Saturday, August 8, 2009

Giving them the first degree

So here is the story, about a year ago a group of 10 Washington State Patrol (WSP) troopers were accused of having received college diplomas from questionable institutions (i.e., a degree mill). Troopers, you see, get 2% pay increase for earning a 2 year associates degree and a 4% increase for earning a 4 year bachelors degree (what a coincidence that the percent pay increase matches the number of years in the degree). An investigation last winter indicated that they had received some basic approval from the human resources staff and would, therefore, not be prosecuted for criminal offenses. In just the last couple of days, however, the WSP has recommend firing the 8 individuals remaining on the force. [go here to find a list of articles in Puget Sound media outlets covering the story.]

How did this all come to light? No doubt it was because of their sub-par performance when compared to troopers with legitimate degrees, right? No, of course not. A degree mill in Eastern Washington was busted and it served government employees, so they worked back through the list of employee degrees (ah, the old employee-degree table) and there are your alleged cheaters.

Does that make you upset at the troopers? Not me. The troopers want to earn more money - who doesn't - and the best way to do it is to get a degree. Their employer doesn't really seem to care if it is a legit degree and since there doesn't appear to be a direct relationship between degree and job performance why kill yourself. That is, unless you like school.

What drives me crazy is that their employer, my government, gives out pay increases for things that should eventually lead to better performance, instead of for the performance improvement itself. I mean, if the degree really makes a difference then it should show up in the individual's performance, right? And, if their performance improves without a degree, shouldn't they get a raise too?

It might be useful to ask ourselves what we really want when we make a college degree a requirement for employment (or for a pay raise). I think what we expect is that the degree certifies that a person has gained a set of skills, knowledge, experiences and personal connections that we feel makes for a "better" person. Great, but what if it doesn't? A degree is normally granted based upon the accumulation of credit hours from a disparate set of general studies and program specific classes. I never had an assessment to determined I was a good critical thinker, did you? I am sure, however, that there are those who think my time on the banks of the Mountlake Cut ensure that I am.

Worse still, by requiring a degree in addition to the skills/knowledge/experiences we specifically exclude individuals who can demonstrate they have gained those skills/knowledge/experiences through means that didn't lead to the granting of a degree. It sends the clear and unmistakable message that acquiring a piece of paper that says we know something is more important than knowing something. Why are we surprised that we end up with degree mills, people buying term papers and lying on resumes?

I fear we are creating a college degree bubble that will, like housing and tech stock bubbles before it, burst leaving us worse off, both individually and as a society. Student loan debt is just the first and most obvious sign of trouble ahead. Post-secondary education is an absolutely vital part of our society, but the ascendancy of the degree to near deity status is making the system weaker, not stronger. The challenge is for employers, public and private, to back away from the edge of this cliff.

Postscript: On August 30th James McCusker, the economics columnist for the Everett Herald, wrote a column titled "Focus on skill, not school, for hiring". In it he takes on the "relentless marketing of academic credentials as a product". He suggests that we need to focus on the real requirements of the job and not add unnecessary educational requirements simply to reduce the pool of applicants. The article is right on the mark and well worth the 5 minutes you'll spend reading it.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Digital Naiveté

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a study from North Carolina Central University, which finds that college student's perception of their own skills with Microsoft Office falls short of their actual performance with the tool. 75% of students indicated they had a high proficiency with MS Word and most were able to complete the basic tasks, but they could complete only half the moderate task and none of the advanced tasks. Excel was worse. 69% of students indicate an average proficiency but the average student could only do two of the basic tasks and none of the moderate or advanced tasks. PowerPoint is the one tool where they seem to correctly assess their own capability.

So let me summarize for my business and IT brethren:
  • don't get rid of your help desk yet
  • don't get rid of your Intro to Word and Excel online training classes yet
  • don't be surprised if you continue to see documents where the space bar is the primary tool for indentation
  • get ready for more inane PowerPoint presentations (when all you got is a hammer ....)
I'll leave the rigorous peer review to someone with a little more time on their hand, but the numbers sure sound consistent with what I hear from technology teachers on the school advisory boards where I serve. They say that a large percentage of students in high school simply don't have the basic computer and software skills (computer literacy) they need in the work place. Oh, don't worry, they can text and download music no problem. It's things like adding a network printer or changing page orientation to landscape that confuse them.

This is not, however, a rant against those students. I don't expect them to know what they need to know with any great accuracy at this point in their lives. I certainly did not when I was 17, 18, and 19. This is really a rant against parents, administrators and teachers who give these students a free pass simply because they're digital natives - a term I despise. The teachers I talk to say that students are not interested in taking those classes and that their parents fully support that because they use the computer all the time. Add to that the test-crazy education system we have established and if it ain't on test, why bother studying it.

So this is the point in the rant where I suggest how we interject computer literacy into the basic school curriculum, right? Not going to happen this time. I went to school at a time when paper and pencil were the only things available and to college when the electric typewriter was cutting edge. Somehow I figured out how to do justification, hanging indents and table inserts without the help of the Edmonds School District. I'm sure that today's students can do the same.

I would, however, suggest that businesses start adding a basic computer literacy test as a requirement for all positions that require computer work (which is most these days). We spend way too much money on basic computer and software skills and there is no reason that should be required with the coming generation (they are digital natives, after all). Colleges and Universities might want to add it to their admissions requirements for the same reason. If students and their parents are really concerned they can look at programs like the SAM Challenge or ICDL.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

All Access Pass

Several weeks ago there was some back and forward between data management (DM) types on Twitter about a vendor who was using Microsoft Access as a back-end database for a demo of their software product. The question was whether to take the vendor serious if they are using Access. For any number of reasons I won't discuss here, most IT professionals don't consider Access on par with "real" database management systems. Without wading into that discussion, educators preparing students for DM roles should be aware of the perception and select the appropriate tools for the class.

  • But wait, there's more. Access is a database management system (dbms), but it is also an application development environment and an ad hoc reporting tool. If you are teaching Access as a software application then you should be giving your students a complete overview of all the capabilities. If, however, it is your intention to teach database design, SQL, etc you had better not have a lesson plan on the Forms builder tool. A DM professional will immediately discount a database class that spends a week making and formatting pie charts in Access. They will also discount the students in that class.
  • Talk the talk. At it's core, Access is an end-user dbms geared toward non-professionals. As a result, you will come across "end-user friendly" terms for things that have industry accepted names. Don't use the friendly terms and don't let your students use them either. Not knowing the right terminology just confuses the conversation and lowers the student's credibility.
  • Walk the walk. As with terminology, an end-user dbms will deploy tools that make some tasks easier by either hiding or eliminating complexity. Do your students a big favor and make them get their hands dirty with the complexity. Take the example of creating a table. Access offers a nice interface to quickly type names and select data types (it's in SQL Server too), but I would suggest the students review the equivalent data definition language (DDL) and it wouldn't hurt them to code the DDL from scratch. Same goes for creating queries. It's a real a joy to do a seven table join in a graphical, drag-and-drop tool, but the student is much better off learning to write the SQL now and moving to the graphical tool later.
Which brings us back to the perception issue. For an introductory course or for students who aren't specializing in data, Access is an acceptable starting point. For those students who want to focus on data, however, you would be doing them a great disservice by limiting their experience to Access. You should put a significant portion of their work on SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL or any of a number of enterprise-class dbms tools.

Now if you are having some issues creating and managing that type of environment at your school I'd suggest a conversation with the folks at your nearest DAMA chapter.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Of pirates and mentoring

Sometime ago Brian Lockwood, educator and IT director at an international school in Yokohama Japan, tweeted a link to an absolutely fantastic TED Talk video from Dave Eggers called Once Upon a School.

Dave created 826 Valencia, a combination publishing house, tutoring center and pirate supply shop (it's hard to explain - you kinda gotta watch the video). The program pairs volunteering writers with the students, providing them support and important 1-on-1 attention. 826 Valencia was spawned other similar organization throughout the county that work on the same model, crazy retail outlet in front, tutoring in back. This includes 826 Seattle and the Greenwood Space Travel Supply company.

Truth be told, I am a complete sucker for stories of the small contributions, the selfless little acts that are soon forgotten by all except the contributor and the recipient. The video highlights the huge difference that hundreds of little differences can make for a team, community, city, state or nation.

So what have you done lately? Dave Eggers closed his presentation with a hope that many more of us would volunteer and share that experience. To that end the Once Upon a School web site was created. You can read the stories of others, share your own or look for volunteer opportunities in your area. Check it out.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Data Model of Dorian Gray

Mrs. AdvisoryBored and I spent the week at the Enterprise Data World conference talking data with friends both new and old. It is a joy to get together with others who want to discuss metadata, data quality, data governance and Twitter names beginning with the word data. Yes, the last one did occur in the wee hours of the morning and yes, it is possible that some consumption of alcohol was involved. Did I mention that it was a data management conference?

A more serious topic of discussion was the concern that data management has become a profession (job, role or set of activities) of older people. I tried to point out that young people such as myself were entering the profession. They were quick to point out that 50 didn't count as young. Who knew!

While I share that concern, I think that there are aspects of the profession that will always skew the age of practitioners toward the "experienced" end of the scale. That would include a focus on:
  • data, not on the computers and applications
  • an enterprise view of the organization, not an operational view
  • semantics, categorizations, meanings and definitions
  • specialized jobs (traditionally found only in larger organizations and consulting firms)
  • planning and coordination
I lost you at semantics didn't I?

Look, experience need not be synonymous with age, so if we want to bring younger practitioners into the field then we have got to do a few things different.

First we must teach the core competencies that serve as the foundation for data management training later. It parallels the effort to teach computational thinking skills like numbering systems or sorting algorithms without using computers at a young age so they are prepared to learn computer programming later, if they wish. These competencies - things like classification, abstract thinking, information literacy, computer literacy and set theory - ensures students are prepared to learn data management at a more appropriate time. Wax on, Wax off.

Second we must build awareness of data management as an area of study, as a set of skills and as a profession. Most of you are probably thinking database administration when I speak of data management. Fair enough, database administration is certainly part of data management, but so are data modeling, data warehousing, data security and any number of other jobs or roles. Our biggest challenge in this area, as Karen pointed out on numerous occasions at the conference, is to be visible to younger professionals by participating in the communication channels they use. This means we need to be talking data management in blogs (or this one), on Twitter, on LinkedIn, in discussion forums and on wikis.

Finally we must develop, or at least help to develop, curriculum to support the needs of new entrants into the field as well as the ongoing professional development of those who have already chosen data management as a career path. DAMA International made a huge leap in this area last week with the release of The DAMA Guide to the Data Management Body of Knowledge (DM-BOK). The challenge now is for data management professionals to carry this information to local colleges and universities. Additionally, we need to push beyond the basic database training to teach a broader range of data management activities. As Peter pointed out on several occasions, we teach students how to build new databases, but how often do we really do that in our professional lives.

Let me leave you with one final thought. Data management is both a set of activities and a profession. Many people who do the former don't consider themselves the latter. They are, nevertheless, contributing to the body of knowledge, for better or worse, and we need to connect with them just as much as an up-and-coming metadata analyst. Consider the outcomes that Mrs. AdvisoryBored identified in her original proposal for the Business Information Management class (MGMT 215) at Edmonds Community College (see the end of page two). There is no guarantee that the students, particularly those from the Business department, will embrace those data management principles and/or the profession, but she has at least had the opportunity to introduce the concept of data as a managed enterprise resource.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

A little piece of americana

Our friend Tim holds concerts of local and visiting musicians in his home 4 times a year. The musicians usually play the didgeridoo, but occasionally they play other instruments associated with the aboriginal people of this continent. A couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity to see Tyler Spencer playing with Shireen Amini like they did in this video from the 2008 Seattle World Rhythm festival.

Shireen played a song that was inspired by watching her cousins as they were updating their social networking pages, text messaging and watching MTV all at the same time. She remarked at being both fascinated and horrified. They were consuming snippets of culture instead of participating in a sustained creative process. They lacked an outlet to guide and encourage inherent creativity.

Shireen highlighted a program called the Americana Project at the Sisters (OR) School District. Students learn to play, write, perform and record. To date, they have released 7 CDs of music created, performed and engineered by the students. I have to think that programs like the Americana Project encourage the passion for creativity while keeping students engaged in school.

In the book "First Break All the Rules" the authors tell us that the best managers don't focus on overcoming an employee's weaknesses, but instead maximizing their strengths and talents. We also learn that the best organizations have staff that consistently answers the question "Do I have an opportunity to do what I do best everyday" in the affirmative.

If it works for creating excellence in the workplace, why not the education setting? As we work to address a 30% high school drop out rate, we might want to ask ourselves if these types of programs will help students to get engaged and stay engaged in school? We might still further ask ourselves if we can expand these types of programs beyond just music or athletics? Other specialized programs, like those at the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center, are seen as a place to go if you're not good at school (it's not true, but is the perspective of some). Why? Why is the desired to be a great gymnast or saxophonist a good thing and a great welder a bad thing? Some one's got to be the Wynton Marsalis of welding, why not your kid?

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Olympia Talks College Education

Q13 News reported yesterday that three bills to establish a university in Snohomish county, plus a bill to grant bachelor degrees at Bellevue Community College (BCC), were being discussed in front of the State Senate Higher Education and Workforce committee. As reported, the challenge is not merely sorting out the competing bills, but to face the reality of the budget cuts when considering the cost of construction.

For you interested in the details of those hearings, you can view the committee sessions at TVW and the Senator Hobbs video at YouTube. Further details are available here, here and here. In particular, the second of those three articles seems the most damning. It is clear to me that the supporters of the the competing locations care nothing of education, demonstrating a greed for local construction spending that negates any attempt to appear pro-education. Both sides deserve to get nothing.

But I've ranted on that enough, haven't I? The BCC bill is more interesting as it offers a new model for expanding post-secondary education. Other lower/upper division models exist, including Lake Washington Technical College's Applied Bachelor's in Design and CWU BAS-ITAM. (See background on the proposals and the conflict with the UW here, here and here.) The proposed model for BCC isn't without it's concerns. Community colleges serve a huge range of educational needs. The Eastside won't benefit if BCC promotes the 4-year degree at the expense of their Adult ed, Prof/Tech and worker retraining roles.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another voice for a new university alternative

You cannot begin to imagine my surprise this morning when I read John Koster's guest commentary in the Everett Herald suggesting that there was a better way to meet the educational needs of the tri-county area without building a brand new university facility. Koster, the District 1 Representative on the County Council, acknowledges that there will be no funding available for a new university in the short term and perhaps not for quite some time. He is spot on when he expresses concern that our preoccupation with a new university keeps us from focusing on the more pressing needs of students today.

Koster points out that our existing educational infrastructure with advanced information and communications technology (ICT) can deliver a cost effective solution to place-bound students without saddling the taxpayers with excessive levels of debt. He takes a refreshingly broad view of the "educational system" suggesting that resources of local high schools could be used for proctoring tests or lab work. He goes on to challenge us to think about a new paradigm, saying:
Sometimes we do things the way we do simply because that's the way we've always done them. Instead of burdening our tax-weary citizens with building an incredibly expensive traditional school, let's "experience the power" of online technology and recognize what every young person with an iPod, cell phone or Blackberry already knows: An astonishing new world lies at our fingertips, full of opportunities and efficiencies for those who want to learn at the speed of light via the click of a mouse.
Unfortunately, paradigm shifts don't come easily. It is very unlikely that the leaders fighting for the campus have ever encountered any online learning. Their mental model is likely to be of early distance education from 20 years ago, at best. Perhaps they envision the digital equivalent of correspondence school, where the chief determinant of graduation is your check clearing. Maybe, just maybe, Mr. Koster has sufficient political clout to make sure this alternative view get heard throughout the county. Or maybe he'll encounter the same deafening silence that my letters to the editor and blog posts have received.

You may want to read (or reread) my blog post on the Bachelor's of Applied Science in Information Technology and Administrative Management (BAS-ITAM) to see one example of a hybrid program. This program allows students with a two-year Associate's degree in computing and one-year work experience to earn a Bachelor's through Central Washington University at Edmonds Community College by attending both online and onsite classes in Edmonds, Everett and Des Moines.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Snow Day 2.0

Aggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggh! Please tell me we aren't discussing how to make up snow days, again. Please tell me the anti-teacher crowd isn't using the snow day issue to extract a pound of flesh from instructors, again.

With planning and proper application of technology there is no reason for missed days due to snow. Education should not be dependent on one's presence in the classroom. I mean seriously, home school kids learn at home everyday for decades, why can't your kids do it for 3 days every other year? The answer, of course, is that that they can. Unfortunately, we have codified "days in class" as an absolutely essential deliverable from schools. (Pop Quiz: What other state institution uses "time served" as the primary measure of success?)

As a taxpayer and hiring manager, I am far more concerned with student achievement than I am with student attendance. Days in class reinforces an incorrect notation of education as a place-bound, time-constrained process; the academic equivalent of the auto assembly line. In the modern workplace, at least for technology and information workers, what you get done is far more important than when and where you do that work. (In this context, when refers to your working hours, not whether you deliver on time. That still matters a lot.)

Make-up days are sensible if every moment in class is packed with critical information. But are they really? Let's say you have a daughter at Jackson High and class is canceled 3 times in January. That means she'll have 3 more hours of history class in June. What exactly do you think she is going to learn in that 3 hours that will make a difference in her life, career or education? What, did you think teacher was going to forget to mention that the North won the war?

One of the key underlying themes to this blog is that significant reform to the educational system requires participation from those of us outside the process as well those on the inside. If we want to stop the whole snow day thing, then it is going to be up to those of us outside the process to ask our political leaders and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to change the law first. When the law is changed, then and only then, can local school districts and teachers create plans for Learn From Home days; the educational equivalent of Work From Home.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Self-funded University - Take 2

Well the reaction to the proposal to pay for our own university and my blog post are pouring in. There are too many to count, assuming you haven't learn to count to 3. But hey, it's just the future of post-secondary education in our community. It's not like there is a barista in Maltby making coffee in her underwear. [Seriously, compare the number of letters to the editor in the Everett Herald discussing barista attaire vs the university. Some days it's easier to believe in the wisdom of crowds than others.]

Two of the three comments are skeptical of the idea of a local entity building a State facility, one from an anonymous commenter in a previous post and one via Facebook from Kevin. Very legitimate questions about the nature of funding. If Snohomish County funds the university construction how would it transfer to the state, or would it? Would the State fund the operations of the school or not? Would the State subsidize the tuition of students as they do at the other universities or would Snohomish county (or would there be no subsidy so that costs were comparable to other private institutions)? Here is what Kevin had to say:
Interesting idea. Not sure it takes into account the notion of distributing state funding (such as there is) to meet needs across the state or why one county should try to shoulder that budget burden on its own when others clearly don't have to. As a trend it would likely lead to more education resources showing up in wealthy counties (those who can afford to, do, those who can't, don't) and fewer in poor counties?
Kevin is intimately familiar with the funding process in post-secondary education and I take his comments seriously. My response brings me back to the same basic concept - the State doesn't need to build a brand new university complex from the ground up to meet the State's education needs. Further, the citizens of Kitsap County, Vancouver and the Tri-Cities would argue that the State's needs could be better met by spending a $1 billion in construction in their jurisdication. The commute from Poulsbo to Bellingham is longer than from Marysville.

If, as is often stated by proponents for the Snohomish county location, a new university will be a significant economic benefit then the citizens receiving that benefit should have some skin in the game. And let's face it, a world-class polytechnic university focused on graduate and post-graduate studies in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) isn't going to meet the educational needs of most of our citizen's. It's meant to encourage new businesses and job growth in high-tech fields and the student population will be largely from out of the area (probably out of the country).

The other comment I saw was a letter to the editor in the Herald by Douglas Russell. His comments went directly to the heart of my "put up or shut up" commnet in the original post. Mr. Russell "put up", suggesting that he is more than willing to pay for the educational and economic benefit we would receive from a university, for his children and for his community.
The idea is that I can have a four-year college in my back yard, with a curriculum decided on by the community, based on the needs of the community, employing hundreds of faculty and staff, enrolling hundreds and hundreds of local students, and all I need to do is go to a store and hand the cashier an extra 10 cents the next time I drop $50 on purchases. I've got a dime right here, sign me up.
I am far more impressed by Mr. Russell's commitment of his limited time and money than anything Haugen, Dunshee and Sells have said in the last two years.

Yet, even in his letter we see the disconnect that our civic and political leaders have cultivated throughout this process. Mr Russell asks our leaders "Educate us. Show us how this will work, how we can bring jobs and families back to our community and how we can make a difference in the lives of our children". The sole focus of our leaders, however, has been on construction sites and construction dollars. They have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they would rather have no university than to have it in the "wrong" city. Further, Mr. Russell is excited about a "curriculum decided on by the community" and not sending his kids off to the U District. Unfortunately, this is planned to be a polytechnic university, so unless all his kids will be studying STEM they may well be living in the U District. Mr. Russell deserves an answer from our leaders. We all do.

So good residents of Snohomish county, what do you think? Willing to pay extra for a local university? If not, why should residents of Bremerton, Richland and Vancouver pay for a university in our county? Should it be another broad-curriculum school or a highly-focused technical school? Should it meet the broad educational needs of our county's citizens or should it's primary purpose be to encourage economic growth and development?

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Links and Resources: January 1st, 2009

Over the last year I have occassionally posted a set to links to other web resources without much commentary, which I titled "Links and Resources: xxxx". In the beginning of December I phased out this type of post in favor of using In that post I introduced social bookmarking, encouraged you to add my bookmarked pages to your RSS feed reader and added a linkroll listing of these links to the left-hand column of this blog.

I had a few extra links laying around so I thought I would give you one last Links and Resources post.
This next group of links comes from the Edmonds Community College Newsvine feed. Newsvine is something of a cross between a blog and social bookmarking. You can add your own content to your column or you can seed it with other content (add links). In addition to their own feed, EdCC appears to contribute to a Newsvine Group titled The Academe. Let me recommend that you give both a look and again, much thanks to EdCC communications for hunting down these next three links
  • This Puget Sound Business Journal article highlights the problem of manufacturering jobs going unfilled, even as the economy turns sour. Article highlights EdCC challenge in filling some of the specialized vocational-technical programs aimed at this employment gap.
  • Local post-secondary education faces many challenges. Five college presidents sit down and discuss the challenges on this episode of KUOW's Weekday.
  • The Enterprise newspapers don't think the right place to start cutting the state budget is at the community colleges in this op-ed piece.
And, as has been the tradition, I end with something fun. Do you find those workplace posters with sayings and pictures of rowing shells inspirational? Me neither. So you'll like this selection of demotivational posters from

Oh, and for Paul at the Last Great Road Trip, when I say this is the last links post, I mean it is the conclusion not the ultimate.

Stimulus Spending

So what's your "elevator pitch" to President-elect Obama on stimulus spending for education? What do you say when then the President-elect steps into elevator with you, presses the button for the 47th floor and asks "how would you spend $40 billion on education so that it boosts employment immediately and enhances education in the long run"?

The Edmonds Community College (EdCC) newsfeed and twitter feed highlighted an op-ed from USA Today that said don't forget the critically important role that CC's play in the education of our society. Their concern stems from a set of 2-page ads by a group of major universities calling on the incoming administration to spend 5% of the stimulus package on education and "shovel-ready" projects at the universities. USA Today is right to call for that money to be shared more equitably with the CC's.

A quick search of the web turned up an Inside Higher Ed article on the topic including separate statements from the American Council on Education and a coalition of universities, plus some rather strong contrarian views that higher-ed doesn't deserve the money without strings attached (like the car companies). And to round out the spend-fest, this USA Today article discusses the stimulus spending that might go to K-12 education.

So here are the 5 points I'll make on the elevator with Barack:
  • Fiber optics are the new concrete. Our fascination with buildings and roads is a decidedly 20th century preoccupation. We need to spend less (not $0, however) on buildings and more on broadband, data centers, learning management systems and business intelligence.
  • World class K-12 education is the foundation. Money should first be spent on K-12, then community college and finally on 4-year universities. Sorry, but the number of people not getting a great high school education is far more concerning to me than people not getting to go to college right after high school. Bill Gates received a great high school education and part of a great college education - take a lesson.
  • Create computer-ready jobs too. Why are we preoccupied with creating construction jobs all of a sudden. How about an IT Corp that paid for unemployed IT professionals to work in school IT departments for 2 years? Or perhaps a Online Ed Corp, where unemployed educators would not teach, but focus entirely on the migration of existing in-class curriculum to an effective online format?
  • Education for the educators. You can't just throw computers at teachers and say "here, do something useful with them". The internet and collaborative tools make the situation even worse. Teachers need to rethink everything to turn a good on-site class into a good online class. We need to spend money revamping teacher education and we need to send existing teachers back through the system (they can become part of the Online Ed Corp mentioned above).
  • Learning starts when education ends. In a world where continuous personal and professional education will be the norm, we need to stop focusing on degrees and start focusing on learning. We need to pay attention to libraries and librarians (see this ALA statement on stimulus spending). I'd like to see a few tens of million go to turning Suzzallo into the physical hub of Washington's virtual Library of Alexandria.
Oh, this is my floor. Nice talking to you.

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