Tag Archives: college

In Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away, Clay Shirky writes about banning laptops from his fall seminar class. Toward the end of the piece he writes that:

Computers are not inherent sources of distraction — they can in fact be powerful engines of focus — but latter-day versions have been designed to be, because attention is the substance which makes the whole consumer internet go.

That’s the problem in banning them, though. Productive, non-distracted, work from a computer is a cornerstone of modern work. Removing laptops from the college classroom addresses the symptom while doing nothing for the root cause.

Clay acknowledges in his post that computers can allow for a focus so deep you lose track of time. I agree that’s not inherent, though. Rather, it’s a learned skill. If we’re going to ban laptops from college classrooms because students lack that skill we have to also ask when and where that should be taught. Teaching that level of device literacy needs to happen somewhere in the education system.

Whitman College and the Decline of Economic Diversity. Some interesting data showing the impact of Whitman’s shift from need-blind admissions to need-sensitive. It appears my years at Whitman, 2006 through 2010, came right at the tail end of their well-funded aid programs. I know without the tens of thousands of dollars Whitman granted me there’s no way I feasibly could have attended.

The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age. Clay Shirky’s fantastic post about the costs and structural instability of our current higher education model. The last line is killer:

Arguing that we need to keep the current system going just long enough to get the subsidy the world owes us is really just a way of preserving an arrangement that works well for elites—tenured professors, rich students, endowed institutions—but increasingly badly for everyone else.

The Problem With Youth Activism:

Students are surrounded by professors reminiscing about the glory days of youth activism, when groups like Students for a Democratic Society, the Weather Underground, and the Black Panther Party really ignited social change. But the professors don’t seem to make the connection that none of these were school-sanctioned organizations.

The post is from 2007, though is probably no less relevant in 2013. Also does a good job of articulating the problem without just laying blame at the feet of college kids.

The Anti-Dropout:

It’s true (and exciting) that so much knowledge has moved online in the past decade. I can learn basic programming via Treehouse. I can learn web design in a course on Udemy. But what if I want to learn about the physics that drive hardware performance? The materials science behind the next generation of wearable computing? Or what about how to bring electronics manufacturing back to the United States? There are real, fundamental sets of knowledge that are still locked up in traditional academia.