Archive for October, 2010
Last weekend was my 10 year college reunion. I have to admit – I was really nervous leading up to the weekend. A little, utterly irrational part of me kept thinking something along the lines of:
- I’ve never left the bay area
- I don’t work at a start up or one of the “flashy” name companies (Apple, Google, etc)
- I still work in higher ed (nothing wrong with that unto itself, but it’s what I’ve always done)
Along with these admittedly illogical concerns, reunions are always stressful events. You always feel like you’re being judged and compare yourself with what others have done. Who has advanced degrees, what kinds, who is doing what kind of work, and how I stack up under a variety of rubrics. It’s almost like college football rankings – one poll has me ranked “85th,” another says I’m “193rd” and somehow I’m not even on the board on a third.
Now that I’ve gotten that self-esteem stuff out of the way, what was perhaps the most surprising aspect of reconnecting with classmates was that almost everyone was surprised that I honestly, truly wanted to know how and what they were doing. If someone was a lawyer, I was curious about what kind of law he or she was practicing. If working at a financial firm (Fidelity, etc), I was curious if he or she was managing a fund to some extent, doing analysis, or something in between. I don’t know much about financial companies such as that and I want to know more.
People were truly surprised that I wanted to know things to that level of detail. That I truly, honestly wanted to know, and enjoyed discovering that I went to school with someone that is now with the US District Attorney’s Office in New York, or that one of my freshman dorm mates is now working as a writer on his second television show. I feel enriched having had a conversation with someone that graduated from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and has gone onto work in the health care industry and had a different take on the whole debate (sidebar: quick shout out to another friend that went to Booth, who should already know that I value that friendship).
What was interesting was that, after I poked a hole through that superficial layer of small talk and made it clear that I was truly interested, the person on the other end became interested in what I did, too. And it felt good when I was asked about what kind of technology I was trying to implement at the law school (especially since it seemed about half of my entire class are now lawyers). Or about how I really felt that business processes were important to academia – these were fellow former students, after all, reunited at the campus where we shared classrooms and listened to professors.
Maybe I’m not so boring after all. I know for sure that I have some truly fascinating former classmates and dorm mates from college.
A superhero touched down at the Educause Annual Conference last week in Anaheim. Experiences were changed, Twitter was twisted, and everyone was asking…
“Who is Educause_Hulk????’
At this year’s Educause Annual Conference, held last week in Anaheim, I got to witness something that, realistically, doesn’t happen all that often anymore. I got to see an existing social networking tool get twisted and used in a new way. I got to witness the impact of Twitter, twisted.
It is true that a great many tools – social networking and media ones in particular – are used in new, creative ways every day. Discovering new ways to use a tool such as Twitter is so common that calling it “reinvention” is almost inappropriate. It’s almost commonplace. So this isn’t new in the big sense, but within the particular context of the conference and how Twitter has been used therein, something quite remarkable happened.
Twitter has been used at conferences for quite some time, as both a great way to set up social activities (“hey! I’m here, who wants to get some food?” or “Let’s have a tweet-up!”) and to share information (“in a great session about topic X where such and such is said”). Of course, the use of a hash tag is required to organize all of this data, and an easy-to-read interface like that of Tweetdeck makes for a very powerful tool for communication. If you take a look at the Educause 2010 stream, you see it is littered with all kinds of posts. I think the first time Twitter was used so heavily at an Educause event was about 3 years ago at ELI, and it has just blossomed (exploded?) since then.
This past conference, however, saw a new twist. An attendee created an “alter ego” – EDUCAUSE_HULK – and posted on a semi-regular basis as that persona throughout the conference. This had a huge impact, at least for me, on the overall experience, and it raised a number of questions for the person behind the Hulk, too.
I hav to admit that this really surprised me. I have been looking into electronic textbooks for the law school environment. All a part of the move into mobile computing, the rise of the iPad, etc. But this article kid of turns that whole idea on its head.
After a long hiatus from this blog, during which I was basically swamped at work, I return to the idea of how to redefine or perhaps restructure law school to make better use of its faculty, give more to the student, and get away from the traditional models of revenue and federal aid reliance. I seek to “edupunk” law school.
I don’t have all of the “tenets” of the edupunk and edupreneur movement in front of me, but some really stick. One key aspect is that, since salaries make up a huge portion of a school’s costs, it is critical to make the most of every dollar. Especially with faculty that one must lure away from other schools, the amount of time each professor spends actually imparting wisdom unto students is the major metric. Especially for law schools, where salary (rather than tenure and job security) is often the number one reason that a lawyer would leave a lucrative position at a firm in order to teach, maximizing the contact between student and professor is important.
One means of achieving this is to bring in more adjunct faculty to do the “dirty work” for the professor. Creating exams, grading, even evaluating written assignments could conceivably all be done by lecturers or other faculty that are not on the track to tenure. Of course, this requires that the adjuncts work very closely with the professor so that the grading and exam methodology be in sync with the course materials and the professor’s style of teaching. Now the tenured faculty can spend their time in front of and with students and, hopefully, engaging others about how to change the way law is taught in an environment of continual creativity and improvement.
However, the Edupunk model falls shortl because even the adjunct faculty are often a significant financial load on a law school, much more so than that of the lecturer that runs between jobs in different fields at four separate colleges in an attempt to bring in one decent salary. Also, many adjunct are practicing lawyers and even sitting judges. These are not secondary members of the faculty that do supporting educational work for the school. These adjunct often teach courses that are popular electives with student, and they need to be in front of students just as much as the tenure-track faculty.
The question therefore, is whether there is a role for non-tenure-track faculty at a law school that are valuable both in teaching their own courses as well as being part of supporting the overall work of a tenured faculty that is presumably one of “the” reasons for attending that school.
So…this trend doesn’t work for law schools. This method of saving costs wouldn’t work for a law school.
Hopefully more success in the next attempt.
Okay – so I don’t want to comment on the political part of this – not now, at least. Just about everyone has the education system messed up right now.
But Obama’s support of community colleges? Bravo.