Jason Ohler’s ‘4Four Big Ideas for the Future: Understanding Our Innovative Selves’

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

Jason Ohler, who wrote “Whither Writing Instruction in the 21st Century?” for ETC five years ago, released a new book last month, 4Four Big Ideas for the Future: Understanding Our Innovative Selves.

Jason developed a disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis from which he never expected to recover. It slowly and literally took his breath away. At the 11th hour, he received a double lung transplant.

“Rather miraculous,” he says. “A year later I have a new site, newsletter and book and feel great, back working full tilt, as inspired as ever.”

4Four Ohler2

For more information, link to his Amazon site and his personal website.

When he was huddled around an oxygen machine 24/7, he thought a lot. This book reflects what is important to him about life, learning and technology. Read some of the reviews for his book.

From the Amazon ad: “Dr. Jason Ohler has been telling stories about the future that are rooted in the realities of the past during the entire thirty five years he has been involved in the world of high technology and innovative education. He is a professor emeritus, distinguished president’s professor of educational technology and virtual learning who has won numerous awards for his work. He is author of many books, articles and online resources, and is a speaker, humorist, teacher, media psychologist, cyber researcher and grandpa. He is also a lifelong digital humanist who is well known for the passion, insight and humor that he brings to his presentations, projects and publications.”

 

MOOC Sightings 007: The Battushig Factor in College Admissions

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The difference between SAT scores of students from the lowest (<$20K) and highest (>$200K) income brackets is approximately 400 points. This point difference is mirrored in comparisons between the lowest (<high school) and highest (graduate degree) parental education levels.1

Battushig Myanganbayar

Battushig Myanganbayar

This correlation seems immutable. Parental education and income levels impact SAT scores and determine who gets into the most selective colleges. Then along came Battushig — Battushig Myanganbayar of Mongolia, that is, “The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator” — who, in June 2012, at 15, “became one of 340 students out of 150,000 to earn a perfect score in Circuits and Electronics, a sophomore-level class at M.I.T. and the first Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC.”2 His accomplishment didn’t go unnoticed, and he is now a research student at the MIT Media Lab.

Battushig is, of course, a rare exception, but his success adds to the already enormous potential of MOOCs and raises the possibility that they could become a factor in college admissions. In an editorial yesterday, Pitt News broaches this very idea: “Universities sometimes directly accept a student that excels in one of their MOOCs…. If not, the student may still choose to list the MOOC on his or her resumé under skills or relevant education. A completed MOOC is a valuable asset, comparable to a week-long leadership conference.”3

The message for parents and students is clear: MOOCs are poised to clear their current wildcard status and earn credibility as a key factor in college admissions.
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1 Zachary A. Goldfarb, “These Four Charts Show How the SAT Favors Rich, Educated Families,” Washington Post, 5 Mar. 2014. Also see Josh Zumbrun, “SAT Scores and Income Inequality: How Wealthier Kids Rank Higher,” WSJ, 7 Oct. 2014.

2 Laura Pappano, “The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator,” NY Times, 13 Sep. 2013. Also see her “How Colleges Are Finding Tomorrow’s Prodigies,” Christian Science Monitor, 23 Feb. 2014.

3Massive Open Online Courses Better Depict Student Potential,” op-ed, Pitt News, 23 Mar. 2015.

Mars One CEO Answers Questions About Mission Feasibility

Amersfoort, 19th March 2015 – Mars One recently published a video in which Bas Lansdorp, CEO and Co-founder of Mars One, replies to recent criticism concerning the feasibility of Mars One’s human mission to Mars.



Question: What do you think of the recent news articles that doubt the feasibility of Mars One?

BL: At Mars One we really value good criticism because it helps us to improve our mission. We get a lot of criticism from our advisors, and that is also exactly what we want from them. The recent bad press about Mars One was largely caused by an article on medium.com, which contains a lot of things that are not true. For example, the suggestion was made that our candidates were selected on the basis of how much money they donate to Mars One. That is simply not true, and it is very easy to find that on our website. There are a lot of current Round Three candidates that did not make any donations to Mars One, and there are also lots of people that did not make it to the third round that contributed a lot to Mars One. The two things are not related at all, and to say that they are is simply a lie. The article also states that there were only 2,700 applications for Mars One, which is not true. We offered the reporter, the first journalist ever, access to our list of 200,000 applications, but she was not interested in that. It seems that she is more interested in writing a sensational article about Mars One than in the truth.

We will have to delay the first unmanned mission to 2020. Delaying our first unmanned mission by two years also means that all the other missions will move by the same period of time, with our first human landing now planned for 2027. -B.L.

Question: Concerns have been voiced about the thoroughness of the astronaut selection process. What is your response to that?

BL: We started our astronaut selection with over 200,000 applications that were submitted online. The application included a video and a lot of psychological questions for our candidates. We used that to narrow down the candidates to about 1000 that had to do a medical check, which was very similar to the check for NASA astronauts. All the remaining candidates then underwent an interview. The interview and all other parts of the selection process were led by Norbert Kraft, our Chief Medical Officer. He has worked on astronaut selection for 5 years at the Japanese Space Agency, and at NASA he researched crew composition for long duration space missions.  Continue reading

MOOC Sightings 005: Wharton School and Universiti Teknikal Malaysia

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Rapid change is the norm, and for professional development in business, MOOCs are the answer. “Wharton School recently teamed up with Coursera . . . and tech start-ups Snapdeal and Shazam to launch $595 online courses with certificates.” This unbundled or certificate model underscores the MOOC’s disruptive force. “‘For adults who have limited resources – whether that’s time or money,'” says Rick Levin, Coursera chief executive, “‘the Specialization [industry project] model works well.'”1

As change approaches warp speed, the shelf life of knowledge decreases and the need for constantly accessible modules of new knowledge increases. The watchword here is accessible, and this is the MOOC’s domain.

This fact is becoming increasingly obvious in the world of business where you’re either on the leading edge or out of the picture, and the critical factor is time. You can’t pause or stop to learn. Learning has to be on the go, and this means anytime-anywhere.

Will this disruption creep into our college campuses? Will traditional students take to learning in MOOC modules to keep pace with the latest developments in their field? How will this impact courses in the more traditional semester mold?

Most expect professors to gradually blend modules into their curricula, but this is an institutional perspective. My guess is that students will self-modularize and independently flow toward MOOCs that give them the edge, regardless of what professors and colleges decide to do.

In fact, this is already happening, but this disruption doesn’t show up on the campus-richter scale because, from all appearances, the students are on campus and sitting in lecture halls.

On college campuses in other parts of the world, the disruptive power of MOOCs is being embraced. Shahrin Sahib, vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM), sees MOOCs as a window for “‘students to work collaboratively and closely with colleagues around the world and to have access not only to course instructors, but to textbook authors and experts from other institutions.'”2

For Sahib, the playing field is no longer just the university campus or Malaysia but the globe. He says, “‘If students are to fully assume positions of leadership and responsibility in specific organizations and in society as a whole, then they must be prepared to deal with the global environment.'” For college students, regardless of location, MOOCs are an interactive and accessible portal to that environment.
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1 Seb Murray, “Technology Expands Business Education As Students Opt for Digital Route,” BusinessBecause, 10 Mar. 2015.
2 Kelly Koh, “MOOC Can Help Create Global-ready Graduates,” New Straits Times, 10 Mar. 2015.

Preparing Your Child for a Robotic Future

Don’t Let a Robot Take Your Child’s Future Career: Roboticist’s Book Offers Educational Advice for Parents

Illah NourbakhshIllah Nourbakhsh says robots and artificial intelligence will increasingly displace people from many conventional jobs. The professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University has even written a book about it, called “Robot Futures.”
It’s enough to make parents despair over their children’s career prospects, he acknowledged, and that’s why he’s publishing a pair of follow-up books, “Parenting for Robot Futures.” Part 1: Education and Technology is now available on Amazon.com.

The key, he said, is to raise children who are “technologically fluent.”

“If we want our children to flourish in a technology-rich future, we need them to understand technology deeply— so deeply that our kids influence the future of technology rather than simply being techno-consumers, along for the ride,” he writes.

“There are no shortcuts to developing tech fluency, and there is no way to outsource the parent’s role to school, after-school or video games,” Nourbakhsh writes.

In the 64-page first volume, Nourbakhsh provides an overview to help parents understand the strengths and shortcomings of technology education in schools, including the movement to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, digital learning and massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

Continue reading

MOOC Sightings 004: Outside the Box with Ontario’s Judy Morris

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Updated 3/1/15
As in all things MOOC, look northward to Canada for the prevailing winds, and this time it’s to Ontario, and more specifically, to president and CEO of Lambton College Judy Morris. “Over the last few years,” she says, “Ontario colleges have seen enrollment in online learning grow ‘exponentially higher than on-ground learning.'”1

 Judy Morris, President and CEO of Lambton College, Ontario.

Judy Morris, President and CEO of Lambton College, Ontario.

Granted, she’s talking about online courses and not MOOCs, but the difference is superficial. In all but name, online courses are MOOCs that have been literally stuffed into the concrete and glass boxes that define traditional classrooms. In the box, they are subject to the same start and finish dates, registration requirements, enrollment caps, credit policies, fees, and even pedagogy that fail miserably at mimicking F2F (face-to-face) interactions.

Is it any wonder, then, that online courses fare so poorly in comparison to blended courses? As they’re currently positioned, completely online courses are simply poor copies lacking the features that make onground courses so effective for those who can afford to be on campus and attend classes in person for four to six years.

For the promise of online courses, we need look no further than MOOCs. There are some obvious differences: MOOCs attract huge enrollments and there’s usually no cap to class size, registration is free, anyone can register, they’re usually shorter than the standard quarter or semester, there’s no F2F requirement, feedback is provided by peers, they don’t count toward a degree, and they appeal primarily to nontraditional students.  Continue reading

MOOC Sightings 002: Oxford Professor Declares MOOCs the Loser

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William Whyte, professor of social and architectural history at St John’s College Oxford, assures us that in the “battle” of MOOCs vs traditional campus-based universities, “The MOOC will prove to [be] the loser.”1 He parades the usual suspects for their demise: low completion rates and absence of credits and degrees.

He tosses Britain’s E-University and Open University in with MOOCs for what amounts to a clean sweep of online programs. Two birds with one stone, as it were. He cites E-University as a costly failure and Open University as “actually a rather traditional university.” Convenient, but what these institutions have in common with MOOCs is baffling.

He bolsters his prediction with survey results: “Only 6% of prospective undergraduates surveyed last year [want] to stay at home and study. The other 94% expected and hoped to move away to a different place for their degrees.”

Whyte declares traditional universities the winner because “people want and expect something rather more than a purely virtual, entirely electronic experience of university. They expect it to be a place.”

Strong reassurance, indeed, for those who see MOOCs as “a horrible sort of inevitability.” Traditional universities have not only withstood the MOOC challenge but actually emerged stronger.  Continue reading