Additional Post: Work-life-Balance

After our discussion this past week I believe it is a good idea to outline my views on the subject. These views can be summarized by a quote by David O. McKay nearly 3/4 of a century ago. He writes:

“When one puts business or pleasure above his home, he that moment starts on the downgrade to soul-weakness. When the club becomes more attractive to any man than his home, it is time for him to confess in bitter shame that he has failed to measure up to the supreme opportunity of his life and flunked in the final test of true manhood. “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”

And I believe this. It is important to caveat that I believe in long, hard work, but never to the detriment of family. On the contrary, we should work to the benefit of family whether that a be a family of ten or a family of one. A “work culture” can sometimes reward this brand of imbalance, but it isn’t without cost. Working too much takes it toll, though it may be less apparent initially than the larger bank account or notoriety around the office.

In all aspects of life we can be figuratively fit, well, or sick. We should try to achieve and maintain physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, relationship fitness. To the extent that we can we should attempt to strike a balance among these competing priorities. This is what helps avoid polarization to become a “whole”. Synergistically, when a person becomes fit in one of these aspects the others magically improve in tandem. For a simple example, when a person decides to become more financially responsible she often improves her relationship with her spouse. Then then, magically, she choose to eat better and exercise more. Then she takes time to connect emotionally and spiritually on routine basis.

This is not to say that there will be chapters of our lives where we will need to work more. This could be days, weeks, or on occasion even months. We should be aware of the cost of this polarization and do our best to return to balance as soon as we are able.

So, in summary, it is good to work very very very hard, but to never forget that we are more than our pay check, report card, or professional reputation. We should resist glorifying overwork or allow it to become a part of our identity. Instead we should try to be fit, balanced, and whole.

Additional Post: Prosperity

I would like to share a few thoughts about a book,“Disrupting Class” by Clayton M. Christensen, that I reading right now that is relevant to this class . If you haven’t had the chance to read it, I strongly recommend it. The book is well-researched and very insightful on the state of higher education today and offers a few possible directions it might go in the near future.

On page 9 of the introduction the book quotes John Adams. It says:

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

This last group, the group that has the freedom to pursue whatever they find interesting, seems to be a pretty good description of the Millennial Generation, my generation. We live in a prosperous time and should do all that we can to distribute prosperity. We were raised by the Baby Boomers, who were raised by the WWII generation. The WWII generation (if we are speaking in terms of the collective in this period, not individuals) were forced to war and had fewer options at education and career choice. Many of them worked in trade jobs their entire lives because they had little chance to further their education that was disrupted by the political conditions of the time. My great grandfather was one of them. After he came back from WWII he was a painter. Because he was a painter his whole life he made sure that his four sons had the chance to go to college to study engineering, math, science, business, etc. His son, my grandfather, the first of his family to go college studied physics. A little later my father went to college to study engineering. Both physics and engineering are intensely difficult subjects to study. I took one course in statics and one course in introductory physics….and no more. My grandfather and father studied these subjects because these fields provide lucrative employment opportunities, and not necessarily because they are in love with the second law of thermodynamics. Because of their hard work and sacrifice I was recipient of opportunities that my progenitors never had. For possibly the first time in my family history, I had the chance to study WHATEVER I wanted. What a privilege that was! Also, what a responsibility.

I now have two daughters and I will encourage them to study what they are interested in and what they can become gainfully employed in. I want them to be able to pursue prosperity, however they define it, and to pass it on to their children and neighbors, in even greater abundance than they received it.

The Future of the University

If I were able to change one thing about higher education it would be the price. Higher education has been, is, and is projected to be, too expensive. I would like to share a portion of my end-of-term paper for this class that touches on this topic.

State-level policy makers and academic leadership have failed to implement controls or strategies that make higher education affordable. This is true even for the states that have made the most progress in making college affordable and if the current trajectory remains unchanged “opportunity through higher education will be a false promise” for future generations. (Finney, 2016) While the typical family income has done well to stay ahead of average monetary inflation, it is no match for the inflation rate of higher education. (Odland, n.d.) Since the mid-1980s the consumer price index has increased by roughly 115% while the cost of higher education has increased by nearly 500% ( Odland, n.d. ) Even after inflation is accounted for the cost of college is double what it was in in 80s. (Maldonado, n.d.) Digging deeper, the severity of the problem becomes even more apparent. In the past 30 years, since 1989, the cost of higher education rose eight times faster than the wage rate which has effectively remained unchanged over that time period. (Maldonado, n.d. ) Unfortunately, the outlook doesn’t improve by looking at the past decade in isolation. The data shows that since 2009 the cost of an undergraduate education, including tuition, fees, room, and board, rose 34 percent at public institutions and 26 percent for private. (National Center for Education Stasitics, n.d.)

So, as you can see, I have done a very good job being a problem identifier without risking being a problem solver. Nevertheless, awareness is the first step. My estimation that any real and meaningful solutions to higher education will be uncomfortably disruptive.

References:

Finney, J. E. (n.d.). 2016 College Affordability Diagnosis: National Report, 41. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1481&context=gse_pubs

National Cetner for Education Statistics (n.d.). The NCES Fast Facts Tool provides quick answers to many education questions Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76

Maldonado, C. (n.d.). Price Of College Increasing Almost 8 Times Faster Than Wages. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/camilomaldonado/2018/07/24/price-of-college-increasing-almost-8-times-faster-than-wages/

Odland, S. (n.d.). College Costs Out Of Control. Retrieved February 18, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveodland/2012/03/24/college-costs-are-soaring/


Critical Pedagogy: Defined and Illustrated

During class our table (Table 4: Aislinn, Ben, Sengul, Susan, Andrew, Rathsara – full names and blogs posted at the bottom of this post) discussed perspectives of critical pedagogy. Below is our definition of the term followed by objects that illustrate a few key concepts. Enjoy!

Critical Pedagogy is a process where learning is teaching and teaching is learning.

Reality is a process

Skipping Play Hard GIF by theAwkwardYeti - Find & Share on GIPHY

Critical Pedagogy challenges what we know and the structures that control society

Knowledge Russians GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Critical consciousness can be used as a political tool

Game Of Thrones Power GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Banking Concept of Teaching

Think, Engage, Work together, Learn

Hand In Hand Illustration GIF by Kochstrasse™ - Find & Share on GIPHY

Susan – School is failing to teach us the necessary skills to function once we become an adult. Instead, most of the topics that are taught are important, but may not be important later in life.

Susan – As a TA or an instructor, I am always learning, either from research literature or from my students. I don’t know everything about a topic and I don’t think I ever will.

Contributors:

Aislinn’s Blog: http://aislinn-mccann.com/

Ben Kirkland: https://benkirkland.home.blog/

Sengul Yildiz Alanbay: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/sengulalanbay/

Susan’s blog https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/chensusan518/

Andrew Barnes Blog: https://drewbarnes892674021.wordpress.com/category/grad-5114-contemporary-pedagogy-19/

Rathsara Herath: https://rathsaraherath.home.blog/

Banking Concept vs Problem-posing

This week I have been assigned to read and prepare to share with the class a portion of Paulo Freire’s seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. See the link below.

Chapter 2 of the Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire: http://faculty.webster.edu/corbetre/philosophy/education/freire/freire-2.html

First, I would like to provide some background on the author. I did some quick research on Paulo Freire on Wikipedia and learned that this work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, is considered one of the foundational texts of the overall crtitical pedagogy movement. Taking directly from his Wikipedia page “Since the publication of the English edition in 1970, Pedagogy of the Oppressed has had a large impact in education and pedagogy worldwide, especially as a defining work of critical pedagogy. According to Israeli writer and education reform theorist Sol Stern, it has ‘achieved near-iconic status in America’s teacher-training programs'”. Some additional relevant trivia is that Paulo wrote this text in response to other contemporary works that emphasized the need to formally educate the indigenous populations of his native Brazil which is, needless-to-say, controversial.

In Chapter 2 of the book, two main teaching approaches are outlined and branded by Freire. The first, Freire calls the “banking concept of education“. In this approach “education thus becomes an act of depositing…knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry.”

Although this description is a rather cynical description of formal education, the point is made. Learners are empty vessels to be filled and (should) make no contribution to the process expect by consuming the subject matter. I don’t believe that I have ever been subjected to this extreme level of the banking concept, but I have definitely had samples. If my experience is anything like what Freire is describing, I agree with the author that this method is lousy.

The second approach that Freire introduces is one he calls “problem-posing” education. In a lengthy expert from the text, problem-posing education “breaks with the vertical characteristic of banking education, can fulfill its function of freedom only if it can overcome the above contradiction. Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. In this process, arguments based on “authority” are no longer valid; in order to function authority must be on the side of freedom, not against it. Here, no one teaches another, nor is anyone self-taught. People teach each other, mediated by the world, by the cognizable objects which in banking education are “owned” by the
teacher.”

This approach is one that I am familiar with and am particular to. I especially like the portion of the previous quote that says “arguments based on “authority” are no longer valid.” The authority argument, which is to say, “I have a credential therefore my opinion is right”, has always been a weak and contentious one. It removes the responsibility of the authority figure from justifying a position which is a great disservice to learners. The quality of the thought, not the diploma on the wall, is what should be graded. Beyond that, it is regarded as pretentious and a little lazy.

Let me know your thoughts on the two approaches outlined above.

Tech & innovation in Higher Education: Professors & Online Learning

My comments in this post come from the Quartz article posted below titled US professors aren’t getting any more accepting of online learning—but students definitely are published in February 2016 by Amy X. Wang.

https://qz.com/612592/us-professors-arent-getting-any-more-accepting-of-online-learning-but-students-definitely-are/

https://www.theatlas.com/charts/E1mBYbG5e

The article speaks about the reaction that faculty in higher education has to online learning. It makes the argument that faculty have, over time, clearly
expressed that they simply don’t want the new technology. This could because they believe it “diminishes the quality of teaching or even their paychecks [but either way] they aren’t getting much of a say.” The article goes on to use this example to criticize that universities are being run like businesses from the top down.

I am somewhat skeptical of these explanations. There is a natural conflict asking professors to judge the automization of their own jobs. It is like asking truckers if they want self-driving trucks. Also, the “administrators” in the “top-down” decision making structure are often professors themselves. The article doesn’t disclose this making it seem like “administrators” are exclusively the back-office money people, with little interest in faculty input. This is almost never the case.

Regardless of the analysis provided by the author of this popular media piece, the research is clear that online learning has remained flat over the 13 years observed. As a final thought, I wonder if other technologies like Powerpoint, learning management systems, web-conferencing, etc. had similar trouble launching in the same university environment.

Safe Spaces & Brave Spaces – Home & School

In light of the recent free speech executive order, the topic of safe spaces on college campuses has become more prevalent in popular and news media sources. What I have read has inspired a few thoughts that I would like to share. I believe that college should generally be a relatively uncomfortable place, not because discomfort is the objective in itself, rather because it is the natural result of growth and progress. In the college environment I should be challenged to think in new and different ways. I should be exposed to a diversity of thought that is foreign to my own. I should be presented new ideas that enrich my perspective and broaden my view. In summary, the classroom should be the arena, not the spa.

I also believe it is important to have a controlled environment, call it a “safe space”, to consider in my own way what I have learned in the classroom. This safe space should be my home, a familiar place where I am can close the door and be left to mentally digest what I have learned.

I have two daughters, one of which will be going to kindergarten in the coming months. I know school will be a place where she is confronted with new ideas that may be uncomfortable. I am glad this the case. It is for her good. Also, I am glad that she has a safe and familiar home to return to at the end of each school day. It is my responsibility to provide her with both places and support and guide her as best that I can.

Higher Education

The scandals in higher education have brought to the forefront a topic that affects all of us who are looking at a career in higher education. This is the value and purpose of going to college, and for the topic of inclusive pedagogy, it highlights the accessibility problems that currently plague higher education overall. An NBC poll from 2017 says show that 47 percent of respondents believe that a college degree is not worth the cost “because people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt to pay off”. This is an increase from 40 percent in 2013 who said that college is not worth it. Zooming in further, this number jumps to 57 percent when the responses are narrowed to the 18-34 age category.

Beyond the surveys, the College Learning Assessment (CLA) corroborates the NBC poll. In 2017, the CLA reported that “only minimal learning gains are derived from the college experience,” and when detectable, these gains were considered to be “statistically modest” Expressly, the CLA results showed that 45 percent of students failed to demonstrate any statistically significant improvement in assessment performance over the first two years of college. Further, 36 percent of students failed to show statistically significant improvements over all four years of college

These perceptions, displayed by the survey, and the quality, demonstrated by recent CLA data justify the failing trust that the public has in higher education. Nevertheless, it is well-established that, in general, higher education continues to be a good financial investment. The question is, for how long?

Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.

NBC Report: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/americans-split-whether-4-year-college-degree-worth-cost-n799336

CLA Report: https://www.aacu.org/liberaleducation/2017/winter/neuman

Curiosity & Conformity

This week’s post focuses on the viewpoint article Curiosity as a Learning Outcome by W. Gardner Campbell, the Director of Professional Development and Innovative Initiatives in the Division of Learning here at Virginia Tech (link posed at the bottom).

I feel very torn by this article. On one hand, without a doubt I see and share the value of engaging and encouraging curiosity. I, like many, or possibly all, students know what it feels like to be forced to learn something that is utterly boring and un-engaging. There are certain subjects that I have a natural affinity for and enjoy engaging with. Other subjects never stop being a chore. This being said, I believe that it is beneficial to introduce students to subjects that they might not be naturally inclined toward. It is an enriching experience. Like the author propses, the times that I have felt the most “alive” during my education is when I stop thinking about school as school, I lose track of time, page-length, and letter grades and fully immerse myself in the pursuit of a curiosity. The satisfaction that comes as a result of fulfilling a curiosity is rewarding, and can even be addicting. This experience is what formal education should strive towards.

On the other hand I don’t believe that children, and often teenagers, should be left to determine how to spend their own time, because…they are children. They need guidance. They need to learn conformity, by compulsion if not by persuasion, in many ways until they reach an age where there are fully accountable for the consequences of their choices. For example, I know that as a 10 year old (and maybe even a 16 year old…or 25 year old) if I were given full autonomy over my education, I wouldn’t have one. Instead of learning, I would have spent the entirety of my time playing Twisted Metal 2 on my PS1 and eating toaster strudels by the crate.

So, in summary, conformity has its time and place. It isn’t a universal good or evil. Conformity is the way that a society establishes a set of standards that can make it function. It is true that conformity, like many other things, can turn from virtue to vice if not properly managed, but this is the reason for teachers, formal or otherwise. They help students, formal or otherwise, conform to society while concurrently finding their individual passion that will benefit the society that they are a part of. Simply put, it is important to both lead and to follow.

https://campustechnology.com/articles/2011/12/28/curiosity-as-a-learning-outcome.aspx

Open Access

The open access journal that I have found is the Construction Science. It is a peer-reviewed, journal established with the Riga Technical University in Latvia. The journal is published in English and it

“aims at publishing results of research concerning topical issues in development of advanced materials, constructions and technologies, recycled product application, ecological (“green”) and energy efficient materials in civil engineering. It provides information on recent research in various branches of civil engineering carried out by researchers at Riga Technical University and in collaboration with partners abroad. The journal covers the following sectors of Construction science:

Building Materials and Building Technology;

Building Mechanics;

Building Constructions;

Heat, Gas and Water Engineering Systems;

Composite Materials in Civil Engineering.”

The journal didn’t mention anything specific about being dedicated to open access; however, it did mention that it is part of “a growing community of Similarity Check System’s users in order to ensure that the content published is original and trustworthy. Similarity Check is a medium that allows for comprehensive manuscripts screening, aimed to eliminate plagiarism and provide a high standard and quality peer-review process.” So it seems that it is part of the information reform movement generally, but on a different front than explicitly open access.

I have noticed that many of the journals that are included in the open access category are foreign. If I am right, that a disproportionate amount of the journals are foreign, rather than Domestic United States journals, I wonder why this is the case. If anybody has insight or additional knowledge please let me know your thoughts.