I am here at Nanjing University in part to create a cooperative program to better prepare students coming to Penn State from China for academic success. Because there is not a strong tradition of liberal arts education in China, part of this preparation involves articulating the meaning and value of the liberal arts.
If our American students struggle with pressure from parents to pursue something "useful" and "marketable" when in college, that pressure is yet more intense for our Chinese international students, many of whom have parents paying enormous sums of money to provide them with an education in the United States so that they will be better able to succeed economically.
Add to this pressure an unfamiliarity with the American tendencies in higher education to focus on active learning practices, and the transition to American universities, particularly those like Penn State that emphasize the importance of the liberal arts, becomes daunting.
So, over the past few months I have sought to cultivate a different culture of academic community through interactive lectures in which I've live tweeted my own presentations at the University of San Francisco, the Catholic University of America and Newman University. Those experiments taught me how important it is to model the sort of twitter behavior that is capable of enriching academic conversations rather than impoverishing them.
Last week when Wesleyan University President Michael Roth visited Penn State, I took notes on the talk via Twitter and curated them on Storify. It was a good way to remind myself of some salient points of the lecture and to share the important ideas Roth presented about the value of the liberal arts with a wider audience.
This week, however, I thought I would try to take collaborative public notes during the annual meeting of the Ancient Philosophy Society at Notre Dame University. Happily, my colleague @AdrielTrott was willing to join me in the endeavor and we were able to live tweet a number of the papers at the conference.
Here is the Storify I created for it:
As you can see, we do seem to have been able to add value to some conversations. During the Alasdair MacIntyre talk, for example, MacIntyre recommended a book the title of which many missed. However, because I heard the reference and knew the book, I was quickly able to tweet out a link. For me, the power of collaborative public note taking lies in the possibility that something important to you might evoke as response from someone that leads ultimately to a new insightful conversation. I can see the threads of a few conversations here that might be pursued further in the future.
Not a lot of people at the conference were following along on Twitter. However, the Storify is now posted on the Ancient Philosophy Society website, and I hope that more people will recognize the power of collaborative live public note taking via twitter.
This conception of public philosophy certainly includes many practitioners in diverse areas of applied philosophy. But there are also many practitioners in these areas who do not see themselves as engaging directly with issues of public concern or who are not interested in trying to make their work matter to wider audiences. So public philosophy, as practiced by the PPJ, includes the interests and work of a large and diverse group of philosophers, some of whom may be associated with various practical areas of philosophy.
Conceived of in this way, the vision of public philosophy the PPJ will champion is not so much a subfield of the discipline as it is a way of putting the discipline into practice.
Accordingly, there is an important connection between the way we conceive of the practice of public philosophy and our choice of technological means for curating, reviving, cultivating, and publishing content for the PPJ. This is part of what sets the PPJ apart from other academic journals more generally, and it is what makes it unique in the discipline of philosophy.
By the end of the article, Bérubé is worried that departments will be "eliminated in the next strategic plan" if they take up in earnest the Alternative Academic career (#AltAc) challenge by empowering their graduate students to cultivate a wider range of abilities that would enable them to pursue career paths other than those along the tenure track.
The crisis is real, as is the concern about elimination; but the rhetoric of crisis can stymie creativity at the very moment when we need to be most imaginative. Happily, those of us with disciplinary backgrounds in the humanities have long cultivated our capacities of creative stitching. We should draw on them to begin sewing again, rather than lamenting our collective unraveling.
Take one idea: to create a robust, integrated higher education internship program for humanities graduate students in areas like Institutional Research, Fellowships and Awards, Teaching and Learning with Technology, Admissions, Alumni Relations and Development, Career Services and other aspects the higher education landscape. These areas are in constant need of the writing, communication and imaginative thinking talents our humanities graduate students bring with them.
The point would not be to take students away from rigorous new scholarship in their disciplines; but to recognize, as Bérubé does, that advanced study of the humanities develops powerful analytic, creative, penetrating and broad intellectual abilities that can have transformative effects on institutions and cultures in which they are valued.
This is just one example of how stitching in one area might help save and transform the entire garment, for the more people with advanced degrees in the humanities serving at various levels of our institutions -- be they in higher education, government, or the profit or non-profit worlds -- the more conscientious and humane those institutions will become.
@ColeCamplese Talking About The Long
Road at the Blue/White Vision Seminar
Originally uploaded by cplong11
The seminar included two morning lectures, one by Michael Horn, co-founder and executive director of Innosight Institute, the other by Clay Shirky, Partner for Technology and Product Strategy at the Accelerator Group. Horn highlighted a white paper on Disrupting College in which he established an analogy between the demise of the steel industry and the current crisis in Higher Education. Shirky, on the other hand, offered a different analogy, suggesting that MOOCs unbundle courses from curricula in the way Napster and iTunes unbundled songs from albums. The suggestion in both analogies was that Higher Education is an enterprise ripe for disruptive transformation that would likely lead to the demise of many universities unable to respond effectively to the revolution in technology we are experiencing.
The afternoon was focused more on the innovations we at Penn State have already undertaken with the growth and expansion of the World Campus and the integration of strategies of teaching with technology into our residence curriculum.
The day was full and I continue to reflect upon it, but I left with an unsettled feeling that the heart of Penn State was somehow missing from the discussion. That feeling was surely rooted in the absence of the voice of faculty in general, and our research faculty in particular. The seminar focused on teaching and technology, so it would have made sense for our faculty to have been more centrally included. They were, with a few exceptions, largely absent.
His father has recently written eloquently, even in his grief, about the theological questions the senseless death of a young boy raises. For him, it is not a question of God's punishing anyone or of some grand divine plan, but of "the broken nature of the world."
This W. H. Auden poem captures that brokenness; so I offer it here in memory of a birthday that should have been welcomed by the palpable excitement of an energetic little boy ready to enter into his ninth year of life.
W.H. Auden, via http://homepages.wmich.edu/~cooneys/poems/auden.stop.html
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
When you look at the striking photographs Chris Brady took of Mack and his entire family, you see a glimpse of the beautiful life that was lost, and of the love that endures.
Tonight marks the one week anniversary of Mack's death. Here are a few images by which to remember the love that endures:
When I first wrote about my attempts to close the digital research circle in 2010, I had just relinquished EndNote in favor of Zotero for its superior ability to share and organize references. At the time, Zotero was still a plugin for Firefox and lacked a number of features I needed to facilitate my research - features like the digital reading, annotating and organizing pdf files. Those limitations led me to Mendeley, which I still value for collaborative annotations and research.
However, with three developments in Zotero, I have returned to it with renewed commitment. One reason for this commitment has less to do with features and more with the underlying open source philosophy of the product's development. Zotero was developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for New Media, a leader in digital humanities scholarship and a strong advocate for open collaborative research.
Although I am committed to their values of collaboration and openness, without the functionality I need, I would not have been able to return fully to Zotero. Let me mention the three developments that have made Zotero central again to my digital scholarship.
First, no longer simply a plug-in for Firefox, Zotero is a stand alone product that works across browsers. I rely mostly on Chrome these days, and the stand alone version works beautifully with the Chrome extension.
Second, I have adopted Zotfile to facilitate the simple organization of my pdf files. Zotfile effectively turns Zotero into as powerful a pdf file organizer as Mendeley. It enables you to quickly pull references from online databases and across the web directly into your Zotero collections. (Don't sync using Dropbox; rather use the native Zotero syncing service to avoid generating duplicates.) Zotfile also facilitates the simple renaming of all files based on the metadata in your reference collections. With Zotfile, Zotero pulls articles from library databases even more easily and efficiently than Sente, which excels in that area.
As the debate over Massively Open Online Courses, also known by their unfortunate acronym: MOOC, rages on, I thought I would begin by curating a few articles here:
The impetus for this little Diigo collection is the recent appearance of two articles, one skeptical of MOOCs, the other more sanguine about their transformative power.
In their December 17, 2012 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "For Whom Is College Being Reinvented?," Scott Carlson and Goldie Blumenstyk gather the skeptical voices who insist, as Peter Stokes of Northeastern University, puts it:
"The whole MOOC thing is mass psychosis," a case of people "just throwing spaghetti against the wall" to see what sticks...
Of course, if the MOOC is psychosis, it is born of a deeper pathology; for as Robert Archibald of the College of William and Mary is quoted there as saying:
"At most institutions, students are in mostly large classes, listening to second-rate lecturers, with very little meaningful faculty student interaction. ...Students are getting a fairly distant education even in a face-to-face setting."
It is a response to this deeper pathology of contemporary Higher Education that seems to be at the root of Clay Shirky's analogy between the MOOC and the MP3 file format.
Shirky's Higher Education: Our MP3 is the MOOC is the second article to which I'd like to point as a way to begin thinking through the implications of the MOOC for higher education. Shirky's argument is based on this analogy:
mp3 : album : music industry :: MOOC : curriculum : higher education
Just as the mp3 file format, by making music accessible and sharing simple, unbundled individual songs from albums and transformed the music industry, so too will the MOOC, by making education accessible and massively open, unbundle courses from curricula and transform higher education.
Shirky presses the analogy further: just as the mp3 unbundled individual songs from the albums the record companies forced us to purchase, so too will the MOOC unbundle specific courses from the degrees for which institutions of higher education force students into debt.
Shirky emphasizes that the promise of MOOCs is that "the educational parts of education can be unbundled."
But that, of course, is a packed suggestion itself not so easily unbundled. For there is a difference between taking a course or series of them and being educated.
Just as one swallow does not make a spring (Aristotle, Nic. Ethics, 1098a19), neither does a course divorced from a course of study make an education. The educational parts of education cannot be unbundled like a single from an album, for the education is both in the curriculum and the manner in which that curriculum is delivered.
The challenge the MOOC posses to institutions of higher education is that they will force us to re-imagine the curriculum into which we have placed our individual courses. And institutions of higher education have not historically been particularly nimble when it comes to creating and implementing innovative curricula responsive to new forms of literacy and public communication.
If our courses are not to be unbundled from the curriculum without perverting the education they together offer, then we in higher education will need to articulate and develop new, more coherent, well crafted, and, yes, even efficient curricula capable of enriching student lives and preparing them in a relevant way for a world in which many will have been taught, but fewer well educated.