Ending the ‘tyranny of the lecture’

Students need to assimilate information before they can apply it to a different context, Mazur said.

At an educational technology conference in Boston July 27, Harvard University physics professor Eric Mazur explained how he uses “peer instruction” to help his students engage in deeper learning than traditional lectures can provide—and he unveiled a brand-new ed-tech service that can help educators take this concept to a whole new level.

Mazur used a simple experiment to drive home his point that lecturing is an outdated—and largely ineffective—strategy for imparting knowledge.

Speaking at the 2011 Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference, organized by educational technology thought leader Alan November and his ed-tech consulting firm November Learning, Mazur asked participants to think of a skill they were good at, then explain how they mastered this skill.

While the responses from the crowd varied—some cited practice or experience, while others said trial and error—no one answered “lecture,” Mazur noted wryly.

Educators need to transfer information, he said, but students also need to do something with this information to make it stick—not simply parrot it back during a test, but actually assimilate it and take ownership of it, so they can apply this knowledge in a different context. If students can’t do that, he said, then they haven’t really learned anything.

For thousands of years, schools and colleges have focused on the first step in the learning process, information transfer, while leaving the critical second step—assimilation—to students outside of class, Mazur said.

But that’s essentially the opposite of how school should work, he said, because the transfer of information is the easy part—and educators instead should be focusing their time on the second part of the learning process.

Before the invention of the printing press, Mazur said, lecturing was an effective way to impart information to many people simultaneously.


Conservative group, student team up to stop union drive at UM

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and a University of Michigan (UM)  graduate student research assistant filed a complaint today with the Michigan Empoyment Relations Commission, hoping to block a drive to unionize the research assistants, reports The Detroit Free Press. Melinda Day, a graduate research assistant in the Molecular, Cellular and Development Biology Department at UM, is working with Patrick Wright, the director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, to try to stop the move. The UM Board of Regents voted earlier this spring 6-2 to allow the research students to organize. UM President Mary Sue Coleman and Provost Philip Hanlon spoke strongly against doing so.

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9th-graders to get early try at campus life

There’s a new experiment to get Prince George’s County, Md. high school students ready for higher education: sending them straight to college, The Washington Post reports. This fall, 100 ninth-graders will attend classes on the campus of Prince George’s Community College in Largo through a public school initiative called the Academy of Health Sciences. They’ll start with typical classes from high school teachers in such subjects as English, biology, math and Chinese.

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Microsoft Store to open opposite Apple Store near college hotspot

Microsoft confirmed on Facebook last night that it is planning to open a retail store in the University Village in Seattle, ZDNet reports. That’s not all. Imagine that awkward moment where you open a Windows Store directly opposite an Apple Store. Oh, wait. For those who are unfamiliar with Seattle — though named University Village, it is in fact a mall just down the road from the University of Washington campus.

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‘Sex vs. Textbooks’ survey doesn’t jibe with student preferences

Textbooks can weigh more than 20 pounds.

One in four college students said in a recent survey that they’d give up sex for a year if it meant never again having to carry textbooks around campus, but majorities of students in other opinion polls show a reluctance to give up on traditional texts and switch entirely to electronic books.

Kno Inc., a California-based educational software company, released a survey July 27 that has grabbed the attention of educators and students alike—and not so much because the survey shows that lugging heavy books from the dorm to the lecture hall and back isn’t fun, but because of what, exactly, young adults would sacrifice to rid their lives of their 800-page biology text.

Read more about textbooks in higher education…

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Which eReader is right for you?

Seven in 10 college student respondents said they want digital textbooks options, whether through a popular computer tablet like the Apple iPad or eBooks on a laptop.

Twenty-five percent of students carry more than 20 pounds of school-related materials—books, notebooks, organizational systems—every day on campus, according to the Kno survey.

There’s also the issue of bringing the wrong books to class—46 percent of respondents said this has happened to them—or losing the text altogether. Two in 10 students said they had misplaced their books sometime during their college career.

But educators and activists who keep a close eye on developments in higher education’s textbook policies said the sky-high demand for eBooks and web-based textbooks material is rarely, if ever, reflected in other national surveys on the issue.


Would-be grad students face longer, revised GRE

An expert predicts 'some initial shock' from students about the revised GRE.

Graduate school applicants will soon face a new hurdle in their bids for admission: a longer and revamped GRE that test administrators say more accurately assesses the skills needed to earn advanced degrees.

The revised Graduate Record Examination will be given at test sites across the country beginning Aug. 1.

Taken by about 675,000 people last year, the GRE general test is used for admission to U.S. graduate schools and, increasingly, business schools as well.

The latest version includes new types of questions in the verbal and math sections in addition to a different scoring system — collectively, the biggest changes to the test in 60 years, officials said.

“We really wanted the test to better reflect the kinds of thinking that students do in business and graduate school,” said Dawn Piacentino, a spokeswoman for Education Testing Services, which developed and administers the exam.

The changes come following a 57 percent boom in fall enrollment in graduate, medical and law schools — from 1.7 million in 1988 to 2.7 million in 2008, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The new GRE stresses real-life scenarios, reading comprehension and data interpretation, Piacentino said. The writing portion will remain largely the same, but changes in the rest of the computerized test include:

—Eliminating the verbal section on antonyms and analogies, which officials felt presented words out of context;

—A longer testing period, at nearly four hours instead of three;


29 universities seek high-speed networks

The broadband networks will be installed in communities with low unemployment.

The University of Missouri announced Wednesday that is joining an effort by some of the country’s top colleges to build “ultra” high-speed data networks in their local communities.

The project is known as Gig.U: The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project.

The 29 participating schools include Arizona State, Duke, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Florida, and Wake Forest University. The Aspen Institute, a Colorado-based nonprofit, initiated the effort.

The schools and their local partners will solicit proposals from telecommunications companies in their area.

They hope to quickly build high-speed broadband networks in communities with low unemployment and heavy demand for such services.

“These networks drive economic growth,” said University of Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton. “It will turn the entire city into a laboratory for high-bandwidth technology.”

Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid said the city was eager to participate after losing out to Kansas City, Kan., earlier this year as the first place to receive search engine giant Google’s new super-fast broadband network, which will provide internet connections of one gigabit per second.

“The train infrastructure of the 1800s is now the bandwidth of our time,” he said. “It’s not an (information) pipeline anymore. It’s a river. It’s a torrent.”

The city, state, and the university will share the initial $15,000 project costs but expect private investment to drive most of the effort.


College students would give up sex to not lug textbooks

Many college students would go to great lengths to avoid carrying textbooks, with some even willing to give up sex and dating for a year, according to a new survey, LiveScience reports. Education software company Kno found that students would make surprising sacrifices to get out of lugging around heavy textbooks. In fact, 34 percent would prefer to stay in every Saturday night for a semester and half of the respondents said they would eat boxed macaroni and cheese for a month rather than carry textbooks every day of school for a semester…

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High school students get learning experience on college campus

There’s a new experiment to get Prince George’s County high school students ready for higher education: sending them straight to college, the Washington Post reports. This fall, 100 ninth-graders will attend classes on the campus of Prince George’s Community College in Largo through a public school initiative called the Academy of Health Sciences. They’ll start with typical classes from high school teachers in such subjects as English, biology, math and Chinese…

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For-profit college chain in Kentucky accused of cheating students out of financial aid

The Kentucky Attorney General filed suit Wednesday against a chain of for-profit colleges in the state, claiming that administrators at Daymar Colleges have consistently deceived students by making false promises about the ability to transfer course credits and have forced them to purchase textbooks and supplies at substantially marked-up rates, reports the Huffington Post. Attorney General Jack Conway (D), who is leading a multi-state investigation into for-profit colleges with top prosecutors from 18 other states, alleged that Daymar Colleges violated state consumer protection laws by engaging in “unfair, false, misleading and deceptive acts and practices” involving financial aid and recruitment of students…

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