Meeting 1: Defining the Issues

Welcome!  I’m excited that you all are joining this semester’s “Books & Coffee” group.  We’ll be holding our first meeting next Monday, February 11, in Fleck 306.

In this posting, you’ll find some initial instructions to prepare for our first meeting.

Session I Topic: 
Defining the Issues: How Do Emerging Digital Technologies Challenge Us to Rethink the Goals and Practices of Liberal Education?

Our goal at this first meeting is to explore major emerging issues for liberal education brought about by digital information and digital pedagogies.  Right now, the national press and institutions of higher ed are all aflutter about MOOCs – massively open online courses, like those offered by EdX, Udacity, or Coursera.  (Not sure you understand the MOOC phenomenon?  Check out this recent article by the NY Times: “The Year of the MOOC.”) So, we can’t really avoid talking about them.  But MOOCs are only one set of waves in a storm of tides heading our way. So we’re going to look at several different issues for this meeting.

Before our first meeting, try to read the following two short pieces.  Together, they’ll take you 30 minutes – or fewer.

1)  Clay Shirky’s November 2012 blog entry, “Napster, Udacity, and the Academy.”
Clay Shirky has emerged as a major voice on the implications of new internet technologies on social formations and economics.  He’s a college professor, but also a kind of public intellectual.  You can find out more about him on his Wikipedia profile.

2)  The NITLE “Future Trends” report for February 2013.
NITLE is the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. This report, compiled monthly by NITLE Senior Fellow Bryan Alexander, provides a quick profile of emerging educational tech trends. This report is only available to NITLE member institutions (and SEU is one) who subscribe to it.  So, we’ll be discussing it, but we cannot link to it through this public website.  Want to know more about NITLE?  Check out their organization online.

 If you cannot attend the meeting, watch this video.  (Otherwise, you’ll see it at our meeting.)  Michael Wesch, “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able,” TEDx Talk, Aug 12, 2010.
During our first meeting, we’ll watch this short video by cultural anthropologist / college professor / YouTube phenom, Michael Wesch.  If you are one of the group members who cannot attend our live meetings, you can go ahead and watch this video on your own.  Who is this Michael Wesch character?  You’ve probably seen his video, “A Vision of Students Today,” which went viral among college faculty several years ago. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you might check it out.)  Learn more about him from his Wikipedia profile.


So, to recap, here’s how to prepare for Monday’s discussion:
1) read the Shirky blog post
2) look in your email for the NITLE report
3) watch the video if and only if you won’t be with us on Monday, Feb 11
4) and if you feel like it . . . write some of your thoughts in the comments.  To leave a comment, click on the bubble icon in the top right corner of this post.
And I’ll see you on Monday!

4 thoughts on “Meeting 1: Defining the Issues

  1. Hi everybody! I realize that the connections between these pieces may not be apparent yet, but I think we’ll see some of the threads coming together at our first meeting. In the meantime, hope to see some of your preliminary thoughts here!

  2. “Afluttering” MOOCs are “only one set of waves in a storm of tides heading our way.” Nice language, but I am skeptical about MOOCs. MOOCs seem to me to just be a different media, like a book, that presents materials, like a book with programmed text, which could in rare instances be transformative, like a very rare book.

  3. Yesterday (Thurs, Feb 7), Shirky posted a follow-up article to the piece we are reading on the website, In it, he pushes his case even more strongly: college is already broken for ordinary college students (not those at, err, fancy private schools). As with the other article, I think half the fun in reading this piece is trolling the comments at the end. The debate is interesting, and serious.

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