Category Archives: Education(Higher)

Is it time to reverse the customer-service mentaility plaguing academe?

Does this sound like a description of incoming college students to you?

In “On Stupidity” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the author (Thomas H. Benton) says he “see[s] too many students who are:

·         Primarily focused on their own emotions — on the primacy of their “feelings” — rather than on analysis supported by evidence.
·         Uncertain what constitutes reliable evidence, thus tending to use the most easily found sources uncritically.
·         Convinced that no opinion is worth more than another: All views are equal.
·         Uncertain about academic honesty and what constitutes plagiarism. (I recently had a student defend herself by claiming that her paper was more than 50 percent original, so she should receive that much credit, at least.)
·         Unable to follow or make a sustained argument.
·         Uncertain about spelling and punctuation (and skeptical that such skills matter).
·         Hostile to anything that is not directly relevant to their career goals, which are vaguely understood.
·         Increasingly interested in the social and athletic above the academic, while “needing” to receive very high grades.
·         Not really embarrassed at their lack of knowledge and skills.
·         Certain that any academic failure is the fault of the professor rather than the student.”

While I certainly see some students in their own similar little nirvanas, many of them are also engaged and engaging, intellectually curious and grounded.  Neither Benton nor I are pessimistic about how today’s new students think, since every generation learns differently.

The missing piece in today’s academic meme of “student-centered services” is students are not brought face to face with the realization that we *all* think differently, we all need to be able to speak to other people both from our own frame of reference as well as from theirs.  Communication and communication modes are a two way street — sure, the professor needs to be able to communicate so the students can understand; but the students also need to learn to communicate so the professor understands the students’ understanding.

In the larger view, “student centered” doesn’t mean change everything for the student’s ease of understanding, it means take the time to learn to communicate with the student and teach the student to communicate with people who think/operate differently.

How can we take the extended arguments of the Enlightenment and make them accessible to today’s shorter attention span?

Mind the Gap

As I Twitter’d earlier, I just watched a YouTube video from TEDtalks by Hans Rosling which forwarded me on to the Gapminder Google Tool, a mashup of UN and other public data sources to make really easily understandable [and amazing] graphs of comparative world data.

Here’s the link to the [20 minute long] YouTube video

Here’s the link to the GapMinder Google Tool

Play with the data in GapMinder, I think this resource would be a fabulous source for data display in any number of subject areas (though I didn’t search for the citations of the datasets). I’m thinking about contacting professors in Poli-Sci, Business, International Studies, etc. to ask for their comments and how they think it might be useful for their students. If you think of other subject areas that might find this type of thing useful, let me know.

Irreparable harm

I’m not sure what this says about me when one of the more insightful – or self-reflection causing – statements I’ve read in the past few days is “…we fail our students when we make things too easy for them for fear that their possible failures may do them irreparable harm.” I found this from StevenB on ACRL Blog

I find that I agree on the surface, but there is turmoil below my normally placid waters. Do I agree with it because I have an attitude of ‘well, I paid my dues so they should have to pay the same dues plus interest and inflation’ or do I agree with it beacuse I have an attitude of ‘oh these youngsters, they’re less than half my age and couldn’t cross a street without being told when to go’ or do I not disagree with it because I feel that higher education (and education in general) should not be a cake-walk with everyone automatically passing “GO” and collecting 4.0s and 3.5s and maybe a valadictorian or salutatorian slot?

Introspection on a Monday — just one week before moving 800+ miles — probably isn’t the most reality-based blogging location. Hey, but there it is.