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Browne Report – Phase III – 52,000 Protest Cuts to Higher Education in the U.K.

Dear Commons Community,

Twice I have commented on the massive cutbacks to higher education in the United Kingdom   (see  https://apicciano.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2010/10/12/browne-report-on-higher-education-in-the-u-k/

and

https://apicciano.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2010/10/16/browne-report-%E2%80%93-phase-ii-massive-cuts-in-funding-to-higher-education/

These cutbacks, recommended as part of the Browne Report issued last month, also called for significant tuition increases at just about all colleges and universities.  Yesterday,  52,000 protesters marched on Parliament in response.  The march turned violent and fourteen people, including seven police officers, were injured. Thirty-five people were arrested.

Here in New York State, we are awaiting the “the Cuomo Report” that will require significant cutbacks in public higher education as well as tuition increases.  Tuition increases are already on the agenda for the next meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees.

Tony

Disruptive Technology, Polchinski and String Theory

Dear Commons Community,

I have just finished reading The Shape of Innerspace by Shing-Tung Yau and Steve Nadis.  The focus of this book is string theory and the limitations of classical geometry.  The authors quote Joseph  Polchinski, a professor of physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara and one of the world’s foremost authorities on string theory.  The authors make the point that one of the serious problems with studying string theory is that there does not exist a “geometry” with enough capability to accurately calculate the multiple dimensions (ten) and curvatures of objects that string theory requires.  When asked about the need for a new geometry, Polchinski replied:  “Usually when we learn something new, the old things that took us there are not thrown out but are instead reinterpreted and enlarged.1

I refer to this piece because at the last meeting of CUNY Academic Technology Committee, we discussed at length the new Gates Foundation grant program that seeks to fund a new generation of instructional technology in higher education.  The phrase “disruptive technology” was used as the type of applications that would be appropriate.  Frequently in instructional technology, the words transform, revolutionize and disrupt have been used to spur technological change.  I have always preferred the word “evolution” when discussing technologcial change and education.  I think that Polchinski’s comment likewise is appropriate for us and that we should support the concept that instructional technology is something new but there are also a lot of positive things in higher education that have gotten us to where we are.   While we welcome technology, we should also seek to reinterpret and enlarge what we have and not necessarily disrupt it.

Tony

  1. Yau, S.T. & Nadis, S.  (2010).  The shape of innerspace.  New York:  Basic Books.  p. 310.

Internet Usage – Latest Dept of Commerce Study!

Dear Commons Community,

The Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today released their latest (2010)  report that analyzes broadband Internet access and adoption across the United States. “Digital Nation II – the most comprehensive study of its kind – finds that socio-economic factors such as income and education levels, although strongly associated with broadband Internet use, are not the sole determinants of use. Even after accounting for socioeconomic differences, significant gaps remain along racial, ethnic and geographic lines.

According to the report, seven out of ten American households used the Internet in 2009. The majority of these households used broadband to access the Internet at home. However, almost one-fourth of all households did not have an Internet user.

The report analyzes data collected through an Internet Usage Survey of 54,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in October 2009. Earlier this year, NTIA released initial findings from the survey, which showed that while virtually all demographic groups have experienced rising broadband Internet adoption at home and 64 percent of households overall have broadband at home, historic disparities among demographic groups have persisted over time.

Tony

President Obama’s Prospects for Re-Election in 2012?

Dear Commons Community,

With the 2010 elections five days old and with much joy or consternation depending upon one’s political leanings, Lou Cannon , journalist and biographer of Ronald Reagan, has an insightful piece in Politics Daily on the prospects of President Obama being re-elected in 2012.  He draws similarities to Reagan, FDR and Bill Clinton, all of whom had to fight back from significant mid-term  election losses in their political parties.  Cannon judges Obama’s chances as follows”

“I have great respect for President Obama and think his health care bill and many of his other policies are likely to be judged more favorably by history than they were by the 2010 electorate. But when people ask if Obama can “pull a Reagan and roar back to re-election victory in two years, I respond with questions of my own. Tell me, I ask, the identity of the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. And tell me also how fast the economy is growing and what the jobless rate will be. History is lived forward, and Obama’s prospects depend on the answers to these questions.”

Tony

The piece above  is available at:

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/11/06/can-obama-emulate-reagan-and-clinton-and-fdr/

Reporting from the Sloan Consortium’s International Conference!

Dear Commons Community,

As I indicated earlier this week, I have been in Orlando at the Sloan Consortium’s Annual International Conference on Online Learning.    The program has been robust and I would have liked to have attended several more presentations but just could not fit them in.    A plenary by Barbara Means (Standford Research Institute) who led the USDOE Study online learning, Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning, http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf, was excellent.  A panel discussion on recent research on online and blended learning likewise was quite good.  And a session by our colleagues, Jennifer Sparrow, Howard Wach and Rob Whitaker,entitled, Blending from Brooklyn to the Bronx, reported on the CUNY’s recent hybrid learning initiative.

Today is a travel day.

Tony

Sloan Consortium International Conference!

Dear Commons Community,

I arrived yesterday in Orlando for the 16th Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning. (see http://sloanconsortium.org/aln).  I am happy to see that a number of colleagues from CUNY are here and making presentations.  The major speakers are Peter Smith (Kaplan Higher Education), Barbara Means (SRI International) and Julie Young (Florida Virtual High School).   Peter Smith will discuss new ecologies of learning to support “Colleges of the 21st Century.”   Barbara Means will discuss findings from the recent meta-analysis she directed and describe the design principles for online learning that can be derived from it.   Julie Young, President of Florida Virtual School will describe what has made her institution so successful.  All in all, it should be a pretty good program. I will keep the Commons Community posted.

Tony