A Bit Of A Twitter Rant

So what caused me to go on a bit of a rant on Twitter today?

It all started with one of those cheer-leading articles about the wonders of educational technology. Excuse me while I stifle a yawn. They are basically for gadget freaks who want to sell cool technology. Real teachers are more sceptical and need a lot more convincing. The tweets are in italics.

So I just had to reply to that on Twitter:

1 No it can’t. Learning is a personal thing; the best thing is quality time with a good teacher. Less #technobabble

And then, just to show that I am definitely not a Luddite. I use both video capture and classroom response systems in all my classes, to give an “active” learning environment, where the students can participate, even if they are in a large class. It works. Students feel more engaged, the weaker students benefit enormously and I have far fewer failures and drop outs than I would otherwise.

2 I do use tech in my classrooms. But education would be better if I didn’t have class sizes of 100–350 students. Why not invest in people?

Technology is NOT always the answer to every problem, sometimes the answer is just properly trained people. Good teachers in this case

3 If you invest in technology, then you’ll need infrastructure and support personnel, so why not invest in “teaching personnel” instead?

This is a crucial question in my mind:

Do you want techs and few teachers, or do you want lots of teachers instead? Bear in mind that lots of teachers gives you flexibility, ability to tap in to other expertise, and allow them to be creative by collaboration.

And once I started on this train of thought, then I went a bit wild.

Thoughts for a new direction of the University

4 Then you can attract students by delivering on a promise of personalized attention for their education.

5 At the moment, 50–75% of University teachers are screwed royally by the system (and by the tenured faculty and admin). Why not transform your University?

6 Make it one where there are *real* dedicated teachers, because half of academia is about the teaching and learning.

7 There is no point 7

I had to get this old joke in there somewhere.

How to transform the University in a fair and equitable manner.

8 And don’t let the faculty do the hiring of the teachers; grandfather in those who put years of effort into their departments for no reward

9 Otherwise the existing faculty will hire a bunch of new “fresh” teachers and keep out the teachers who’ve been on contract for a long time.

10 You know it will be justified by the tenured as “For the good of the department”, as they pass over long serving adjuncts/contract teachers

And that would be grossly inequitable from the point of view of those long serving teachers, who deserve a reward for the miserable pay and precarious employment that they have suffered. It may sound strange, but academic logic does not work in the same way as equity. The feelings of individuals can be ruthlessly trampled on “for the good of the department”, even if you’ve been working there for years.

10 Because that’s always the “justification” for propagating a deeply feudal system designed to let the tenured keep their jobs and screw us.

Not sounding too bitter, am I? Well I am bitter. Working full time for a university, with excellent teaching evaluations, teaching awards and awards to develop innovative teaching methods are rewarded with a salary which is 1/3 that of a tenured Professor, and a contract length of 4 months at a time.

Now let’s turn to the leadership, or lack of it, at the Top

11 Doesn’t ANY head of a major university have the guts and gumption to realize we are in a non-sustainable model and plan for the future?

12 Doesn’t look like it from my perspective. Academia is supposed to be about ideas, new thought, reflective thought, deliberation & debate

There is a serious lack of visionary and transformative leadership in academia. It’s terribly orthodox. Extract more money from more students, employ fewer permanent faculty, and build more shiny new buildings to impress students and potential donors. Does this sound familiar?

And onto the role of Government

13 Precious little debate going on about future of Higher Ed, apart from government funding being slashed everywhere.

Not so much debate, as neglect by various levels of government. In some US states, you would say that there is a positive antipathy to education funding.

And the State of Democracy

14 People have forgotten the unwritten social contract: this current generation of taxpayers educates the next generation, and supports the older generation in retirement.

15 Everybody so wants tax cuts, they’re willing to decimate public services, education, libraries, just for a small amount of money back.

So that was my rant on Twitter over for the day. I hope it, and this article, provokes some thought and comments. Not everyone will agree with me.