A powerful donor versus academic freedom

University of OklahomaThe CEO of a major energy company asked the University of Oklahoma to fire some faculty, because he didn’t like the way their research was heading.

“Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,” wrote Larry Grillot, the dean of the university’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, in a July 16, 2014, e-mail to colleagues at the university.

There’s more:

And, the dean wrote, Hamm indicated that he would be “visiting with Governor [Mary] Fallin on the topic of moving the OGS out of the University of Oklahoma.”


Hamm also expressed an interest in joining a search committee charged with finding a new director for the geological survey, according to Grillot’s e-mail.

How is it that this oil company executive can intervene in the workings of a public university?

“Hamm, the billionaire founder and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources… has been a generous donor to the University of Oklahoma, including a 2011 gift of $20 million for a diabetes research center named after the oilman. University President David Boren, a former U.S. senator, sits on the board of directors of Hamm’s Continental Resources.”

But the tycoon didn’t get his way.  Kudos to dean Grillot:

Hamm’s meeting with Grillot resulted in no apparent changes at the university. Reached by telephone, Grillot confirmed his discussion with Hamm. He declines to name any individuals that the oil company CEO wanted to have fired but says nobody was dismissed from the Oklahoma Geological Survey and that he never discussed Hamm’s displeasure with OGS staffers.

“I didn’t want it to impact their day-to-day work,” he says. “Foremost for us is academic freedom.” Grillot adds that Hamm was not added to the search committee for the new OGS director.

Let’s tease apart some strands of this story: Continue reading

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Giving a great presentation: some tips and advice

What makes for a great presentation?  How can presenters do a better job?

I wanted to share some thoughts about this, based on my experience.  After decades  of being in a variety of audiences, I have some observations, warnings, and tips for would-be speakers.  I have also been a professional speaker for some years, and would like to pass on what has worked for me.

Caveats: this post is about doing the presentation itself.  Other posts might cover planning for the speech, what to do afterwards, and technology issues.  This post doesn’t address content, just the means of presenting it.  Also, this is by no means complete! It’s a first stab.

Sir Ken Robinson at BETT 2015

Sir Ken Robinson at BETT 2015

The following is organized by time, starting from just before a talk begins.

The hour before your speech

Check out the space.  Physically walk the area, front to back and left to right.  Find the hard-to-reach places.  Get a real sense of how far you’ll have to project your voice.  Check the presentation zone so you know where you can walk.  (I’m a pacer, so need to determine edges and obstacles)   Put yourself in the audience’s shoes (or seats), imagining what it would be like to watch and listen to you.  Get comfortable here.

Test the heck out of all technology.   Continue reading

Posted in presentations and talks, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

One classic open education source to stop

webcast.berkeley logowebcast.berkeley.edu, an open education resource dating back a while, will no longer make new content.  Why?  Financial pressures.

Berkeley will keep on doing lecture capture, just not for the rest of us:

  • We will no longer make recorded lecture videos available to the public
  • We will make recorded lecture videos available to enrolled students via CalCentral and bCourses

They’re still proud of what they used to do, as they should be:

For the past 20 years, recorded lecture videos have been available to students as well as the public. In more recent years the Webcast Classroom Capture program has broadened the window of access into UC Berkeley’s intellectual riches through distribution partnerships with YouTube and iTunes U. Each year we capture and publish nearly 4,500 lecture videos and each video requires an average of 15 minutes of staff time to prepare for public distribution.

But don’t worry.  Berkeley’s still making MOOCs.

Once again the current economic situation damages American higher education.  And open still struggles with sustainability.

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More for-profit colleges to resign the game

Thirty campuses belonging to two for-profit chains will close during the next few weeks, it seems.  They aren’t sacrificing any queens, but resigning the game.

Career Education Corporation and Education Management Corporation will shut down 29 campuses between them.  That means, according to Consumerist,

CEC will close all 14 branches of its Sanford-Brown and Sanford-Brown Institute campuses and sell its Briarcliffe College, Brooks Institute and Missouri College brands, affecting roughly 8,600 currently enrolled students.

“Students enrolled at the closing schools will be able to finish out their degrees, but the schools will stop enrolling new students,” notes Fortune. There will be “[a]bout 5,400 students attend the campuses slated for closure” by EMC, according to MarketWatch.

These closures come close on the heels of the Corinthian meltdown, pointing to a building trend.  PBS wonders if we’re seeing a massive for-profit post-secondary “slump“.  ThinkProgress sees this as a bubble in mid-burst.  Mainstreet thinks of it as a collapsing house of cards.

What will happen to their students, staff, and faculty?

(thanks to Jeff Benton)

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Concluding Robert Putnam’s _Our Kids_, asking “What is To Be Done?”

Robert Putnam, _Our Kids_Today we finish up our online reading of Robert Putnam’s new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

The book’s final chapter reflects on the problems diagnosed so far, and asks simply, classically, “What is to be Done?” As with previous chapters I’ll summarize its content, then offer some reflections, followed by questions.  There’s also a PS on this reading process.

1. Summary

The chapter begins by quickly summarizing the book so far, then extrapolating from those points.  Increasing inequality may actually cost the American economy, in terms of opportunities lost (231-4).  On top of that, the widening class gap may lead to decreasing political participation and civic engagement, which could further split the classes (234-7).  Which would then become intergenerational – in other words,

Inherited political inequality brings us uncomfortably close to the political regime against which the American Revolution was fought. (237)

Perhaps things will get worse still.  Putnam evokes demagogues and fascism, linking civic disengagement to totalitarianism via Hannah Arendt (239-40).

So what is to be done?  Our Kids wants national experimentation with local variations, sounding like FDR’s early New Deal but referencing instead the prior Progressive Era (243-4).  Details: Continue reading

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Teaching the Future

Teach The FutureI’d like to announce the launch of a project I’ve had a small role in.  Teach the Future is a new effort to help teachers at all levels, K-16+, introduce futures thinking into classes.

TtF is developing starter kits for instructors in K-12 and higher education.  There’s a broad-ranging social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TumblrGoogle+, and a blog).  TtF leads are already working with teachers and schools.  And the project is raising funds for next steps.

Teach the Future is led by Peter Bishop, who founded and led the University of Houston’s futures masters program for many years.  Watch him explain the idea and his plans:

My role?  I’m on the board, and help out how I can.

It’s an impressive, ambitious effort.  Check it out.


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The age of disintegrated computing and thoughts on education

Is our computing environment shattering into disintegrated swarms of devices and functions?

This good article on search and hardware makes me think so, and that “disintegrated computing” describes where we’re heading.  But let me back up a bit to set the stage, first.

I’ve been studying the mobile technology world for a while, ever since helping do some research for Howard Rheingold’s Smartmobs (2002).  It became clear to me that we were moving away from computing focused on a single device, be it desktop or laptop. The next stage would include many competing and complementary hardware platforms.

The mobile phone was the first major step in that direction, followed by PDAs, mp3 players, ereaders, then tablets.  Handheld game machines predate those.

14 mobile devices

A swarm of mobile devices **in 2009**.

Now we have added a smattering of other portable and often networked devices, including fitness trackers (I wear a Jawbone UP, my wife a Fitbit), Nike’s shoe devices, head-mounted video cameras, Google Glass, Bluetooth headware, the  Livescribe Smartpen, various Leapfrog devices, classroom clickers, and more.  Laptops keep mutating into new forms, extra-light, Chromebook, tablet hybrid, and so on. Plus there’s the ecosystem of tiny necessary digital tools, from thumb drive to SD cards. Not to mention robots, which we can’t carry, but are portable on their own terms.

Mobile computing grew with support services, starting with WiFi, mobile phone networks, and Bluetooth.  Now it depends on additional supports, most prominently the cloud for storage, shopping, and connections with other users.

So to wrap up the familiar picture: we’re heading into the Internet of Things.  More importantly, we’re achieving the vision of ubiquitous computing. Continue reading

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