Greg Easterbrook is making two big arguments in Sonic Boom: Globalization at Mach Speed.
Future Prosperity: Due to a combination of global trade, the spread of information technology, and the movement toward representative democracies, the 21st century will usher in unprecedented levels and diffusion of global prosperity.
Current Anxiety: The growth of prosperity will probably fail to make us happy. Instead, the ascendance of entrepreneurial capitalism and the rise of knowledge work at the expense of institutions, stability and security will make us all more anxious.
This seems to be a fair description of how life within the higher ed world will unfold as well.
Would anyone trade the your college experience to the one that our kids will be able to receive? When I was in college the predominant instructional methodology was a lecturer talking at us for 50 minutes at a time. We had some great lecturers, and some lousy lecturers, and basically we accepted that this is how things were and we were lucky if we happened to take a course with a dynamic and passionate teacher.
Today, we are able to leverage a set of well-developed and stable technologies to build in pedagogically advanced active learning methods into a wide variety of courses and modes of instructional delivery. To be a great teacher it is no longer a prerequisite to be a dynamic and gifted lecturer. Rather, faculty can partner with learning designers, librarians, and teaching specialists to create dynamic, student-centered courses that allow students interact and create with the curriculum in ways that were impossible before the advent of technology enabled and supported classes.
However, these improvements in course quality made possible by the pairing of learning design methods and technology have brought with them a new set of challenges. Life was perhaps simpler back in the days when I first started to teach (in mid 1990s), when course design primarily meant crafting a syllabus. Yes, we had Scantron machines transparencies and PowerPoint, but we did not have the tools to enable active learning within a large course setting. We could make the lecture better at the margins, more class discussion - small groups etc., but the basic format of delivery was basically set. Today, students and progressive faculty I think expect that we can do better - and that every class is an opportunity to experiment with methods to encourage our students to transition from the passive to active mode. We know that learning is both social and requires engagement, we don't retain what we don't manipulate and create.
All these opportunities for improved teaching mean that we all end up spending more time on our classes and more time experimenting (and sometimes failing) with new teaching methods and tools. This shift also means that we need to shift resources and inputs into the teaching process, a change in the productivity equation that can (and should) disrupt the traditional economics of higher ed.
Easterbrook is convinced that the next few years will bring about opportunities and challenges that can scarcely be imagined, but will leave us all better off as individuals and as a society. I think we are in for a similar ride in higher ed.
Are any of you planning on reading Sonic Boom? I think that this would be an amazing book to teach a 1 credit mini course around. Easterbrook does a good job of reading his own work in the audiobook format. His last book, The Progress Paradox, is one of my all-time favorites. Sonic Boom is a terrific follow-up.
When I was in 9th grade (in 1984) I subscribed to 4 car magazines: Motor Trend, Car & Driver, Road & Track, and & Automobile. Today, my fondest dream is to own zero cars and to rent an occasional Zip Car (preferably a Prius, Volt, or Leaf) whenever the need for driving should arise.
Reading "Engines of Change" was a good reminder for me about how important automobiles once loomed in my worldview. At some point my passion for cars was replaced by a passion for computers and technology. At 14 I thought I wanted to be an automotive journalist, and 42 I'm very happy to work at the intersection of education and technology (and to be driving a minivan - slowly).
I'm betting that my story, one of a shift from a love of automobiles to a love of computers, is not unique. How many teenagers who once spent time changing spark plugs and reading car magazines morphed into building PCs and hanging out on computing message boards? I have this theory that today's computer geeks were yesterday's car enthusiasts - and that is why today's Apple new product announcements are so much more exciting than the new model car launches.
Ingrassia takes us back to a time when new cars really mattered. He profiles 15 cars that have had a large impact on American culture. These stories are all engaging and well-told, and in learning about the Model T or the Corvette or the Mustang or the Honda Accord we also learn a great deal about the times in which they were introduced. This is not a book about the "15 best cars of all time", rather Ingrassia is interesting in describing the cars that had the biggest cultural impact.
Ford's Model T literally changed how American society was organized, as an affordable mass produced automobile was a prerequisite to a rural to urban migration and a mobile society. The Honda Accord was the first Japanese car to be built in a U.S. factory (in Ohio), and ushered in a long-term transition away from UAW dominance and the decline of The Big 3. The Chrysler minivan (a Lee Iacocca encore after bringing to life the Mustang) killed the traditional station wagon, empowered a new generation of soccer parents, and eventually led to Mercedes Benz's disastrous and short-lived purchase of Chrysler.
Ingrassia is a terrific writer, and is also the author of the excellent Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road to Bankruptcy and Bailout-and Beyond. I hope that Ingrassia's next project is about the only cars that really excite me now, cars that run on electricity (although his chapter on the Prius in Engines of Change is excellent).
I think that there is a huge market of computer geeks (and educational technologists!) just waiting to buy our first batter powered car, as soon as the technology improves and the costs come down to a point where electric cars are nearly competitive with gas powered vehicles.
The world, or at least my world, needs more high quality concise books. Bryson's new Shakespeare, from the Eminent Lives Series, is one of the genres better examples.
The Modern Library Chronicles is another imprint with some excellent texts. To quote from their page:
"Modern Library Chronicles feature the world's great historians on the world's great subjects. Lively, accessible, and brief (most under 150 pages), these authoritative short histories are designed to appeal to general readers as well as to students in the classroom".
Wonderful, sweeping economic history of the world by one of my favorite writers (Bernstein also wrote "The Birth of Plenty"). These "big" history and "big" thought books are a great antidote to the short time frames and disposable knowledge of our blogging and information overload world. Helps to have a long-term framework to understand our own material lives. Excellent counterpart to Friedman's The World is Flat.
Fascinating extension of the evolutionary psychology framework. Argues that our brains have evolved in often "klugy" ways, meaning that evolution favors what works (and what comes first) and not what is optimal. I learned a good deal about things like memory, emotions, and perception...and now I know why I can be so dumb sometimes. Well written....a fun read.
Fun book from the NYTime's Magazine Consumed column...delves into the world of "murketing" - the new method of connecting with consumers who are immune to traditional mass marketing. Some interesting connections on how we could "market" educational technology.
You will never go into someone's house or office in the same way again. A psychologist who pioneered the field of personality research based on peoples stuff.
The author, a physicist at Cal Tech, is among those rare academics who both write beautifully, and can manage to make complex explanations understandable. This book definitely changed how I understand some fundamental aspects of my life and the lives of those around me, as getting a handle on randomness and probability (which again, our brains don't seem to be built easily to accomplish), helps illuminate some of the fundamental errors in judgment that I seem to make all too often.
Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein covers many of the same studies and experiments, and then puts a public policy slant on the conclusions. I'm finding in these sorts of books that the same academic studies and examples pop-up time after time, which is good as it takes me about 5 times to get them straight. Where Sway helped me understand why I'm susceptible to make bad decisions, Nudge helped me understand how I can use the principles of "choice architecture" to influence events and decisions. Both worthwhile reads for folks like us who have a vision of education we are trying to implement, both in terms of why people do things the way they do, and some "libertarian paternalistic" ways to shape decisions and actions.
The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman, Rom Brafman is a sweet, short popularizer of the current social psych and behavioral econ research.
The original academic and body of research that Gladwell based his best-selling "Blink" on. Gigerenzer experiments on "fast and frugal" decision making have many implications for situations we face all the time in our lives - I just have not quite worked out if I'm so easily swayed and nudged (see below), and my mental probabilistic machinery is so poor (again see below) when I should trust my gut feelings and when I should do the opposite.
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