The Atlantic.com – “The Machine Zone: This Is Where You Go When You Just Can’t Stop Looking at Pictures on Facebook”

What an anthropologist’s examination of Vegas slot machines reveals about the hours we spend on social networks

Alexis C. Madrigal | Jul 31 2013, 12:37 PM ET

TheAtlantic.com -- “The Machine Zone: This Is Where You Go When You Just Can’t Stop Looking at Pictures on Facebook” The Machine Zone (Sarah Rich)

“People love Facebook. They really love it,” Biz Stone wrote earlier this month. “My mother-in-law looks hypnotized when she decides to put in some Facebook time.”She is not the only one. ComScore estimates Facebook eats up 11 percent of all the time spent online in the United States. Its users have been known to spend an average of 400 minutes a month on the site.

I know the hypnosis, as I’m sure you do, too. You start clicking through photos of your friends of friends and next thing you know an hour has gone by. It’s oddly soothing, but unsatisfying. Once the spell is broken, I feel like I’ve just wasted a bunch of time. But while it’s happening, I’m caught inside the machine, a human animated GIF: I. Just. Cannot. Stop.

Or maybe it’ll come on when I’m scrolling through tweets at night before bed. I’m not even clicking the links or responding to people. I’m just scrolling down, or worse, pulling down with my thumb, reloading, reloading.

Or sometimes, I get caught in the melancholy of Tumblr’s infinite scroll.

Are these experiences, as Stone would have it, love? The tech world generally measures how much you like a service by how much time you spend on it. So a lot of time equals love.

My own intuition is that this is not love. It’s something much more technologically specific that MIT anthropologist Natasha Schüll calls “the machine zone.”

To view the entire article, refer to TheAtlantic.com:
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/07/the-machine-zone-this-is-where-you-go-when-you-just-cant-stop-looking-at-pictures-on-facebook/278185/


Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas by Natasha Dow SchüllAddiction By Design
Machine Gambling in Las Vegas

Natasha Dow Schüll

Recent decades have seen a dramatic shift away from social forms of gambling played around roulette wheels and card tables to solitary gambling at electronic terminals. Addiction by Design takes readers into the intriguing world of machine gambling, an increasingly popular and absorbing form of play that blurs the line between human and machine, compulsion and control, risk and reward.

Drawing on fifteen years of field research in Las Vegas, anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll shows how the mechanical rhythm of electronic gambling pulls players into a trancelike state they call the “machine zone,” in which daily worries, social demands, and even bodily awareness fade away. Once in the zone, gambling addicts play not to win but simply to keep playing, for as long as possible–even at the cost of physical and economic exhaustion. In continuous machine play, gamblers seek to lose themselves while the gambling industry seeks profit. Schüll describes the strategic calculations behind game algorithms and machine ergonomics, casino architecture and “ambience management,” player tracking and cash access systems–all designed to meet the market’s desire for maximum “time on device.” Her account moves from casino floors into gamblers’ everyday lives, from gambling industry conventions and Gamblers Anonymous meetings to regulatory debates over whether addiction to gambling machines stems from the consumer, the product, or the interplay between the two.

Addiction by Design is a compelling inquiry into the intensifying traffic between people and machines of chance, offering clues to some of the broader anxieties and predicaments of contemporary life.

Natasha Dow Schüll is associate professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Review:

Addiction by Design is a nonfiction page-turner. A richly detailed account of the particulars of video gaming addiction, worth reading for the excellence of the ethnographic narrative alone, it is also an empirically rigorous examination of users, designers, and objects that deepens practical and philosophical questions about the capacities of players interacting with machines designed to entrance them.”–Laura Norén, PublicBooks

“Natasha Dow Schüll, an anthropologist at MIT, has written a timely book. Ms Schüll has spent two decades studying the boom in casino gambling: the layout of its properties, the addicts and problem gamblers who account for roughly half its revenue in some places, and the engineering that goes into its most sophisticated products. Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas reads like a combination of Scientific American’s number puzzles and the ‘blue Book’ of Alcoholics Anonymous.”–Christopher Caldwell, Financial Times

“Schüll adds greatly to the scholarly literature on problem gambling with this well-written book. . . . Applying an anthropological perspective, the author focuses especially on the Las Vegas gambling industry, seeing many of today’s avid machine gamblers as less preoccupied with winning than with maintaining themselves in the game, playing for as long as possible, and entering into a trance-like state of being, totally enmeshed psychologically into gaming and totally removed from the ordinary obligations of everyday life. . . . The book offers a most compelling and vivid picture of this world.”–Choice

“A stunning portrayal of technology and the inner life. Searing, sobering, compelling: this is important, first-rate, accessible scholarship that should galvanize public conversation.”Sherry Turkle, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other


Higher Education in the Digital Age by William G. BowenIf you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in other internet-related topics, such as online learning. Online learning is often crowned as the ultimate solution to cut costs in the education system. Will our ever-increasing migration away from the physical world and into the virtual world ultimately help us, or cost us in more ways than one?

Higher Education in Digital Age by William G. Bowen explores how online learning could help control the exploding cost of higher education. In this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, one of the foremost experts on the intersection of education and economics, explains why, despite his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning. As a former president of Princeton University, an economist, and author of many books on education, Bowen speaks with unique expertise on the subject.

Want to score an internship with Princeton University Press? Our interns offer some advice on maximizing your chances.

Two students interning with Princeton University Press have agreed to answer a few questions about their experiences as interns during the summer 2013 term. Are you interested in becoming an intern with Princeton University Press? Read on for tips and tricks to maximize your success – Brought to you by our Editorial Intern, Anna, and our Social Networking Intern, Holly.

Anna Olkovsky (Smith College)

Title: Editorial Intern
Department: Editorial
College Major: American Studies
Year: Senior

Holly Jennings (Rider University)

Title: Social Networking Intern
Department: Publicity
College Major: Public Relations
Year: Senior

1.) What does your list of duties for the Princeton University Press include?

Anna: “I help the Editorial Assistants in any way I can. Some of my regular assignments include: sending copies of our books to authors, professors, and other scholars in the field; contacting museums and organizations to start the process of getting the rights to use one of their images; and helping with administrative tasks such as photocopying, scanning, and fetching books from the University Library.”

Holly: “I assist the Publicity Director and Assistant Publicity Director/ePublicity Manager. Some of my regular assignments include: Utilizing HTML, CSS, and other variations of code to create content, researching online blogs for specific topics to obtain information for marketing and publicity, adding events to the Princeton University Press facebook site and individual book sites, setting up Facebook pages for each PUP title, watching author interviews/reviews and selecting excerpts to be placed on the blog, posting articles and creating features on the blog, attending departmental meetings to get an overall view of the function of the publicity department, and conducting research related to various books for marketing purposes.”

2.) Are there any special qualifications, skills, or training that you have brought with you to the internship?

Anna: “I have previously completed two other internships, so I am comfortable in an office setting and have had some experience with copyediting, proofreading, and writing blog posts. I have worked as a Writing Tutor at my college for two years now, which has taught me how important it is for academic work to be well-structured, clear, and legible to a general audience. Also, although it hasn’t impacted my work in this internship directly so far, I have always found in interviews that employers are interested in my fluency in another language, so I am proud of the work I have done to achieve that.”

Holly: “I’ve interned with Princeton University Press twice – once as a general Publicity Intern, and now twice as a Social Media Intern. I’ve also interned with Princeton AlumniCorps. Both internships have given me invaluable lessons that have been added to my skill set. I have been doing web design and HTML since I was fairly young – I’ve been self-taught since about 6th grade. My best friend and I used to build HTML/CSS layouts for Xanga, which is an online journal community. Having the skill set to build websites and become familiar with different types of coding is vital to the Social Media Intern position because this is a position heavily based around creativity and putting your own unique touch on things.”

3.) What aspect(s) do you enjoy most about your internship with the Princeton University Press?

Anna: “My favorite part of my internship is the Project Review meeting I get to attend every Thursday. During this meeting, editors who have been in touch with authors and agents about potential books give the rest of the Editorial Department a summary of the project, and then other editors weigh in with their comments about the project. Since a lot of the work I do on a daily basis is pretty administrative, it’s great to be able to see The Press’ work from a more top-down perspective. Plus, most of the new book topics sound fascinating to me!”

Holly: “The aspects I enjoy most about my internship is the freedom to make what you do all your own. In my department, I’m given a lot of freedom to show off my creativity. I’m allowed to create my own projects and am autonomous in making a lot of decisions. This is excellent for building up my portfolio. Since I’ve interned here a few times, I have a endless collection of examples of my own work that I can show to future employers at interviews. All samples of work that I have created at The Press can apply to various job functions – whether they fall under social media, marketing, advertising, public relations, or other occupational areas.”

4.) In what ways do you think this internship will help you in future job endeavors?

Anna: “I applied for this internship because I became interested in academic publishing as a potential career, and wanted to get some hands-on experience to see if I really liked the work and field. This internship has only cemented my desire to work as an editor at an academic press, and it has been a great experience to finally figure out a potential career path and have some sort of clarity about what I’m doing after college. And I’m sure that when I apply to future jobs in publishing, this internship will stand out for the Press’ well-known leadership in the field of academic publishing.”

Holly: “Building off of the previous question, I think being responsible for my own projects has taught me a lot about responsibility and self initiation. It’s easy to mess around when you have little guidelines on exactly how your work should be done. In a Social Media Intern position, you’re your own boss, in a sense – it is real sense of accomplishment knowing that your work comes from your own successes. Future employers want to hire people that know how to step up to the plate and be leaders.”

5.) What job skill(s) learned at the Press do you feel are most vital to your overall career success?

Anna: “There are some more technical skills I have practiced here, such as using the particular software we use to ship orders from our warehouse, but I have also learned a lot about how different departments within the Press work together to support the ultimate goals of publishing great work. Sitting in on meetings with not only the Editorial department, but also with Publicity and Permissions, has given me a good sense of what kinds of work are necessary to get a book published and sold.”

Holly: “The job skills I’ve learned at the Press that I feel are most vital to my overall career success would definitely be the social media postings. I’ve become very savvy with what types of language you should use in Facebook and blog posts. When you learn how to communicate to your company’s specific key publics in a way that resonates with them, you obtain a priceless skill that is transferable to any type of business you may venture into.”

6.) Would you recommend this internship to others?

Anna: “Definitely! It has been a great experience so far, and I have learned a lot about the field of academic publishing. Plus, everyone in the office is really nice, and there’s usually free food in the kitchen.”

Holly: “I would absolutely recommend this internship to others. The Princeton University Press is a very friendly environment. I always feel comfortable asking any of my coworkers for help. There are an unlimited number of projects that greatly benefit your resume for future employers.”

7.) Is there any advice you can give to those applying for internships, looking for jobs in your field, or ways to maximize one’s chance of getting an internship with the Princeton University Press?

Anna: “One piece of advice is definitely to start early when you’re applying for summer internships. The people I know who started looking in December or January ended up having more options, and had their plans figured out earlier, than those who didn’t start applying until March or April. And also, don’t be worried if you don’t have previous experience that’s completely relevant to the publishing world; during my interview, I was able to talk about how my different experiences with research and tutoring have taught me the importance of good written organization. You probably have more relevant skills and experiences than you think you do, and it’s important to emphasize those in your resume and interview.”

Holly: “If there is any advice I can give to those looking to be chosen for an internship at PUP, I would have to say that building your resume is paramount. Play up your strengths, and try to keep job descriptions to the point while highlighting the important duties and accomplishments that apply to the department you are looking to work for. For me, I made it a point to play up my previous employment in retail on my resume. Although one might not think retail relates directly to social media, the interactions with customers and fellow coworkers have taught me a lot about communicating with others, whether it be in person or through the internet. Another strength on my resume is my GPA. I work hard to maintain a very high GPA, because although a GPA may not be everything to employers, it does help you appear to be a promising employee with a steadfast work ethic.”


Apply for one of the internships listed above or any of PUP’s other opportunities:

 

Congratulations to William G. Bowen, recipient of a 2012 National Humanities Medal

William G. Bowen, President Emeritus, The Andrew W. Mellon FoundationOur congratulations and heart-felt good wishes go to William Bowen in recognition of his 2012 National Humanities Medal.

This medal will be awarded by President Obama today, July 10, 2013.  According to the White House, Mr. Bowen will be honored for “his contributions to the study of economics and his probing research on higher education in America.”

The staff of Princeton University Press celebrate this honor, acknowledging Bill Bowen not only as an illustrious author—most recently of his 2013 book, Higher Education in the Digital Age—but as a former trustee, long-time advisor, and most of all, friend.

Delbanco to Deliver Fribolin Lecture

Mark your calendars! Andrew Delbanco, author of College: What it Is, Was, and Should Be will deliver the 25th Annual Carl and Fanny Fribolin Lecture on Friday, May 3, at Keuka College in New York. The event is free and open to the public. Read more about the event below.

Andrew Delbanco to deliver Fribolin Lecture

Dr. Andrew Delbanco, recipient of the 2011 National Humanities Medal, will deliver the 25th Annual Carl and Fanny Fribolin Lecture Friday, May 3, at Keuka College.

r. Andrew Delbanco, recipient of the 2011 National Humanities Medal, will deliver the 25th Annual Carl and Fanny Fribolin Lecture Friday, May 3, at Keuka College.

One of the highlights of May Day Weekend, Delbanco will discuss “What is College For?” at 6:30 p.m. in Norton Chapel. It is free and open to the public.

The lecture series carries the names of Geneva resident Carl Fribolin, an emeritus member of the College’s Board of Trustees and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 2004, and his late wife.

Delbanco is Mendelson Family Chair of American Studies and Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He was awarded the 2011 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama “for his writing that spans the literature of Melville and Emerson to contemporary issues in higher education.”

In 2001, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and named by Time Magazine as “America’s Best Social Critic.” In 2003, he was named New York State Scholar of the Year by the New York Council for the Humanities. In 2006, he received the “Great Teacher Award” from the Society of Columbia Graduates.

Delbanco is the author of many books, including, most recently, College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be, and The Abolitionist Imagination. Melville: His World and Work was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography, and appeared on “best books” lists in the Washington Post, Independent (London), Dallas Morning News, and TLS. It was awarded the Lionel Trilling Award by Columbia University.

Delbanco’s essays appear regularly in The New York Review of Books, New Republic, New York Times Magazine, and other journals. His topics range from American literary and religious history to contemporary issues in higher education.

Delbanco has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a member of the inaugural class of fellows at the New York Public Library Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

Sports and Education during March Madness

If you’ve been keeping up with PUP’s March Mathness, you must have a much better bracket than I do. This year I chose to make my picks based on rankings and even took a little advice from ESPN commentators rather than doing my usual picks based on mascots and/or uniform colors. This has been by far my worst bracket ever. If I had made my picks mathematically with PUP or even based on school mascots, I bet I would have won this year’s pool. Tonight is the night, though- the final championship game.

Sometimes when I watch the games, I forget that the players are students like me- granted, they get national television exposure and I don’t. With all the press they receive not only from their own local media but national media like ESPN, it’s easy to forget that these players go to class and are in school getting a degree in addition to playing ball.

Besides the national exposure, there are plenty more differences between me and a recruited student athlete at a big time school. After tonight, the college sports world will continue with baseball and lacrosse season just to name a few prominent school sports, and these basketball players will head back to class- but what are the differences between the likes of Kevin Ware and me heading to class?

William Bowen, also author of Higher Education in the Digital Age, and Sarah Levin discussed these differences in their 2005 book Reclaiming the Game. From admissions into the school to grades in a class, the differences between a student athlete and a regular student are both vast and troubling.

Read below to preview Chapter 1 of Reclaiming the Game.

Chapter 1

IN NO OTHER country in the world is athletics so embedded within the institutional structure of higher education as in the United States. This is true at all levels of play, from the highly publicized big-time programs that compete under the Division I banner of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to small college programs that are of interest primarily to their own campus and alumni/ae communities. But to many sports fans, “serious” college sports are thought of almost exclusively in terms of Division I competition between highly skilled teams composed of students holding athletic scholarships. It is no surprise, therefore, that the ranking of the best and worst college sports programs introduced by U.S. News & World Report is concerned, at least in the first instance, only with play at this level.1

However, as both university presidents and readers of the sports pages know well, the public exposure these programs receive is not always positive: the extensive reporting of events such as the resurgence of Notre Dame football, the bowl championship series, and basketball’s “March Madness” is regularly accompanied by commentary on the “dark side” of big-time sports.2 In 2001 the Knight Commission published a second report calling for reform of Division I sports in stronger terms than ever before,3 and a week does not pass without one or more stories detailing some new recruiting scandal or lapse in academic standards, debating gender equity issues, commenting on rowdy behavior by athletes and other students, or speculating on the future course of the NCAA.

The academic downside of big-time sports has been recognized for a very long time–indeed, for at least a century.4 The generally unstated–or at least untested–assumption has been that all is well at colleges and universities that provide no athletic scholarships and treat college sports as a part of campus life, not as mass entertainment. The positive contribution of athletics in these contexts is emphasized on the sports pages of student newspapers, alumni/ae magazines, and of official publications, which, taken together, provide a generally healthy corrective to a societal tendency to emphasize problems.5 The director of athletics and physical education at Bryn Mawr, Amy Campbell, surely spoke for many dedicated coaches and administrators at such schools when she wrote: “College athletics is a prized endeavor and one that enriches the experience of college students. The question should not be ‘at what price athletics’ but rather how to structure athletic programs that serve both the student athletic interest and the greater goals of liberal arts institutions.”6

We identify strongly with this pro-sports mindset and cannot imagine American college life without intercollegiate teams, playing fields, and vigorous intramural as well as recreational sports programs. But we are concerned that all is not well with athletic programs at many colleges and universities outside the orbit of big-time sports. One of our principal concerns is that widely publicized excesses and more subtle issues of balance and emphasis may undermine what many of us see as the beneficial impact of athletics. “Save us from our friends” is an old adage, and it has real applicability here. Zealous efforts to “improve programs,” boost won-lost records, and gain national prominence can have untoward effects that may erode the very values that athletic programs exist to promote–as well as the educational values that should be central to any college or university. From our perspective, the challenge is to strengthen, not weaken, the contribution that athletics makes to the overall educational experience of students and to the sense of “community” that is important not only to current students but also to graduates, faculty members, staff, and others who enjoy following college sports.

Click here for more of chapter 1.

PUP books on College

Students at the college that I attend know that it’s truly spring when high school seniors visit campus in flocks- no, in army sized battalions- for Accepted Students Day. Yesterday my college’s campus was filled to the rim with high schoolers and their parents, and for those students choosing to go to college, soon they will have to decide which colleges they will be attending in fall 2013.

College is undoubtedly the best time of your life. There will never be another time when you have limited responsibilities and, for the most part, total freedom. PUP has some great reads on what college is like now and what it could be like in the future. Here’s a list of some college related reading from PUP!

1. College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be by Andrew Delbanco- For so many, the point of college is to get a degree so that you can get a job. While this is the attitude held by many today, this is not what college was initially designed to achieve.

As the commercialization of American higher education accelerates, more and more students are coming to college with the narrow aim of obtaining a preprofessional credential. The traditional four-year college experience–an exploratory time for students to discover their passions and test ideas and values with the help of teachers and peers–is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

In College, prominent cultural critic Andrew Delbanco offers a trenchant defense of such an education, and warns that it is becoming a privilege reserved for the relatively rich. In arguing for what a true college education should be, he demonstrates why making it available to as many young people as possible remains central to America’s democratic promise.

In a brisk and vivid historical narrative, Delbanco explains how the idea of college arose in the colonial period from the Puritan idea of the gathered church, how it struggled to survive in the nineteenth century in the shadow of the new research universities, and how, in the twentieth century, it slowly opened its doors to women, minorities, and students from low-income families. He describes the unique strengths of America’s colleges in our era of globalization and, while recognizing the growing centrality of science, technology, and vocational subjects in the curriculum, he mounts a vigorous defense of a broadly humanistic education for all. Acknowledging the serious financial, intellectual, and ethical challenges that all colleges face today, Delbanco considers what is at stake in the urgent effort to protect these venerable institutions for future generations.

2. Higher Education in the Digital Age by William G. Bowen- While Delbanco looks at what college used to be like in the past, William Bowen discusses what higher education looks like today in the digital age and where technology may lead us for the future.

Two of the most visible and important trends in higher education today are its exploding costs and the rapid expansion of online learning. Could the growth in online courses slow the rising cost of college and help solve the crisis of affordability? In this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, one of the foremost experts on the intersection of education and economics, explains why, despite his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning. As a former president of Princeton University, an economist, and author of many books on education, including the acclaimed bestseller The Shape of the River, Bowen speaks with unique expertise on the subject.

Surveying the dizzying array of new technology-based teaching and learning initiatives, including the highly publicized emergence of “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), Bowen argues that such technologies could transform traditional higher education–allowing it at last to curb rising costs by increasing productivity, while preserving quality and protecting core values. But the challenges, which are organizational and philosophical as much as technological, are daunting. They include providing hard evidence of whether online education is cost-effective in various settings, rethinking the governance and decision-making structures of higher education, and developing customizable technological platforms. Yet, Bowen remains optimistic that the potential payoff is great.

3. Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More by Derek Bok- Are we actually learning what we should be learning in college? Bok explores the challenges that academic institutions face in trying to help students accomplish more.

Drawing on a large body of empirical evidence, former Harvard President Derek Bok examines how much progress college students actually make toward widely accepted goals of undergraduate education. His conclusions are sobering. Although most students make gains in many important respects, they improve much less than they should in such important areas as writing, critical thinking, quantitative skills, and moral reasoning. Large majorities of college seniors do not feel that they have made substantial progress in speaking a foreign language, acquiring cultural and aesthetic interests, or learning what they need to know to become active and informed citizens. Overall, despite their vastly increased resources, more powerful technology, and hundreds of new courses, colleges cannot be confident that students are learning more than they did fifty years ago.

Looking further, Bok finds that many important college courses are left to the least experienced teachers and that most professors continue to teach in ways that have proven to be less effective than other available methods. In reviewing their educational programs, however, faculties typically ignore this evidence. Instead, they spend most of their time discussing what courses to require, although the lasting impact of college will almost certainly depend much more on how the courses are taught.

In his final chapter, Bok describes the changes that faculties and academic leaders can make to help students accomplish more. Without ignoring the contributions that America’s colleges have made, Bok delivers a powerful critique–one that educators will ignore at their peril.

4. Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities by William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos & Michael S. McPherson- I think everyone has had that one professor who told you to look to your left and to your right, and that only one of you would make it out alive from that class. Today less than 60% of students in American universities graduate. Why does this happen?

The United States has long been a model for accessible, affordable education, as exemplified by the country’s public universities. And yet less than 60 percent of the students entering American universities today are graduating. Why is this happening, and what can be done? Crossing the Finish Line provides the most detailed exploration ever of college completion at America’s public universities. This groundbreaking book sheds light on such serious issues as dropout rates linked to race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Probing graduation rates at twenty-one flagship public universities and four statewide systems of public higher education, the authors focus on the progress of students in the entering class of 1999–from entry to graduation, transfer, or withdrawal. They examine the effects of parental education, family income, race and gender, high school grades, test scores, financial aid, and characteristics of universities attended (especially their selectivity). The conclusions are compelling: minority students and students from poor families have markedly lower graduation rates–and take longer to earn degrees–even when other variables are taken into account. Noting the strong performance of transfer students and the effects of financial constraints on student retention, the authors call for improved transfer and financial aid policies, and suggest ways of improving the sorting processes that match students to institutions.

Stanford announces partnership with edX making progress for Higher Education in the Digital Age

I can do everything I need to do from the comfort of my couch. I can order groceries to be delivered to my house, talk to my friends, and write a collaborative paper all online. Today we can do all sorts of things on-line- including getting an education. William G. Bowen, president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Princeton University, explains what he believes are the benefits of technology in higher education in his new book Higher Education in the Digital Age.

Stanford University announced today that they will be teaming up with edX- a massive open online course (MOOC) platform that offers university-level courses online. The Washington Post reports that Anant Argarwal, president of edX “envisions that any school or company could use it to mount a course, part of what he calls a ‘true, planet-scale democratization of education.’”

Bowen believes that this type of technology can transform higher education by making it more accessible and cost-efficient while still being able to provide quality education. He recognizes the potential downsides of the future of online learning and notes in an article for Inside Higher Ed, “One of the issues is really an equity issue, at the end of the day, will the gap between haves and have-nots be narrowed or widened by this development.”

Plenty of people I know take classes online as their primary route to education and others take classes online in addition to going to physical classes. As online courses and MOOC platforms become more and more prevalent, maybe more of us will be taking classes from the comfort of our couches.

College by Andrew Delbanco wins the 2013 Philip E. Frandson Award for Literature in the Field of Continuing Education

Delbanco_CollegePlease join us in congratulating Andrew Delbanco, author of College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be.

The book has just been named winner of the 2013 Philip E. Frandson Award for Literature in the Field of Continuing Education, University Professional and Continuing Education Association.  The award “recognizes the author and publisher of an outstanding work of continuing higher education literature.”

 

This is the THIRD consecutive year that PUP has won the Frandson Award. Previous winners include Taylor Walsh, Unlocking the Gates (2012) and Ben Wildavsky, The Great Brain Race (2011).

Amy Binder on MSNBC’s “The Cycle”

Amy Binder, co-author with Kate Wood of Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, was on the guest spot of MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to debunk myths about conservative undergraduates:

Inspiring Effective Thinking – a new ignite session

A fan of The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking created this ignite session based around the ideas of the book:

Watch the video and then make sure you pick up the book for loads of additional information and activities.

 

bookjacket

 

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird

Ed Burger describes The 5 Elements of Thinking on WNYT-TV over the weekend

 

You can also read Ed’s new article at The Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/edward-burger/effective-thinking_b_1951028.html

 

bookjacket

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird

 

 

 

 

In the News: The Messy Matter of “Screened” High Schools in New York City

bookjacketWith news out today that the NAACP intends to ” file a complaint on Thursday over the admissions test at New York City’s specialized high schools, among the nation’s most elite public schools, citing effective discrimination against black and Latino students,” education experts Checker Finn and Jessica Hockett are poised to offer key insight into the “messy matter” of  exam-based admissions at selective schools in New York City.

 

Finn and Hockett conducted the first-ever study of selective public high schools, the so-called “exam schools” and their findings are essential background for anyone interested in learning more about the NAACP complaint.

 

Here we present several key excerpts from their book Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools as well as some info graphics comparing the demographics at public high schools and selective public high schools across the nation and for New York City.

 

Graphic: The Demographics of Public and Selective Public High Schools

 

Excerpt 1: The Messy Matter of “Screened” High Schools in New York City

 

New York’s high school landscape presented a unique challenge for our list. The city uses a complex application-and-placement system for all of its 600+ high school programs, and hundreds of those programs (and entire schools) are “screened,” meaning that those running them set various criteria or preconditions for admission to them. Sometimes those criteria involve prior academic accomplishment, but such prerequisites are set at various levels. About 75 such programs technically meet all six of our criteria, but in many cases their academic bar is set low. To make sure that our list was not overwhelmed by the largest city in the country—and to make sure that we identified within that city the schools that are its most academically selective—we included only those screened schools that require applicants to have minimum scores of 85 percent on the state assessments. This yielded fifteen “screened” high schools, in addition to the city’s eight specialized high schools that base their admission entirely on scores on their own separate test.

 

Excerpt 2: The Admissions Maze

Despite tight quarters in a city where space is always hard to come by, Townsend Harris High School [in Queens, for example], is flooded with eager applicants (about 5,000 for 270 9th-grade openings), of whom many (around 1,200) meet it’s very demanding threshold requirements for admission. THHS does not, however, control its own admissions—though it wields considerable influence over who ends up enrolling.

Since 2004, New York City’s method for matching 8th graders with places in the system’s 650-odd high school programs in almost 400 buildings has been, in its way, rational and generally fair, but it’s also seriously complicated. It’s intended to foster school choice on a citywide basis and to minimize “gaming” and influence peddling en route into Gotham’s competitive-admission schools and programs.

Unless they want to attend one of the city’s twenty-some charter high schools or its myriad private and parochial schools, every 8th grader in New York must pass through a centralized placement system before landing somewhere for 9th grade. There’s no longer an automatic de- fault into a “zoned” or neighborhood high school.

Modeled on the medical field’s “match” procedure for placing newly minted doctors in residency programs in specialties of their choice, the New York system asks every 8th grader to list twelve high school pro- grams in order of preference. Many of these are open to all comers and listing one of them as top choice pretty much guarantees entry into it. But hundreds of programs and schools (including Townsend Harris) are “screened,” meaning that those running such a school or program establish its admission prerequisites and then rank their (eligible) applicants in order of the school’s preference, based on its own distinctive criteria.  The school doesn’t know where the applicant ranked it, and the applicant doesn’t know where the “screened” school to which he/ she applied ranked him/her. Then the “big computer in the sky” seeks to match students with programs in order of each’s preference for the other. After all this, the student receives a single placement.

This works pretty well for most kids. City data indicate that some 83 percent of applicants (for 2011–12 high school entry) got one of their top five choices and another 9 percent got one of their other choices. But, for  a host  of reasons,  almost  one-tenth of 8th  graders  fail to “match”  anywhere during  the main  selection  cycle and must  present themselves in person to arrange individual placements—rarely into desirable screened programs—by  the Education Department’s Office of Student Enrollment.

High-demand academic schools face a different  problem—and  complicating wrinkle—namely,  that  the city also operates what  amounts to a parallel  admissions process  for nine  of its most competitive  high schools, including  the illustrious  original big three: Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech. These plus five newer academic high schools have their admissions determined strictly by student scores on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), which some 28,000 youngsters take each year and for which many eager families spend serious money to “prep” their children, as if for the SAT. These Specialized High Schools have statutory protection—indeed, a legislative mandate— to admit pupils solely on the basis of [this] special test (though LaGuardia also requires auditions). The relevant amendment to the New York State Education Code dates to 1971, when there were demands to do away with these “elitist” institutions and their “culturally biased” entrance exam. Two Bronx legislators managed to get enacted a bill that says “Admission to [these schools] shall be solely and exclusively by taking a competitive, objective and scholastic achievement examination…. No candidate may be admitted to a special high school unless he [sic] has successfully achieved a score above the cut- off score for the openings in the school for which he has taken the examination.” The political trade- off was creation of a “Discovery Program” to assist disadvantaged and minority youngsters to prepare for the competitive exam, although that program seems to have fallen by the wayside. [Still] this separate admissions system enables students to apply to both the test-based  schools and the regular 600+ high school programs, and it’s possible to end up being matched with one of each.

That’s what happens to many THHS applicants, which is why this school’s “yield”—those who actually enroll there—is about half of the 600 or so kids who are matched to it. The other half wind up attending one of the “exam” schools or a private school. The reason, of course, is that Townsend Harris’s applicant pool contains many of the same kids who are applying, and often getting admitted, to Stuyvesant and the other “exam” schools.

 

© 2012 by Princeton University Press. All rights reserved.

 

bookjacket

Exam Schools
Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools

Chester E. Finn, Jr. & Jessica A. Hockett

“Could, and should . . . academically selective public high schools play a more expansive role in educating the nation’s high-potential, high-achieving students[?] These are some of the questions that longtime education pundit Checker Finn, joined by educational consultant Jessica Hockett, set out to answer in their book.”–Erik Robelen, Education Week

“[E]ye-opening . . .”–Jay Mathews, Washington Post