Tag: education (page 1 of 14)

University is about more than jobs and earning power

Next month, I embark on my fourth postgraduate qualification: an MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice. I also believe that alternative credentials such as Open Badges are valuable. That’s because the answer to an ‘either/or’ question is usually ‘yes/and’.

So I have sympathy with this article which talks about potentially going too far in discouraging people from going to university. What’s missing from this piece, as usual with these things, is that Higher Education isn’t just about earning power. It’s about expanding your mind, worldview, and experiences.

I got involved with Open Badges 12 years ago because I wanted my kids to have the option of going to university, rather than it being table-stakes for a decent job. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re a lot closer than we used to be. It’s a delicate balance, because I don’t want a liberal education to be the preserve of a wealthy elite.


Wages grow faster for more-educated workers because college is a gateway to professional occupations, such as business and engineering, in which workers learn new skills, get promoted, and gain managerial experience. Most noncollege workers, in contrast, end up in personal services and blue-collar occupations, for which wages tend to stagnate over time.


Despite the bad vibes around higher education, the fastest-growing occupations that do not require a college degree are mostly low-wage service jobs that offer little opportunity for advancement. Negative public sentiment might dissuade some people from going to college when it is in their long-run interest to do so. The potential harm is greatest for low- and middle-income students, for whom college costs are most salient. Wealthy families will continue to send their kids to four-year colleges, footing the bill and setting their children up for long-term success.

Indeed, highly educated elites in journalism, business, and academia are among those most likely to question the value of a four-year degree, even if their life choices don’t reflect that skepticism. In a recent New America poll, only 38 percent of respondents with household incomes greater than $100,000 said a bachelor’s degree was necessary for adults in the U.S to be financially secure. When asked about their own family members, however, that number jumped to 58 percent.

Source: The College Backlash Is Going Too Far | The Atlantic

Image: Good Free Photos

‘Personalisation’ is something that humans do

Audrey Watters, formerly the ‘Cassandra’ of edtech, is now writing about health, nutrition, and fitness technologies at Second Breakfast. It’s great, I’m a paid subscriber.

In this article, she looks at the overlap between her former and current fields, comparing and contrasting coaches and educators with algorithms. While I don’t share her loathing of ChatGPT, as an educator and a parent I’d definitely agree that motivation and attention is something to which a human is (currently) best suited.

How well does a teacher or trainer or coach know how you feel, how well you performed, or what you should do or learn next? How well does an app know how you feel, how well you performed, or what you should do next? Digital apps insist that, thanks to the data they collect, they can make better, more precise recommendations than humans ever can — dismissing what humans do as “one size fits all.” Yet it’s impossible to scrutinize their algorithmic decision-making. Ideally, at least, you can always ask your coach, “Why the hell am I doing bulgarian split squats?! These suck.” And she will tell you precisely why. (Love you, Coach KB.)

And then (ideally) she’ll say, “If you don’t want to do them, you don’t have to.” And (ideally), she’ll ask you what’s going on. Maybe you feel like shit that day. Maybe you don’t have time. Maybe they hurt your hamstrings. Maybe you’d like to hear some options — other exercises you can do instead. Maybe you’d like to know why she prescribed this exercise in the first place — “it’s a unilateral exercises, and as a runner,” she says, “we want to work on single-leg strength, with a focus on your glute medius and adductors because I’ve noticed, by watching your barbell squats, that those areas are your weak spots.” This is how things get “personalized” — not by some massive data extraction and analysis, but by humans asking each other questions and then tailoring our responses and recommendations accordingly. Teachers and coaches do this every. goddamn. day. Sure, there’s a training template or a textbook that one is supposed to follow; but good teachers and coaches check in, and they switch things up when they’re not really working.


If we privilege these algorithms, we’re not only adopting their lousy recommendations; we’re undermining the expertise of professionals in the field. And we’re not only undermining the expertise of professionals in the field, we’re undermining our own ability to think and learn and understand our own bodies. We’re undermining our own expertise about ourselves. (ChatGPT is such a bad bad bad idea.)

Source: Teacher/Coach as Algorithm | Second Breakfast

Using semesters for goal-setting

This article suggests using the academic calendar as a framework for setting and achieving personal goals, breaking life into “semesters” to focus on mini-goals that contribute to larger ambitions. It argues that this approach can aid in time management, motivation, and skill development, offering a structured yet flexible way to make meaningful progress in various aspects of life.

As someone who spent a long time in formal education, was a teacher, and spent time working in Higher Education, it’s difficult to get out of the habit of the academic year and breaking your work into ‘terms’. Perhaps I should be leaning into it?

While it’s important to set goals, the roadmap for how to attain them can be murky. Instead of embarking without a plan toward broad ambitions, there’s value in incremental objectives in service of a larger aim. Take a page from the educational system and divide the future into “semesters” — traditionally 15 to 17 weeks long at American colleges — in which to implement minigoals to help get you where you want to go. Use the traditional academic year as a guide to help you stay on track, says Rachel Wu, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. Many community classes and educational opportunities are offered roughly on a quarter or semester basis. “At the very least, it will help people, maybe, feel young again. I think that’s a huge benefit,” Wu says. “They can think back to that point in their life when they had that kind of organization and that might be something that works for them.” (You don’t need to follow a traditional academic structure by any means, but having a firm start and end date within a few months’ span in which to focus on certain skills or activities can help keep you motivated.)


Modeling your life after academic years allows you to adequately mark your process. It’s difficult to determine improvement with daily or even weekly goals, Fishbach says. But with a quarterly or biannual milestone, you’re more easily able to track your progress; you can more clearly look back on what you’ve learned after a 20-week intro to coding class as opposed to after a few days of instruction. The end of a semester allows for these report cards. “It just helps you feel that you’re growing as a person,” Fishbach says. “You’re not the person you were three months ago.”


A self-imposed semester system also lends itself to increased motivation due, in part, to the fresh start effect, where people are more driven to pursue goals after a “fresh start” like a new year or semester. (Fully embrace the back-to-school energy and buy some new school supplies, Wu says, “and then learn something.”) With goals that have an endpoint, called an all-or-nothing goal, Fishbach says, motivation increases as you approach the deadline. Having a distinct cutoff to your personal semester can help you stay driven knowing there’s an end in sight.

Source: Semesters for adults: How the academic school year can help with goal-setting, time management, and motivation | Vox