Cool posts from InsideHigherEd

Usually every day brings one or two interesting things at InsideHigherEd, but today is a bonanza.

  • The Ed Tech Sonic Boom

    Today, we are able to leverage a set of well-developed and stable technologies to build in pedagogically advanced active learning methods into a wide variety of courses and modes of instructional delivery. To be a great teacher it is no longer a prerequisite to be a dynamic and gifted lecturer. Rather, faculty can partner with learning designers, librarians, and teaching specialists to create dynamic, student-centered courses that allow students interact and create with the curriculum in ways that were impossible before the advent of technology enabled and supported classes.

    However, these improvements in course quality made possible by the pairing of learning design methods and technology have brought with them a new set of challenges….

  • Let’s shift some paradigms is the first post from the new blog Student Affairs and Technology which shows a lot of potential.

    A couple of years ago I was a participant for a conference panel on student affairs and technology. The evaluations were less than positive. Almost all of the comments shared a common theme: “be less technical and explain the basics.” Fortunately, there was one comment that has stuck with me and that I use as a call to action: “Helping me to boldly go where I’ve never been before.” It gives me hope as a student affairs techie that we as a profession have not lost our willingness to learn, to explore, and to stay positive about new technologies. Let’s push the envelope. Let’s shift our professional paradigms. Let’s make technology (and learning about new technologies) a part of our daily practice in student affairs.

  • Whither the Wikis?

    Of all the Web 2.0 tools that have become de rigueur on college campuses, wikis fundamentally embody the Internet’s original promise of pooling the world’s knowledge — a promise that resonates loudly in academe.

    And yet higher education’s relationship with wikis — Web sites that allow users to collectively create and edit content — has been somewhat hot-and-cold. Wikipedia, the do-it-yourself online encyclopedia, vexed academics early on because of its wild-west content policies and the perception that students were using it as a shortcut to avoid the tedium of combing through more reliable sources. This frustration has been compounded by the fact that attempts to create scholarly equivalents have not been nearly as successful.

  • Google and the Digital Humanities

    For humanities scholars, having all the world’s writings available in a digital format opens up an entirely new realm of quantitative research to supplement the qualitative research that, because of limitations inherent to the print medium, has historically been their sole dominion, say Google officials.

    “Traditionally, the conventional model of humanities research is that a professor has his graduate students do deep readings on a relatively small number of texts,” says Orwant. “Now, for the first time, we have so many books online and so many useful data mining techniques that it becomes possible, instead of reading 10 books deeply, to read 10,000 books shallowly.”

  • ‘Elegance in Science’

    Q: How do you define “elegance” in the context of your book?

    A: The dictionary definitions of elegant — graceful, tasteful, of refined luxury — are useless here, because scientists tend to use the word in peculiar ways. Rather than starting with a formal definition, then, I have remembered Wittgenstein’s advice — that “the meaning of a word is its use in the language” — and I spend the first chapter of the book discussing mathematical or scientific proofs, or theories or experiments, that are generally regarded as elegant, sometimes contrasting them with those that are not. I begin with mathematical examples since it is mathematicians that get most enthusiastic about elegance, and there are some very pretty examples that are easily accessible to non-mathematicians. I then proceed to the physical and biological sciences, ending the chapter with a description of the experiment, published by William Harvey in 1628, proving — what was then not known — that the blood in our bodies circulates; an experiment that required only a bandage and that could have been done at any time in the past.

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