Sunday, January 27, 2013

A lesson for on-line teaching enthusiasts?

"Few remember it now, but one of the strangest episodes in the cultural Cold War occurred in El Salvador, when a military government tried to replace schoolteachers with televisions. TV sets were wheeled into middle-school classrooms all over the country and 'teleteachers' imparted classes from a broadcast studio outside San Salvador. All teachers' colleges but one were closed; they were no longer needed. The scheme was so promising that President Lyndon Johnson himself cut the ribbon on the new studio in 1968, extolling El Salvador as 'the first nation in all the world with a complete educational television system.' 'Some day,' he added, 'we hope the United States can catch up with you.' ...

American communications gurus (enthusiastically backed by UNESCO and the World bank) conceived the plan as a way to teach marketable, 'modern' skills to teens, not to teach them to think critically. ...

After first supporting television as a didactic tool, teachers turned violently against it. The plan's main architect, a brilliant and arrogant civil servant named Walter BĂ©neke, was assassinated by guerrillas in 1980, and the broadcast studios were decommissioned and turned into an army garrison."

--Roger Atwood, The Times Literary Supplement (January 18, 2013), pp. 22-23, reviewing the book Modernizing Minds in El Salvador


Revolution Hits the Universities - Thomas Friedman, New York Times: "Lord knows there’s a lot of bad news in the world today to get you down, but there is one big thing happening that leaves me incredibly hopeful about the future, and that is the budding revolution in global online higher education. Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty — by providing them an affordable education to get a job or improve in the job they have. Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems. And nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC, platforms that are being developed by the likes of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and companies like Coursera and Udacity. ...

Imagine how this might change U.S. foreign aid. For relatively little money, the U.S. could rent space in an Egyptian village, install two dozen computers and high-speed satellite Internet access, hire a local teacher as a facilitator, and invite in any Egyptian who wanted to take online courses with the best professors in the world, subtitled in Arabic."


By having female scholars teaching online classes, U.S. universities could help empower women abroad - Lisa L. Martin and Barbara F. Walter, Los Angeles Times:

"The United States is leading a revolution in higher education. With the advent of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, U.S. universities will be increasingly exporting hundreds of college-level classes every year to the rest of the world. The implications of this are huge.

At the least, students in every country with Internet service will have access to the best scholars and cutting-edge knowledge in their discipline. Go online (often for free) and top classes in statistics, computer science, economics, physics and the humanities are at your fingertips. The result will be dramatic increases in skills, training and knowledge in even remote places.

But there's a potentially large implication that U.S. universities have missed: the ability to export gender equality, powerful female role models and more. Studies have shown, for example, that educating women leads to a reduction in poverty, fertility and violence, and increases in the health outcomes for families. Exporting classes taught by women could profoundly influence how young people around the world think about the roles women play in society."

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