Today in the Open Learning MOOC: fake news and crap detection

AAC&U MOOC 2017Today is the fourth day of a week of digital literacy discussion, part of the Open Learning MOOC.

Today’s assignment is to explore connections between digital literacy, fake news, open education, and politics. Our reading is Crap Detection 101, by Howard Rheingold.

We’ll discuss and riff on this through a Google Hangout to be held today from 12-1 pm eastern standard time.  (I’m emailing people directly; email me if you’d like an invite; I’ll also share the link on Twitter) And we will continue to enjoy still more Twitter conversation.  Don’t forget the hashtag #OpenLearning17.

Bonus content: the Snopes fake news archive.

If you’d like to catch up on this Open Learning MOOC project, check my post outlining the week’s resources and assignments.  Look at the course’s main site. Feel free to listen to my audio introduction to digital literacy and why it matters for open education and/or to partake of the Twitter conversation (hashtag #OpenLearning17) .

Coming up for the rest of the week, one more day:

Friday, February 24: The future of digital literacy: audio statement from Bryan.  Twitter live chatfrom 12-1 pm eastern standard time. Irrepressible Twitter conversation.

Bonus content: a new digital literacy politics.

I’m looking forward to your thoughts!

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Digital literacy around the world in 2017: today in the Open Learning MOOC

AAC&U MOOC 2017Today is the third day of a week of digital literacy discussion, part of the Open Learning MOOC.  Is mid-MOOC Wednesday digital hump day?

Today’s assignment is to watch and listen to the recent New Media Consortium webinar on Digital Literacy.  It’s a rich conversation about the subject involving almost ten people across several continents.  There’s a wide range of perspectives. Here’s more information about the topic and the participants (I, alas, wasn’t among them).

Next, respond to the discussion by extending it, using one more more of these technologies  to share your thoughts (hey, actually doing digital literacy!):

…in comments at the end of this blog post

…on your own blog

…in comments on that YouTube page

…on Twitter (don’t forget the hashtag #OpenLearning17)

Today’s bonus content is the NMC digital literacy briefing.  I have some background posts here, here, here, here, and here.

If you’d like to catch up on this project, check my post outlining the week’s resources and assignments.  Feel free to listen to my audio introduction to digital literacy and why it matters for open education and/or to partake of the Twitter conversation (hashtag #OpenLearning17) and/or to read into some bonus content, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning”.

Coming up for the rest of the week:

Thursday, February 23: Digital literacy, fake news, and politics. Reading: Crap Detection 101, by Howard Rheingold.  Google Hangout from 12-1 pm eastern standard time.  Still more Twitter conversation.

Bonus content: the Snopes fake news archive.

Friday, February 24: The future of digital literacy: audio statement from Bryan.  Twitter live chatfrom 12-1 pm eastern standard time. Irrepressible Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: a new digital literacy politics.

I’m looking forward to your thoughts!

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Tomorrow morning I lead a video panel on digital literacy

More digital literacy!  Tomorrow I’m leading a videoconference discussion on the subject.  That’s February 22nd, running from 8-9 am US Central Time.

NMC Beyond the HorizonIt’s part of the New Media Consortium (NMC)’s Beyond the Horizon videoconference series.    It draws on prior NMC digital literacy work, including the report I co-authored and December’s videoconference session on this very topic.

My fellow panelists are an international lot, including Helen Beetham (UK), Cheryl Brown (University of Cape Town), and Yves Punie (European Commission Institute for Prospective Technological Studies).

Here’s the official description:

How do we prepare students to live and thrive in a digital society? Digital literacy goes beyond technical skills. It includes the complex practices of digital professions and subject specialisms. It involves the lifelong, life-wide skills required to thrive in a digital society. Institutions are charged with developing students’ digital citizenship, ensuring mastery of responsible and appropriate technology use, including online communication etiquette and digital rights and responsibilities in blended and online learning settings and beyond.

Some readings to consider: there’s December’s video discussion:

There are also documents from the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens, also known as (DigComp). They published a digital competence framework report, along with a report on computational thinking.  And more from the official description:

This new category of competence is affecting curriculum design, professional development, and student-facing services and resources. In this event, panelists will discuss how learning-focused organizations and national governments are responding to these new responsibilities. Panelists’ expertise includes the development of national and international frameworks to support digital literacies.

Participation is free to NMC Members and $125 for everyone else.  Here’s the official link: http://go.nmc.org/digilit2.

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The ACRL Information Literacy Framework: today in the Open Learning MOOC

AAC&U MOOC 2017Today is the second day of a week of digital literacy discussion, part of the Open Learning MOOC.

Today’s discussion document is the ACRL Information Literacy Framework (2015-16).  This is an important update in information literacy thinking, incorporating digital literacy developments.  Please read it, and then respond using one more more of these technologies (hey, actually doing digital literacy!):

…in comments at the end of this blog post

…on your own blog

…on Twitter (hashtag #OpenLearning17)

…through the Hypothes.is annotation plugin.  We have an Open Learning ’17 Hypothes.is group, which you’re welcome to join.  You can also check the openlearning17 tag on that platform.  You’ll note that this is an additional method for engaging with digital documents.

Today’s bonus content is a European digital literacy document that complements the ACRL’s, “DigComp 2.0: The Digital Competence Framework for Citizens. Update Phase 1: the Conceptual Reference Model.”

If you’d like to catch up on this project, check my post outlining the week’s resources and assignments.  Feel free to listen to my audio introduction to digital literacy and why it matters for open education and/or to partake of the Twitter conversation (hashtag #OpenLearning17) and/or to read into some bonus content, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning”.

Coming up for the rest of the week:

Wednesday, February 22: Watch and listen to the recent New Media Consortium webinar on Digital Literacy.  More Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: the NMC digital literacy briefing.

Thursday, February 23: Digital literacy, fake news, and politics. Reading: Crap Detection 101, by Howard Rheingold.  Google Hangout from 12-1 pm eastern standard time.  Still more Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: the Snopes fake news archive.

Friday, February 24: The future of digital literacy: audio statement from Bryan.  Twitter live chatfrom 12-1 pm eastern standard time. Irrepressible Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: a new digital literacy politics.

I’m looking forward to your thoughts!

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Launching a week of digital literacy

AAC&U MOOC 2017Today I’m kicking off a week of digital literacy discussion.  This effort is part of the Open Learning MOOC, which in turn is part of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Faculty Collaboratives program.  Gardner Campbell is the chief cat-herder and impresario.

What does digital literacy have to do with open education, and vice versa?  That is the subject of this week’s exploration.

My plan for the week is that each day centers on a document in different media platforms (web page, pdf, video, audio files).  Participants (such as these fine people) will discuss and riff upon it from their own sites and through Twitter (hashtag #OpenLearning17).  There is a bonus reading for each day as well.

Here’s the week’s schedule:

Monday, February 20: An audio introduction to digital literacy and why it matters for open education.  Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning”.

Tuesday, February 21: Discussion of the ACRL Information Literacy Framework. Participants can annotate and respond to the Framework by using Hypothes.is.  Twitter conversation continues.
Bonus content: “DigComp 2.0: The Digital Competence Framework for Citizens. Update Phase 1: the Conceptual Reference Model.”

Wednesday, February 22: Watch and listen to the recent New Media Consortium webinar on Digital Literacy.  More Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: the NMC digital literacy briefing.

Thursday, February 23: Digital literacy, fake news, and politics. Reading: Crap Detection 101, by Howard Rheingold.  Google Hangout from 12-1 pm eastern standard time.  Still more Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: the Snopes fake news archive.

Friday, February 24: The future of digital literacy: audio statement from Bryan.  Twitter live chatfrom 12-1 pm eastern standard time. Irrepressible Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: a new digital literacy politics.

Please join in as much as you’d like.  You can connect yourself formally to the project here, or comment on my blog posts, or tweet, or a mixture of these.

You can find more about the MOOC and associated projects here.

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Paying the Price: readers get creative, City of Broken Dreams, and Getting to Graduation

Our reading of Sara Goldrick-Rab’s Paying the Price continues, as we reach some of the last chapters. It’s a powerful, meticulously researched, and vital book for anyone interested in American education.  (Click here to find all posts and discussion on the reading so far)

Paying the Price, resting on my laptops

News items have cropped up which support the book’s findings.  For example, NPR recently reported on rising homelessness and hunger among college students (thanks to Kyle Johnson for the pointer).  At Inside Higher Ed Matt Reed reminds us to pay more attention to community colleges, and commends Goldrick-Rab for doing just that.

At the same time, other readers have been sharing their thoughts. Robin DeRosa tweeted her reading, and neatly Storified the series of 46+ tweetsJohn Stewart blogged about how to discuss changes in higher education finance, and an Oklahoma University provost describing the impacts of state budget cuts.

In this post I’ll discuss the next two chapters, 8 and 9, “City of Broken Dreams” and “Getting to Graduation.”  I’ll outline their contents, then  ask some discussion questions.

To participate, you can leave thoughts and your own questions as comments below.  You can also write in our reading’s Google Doc.  And if that’s not enough, you can also join the Twitter conversation by using the hashtag #payingtheprice.

For more information about this reading, check the posts about the book so far under this tag.

8: City of Broken Dreams

Once again, it’s clear to me that Paying the Price focuses on students we normally don’t discuss in higher education.  She’s not dwelling on learners from professional families who head off to distant and elite colleges, where they find themselves in an atmosphere of detached contemplation.  Paying the Price is about the rest of us, the majority of learners, the bulk of America’s higher ed experience.

Chapter 8 focuses on the experience of students in one major city, Milwaukee.  It’s a good exemplar of low income and/or minority populations within Wisconsin.

Milwaukee, by Ron Reiring

It also reminds us that the clear majority of college students attend very local institutions: “More than three in four students attend colleges within fifty miles of their homes, continuing their relationships with families, neighbors, and nearby institutions as they pursue degrees.” (Kindle location 3781)

Milwaukee students tended to be less well supported than those attending other state institutions, and fared less well (3837ff).  The state university there is relatively starved for resources compared to the Wisconsin branch.  Privatization of higher ed hit UW-Milwaukee very hard:

Once, going to UW–Milwaukee cost relatively little because of the large state subsidy. Today, students and the families must use their incomes and savings—if they have any— along with grants and loans to pay the tuition bills (3935)

Meanwhile, the real costs of living and studying in Milwaukee are higher than those of other areas.  “The result is de facto segregation in higher education.” (3975)

Goldrick-Rab freights her research with heartbreaking personal stories.  We learn about hard-working and ambitious Alicia, who drops out after “spen[ding] eight semesters in school” (3894), and Anne, nearly derailed by odd housing policies (4163ff).  Jose’s positive story (4101ff) is in sharp contrast.

One key detail I don’t want to miss: “the childcare program at her university was greatly oversubscribed, as are the majority of such programs across the country.” (3868)

9: Getting to Graduation 
Continue reading

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Two sobering datapoints for American higher education economics

I’d like to share some recent economic research.  Saying so is usually a cue that insomnia and narcolepsy have both at last been cured, but I think these are important points for higher education. Each are vital, and their interaction is sobering.

I have included colorful graphs to help you along the way.

The first finding comes from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and analyzes how consumer debt is changing.  Note the size and role of student loans, the pink band on top:
American consumer debt, 2004-2016

Please notice the total amount of student debt: $1.31 trillion.  It increased by a mere $31 billion in just the last three months of 2016.

Note, too, how the proportion of student loans within consumer loans is growing.  Not only do we owe more student loans than ever before, but that debt takes up a larger chunk of our debt than ever before.

The second point is broader in scope, and concerns the total American economy.  This analysis is from another Federal Reserve bank, the one in Richmond, and analyzes how several key factors are changing.  I’d like to draw your attention to two lines in this graph, gross domestic product (GDP) and productivity:

US GDP and productivity, 1958-2014

(I’ll hit on employment at another time, time permitting)

You’ll see that gross domestic product growth (the thick dark blue line) (how much economic stuff, goods and services alike, we make) has slowed down drastically since around 2005, with an especially big collapse in 2007-2008 – i.e., the financial meltdown.  But GDP growth has continued to shrink right up through the data’s end.  In short, the American economy is barely growing at all.  Given that our population keeps growing in size, that level of GDP growth just about accounts for the new humans.  In short, American economic growth has stalled out.

One reason for that is the slowdown in productivity growth (the red dashed line above).  This is crucial.  As Paul Krugman famously observed, “Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.”  That’s how economies grow.  Productivity growth is the power of any financial progress.  And you can look back in the chart to see it taking a walloping during the late 70s and early 80s, with stagflation, oil shocks, and the recession.  Now?  Productivity is barely inching along.

What do these two macroeconomic trendlines mean for education?  Several general* things.

  1. To the extent that colleges, universities, libraries, and museums depend on state funding for support, that funding stems from local economies which aren’t growing.  So when our institutions come to states to ask for more funding (especially as our costs rise), we’re fighting for a share of a pie that isn’t really growing.  Meanwhile, other needs are also wrestling for slices from the same non-expanding pie: health care, state-funded pensions, police and prisons, public health (remember the opioid epidemic?), and roads, for starters.  And some of those needs are increasing, like Medicaid, Medicare, and pensions, as our population ages.
  2. To the extent that colleges etc. depend on donor support, those donors are generating their own wealth in an economy that isn’t really growing.
  3. #s 1+2 mean students will have to borrow more money to pay for academia.  Remember the graph which started this post?
  4. Our students are graduating into an economy that isn’t growing, and will be even more in debt than their predecessors.   Think about what that means on a humanitarian level.
  5. It is possible that #3 is putting a drag on the economy, as graduates saddled with debt* are less likely to make investments, start businesses, or buy houses or cars.

Looking forward, I’m hard pressed to be optimistic.  It’s possible that a new technology or process will nudge productivity and GDP up a bit.  That’s one reason I’m looking hard at nanotechnology, 3d printing, and the internet of things. So far these are nascent and/or not boosting the overall economy.  Indeed, most digital and automation booms now enrich a few without much spillover or trickle-down benefit.

Meanwhile, president Trump claims he’ll grow the economy.  I’m not too sanguine about this, and worry more about the negative impact of possible trade slowdowns (Mexico) and wars (China).

So unless these trendlines reverse themselves, we should expect student loan debt to continue to grow to mind-boggling levels.  State support won’t build up.  And pressures to cut institutional spending will be fierce – i.e., little chance of reversing adjunctification and returning to an early form of tenure.

What should we do?

*Obviously there are exceptions.  These are big, top-level, macro trends.

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