“Academically Adrift” book reveals college realities

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Posted on 18th January 2011 by Judy Breck in Findability | Mobiles | Schools we now have

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Appalling academic inadequacies revealed in the new book Academically Adrift are buzzing across the education world and into pubic awareness. From today’s headlines:

USA Today: “Report: First two years of college show small gains”

Chronicle of Higher Education: “New Book Lays Failure to Learn on Colleges’ Doorsteps”

At Amazon.com, even though only the hardcover (for $66) is offered, Academically Adrift, released three days ago, is already selling in the site’s top 5,000 books. The publisher, Chicago University Press also offers a $25 paperback.

Why the big interest? The pie chart from the book (and USA Today) breaks down how students spend their time. The USA Today story begins with this summary of the results of what kids are actually accomplishing academically on campus:

Nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don’t make academics a priority, a new report shows.

Instructors tend to be more focused on their own faculty research than teaching younger students, who in turn are more tuned in to their social lives, according to the report, based on a book titled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Findings are based on transcripts and surveys of more than 3,000 full-time traditional-age students on 29 campuses nationwide, along with their results on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test that gauges students’ critical thinking, analytic reasoning and writing skills.

How long could it be before colleges could address this situation and truly change it? Who knows? And can we really expect education as served up at colleges to get better?

Yet an individual student’s mobile web browser — smartphone, iPad, laptop — offers immediate access to anything he or she would want to learn. Shall we fix the colleges? Sure — but what about the current generation of students?

While the colleges are figuring out 21st century education, current students can go ahead and learn using the new great source of knowledge that they already have in their hands.

And if you are thinking: Gosh, will the kids really do that? My answer is individually many, many of them will. Handschooling is the great future port for academic knowledge, and it is reachable now for today’s students who want to go there. We can be certain students will stay academically adrift if we perpetuate the myth that the way colleges are doing academics now will somehow deliver to them the knowledge they want to learn.

UPDATE: I posted the above text at 10AM. By 5PM, as I add this update, Academically Adrift is #34 on the Amazon list of best-selling books. Amazon is now selling the paperback version for $18.

Handschooling takes students out of the classroom box

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Posted on 24th May 2010 by Judy Breck in Next | Schools we now have

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An AP article in Yahoo! describes a return of kinder (kids) to the garden of nature for their school setting. An outdoor school in Oregon is described — where little ones get their hands on the real natural world.

Why not carry this idea in various forms to essentially all student/teaching situations? Since the invention of writing (think scrolls) and then printing a few centuries ago, the need for written educational resource materials — textbooks, library access, pencils and paper — has driven students into boxes called classrooms.

It is time to think outside of the classroom box. Students can have nature, work place tools (if they study some in real labs and workplaces) in one hand and everything known by humankind in their other hand (with an iPad sort of device).

Is the iPad release the tipping point to end public schooling?

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Posted on 2nd April 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Obamaschool | Schools we now have

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Wow! iPad puts reading, writing, arithmetic, and anything a student would want to learn, in that student’s own hands.

That said, it is fair to ask:

  • Why should any youngster be forced to spend years sitting in failing schools that do not provide these things?
  • Why should we allow Obama to double down on controlling and preserving schools that perpetuate dependency?
  • Why should our taxpayer dollars go to obsolete analog school printing and resources shipping?
  • Why should teachers not quit their socialist unions to become private tutors coaching handschooled kids?

Perhaps tomorrow, when the iPad leads off a new handheld cascade of innovation — perhaps tomorrow will be the tipping point in the mass exit from the schools and the crumbling of government education.

Of course, many privileged youngsters have already walked out of public schooling. And, yeah, there is a lot of doubt about whether all kids can learn. The iPad and the innovation it releases will let us find out. The way Obama is leading education right now, the tough schools will crank out a dependent underclass. Let’s give those youngsters iPads and see what they do.

Internet in hand is the cognitive denominator

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Posted on 30th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Mobiles

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What smartphones, tablets, netbooks now have in common is putting the open internet in your hand. For all the varieties of configs and features, it is the web browser that equalizes learning. This world-connecting, world-changing cognitive denominator is in the process of doing two fabulous things:

  • Bringing everything know by humankind into the hands of each member of the young global generation,
  • Bringing that knowledge to each of them equally — quite literally from the same virtual page.

Prompted by all the iPad chatter this week, Michael Malone has posted an interesting article today called “Tablet Dreams” in which he traces the techie decades old dream of creating hand held tablets. Malone muses as to why the dream has persisted:

Perhaps it’s because they harken back to the natural human tendency to write and draw on the nearest flat wall or stone or scrap of wood. Or maybe it’s a kind of cultural memory from the days of cuneiform writing on slabs of drying mud, or marking with chalk on a piece of slate in a one room schoolhouse. Whatever the reason, the dream of a smart, interactive tablet is almost as old as electronics itself.

As these techie dreamers diddled with digital chalk and chisels, something else — something wonderful — happened. The serendipity is something Stuart Kauffman might call an “adjacent possibility”: the array of dream tablets has in common that you can touch them to display, lo, nothing less than the accumulated knowledge of our species. That, folks, is quantum leaps beyond marking with your finger in a wet tablet of mud, or for that matter, with chalk on the boards in schools.

iPad makes student backpack obsolete

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Posted on 27th January 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles

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In this New York Times photo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has in his hands the latest and greatest mobile manifestation.

Today as Steve Jobs announced Apple’s new iPad, Geoffrey A. Fowler live-blogged the event from San Francisco for the Wall Street Journal. Early in Jobs’ presentation, Fowler posted:

1:10 | The bar is high
The bar is pretty high — those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks, he says. Better than the laptop and better than the smart phone. It needs to do browsing, email photos, video, music, games and e-books, he says.

I picked this quotation by Jobs because the first feature he mentions is “browsing.” The fact that the iPad browses the internet places the open global commons of what is known into the iPad owner’s hands. (The image to the right is from Apple’s new iPad video.)

Jobs said in his presentation that iPad’s virtual bookshelf is “a great reader, a great online bookstore…we think the iPad is going to make a terrific e-book reader not just for popular books but textbooks as well.”

As I write this post, Jobs’ presentation continues: Now being highlighted is Pages, Apple’s wordprocessor with which iPad is equipped.

The flurries of hype around the new iPad announcement have included speculation that it would make laptops obsolete. Perhaps so. For students who own them, iPads will make their backpacks obsolete. Maybe they should keep a backpack to carry their lunch, but in iPad they will have a mobile to transport them to online knowledge, display reading material, and connect them with notes and reports that they write and file.