More on Open Learning

These short and very well-written videos given by Rajiv Jhangiani, Kwantlen Polytechnic University‘s Associate Vice Provost of Open Education, and produced by Cobb House Studio vividly describe new ways to create a class.

What are Open Educational Resources?

What are Open Textbooks?

What is the Zero Textbook Cost initiative?

What is Open Pedagogy?

And for my own university in particular: Support for Open Educational Practices at KPU.

I am relatively late in my career in postsecondary education and am grateful to have my habits and indeed some of my philosophy challenged this way.

Smart luck

Teena Seelig, a professor in management science and engineering at Stanford, has been studying “luck” for two decades, according to Diana Aguilera’s article in Stanford Magazine. The professor provides some superb, lucid recommendations. My favourite:

Show Appreciation. “When someone does something for you, they’re taking that time that they could be spending on themselves or someone else,” Seelig says. “And you need to acknowledge what they’re doing.” Being gracious, even when you’re turning down an offer of assistance, may bring more opportunities your way.

“Intimate supervision”: Surveillance on campus

This Washington Post report – holy crap:

Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health. …

Instead of GPS coordinates, the schools rely on networks of Bluetooth transmitters and wireless access points to piece together students’ movements from dorm to desk. One company that uses school WiFi networks to monitor movements says it gathers 6,000 location data points per student every day.

School and company officials call location monitoring a powerful booster for student success: If they know more about where students are going, they argue, they can intervene before problems arise. But some schools go even further, using systems that calculate personalized “risk scores” based on factors such as whether the student is going to the library enough.

The dream of some administrators is a university where every student is a model student, adhering to disciplined patterns of behavior that are intimately quantified, surveilled and analyzed.

h/t Clarissa

“The Professional Culture of the Press”

NYU Journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen* writes that “Not in personal but in public life, 2019 has been the most bleak and depressing year I have lived through of my 63. A few tiny green shoots in a toxic field that is spreading over more and more of the globe. This [Twitter] thread was the most optimistic I could be.”

Jay’s discerning analysis begins this way:

When I started studying the American press as an institution (around 35 years ago) I did not assign much significance to a factor that would later feel huge and at times even decisive: the professional culture of the press. It’s a beast. But now that beast is changing.

Rosen’s quasi-optimistic conclusion:

Engagement journalism, solutions journalism, less extractive journalism, a more agile, iterative newsroom. Nothing I have seen while watching these emerge suggests they are going away soon. The shocks to the system have been so many that the culture of the press is evolving.

I devote a lot of my feed here to problems in the press, and to criticism of some of its worse practices. But I don’t want to leave the impression that everything is collapsing and getting worse. For some things in journalism are collapsing — and it’s actually getting better.

Please read the whole thing.

*Jay was my editor at the University at Buffalo’s student newspaper, The Spectrum. He was a tough but wonderful mentor.

Open Learning

Some of my colleagues in the Applied Communications department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University have published an “open textbook” for people in our profession.

Student Engagement Activities for Business Communications is a compilation resource for instructors of workplace writing and oral presentations. The activities in this book can add value and energy to the classroom by engaging students in activities that support their learning. Handouts, links, activity variations, and debrief questions are included. …

As business communications instructors at the post-secondary level, we recognize the importance of student engagement and practical application to promote learning. This book is a compilation of activities that we have developed and use in our teaching practice.

Designed for new and experienced instructors, the book is divided by topic, and we have indicated a suggested course level (lower-level or upper-level undergraduate) for each activity. Some activities have handouts attached, or links to external websites.

The text “is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.”

In my years of teaching, I have used textbooks marketed by publishers, custom-created texts I’ve compiled from various sources, and materials I’ve created myself along with stuff my colleagues have let my students and me use – the latter because I wanted to save students money and because free handouts and slides addressed the curriculum sufficiently. I have also coauthored a textbook – one I’ve not, however, used myself in class, its intended audience being engineering students.

I must admit that I am sometimes ambivalent about one or two of the Open Learning movement‘s goals. I’ve been a professional writer, editor, and publisher most of my adult life. I revere publishers and editors and authors. Theirs are not lucrative professions, but I believe they should be paid for their work – a living wage, ideally. Moreover, in my experience the level of care given a published book by a large group of professionals – by authors, editors, marketers, proofreaders, legal staff, fact-checkers, researchers, and art directors – is hard to match using other modes.

That said, even in Canada the cost of postsecondary education is very high. Many students are suffering, having to choose between food and tuition. I know this first-hand. Giving students access to learning is our raison d’être.

Vancouver histories

I am much enjoying rereading “Vancouver Special,” a funny but unsparing collection of essays written by local writer and comic Charles Demers and published by Arsenal Pulp Press (with photographs by Emmanuel Buenviaje). A note in his chapter on the Downtown Eastside led me to the wonderful blog “Past Tense: fragments of Vancouver’s history and reflections thereon” published by “activist historian” Lani Russwurm. There you can find an astonishing gallery of videos documenting Vancouver’s past, including the two below: a 1956 interview with a skid row drifter, and a 1964 National Film Board propaganda piece documenting “urban blight.”

Happy to help

Twice in the last week I have helped to prevent a calamity from befalling a colleague. One colleague was irritated and the other was infuriated to receive my editorial help, though they each requested it. Both will come out “smelling like a rose” (to use an expression my Dad always loved and that I now love, too).

In my last couple of years in book publishing back in the early 1990s, I spent more than half of my time, it seemed, addressing legal matters: Making sure that my authors weren’t going to get the company I worked for, Prometheus Books Inc., sued for defamation, libel, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, and the like. Although I did not become an editor so that I could act as an ersatz lawyer, I did enjoy the role, especially because I got to talk to a REAL lawyer, and a great one, Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, a lot. Stefan provided his services for free, because he liked the books we published. He was a wonderful and brilliant and eclectic man, who reached the highest levels of accomplishment as a musical conductor and mathematician and teacher before starting his career in Law. I didn’t know he’d been a conductor until I called him one afternoon regarding a lawsuit. Leonard Bernstein had died the day before, and for some reason I brought that up with Stefan. “I was his assistant conductor for a year,” he said. “This sounds more impressive than it was. My main job was to have a cigarette lit and ready for Lenny when he came offstage.”

Back to my point: Because of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, many of my authors *didn’t* besmirch their reputations and *didn’t* get their butts sued. To a person, they were unhappy receiving the help they received, because they believed they didn’t need it. They all asked: What could go wrong?

A calamity is smaller than a comma when it’s born, and I am indifferent to gratitude.

Originally posted on basil.CA, October 2010; photo August 2019, Manhattan

Getting it over on Google

As someone who has taught digital and social media to super-smart marketing students, this cracked me up:

Why would Rudy Giuliani associate and indicted dealmaker Lev Parnas name his company “Fraud Guarantee”?

Is there a worse name for a company with the stated mission of helping “reduce the risk of fraud”?

Well, Parnas apparently had a reason for the unusual name: Google search results.

When Parnas and Fraud Guarantee co-founder David Correia set up the company, Parnas picked the name so that people Googling the words “Parnas” and “Fraud” would see something positive — Parnas’ business — rather than his long history of legal trouble.

The Wall Street Journal reported the factoid on Thursday citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Read more at “WSJ: Parnas Named His Company ‘Fraud Guarantee’ To Goose Search Results.”