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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Happy New Year to the thinkPhD community

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Happy New Year to all my readers and friends! As you make your new year’s resolutions, don’t forget to add scholarship and learning to your list.

You might be thinking about returning to school, or taking some extension classes. Maybe you are wavering on deciding to step into Masters’ or PhD waters. You might be discouraged about your PhD or DBA path, after getting back some disappointing red-lined RSH or DIS assignments. Maybe that degree you are working on seems so far away, you cannot even see the light at the end of the tunnel right now.

I understand; been there, done that.

Take it from a battle-worn veteran; YOU CAN DO THIS. Step back and prepare a plan of action. Collect supportive folks to encourage you in your journey. Shake off the disapointments you have drug along with you; they are too heavy to bring into 2012. Find that inner strength that no one believes is within you, but I know is there.

Regardless of your circumstances, your personal self-investment in learning and education is yours forever. It cannot be taken away, stolen, forgotten, or lost. It becomes an eternal part of you. It makes a better “you” and as a result, it makes a better “us.”

So, add learning and scholarship to your 2012 resolutions and your “to do” lists.

Think living, think learning, thinkPhD.

“Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” – John Dewey

A Vision of Students Today

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

This video brings education into sharp focus: what are we doing to educate our students? When I watched the video for the first tim, it hit me hard because I am a TEACHER as well as a STUDENT. I am asking what is my classroom like? Do I meet my students’ needs? Are my classes meeting MY needs?

Watch the video and share your comments.


Plowing through papers

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

I haven’t written much lately about my PhD journey because I have been very busy with a class I am teaching at the University of Phoenix. I am reworking all of my lesson plans for this class, COM/285 Business Communications. The teaching materials in this class are slim to none, which means that the instructor can either bore the students to tears or spice up the class with activities. I prefer the later.

Today I was working on grading papers (and since this is a WRITING class, obviously they have to WRITE) and lesson plans. Most of the students have been in three to five or more classes already, yet I find that few are careful about plagiarizing. This course has been around for a while so it is pretty easy to find canned and free essays on the Internet for download. Well, if I can find them, so can the students.

And they do. Unfortunately.

The University has a alert system by which we can record an academic violation such as plagiarism or when a student falls behind in their work. This is a great system and our campus follows up with every student. Our concern is to identify issues early while they are correctible.

I did not work on any of my NCU papers today, but I will tomorrow. I am working on assignment 6 in RSH9103QNB.

President Obama & Education: Part Three

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

I have been reading about President Obama’s Blueprint for Change plans for education, found here. He outlines three main points: (1) greater investment in pre-school programs, (2) No Child Left Behind (NCLB) will be reformed, and (3) higher education will become affordable to all Americans.  This post is the last of three exploring these initiatives and commenting on same.

How would we reduce the cost of education? Force colleges to reduce tuition? Give more taxpayer dollars to students in the form of grants? Make higher education free and pay the school out of government coffers? Force students to “attend now, pay later?” (oh my think of the credit card debt!)? Assess the average cost per year of attendance and reduce student’s taxes by that much? Make college free or close to free? The President has already discussed his desire to increase spending on Pell Grants by 75% over the next 10 years and discard private loans for education. Where will the money come from? Taxes, of course.  

Higher education can be made more affordable but care must be taken to retain integrity in coursework. We must be careful that we do not reduce standards so that everyone can go to college and obtain a degree. A degree should be difficult to obtain, making it all the more desirable. A society needs all levels of training and education. Even though I am an advocate for learning, I cannot support the idea of universal higher education. There are many people who do not have the skill set to succeed academically. There are many wonderful programs in technical schools and other training programs. What would happen if everyone had a bachelor’s degree and no one a techical certification? No plumbers, no electricians, no paramedics…..I believe that each person must assess his skill set and pursue a path that makes sense for him.

Colleges and universities are businesses even if they are “non-profit.” A business is in competition with other businesses. Budgets, cash flow, payroll…these are all concerns that businesses and universities must tackle. A business should succeed or fail based on its output and profit. Making college affordable should not mean that the government will subsidize everyone’s education. This will only keep substandard institutions open that would fail otherwise. No, a university is a business and if it has a poor business model or unsuccessful graduates it should fail. Keeping it afloat with government subsidies from students is a poor excuse. Competition in higher education is a good thing. Keeping government money at bay is also a good thing.

Higher education has not failed in its mission, so why would it need intervention? College is tough and rightly so; not everyone can handle academic rigor. College is not for everyone now and never should be. Those who are willing to sacrifice money, time, and effort know the value of an education. Giving away education will simply cheapen it in our society. Money means control and our government knows so little about education. Education is not listed as an unalienable right according to the Constitution. We need to think about what government’s role should be…but it should not cross the line into controlling who goes to college.

Education is already accessible to citizens in the United States. Does making it affordable make it better? I don’t think so. Thank you, Mr. Obama, for bringing awareness to education reform. Making college affordable is a political volley, not a serious one. Let the market determine the value of a degree – if tuition is too high, colleges will not have customers (students). If a college churns out poor workers, then it should fail. Making college affordable is not the answer to making the USA academically competitive with other nations. We need tougher degree standards and more relevant coursework to make that happen.

This post is the conclusion in the series, “President Obama & Education.”

President Obama & Education: Part Two

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

I have been reading about President Obama’s Blueprint for Change plans for education, found here. He outlines three main points: (1) greater investment in pre-school programs, (2) No Child Left Behind (NCLB) will be reformed, and (3) higher education will become affordable to all Americans.  This post is the second of three exploring these initiatives and commenting on same.

President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002 with overwhelming bipartisan support.  The purpose of the bill was to increase standards of accountability in an effort to improve the performance of primary and secondary education. The act was based on the theory of outcomes-based education, or the premise that setting standards and measurable goals improves individual student outcomes. Unfortunately, test scores do not always represent learning. Moving from testing to writing, a student must exhibit comprehension and critical thinking skills.

In one elementary school that I visited, every day the children went to the “Learning Lab” and worked on the computer. Essentially, the software presented multiple choice questions. Any questions answered incorrectly at the end of a session were repeated until the student chose the correct answer. The questions were given in random order, with no obvious logical connection between questions. Teaching to the test…is this learning?

President Obama’s Blueprint for Change states:

No Child Left Behind Left the Money Behind: The goal of the law was the right one, but unfulfilled funding promises, inadequate implementation by the Education Department and shortcomings in the design of the law itself have limited its effectiveness and undercut its support. As a result, the law has failed to provide high-quality teachers in every classroom and failed to adequately support and pay those teachers.

Yes, Mr. President, NCLB did not result in positive education reform. We cannot point to significant improvements in learning and student success. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to reform education in this country, but we cannot even hope to find a one-size-fits-all solution. We have bypassed the basics in our primary schools and our children are not prepared for higher learning. Many have written on reforming education and I hope that you are listening. I like what Arne Duncan, your pick for Education Secretary, said his first day on the job, “No issue is more pressing than education. … It is the civil rights issue of our generation.”  

Thank you, Mr. Obama, for bringing awareness to education reform. NCLB is not the answer, it was merely a beginning. NCLB forced us to narrow our curriculum and teach test-taking to our children. We must start with reforming teaching methods and curriculum; and forget that learning is not always something that can be tested. Learning is obvious only when thinking happens. Let’s teach our children to think.

Remember to check back for Part Three in this series, “President Obama & Education.”

President Obama & Education: Part One

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I have been reading about President Obama’s Blueprint for Change plans for education, found here. He outlines three main points: (1) greater investment in pre-school programs, (2) No Child Left Behind (NCLB) will be reformed, and (3) higher education will become affordable to all Americans.  This post is the first of three exploring these initiatives and commenting on same.

Mr. Obama calls his plan to invest in pre-school programs the “Zero to Five Plan.” There have been many attempts to prepare pre-school children for elementary school. My grandmother worked in the Head Start program for many years in rural West Virginia. Churches and communities have dayschool or pre-school programs. The difference in the Zero to Five Plan (Z2F) is scary; it includes early care and education for infants. Many of my friends at work have small children who attend daycare, which is usually a structured sitting service. Most programs have some degree of educational goals tailored to the childrens’ individual maturity levels. The Z2F plan sets up Learning Challenge Grants to promote state efforts as they move toward “voluntary, universal pre-school.”

I am “all about” lifelong learning and fullfilling one’s potential. However, between the lines of Mr. Obama’s Z2F plan I see state-run mandatory child care. Isn’t that what they had in Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War? Is the state better equipped than parents to shape the critical first years of a child’s life? Can we honestly point to other government-run programs and state unequivicably that they are successful and well worth public monies spent? We definitely need to improve the education system in the United States, but shouldn’t we start with what we have in place, such as public education at the elementary level? How will we staff these facilities? We certainly want experienced teachers in the classroom but where do we find them? Where are the universities which teach infant education courses?

I am very concerned about how the program will work and ultimately how to measure its success. Children learn in the moment so it is imperative that parents/educators grab the moments as they come and build upon them. Finding the teachable moments can be harder than teaching in a classroom! There must be some curriculum Mr. Obama has in mind, but what could it be? The maturity level of babies/preschoolers varies widely. There are practical considerations, too. How many should be in each class? Is there a structured nap time? Potty time? When I was a young mother with children, my day was directed in part by what they did, how they felt, and whether they were open to learn.

I applaud the intent behind the plan which seeks to improve student readiness for kindergarten. Preparing students is critical to their early and later success in school. My mother taught my brother and me social skills as well as how to read prior to attending our first day. I credit this in part for our success in school and career. Studies have shown that early educational intervention and support reduce at-risk behaviors which result in poor performance and social issues. Building a better tomorrow rests squarely on the shoulders of educators and parents who together help prepare students to be productive members of society.

Thank you, Mr. Obama, for bringing awareness to America’s early education needs. However, I am just not able to support this the Zero to Five Plan, as it sounds more political than practical, and way too Big Brother-ish. A better idea? Teach parents how to teach their own children and encourage community support to create a nuturing, learning-centric environment.

Remember to check back for Parts Two and Three in this series, “President Obama & Education.”