Monday, July 30, 2012

Great infographic with mobile productivity tips and tools

We use our mobile devices more and more for work, business, school and more. Tony Vincent has a great site, Learning in Hand, where he has been posting information, tips and resources about using mobile device in learning for years, starting with the Palm PDA's.

He created a great infographic with his tips and tools for mobile productivity. It has some great information for teachers and students, and anyone else for that matter, for being more productive using mobile devices.

Here is the infographic and you can download it from his site. Also check out the other great resources his site has.

Splashup - free online image editing

Welcome to

Splashup is a free online image editor that I learned about from a fellow webOS fan, Aaron Gallo, on his blog, Novacharter.

It is easy to use and even let's you "jump right in" and edit photos and images without needing an account. The controls and commands are similar to many other image editing apps so it's easy to get started. It's all online so there is nothing to download or install. It has a lot of great features and there is a light version with less features that is simpler to use. 

Splashup Editor

You can save your work or share it online with different services like Facebook.

It's another great image editing tool for teachers and students.


Great, free Image editing sites and software

Two Free Graphic creation and editing software

PicMonkey - free online photo editing

Two More Free Image Editing Resources

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Infographic on 21st Century Classroom - what do you think?

I was sent the following infographic about the "21st Century Classroom" this week. As I was looking at it, I found some interesting statistics and agree that Project based learning, social media, and technology are all important for education.

What do you think about the information presented below?

Components of a 21st Century Classroom - An infographic by the team at Open Colleges

the on line education revolution: its all about the design

Because on line education is booming there is a sense that something new and interesting is happening in education. In fact, what is new is the venue for education not the education itself. The courses that universities have always offered were meant to put people in seats efficiently so that less faculty could teach more students. On line education is simply an extension of that model. Arguments can be made for how this on line lecture-based model is better than the old classroom model, and arguments can be made for how it is worse than the old one. But, the new on line models really are not attempts to solve the real problems in education.

What are the real problems?

1.   What is being taught in universities is academic material derived from research intended to create students who can do research and become scholars.
2.   The idea that a university education is meant to produce students who can immediately go to work because they have been taught employable skills is argued against at research universities and typically is seen as a second rate educational model.
3.   The methodology of lecturing,  reading, essay writing and test taking, is in direct opposition to a learn by doing, experiential model of education where students go out and do things and learn from their mistakes.
4.   On line education allows, in principal, the creation of simulated experiences so that you don’t have to actually crash an airplane in order to learn how to fly nor do you have to bankrupt an actual business in order to learn how to run one.
5.    New models of education are explicitly rejected by university faculty, who, in general, do not spend much time on teaching and would rather do research. They don’t want new on line models that might force them to re-order their priorities. University faculty have a pretty nice life and will reject changes to their research-focused existence.

The real opportunity in on line education is to change what is taught and how it is taught, in order to create graduates who can be immediately be employed by a workplace that needs skilled workers rather than theoreticians and scholars.

We have been building on line learn by doing models for over 15 years. Universities are afraid of these  models because they are afraid of the faculty revolt that would ensue if these models became the standard. They are also expensive to build. Students love them however because they can get jobs immediately after graduation and because it is really a very enjoyable way to learn.

The mentored, teamwork, based model that XTOL ( uses depends upon building a detailed story and simulation of actual work experiences. This is not as easy to as it sounds.

To start, there needs to be one or more subject matter experts who guide the development. But, such experts are typically professors and professors want to teach theories. So, finding the right subject matter experts can be difficult.

Even more difficult is the design process itself. We use a team of people who have been doing this kind of work, in some cases, for twenty years or more. All of our senior designers have been doing this for at least five years and as far as we can tell it takes three or four years of apprenticeship to actually be any good at it.

The reason is easy to understand, Building an all day, full year, learning experience is somewhere between making a motion picture and writing a textbook. You don’t usually get it right the first time, in either case. Learning by doing is really how we learn and our people have been learning design by doing for a very long time.

Teaching others to do this is the next step in the education revolution.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Social Media Guide and Resources for Educators

Social Media is an incredible resource for education. Educators can learn, share, connect and more with educators from around the world. They can collaborate and communicate with students, parents, and colleagues. There are many different social media networks, and lots of ways to use them. Here are some great resources for learning more about social media in education:

Social Media in Education - connect, share, learn, communicate and more

Social Media Cheat Sheets - free tips and more for social media sites

Sunday, July 22, 2012

“Big-Time Football and Big-Time Scandals”: What History Can Tell Us About the Future of College Sports and the NCAA

This is a GUEST POST by Nick Strohl, a doctoral student in History and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I had the pleasure of engaging Nick in my higher education policy class last semester, where he was a complete star. His areas of study include the history of education, American intellectual and cultural history, and higher education. His current research focus is the history of American higher education during the interwar years.

Much of this post centers on discussion of these two recent books:

If you look closely at images of the recently-removed Joe Paterno statue outside of Beaver Stadium on the Penn State campus, you can make out the familiar Nike Swoosh on the uniforms of the four anonymous players who follow their iconic coach. Although Nike, led by one of Paterno’s most ardent supporters over the years, Phil Knight, has removed the Paterno name from the childcare center at its company headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, the corporate logo enshrined as part of this statue would be forever tied to the fate of that monument. While the Paterno statue was not intended to memorialize commercialism in college sports, it might as well have, for the lucrative enterprise that is big-time college football is what gave Paterno the power and prestige that we now know he—and his former assistant Jerry Sandusky—abused.

However, as two recent books on the history of college football make clear, the commercialism of college sports—not to mention the rise of the entrepreneurial, professional coach—long predates the influence of companies like Nike or even the influence of wealthy alumni boosters who want to see their alma mater succeed on the field. Indeed, as the Penn State saga has shown us, big-time football scandals—and yes, despite the protestations of the late Paterno and others, the Sandusky case is very much a football scandal—are also university scandals. And the problems of big-time college sports, including fair treatment of athletes and students, are not just the problems of university athletic departments or the NCAA: they are problems endemic to American higher education.


In The Rise of Gridiron University, Brian M. Ingrassia, an Assistant Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State, examines the rise of “big-time” college football from the first game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869 to the development what might be called its “love-hate relationship” with the American university by the 1930s. Ingrassia makes the case that the rise of big-time football cannot be understood apart from the rise of the modern university; more provocatively, however, he shows that the rise of the modern university cannot be understood apart from the rise of big-time football. As he explains through a juxtaposition of Stanford University’s opening convocation in October 1891 and the first football game between would-be rivals Stanford and the University of California the following spring (the latter event, by the way, drew more spectators than the former), the intellectual project that is the modern research university and the popular culture spectacle that is big-time college football are “sides of the same coin” (p. 3).

Ingrassia’s use of the term “big-time” to describe college football at the turn of the twentieth century is a deliberate reference to another popular culture spectacle of the period: vaudeville shows. Vaudeville companies, Ingrassia explains, were “dubbed either big-time or small-time, depending on how far they traveled, the size of the cities or theaters where they performed, and the number of tickets they sold. Like the most famous vaudeville outfits, big-time football programs, by definition, attracted the most media attention, drew the largest number of paying spectators, and charged the highest ticket prices” (p. 5). To be sure, football was not the only sport played at American colleges in the late nineteenth century, but it was by far the most popular and the most lucrative. Despite some misgivings, however, many university leaders, as well as leading faculty, were optimistic about the place of big-time football in the university. It would not be until the 1920s that “the stereotypical ivory tower intellectual—alienated from the public and critical of popular sport—was born” (p. 3).

Big-time (and small-time) college football appealed to academics and intellectuals in the early 1900s for several reasons. Ambitious university presidents like the University of Chicago’s William Rainey Harper saw football as a way to generate publicity, or, in today’s language, to grow the brand of his new university. Psychologists touted the potential of football to teach discipline and morality, and to instill manly vigor in young men otherwise made soft by modern academic and professional work. Social scientists argued that football was not only beneficial for players and coaches, but for spectators as well. Economist and MIT President Francis Walker believed that “football would help students understand and succeed in the modern industrial order” (p. 95), while University of Chicago anthropologist and sociologist William I. Thomas argued that big-time football taught players and spectators alike about the “gaming instinct,’ an innate trait that had resulted from millennia of natural selection” (p. 100). Above all, for most academics and university leaders, football was seen as a way to demonstrate the utility of the modern university to the wider public: at its best, supporters like Thomas argued, it was a form of “university extension” or “public engagement” that bridged the gap between the highbrow culture of the research university and the lowbrow appeal of popular culture.

The crux of Ingrassia’s narrative, however, is that the university’s embrace of big-time football in the early 1900s was a kind of Faustian bargain from which it could not escape. Even the most ardent supports of football within the academy realized the incompatibility of popular sport with the intellectual mission of the university, yet they refused to do away with it completely. Instead, they gave big-time sports its own department—often the department of athletics or physical culture—and its own intellectual justification. Football coaches like Chicago’s Amos Alonzo Stagg, “the nation’s first tenured professor of physical culture and athletics” (p. 117), were not only expected to produce winning teams, but to “teach” lessons in discipline and morals—a duty abdicated by the modern university professor who merely imparted specialized knowledge in his field. In the minds of early NCAA reformers, treating professional coaches like faculty members—instead of, apparently, hucksters and confidence men—was seen as a way to containprofessionalism and commercialism in college athletics, to “make college athletics safe for students, universities, and the public”(p. 66).

College football coaches took this notion—please excuse the metaphor—and ran with it. By the 1920s, entrepreneurial coaches had created for themselves lucrative personal brands based on the image of the “coach-as-educator.” Men like Princeton’s Bill Roper (Winning Football, 1920) and Penn’s John Heisman (Principles of Football, 1922) published popular manuals on the sport. Both men lauded football for its ability to teach discipline and self-control, but there was a catch: its benefits could only be achieved under the supervision of “trained experts” like themselves (p. 127). Other hallmarks of big-time football we know today became common: coaches jumped ship after only one year at a school for a big payday at a rival institution; some, like Heisman, negotiated contract packages which included a portion of gate receipts; and others, like Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne, signed endorsement deals with companies like Studebaker and Wilson sporting goods. Further, as Ingrassia points out, the climate was already thick with hypocrisy. In 1925, when University of Illinois star player Harold “Red” Grange signed a professional contract with the Chicago Bears just after playing his final college game, his coach, Bob Zuppke, criticized the move. Despite signing with the Bears, Grange wanted to finish his degree at Illinois, but Zuppke would not let him, suggesting that he had tarnished his amateur status and the college game by deciding to go pro. As a college player, Grange had watched his coach, Zuppke, make a professional career out of football and reasoned, “what’s the difference if I make a living playing football?” (p. 135).

By the 1920s, then, big-time college football had, with the rise of massive concrete stadiums across the country, literally become cemented in the modern university. As a result of early university reformers’ efforts to capture the benefits of big-time football while minimizing its potential damages to the intellectual mission, the game became entrenched, both culturally and intellectually, as a part of university life. “In a modern academic landscape,” Ingrassia writes, “each department had to engage in a Darwin-like struggle for existence. Professors in the psychology department competed with experts in the sociology department for institutional resources, while research interests made them identify intellectually with psychology specialists in other universities, with whom they competed for academic prestige in their field. This was roughly analogous to the athletic department. The football team’s main job was to win games against other universities, not necessarily to uphold the research or teaching of the psychology or sociology departments”(p. 187). From that point forward, when faculty complained that big-time sports were distracting from the university mission, football coaches and athletics department leaders had a powerful rejoinder: winning games and generating revenue was what the university had asked them to do; they were competing for their share of prestige and resources like any other department of the university.


While The Rise of Gridiron University looks to the past to explain the “uneasy alliance” between big-time football and the modern university, The Cartel, a brisk, lively read from Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and historian Taylor Branch, forecasts the “imminent” decline of college athletics as we have come to know them. The focus of Branch’s argument—the weak spot, if you will, in the legal house of cards that is the NCAA—are those very notions of “amateurism” and the “student-athlete” made possible by the intellectual gymnastics of university football boosters a hundred years ago. Yet the specific term “student-athlete,” Branch points out, is a legal fiction artfully created by the NCAA in the post-World War II era to limit its liability for workers’-compensation claims and to protect an increasingly lucrative empire built on television revenue. Examining the status of several pending lawsuits against the NCAA, Branch predicts that this legal fiction will soon be exposed, and, once it is, that the NCAA as we know it will cease to exist.

As Branch explains, prior to the invention of the term “student-athlete,” it was generally unclear as to what rights college athletes possessed in their roles as either students or athletes. As both Branch and Ingrassia make clear, payments to college football players were common, if disguised or frowned upon, for much of the sport’s history in the first half of the twentieth century. A highly-publicized Carnegie Foundation report in 1929 on the problem of cheating and corruption in college sports found, “Of the 112 schools surveyed, eighty-one flouted NCAA recommendations with inducements to students ranging from open payrolls and disguised booster funds to no-show jobs at movie studios. Fans ignored the uproar, and two-thirds of the colleges mentioned told the New York Timesthat they planned no changes.” In some cases, it was clear that football players viewed themselves as workers. “In 1939,” Branch writes, “freshmen players at the University of Pittsburgh went on strike because they were getting paid less than they their upperclassmen teammates.”

The legal conception of the “student-athlete” was meant to combat these very claims of college athletes as workers. “The term came into play in the 1950s,” Branch writes, “when the widow of Ray Dennison, who had died from a head injury received while playing football in Colorado for the Fort Lewis A&M Aggies, filed for workers’-compensation death benefits.” The case prompted all sorts of new legal questions: “Did [Dennison’s] football scholarship make the fatal collision a ‘work-related’ accident? Was he a school employee, like his peers who worked part-time as teaching assistants and bookstore cashiers? Or was he a fluke victim of extracurricular pursuits?” The NCAA member institutions all agreed that Dennison was not eligible for such benefits. The Supreme Court of Colorado concurred, noting that the college was “not in the football business,” and cases like Dennison’s would fall in the favor of the NCAA for the next several decades. When, in 1974, Texas Christian University running back Kent Waldrep became a paraplegic as a result of taking a hit in a game against Alabama, TCU stopped paying his medical bills after nine months. Waldrep’s case, however, did make a legal impact; in 1990, “the White House honored Waldrep’s team of legislative catalysts at the signing ceremony for the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

As Branch explains it, “the term student-athlete was deliberately ambiguous. College players were not students at play (which might understate their athletic obligations), nor were they just athletes in college (which might imply they were professionals). That they were high-performance athletes meant they could be forgiven for not meeting the academic standards or their peers; that they were students meant that they did not have to be compensated, ever, for anything more than the cost of their studies. Student-athletebecame the NCAA’s signature term, repeated constantly in and out of courtrooms.”

As a journalist, Branch has a nose for hypocrisy and in several passages he lets the hypocrites speak for themselves. In a chapter on “Coaches and Scapegoats,” Branch describes the response of University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban to reports of professional agents contacting his players and hanging around practice. Saban said, “I hate to say this, but how are [these agents] any better than a pimp? I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None.” What Branch doesn’t add is that Saban has a compensation packagethat pays him more than $5 million a year, and that he’s worked his way to the top of the college football coaching ladder through positions at three other schools, as well as a short, but unsuccessful, stint with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins—a career, for the most part, built upon what Branch calls college players’ “willingness to perform what is effectively volunteer work.” Instead, Branch lets former Louisiana State University basketball coach Dale Brown put it more bluntly. Brown says, “Look at the money we make off predominantly poor black kids. We’re the whoremasters.”

Despite the many egregious examples of coaches, universities, broadcast networks, and corporations making hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars based on the work scholarship athletes (not too mention many other instances of draconian NCAA penalties for players who, with no spending money of their own, have received a new suit to attend an awards show or plane tickets home to visit family), Branch’s ultimate goal is not to ensure that college athletes are paid for their performance. To be clear, he would be content with college athletes being paid—a position on which he admits he has evolved over the years. However, his primary concern, outlined in the final chapter, is that college athletes receive the same rights as any other college student, which includes having a voice in decisions that concern them. “The most basic reform,” Branch writes, “would treat the students as what they are—adults, with rights and reason of their own—and grant them a meaningful voice in NCAA deliberations.”


The outcome of pending lawsuits against the NCAA (see, for example, O’Bannon v. the NCAA), as well as the potential for big-time football and basketball schools to negotiate their own television contracts—to “cut out the middleman,” in Branch’s words—may very well bring about the demise of the NCAA as forecasted by Branch. But, as both of these books demonstrate, the real and perceived problems of big-time college athletics are not ones that can be solved by NCAA reform alone. In the wake of the Freeh report, many have called for the NCAA to impose drastic sanctions on Penn State’s football program, and it appears the program will indeed be subject to what are being described as “corrective and punitive measures.”  

However, as Branch’s book, in particular, makes clear, the historical role of the NCAA has been as the enforcer of a dubious code of amateur competition that relieves big-time football programs from having to police one another. Prior to the Penn State case, the NCAA’s harshest penalties have been reserved for violations of this code: see, for example, the “death penalty” (an inelegant term for a program suspension) given the Southern Methodist University football program in the 1980s when it was discovered that players were receiving regular payments, or the bowl ban imposed on the University of Southern California when it was discovered that Heisman trophy winner Reggie Bush and his family received gifts from program boosters totaling several hundred thousand dollars. Thus, while the crimes committed at Penn State certainly fall under the category of a “football scandal,” these were not the type of incidents that the NCAA was designed to police. It has never been the NCAA’s role to ensure that, within universities, football programs and athletics departments did not become outsized forces, capable of bending students, tutors, deans, and administrators to their will. That sort of internal policing is the job of universities and their various constituencies.

True reform, then, lies at the feet of the institutions that support big-time athletics and which comprise the membership of the NCAA. As Branch notes, a good first step would be to give students athletes a voice in the NCAA; an even better step, in my view, would be to give students—athletes and otherwise—a meaningful voice in how their institutions manage big-time (or small-time) athletics. As Ingrassia’s book demonstrates, coaches and athletics directors in the 1920s based their claims to authority and expertise on their status as well-intentioned “adults” who would impart valuable lessons to immature college athletes. Yet, as Branch and the Penn State scandal remind us, even the supposedly untouchable icon that was Joe Paterno—whose personal motto was “success with honor”—is capable of moral weakness in the face of money, power, and prestige.

As in other areas of university life, decisions about the place of athletics, like other debates about the university’s mission related to teaching and research, must involve the entire community. At Penn State, Joe Paterno’s claim to supreme moral authority, made possible by the vast amounts of revenue and publicity his football program brought the university, meant that his players and coaches were allowed special privileges and were not subject to the rules and regulations of the wider university. Paterno also, as the Freeh report has made clear, contributed to a culture in which some of the least powerful members of the community—victims, their families, and the janitor who witnessed one of Sandusky’s criminal acts—were afraid to speak up, or were not taken seriously when they did so. The case of Jerry Sandusky may be a uniquely horrifying example of a criminal abuse of power, but it was one that was made possible by a football culture that valued self-preservation above the concerns of the university and the wider community.

Ultimately, then, the question of how harsh the NCAA punishes the Penn State football program is somewhat beside the point. Universities need to establish shared governance structures which include the voices of students, faculty, staff, and others on all matters, from athletics to academics, but perhaps most especially in the area of big-time athletics. Organizations like the NCAA may have a role to play in punishing bad behavior on and off the field, but ultimately colleges and universities themselves must be responsible for ensuring that the quest for revenue and prestige does not detract from the educational mission, nor does it demean the rights of the least powerful members of the university community.

You can reach Nick at

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Innovation is now impossible in high school curriculum. Thank you Bill Gates.

It is has always been frustrating to work on trying to improve education. No one really likes to see changes in anything they are used to. I have written about this over the years but now I am really angry. Who am I angry at? Bill Gates.

I have finally been able to come close to producing a very novel solution to some of what ails education. I am a year away form launching an on line mentored learn by doing computer science high school. What this means is that that after four years in this high school students will be immediately employable in the software industry. (They could still got to college or do something else, but they would be at a professional level in programming.)

Can I launch this school? No.

At least not in the United States. Why not? Because of Bill Gates (ironically).

Bill Gates has championed the Common Core standards movement in the U.S. And now, one by one, each state is moving towards adopting it, which means there will be no innovation in the high school curriculum in any way. A school like the one I am building cannot exist in the U.S. because it wouldn’t meet the Common Core standards, which are all about the facts everyone should know which were decided upon by the Committee of Ten in 1892.

A new, modern, learning by doing high school that doesn’t teach algebra or literature? Not possible. Teach students to build mobile applications rather than memorize facts about history? Not possible. Teach students to how to launch a business on the internet rather than to memorize physics formulas? Not possible.

Fortunately there are other countries in the world.

Are you proud of what you have created Mr. Gates? No innovation is possible now in high school in the U.S. and you did it.


(If anyone who knows a state where what I am saying  is not true, please let me know.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Social Media Cheat Sheets - free tips and more for social media sites

Walyou, a great site for interesting information and more, has a great collection of cheat sheets that have tips, shortcuts, and more for social media sites. The sites include Google+, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook and have some great tips for making them more useful and easier to use.

These are great for finding some cool new features or shortcuts and also great to help newbies get started.

Check them out here:


Social Media in Education - Connect, Share, Learn, Communicate and more

Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook - a nice comparison

Google+ - more reasons it's great for educators

Google Unit Conversions are now interactive

Google's OneBox, the search/URL/etc box in Chrome and search bars has been updated. You have been able to enter a conversion, say 5kg into pounds, in the box and get an answer, but now it's interactive where you can easily change the number and units in the results box itself.

I entered "5kg = ? pounds"

You can click on the "Mass" to bring up a drop down menu of different measurements, including temperature, velocity, volume, and more and clicking on "kg" or "pound" brings up a drop down menu to change the units.

This is a great resource for students and teachers needing a quick and easy conversion calculator anywhere.

Cubby, cool file sync, share and storage service, offers big storage increase for referrals

LogMeIn is a service that allows you to remotely access someone else's computer (with their permission and cooperation, of course) so that you can help them fix a problem. It's much easier than having them try to explain the problem over the phone, or you having to drive to their house.

This past April they launched Cubby, a new cloud file sync, share and storage service. It's still in beta, but you can enter your email to get an invite. You can sync your files across all of your computers, tablets, and smartphones easily. You can share files and collaborate on them with others. You don't need to reorganize your files either. You can just select any folder on your device to by synced and make it accessible anywhere.

They have just announced that users can ear more memory, the free account starts with 5GB, by having friends sign up for an account. For every referral that signs up, you get 1GB of extra space. That's pretty good. Have a few friends sign up and you can easily end up with some serious storage space.

They have also announced some improvements to the iOS app and some other new features.

Read more about this announcement:

Read my full review here: 


World Backup Day - make sure your data and files are backed up! - lots of cloud file sync,share, backup services listed here. All with free options.

Zumodrive shutting down - here are some alternatives for file backup and sync

Sugarsync - file sync, share, backup service with some great features. 

Dropbox - another file sync, share, backup service with some great features. 

Android Resources for Education - apps, tips, resources, news and more

eduClipper now available and up and running

eduClipper is a new app from EduTecher Adam Bellow that I wrote about last month. eduClipper is now available to use to those who signed up earlier. It provides a way to clip anything from the web and then share it with anyone.

It's free and allows you to clip and capture anything from the web including articles, links, videos, lesson plans and more. You then create a clipboard to organize what you have clipped and then you can share the clipboards with students, colleagues, the public or just keep it for yourself. Students can use it too and the clipboards are searchable. You can also share your clipboards via different social networks.

The social sharing aspect is what makes it different from other web clipping services and apps. You share what you have clipped with others and people can comment and discuss the clip.

You can still request an invite too:

Adam has a nice YouTube video that describes eduClipper in more detail:


EduTecher - explore and share educational web tools

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Joe Paterno, rich alumni, and imminent demise of college campuses

When I arrived at Northwestern in 1989 the President was a man named Arnie Weber.  He told me that his mother once asked him what he did as President. After he described his daily life to her she replied “ I didn’t raise my son to be a schnorrer.” (That word is Yiddish for “begger.”)
At a different moment he told me that the only real job of the President of a university was to provide ample parking for the faculty, nice dormitories for the students, and football for the alumni.
I am mentioning these things because I feel that a university-insider needs to put the Joe Paterno story in perspective. 
(For my non-US readers the short story on Joe Paterno is that he was a football coach at Penn State, regarded as a saint by nearly everyone, who turns out to have been protecting a pedophile on his staff from prosecution for years.)
We now are hearing about whether Penn State’s football program should be punished and we are hearing mea culpas from the Penn State Board of Trustees.
This is all nonsense of course. As usual the real problem is not being discussed.
Joe Paterno owned Penn State. The President of Penn State could not fire a man who was obviously too old to be a coach anymore and he could not fire him for protecting a pedophile. In fact he could not fire him for anything.
Now it may seem that this was an unusual situation. Not that many schools have football coaches who did as much to make an obscure university well known and whose influence and general goodness was agreed upon by all.
But in fact universities the size of Penn State always have a Joe Paterno. The man who runs the show may not be the football coach, but he is almost certainly not the President either.
The man or men who run big universities are the very wealthy alumni. Universities the size of Penn State need tremendous amounts of operating capital to support the sheer number of buildings and acreage not to mention sports arenas. As I mentioned in my most recent column, universities are money hungry and will overcharge students if they can get away with it because they need a lot of money in order to operate. Who supplies this money? 
Alumni donations are the number one issue on a college president’s mind. At Penn State it was Joe Paterno who supplied the money by winning football games and by getting massive numbers of people into State College, PA, six times a year to bolster the local economy.
Northwestern had a Joe Paterno when I was there. He wasn’t the football coach. He was just a local billionaire who got to decide whatever he wanted to decide at Northwestern. The basketball arena is named after him, the football field is named after him, and his not too bright relatives are on the board with him.
He decides what goes on at Northwestern because he can give large amounts of money to the university and he can push his friends to do so as well.
What I am describing is especially true at any private university which has no public money but it is true at state owned universities as well.
The President of the University of Michigan once mentioned to me that he was being forced to admit a student who couldn’t read because powerful alumni wanted him on the football team.
There are some obvious conclusions here. One is that college football is a bad thing. Now I say this as someone who happens to love college football. I even played college football. But really,if football issues drive out reason and fairness at a university (the players live like royalty in comparison to other students for example) perhaps it should be abolished.
People think that football produces revenue in terms of TV contracts and gate receipts and that is why it is there. The real revenue football produces is in the form of alumni donations which do indeed go up when the team wins.
It is alumni donations and the university's dependence upon them that is the real problem. Alumni at Penn State don’t know or care how good the Physics department is. Donations don’t go up when faculty win international recognition in research.
Universities are run by those who bring in money. At Northwestern, I brought in a lot of money for research. I got what I wanted when I wanted it. I understood how the system worked.
It is time to end this system. It is time to end the idea of the big college campus which is like a hungry animal that needs to be fed. 
Local colleges are about as important as local bookstores or local movie theaters these days. Their time is over.
Education, like anything else these days, can be done without physical locations.
Unfortunately, on line education is awful. The reason for that is simple. The physical model of education (large lectures halls and long lectures -- a money saving idea if ever there were one) still serves as the model for on line education. But it won’t for long.
Penn State is doomed, not because of Joe Paterno but because the physical campus and alumni network that controls Penn State cannot last in the world of the Internet.
Campuses will go away. Get used to it. 
It is our job to build on line education that is better than anything provided on campuses now. This can and should be done.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

iGoogle shutting down Nov 1, 2013 - here are some alternatives

iGoogle, Google's customizable start page, is shutting down and will not be available after November 1, 2013. Google has decided that iGoogle has outlived it's usefulness with the new apps and technologies that are now available. All of your data in your Google product widgets will still be there in the original product, like Gmail, Google Calendar, etc. Other gadgets you use probably have a way for you to export your data to another service and many of the gadgets exist as stand alone apps now.

I have used iGoogle for many years as my start page but have noticed that lately I am really only using it for the Google Reader. I have all of  my Google apps, and other apps that I use throughout the day, either launch in their own tabs when I start up Chrome, or they are on my Chrome homepage. I really don't need iGoogle anymore when on my own computers. As for having a place to go when on a shared computer, I'm setting up all of my links to my apps and services in an Evernote note for quick access and linking and I might make a Google Site with all the links and add any gadgets.

Some other alternatives to iGoogle include:

Symbaloo - recommended by Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers

Create your own Wiki or Google Site with links to all of your apps.

Use an Evernote note, as I mentioned above, to have links to all of your apps and resources.

NetVibes and Protopage - from Life Hacker


Google for Education Resources

Evernote for Education Resources

Zoho Planner being shut down

Zoho Planner- Trademark

Zoho Planner is a service I wrote about this past April that was a very useful way to get organize and plan out your schedule and activities. It allowed you to create to-do lists, notes, upload images and files add email reminders and access your data anywhere.

I just received a notice from Zoho that they are shutting down Zoho Planner. The full notice can be seen below. Planner will remain online until December 31st 2012 but will switch to read only soon. Users will need to back up their data before the end of the year when all data will be erased. Zoho has a support site and email available and reminds users that they can use Zoho Calendar, Wiki and Tasks to replace Zoho planner.

You can also use Google's many services and Evernote to get organized and replace Zoho Planner.

See links to other services and the full shut down notice below.


Zoho - suite of on-line business, productivity & collaboration apps

Alternatives to Google's web services and apps

Google for Educators Resources

Evernote for Educators Resources

Important Notice Regarding Your Zoho Planner Subscription
First and foremost, we want to thank you for being a Zoho Planner user.
From time to time we need to review our wide portfolio of services, and make sure they are performing to our, and our customers', expectations. As a result of that, we have decided to discontinue our Zoho Planner service.

We realize that as a current user, this change directly affects you today, which is why we wanted to inform you of this decision today before making it public. Though soon the product will be removed from our homage, you will still be able to access your data by logging in directly at

Don't worry, Zoho Planner will remain online from now until December 31st, 2012. However, it will soon switch to a read-only mode. That should give you plenty of time to back up your data, as after that date we will erase everything related to Zoho Planner from our servers. For any product-related questions during this time, you can continue to contact us at, where we will be happy to help you.
Although Zoho Planner is going again, you should know that most of what you can do with it today, you can accomplish through a combination of other services, like Zoho Calendar, Zoho Wiki and Tasks (part of our Zoho Mail suite). So we certainly plan to keep you in the Zoho family!

We thank you for being our user and we're sorry we can no longer provide this service. At the same time, we're refocusing our efforts on some of our other Zoho applications, and we're very excited about what the future holds for them.
The Zoho Team

Monday, July 9, 2012

More on UW Online

Check out this morning's story from Inside Higher Ed for more information and questions. I'm told we can expect details from UW System soon, and I know many of us eagerly await them.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wishy-Washy Thoughts on Gates

I'm no Diane Ravitch.  If I were, I'd use this blog to bravely state my concerns about the direction the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is heading with educational policy. I'd follow her lead and ask hard, pointed questions about the role that people with money play in driving major decisions in a democracy.

But I won't.  Because while I'm tenured, I am still fearful.  I have receiving more than $1 million in support from the Gates Foundation for my research on financial aid, and I am grateful for it-- and in need of much more.  That's the honest truth.  It's harder and harder to find funding for research these days, and while my salary doesn't depend on it, getting the work done does.

So I won't say all that Diane just did.  Yet I have to say something, and as I wrote recently, I always attempt to do so.

Her questions deserve answers.  And they should be asked of the higher education agenda as well.  Why the huge investment in Complete College America, an outfit that is pushing an end to college remediation unsupported by the work of top scholars like Tom Bailey?  Why the growing resistance to funding basic research in key areas where massive federal and state investments persist absent evidence of effectiveness? Why sink $20 million into performance-based scholarships, based on a single tiny randomized trial in one site?

I'm sure there are good answers out there.  It's not the first time I've asked these questions.  And perhaps unlike Diane, the time I've spent with the Foundation has imbued me with some confidence that there are very smart, well-meaning people inside the place-- people I like quite a bit.  There's also a lot of turnover, and the outfit is a bit gangly in some areas, kinda like a teenager.

Actually, that's exactly it. The Foundation is one heck of a powerful adolescent.  And maybe that's ok, as long as it recognizes its stage in life, and continues to seek expert advice and wisdom.  Adolescents are good at asking questions and not so great at listening. That's something to work on. Places like the William T. Grant Foundation are full-fledged adult foundations who make smart and highly effective investments daily.  I'd love for Gates's ed portfolio to seek advice and hear from them.  It'd make a world of difference.

Have I just torpedoed my own chances for future support?  Well, I guess only time will tell....

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Getting Beyond Headlines

Data is powerful, and today's colleges and universities are learning that lesson the hard way.  As increasing amounts of information regarding their student outcomes become available, media outlets are taking advantage, running stories like this one, 11 Public Universities with the Worst Graduation Rates.  The clear intent is shame and disinvestment in public education, and it's working. One of my very talented and knowledgeable colleagues shared that story on Facebook, writing "Is there any way to understand these completion rates other than dismal?"

That's a good question. What I appreciate most about it is that it asks how we can understand it?  Not, "who is to blame?"  Too often that seems to be the goal of publishing numbers, as if the old adage about sunshine being a miracle cure would actually apply to problems involving human beings.

As I flipped through the slide show of the "11 Worst," looking at the often pretty campuses of those failing public universities, I was simultaneously struck by how normal they appear, and also how much like community colleges they really are. At Southern University of New Orleans, the average SAT score is 715, and that's after rejecting 52% of applicants. It's not much higher at Texas Southern (796) where they accept just 36% of students. Clearly there are plenty of students in these local areas seeking access without strong test abilities, which hardly makes them unqualified, but may mean they seek a 4-year degree rather than an associates.  Like community colleges, these universities are also incredibly diverse institutions-- for the most part, 50% or more of their students are on Pell--many times higher than at most publics.  But in three key ways, these "poor performers" are unlike their 2-year counterparts: (1) Their cost of attendance is much higher, (2) They mainly do not offer short-term degrees, so all success is measured relative to the BA, and (3) They are universities, not colleges, so most appear to be trying to do more than undergraduate teaching (i.e. also granting master's degrees).  If community colleges had those characteristics, I'd expect their completion rates to approximate those of these universities (take out all certificate and associates degree completions, raise costs, and throw in a large pool of students whose apparent degree ambitions are misaligned with their tested ability along with competition for resources from graduate education).

But wait, there's more. If you look beyond the headline, and wander over to College Insight for some more data, you'll also discover the real challenge these broad access universities face -- an utter lack of financial aid.  At Coppin State, just 5% of undergraduates have their demonstrated financial need met.  At Southern University in New Orleans, among full-time freshmen just 4% receive any state grants (compared to 48% statewide), and just 1% receive any institutional grants (compared to 23% statewide).  93% of students enrolled there are African-American (compared to 27% statewide), and many families appear to be turning down loans.  Something similar is happening at Cameron University, where the rate of loan-taking is half that of the statewide average.  Clearly, these institutions aren't forcing students to take on debt to finance institutional costs, as the for-profits are accused of doing. Isn't this a good thing? And yet, how do you succeed in college without enough money?

There you have it-- a much more complicated problem, too difficult for an easy headline. Yes, there are some harder-to-explain cases, like Kent State at East Liverpool, but overall even as they are faced with the condition of being dependent on public funding, these "poor performers" are serving large numbers of low-income students who apparently desire bachelor's degrees despite low tested abilities, have to charge tuition according to the inadequate state appropriations provided, and have little in the way of financial aid to offer other than loans, which are frequently declined.  And we are surprised when their outcomes don't look good?

If anything, it's we who ought to be ashamed.  State taxpayers have publicly supported the opening of these institutions and then starved them.  I'm all for 'no excuses' but that stance applies to institutions for whom being open is optional-– the for-profits.  Public institutions are democratic, we collectively create them to meet our needs, and we therefore hold collective responsibility for their success.

These are problems that should be fixed, and can be fixed because these are public institutions.  The troubled for-profits, we have far less say about (as we learned yesterday) and that's a shame, since far too many students wander into their traps without knowing that there's almost no public accountability for their behaviors.

Of course, I realize some people will view all of this as further evidence that the public system doesn't work, can't work, and that we ought to just shut these schools down and go home. To do so is to refute the naton's history, to forget the many revitalized public institutions that are succeeding now in ways they never did previously because of a renewed focus, commitment, and corresponding investment.  We have fabulous cities and public services in places that decades ago less optimistic people abandoned, while others stayed and fought for change.

The solutions for these public universities won't come from waving our hands about their bad outcomes, but from public outrage about the appalling trap we are creating for the people who work in these places and the students they educate.  We have not provided them with the conditions for success, which we increasingly reserve for public flagships.   Instead of shaking our heads in anger or disgust, we should get busy putting our priorities and investments in order, taking care of our public institutions so they can succeed in meeting our needs.

Why are students willing to go into debt in order to pay large amounts of tuition in order to attend college?

Why are students willing to go into debt in order to pay large amounts of tuition in order to attend college? 
There are two questions here really.
Why does college cost so much?
Why do students want to attend college?
Let’s start with the first. Here are some important facts to get an idea about the costs:
Stanford University, as an example owns 8000 acres of very highly valued real estate. They didn’t purchase it and they don’t pay taxes on it but there are hundreds of buildings and playing fields and parking lots and laboratories and streets all or which require massive expenses to maintain. Full professors make an average of $188,000 per year at Stanford.
I am not picking on Stanford here. Its neighbor UC Berkeley has a slightly smaller campus and pays its faculty slightly less, but really they are pretty similar, except that UC is a state owned institution.
To run an operation of this size requires money, lots of it. Tuition does not actually even cover the cost. Universities must constantly ask for donations from alumni and rich people. In addition both of these universities are heavily subsidized by the Federal government in the form of research grants which pay astoundingly large amounts of overhead.
Even so, if they can get it they charge it, so like any business as long as there are customers who are willing to pay, tuition can keeping going up.  
The real question is why are students willing to pay? Couldn’t someone offer a cheaper alternative? Does college really have to be this expensive?
The first thing to understand about all this is that Stanford (I was a faculty member there once upon a time, but they are all the same really) is not about students. A student may think that these campuses were built for them and maybe they were originally but Stanford faculty are not thinking about undergraduate education. Faculty at places like that are in the research business and faculty members have no choice but to look for research money and then do the research that will satisfy the funder and then get more money.  This process does entail paying attention to one’s graduate students who are supported by that money, but undergraduate teaching is seen by nearly all Stanford faculty as an annoyance that one has to put up with and that it is best to buy one’s way out of if possible.
Faculty are happiest in the summer when the students have gone home and they are left with a beautiful peaceful campus in which to think great thoughts, work in their labs, and talk with colleagues.
So why do students go into debt in order to attend these institutions? A more interesting question is why undergraduate education is offered at all at places like Stanford and UC Berkeley (or Yale or Harvard.)
Stanford likes the income of course, but could survive without it. (There are respected universities that do not take undergraduates. Usually the general public hasn’t heard of them because they don’t have football teams or elaborate campuses. One is Rockefeller University in New York.) What Rockefeller doesn’t have, that Harvard has, are alumni who would scream bloody murder (and stop giving money) if Harvard shut down its undergraduate program.
If what I am saying is right, and believe me no faculty member would agree with me openly but most would privately, then why do undergraduates willingly go into debt in order to attend these schools?
In the case of Harvard, Yale, or Stanford, the answer is obvious. Saying you graduated from one of those schools, rightly or wrongly, will get you instant respect for the rest of your life.
But what about Florida Atlantic University, Elon College, Southern Connecticut State, Beloit College, De Paul University, or Texas A&M to name any of 3000 I could name?
Same big fees, and curiously, same curriculum more or less.
Now I haven’t mentioned curriculum to this point but students go to college to take courses right? At least that is the common agreed upon reason.
Now any professor knows that students are really there to get away from home, drink a lot, play sports and party on. But there are courses and students must come away with an education so it is all worth it right?
Now here is a radical thought: Sitting in a classroom, or doing required reading, and parroting it all back on a multiple choice test or in some research essay is not actually education. It is school, but it is not real learning. Real learning would involve learning to do things one will do later on in life. Rarely does one write a research paper, or run an experiment, or take a multiple choice test, much less do we listen to lectures. College prepares you for nothing in actuality. (Yale’s graduates may become investment bankers but they didn’t learn that at all, they studied Classics.) Colleges say they do prepare their students and pay some homage to teaching them to think, and there actually are some specialized programs that actually do teach students to do things. But for the most part, your average English major or physics major has learned nothing that he will use in his later life except at cocktail parties.
The faculty don’t care. They care about their research. If you want to learn to be a researcher, Stanford is the place for you. The curriculum Stanford teaches is meant to get you ready to take advanced courses which are the ones that faculty actually like to teach. They are preparing students to do research because they like research and that is all they know how to do.
Now this is less true of the smaller colleges and big state universities where there is less research going on, but even at those schools, the faculty desire to be researchers and they studied with researchers and they really want to try and get research grants and behave like their colleagues at fancier institutions.
So, in essence, they teach the same courses at Stanford as they do at BYU, or Northern Illinois.
What do the students get out of this? A big debt. A four year vacation (assuming they didn’t have to work while going to school) and not much else. Well, there is always graduate school.
Why do they put up with it? Because they feel they have no choice. Being a college gradate is seen as a big deal. It wouldn’t be seen that way if being a high school graduate meant anything at all, but it doesn’t. (And the peer pressure and parental pressure to go to college is enormous.)
The solution to all this: build a high school system that teaches what college should be teaching: practical experiences that will prepare you to make a living or know how to live. (I am quoting John Adams and Ben Franklin here by the way.)
This is why we need good on line universities (and good on line high schools.) When Stanford pretends to offer on line courses in order to get people off their backs they are simply doing what they have always done, ignoring the needs of the undergraduates.
It is time for on line universities that create real (or simulated) experiences through which students can learn to do things in the real world.
We will be teaching people to work in the software industry through some on line programs we are developing (see in the coming months. Stanford could do that if it wanted to but it won’t. The faculty at Stanford are willing to teach students to do research or to be intellectuals.  Teaching someone to be a programmer or how to open a business is beneath them. (I am not picking on Stanford here. This is true of any research university. It is also true of the other 3000 colleges in the US since their faculty typically haven’t had much real world experience to teach about.)
Now, of course there are exceptions to all of this, but as I said the real villain is high school. We can fix that by building an on line high school outside of the control of government (and book publishers and test makers.) 
In the mean time, my advice to students: think twice before taking on an enormous debt to attend an institution that really just wants your money.