Archive for March, 2008

Questions

I have been thinking about this for awhile now, but one thing I have wanted to do is have students fill out a survey about higher education and their feelings towards it. I’m not really even sure where to begin on this. So I am going to ask my blog readers to give me and hand on this.

What questions would you ask of students about their feelings towards higher education? I’m not looking to make this a survey where someone would take up a whole page writing a response, so concise questions would be good. What kind of format should this be in? Should there multiple choice, a scale (1 to 5, agree or disagree), some open ended questions?

I don’t see a problem with getting a students to fill it out, especially if you are offering free candy if they complete the survey. Maybe some of you professors would be interested in having students fill it out too, I don’t know.

So let me know what you think. Is this a good idea or bad idea? And if you like it what kind of questions and what kind of format would you like to see this in?

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I Love The Kool-Aid, But…

    Now that Joseph has stirred up the pot, and it is a pot that definitely needs to be stirred, I thought I’d do a little bit of a response at this late hour.

Right off the bat I think Joseph is right in saying that students don’t use what they don’t think they need. I see this apply to blogging a lot, if a student doesn’t see an intrinsic value in it they will not use it. For those skeptics it takes a lot of convincing that blogging is not really like writing a paper in a word document. I would also say what they have to blog about may make it harder or easier for somebody to write. I will even admit that I have been behind on my blogging for my Digital History Seminar because a lot of what I am doing for that class involves technology and I don’t really like writing documentation. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it. I am really looking forward to the idea of talking about solutions for these kinds of problems at Faculty Academy, like really excited. I see this also be connected with something Martha recently blogged about, along similar lines with the FSEM. Basically, I am excited hah.

Jeff also responded to Joe’s post with a lengthy comment/post, there is one particular part that stuck out to me:

Yes, I’m asking students to do something new, or to push themselves, or to think about doing something in a different way, and yes, that potentially takes away from their time to read (or learn) about those darn battles, but that’s a choice I’ve made as the creator of the course. That choice is based in my desire to balance the skills and content portions of my class (that’s an over-stated dichotomy here) to provide the best possible experience for the students going forward, not just in that course, but hopefully in others as well.

This goes back to something I have been thinking about lately. What exactly is the purpose of higher education? Is it about content or is it something more? I would like to think that it involves more than content, in fact I can’t stand the thought of purely a content driven education. Personally, at this moment I am not planning to teach history (my major), or work at a museum, or necessarily do something along those lines. I am investing in a college education because of the experience and the skills, the content is more a coating on the pill to make it go down easier. This is just my opinion, but I am guess that the majority of students are traveling down this same road.

There is more I want to say, but its is too late and I have to get up early. More to come.

What Is A Student’s Job?

I ask this question, “What is a student’s job?” Besides the obvious answer of “to be a student!”, I am curious to see what others think.

It seems such a fundamental question, but one that is hard to answer, or perhaps has varying answers.

There are some things that came to mind when pondering this question. What is college preparing student’s for? Is it to be academics? Skilled people for the work force? Contributing members of society?

For the most part it feels like college is training us to be academics, but I don’t think the college is really aiming for that, or should be aiming for that. Of course some people will go on to be educators and work in a highly specialized area of their major, but most likely the vast majority won’t. I will also say that besides content there are goals and themes that carry through college, being able to critical think, speak well, write well, etc. But at times college can really seem like k-12 redux where the content is just more in depth and the papers about the content are longer.

So is a students job to study a lot and pass tests? Or is it be creative and do something productive for society?

Don’t get me wrong though, students who don’t study all day long (har-har) are still being productive and creative. You know where it is happening though? Outside the classroom! Mostly in the form of clubs. At Mary Washington we have an active chapter of Students Helping Honduras that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, a Young Womens Leadership Program that mentors middle school girls, and various other groups that get things done. And where is there for the most part a lack of interesting ideas and productivity going on? Inside the classroom! I see a disconnect here.

Of course everyone needs some base knowledge to actually be able to play in the “sandbox” and I am not saying every class on campus is useless. For example there is an Economics class that deals with philanthropic ventures and actually gives away money to a deserving organization. The students in the class obviously need some background in what the class entails and an instructor to help them too. I am also not saying that students don’t put hard work into their papers and other class projects, but for the majority of students, only the professor and the class will see their hard work. And what they accomplished might have little value for the future.

Student’s go to class after class, filling their heads with content, but seldom dealing with real world situations. There is so much untapped talent and creativity waiting to be unleashed on campus. Say for instance Admissions wanted to have a promotional video for Mary Washington, how easy would it be to have some students on campus do it? Maybe give them some credit for it or even money towards tuition! It would probably be cheaper than having a professional do it and it would be better because a student who understands the school would be working on it. It also feels more personal when you know a student worked on it and I wouldn’t be surprised if prospective students liked it more than what a professional could come up with.
Right now in my Digital History Seminar we are building projects that can be useful to people outside or class and even institution. It is exciting to think that what we are doing now could last well into the future. In these project we have encountered problems we couldn’t have foreseen and it has made us think and evaluate. It has been a learning experience more than a paper on digital history ever could be.

There are endless possibilities if people just took the time to think and dare to be innovative. Mike Caulfield blogged a few months ago about what would happen if students stopped working in silos and started working on real world situations, it has inspired me ever since I read it. Mike says, “In a networked information economy, failure is cheap. Production is cheap. And if you produce something worthwhile, distribution is free.

So again I ask, what is a student’s job?


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