Tools and tech

If you’re part of an edtech company, you need to read this article from EdSurge. It will help you avoid the common pitfalls of edtech when it comes to implementation.
For me, I gravitate to the fact that too many people see educational technology as a solution in of itself, but it’s not. The solution doesn’t reside in the tool – it resides in how you use it. And if you don’t teach those using it how to actually use it, the tool will fail.

Social media policy for schools

I’ll keep this short: educators need to be on social media with their students.
There’s a litany of reasons why, but I think the most compelling is that students need modeled behavior. We’ve starved them of that and it’s literally costing them jobs.  We need to stop treating social media like our culture treats sex – a dirty act that you shouldn’t do, shouldn’t talk about, and should rebuke cultural pressures to do it. Instead, we should fold it into our educational behaviors – just like we do “please” and “thank you.”

Sure there are bad apples who abuse the medium, but there are bad apples who abuse the medium of the classroom too. Poor choices by educators on social media are just that: poor choices by educators. We need to train and hold them accountable to proper behavior on social media, not punish the lot and blame the medium.

5 key steps to implementing a social media policy

  1. Define social media for your institution. Is it all forms of public communication? Is it defined by the channels you use? Here’s a good generic one you can pilfer: Social media is any service in a digital space whose purpose is to socialize with two or more people, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pintrest.
    1. Notice the definition is “whose purpose” is to socialize. We all know people use Facebook to plan events, or Twitter direct messaging to exchange email addresses. However, the purpose of the service is social.
  2. Create a Digital Ethics policy that includes a Social Media section. Social media is part of a much broader reality: digital space. Just as schools create policies that hold students to certain ethical expectations outside of schools, a new policy should be drawn up that outlines all things Digital Ethics. One should be made for faculty and another should be made for students. Here’s a good generic Social Media section of such a policy for the faculty handbook: Sample_SocialMedia_Policy
  3. TRAIN YOUR FACULTY. This is often the most overseen element. It’s not enough to hand off the policy to faculty. Something as simple as a 30 minute inservice will suffice. Give them examples of good and bad behavior; make it clear that they are responsible to for their behavior online in the social media space – as it’s not controlled by the institution.
  4. Train your students. Do the exact same for the students, and hold the students accountable just as you would hold the faculty accountable. Most schools add social media to the clause of academic integrity that holds students up to an ethical standard outside of school time and walls.
  5. Enforce the policy. Hold faculty, staff, and students accountable. If someone breaks policy, don’t nuke policy from orbit, attend to the individual who broke it.

Social media must be included as a form of communication between students and faculty. There are too many invisible walls between academia and the working world. Including social media in the behaviors of the school is a great way to meet our students where they are and to help them grow into ethical citizens.

Humanities makes us better humans

Standford’s article The humanities and medicine (April 6, 2014) poignantly captures the value of humanities education.

For the fan of hard evidence

Education in the humanities also provides us with unique and powerful opportunities to hone our skills of critical analysis and develop clarity of thought and expression. In every pursuit and profession, the expression of ideas is inextricably linked to the formulation of ideas. It is through written and spoken communication that we shape and refine our thoughts.

Translation: humanities force us to practice critical thinking and analysis, and practice makes perfect.

For the fan of pontification

Examining differences in values and reasoning enables us to reflect thoughtfully on the normative framework we have as individuals and as members of a society. The humanities challenge us to question our assumptions, examine our beliefs and develop new ways of thinking about “conventional” wisdom. This appreciation for other modes of thought enables us to see complexity and uncertainty as key elements in the process toward discovering new truths. When viewed in this context, the journey we travel becomes as important as the destinations we reach.

Translation: humanities makes us better people.

Student loans: Their purpose

The government is scared of being accused of making university education the preserve of an economic elite, but it’s coming close to mis-selling student loans as a result. Loans are there to ensure that no one is stopped from going to university by their financial situation. It’s the government’s duty to impress this upon students: student debt is a last resort, not a default. If your family can help with either fees now or your first mortgage later, you shouldn’t assume that the second is the better choice. ~ Carola Binney

An interesting concept. I think many see student loans not as the last option, but as the only option. If student loans are meant to be the last resort, then that means the majority of students shouldn’t need or use them. However, that’s not the case – more than 60% of the students who attend post-secondary education take out loans and 57% graduate with debt. Even more interesting is that the majority (70%) of people who struggle to pay back the loans say it’s because it’s harder to make ends meet over the past four years.

I don’t think it’s enough to lower the cost of college. We need to address this from multiple fronts: it’s going to need a cultural shift, not just a financial shift, to sooth this ailment.