, but also collaboration across individual endeavors?

What if a student spent the first year not only learning basic knowledge anyone is able to obtain with a vast array of MOOC’s, but also charting out and sharing a personal learning plan for the following years alongside those prerequisite courses? What would happen if students met at different gathering points over the course of the first year to prepare for such an adventure? What if learning circles or verticals of knowledge based on topics strongly resonating with these high-potentials were created?

The answers that emerge from these questions should inform the curriculum much more than the creation of various departments as modeled in the traditional university setting. The project seems to be taking these factors into consideration as it develops a small group of beta-testers. A first cohort of 15-19 students will spend the first year of the program in San Francisco working to shape the curriculum, take a gap year, and then join the first official (much larger) class their sophomore year to graduate.

Imagining the collaboration potential these young leaders would have tackling global issues in a learning-based setting for an extended period of time and without the barrier of location is mind-blowing. Applying both theoretical and practical knowledge to real-world settings on a daily basis through a program like Minerva has the opportunity to serve as a vehicle that connects students to some of humanity’s greatest challenges.

The opportunity young leaders at Minerva would have to tackle these challenges first-hand from day one is something no other Ivy could claim. How much collaborative, project-based learning the Minerva will facilitate in those ‘one-day-of-the-week in the city’ field trips it claims will be part of the schedule could be the very thing that sets it apart from the Ivy League pack. Frankly, with so much potential to re-invent the current structure, does the Minerva Project even want to compare itself to something so disconnected from the world it wants to inhabit?

There will be no athletic facilities or science labs at Minerva. Some doubt Minerva will be able to build reputable science departments without laboratory spaces in which students can conduct experiments. Perhaps they are right, but does Minerva want a reputable science department or does it want to create a network of science departments consisting of labs across the globe? This is much more the kind of “department” the project seems to want to create as it re-invents the definition of what a department in a 21st century university even looks like in the first place. Connection to local pockets of innovation across all disciplines will be crucial to it’s success as an Ivy for and with the world. Furthermore, connecting it’s students to the world in a meaningful way will be crucial for the organization to thrive as a network serving a new generation discontent with the status quo.

Rather than place students in dormitories, as it suggests, why not connect it to the rising network of co-living spaces like Nest and the Embassy Network? Why not create it’s own network and merge with other mobile societies, global learning communities, and digital tribes of emerging leaders like the Sandbox Network? After all, we’re talking about educating individuals of the 21st century just as much as we’re talking about creating an education for this era. While Nelson has considered the challenge from a service perspective, not forgetting about the user (human) perspective is equally important. Such an undertaking will require a lot more community management on the human side of technology that can’t possibly address all needs of it’s students adequately.

The Limitations of Technology

Judging by the application, where applicants are asked to submit 1-5 examples of leadership, creativity, or initiative, the process takes on a slightly robotic tone. Applicants must choose one of the three categories for each example. They cannot choose multiple answers or enter in their own definition. This is proof that future technology employed in the program will have to go beyond the simple algorithms and even the small class sizes to really address the human need in the educational system.

Furthermore, if the Minerva project wants to truly cultivate great leaders — the ones applying to Harvard, Yale, and other Ivies — then it should also keep in mind that many of these people are the ones considering not going at all. These are the ones working to disrupt an industry, develop a deep personal practice required to serve as a spiritual leader, or any other ambitions a future leader — no matter what industry — may have. Doing so will be necessary to create the backbone for an education that trains students to not just think critically, but think critically about how they define success and chart an entirely new path forward. Bearing all this in mind while working to scale and truly create access for all are just a few of many things this audaciously bold startup will have to tackle.

“What concerns me is the care and feeding of 18 year olds who’ve entrusted us with their education, their futures, whose parents have put their money and their hopes in us. Getting that right is always on my mind.” The fact that, ultimately, the founder is concerned with this puts me at ease. As we tackle this huge challenge and attempt to disrupt and re-invent a dinosaur system, above all, we’re talking about going on a journey together. We’re aware we don’t know all the answers and we’re all learners— including the ones we’re entrusting our education with. As such, we’re the best judge of whether something is serving us and carry the responsibility to speak up and act when it’s not. In a world where everyone should have the ability to lead, we can only look inside of ourselves for true leadership. Teaching this important skill is what Minerva should really focus on when developing the leaders and creators we need today in order for our world to flourish tomorrow.

Written by

facilitator of learning & connector of change networks event/workshop designer; Berlin Ambassador @Sandbox_Network culture/leadership dev @WASHUnited, @NaropaU

Published December 29, 2013

 

Smart is new sexy


Knowledge. That’s the primary factor, that enlightened the progress of the humankind. The caveman, gazing at the burning fire, wondering, by the will of what fickle god was it shining. The long-bearded philosopher, asking himself whether parallel lines intersect somewhere in the continuous space. Or the blind astronomer, who still could see that “yet it moves”. It took them years of hard work to understand bases, known by any tenth grader. Moreover, now even a third-rate tenth grader knows about nature and its laws much more then Galilei, but is he capable of similar agility of thought?

We live in the amazing time when, we have an unprecedented privilege of the unlimited access to any knowledge, so carefully gathered by the humankind throughout generations. It’s all there. Seek and ye shall find.

Whenever you need anything, just google it. Wikipedia will give you the hint. Still have questions? Try to ask someone on Quora. Want more systematic approach? There might be some great course on Udemy or Coursera. Oh, and there are thousands of those super useful blogs with amazing insights. Forget about classical education – it’s broken. Constant self-education is what will make you competitive and successful. Staying ignorant just won’t work in the long run.

The world becomes more and more intolerant to people, who ignore those opportunities to learn. You have no excuses not to self-educate. Smart is new sexy. Flexibility, readiness to learn fast and sometimes to learn something completely new are new trends. Humankind is moving, taking baby steps by now, to the new level of intellectual potential. To the world of incredible inventions, of scientific and social advancement, which would make, not just the caveman, but even us stand motionless and wonder, by will of what fickle god was it created. The basis for the progress is already prepared. And now each one of us is responsible for that leap forward. So, are you ready to be the new sexy?

Written by

Dream-pursuer, co-founder and CEO of Loum (@getloum). Brining people closer to each other in their local communities.

 

4 Steps Towards An Education Revolution


Put things into context. Look at the world from a different point of view. Mark the ideal and strive towards it.

The curriculum in English class had us decode the methods of developing a character or a paragraph so that I could come to appreciate written English. Not once did it have us practice them.

Our math class last year gave me the opportunity to deposit mathematics in my brain like money in a bank. So that one day when I grow up, I don’t have to Google a point of intersection calculator or look up the formula for the volume of a sphere.

In geography, we would be taught a curriculum littered with buzzwords like “walkability”, “smart growth”, and “new urbanism”. A course that enlightened us towards the geographical problems facing mankind, but I say that at most it was 2 months of instruction spread thin over 4.

Science class was spent memorizing or understanding, depending on which we preferred, explanations as to why things are the way they are. However, I can’t help but entertain the idea that there were more practical uses of time.

That’s what I remember from Grade 9.

Steve Jobs once said,

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

And that happened to me. I said “no” too many days in a row. And I began to wonder, why “no”? What is it that makes me say “time today isn’t going to be time well spent”? And so I thought about it, and I defined the ideal. The perfect form.

My ideals are simple, but as simple as they may be, they are powerful. Because ideals can only get better. Ideals are bulletproof. They don’t account for economics, they don’t care about politics. They’re not concerned with practicality. Which is why they are inherently perfect.

I’m in high school. I deal with the current situation on a daily basis outside of summer. I see its shortcomings and I dream of what it can be. And so here are my

1. Percent Time

In 1974 at a company called 3M, a scientist by the name of Art Fry invented the post-it note. He made it during his 15% time. Likewise, Gmail and Google Earth were born during Google employees’s 20% time. What is percent time? It’s when employees spend time working on personal projects, done during X% of their time at work. They are paid for the time spent on these projects, and the one requirement is that they make something.

Percent time at school would be a game-changer. It would be spent on some type of documented learning. Accounts of what is done should be kept by the students themselves, in the form of a journal, video blogs, podcasts, etc. And at the end of the year, all the students present what they’ve accomplished. Ungraded. Doing this is something that would have to be initiated by the student. Doing this would require and so teach true initiative, true creativity, because when you’re constantly told to go from A to B at school, or, at best, A to somewhere between B and D, that’s not real initiative. You’re doing it because if you don’t, your teacher and/or your parents will be displeased with you or you’ll be displeased with the number that you get. But real initiative is when there’s a pull factor. You dream of being part of a band, you become part of a band. You wish to learn programming, you go out and you learn programming. Nobody’s forcing you, it’s on your willpower alone that you get somewhere.

2. Building Habits

With today’s always-connected world, today’s noisy world, we are left with little room for reflection. We have so many ways to get distracted. You’ll find us teenagers pulling out our phones and texting or tweeting or updating or messaging or listening to music when we sense we have nothing to do. All of this prevents us from thinking. So what better way to empower the youth of tomorrow than by ingraining in them life-changing habits?

And so school should get us into the habit of thinking. Of reflecting. Of standing up for ourselves. Take a page from Japan’s book and have hourly 5-minute stretching breaks. But most of all, get us to love learning.

Because it is the job of every teacher first and foremost to incite the love of learning, not to relay information from a textbook. Once you’ve gotten that interest or passion in your students, you no longer have kids hoping that time would pass faster or longing to be anywhere but the classroom they’re in. No, you have motivated disciples.

3. Collaboration

Most tests should present a hard question that requires us to build upon the knowledge that we learn in class. Because the notion that tests, in their current form, are an accurate indicator of a student’s understanding is absolutely preposterous. I say that because for the courses I personally find irrelevant, I put everything to short-term memory and call it a day. 6 months later, good luck trying to get me to remember the contents of the course.

So have us be humans. Let us collaborate. You cannot logically argue that we won’t have access to Google in the future. To our friend who might have taken the course already. If Stephen Hawking is in town, and a student can get him to help on a test on theoretical physics, then the student deserves to consult Stephen Hawking about his test. Have a single question to truly differentiate between those who understand and those who merely memorize. A single question that requires students to build upon the foundation of knowledge taught in class, not just remember it.

4. The 15-hour schoolweek

I call for a shorter “school time”. The 27-hour schoolweek can be cut down to 15. The time spent at school should be dedicated to teachers answering questions, discussing about the prior night’s homework. This is the time when students have the chance to intelligently converse with their teachers instead of desperately trying to understand the lesson. How? Because the lesson would have been taught the night before.

One way to do this is through the use of instructional videos, like Khan Academy. When it’s a video teaching you the concepts, you’re not limited by social confines. You’re not afraid about others thinking you’re stupid if you don’t get it. If you’re unsure about something, you just rewind and watch it again. If you already know the concept skip ahead and you’ve got more free time. And so the teacher assigns videos to be watched and homework, should there be any, to be done and ideas to be entertained. The next day concepts can be clarified. Questions can be asked. Unexplored tangents can be explored.

The journey is the key, not the afterthought.

The ideals that are laid by the institutions that make up the education system today turn those who intend to succeed into laborious workhorses. Workhorses stuck in the monotonous, perpetual cycle of homework, extracurriculars, and the race to a job. Because it was promised to them that a job would give them a “life”. But what are they doing now? They’re competing in the race for the most checkmarks and the highest numbers beside their names. In that time, they’re not living. They brag about who slept the least before a test or project was due. In their recess, their recreation time, they’re sitting down doing homework. And once all the boxes have been checked, what they have won’t be a life. Because a life means that you get to live, not survive from 9 to 5.

Checkmarks and numbers don’t reflect you as a person. If that were the case, interviews wouldn’t exist, and the highest academic achievers would always get the position. But interviews do exist, so my message to my peers is to start living. Grades are merely the means to an end. They show that you have absorbed what has been given to you, but not that you’ve done anything with it. If you play the piano, and you learn music theory, then why do anything else but start composing? If you’ve gone to a business class, then start a business. School should make time for this. Promote this. Reward this. And so my message to those writing the curriculum and managing the whole system is:

Give the next generation a better system than the one you’ve given us.


If you like what I write, why not follow me on Twitter?

Written by

Kaizen + Clever + Laziness + Eccentric = ?

 

Reasons Children Should Learn to Code


I’ve just read The Government wants to teach all children how to code, Here’s why it’s a stupid idea by Willard Foxton on his Telegraph technology blog. I found the article incredibly short sighted and full of bad stereotypes that miss the point of teaching children to code.

I’m not going to pick apart the author’s points, from the looks of the comments section on the post I think that’s easy enough for anyone to do. Instead I’m going to give 3 positive reasons that we should be teaching children to code from a young age.

Problem Solving

Britain’s teaching quality is not very good when compared to countries like Sweden, Finland, and some countries in East Asia, and the reason usually cited for this is that we tend to teach children facts to pass exams rather than ways of thinking that they can apply everywhere. This is the driving reason behind many recent changes to the education system, particularly those around the ways exams are done.

I think one of the most important aspects to learning, is learning to solve problems. This means taking a high-level question like “Does the Higgs Boson exist?”, and breaking it down into elements like “How can we detect it?” and “What confidence do we need in order to assume it exists?”. Children are already taught some elements of how to break down a question and design a scientific experiment, but it’s often very basic.

In programming however, this breaking down of problems into simpler elements, and composing multiple parts to form a solution, is arguably the most important aspect. People talk a lot about teaching ‘algorithms’, but I see this as just a special case of learning about abstraction and composition. These skills are applicable in so many areas: science, technology, engineering, mathematics, economics, business, art and more. They don’t have to be taught through programming, but I think learning to code is the quickest and easiest way to learn it.

It’s not up to volunteers and organisations like Code Club to teach children essential life skills, that’s what school is for.

Wide Applications

Programming is not just for programmers. When I graduate I will become a software developer, and my career will probably involve that for quite a few years so programming is clearly very important for me. However it’s also applicable to a wide range of subjects. My friends who study Physics learn Python in order to more efficiently solve problems they encounter, those who study Maths often learn Matlab so that they can apply complex theories they learn to real world examples, even my friend studying Geophysics has written C Shell (yes, really) code to automate the processing of large datasets to generate useful graphs of seismic activity.

If you want a really high paying job coming out of a computer science degree, you go and work in finance. If you can come up with a mathematical model for some sort of market force, that’s really useful to the banks. But if you can write that model up into a piece of software that they can run thousands of times a second in order to do high-frequency trading, you’re worth millions in revenue, and are far more useful.

One of my friends at university, Philip, is doing a PhD in Chemistry. As a part of this, his supervisor gave him and two others some spreadsheets with large amounts of data in to use in their calculations. The supervisor estimated it would take around 2-3 weeks to process manually in Excel. The other two students got stuck in and I’m sure had a very boring few weeks, but instead Philip fired up Python and wrote some code. It took him about 2 hours to get it to the point of being able to process a single result when the others were already much further in, but the value of programming a solution is that once you can run it once, it takes no effort to run it many times more. Philip finished the 2-3 week assignment in under 3 hours, because of the automation he could apply to the task.

Even a field like sociology would probably benefit in some ways from a knowledge of programming. Do you want to understand friendship groups? You could survey a few thousand people and get a basic understanding with months of effort, or you could use the Facebook graph API to traverse social groups and have a sample size of millions of people in much less time.

Career Opportunities

Unemployment on my course at university seems to be nearly unheard of. We are very lucky to be in high demand, and demand only appears to be increasing. As our problems get increasingly more difficult to solve, and the data we are using gets bigger, more and more jobs are going to start requiring programming experience. Already, in scientific research, the applicant who can write up their solution in code so that it can be run on a supercomputer is at a huge advantage over the applicant who can only use Excel. And those who work in business development and market research are at an advantage if they can write SQL database queries, because they can extract more useful information from the data they are given.

Of course many people still won’t need to be able to write code in their jobs, but at the same time many people won’t need to perform practical science experiments in their jobs, yet the importance of doing them in school isn’t questioned.

Those who can code will be more employable in so many types of job in the not too distant future, and if we aren’t teaching it to children then they are going to lose out to people who grow up in education systems where they are taught to program.


Our problems are no longer simple, we’ve become too advanced. In the past we used to be able to answer questions with a few measurements and some mathematical knowledge, but we have so much more data now. In order to effectively measure population demographics, we need to use datasets with millions of people. In order answer the tough scientific questions we need far higher precision than we can deal with manually. To understand economic forces we need to be able to look at market data every 10 milliseconds, and to look at how the web, possibly humanity’s most important resource, we need to survey billions of websites a month.

These problems are only getting bigger and more complex. We are just not able to understand data on a large enough scale without computers, and those who can’t make computers do what they need are going to be left behind.

Written by

BCs Computer Science Student University of Hertfordshire. Software Developer. Connect with me on Google http://t.co/T0Z8huItfK . Love hackathons. Android Dev

Published December 17, 2013