Trump pours gas on the arts, humanities, sciences, and education, then asks Congress for a match

The Trump administration published its first budget (pdf), and it includes serious reducations to the arts, sciences, humanities, educational programs, and some financial aid.

The cuts are widespread.

NEH logoTwo major agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, would be axed completely.  In fact, the number of axed agencies is breathtaking.*

As the New York Times observes,

While the combined annual budgets of both endowments — about $300 million — are a tiny fraction of the $1.1 trillion of total annual discretionary spending, grants from these agencies have been deeply valued financial lifelines and highly coveted honors for artists, musicians, writers and scholars for decades.

The State Department’s Educational and Cultural Exchange (ECE) programs will experience “Reduce[d] funding”, without a dollar figure.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) gets chopped “by $5.8 billion to $25.9 billion.”  Also in the medical area, the budget “[e]liminates $403 million in health professions and nursing training programs,” because they  “lack evidence that they significantly improve the Nation’s health workforce.”

Space science gets a mixed treatment, with some programs boosted, while others are cut.  Orion gets more funding, while an asteroid redirect mission is no more.  The proposed Europa landing is cut “[t]o preserve the balance of NASA’s science portfolio and maintain flexibility to conduct missions that were determined to be more important by the science community”, but a flyby is left unscathed.  Climate change-related science is also hit: “The Budget terminates four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder) and reduces funding for Earth science research grants. ”

For financial aid, Inside Higher Ed sums up the cuts:

work-study would be cut “significantly.” Further, the administration is calling for the elimination of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which go to low-income college students. Eliminating the program will “reduce complexity,” the budget proposal says, and produce $732 million in savings. In addition, the administration wants to eliminate GEAR-UP and reduce funding for TRIO programs, which prepare disadvantaged students for college and help them succeed once enrolled.

Trump budget proposal header

The budget proposal’s header.

Other educational funding support programs to be hit: Continue reading

Posted in research topics, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A powerful media and information literacy project from UNESCO

UNESCO has entered the digital literacy fray by publishing what they call five laws of media and information literacy.  While they don’t use the phrase “digital literacy”, it’s clear that they’re addressing that field’s concerns.

I’d like to summarize their offerings, then reflect on their strengths and challenges.  tldr: it’s impressive.

This literacy (they call it “MIL”) draws on and synthesizes multiple literacies, including, but also going beyond, information and media literacy:

UNESCO multiple literacies

Note that it breaks “news literacy” out from “media literacy”.  Also be sure to catch the importance of freedom of expression, turned into “freedom of information literacy”.  That’s a brave move for a global organization, since not every nation or other political actor shares that latter value.

The centerpiece is what they call the “five laws of media and information literacy”, summarized in this helpful infographic:

UNESCO's five laws of media and information literacy

Continue reading

Posted in digital literacy | 15 Comments

International ed tech and pedagogical projects: notes from INTED 2017

This past week I attended the INTED conference in Valencia, Spain.  After kicking things off with a keynote, I had the opportunity to participate in all sessions, which I appreciate.

(That’s something I really like doing; I hate keynoters who parachute in to talk, then vanish.  A key part of my speaking work is spending as much time interacting with people as possible.  That benefits both myself and the client and the community involved, I think.)

I’d like to write some reflections here for two reasons.  First, INTED was easily the most transnational conference for education that I’ve ever attended.  Participants were from Europe, of course, but also Africa (north and subsaharan), Asia (central, east), the Americas (north, central, southern), and the Middle East (including Arab nations, Israel, and Iran).  As one Twitter observer noted about a session I co-paneled:

. and debate with delegates coming from Botswana, Kazajistan, Portuagal, Singapur, Canada, Qatar…

And the magnificent Vicky Colbert is from Columbia, where she’s busy revolutionizing teaching poor rural kids.

This is way beyond any event I’ve seen in the US, and more representative than anything I’ve experienced in Europe.  And this globalism is essential for any consideration of the future of education, as I’ve been saying for years.

Bryan interviewed at INTED

New suit, since Air Europa lost my luggage for a few days.

Second, it was fascinating to see the variety of projects and ideas in play.  So many trends.  I’ll pull out some here.

Gaming: many examples of people using games for learning, or gamification for public good (public health, for one).  One researcher is exploring games as content for fine arts classes and research.  There was a hands-on game-making session I’m sorry I missed.

Social media: various projects making use of it, including having students write to Twitter in a new language, or inviting Chinese students in another country to use WeChat to improve their morale.

MOOCs: simply present in the ed tech space, without the hype crash America experienced.  Interesting studies and projects, from using MOOCs on mobile devices to former colonies accessing courses created by their prior colonizers.

Mobile: as usual, pretty much every country is in advance of what American education is doing.  Some similar problems, though, with different levels of mobile access (network and device).

Speaking of mobile, I met the delightful Gunnar Stefansson, who was showing his Education in a Suitcase project.  This basically builds out a computer classroom on the fly, for people lacking both internet access and devices.  The center is a small hard drive, crammed with math content and a Wikipedia download, plus a WiFi dongle.  Gunnar hauls around 20 or so low-cost (i.e., Android) tablets, and has successfully used this in various remote locations in Kenya.  Bravo!

Gunnar and Education in a Suitcase

Digital storytelling: not as much as in the US, possibly because American education tends to be more constructivist.  But there was a good class from Jakarta State University, and a cool Israeli project having students make stories with Plotagon – interestingly, they needed no IT support to do so.  Plotagon is easy, and the students used their smartphones. Continue reading

Posted in education and technology, Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments

Podcasts I’m listening to this month

As your weekend kicks in, perhaps you’ll listen to digital audio.  Maybe podcasts are lined up for your listening delights.

To recommend some, let me list what’s currently on my phone and desktop aural rotation.

(I did this more than a year ago, in January 2016, and also back in 2013, so curious readers can compare how things, or at least my tastes, have changed.  Some podcasts aren’t here because they stopped making new ones.  Others dropped away because I lost interest.)

Organization: I’ll break these down into topical categories, like education, storytelling, current events, etc.

Podcatching technology: I mostly rely on Stitcher, which doesn’t make me too happy.  It won’t let me organize podcasts by category or title.  The interface has some issues, like locating playback options millimeters from phone controls.  I can’t easily get new podcasts, since you have to run through the whole subscription list, manually checking each one for updates. Some programs aren’t on Stitcher.  Sometimes it just chokes on a podcast, and refuses to play it.  At worst it just fails to work at all. But it usually works all right, especially when I’m driving.

Otherwise, I play some Soundcloud content in my web browser, or play content right from a podcast’s web page, as well as the occasional YouTube translation.

podcast dog Zoomar

Here we go.


  • Higher Ed Social – conversations about different aspects of education.
  • Leading Lines – conversations about education and innovation from Vanderbilt.
  • MoonshotEdu – Bernard Bull explores possible futures for education.
  • Teaching in Higher Ed – Bonni Stachowiak interviews a wide range of guests.
  • TOPcast – concerns teaching online.


Politics and current events: Continue reading

Posted in podcasts | 22 Comments

Addressing INTED in Valencia

Today I’m speaking to the International Technology, Education and Development Conference, or INTED 2017.  It’s being held in Valencia, and I’d like to attempt to distract everyone from that fair city by sharing my presentation notes.

A corner of Valencia's old city.

Here they are.  Know that this was scheduled to be a twenty-five minute talk for a general audience, so I will go both quickly and carefully, somehow:

I’d like to thank INTED for inviting me to Valencia.  This is my first time in Spain, and I appreciate and enjoy the experience.

I appreciate the weather, as this is what my home town looks like now.

I also apologize deeply for representing a country that has temporarily gone insane.  More on this later.

How many of you are on Twitter?  How many are tweeting now?  Keep going!  Let’s get a backchannel roaring.  I promise to jump in once I’m done speaking.

Where is higher education going? What changes can we anticipate now?

There are many ways to forecast these futures.  Personally I recommend careful attention to science fiction, without which one cannot really grasp the 21st century.  But today I’d like to kick off the conference by exploring key trends.  These are forces in the present day which we can analyze, consider, then extrapolate into the future to see how they change education.

I’ve been tracking trends for decades, and for the past five years have been sharing them through the FTTE report.  Now we have a good amount of evidence to track longitudinally.

Extrapolation is tricky, as trends can turn out in different ways.  They can race ahead and reboot civilization, or slow down to have powerful impacts after a long duration.  They can quietly progress without media attention, or they can fizzle out into future historical footnotes (assuming we still use footnotes).  Our best option now is to assess trends in terms of their real-world impacts, then connect them to other trendlines to see how they reinforce each other.

We can begin with technological trends.

  • Multimedia keeps growing, and educators keep using it. From images to podcasts to infographics to video to videoconferencing, we bring these media into our classes, and sometimes create them.
  • Some technologies have raced across the world and changed society, but have only been slowly, hesitantly embraced by higher education: mobile, gaming, social media.
  • Combining these trends, we *may* see a new form of virtual learning environment emerge, one that integrates courseware with open and social media. I’m referring to the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment concept.
  • Some technology-enabled practices are slowly making progress. We are gradually exploring the possibilities of new learning spaces, shifting away from the classrooms of decades and centuries past.  Open education and open access scholarly publication see incremental growth each year, producing more content and winning new practitioners.
  • The demand for digital literacy increases, especially as digital technology continues to reshape our lives and with the new panic about fake news; we may start thinking of learners as creators.
  • Alternatives to face-to-face learning have grown rapidly. In terms of numbers of learners, online and hybrid learning are approaching par with traditional methods.

Newer technologies have begun to emerge, each with implications for learning: Continue reading

Posted in presentations and talks | 5 Comments

Explaining the 2016 elections: the generational pivot

One of the essential uses of studying history is the way the past can sometimes shock you into a different awareness of the present, along with adding glimpses of possible futures.  We certainly need more awareness when it comes to the Trump presidency.

The historical model I’d like to explore here is one of succeeding generations.

This is a longer post, so get comfortable.

In November, right after the American election, I read a terrific quote in Margaret MacMillan‘s grand First World War book The War That Ended Peace.*  The passage was by Harry Kessler, a border-crossing (English and German) aristocrat, bon vivant, and prolific diarist.  In it he characterized those epic changes in Europe as a grand succession struggle, a sequence of generations:

Something… was growing old and weak, dying out; and something new, young, energetic, and still unimaginable was in the offing.  We felt it like a frost, like a spring in our limbs, the one with muffled pain, the other with a keen joy. (Kindle location 7428)

That quote about 1914 struck me as aimed straight at the United States of November 2016.  Perhaps Americans are experiencing this kind of extraordinary generational succession struggle now – not through massive war, but along the lines of social transformation.

A few weeks later I read something similar in We Make the Road by Walking, where Paolo Freire describes massive changes in Brazilian society during the 1960s:

It is a time of confrontation, this transition, the time of transition of the old society to a new one that does not exist yet, but it’s being created with the confrontation of the ghosts. (218)

“confrontation of the ghosts” – what a great phrase.  Again, there’s that sense of a moment caught between a dominant generation and a rising one, a time of struggle between two epochs.

This generational succession trope is not new.  It’s as old as the classical idea of ages of gold and silver.  My favorite modern example is a famous Antonio Gramsci quote about the 1930s, which seems to apply to our times nicely:

The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear. (one source)

That powerful, underappreciated, and very close observer of fascism went on:

this paragraph should be completed by some observations which I made on the so-called “problem of the younger generation” – a problem caused by the “crisis of authority” of the old generations in power, and by the mechanical impediment that has been imposed on those who could exercise hegemony, which prevents them from carrying out their mission.

A crisis of authority, a struggle between historical eras – again, this seems appropriate to 2016-2017.

One version of this generational succession idea has been occupying some American political thinkers and activists for, well,  a generation.  It comes from the Democratic party and goes like this: the old generation (think WWII plus most Baby Boomers) grew up and came into power based on certain forces shaping society: nationalism, manufacturing, racism, patriarchy, and carbon-based energy.  Now, those structures and their people are about to give way to a new epoch shaped by contrasting and oppositional drivers:  globalism, knowledge and service jobs, high technology, climate change mitigation, feminism, increased education, and pluralism.  The old generation was based in factories, in suburbs, and in the countryside, while the new one inhabits ever-growing post-industrial cities.  The old will give way to the new.  That transition is deeply laid, indeed inevitable.  We can count on it.

This is the argument of the very influential 2002 book The Emerging Democratic Majority, by John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira.  (Here’s a handy short summary by one of the authors)  The Clinton campaign relied on it very closely.

But suddenly, in the 2016 election, the generational succession sequence backfired, as the older order, instead of fading away, instead hurled itself back into power for a last gasp of historical revenge, like the Roman emperor Justinian suddenly clawing back parts of the old western empire.  What does this weird reversal mean?


Found on Facebook.

In response, proponents of the Judis and Teixeira theory can comfort themselves by understanding this Trumpist surprise as a spasm or blip, a temporary reverse on the otherwise durable arc.  For them it was a glitch, possibly made possible by external or artificial forces, such as the FBI or Moscow.  They can also extend the generational model by seeing the rising generation as somehow weaker at the present day, perhaps sapped by technology, or overcoddled into impotence – in other words, by indulging in the ever-popular, heinous sport of Millennial bashing.  This is a temporary failure, and the younger folks should now be shocked into action.

As Teixeia himself argued shortly after the November election, “Those old legs will give out eventually, though we do not know exactly when.” Continue reading

Posted in politics | 4 Comments

The very worst thing written about adjuncts and tenure in 2017

This month has made me even busier than usual, between working on a stack of multiple projects, a series of trips,  and my helping my wife cope with a health crisis.  I’ve had to put off many tasks and ideas.  But I do need to take time to respond to this Chronicle piece, which must be one of the worst things ever written about adjunctification and tenure.  Its badness suggests some possibly significant attitudes among American faculty, and its blindness speaks to the poverty of our conversation on these topics.

When starting to read Blaine Greteman‘s “Don’t Blame Tenured Academics for the Adjunct Crisis” you might be pleased by the author’s gestures of support to adjuncts.  But those are not the point of his column.  There is a great deal of virtue-signaling going on and many noises of sympathy.  That takes up the first half of the piece, actually.  You might expect a “some of my best friends are adjuncts” line.   There’s a lot of “The plight of adjunct laborers in our system is a serious one”… and then there’s a “but”.

That “but” is where the real argument begins.  Greteman’s case is, as the title clearly explains, that we should let tenured faculty off the hook when it comes to understanding the decline of tenure and the mass casualization of academic labor.  Instead, we should “identify and [presumably, although this is unaddressed in the piece] move the real levers of power.”

tenure cartoon

What or who are those levers?  First, “administrators and staff charged with managing a growing army of adjuncts and monetizing the university’s recreational and residential wings.”  Second, “public disinvestment in universities over the last 20 years”.  Third, challenges to the general labor market, including changed pension schemes (I think; it’s not really clear).  Fourth, Republican attacks on labor unions, notably in Wisconsin.

For starters, every point of those points is flawed or wrong-headed.  Their blindness to faculty roles is a classic case of bad faith.  And that’s just the beginning of what’s wrong with the article.

“[A]dministrators and staff charged with managing a growing army of adjuncts and monetizing the university’s recreational and residential wings” – I’d like to be charitable and assume that Greteman understands “administrators” to only mean C-suit leaders, rather than the many campus staff often lumped under that header.   But he carefully adds “and staff”, so I can’t be so kind.  Here Greteman falls into the “administrative bloat” trap of blaming a lot of campus personnel without understanding their roles and by assigning them powers they don’t have. (I’ve written about this general rhetorical problem a few years ago)

Are library staff to blame for the academic labor crisis?  Did custodians play a role in advancing adjunctification?  Are IT staff, financial aid officers, counselors, lawyers, grants officers, nurses, coaches, career services staff, scholarly press workers, police, and regulatory compliance officers part of the de-tenuring movement?   Greteman levels the blame cannon at them all, which is both wrong and shameful.

Note this part of his charge, too: “the university’s recreational and residential wings”.  That neatly leaves out all institutions which lack residential wings, such as commuter schools and online academies.  I’m not sure what “recreational” means here, but if the author intends it to cover sports, then that only refers to a portion of American higher education.  If he means student life, then again, that only covers one segment of post-secondary education – and I’m curious to see if he’d like to defund that part of campuses, and then how to deal with the subsequent drop in enrollment.  If Greteman wants to defund college athletics, I’m all ears.  I’d like to see how he imagines dealing with faculty, staff, administrative, donor, students, and public resistance.  Really.

“public disinvestment in universities over the last 20 years”: this is quite true, a known and researched fact, although really it dates back to the 1980s (more here).  However, the point doesn’t serve his argument well.  It doesn’t take into account adjunctification at private universities, which are a serious number of American academic institutions.  It doesn’t speak to well-endowed research-1 universities, which play a crucial part in the adjunct movement by overproducing PhDs (more on this below).  And it lets faculty off the hook, since it doesn’t allow any role for professors in lobbying state governments or acting as public intellectuals to regain public support.  (That this hasn’t happened enough is also shameful, but clearly beyond Greteman’s understanding.)

Greteman’s point about negative developments in the general labor market is hazy, so let me pull out the details.  He refers to “Congress chang[ing] tax policies to favor 401(k)s in 1978” and “jobs offering health insurance and livable wages also declined precipitously”.  I’m guessing the author is trying to say that American labor has suffered in terms of pensions, health care, and overall compensation, and therefore academia has somehow followed suit, except for tenured professors, like Greteman.  The mechanism linking these developments is invisible in the column, although a fascinating concept to explore. Continue reading

Posted in research topics, Uncategorized | Tagged | 19 Comments