Recommended Reading: Ballmer group publishes “Annual Report” on government spending

A few years ago Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO and current president of the LA Clippers, formed a group called USAFacts. Their goal was to collect comprehensive data on how tax revenues (federal, state and local) are spent in the U.S. Their initial publication, structured like a company’s Annual Report is being released today.

It should be required reading for anyone entering public office. It should also be consulted by anyone interested in how their tax dollars are being spent and more generally in how government works.

That includes those of us who work in the education field. There is a detailed information in the “Annual Report” on financial aid disbursements (p. 28), educational attainment levels broken down by various cohorts (p. 39),  the size of the public education workforce – 10,979,260, or 47% of all government employees, of which 29% relate to higher education (p. 50), educational property assets (p. 57), fiscal year education spending comparisons (p. 80) and additional analysis of college enrollment and completion by income level and other attributes.

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Lumen and Follett: Canary in the Curricular Materials Coal Mine?

Phil wrote up some excellent observations yesterday about the announcement that Follett has invested in Lumen Learning and will be distributing some of their products. This deal has more significance for the curricular materials market than the (relatively) small dollar amount of the investment would indicate.

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Posted in Big Picture, Curricular-Materials, Ed Tech | 4 Comments

Some Notes On Lumen Learning’s $3.75 million Funding Round Led By Follett

Today’s biggest ed tech news was Lumen Learning – co-founded by David Wiley and Kim Thanos and focused on getting deeper adoption of OER in higher education – and their new round of funding. And this news goes beyond pure investment, as Follett, the large campus retailer that “serve[s] over half of the students in the United States, and work with 80,000 schools as a leading provider of education technology, services and print and digital content”, led the funding round.

First up a disclosure: Lumen Learning is a client of MindWires (the consulting side of e-Literate, or our capitalistic alter ego), and we have had a consulting relationship with Lumen for almost 18 months. We mostly don’t blog about our consulting work, and I do not plan to describe our advice to them, but we are not neutral observers on this one.

As described in the press release:

Follett will offer Lumen Learning’s OER solutions to more than 1,200 colleges and universities where Follett manages course materials delivery. Given Follett’s ongoing mission to improve access and affordability for students, the company has invested in Lumen Learning to help fund future growth and expansion of OER courseware.

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Digital Learning Compass: New WCET webcast on distance education enrollment trends

This Wednesday, April 19th, at 11am PDT / 2pm EDT I will be participating in a WCET webcast based on the latest National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) and its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data for the Fall 2015 term on distance education (DE) enrollment.

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Register today for “Distance Ed Enrollment Trends: New Data, New Trends, New Partnershipon April 19 at Noon MDT. The webcast will run for 60 minutes and take place via GoToWebinar.

April 19
8:00 AM HAST /10:00 AM AKDT/ 11:00 AM PDT and MST/ Noon MDT / 1:00 PM CDT/ 2:00 PM EDT

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Can There Be a Microscope of the Mind?

In my last post, I made an extended analogy between today’s ed tech and 19th Century medicine. My core argument was that effective ed tech cannot evolve without a trained profession of self-consciously empirical educators any more than effective medication could have evolved without a profession of self-consciously empirical physicians.

In this post, I’d like to go beyond analogies and look at the actual state of some cutting-edge cognitive science. I want to do this for several reasons. First, a lot of educators are skeptical or even cynical regarding the potential relevance of this work to the ways that they think about teaching. This is completely understandable, particularly given that most educators hear about this sort of research through product commercials or hyperbolic media puff pieces. By exploring the science in some detail, I want to show that having a basic understanding of even foundational research that has no direct classroom applications can stimulate the thinking of classroom educators in useful ways.

Second, I want to show that even educators with no background in science or math can achieve an empowering level of cognitive science literacy with a reasonable investment of time (like the time it takes to read a long blog post, for example).

And finally, I want to show that, after we strip away the hype and the ennui it engenders, we can recover a sense of wonder about the science while maintaining a sense of realism about its practical applicability. I have chosen to characterize the methodological paper I’ll be explaining as an attempt to create a “microscope of the mind.” That’s dangerously close to “robot tutor in the sky that can semi-read your mind” territory. I hope to demonstrate that there is a non-hyperbolic sense in which we can believe that analogy to be a reasonable one.

Here’s how I’m going to do it:

I am going to explain a research study on cognitive neuroscience. It’s not a big, sexy paper that gets coverage in outlets like Wired. It’s a methodology study. I’m going to explain enough of the basic underlying concepts in math, physics, and cognitive psychology for you to be able to get the gist of the paper and judge its significance for yourself. I’m going to explain how fMRIs work and what machine learning is. And I’m going to explain the larger context of why the researchers tried this particular experiment and how it is relevant to our larger understanding of how people learn. Along the way, I will touch on topics as diverse as theology, Russian literature, and the miracle of selfies, but always with the goal of showing how the science can be accessible, interesting, and relevant to non-scientists.

This is not a short read, but I hope that it will reward your effort.

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Posted in Academics & Academia, Big Picture, Pedagogy, Research | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments