Saturday, August 12, 2006

news round up

The longer the gap between postings, the more news to report - apologies! Items of interest this week include:

(1) The over-zealous technology evangelists are still around some corners of higher education it would seem, with at least one comment in the Sydney Morning Herald's recent article about podcasting lectures stating that "any teacher that can be replaced by a podcast should be." Of course one could interpret this subtly and say it might just be making the valid point that lectures should not be monologues with no audience interaction (or even requirement to be in attendance). Still many others on the techno-fear side might feel a chill. Podcast technology, as we've mentioned plenty of times here, has tremendous educational potential, but not for simply capturing lectures. A "good" lecture of course can't be captured at all and needs to be experienced, but a routine one...?

(2) Meanwhile over in England similar voices are muttering about text messages replacing lectures! Getting a little silly now. But then the article in the Times Higher does mix up several different uses of technology and many of us, for example, have long used text messaging to contact students about deadlines, etc.

(3) Blogs are another component of the much lauded Web 2.0 phenomenon - but have also suffered just a wee bit from over-hype. This is particularly the case in the area of "citizen journalism" where it is claimed that newspapers and news broadcasting will soon be redundant thanks to the open, democratic and highly informed nature of news bloggers. Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, as many of us slightly more modest bloggers will note, there is a world of difference between the contributions that journalists write and editors publish in terms of quality, constraints on fact-checking (well OK in some cases at least) etc and the rantings of someone unknown in an internet cafe for an hour or so. The New Yorker this week has an excellent article on this very theme by Nicholas Lemann.

(4) A political discussion in Scotland over fees vs grants as the Scottish National Party (official opposition) launched its education manifesto with a commitment to not only abolish fees, but to provide grants and erase existing student debts. Of course, technically speaking there are no fees in Scottish higher education. They were abolished by the Labour-Liberal coalition. But given that all graduates have to pay a "graduate endowment" it could be argued that this is a bit of semantics. However, it does mean that university management consider themselves potentially disadvantaged if English universities can start supplementing their income with student fees. Students, parents and many others however, argue the case that if widening diversity and access to higher education is a key goal then removing financial barriers has to be at least a necessary, if not sufficient, approach. Neal Lawson also wrote in the Guardian about the impact of fees on social in/exclusion this week.

(5) MIT World has an ever expanding collection of on demand video of guest lectures, discussions etc that you can access on your desktop. I know we've drawn attention to Berkeley Webcasts and the University Channel before, so in the interests of fairness, probably as well to mention MIT's efforts also.

That's it for the moment.

No comments: