Thursday, January 31, 2013

10th Annual EPS Conference


A Nation at Risk? Reflections on the Past and Future of U.S. Public Education
10th Annual Educational Policy Studies Conference
Madison, Wisconsin
March 21-22, 2013
All events in Room 159 of the Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall, UW-Madison


Thursday, March 21, 2013

8:30-10:00AM: Public Discourse on American Education
            Michael Apple, Curriculum & Instruction & EPS, UW-Madison
Nancy Kendall, EPS, UW-Madison
Gloria Ladson-Billings, Curriculum & Instruction & EPS, UW-Madison
Chair: Bill Reese, EPS & History, UW-Madison
10:15-11:45 AM: Race/Ethnicity and the Evolution of U.S. Public Education
            Jack Dougherty, Trinity College
            Adrienne Dixon, University of Illinois-Chicago
            Michael Fultz, EPS, UW-Madison
            Chair: TBA


1:00-2:30 PM: The Legacies and Future of Public Higher Education in the U.S.
            Harry Brighouse, Philosophy & EPS, UW-Madison
            Sara Goldrick-Rab, EPS & Sociology, UW-Madison
            Daniel Kleinman, Sociology, UW-Madison
            Chair: TBA

3:00-4:30 PM: From “A Nation at Risk” to “No Child Left Behind”
Maris Vinovskis, University of Michigan*
Chair: Adam Nelson, EPS & History, UW-Madison


7:00-8:30: The Chicago Teachers Strike: Reframing Education Reform and Teacher Unions
            Pauline Lipman, University of Illinois-Chicago
            Discussant: Chad Alan Goldberg, Sociology, UW-Madison

Friday, March 22, 2013

8:30-10:00 AMPlace, Space, and Public Education
            Bianca Baldridge, EPS, UW-Madison
            Linn Posey-Maddox, EPS, UW-Madison
            Peter Miller, Education Leadership & Policy Analysis, UW-Madison
            Chair: TBA

10:15-11:45 AM: Future Challenges, Roles, & Opportunities for Public Education
            Robert Asen, Communication Arts, UW-Madison
Constance Flanagan, Interdisciplinary Studies, UW-Madison
            Constance Steinkuehler, Curriculum & Instruction, UW-Madison
Chair: TBA

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Princeton Professor teaches Coursera course; you must be kidding me!

I don’t recall ever agreeing with anything Thomas Friedman has ever written in the New York Times, but this Sunday’s article was especially ridiculous.

He was again extolling the glories of the coming education revolution led by MOOCs.

This is part of what he wrote:

“Mitch Duneier, a Princeton sociology professor, wrote: “A few months ago,  40,000 students from 113 countries arrived here via the Internet to take a free course in introductory sociology. ... My opening discussion of C. Wright Mills’s classic 1959 book, ‘The Sociological Imagination,’ was a close reading of the text, in which I reviewed a key chapter line by line. I asked students to follow along in their own copies, as I do in the lecture hall. When I give this lecture on the Princeton campus, I usually receive a few penetrating questions. In this case, however, within a few hours of posting the online version, the course forums came alive with hundreds of comments and questions. Several days later there were thousands. ... Within three weeks I had received more feedback on my sociological ideas than I had in a career of teaching, which significantly influenced each of my subsequent lectures and seminars.””
Friedman mentions this because he thinks it is a wonderful thing, I suppose. Let’s consider what this professor actually said:
My opening discussion of C. Wright Mills’s classic 1959 book, ‘The Sociological Imagination,’ was a close reading of the text, in which I reviewed a key chapter line by line.
Well, isn’t that just education at its finest? Princeton should be proud. Not only are they still lecturing, a relic of the Middle Ages when students didn’t have books and monks read them to them, but the professor is reading it line by line. The analysis of a text is a scholarly activity done by intellectuals, and when done with students, it is part of an effort to create more intellectuals. Does Professor think that the world needs 40,000 more sociology intellectuals? When this stuff happens at Princeton, it is still isn’t really good educational practice, but Princeton does try to produce intellectuals for the most part.

When done with 40,000 students from 113 countries, this is is simply fraud. There is no need for them to read a text in this way. Far from being a revolutionary new practice that will eliminate universities as Friedman says, this kind of activity is perpetuating the very thing that is wrong with universities --- their distance from the real world.

within a few hours of posting the online version, the course forums came alive with hundreds of comments and questions. Several days later there were thousands. ...

It is nice that there were thousands of comments. How many did you respond to Professor Duneier?

I assume the answer is “none.” As a professor, not responding to a student, is, in my mind, the worst thing one can do. Education is about the dialogue between professor and student. This is why classrooms, especially large classrooms, are a terrible idea. They limit discussion. When I taught at Yale and Northwestern I never assigned readings. just topics for discussion. And then we discussed. If you had 30 or 40 students you could get into some good arguments, especially if I had assigned a provocative question to think about. (“What does it mean to learn” was one I often used.)

Your job professor is not to notice how many nice discussions students have with each other. But it is his last line that got me:

Within three weeks I had received more feedback on my sociological ideas than I had in a career of teaching, which significantly influenced each of my subsequent lectures and seminars.

So, the Coursera experience was good for you eh? Nice to hear.

But the issue is that universities have always been good for the faculty. Places like Princeton are run by the faculty for the faculty. No one teaches much. No one cares about anything but PhD students and research.  Undergraduates sit in lecture halls in order to pass the time between football games and parties. No one cares because they all windup with impressive Princeton degrees.

Friedman is right that online will change universities, but not the kind of online that Coursera is providing.

Just yesterday, there were thousands of visits to a lecture of mine that is on line because it was assigned as part of a Coursera course. I find that very funny since my lecture was about why lectures don’t work (oh the irony!) and why learning requires doing and why universities should stop teaching scholarly subjects and start teaching students skills they can use in real life.
Yes change is coming. Too bad Mr Friedman doesn’t have clue why. Here it s. We can build mentored learn by doing courses online that challenge current teaching practice. They won’t be offered by Princeton because Princeton likes what it has now. But change is coming, just not the change Coursera or Friedman had in mind.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Say What About the Flex Degree?

On June 19, the University of Wisconsin System announced an initiative called the Flex Degree which was described as competency-based online instruction.  That day, I blogged about it, noting that while I certainly had some concerns, there were enough potential positive effects of the program to withhold full judgment either way.

Friends on both sides were surprised.  Colleagues who know and respect the priority I place on access and affordability for all potential students thought I should have been more strongly supportive of the "innovative" initiative that has the promise to drive down costs.  Others, of the liberal activist persuasion, noted  Governor Scott Walker's involvement, and the strong likelihood of negative repercussions for faculty job security and the quality of education delivered.  Still, I demurred, deciding to wait to hear more.

Unfortunately, information hasn't exactly been forthcoming.  I keep up to speed, reading the papers and blogs, and talking with those "in the know" and yet, I still have no clear picture what this Flex Degree really is.  Perhaps it's because where I spend most of my time, UW-Madison, isn't involved?  Maybe faculty at Parkside and Milwaukee have a clearer picture of what's happening? Maybe this initiative doesn't involve us tenured faculty at all, leaving the process to the administrators?   I've tried to check things out-- and am hoping this blog stirs discussion so I can learn more.  All I've heard thus far is that the faculty at Parkside are seriously concerned about the effort, and had a disagreement about the program with their Chancellor, resulting in the displacement of their Provost.

The media's been the only source of information-- and the coverage alone is enough to raise concerns.  (Also, there is not one investigative reporter covering higher education in Madison now.) It's undoubtedly bad press for UW System when the Wall Street Journal leads its coverage with a headline "College Degree, No Class Time," as it did this morning. Here is what we "learn" from that story:
  • A degree obtained online will carry the same name on it that degrees earned on campus do.  You won't be able to tell if the degree was earned at Parkside, Madison, or Flex.
  • UW System official encourage students to obtain their learning from MOOCS like "Coursera, edX and Udacity."
  • The charges for the tests and related online courses haven't been set but it will be cheaper than attendance on a campus.
Wow, seriously?  Each of these aspects raise trouble.  Why try to "hide" that the degree was awarded for learning acquired elsewhere, including via under-assessed methods like MOOCs?  How could the initiative possibly get past "go" without an assessment of cost-effectiveness?

Instead of concrete planning, it seems this process relies on a set of fairly broad, vague statements. Do what's good for the workforce. Do what the Governor asks. Do something "big" (According to UW System President Reilly-- the Flex Degree is a "big new idea").  Make it "fresh."

These are platitudes that have been circulating in the education reform crowd for years.  The rhetoric is typically framed as colleges and professors are "behind" (engaged in "the monastery model") and need to catch up. Interestingly,  Jeff Selingo of the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote in his blog yesterday about the perspective held by Aaron Brower, a professor of social work at UW-Madison and the lead administrator on the Flex Degree initiative.   From Brower's point of view, "Our students have all the information that we have as professors, so there is no premium on access to information."
Hmm. Well, first, that sounds right-- and simple-- but it's not really.  The people actually working to get online education right (and many are in the for-profit industry-- which doesn't mean their knowledge should be disregarded) know that "access to information" is far from sufficient for students and that professors really enhance that access by sifting, coordinating, distilling and analyzing that information for students.   The best initiatives thus far do not rely on technology alone-- they involve technology and people.  This is because, as UW Extension Chancellor Ray Cross puts it, "faculty are the guardians of quality."

Brower knows this, and knows it well. And I think, therefore, that the biggest problem with the Flex Degree at the moment lies in how it's being rolled out and messaged.  There are far more details available about this initiative than what's reaching our ears, but one has to look to meeting minutes to find them.  For example, reading the minutes from a UW LaCrosse meeting about the Flex Degree I learned that "Faculty are at the heart of the endeavor:  they will determine the outcomes/competencies and the assessments that will provide the evidence of student learning—nobody else can do this...Without faculty and academic staff involvement, the program will not attain the quality we envision, programmatically or pedagogically."  And I'm pleased that apparently Governor Walker has told Ray Cross that he'll provide new funding for this initiative, rather than grab at our base. 

So maybe the Flex Degree is better than it appears, and its communications arm is simply failing to message it correctly.  One powerpoint talks about the "First to Flex," a physical metaphor that doesn't work well when it comes to education. There is also this wordy, vague video on You Tube.

Bad media is a huge problem that could sink the whole ship.  Let's see that turned around, fast, before the nation begins to associate the University of Wisconsin with degrees that stand for nothing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Boundless - free, open source, digital textbooks

Boundless is a service that provides free, open source, digital textbooks. There are 18 open textbooks with Creative Commons licensed content, for college subjects including accounting, biology, economics and more. 

Boundless provides a free alternative to expensive textbooks and they can also be used as supplemental materials for students. The content is changed and additions made, in direct contrast to printed textbooks that are usually outdated before they are printed.

Boundless has an interesting process. They find the best free online content, have experts curate and vet it, and then deliver it in a way that is easy to read and navigate. 

They also have some great features like SmartNotes which condense the full book into the main points, terms and examples, and Interactive Notebook to highlight items and add your own notes, Flash Cards, Quizzes, Study Guides and search. 

Boundless is a great resource for college students, as well as advanced high school students and teachers. I'm a huge proponent of free resources vs. expensive textbooks and really like the fact that these free digital resources are constantly updated and improved. 

Here are all of their textbooks:


What I use with Physics classes instead of textbook

Resources to Replace Textbooks

CK-12 - free e-textbooks and more - updates and news

Google Slides now available offline!

Google Docs/Drive is a great, free resource that allows you to create, edit, share, collaborate on, and comment on Documents (Docs), Spreadsheets (Sheets), and Presentations (Slides), all online. Think Microsoft Office in the cloud with some other great features.

I use Google Slides (Presentations), the equivalent of PowerPoint, for all of my presentations. I like the features it has and like that I can easily share it online and people will always be able to see the newest version. One downside was that you needed an internet connection and some conferences I have presented at can have WiFi issues due to all of the devices being used. I would always save a copy of my presentation as a PDF file to my laptop in case I didn't have a good internet connection. That is no longer necessary.

Google has announced that Google Slides will now be available with offline support. You can now create, edit, comment, and present your Slides presentation without an internet connection. When you get an internet connection, your new presentations or changes will be automatically updated online. Docs has had this for a while already.

This is a great feature that makes Slides even more useful, along with Chromebooks, for people who need to work on, or present, their presentations where they may not have WiFi. It's also great for schools who issue Chromebooks to students that may not have internet at home. Our district is going with Chromebooks and student internet access at home is a concern. That is less of a concern now.

To enable offline Docs/Sheets/Slides, follow these instructions. If you already have offline enabled for Docs, you are all set. In order to use the offline feature, you will have to use Chrome browser or Chrome OS.

Google is currently working on offline support for Sheets as well.

Offline support has been the one reason I see many people stating as why they won't or can't go with Google Drive/Docs and Chromebooks. That reason is disappearing.


Google for Educators Resources

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doodle 4 Google contest open - create a doodle, win a scholarship

Doodle 4 Google

Google is once again hosting a Doodle 4 Google contest for K-12 students in the US. Students create a doodle of the Google logo based on this years theme: "My Best Day Ever.." would be what? Think outside the box and use some imagination.

The winner will see their Doodle on the Google homepage for a day, get a $30,000 college scholarship and get a $50,000 technology grant for their school.

Along with Google employee judges, there are celebrity judges, including Katie Couric, Chris Sanders (writer of Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon) and more.

Voting opens May 1st and there will be one finalist from each state. The state finalists will be flown to New York City for the awards ceremony on May 22nd. All the State Winners will have their artwork on display at theAmerican Museum of Natural History from May 22 to July 14.

Entry forms are available on the Doodle 4 Google site. All entries are due by March 22nd and must have a parent or guardian's signature.

Complete rules, prizes, and registration information is available at the Doodle 4 Google site.

This is a great way to get students thinking creatively and coming up with some great ideas, as well as having a chance to win a scholarship.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Do Academic Incentives Appear to Augment Financial Aid Effectiveness, Particularly after Enrollment?

The field of financial aid research is rapidly growing and expanding, which is a really good thing since the reliability and validity of evidence on effects pales in comparison to the magnitude of the national investment in aid.  Policymakers shoot me emails almost daily, asking "how can this be?"

Well, it's expensive and difficult to rigorously examine the impacts of expensive, complicated programs. Financial support for aid research is often difficult to come by; seemingly because at least to some foundations and other funders, "we know it all" about aid already and need to move on.

Expert researchers like Sue Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton know better than this, and bother to continue studying financial aid and write comprehensive reviews of existing studies on the topic for the rest of us.  I've relied on Dynarski's work continuously since my career began, and continue to be amazed at her ability to conduct incisive, beautifully executed work year after year.  This morning, she issued not one but two new papers from NBER, both on financial aid.  For that, we owe her and her co-authors quite a big thanks.

With that sincere respect for her work in mind, I want to submit one point of disagreement with one of the new papers. It regards a particularly difficult and controversial issue: whether financial aid ought to be reformed to include academic incentives tied to college persistence, to increase its effectiveness.  The abstract for Dynarski and Scott-Clayton's paper reads "for students who have already decided to enroll, grants that link financial aid to academic achievement appear to boost college outcomes more than do grants with no strings attached." This is not a new statement from these researchers, but the paper reiterates it, reviving the debate in the midst of the Gates Foundation's efforts to rethink aid.

A close look at the evidence presented in this new paper leads me to believe that while this is a reasonable hypothesis, it has just as little empirical support today-- or perhaps even less-- than it did a few years ago when the debate over this issue was especially hot.  Let's review.

On the question of the impacts of strictly need-based grants on college persistence, the authors point to two quasi-experimental studies (one by Eric Bettinger, one by Dynarski) with "suggestive but inconclusive evidence that pure grant aid improves college persistence and completion" as well as one study of a program targeting very high achieving students (Gates Millenium Scholars, studied by Steve DesJardins) that found no effects (unsurprising since their high outcomes were hard to improve upon).

In addition, they point to an early working paper (issued in 2011) from my ongoing experimental study in Wisconsin, which at the time, using one cohort of students, found null effects for a private grant program.  This is the extent of the evidence they display about the impacts of grants with no strings attached.  So it's important to note that our paper was updated and re-released last fall 2012 (not uncommon for working papers, and it did get press coverage) to incorporate findings from four cohorts of students and take into consideration that some students saw real increases in financial aid from the grant program while others did not.  The results suggest that grants with no strings attached increased college persistence by about 3 percentage points per $1,000 -- consistent with Dynarski and Bettinger's estimates of aid's impacts from other programs. Sure, those estimates are derived from a quasi-experimental analysis within our experimental study (not dissimilar to the approaches highlighted in the other studies cited), but if you want to be a purist about it, look at the experimental evidence only. That evidence suggests positive impacts as well, and raises the possibility that program complexity is moderating the impacts (another key theme in Dynarski and Scott-Clayton's research from 2006).

On the questions of the impacts of grants with academic incentives, the authors highlight several studies, with two figuring most prominently.  First, the MDRC performance-based scholarship demonstration. They point to evidence from the first, small experiment in New Orleans, which showed positive impacts.  Then, they suggest that the ongoing replication studies of those scholarships "appear to reinforce the findings of the initial study."  Unfortunately, that comment is outdated.  The latest reports on effects are showing null results. The What Works Clearinghouse issued a Quick Review on the New York City results (published in December 2012) last week, indicating the experimental test of performance-based scholarships in that city produced no detectable effects on college retention (the title of the study is "Can Scholarships Alone Help Student Succeed?" but please note that the study is of performance scholarships-- not scholarships alone).  (Full disclosure: I am Project Director on that WWC contract.) Recent conference presentations from the project reveal similar trends-- very little improvement, if any, resulting from the additional of performance based scholarships. Project director LaShawn Richburg-Hayes has been commendably careful to also point out that these scholarships are delivered on top of aid without strings, and also noting that it's unclear why Louisiana's results haven't been reproduced elsewhere.

Next, Dynarski and Scott-Clayton highlight Scott-Clayton's rigorous dissertation study of a West Virginia program. Her quasi-experimental analysis suggests that in West Virginia, effects of tying aid to performance had positive effects.  However, the most important claim for the argument here-- that effects were stronger when academic incentives operated than when they did not--does not tell us that incentives performed better than "no strings attached" for these students.  The two treatments occurred at different points in college for these West Virginia students, with academic performance required early in college, and no performance required later in college.  In other words, there is a key confound (year in college) compromising the results.

The truth is that the experimental work needed to test the hypothesis that academic incentives tied to grant aid outperform grant aid without strings attached hasn't been conducted.  It's clear that the effects of aid are very likely heterogeneous, and there are numerous variations in how aid is designed and delivered.  For this reason, across-study comparisons are very hard to make. We need to set up a horse race between aid and aid+incentives for a sample of students much like those whom we'd hope to reform aid for-- Pell Grant recipients, most likely.   Only then will we know if academic incentives really add value.  And even then, we won't know why-- without rigorous mixed methods research.

For now, the jury is out, and policymakers who pair academic incentives with need-based aid are flying blind.  They may have other rationales for doing wanting to do this-- some people feel better about distributing money when it comes with strings-- but they shouldn't pretend it's an evidence-based decision.  And like merit aid, it emphasizes the "reward" rather than "compensatory" rationales for distributing financial aid; a political norm-laden shift that probably isn't without consequence.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Teacher's Despair: We cannot afford to be focussed on training intellectuals

As part of a presentation to teachers in Mexico City that I am to make at the end of the month, Telefonica of Spain has set up a forum for teachers to ask me questions here:

It is in Spanish and my Spanish is minimal at best, so they have been sending me translations of the questions and comments that have been posted. What I am struck by, as always, is the difficult situation in which teachers find themselves these days. It really doesn’t matter what country a teacher is in, they are faced with two truths:

1.    They are not quite sure what they are doing in school is really the right thing to do
2.    They know they have very little power to change things

Here is one question I got for example. (Excuse the awkward translation, I received them all in that form.)

·       We learn something new every day, depending on our attitude towards learning, and even if we are not going to put it into practice, we need to take it in as part of our general knowledge. For example, why is philosophy important for someone who is going to study engineering? There is some material that is simply useful in life. Is this assessment correct?

I can’t help but feel this teacher’s pain when reading this. I am saying, as usual, that we only learn by doing and this teacher is trying to figure out how what he or she is doing is still ok. “If we don’t put it into practice, isn’t is still ok to teach?” Now of course, for me the answer is “no” since I believe that we only learn by doing, but consider the teacher. The teacher stands up in front of class trying to teach general knowledge that will never be used. The teacher’s hope is that philosophy would be of use somehow to someone and that the “general knowledge” that is the staple of the school system will someone turn out to be useful even though this teachers isn't really so sure it will.

Consider this next question:

·       Learning depends more on the person doing the teaching, on the strategy and methodology applied, than on the student. This is because a good methodology can make the student take interest in what he/she is doing and be enthusiastic. Is that right?

Here we have another teacher saying that a good teacher can make students excited about anything so isn’t that a worthwhile thing to be doing? Well of course it is. Turning students on to things they didn’t know about and getting them to care about it is very enjoyable for a student and could possibly have a large affect on the rest of the student’s life. What’s the problem then?

The problem is well expressed by this next question:

·      It is possible to learn almost anything. All we need is motivation. We must try to somehow involve, motivate and encourage students to participate in their lessons... Is it possible to learn through practice, even when what is learned is of no use to the student?

This teacher is willing to accept the fact that what is taught in school may be completely useless to the student’s future life. I for one, find that idea very difficult to accept. I realize that teachers teach what they are ordered to teach, but what must it be like to teach material that you know is completely useless to the student?

I ask this question as If I didn’t know what it is like, but of course I know it all too well. Exactly the reason that I became an education radical is that I was teaching a course in Semantics at Stanford and realized within a few days that no student in the class cared about, or would ever make use of, what I was teaching. They were simply required to take Semantics. I knew right then I needed to re-think.

I will now consider the last (of the one’s I have chosen to write about) three questions together:

·       Would it be wiser to focus more on the theoretical basis than on practice? Students show more interest in classes in which the outcome is an object constructed upon a scientific foundation.

·       It is extremely important to find the reason behind what we teach and, often, this raison d'etre is the source of knowledge or of its use in other sciences or fields of knowledge.

·       Is it possible to remember what they have heard in a reading if it is truly significant to them? If what is read motivates the reader, does this mean there is a greater chance of learning it? Or do we only learn by doing?

I get an overwhelming sadness from these questions taken as a whole. These teachers are focussed on teaching science, and basic knowledge, and great books. This is what they do and it is what they have always done. They ask if there isn’t some use to it all and of course there is. This is how we create intellectuals. Intellectuals worry about science, and general knowledge, and philosophy, and great literature, Intellectuals can discuss these things and enjoy doing so. They may use them or they may not but it is part of the well-rounded education of an intellectual.

My question is about the percentage of intellectuals out there in world. I find it hard to believe that our school systems in every country are geared towards the creation of intellectuals. I am sure 90% of all students have no interest in becoming intellectuals. They would like to learn to earn a living, and how to take care of their families, and how to be good citizens, and how to have good relationships with people. They would like to know how to function in the world. While we can kid ourselves that making them read Don Quixote, or read about the glories of the Spanish Armada, will somehow contribute to their greater development, this just has to be wrong and irrelevant to their lives.

Our education system was designed to create intellectuals. In the U.S., it was designed by the President of Harvard (in 1892). He wasn’t interested in the average person. He was interested in the elite who would attend Harvard.

All this must stop. We need to focus on getting the general population to be able to think clearly. This does not mean teaching algebra and chemistry and pretending that such things teach clear thinking. It means having students practice making decisions and understanding the consequences of those decisions. It means having them come to a conclusion about something they care about by learning how to examine evidence. It means having them learn to create a plan that will help them get what they want and then executing that plan. The average person does not need to read Descartes no matter how much we rationalize to ourselves that Descartes said some things that might be of use to the average person.

I know teachers can’t change the system by themselves. But they need to band together and try to make some changes or another generation will be lost.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Questions for the UW-Madison Chancellor Search

The search for another chancellor of UW-Madison is well underway. According to news reports, the search committee is vetting 60 candidates, sifting and winnowing these to a shorter list of people who will be interviewed off-campus, before a small group of about four comes to campus for interviews.

This is a critical point in Madison's history, as we face key decisions about how we are funded, who we enroll, and how we teach.  Formulating the questions we want to ask the candidates as they go through the process is one way to think through these hard issues.  With this post, I'm hoping to spur thinking on this -- providing a few ideas to get started, and encouraging you to write in with more questions.  With any luck, the people who get to actually ask the questions will find some good ideas here.

A starting point:

1. There has recently been much discussion about the polarization of the academy and concerns expressed about the impacts that a lack of political diversity might have on the welfare of public universities in particular.  How do you conceive of the term "political diversity" and how would you address the need to build it on the UW-Madison campus?

2. What do the terms "innovation" and "disruption" mean to you, and how are they best produced on a campus like Madison's where shared governance is a central value?

3. Many universities, including Madison, are feeling pressure to increase "productivity."  How do you define productivity when it comes to teaching? Research?  What are ways in which you think the productivity of administrators should be measured? What about productivity among faculty?

Help us find the right person-- what questions should be added to this list?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Getting Organized Tips and Resources


Here are some tips on getting organized. I am a very organized person (type A personality and was an engineer for ten years) and I used to teach organizational skills to other employees at one of my jobs. There are a ton of different organizational methods out there, but it is actually pretty easy to be organized and stay that way using some free tools.

I use a variety of tools to keep myself organized and share them with colleagues, administrators, teachers and with students. I have some links below to other articles I've written that are similar in nature, so please read those too.

The first thing that is important is to decide what tools you are more comfortable with: paper or electronic. If a student/teacher doesn't have a smartphone or easy access to a computer, it is harder to use some of the electronic versions. However, one solution is to use the electronic versions at home/office and print out things for mobile. I used to do that before I got my first PDA. I would print a task list and calendar in Word and keep it updated and then print it out when I had to use it away from a computer. I used to also use a Franklin Covey planner before my PDA days.

The trick to being organized is to always use your system and not deviate from it. If you are using a smartphone, then always use that, don't use paper too. Take 5 min each morning, lunch, afternoon, and evening to get organized, check your schedule and task list, and make plans for the next time period. Keep your task list and schedule up to date and check it before making plans. Prioritize your task list based on what is most important or needed done 1st. Use a calendar or prompts or reminders to make sure you get things done on time.

Electronic organizing tools can be helpful because they can remind you of due dates, meetings, etc. through text messages, emails, and on-screen alerts. They can also link notes, web sites, and more together so it's easier to find things.

Here is how I stay organized: 
(I use electronic resources and can access them from anywhere)
(Technology I'm using daily as a School District CIO)

1. I have a Android Smartphone running on Verizon so I can access all of the tools I use at any time. That means I'm always able to take notes, create a task or calendar event, and review all of my stuff any time, anyplace. I can access all of my emails, my Google CalendarGoogle Task List, and Evernote from it. I can also access all of my files via Dropbox. (and all of this is accessible from any computer and always in sync through the cloud)

2. I use Microsoft Outlook at work for email and calendar and contacts. I also have this syncing to my smartphone. I can also export emails and contacts to Evernote to keep things even more organized.

3. I use Evernote to take notes, organize notes, organize info and web clippings, and as a project planning tool. I have access to this from any computer and from my smartphone. I organize notes into notebooks and also have tags, making them easier to find when I need them. This is my main tool and includes all of my notes, files, task lists, and more. I even have a note that has all of my web page links on it and I use that as a start page.

4. I even have an app for my phone that will alert me when I am near a place that I have a task for (via GPS) and have been using Google Now more and more to help stay organized and plan my day.

There are some great tools specifically for students, like Trackclass, Shoshiku, and Dweeber that can help them get organized with their classes, schedule, and notes.

For those who still like paper planning and organizing, there are some great paper planning tools. In addition, a Livescribe Pen and pad offers paper note taking and planning, while syncing it to your computer and/or Evernote.

Paper Planning Resources (not free)
Franklin Covey - great paper planning systems, but a little pricey for students.
Day Timer paper planners
DIY Planner - make and print your own planner pages
Planner Pads - paper planners
Day Runner - paper planners
Mead Student Planners
Student Planner USA - some nice ones on here (and not expensive)
SchoolMate Student Planners

You can also create and print out your own calendars and task lists. There are a huge number of sites that have these, and MS Word has templates for it.

There are also some great student planners that you can customize for your school, adding in school calendar and schedules. They also have some great reference pages in the back, including math, English, science, study tips, college planning and more references. Here's one we've used:  Premier Agendas for College Ed. There are a variety out there, and I don't endorse any specific one.

Great Tips, Resources and Ideas for Going Paperless in the New Year
Electronic Planning Resources (free)
Student Planner Software (all free) (lots of good ones here to share with your students)

Organizing Resources
Online Organizing
Get Organized Now - great site with great tips and resources
Julie Morgenstern - professional organizer with some great tips and resources

The big thing to remember is that you have to use your system consistently and you have to take a time to plan out your day. You have to prioritize things and realize that free time and sleep sometimes have to take a back seat to priorities. However, if you plan things well and do things each day, you can avoid the sudden backlog and all-nighters that many students end up experiencing.

Basic Steps for being organized:
1. Plan Ahead (every day)
2. Make a ToDo (or task) list
3. Put things in your calendar (and check your calendar during your planning)
4. Students: write down your assignments and due dates in organizer
5. Students: study/work on homework a little each day to stay ahead
6. Stick to your schedule and commitments
7. Reward yourself with some free time.

Administrators, Teachers and students can benefit greatly form being organized. You are more efficient, get things done on time, don't forget things, and generally have less stress.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Great Tips, Resources and Ideas for Going Paperless in the New Year

I am a big fan of going paperless whenever possible and technology just keeps making it easier to do. Google is one of the sponsors of the Paperless pledge and has some tips, resources and ideas for going paperless and I have collected a variety of resources and tips. Here they all are.Check them out and check out Paperless2013 and sign up for more tips.

I use my Android smartphone, Nexus 7 tablet, Chromebook and desktop computers, along with apps like Evernote (essential to going paperless), email, online faxing and signing, Google Docs and Drive, Dropbox and Sugarsync and PDF tools, a Boogie Board electronic notepad, a Livescribe Sky Smartpen, and a scanner (Fujitsu Scansnap) to go as paperless as possible. The two articles below have more information too.

My tips and resources:

Paper, we don't need no paper! Tools and tips for going paperless

Tools to go Paperless (in school and at home)

- use flat screen monitors on walls as electronic bulletin boards.
- install solar panels on roof to offset increased electricity use.
- 2 monitors for each PC - can have reference on one screen and working document on other instead of printing reference out (or use tablet)
- Use email, chat, and meeting software and other collaborative software
- all markups done electronically
- auto backup of network every day
- all files on network with offsite, fireproof backup (Dropbox, Sugarsync, own network)
- autosave files every 5 min
- battery and generator backups
- limit print outs to absolutely necessary items
- all files saved in two formats - original (such as Word or PPT) and PDF. PDF is readable by every device and operating system using free apps.
- Read-only terminals in certain areas for visitors and reference look up
- network accessible from home/road for personnel - no data on laptops
- all paperwork from outside is scanned into system - original is filed
- all partners, organizations and vendors are encouraged to use electronic communications - email, website forms, etc.
- Student Information are all searchable and connected and linked with all relevant files
- scan legacy files using OCR into PDF files or scan into Evernote to make searchable
- don't print emails!
- all files distributed as PDF's when possible - readable on any system
- Train your employees on going paperless

From Google:
7 best ways to go paperless.

1) Use cloud storage: One place to create, share and keep all your files
Google Drive: Get started with 5GB free. Try it free

2) Send an online fax: Fax machines waste paper and ink is expensive
HelloFax: Send faxes online, 50 free pages/month. Try it free

3) Manage your bills online: Access statements and organize accounts
Manilla: Avoid paper bills, pay online for free. Try it free

4) Sign documents using an e-signatures: Just as legal and super easy
HelloSign: eSign contracts for free. Try it free

5) Create an online expense report: Don't print out e-receipts
Expensify: Manage all your receipts in cloud for free. Try it free

6) Send online invoices and receive payment online
Xero: Online business accounting, 6 months free. Try it free

7) Scan your existing documents: Get rid of your file cabinets
Fujitsu SnapScan: The world's best document scannner. Check it out

What are your tips, tricks, advice, and resources for going paperless?