Sunday, December 30, 2012

Liberal Arts Colleges Struggle Amidst STEM and Business Push

Justin Pope of the Associate Press explores the challenges faced by the traditional liberal arts colleges that were once the heart and soul of higher education.  The liberal arts have been the target of contemptuous attacks in recent years as the American economy struggles to produce enough scientists, engineers, doctors, accountants, and technicians to prop up an economy that has become more efficient and, often, outsourced.  The myopic focus on STEM majors - and even STEM high schools - has led to claims by simple-minded business types who argue that the whole purpose of education is to prepare students to become effective workers in the marketplace.  And that Dickensian proposition is just sad.

The liberal arts - and notably liberal arts colleges - have been the foundation of our cultural soul for as long as we've been civilized societies.  Accounting and engineering may be the basis of the comfortable nature of our lives, but it is the arts and the deep thinking that makes those lives worth living.  And the success of corporations like Apple - a company which effectively markets its products via a focus on empathy and design - has depended on visionaries like Steve Jobs looking beyond simple market practicality.  Jobs wanted his products to feed our souls, even as it filled his bank account.  And it's the liberal arts that contribute to make humanity the focus of our business.

It will be a sad day if the liberal arts college goes the way of the typewriter.

Peyton Manning is Undoubtedly the 2012 MVP

Being from Colorado, I would be remiss if I did not post on the Denver Broncos and the Peyton Manning phenomenon after the Broncos wrapped up a 13-3 season, securing the number one seed and home field advantage in the playoffs.  This is a team that was 8-8 a year ago with little Timmy Tebow at the helm, and is now considered a favorite for the SuperBowl after only three losses to top teams, Houston, Atlanta, and New England.  With all that in mind, it is impossible to dispute the assumption that Peyton Manning should be the NFL MVP for 2012.

*check the link for more information on why it's not Adrien Peterson.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Do Video Games Make Kids Violent?

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting - or any mass shooting really - the talk will inevitably turn to the potential "cause" of violent video games.  Do violent video games make people violent or more aggressive?  Do they "desensitize" young people to violence?  Does that make them less empathetic and more prone to hurt, or simply not care about, other people?  It seems like an easy and obvious answer.  And, even the president of the NRA used "violent media" as an excuse for gun violence while, at the same time, defending guns.

Like all societal issues, the answer is not so simple.

Media certainly plays a role in our life, and it most definitely influences people.  However, it's a stretch to say that violent media, especially video games, causes people to commit violence.  That's true simply because the vast majority of people who use violent media do not, in fact, become homicidal sociopaths.  However, it is equally irrational to argue that violent media does not "influence" people.  Research over many years proves that media can desensitize viewers and users.  One of the most comprehensive studies by Iowa State psychology professor Craig Anderson proves as conclusively as can be done that "violent video game play does make kids more aggressive." Anderson's research is a review and synthesis of more than one hundred other studies, and the results are all but undeniable to anyone who respects science and research.

Of course, identifying these factors does not mean any change will come to society.  Video games - especially violent forms such as Call of Duty or Mortal Combat - are a huge billion dollar industry that is simply not going away.  That said, recent shootings such as Sandy Hook Elementary and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting indicate a need and willingness to re-direct the public policy debate concerning violent media.  Commentators will continue to call for action limiting the usage of violent media, though that directive is most often aimed at encouraging parents to closely monitor their own children.  Most people will concede that the action has to come at the level of individual choice among parents and young people.

Young people will continue to play video games, and after tragedies like mass shootings, people will debate the effects.  Clearly, violent media did not create or directly cause the recent tragedies in Connecticut or Colorado or San Diego.  And the majority of people who are exposed to violent media won't re-create the violence in their real lives.  However, as the tragedies continue, people will hopefully consider the warning from psychologist Dr. Leonard Sax in his book Boys Adrift that violent media is contributing to "a growing proportion of boys who are disengaged not only from school but from the real world."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Advice to Daughter Leaving for College

As we move into the new year, parents of high school seniors are going to be both elated and traumatized as their children begin to receive their acceptance letters to college.  The reality of our most precious assets going out into the world ... alone ... is a time of melancholy as parents wonder whether they have done all they could do to prepare and protect their babies from the harsh realities of the world.  For blogger Amy Wrubble, this day won't actually come for sixteen years, as her daughter is only two.  However, she's not wasting any time and recently posted her letter to her daughter who is leaving for college.  Her advice is a catch-all for all the basics of parenting advice, but written in a fun, whimsical - and slightly but sweetly neurotic - voice, intending to level with her daughter:

Some of Amy's classic tips include:

  • Don't do drugs .... or take the Whole Foods Approach and choose only "organic"
  • Don't drink the punch, but instead stick to beer which will hopefully fill you up before you drink yourself to death
  • No naked photos or tattoos
  • Study philosophy and the humanities to feed the soul ... but accounting fills the bank account
  • Embrace the opportunity to be politically and socially involved.

Certainly, we all want "the best" for our kids, though we know it has to do with them choosing wisely and making good systems.  We instill our kids with our values and lessons, but at some point they are going to be their own best selves, for better or worse in what we intended and hoped.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Getting Students to Work to Their Potential

An education writer I know recently asked me to respond to a parent's question about her son who "is mainly a 'B' student and seems to be fine with that even though he puts in very little effort to achieve those 'B's. He is in the mindset that B grades are good even though he is quite capable of A work with a little effort. How do I get him to work up to his full potential?"

Here are my thoughts on that difficult question:

Not to be cliched, but this is really a classic "You can lead a horse to water ..." issue.  Student motivation is our greatest challenge, especially in asking them to internalize that which they don't find immediately or intrinsically valuable.  Often the subject is a complete abstraction, as in, "when am I ever going to use algebra?"  The simple answer is that, regarding the using algebra or the names of Civil War battles or the make-up of a cell, they won't ever "use it." However, they will use the more developed brain that comes from acquiring knowledge and information and thinking critically about it.  Alas, that is a rather tough bit of wisdom for the average young person to get his mind around.

Some kids, of course, simply accept it and do what they are told.  Others question that logic, and in many ways we should applaud kids who question and challenge such conventions of society and education.  It is, obviously, in asking why and why not that our greatest advancements have come.  Additionally, for a student making Bs - even if (especially if) they come easily  - it's tough to argue he should strive harder when Bs will arguably serve him well and are evidence enough that he is above the curve.  Clearly, striving for mediocrity is never a good goal.  However, a "B" in my class is not an easy achievement and can even be a badge of honor.  Thus, I occasionally have to cringe when a child is told that an 87% is "not good enough."  I can tell you I've been the only "only B in high school" for a few kids over the years, and while it traumatized their parents at the time, it didn't prevent their child from any opportunities.

The child has to want to work to his potential, and there's no easy answer to how to make him want it.  I must admit that I have a child who is truly inspired by individual achievement and academic excellence, and I can't really explain why.  It is, seemingly, in his nature.  I didn't cultivate it in him any more than my other child who is certainly a good student but not obsessively curious and always wanting to know everything.  As parents and teachers we do what we can to help students value education and even excellence.  There are certainly helpful analogies and examples of why to value it, though society has far too often erred on the side of financial reward.  We encourage children to value education so they can "get a good job," and there is a part of that motivation which can be quite shallow.

Ultimately, we cannot "get him to work up to his potential" unless he wants to or is willing to give in to our demand or expectation or request that he do so.  Sometimes it is a maturity issue and students simply become more responsible.  Other times a certain subject or teacher will inspire such aspirations.  It can simply be moving on to college where the student has more autonomy and choice.  Alas, there is no simple answer to this, but I guess I have effectively evaded the question.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Making Money on the Internet

One of the funny little quirks of the internet - and internet marketing - is the massive proliferation of websites and blogs about how to make money on the internet.  The great irony is that these websites offering advice on how to "make money by blogging" are simply sources for the blogger to "make money by blogging."  So, apparently the best way to "make money by blogging" is to create a blog about how to "make money by blogging."  That said, there are ways to make money by blogging, and the amount of money depends entirely on the amount of time, effort, and skill the blogger can put toward it.  Aspiring bloggers and internet marketers can easily go blind - or get a case of computer screen vertigo - by surfing the net in hopes of finding information on "how to make money blogging."  However, there are some standard places, people, books, and tips worth checking out.

This platform Blogger is perhaps the easiest and most accessible of platforms for aspiring bloggers.  Wordpress is the other, and they are both free platforms - though Wordpress is only free at, not  As far as making money, ad revenue is a primary source of income for bloggers and internet marketers.  Using Blogger, the primary way to access the revenue stream is by signing up for Google's AdSense program.  Of course, this is not an easy way to make cash unless you have a website or blog that attracts hundreds, if not thousands of viewers, a day.  And for that you need to produce compelling content.

I've read and researched a fair amount of info on internet marketing in creating my blogs.  One of the first resources I accessed was a man named Darren Rowse who has a popular blog info source called  Darren's cite is a great place to check from time to time for basic information, and he will inspire with his tales of moneymaking.  He also has a book worth reading called Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-figure Income.  It's worth reading, though you must accept that you won't be making this money quickly or at all.  It takes a lot of time - blogging for a living is exactly that - a full time job.

Another successful internet marketer I've read is Joel Comm, whose book The AdSense Code, was informative and inspired me to expect the six-figure income of internet dreams.  The book and Joel's site and info are worth the time.  But, I've never come close to equalling Joel's success.  I also read Mark Anastasi's book The Laptop Millionaire: How Anyone Can Escape the 9 to 5 and Make Money on the Internet.  The book was certainly "inspiring" and somewhat informative in terms of using e-commerce sites like, though it follows the trend of most internet marketing books which are mainly stories of how the author did it, and not much info on how to replicate their success.  And, Mark Anastasi is a man not without controversy.  So tread lightly when researching people promising riches on the internet.

The NRA Response and "Plan" for Armed Guards in Schools is Naive and Foolish

The psychological aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy was worsened on the one-week anniversary of the shooting, when the National Rifle Association (NRA - the gun owners' lobby) broke its silence with a statement by NRA president Wayne LaPierre that ignored all gun control and mental health discussions and instead asserted that the solution to the issue of mass school shootings was to put an armed guard in every school.  In a meandering speech that blamed violence on media which glorifies violent shootings, but ignored blaming the guns in those films and video games, LaPierre did not move the discussion of America's gun violence forward.  In fact, he may have set it back decades - back before the Brady Bill and the shooting of President Reagan.  Lest we - and he - forget that John Hinckley managed to shoot several people by walking right up to the Secret Service and opening fire with a handgun.  Imagine if he had walked up with an assault rifle.  

Alas, it shouldn't be surprising that the lobby for the gun industry argued that the solution to decreasing gun violence is more guns. The sad reality is that no one is going to prevent mass shootings by psychotic individuals when they live in a world where they can access high capacity weapons and find areas where people congregate.  In regards to schools, it's worth noting that America has 100,000 public schools, and that doesn't even include private schools and day care facilities.  Arming them won't stop the carnage because it's simply infeasible.  My school has four buildings covering nearly ninety acres with no less than twenty-five entrances.  There is simply no way an armed guard will provide any guarantee of protection.  

Granted, many of these schools already have armed guards in their schools as part of what is called the School Resource Officer program.  However, as Mary Elizabeth Williams reminds us Columbine High School had an SRO who engaged one of the shooters.  Beyond that, gun supporters seem to forget that a shooter at a military installation - Ft. Hood - managed to shoot dozens before being engaged by military police.  As far as armed citizens goes, does anyone remember George Zimmerman?  Armed citizens have not prevented mass shootings, and could seriously make the situation worse.  At both the Gabby Giffords shooting and the Oregon mall shooting, armed citizens did not take down the shooter, and they worried more about accidentally killing innocent bystanders, as happened when police took on a shooter outside the Empire State Building.  The worse aspect of the NRA's response is that it creates a false sense of security that is far more likely to cause harm than guarantee protection.

In looking at the cost-benefit analysis, it's worth considering all the reasons "The NRA's Plan Won't Work."  I fully support the SRO programs we have in place, and I have no problem supporting them. But extending them into all schools won't prevent tragedy, and it is a wasteful and naive allocation of resources.  To simply equip all schools (not including private schools and day cares and churches and malls and community centers) with a full-time police officer would cost a minimum of $50 million a year, and they would be occupying schools year-round on the one in a million chance that a shooter would appear with no guarantee that the officer would provide any greater protection than police simply responding to calls as they did in Connecticut in under ten minutes.  The reality is that "the odds of any one school being attacked" are very, very small.  And the money spent on arming them could be used in countless other beneficial ways, not the least of which is on "counselors [and psychologists] to work with and engage young people years before they become angry loners."

I am not a supporter of knee jerk, black and white "answers" that offer only a false sense of security.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teachers Will Not and Should Not Carry Guns

It didn't take long in the aftermath of the latest mass shooting at a school for the discussion on gun violence and gun rights to intensify.  Sadly, it went pretty quickly where I thought saner heads would prevail.  Thus, in less than a week Governor Rick Perry and numerous other public figures called for the arming of teachers and administrators as a way to deal with this tragic condition of our society. In fact, one rural district in Texas allows concealed weapons because they "can't afford" security and are thirty miles from town.  Guns in the classroom.  Hmmmm.  I honestly can't believe that seemingly rational people would pose such an idea.  But, they did.  So, let's be clear about one thing.  Guns in the schools is not the answer.

America certainly has a problem with gun violence.  However, I am not going to assert that any specific gun legislation would curtail that.  Additionally, America has a problem with mentally ill people becoming deranged and acting out violently and publicly.  But this is not simply an issue of mental illness.  The sad reality is that we have a considerable number of mentally deranged people who don't get the necessary treatment to prevent them from acting on homicidal impulses.  And it is far too easy for these people to gain access to implements of catastrophic destruction.  Yet, it's not simply a matter of passing an assault weapons ban or perhaps strengthening the health care system.  One is an easy act; one seemingly impossible.  And neither will solve the problem.

Neither will armed teachers and principals in school.

In the past decade, schools and public buildings have made great strides in putting together response plans to decrease the impact of these tragedies.  But we haven't decreased the tragedies.  And armed teachers won't help.  For one, it's simply not going to happen.  I and millions of other teachers and school officials would simply refuse.  Secondly, proponents are delusional if they think that teachers and administrators would calmly and effectively be able to take out a shooter.  Police officers and soldiers practice shooting and crisis situations for thousands of hours - and they still make mistakes.  They still don't hit the right target.  They still commit friendly fire.  They still die in shootouts.  And they are trained to do nothing less than take out assailants.   The average citizen will not do better.  This is true, despite many middle class suburban Rambos out there who think a math teacher could step into the hallway and squeeze off a few rounds with little problem.

Certainly, there are plenty of commentators who are decrying the gun violence and calling for action on gun control or mental health issues or both.  And there are extreme views on each side.  However, some important perspectives on the seriousness of the issue and the need to act now are worth considering.  EJ Dionne of the Washington Post asks "Will We Forget the Kids Of Newtown?" If society does nothing different, if people ignore President Obama's simple point that "we can do better," then Dionne's concern will be realized.  One significant issue will be the impact of high capacity weaponry.  And, I'll admit that I've long wondered how that is defensible.  As Robin Williams asked years ago on stage, "Is there some big-ass moose out their with a bulletproof vest and night vision goggles?"  The assault weapon/machine gun issue seems to fall in with the laws against hand grenades and flamethrowers in my opinion.  On that issue, William Salatin offers some thoughtful commentary on "The Volume Killers" and the significance tied to how quickly these people have inflicted mass carnage - a scope that is simply not possible with lower capacity weapons.

America has plenty of guns.  Plenty.  And more guns are not the answer to gun violence.  Schools should maintain crisis plans and lockdowns, cities should promote the presence of SROs - school resource officers - and communities should seek to get better at identifying potential threats.  That said, it won't be perfect.  There will be more tragedies.  There will always be these types of tragedies.  But we can do more about it.  And, so, I will say it - we should consider some restraints on the gun industry.  A country that requires registration and licenses for people to own or operate a car, or sell cookies out of a home kitchen, should certainly require more stringent and traceable licensing of deadly weapons.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How Long Will You Live? Try Standing Up.

Being an information junkie, I am a big fan of Yahoo News/Health/Sports, etc.  In fact, I have Yahoo as my homepage and I've found their Associated Content to be a worthwhile information source.  One of the standards on YahooHealth is the list of habits you should or shouldn't be doing, as well as advice on what your habits say about you.  With that in mind, Yahoo offers this simple test of longevity based on research by Brazilian doctors who recently published:

Can you easily sit down on the floor and rise from that position?

According to doctors, people who are unable to comfortable get down on the floor and then stand up from a sitting position are considerably more likely to die younger.  It would seem to be a matter of basic fitness, and it's probably a significant red flag if you can't do this.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Are MOOc's like Coursera a Bad Idea

Change is coming to higher education, and that is non-negotiable.  With the advent of on-line learning and a blurring of lines between degrees and competency, the field for associate, bachelor, and master's degrees is shifting.  At A Teacher's View, I have long argued that my philosophy of education is "Whatever Works," and while I firmly assert that not everyone needs a bachelor degree - or a thorough K-12 experience - I would not disagree that more education is better than less.  It's the vehicle by which it's delivered that is changing and probably should.  Thus, we've seen the rise of alternative classes and credentialing that is changing the dynamic for how we determine that someone is competently educated and skilled for a job.

The University of Phoenix pioneered the online degree - albeit for a great profit among school shareholders.  And, Phoenix and lessers like Westwood have developed a reputation of being diploma mills.  In response, or perhaps in spite of, the rise of online education at some elite institutions has changed the game again.  After Khan Academy made online learning look so appealing, the rise of companies like Coursera stepped in to provide all the information of a degree program for free.  What began as professors at places like Stanford and MIT posting syllabi and lessons online became a company through which "students" could basically access and complete all coursework for degree programs at highly respected institutions without ever stepping foot on campus.  And there is a certain degree of reason behind the plan by which a competent student could complete the work and receive "certificate" which validated competence.  And the idea is that at some point employers would have to decided whether an applicant needed a full degree or simply a certificate to qualify for a job.

Not so fast, says Doug Guthrie who writes in the Chronicle this month that we should Jump Off the Coursera Bandwagon.  The traditionalists will reasonably argue that an education is never simply about the coursework.  The loss of human interaction and collaboration and the classroom environment can only serve to weaken and dilute whatever knowledge is gleaned from reading all the course materials.  And, most companies will always prefer someone who could actually get in to Stanford and graduate rather than just read the materials and pass some generalized assessment. 

Still, the world is probably big enough for both Stanford grads and Coursera certificate holders.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Great Games for the Holidays

Hanukkah is over, but there are still eight shopping days until Christmas.  In my family, we are constantly on the lookout for new games, especially at this time of year.  Whether it's something small for a stocking stuffer or a big new board game for under the tree, the holiday season is the perfect time to add new games for the family.  Board games are still the best, and many families could certainly use some fun activities to gather around the coffee table with.  One of our favorite activities in the winter is to head over on cold, snowy weekend days to our neighborhood Starbucks for holiday drinks and a couple hours of game playing.  Consider some of the following.

You can, of course, never go wrong with the classic card game Uno, which should be in every house.  And Yahtzee is a classic that never goes out of style.  However, for a new twist on the dice circuit consider adding Yam-Slam to your game stock.  Yam-Slam is like Yahtzee, except players collect chips for the standard rolls, rather than write down the points.  We love this one for travel as well - great airport time killer.  And, if your family is into dice games and you have never played Farkle, this new spin on dice games is a must.

We recently discovered games from the Blue-Orange, which bills itself as "Hot games for a cool planet."  One of our favorites is Spot-it, which contains multiple card games.  The makers of Spot-it also feature a great game called Trigger which is fun for all ages.  These games are really simple because they only use cards which have all the necessary information.  Both Trigger and Spot-it are the perfect party games.  Blue-Orange is also the home of Yam-Slam, as well as a new version of dominoes called Bendomino, which is the same basic idea but the tiles are curved.

Whatever it is this year, get your game on for the holidays.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

States Don't Need Right-to-Work Laws

The state of Michigan continues to dominate news discussion of jobs and labor after the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a new law restricting the ability of unions to collect dues from workers and effectively turning Michigan - home of the auto industry and an original bastion of organized labor - into a Right-to-Work state.  This move follows similar changes to the law in Wisconsin and Indiana and has severely challenged the strength of labor unions.  Conservatives and Republicans tout these laws as a move to protect liberty, while liberals and Democrats paint it as a toxic attack on working people and a move by corporate America to further erode wages.

Certainly, there are reasons to oppose being "forced" to join a labor union.  Some people feel the union "does nothing for them" and they would rather not pay dues to an organization that they may not believe in.  Certainly, in the education field, many teachers support collective bargaining at the local and even state level but do not believe in or support the positions of the National Education Association (NEA).  At the same time, however, there are reasons to allow automatic deduction for fees related to contract work by the union or association.  If the union has negotiated the contract and work conditions, no worker should be able to benefit from those conditions with financially supporting the work that went into crafting them.

However, this issue should not be legislative, and the country should look to Colorado for guidance on Right-to-Work laws.  Colorado is not a Right-to-Work state, but it is also not a Not-Right-to-Work state.  In Colorado, the decisions on whether to require union membership and automatically deduct union dues from paychecks to pay for benefits such as collective bargaining are made on a shop-to-shop basis.  Each industry and/or company decides what works for its particular management and employees.

And this is the way it should be.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Common Core Does Not Mandate the End of Literature

Despite what many teachers fear, the Common Core has not mandated the end of teaching literature.  Two years after the fact, as teachers finally get around the reading the content and learning standards that have been adopted by 42 states, many teachers are frantic about an alleged "mandate" that 70% of the reading students do in English class be non-fiction or informational texts.  Alas, it's not true.  And the only thing we can be sure of is that administrators and principals and teachers have not read or do not know how to read the standards.

Certainly, the Common Core recommends that informational texts be introduced as part of the curriculum and that this genre increase in emphasis until 70% of the reading high school students do is "informational texts." However, that recommendation and ratio in no way focuses on, or is limited to, the English classroom.  English class generally counts for one-sixth of a high school student's day.  Thus, more than 70% of a student's time is spent in classes like math and science and social studies and health and fine arts.  And in those classes students should be reading and thinking critically about non-fiction texts.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Amazing Race Season Finale - Amazing Win for Beekman Boys

Brains bested braun on the season finale of the Amazing Race - Season 21.  Josh and Brent, the goat farmers known affectionately as the Beekman Boys, outlasted all other teams to win one million dollars and the title of winners of the Amazing Race.  If there were ever a team of underdogs on the Amazing Race, the goat farming, gay, Beekman Boys are that team.  By all accounts, they had no business making it very far in the race, no business making it to the season finale, no business making it to the final three and destination city in New York, and absolutely no business winning it all.  Except for their determination.

Admittedly, I am really sad for Jaymes and James, the Chippendale dancers who were a lot of fun and a competitive team throughout.  With Jaymes' goal of using the million dollars to ease the burden of his dad who is struggling with cancer, it was easy to root for them.  Alas, it was not to be, and that was a tough break.  But, of course, it was great to see the bitchy twins go out before the final leg.  That elimination truly amazed me, as I had no faith the Beekman Boys would best the twins until the girls went the wrong way.  Karma, karma, karma.  And, I have to say that it was nothing but pure karma that Trey and Lexi did not win the Amazing Race.  They had it in the bag until that last challenge, and Lexi simply melted down in a challenge she couldn't quite figure out.  But to my point - Trey and Lexi cheated early in the race, taking money that the bitchy twins stole from Rock Star/Lawyer team.  What goes around ....

A lot of karma going around on this race.  The alliances that the teams made going into the final really bugged me - as it was more Survivor than Amazing Race.  And I was baffled as to why the teams thought they wanted to eliminate the farmers before the final, as everyone thought they were the weakest team.  And the karma just kept coming.  Certainly, Jaymes/James thought they made the right decision in U-turning Abby and Ryan in the second to last leg of the race.  When all was said and done, the alliance truly did need to fear the Beekman Boys the most.

Overall, this was not my favorite season of the Amazing Race by any stretch ... until the very end.  In the end, the final three teams were all really nice people, and it was nice to see them all go for the gold.

Way to go, Beekman Boys!

How Has the Internet Changed College?

In looking at how the internet has changed and shaped the world in the last twenty years, there may be no more significant area of change than its impact on "the college experience."  From the college search to the application process to online classes to graduation day, colleges reflect dramatic shifts in how higher education is accessed and degrees are earned in the twenty-first century.

Before the Classroom

The rise of the internet has made sweeping changes to higher education, but its effects begin well before students get there.  From the first college contacts they make, the internet guides their path.  For example, you may be considering earning a marketing degree to further your career, but now you no longer have to visit every campus to get a feel for what they offer.

Researching graduation rates and a school's reputation via the internet will help you narrow the field, and you can make more informed decisions on which school is right for you.  This can be done from home rather than a rushed, costly weekend trip to the campus.  Once you make a decision, college applications can be submitted online, and many colleges accept the online common application that can be sent to multiple schools.

Online or On Campus

The internet gives students the option of fully realized online classes.  If you're looking to earn your degree while working, online classes offer the opportunity to complete course work while holding a full-time job.  And, online education offers the option of attending an excellent school far away without having to relocate.  For example, MIT offers some programs online through their Open Courseware program with great introductory classes from a nationally accredited university.  The internet has simply removed the debate and obstacles some prospective students face of leaving a job they need in order to earn the degree necessary to advance their career.

A Full Tool Box

Once you're in the classroom, be it a virtual or actual one, the internet will play an important role in your education and college experience.  E-books, podcast lectures, and downloadable materials have streamlined the classroom process in a way that allows more time for learning.  In fact, libraries have seen a decline in usage as a result of the vast resources provided via the internet.  No longer needing to search through a "card catalog," student can simply log on to a school's databases and print articles or bookmark them on Delicious for later.  Additionally, countless apps dedicated to student organization, note taking, and study help are available.  With a laptop, or tablet, and wireless internet, you can download a professor's lecture, write notes for class, and even attach a voice recording of the professor's lessons.  In today's virtual world, there's no excuse for a lack of study materials.

As students complete their college experience, many are in search of internship opportunities.  Social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter help connect students with companies looking for interns.  Websites such as and are great resources that connect college students with their perfect internship via an easy-to-use interface and a plethora of listings.

As today's student becomes more well-versed with technology, countless other ways to improve the college experience will arise for the technologically savvy student.  Whether you are seeking a hands-on or virtual degree, the internet will continue to greatly change the world of the student even as the student seeks to change the world.

* This sponsored post was written by Bill Lester, a not-too-long-ago graduate with a degree in public health

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bobby Flay Defends Easy Bake Oven for All Kids

When thirteen-year-old McKenna Pope first petitioned toymaker Hasbro to change the color - and subsequent marketing - of the Easy Bake Oven for all kids, rather than just girls, she probably didn't know one of the most famous and accomplished celebrity chefs would come to her defense.  No less than Bobby Flay has publicly voiced his support for McKenna's petition - which garnered 30,000 signatures in a week.

McKenna's petition began when she responded to Gavin's assertion that "only girls play with [Easy Bake Ovens]."  And, it's not hard to understand why.  The ovens are pink and always have been decorated and presented in a "girly" way.   Despite Hasbro's assertions that it has portrayed boys on the box and in the commercials in the past, there is little doubt that the ovens - and the entire concept of cooking and baking - is geared toward girls.  Which, of course, is sad in a world of the Food Network with plenty of male celebrity chefs.  In fact, outside of the home kitchen, the culinary arts have been dominated by male chefs (just like all industries).  So, it's nice to see the culinary arts elevated out of the gender-specific home kitchen.

The idea of boys baking - or becoming cooks, even chefs - is one aspect of our need for a renewed support of Career and Technical Education.  In a country that is more and more interested in quality living and haute cuisine - and is ever more defined as a service economy - our schools need to cultivate and support the culinary arts ... even at the earliest years.  Thus, I am proud of McKenna Pope and her campaign.  And I am thrilled by Bobby Flay's public endorsement.  Bobby Flay, who says he asked for an Easy Bake Oven when he was five years old, is the perfect role model for young men who may not fit the paradigm of the model student, but can work wonders in the kitchen - or in some other non-academic art.

Way to go McKenna.  And thanks Bobby Flay.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Technology & Tech Companies Drive Curriculum and Instruction

In talking with my students today about research papers and the research process, I discussed with them the "ease" of doing research in a technological era.  Without a doubt, researching information and pulling it together into a formal paper is much more efficient with the internet and word processing and software and services such as Noodle Tools.  Additionally, the development of search engine filters like have improved a teacher's ability to ensure academic integrity.  Now with the rise of MOOc companies like Khan Academy and Schoolology and COLE and Blackboard, schools can offer countless new services as well as refined versions of old standards.  Certainly, the influence of tech companies on curriculum and instruction has been part of a new direction in school.

Amazing Race - Bitchy Twins Hang On

Darn!  It was a non-Elimination round.

Amazing Race fans thought they were going to be free of the annoying, bitchy, unpleasant twins from Sri Lanka this week when Natalie and Nadyia's inability to drive a stick shift put them behind the seemingly harmless goat farmers.  Alas, it was a non-elimination round which is meant to lead in to the two-hour finale next week.  The first hour, of course, will lead to the elimination of one team and the selection of the final three who will "race for a million dollars."

One interesting scene from this week was the time at the beach, when teams had a free twelve-hours to goof around on the beaches in Spain while they waited for the transportation to their next task to open.  This was actually neat to see.  I'm not sure I've ever seen the Amazing Race show us some downtime, and it was a fun addition to the show.

While many of us were rooting for Abby and Ryan to make the final three - and we all know the goat farmers will never win it all - it was a shame to see the twins stick around.  At this point, I am pulling for James and Jaymes, simply because the goat farmers won't make it, and the other teams are too annoying to root for.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's About "Work," Not Jobs

2012 was definitely the year of "new definitions of normal."  That phrase, which I first encountered several years ago as I reached middle age and a friend comforted me over health concerns with that phrase.  It made a lot of sense and brought some order to the disorder.  Now, I see that adaptation - that wisdom - running throughout society, especially in areas of politics and economics.  Certainly, with the re-election of President Obama and the rise of Nate Silver as a statistical wunderkid, the normal rules for elections no longer apply.  Similarly, changes in the economy have created conditions which are a new definition of normal.  And, for the issue of "jobs," that means redefining jobs as simply "work."  This new definition is well described in Dave Maney's recent column in the Denver Post.  According to Maney:

President Barack Obama and Republican leaders, please take note: Your so-called job-creation policies won't create "jobs" or economic opportunity anymore ... The Internet and related information technologies have created a flourishing independent, self-directed, non-"job"-based economy. It's faster, more efficient and more adaptable than anything ever created — and it's only going to get better. If we let it.
The Government Accountability Office estimates there are 42 million Americans working independently as sole proprietors, consultants, contract laborers, etc. — economic free agents, in other words, increasingly using those Internet tools and platforms to make things happen in the economy. All without the creation of a single job. Work, yes. Income, yes. One-person businesses, yes. But a job, as we have thought of it? No.

Dave Maney has written extensively on ideas such as these, and more of his work can be found in his engaging commentary site