Here are some interesting stories which might bear on the future of education and technology. They touch on virtual reality, web browsers, immigration, web-based classes, tenure, and fear.
ITEM: Firefox is working on a browser designed for VR. Firefox Reality would let users interact with 2d browsers in a 3d environment.
It’s hard to comment about the tech itself, since I can’t use it yet. But it’s interesting to think about how to translate a web browser into the VR space. By extension, we can think about how a browser might change in mixed reality. What gestures will work best for navigating web pages? Will we enter text boxes via spoken word input? At a larger level, is the web browser even a good idea for the VR/MR world?
ITEM: the number of visas America grants has declined over the past year, according to Politico’s analysis. “By one measure, the U.S. granted 13 percent fewer visitor visas over the past 12 months when compared with fiscal year 2016, according to State Department data…”
Note that while visas to residents of Muslim ban nations plummeted, so did visas to other countries, including China. Re: China, remember that the Trump administration is ramping up a trade war with that nation; students may well become weapons. As I’ve been saying, international students are more important than ever for American higher ed, and their supply seems to be dwindling.
ITEM: Microsoft made its online AI classes public. These used to be in-house only, but are now open to anyone who signs in/completes a profile. Microsoft partnered with edX to make this happen; it seems that edX runs the classes, while Redmond provided the content. Classes include: Data Science, Big Data, Front-End Web Development, Cloud Administration, DevOps, IT Support, and Entry Level Software Development.
What does this tell us? For one, it reminds us that despite the much-vaunted death of MOOCs (in the United States) the idea and practice of putting classes on the web in some form of openness still appeals. For another, certification of MOOC experience is still a going concern. And STEM fields remain in the lead here.
I’m not sure of the pedagogy involved, because I haven’t taken one of these classes. Does anyone have experience they can share? Or can someone recommend one for me to take?
ITEM: several states are exploring ways to make it easier for public universities to remove tenured faculty. They include Kentucky and Arkansas. Policies offer “clarifications” on preexisting rules, as well as links to program termination.
Note that Kentucky’s plan also cuts public campuses’ budgets:
Overall, the budget cuts base appropriations to public colleges by 6.25 percent over the next two years. The cut at the University of Kentucky is projected to be as high as $16 million, according to a statement from the institution. At the University of Louisville it will be about $8.3 million, a spokeswoman says.
These moves fit into the larger, long term trend of American academia’s steady reduction in tenure, which we’ve seen most notably in the switch of the professoriate to a majority-adjunct workforce. They also connect with the rising tide of program reductions, seen most dramatically in what I’ve been calling queen sacrifices.
At some point I suspect American colleges and universities will end this labor casualization process. Individual sectors and campuses will find their equilibrium between tenured and non- positions, and the professoriate will stabilize. I’m not sure how much longer it’ll take before we reach that point.
…and one final note for your consideration. I’ve been scrambling to find time to write about shootings and gun culture, and failing, given the demands of my schedule. But I was struck by a passage in a good, recent article about American gun culture:
I know the reasons my friends give for owning these weapons, and I know that their answers feel inadequate to me. I know that part of what they’re missing or refusing to acknowledge is how fear ushered in this shift in gun culture over the past two decades.
Fear is the factor no one wants to address — fear of criminals, fear of terrorists, fear of the government’s turning tyrannical and, perhaps more than anything else, fear of one another. There’s no simple solution like pulling fear off the shelf. It’s an intangible thing…
Exploring the sources of that fear go way beyond my time and space with this post. For now I’d like to place a marker here, and ask readers to think about that fear – not just its sources, but where it’s likely to go. I hope I can return to this.
(thanks to Tim Prendry and Todd “Language Exchange” Bryant for links and thoughts)