Weekend Reading: The End Is Near


The splashy news here at the tail end of the week is edX & ASU’s announcement that they are going to offer a first year of college. Not for free, or even for “as inexpensively as many community colleges,” but since it’s pass, *then* pay, there’s still a somewhat innovative approach to the business model. Jonathan Rees has described the offering of MOOCs for credit as “weaponized” education technology,” and I’m not sure he’s wrong.

The bit that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around is this: at present, two of the biggest roadblocks to faculty as they adapt classes into the MOOC format are the complete inability to offer serious writing assignments, and difficulties or expenses around copyright. So, at least in the near term, what’s being contemplated is a first year without meaningful feedback on writing from an instructor, and with no or few readings that are still under copyright. (Good thing no one reads poetry anyway–no need to assign any contemporary ones!)

I would not want to be subject to a year’s worth of curriculum imagined on those grounds. It no longer feels like higher education, in any interesting sense. (And I find MOOCs pretty interesting!) That said, I expect we are going to have a lot of interesting data to interpret and argue about over the next several years!

  • Large-format conference posters are great, but can you wear them as a cape? In “Fabric Conference Posters FTW!”, Emily Rice explains how to have a boss poster that also travels well: Fabric posters are high print quality, cheaper than paper posters, and so much easier to transport. The only downside is that you need to order them at least a week in advance for the best product.
  • More bad news on higher ed: “Dating in Academia” “is awful.” The good (?) news? “Dating is tough, no matter what you do.”
  • Mike Vardy suggests that, despite its centrality to the GTD orthodoxy, “two minutes tasks don’t work”: I think of two-minute tasks like the two minute warning in the NFL. The last two minutes of any NFL game takes far longer than two minutes. In fact, the time each game takes will vary. Sometimes the last two minutes can last ten minutes and sometimes it can last thirty. It all depends on other variables in the game.
  • Adele Peters outlines the utility of inconvenience: “Quantified self technologies are just about information,” says Laschke. “It might tell you the number of steps taken or calories burned, but it doesn’t help you in the situation to behave differently. When you’re sitting on the couch, it’s still comfortable to watch TV.”
  • This is a great post about the vulnerability that’s necessary to learning, by Brittany Tarvin: in order to find my self confidence in a particular subject or space, I have to put myself out there first. I have to work up to it. Self assurance doesn’t just materialize like a super power that I can summon when I need it. I have to work through some vulnerable feelings like fear, embarassment, inferiority, doubt, or anxiety to get there. It’s like walking into a room full of people you don’t know at a networking event and jumping into a conversation, then doing it again the next week. After awhile it stops being intimidating and even kind of fun. But most people don’t just get to skip the intimidation and nervousness entirely, though we all do experience vulnerability in different ways and to different degrees.

Before the video, a gift! Friends, last winter The Hold Steady, the quasi-official-band-of-ProfHacker, played an epic four-night stand at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Three of the nights, they made high-quality recordings of the shows, and they’ve been releasing them for free. The last night of the four was released today, and it’s a doozy. Whereas the other nights focused on playing an album front-to-back, this one is . . . well, it’s whatever they wanted to play. And it’s great! You should definitely download it, and we’ll all have a real good time together. (Ok, ok: here’s the third night, when they played Boys and Girls in America, and here’s night two, with Separation Sunday.)

This week’s video is a shoutout to “All the Lazy Boyfriends,” from the new They Might Be Giants album, Glean:

Have a great weekend!

(Sorry for the dramatic title–but on my campus it’s the last Friday of classes, and the spring semester will wrap up everywhere pretty soon!)

Photo “Diagnosis: Doomed!” by Flickr user JD Hancock / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0

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