MIT Offering Free, Official Certifications Via Online Courses

mitx

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced a new program that will expand the university’s free online courses and allow would-be students to earn official certificates from a program called MITx.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2397842,00.asp

This is huge news for my blog because it continues off of the ideas of Academic Earth and takes the concept of a digital education to a whole new level.

HOW AWESOME IS IT THAT ANYONE CAN GET A FREE EDUCATION FROM MIT???

Sorry for sounding totally nerdy, but I do realize not everyone is interested in going to MIT. However, this is big news for digital education and the whole upper level education system. I’m not supposing that every college is going to offer a free education, but I think this move has shown how the internet is influencing reputable universities to be aware of the  fact there is an educational crisis going on and take action on it.

MIT has always been known as a forward thinking school, but it is great to see them taking such a big step in making private education public.

 

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Can 4.75 Degrees of Seperation Enhance Education?

The vastly intelligent folks over at Facebook have recently conducted research on existing accounts and determined that there is no longer than the assumed 6 degrees of separation that distinguishes us from the next individual we meet. It is now 4.75. Call it 5, if you don’t assume that 1 in 5 people are only 3/4 of themselves.

How does this affect education? Can it affect the education system? I think it should. Facebook, Twitter and basically every other social medium has proven that above all things, humans are connected to each other in one way or another. I think the connections that we have are just as valuable towards our educations as learning from a textbook – if not moreso.My question is how can our social media connections be leveraged in such a way that our ability to digitally connect can enhance the education system of the United States and potentially globally as well? Take for example, an online data bulletin board called Blackboard that is used by many universities. It is a local system, but through the abilities of the site the student, for each class they are registered for, can post in a discussion post and interact with fellow students. But what if Blackboard was not local? What if Blackboard was communal? And not communal necessarily in the geographic sense, but in a psychographic way. I think that if a social education media was developed and a classroom in California could engage in a discourse with students in a different state (or a different country!) so much could be achieved. Now learning can stem from more than a historical source, but a current and relevant cultural one as well.

The principal goal of education, I believe, is to combat ignorance. I do not necessary believe that is the intention of every teacher, but the outcome is always there. Through the learning of a new fact or viewing a subject a different perspective, ignorance is being defeated. I truly believe that the people that you can connect with will be able to share and elaborate on something you had no idea could have existed. And if you and the education system are open to learning, minds will be blown from the collective knowledge. Individually, a person only has a very vision. But with many, the shared vision can be all encompassing.

 

Check out theFacebook article on 4.75 degrees of separation:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-team/anatomy-of-facebook/10150388519243859

The Study of Con Bro Chill’s Studies In Internet Communications

Con Bro Chill, AKA Connor Martin, is an alumnus of #IntCom. He is a guy dedicated to promoting lacrosse, and in the process, promoting the idea of, as he says, being “Power Happy.” Recently graduated from Chapman University, he is a star lacrosse player who made a name for himself making music videos such as Come to My Party.

    

Khan Academy & Academic Earth: A free education

The internet has many benefits. One is the availability of free online education. Sites like the Khan Academy and Academic Earth are excellent sources of education. Both variable professional lessons from teachers and experts with much experience in in their fields.

Speaking from past experience, last summer I was enrolled in a statistics course to complete my General Education requirements. Statistics is in no way my specialty and I needed all the help I could get. While talking to a friend of mine about how to study some of the complex problems, he suggested  I take a look at the Khan Academy. Curious as to what it was, I went online and looked it up, read a bit about it, and was genuinely intrigued. When I got there,  I was pleasantly surprised.  The site allows you to watch video tutorials on a multitude of subjects. For me, I was able to identity the subjects I was not properly learning in my actual class, come online and watch detailed step-by-step tutorials on how each element of mathematical equations came together. Salman Khan developed the website in search of a way to provide further education to students after witnessing students struggle firsthand. So, with his professional experience that had no background in formal education, he set out to build a community that could prosper from a universal education system. As an additional measure of success, the Khan Academy has a significant amount of backing by the Gates Foundation and Google. The latter of which provided 2 million dollars to support more classes.

Academic Earth is another website dedicated to providing educational lectures to those who do not have the ability to attend the schools that digitally send out their classes. Although I have yet to use Academic Earth to help me with a college related course I’m enrolled in, I have taken the opportunity to learn entirely new things. I suppose the Game Theory of Economics is not something the majority of people are interested in, but for me, I love economics. However, due to my intensive workload from the very real classes I have at my current school, I do not have the means to enroll in an upper division economics course. What Academic Earth has done is provide me a way to be educated directly from a classroom at the prestigious Ivy League university of Yale. I do not have to do homework, I do not have to attend class, I can simply stream the lectures or view them later on demand.

Both sites have embraced the internet and provided a way for students to learn what they want, in a way that is entirely convenient for them. I am not saying that either is a completely fleshed out alternative to actually getting a formal education. Rather, both of these sites have a way to adapt and socialize the internet to make education accessible for those who want to learn. I believe that the Internet is a medium which has the power to do a lot of great things, and as proven by the Khan Academy and Academic Earth, is one step closer to creating an environment where high quality learning and education is not something only for those with the required GPA and other sorts of random test qualities that a university looks for. The desire to learn is all you need.

So, if you like learning new things, check out these sites:

http://www.khanacademy.org

http://academicearth.org/

Wikipedia is Giving Education a Bad Name

Wikipedia is bane of existence for educators. The number one rule for 99.99% of any education course is never use Wikipedia as a source. As students we have been told to have quality sources and facts for every bit of research we do. However, so much of our knowledge and foundation of research comes from Wikipedia. So, where is the disconnect?

As #intcom has decided, even though Wikipedia can not be relied upon as substance for an entire research paper, it is a great place to begin. Wikipedia is a starting point – a launching pad – it does not have the final say. From Wikipedia we can learn about the basic foundations of our direct and tertiary topics and develop structure from the depth of information that most Wikipedia pages contain. I think that Wikipedia is a great case study for digital education because if educators adapt their teaching strategies, students can learn how to manage and get the most from their students and Wikipedia.

Most importantly, I believe that the majority of students are aware of the downfalls of Wikipedia and how it can negatively impact their education. I think that students are actually ahead of the curve on this one and are actually working at convincing their teachers that it is a very important part of their education. And I will also admit there is still work that needs to be done though in creating awareness about the use of Wikipedia as a quick fix educational “drug.” For example, in #intcom we conducted a bit of research on our own as a homework assignment to find out about Dominos Pizza and the big rogue employee scandal they had in 2009. Cory O’Connor, our professor, encouraged us to use Wikipedia – principally because he knew it was not going to go anywhere. According to Wikipedia, the scandal never happened. But it did! Several credible news sources such as the New York Times and LA Times all wrote in-depth articles revealing the employees who were farting on pizza and topping them with boogers. This lesson was meant as wake up call that Wikipedia does miss things – even really big ones. So, I believe that educators need to learn how to introduce Wikipedia to their students so that can be fully understood that it is a beginning – not an end. By carefully using digital resources, students can learn how to navigate and manage their sources so that they can learn the most they can about any given subject.

Twitter as a Social Education Collaboration Tool

In my education, Twitter has hardly been embraced by professors and faculty; let alone used. From questioning friends, fellow students and teachers – many people see email as an effective tool to communicate digitally with peers. There is no doubt that they are correct. However, Twitter serves a different function than email. Emails can be sent to multiple people, but essentially, email exists as a private communication source. I believe that Twitter needs to be approached with a completely different mindset. Think of email as the digital form of as what it is – post mail. And now think of Twitter as a message and events board that you can check out to see whats going on with your community. Twitter is a public medium, and when a class adopts its own hashtag (like my class which posts with #intcom), everyone now has an ability to, if you will, “post a digital bulletin” that can be easily seen by all members aware of the hashtag. Rather than sending out cluttered masses of emails, a single user can post one message and group members can respond appropriately.

I speak with experience in this matter and not just theoretical assumption. For Internet Communication, or #intcom as the insiders call it, students are able to update, share, collaborate, and question the community with news and thoughts that are relevant to the collective knowledge of the class. For example, students have been able to directly communicate with our teacher to check available office hours or share articles on the Social Media influence identification service Klout. Many perceive Twitter to be an area for shouting matches, but our classes encourages us to think critically and engage with each other in a responsible manner. Many students, myself included, did not use Twitter much or at all before this class, and now that the semester is nearly over, it is my understanding that pretty much everyone in the class would attest to the benefits of being able to communicate and share via Twitter.

A Case Study for Why Social Media Works in Education

For this blog post, I will be more of less quoting and elaborating on arguments for the use of social media in education as presented Sarah Keller of Mashable. http://mashable.com/2010/09/29/social-media-in-school/

She lists 6 reasons for embracing digital media rather than restricting it; they are:

  1. Social Media is not going away
  2. Engagement provides better learning opportunities
  3. Social Media can be safe and free
  4. Social Media for education can reduce procrastination
  5. Social Media encourages collaboration instead of cliques
  6. Cell phones can be used as tools, not as evil devices

I tend to agree with every single argument she makes and here are my reasons why:

  1. Not that I am condoning excessive alcohol consumption, but when the Prohibition was initiated, many people a) did not give up drinking b)thought doing illegal activities was cool. Remember speakeasies? c)Went out of their way to break the law. I believe in regulation of restriction and by acknowledging the fact that social media is never going away, educators can learn how to adapt it for purposeful uses.
  2. Kellers second argument is a bit more obvious. Students learn better when they are engaged. I know from personal experience and just talking with friends and fellow students, that they hardly learn anything, let alone enjoy their education, when their teachers just talk. Tools exist within digital media that make it possible for students to become active participants in developing their own education
  3. With such prevalence of social media in society, many measures have been taken to ensure the security of user information. In addition, user knowledge about security practices has increased dramatically. While there is no denying that there are hackers and fraudulent people across the internet, it is not nearly as dangerous as it is perceived.