Category: Education

More on What You Won’t Get Out of a MOOC

My post on massive open online courses (MOOCs) generated a bit of commentary. Since I am busy with travel, a grant proposal, and a commissioned article on top of the usual research and committee work these days (I don’t teach in the fall), I thought I would summarize that commentary in lieu of a proper Monday post.

First came a post by Aine Seitz McCarthy, one of our PhD students whose blog also focuses on development. Aine (“pronounced like An-ya”) sees MOOCs as a threat to her future employment: Continue reading

What You Won’t Get Out of a MOOC (Updated)

(Credit: catspyjamasnz.)
(Credit: catspyjamasnz.)

I have been toying for a while with the idea of writing something about massive open online courses (MOOCs). But the more I thought about MOOCs, the more I struggled to come up with an original angle, and with something that hasn’t already been said better elsewhere.

It wasn’t until Sunday morning, which is when I usually sit down to write blog posts for the week, that I thought of something interesting enough to be shared here when I thought of one of my favorite essays in development economics.

The essay in question is by Lant Pritchett and is titled “The Policy Irrelevance of the Economics of Education.” It was published in 2009 in a Brookings collection of essays edited by Jessica Cohen and Bill Easterly titled What Works in Development? Continue reading

#SWEDOW on Steroids

The One Laptop Per Child organization is trying something new in two remote Ethiopian villages — simply dropping off tablet computers with pre-loaded programs and seeing what happens.

The goal: to see if illiterate kids with no previous exposure to written words can learn how to read all by themselves, by experimenting with the tablet and its preloaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs. Continue reading

Attacks on Academia in America

There is a terrifying trend in this country right now of attacking academia, specifically, and free thought and intellectualism, generally. Free thought is painted as subversive, dangerous, elitist, and (strangely) conspiratorial. (That word… I do not think it means what you think it means.) Universities are accused of inefficiency and professors of becoming deadwood after tenure or of somehow “subverting the youth”. (Socrates’s accusers made a similar claim before they poisoned one of the great thinkers of the human race.) Politicians attack science to score points with religious fundamentalists and corporate sponsors.

Some elements of these feelings have always floated through the United States psyche, but in recent years it has risen to the level of a festering, suppurating, gangrenous wound in the zeitgeist of the country. Perhaps those who sling accusations at education have forgotten that the US reshaped millennia of social and economic inequity by leading the way in creating public education in the nineteenth century? Or that education has underlaid the majority of the things that have made this country great — fields in which we have led the world? Art, music, literature, political philosophy, architecture, engineering, science, mathematics, medicine, and many others? That the largest economy in the world rests on (educated) innovation, and that the most powerful military in human history is enabled by technological and engineering fruits of the educational system? That the very bones of the United States — the constitution we claim to hold so dear — was crafted by highly educated political idealists of the Enlightenment, who firmly believed that freedom and a more just society are possible only through the actions of an enlightened and educated population of voters?

From an exellent blog post by the University of New Mexico’s Terran Lane explaining why he is leaving academia for the private sector. I’ve quoted the best excerpt, but really, the whole thing is worth reading.

(HT: Andreas Ortmann, via Facebook.)