INNOVATE is On a Roll!

Dear Commons Community, 

The INNOVATE Conference here in New Orleans is moving apace.  Dozens of workshops and presentations made for difficulty in choosing which sessions to attend. The lunch meeting started with music by The St. Mary’s Academy Marching Band.  There were quite good and brought the 1200 plus attendees to their feet.  Kathleen Ives, the Executive Director of the Online Learning Consortium, gave the audience a report on the Consortium which generally had a very good year.  Part of lunch included lightning talks (6 minutes each) from five speakers, all of whom had something important to say.

In the afternoon, I was on a panel entitled, Higher Education’s Digital Future.  The room was filled and there was good give and take with the audience.  On behalf of the panelists, I thank all who attended our session.

About a dozen of us associated with the Online Learning Journal had dinner at Tableau in the French Quarter.  We had our own room in the Library which opened to a small balcony overlooking the busy street below.  I enjoyed catching up with Barbara Means who I had not seen in a very long time.  She authored one of the really important studies on online learning back in 2010.

Wonderful evening in New Orleans and a fine day of conferencing.

Tony

New Orleans: INNOVATE in Full Swing!

Dear Commons Community,

The INNOVATE Conference here in New Orleans is in full swing.  I attended the OLC Leadership Network session yesterday led by Eric Fredericksen and Peter Shea where there was lots of sound advice for planning and strategizing about how to mount online education initiatives.  Last night a group of us had dinner at one of New Orleans fine restuarants, NOLA.  Great food and discussion!

I will be on a panel this afternoon (4:00 pm – Bayside B) on Higher Education’s Digital Future with Patsy Moskal, Mary Niemiec and Karen Swan.  See abstract below.

Stop by!

Tony

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Higher Education’s Digital Future

A panel of leading educators will speculate on higher education’s digital future.  The discussants will consider both the near future (2020s) and more distant future (2030s and beyond) and will explore the roles of adaptive technology, brain-machine interfaces, and artificial intelligence on teaching and learning.  The panel will specifically examine predictions posited in the book Online Education Policy and Practice: The Past, Present, and Future of the Digital University (Taylor & Francis/Routledge, 2017) by Anthony G. Picciano,

Panelists:

Patsy Moskal, Associate Director for the Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Central Florida (UCF) 

Mary Niemiec, Associate Vice President for Digital Education and Director, University of Nebraska Online

Karen Swan, James J. Stukel Distinguished Professor in Educational Leadership, University of Illinois, Springfield

Anthony G. Picciano, Professor and Executive Officer, PhD Program in Urban Education, City University of New York Graduate Center

 

 

Fox News in Quandary as Advertisers Flee The Bill O’Reilly Show!

Dear Commons Community,

The sad saga at Fox News continues after an investigation by the New York Times last weekend revealed multiple settlements over allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by Bill O’Reilly.  Pressure mounted for Fox News to take action against O’Reilly as more advertisers pulled current and future spots  for the show and the National Organization for Women (NOW) called for his ouster.   As reported by the New York Times:

“The erosion of advertising support, along with pressure from advocacy groups, heightened the sense of uncertainty at Fox News, which for months has been trying to move beyond the sexual harassment scandal that led to the dismissal of Mr. Ailes. It also raised questions about how long 21st Century Fox will stand behind Mr. O’Reilly. Fox News signaled that it was trying to contain the controversy and working to restore relations with the network’s advertisers, noting that companies had reallocated their spending from Mr. O’Reilly’s program to other network shows.”

“The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now,” Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Donna Boland told CNN, which first reported the company’s decision to pull advertising on Monday.

Fox News needs to bite the bullet and accept that this is not an isolated incident and that a culture of sexual harrasment was allowed to flourish under former executive Roger Ailes.  

Tony

 

Eric Prince: Head of Blackwater is Education Secretary Betsy Devos’ Brother!

Dear Commons Community,

In following the Russian/Trump connection news, Eric Prince’s name came up over the weekend as a possible contact person. As reported by Business Insider:

“Days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Blackwater founder Erik Prince met with a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles islands to create a communication back-channel between Trump and Russia, according to The Washington Post.
Officials with the United Arab Emirates brokered the January 11 meeting in the hopes of helping to encourage Russia to distance itself from Iran, a major Kremlin ally. The Trump administration has often expressed its skepticism of Iran, and Trump often derided the US nuclear deal with Iran on the campaign trail.
A former intelligence official in the Obama administration who met with Trump transition officials told the Post that “separating Russia from Iran was a common theme” on Trump’s team. The Trump administration sees Iran as a threat to the US, and both Iran and Russia have been working to expand their power in the Middle East in recent years.
Prince reportedly approached Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, after Zayed met with Trump transition officials in New York in December. That meeting included former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and current Trump administration advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.”

I have blogged about Prince and Blackwater in the past. It is a company that reflects the questionable side of the military industrial complex. However, the part of this story that caught my eye is that Prince is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother. There is nothing wrong with having a brother ( I had two), but Prince is a questionable character. To be so close to DeVos makes me shudder a bit.

 
Trump’s  swamp continues to get bigger and bigger!

Tony

 

 

New Orleans: At the Online Learning Consortium’s INNOVATE Conference!

Dear Commons Community,

I am here in New Orleans at the Online Learning Consortium’s INNOVATE Conference.

I have a full agenda scheduled today with colleagues such as Karen Swan, Peter, Shea, Mary Niemiec, Eric Fredericksen , Joel Hart, and other members of the OLC Board of Directors.   The discussions will involve budgets, policies, and future directions of OLC. 

The conference program looks interesting and  has a fine mix of presentations, all of which relate to online learning and instructional technology.

Tony

Traveling to Attend the Online Learning Consortium’s INNOVATE Conference in New Orleans!

Dear Commons Community,

I leave today for New Orleans to attend the Online Learning Consortium’s  INNOVATE Conference.  This is one of the major events of the year for online learning. This  year’s program will have a plethora of presentations, panel discussions,  research highlights, discovery sessions, and pre-conference workshops. All of the details about the program are available at the Conference website.  

I have a session on Wednesday afternoon with colleagues Patsy Moskal, Mary Niemiec, and Karen Swan on Higher Education’s Digital Future. If you are attending, please feel free to stop by.  We would love to see you!

Tony

Los Angeles Times Editorial on Our “Dishonest” and “Reckless” President

Dear Commons Community,

The Los Angeles Times began a series of editorials yesterday on Donald Trump.  Yesterday’s declared him “dishonest” and “reckless”.  Here is an excerpt (the full editorial is below):

“In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

“It is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation.”

These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.”

Chilling words.  Parts 2, 3 and 4 to come today, tomorrow and Wednesday.

Tony

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Los Angeles Times

PART I Our Dishonest President

 By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

APRIL 2, 2017

It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

“It is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation.”

These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

Although his policies are, for the most part, variations on classic Republican positions (many of which would have been undertaken by a President Ted Cruz or a President Marco Rubio), they become far more dangerous in the hands of this imprudent and erratic man. Many Republicans, for instance, support tighter border security and a tougher response to illegal immigration, but Trump’s cockamamie border wall, his impracticable campaign promise to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally and his blithe disregard for the effect of such proposals on the U.S. relationship with Mexico turn a very bad policy into an appalling one.

In the days ahead, The Times editorial board will look more closely at the new president, with a special attention to three troubling traits:

1. Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based. Since Jan. 20, he has repeatedly disparaged and challenged those entities that have threatened his agenda, stoking public distrust of essential institutions in a way that undermines faith in American democracy. He has questioned the qualifications of judges and the integrity of their decisions, rather than acknowledging that even the president must submit to the rule of law. He has clashed with his own intelligence agencies, demeaned government workers and questioned the credibility of the electoral system and the Federal Reserve. He has lashed out at journalists, declaring them “enemies of the people,” rather than defending the importance of a critical, independent free press. His contempt for the rule of law and the norms of government are palpable.

2. His utter lack of regard for truth. Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth. Whatever the explanation, he is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.

3. His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas. Again, it is not clear whether he believes them or merely uses them. But to cling to disproven “alternative” facts; to retweet racists; to make unverifiable or false statements about rigged elections and fraudulent voters; to buy into discredited conspiracy theories first floated on fringe websites and in supermarket tabloids — these are all of a piece with the Barack Obama birther claptrap that Trump was peddling years ago and which brought him to political prominence. It is deeply alarming that a president would lend the credibility of his office to ideas that have been rightly rejected by politicians from both major political parties.

Where will this end? Will Trump moderate his crazier campaign positions as time passes? Or will he provoke confrontation with Iran, North Korea or China, or disobey a judge’s order or order a soldier to violate the Constitution? Or, alternately, will the system itself — the Constitution, the courts, the permanent bureaucracy, the Congress, the Democrats, the marchers in the streets — protect us from him as he alienates more and more allies at home and abroad, steps on his own message and creates chaos at the expense of his ability to accomplish his goals? Already, Trump’s job approval rating has been hovering in the mid-30s, according to Gallup, a shockingly low level of support for a new president. And that was before his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, offered to cooperate last week with congressional investigators looking into the connection between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

“Those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard.”

On Inauguration Day, we wrote on this page that it was not yet time to declare a state of “wholesale panic” or to call for blanket “non-cooperation” with the Trump administration. Despite plenty of dispiriting signals, that is still our view. The role of the rational opposition is to stand up for the rule of law, the electoral process, the peaceful transfer of power and the role of institutions; we should not underestimate the resiliency of a system in which laws are greater than individuals and voters are as powerful as presidents. This nation survived Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon. It survived slavery. It survived devastating wars. Most likely, it will survive again.

But if it is to do so, those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard. Protesters must raise their banners. Voters must turn out for elections. Members of Congress — including and especially Republicans — must find the political courage to stand up to Trump. Courts must safeguard the Constitution. State legislators must pass laws to protect their citizens and their policies from federal meddling. All of us who are in the business of holding leaders accountable must redouble our efforts to defend the truth from his cynical assaults.

The United States is not a perfect country, and it has a great distance to go before it fully achieves its goals of liberty and equality. But preserving what works and defending the rules and values on which democracy depends are a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play in this drama.

This is the first in a series.

 

The Washington Post Editorial: Trump’s Handling of Russian Ties – Most “Suspicious Aspect of His Presidency”!

Dear Commons Community,

Donald Trump’s presidency has been marked by a number of questionable moves and  controversies, however, a Washington Post editorial on Friday labeled his stymying reactions to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election as “the strangest and most suspicious aspect of his presidency.”   The editorial comments that he and his staff regularly engage in diversionary stratagems on any developing news of Russia’s interference.  The editorial concludes that “Mr. Trump appears to be doing his best to confuse the public about the facts and to prevent the truth from coming out.”  It is my opinion that Trump did not orchestrate or lead Russia’s interference but took full advantage of it during the Republican primary and the Presidential election.  Below is the entire editorial.

Tony

 

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The Post’s View

 Opinion

The most suspicious part of Trump’s presidency

By Editorial Board March 31 at 6:36 PM

THE ANTIC behavior of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who was slipped classified surveillance by senior aides to President Trump, rushed to hold a news conference about it and then scurried back to the White House to brief Mr. Trump, was clumsy and clownish — but it may have accomplished its main purpose. Mr. Nunes managed to derail his own House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the far more serious matter of Russia’s interference in the presidential election, and to distract attention from the emergence of troubling new evidence.

As the congressman’s bizarre circuit was chewed over in Washington, it emerged that Jared Kushner, the president’s aide and son-in-law, had met with an executive from a Russian bank that is on the U.S. sanctions list; former national security adviser Michael Flynn sought immunity in exchange for his testimony on his Russian ties; and experts told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russian hacking and propaganda efforts are continuing, and have recently been directed at House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Mark R. Warner (Va.), ranking Democrat on the Senate committee, offered an appeal to common sense: The public, he said, must “not lose sight of what the investigation is about: An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack our most critical democratic process, the election for president” in order to “favor one candidate over another.” Unfortunately, Mr. Trump and willing accomplices such as Mr. Nunes have been all too effective in clouding this shocking reality and impeding effective investigation of it.

The delivery of intel to Mr. Nunes — which the White House has yet to explain — was only the latest diversionary stratagem employed by Mr. Trump and his aides. Earlier, Mr. Nunes and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) were enlisted to call reporters to discount stories about contacts between Trump aides and Russia. Then Mr. Trump used a series of tweets to falsely accuse President Barack Obama of ordering a wiretap on Trump Tower. Meanwhile, as The Post reported, the administration tried to block former Justice Department official Sally Q. Yates from testifying to Congress about what she knows about the links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Mr. Trump is still dismissing the Russia investigation as “a witch hunt” that Democrats are using to excuse their “big election loss.” He may be right that there was no active collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin; two former senior intelligence officials with no sympathy for the president have said publicly that they were aware of no evidence of collaboration. Democrats who speak as if such links have been proved are risking their own credibility.

It nevertheless should be undeniable, by now, that the regime of Vladi­mir Putin brazenly intervened in U.S. politics, including by hacking the Democratic National Committee and releasing stolen material through the WikiLeaks site; that it is still trying to disrupt the political system, including by sowing fake news and faux controversies on social media; and that it is attempting to disrupt elections in other Western democracies, including France and Germany. The top priority of the president and Congress should be to fully expose this hostile assault and develop means to counter it.

Instead, Mr. Trump appears to be doing his best to confuse the public about the facts and to prevent the truth from coming out. That, of course, is Russia’s agenda — and it is the strangest and most suspicious aspect of his presidency.

 

In School Nurse’s Room: Tylenol, Bandages and an Antidote for Heroin!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has a featured story today on how school nurses are beginning to keep antidotes for heroin overdoses on hand in their medicine cabinets.  There is a growing concern that the number of young people dying from opiods like heroin is increasing at an alarming rate.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

“At every school in New Rochelle, just north of the Bronx, in Westchester, there is a locked medicine cabinet in the nurse’s office, stocked with things like EpiPens for allergic reactions, inhalers for asthma, Tylenol for aches and pains.

Now, those cabinets also include naloxone, an antidote for people who are overdosing on opioids like heroin. Given as an injection or a nasal spray, naloxone can quickly revive someone who is not breathing. The city keeps it in every nurse’s office, including in its elementary schools.

“We have it the same way we have defibrillators and EpiPens, the way we have oxygen in our schools,” said Dr. Adrienne Weiss-Harrison, the school district’s medical director. “Rarely do we pull a defibrillator off the wall, but it’s there if we need it, and that’s how we approach this opportunity to have naloxone.”

There is no comprehensive data on how often students overdose while at school, but it happens. Renee Rider, assistant commissioner at the New York State Education Department, said the department has heard anecdotally of two schools where a student overdosed and was saved by E.M.S. workers using naloxone.

But the numbers of young people dying from overdoses around the country is striking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, opioids killed 7,163 people between the ages of 15 and 29, more than 20 percent of total deaths.

And as communities across the country face this swell of death from heroin and pills, schools see the epidemic lapping at their doorsteps — killing friends, neighbors, recent graduates. Educators are increasingly deciding that they should have naloxone on hand.

In New Jersey, Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, a Democrat, sponsored a bill in the fall that would require all high schools to stock naloxone. In talking to parents and students in his district, Mr. Mazzeo said, “It came out that kids were coming into school on opiates, perhaps on heroin.”

Without the antidote, “If a kid comes into school and he overdoses, they don’t have the proper tools. They’d have to wait for E.M.S. first responders to come.”

Now, in Massachusetts and Kentucky, Connecticut and New Mexico, schools have the drug for emergency use. New York State has a program that provides it free to schools, with 64 districts participating so far. In Pennsylvania, nearly 250 public and charter schools have received a free supply. In Rhode Island, every middle school, junior high and high school is required to have naloxone on the premises. And scattered around the country, there are schools and districts that have bought the medication on their own.

“It is absolutely a sad sign of the times,” said Roy Reese, superintendent of Washingtonville Central School District in Orange County, N.Y. “I say this not reluctantly, but sadly: it is only a matter of time.”

Sad sign indeed!

Tony

 

Judge Approves $25 Million Settlement in Trump University Fraud Case!

Dear Commons Community,

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel today approved a $25 million settlement to resolve a class action lawsuit that claimed fraud against President Donald Trump and Trump University. As reported by Reuters:

“A U.S. judge on Friday approved a $25 million settlement to resolve a class action lawsuit that claimed fraud against President Donald Trump and his Trump University real estate seminars.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego concluded a lengthy and contentious lawsuit that played a prominent role in the presidential campaign last year.

The Trump University students, who paid as much as $35,000 for the seminars, claimed they were lured by false promises that they would learn Trump’s investing “secrets” from his “hand-picked” instructors.

One Trump University student objected to the deal, in particular a provision blocking students from opting out of it. She said in court papers she would like to seek full recovery from Trump, plus punitive damages and other relief.

An attorney for that student could not immediately be reached for comment.

During the campaign, Trump vowed to continue fighting the fraud claims but agreed to the settlement soon after he was elected. He has admitted he did not personally select the instructors, but his lawyers have described the claim as sales “puffery.”

Last year, Trump accused Judge Curiel of bias based on the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican ancestry.

In his ruling on Friday, Curiel called the $25 million settlement “extraordinary” in that it represented an estimated 80 percent recovery for the students.

“The amount offered in settlement provides significant and immediate recovery,” Curiel wrote.

It will be interesting to see how for-profit schools like Trump University will fare  with Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

Tony