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University President Cancels a Study, Ed Tech Moves Backwards, and Journals Will Never Go Away

2010 January 5

It’s 2010, Winter Break is over, and the heat is back on in my office, so it’s time for a quick snapshot of what’s been happening in training and academia over the last few weeks.

1) The president of a university canceled a peer-reviewed and funded study to be conducted by its own professors in order to appease a university donor.

If you’re in academia, you know how much one must go to get a grant.  So imagine if you had successfully received a large and prestigious NIH grant only for the president of your university to personally cancel your research.  For those not in academia, such grants can take months of preparation – writing and collaboration between very large teams.  For a president to simply cancel such an effort, which is done on behalf of the school in the first place, is downright astonishing.  The research in question is regarding the effects of anthrax on primates, which is believed to be the reason that donor Madeleine Pickens pressured the president into halting the research.

2) One of the most well-promoted and promising early childhood education tools for teaching children could have been invented with technology available a decade ago, and people are surprised.

One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with the field of education technology is the assumption that new technology is always better.  For example, somehow blogs and discussion boards are infinitely preferable to newspapers and small group discussion simply because they’re newer.  What they often fail to realize is that it often isn’t the technology itself that is improving life and learning; it is instead the underlying aspects of human thought that are being better understood and addressed with time.  Taking the psychology out of education is something that has confused me for a long time.

3) It’s 2010 and traditional scientific publishing outlets are still around.

The Scholarly Kitchen (linked above) produced a provocative piece on the reason that traditional scientific publishing outlets (paper journals, in particular) are still around despite the Internet.  As they put it, “the Web was designed to disrupt scientific publishing.”  Three specific uses of journals are provided as the reason, despite not being the primary functions of journals when journals were initially created: validation (through peer-review), filtration (by sorting the wheat from the chaff), and designation (by identifying successful scholars).  Myself, I believe that journals are unlikely to be replaced any time soon – instead, online technologies will be used to supplement and support those traditional institutions.

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  1. Shawna permalink
    January 11, 2010

    We have an extremely well funded lecture series on Emily Dickinson that was completely hijacked by the donor. The first year, an amazing young scholar doing pioneering work on queer theory presented a challenging paper that garnered tons of attention. The donor, of course, was “shocked” and promptly put the choice of lecturer in the hands of a right-wing Christian fundamentalist who now chooses lectures so boring that _no one attends_ except for the department head and the donor’s cronies.

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