Daily News Roundup, April 8, 2013

Perspectives: News You Can Use
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Some of the News Fit to Print

Debra Dunn writes in Forbes:  From 2001-2003 as a Senior Executive at Hewlett Packard I chaired a working group of the UN Information and Communications Technology Task Force.  Our goal was getting technology into the hands of underserved populations around the world to improve education, health care and economic development.  NIIT’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Sugata Mitra had received international acclaim for his famous “hole-in-the-wall” experiment in the New Delhi slum of Kalkaji, fueling the belief that if kids had access to the internet they would essentially educate themselves.  Technology companies, foundations and development agencies invested heavily in computers and Internet access but the results were disappointing. The technology was not sufficiently integrated into the educational experience. On visits to rural schools in Africa and India I was often taken to computer labs in locked and shuttered rooms with rows of idle computers protected under plastic covers. Curious students following me on my tour peered in from the door to see the carefully guarded spaces they were not welcome to enter. Since 2006 I have been on the d.school faculty at Stanford teaching innovation through user centered design and experiencing the current disruption of education from the inside.  This unusual background gives me complete confidence that the technology-enabled transformation currently under way WILL radically improve access to high quality education across the globe.  Here’s why.


David L. Kir writes this commentary in the Los Angeles Times: The bile flowed freely in the first round of L.A.'s school board elections in March, fueled by unprecedented sums of campaign money. To what end? Listening to the ads of the self-styled reformers, you'd have thought that charter schools were the elixir for every ill and teachers were slackers who needed a kick in the pants. For its part, the teachers union dismissed those who disagreed with it as corporate takeover artists. The school board campaign, which isn't over yet, is a fight over power — how to hire and fire teachers, for example — not a debate over education. In these adult games, kids are the losers. The vituperation, and the lines drawn in the sand, conceals what's at the heart of the enterprise: an inspiring teacher, challenging curriculum and engaged students.

A host of internal efforts and a tough economy have pushed New York City schools considerably closer to a long-sought goal: Teachers are staying in the job longer. More than 80% of public schoolteachers now have at least five years experience, up from less than two-thirds when Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of city data. The jump comes after years of attempts by the Bloomberg administration to keep teachers around. The city launched an ad campaign and offered substantial raises, a housing subsidy, a $36 million mentoring program, fellowships and awards. The numbers improved. But the push was also helped along by a deep recession that sapped other employment alternatives for teachers and forced the Department of Education to drastically reduce hiring people who are new to the profession. The article is in The Wall Street Journal.



The average salary of a full-time faculty member increased by 1.7 percent in 2012-13, roughly keeping pace with inflation, according to a report being released today by the American Association of University Professors. While the average increase was a bit larger last year (1.8 percent), a drop in the inflation rate from 3.0 to 1.7 percent means that this year's modest raises will add to spending power for many faculty members, while last year's did not. Indeed in each of the prior three years, the average overall increase in salaries was less than the rate of inflation. The increases in average salary were far from uniform. Gains were larger at private than at public institutions, and gains were larger at doctoral institutions than in other sectors. In other words, the (relatively) wealthy got wealthier. Indeed, even as many professors whose salaries are reported in the survey may not feel they have made it into the middle class, there are five universities this year (all private) where for the first time, the average salary of a full professor tops $200,000. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.

Massive open online courses have gained renown among academics for their impressive enrollment figures and, conversely, their unimpressive completion rates. What accounts for the high attrition in MOOCs, and what does it mean? Coursera and data researchers at several partner universities of the MOOC provider have begun trying to answer those questions by learning more about why students wash out of MOOCs—and what instructors and course designers could do to stem the tide. Some of that research was on display over the weekend at Coursera’s first-ever partners’ conference, where MOOC professors, instructional designers, and various invited guests spent two days talking shop. The data so far are preliminary. But the company believes that the low completion rates in its early courses should not be read—as many critics have done—as an indictment of the MOOC format. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog.

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