“Honk If You Have Student Loans”

Among the reasons cited for protest in New York is the rising cost of student loans.  No question, as has been a fairly frequent topic on this blog, that the cost of education has progressed to an unsustainable level by both the shear dollar amounts involved, and even more glaringly by the long payback period.

Concerned students should be smarter consumers prior to saddling themselves with this debt however.  Find schools that deliver results, not blanket across the board, specific to your area of interest.  Universities that do not offer a steady mix of on the job experience as part of the curriculum should be bypassed for those that do.  Research the alumni base and attend schools that have graduates that work in executive level positions in companies that interest you.  Leverage those relationships for advice and internships.  Most of all, stop paying for mediocre classes taught by passionless professors.  Demand to get your money’s worth!

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Inverting Education

A few weeks ago I wrote about Technology and Test Results and how it will take time for modern learning theories and classroom strategies to catch up to the latest technologies.  I had an email asking for further ideas on this topic.  No matter what framework is followed I would encourage educators to be creative.  Technology is often said to be a great disruptor but to do so it has to be incorporated in “fresh” ways.

The idea of flipping, or inverting, a classroom is a great fit with new technologies.  First, allow me to explain the idea of flipping.  A traditional classroom had a content expert lecturing, leading activities, etc. and required the student to practice outside of class.  An inverted classroom has an instructor that leads differentiated instruction and hands on application specific to each students’ needs with non-class time being used to introduce topics to students.

In this way, students might watch a podcast of a lecture, paired with reading and taking notes for homework.  The next class session would be spent in an activity designed to check the student’s understanding, target specific levels of mastery, and apply the key concepts through the learning objectives.

The focus on differentiated learning should mean a larger portion of students are reached and have the opportunity to understand the subjects.  Of course, it requires students to do the work outside of class and attendance is mandatory, but the added relevance and value of the in-class activities should add to the appeal.

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The Future of Jobs

So much to write about right now.  I’d like to comment on a recent special report from The Economist on “The future of Jobs” (link here).  This really should be required reading as it provides food for thought on a number of topics employment related.

The need for workers to constantly innovate and re-learn their own skill sets is critical for value added careers.  The pace of change in almost all industries is so fast, employees will need to find ways to motivate themselves and stay on top of the most in demand tools for their  trades.  If not, they risk becoming irrelevant to their lines of work.  Yet, so many phases of our current education system seems to be about memorizing and regurgitating information when we need to be teaching these future workers about problem-solving and finding answers to questions that might not be clear yet.

Another idea brought forward is the notion of companies creating in-house education and training programs to better equip their employees for the constant change and to also give a consistent level of education to all new hires.  I have seen firsthand this idea becoming more commonplace.  On-boarding programs have grown from a new employee’s first hour of introductions to week, month, or yearly cross-training programs.

These are areas that technology can really be a boon and a supporting tool.  The Internet builds connections in real-time for workers to collaborate and share ideas.  Informal learning connections can help employees solve problems and find a steady stream of new ideas.  The information is available on-demand and one of the most valuable skills, in my opinion, is finding answers online.  Let me rephrase that; finding relevant, accurate and timely answers online.

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