Via a Facebook friend, an analysis of the sound and fury surrounding MOOCs by Aaron Bady:
Where this urgency comes from, however, might be less important than what it does to our sense of temporality, how experience and talk about the way we we are, right now, in “the MOOC moment.” In the MOOC moment, it seems to me, it’s already too late, always already too late. The world not only will change, but it has changed. In this sense, it’s isn’t simply that “MOOCs are the future,” or online education ischanging how we teach,” in the present tense. Those kinds of platitudes are chokingly [sic] omnipresent, but the interesting thing is the fact that the future is already now, that it has already changed how we teach. If you don’t get on the MOOC bandwagon, yesterday, you’ll have already been left behind. The world has already changed. To stop and question that fact is to be already belated, behind the times.
There's a striking similarity between this kind of rhetoric and early globalization discourse. Indeed, one of the best ways to force change is to argue that the transformation is already happening.
I very much recommend reading the whole piece and not simply the excerpts I've culled from it. Bady does a much better -- and more systematic -- job than I did of linking together what Kohen calls "edutainment," TED talks, and MOOCs. But among the many gems in the essay is this critical insight about MOOC discourse:
Finally, and most importantly, is the central claim that the test of education is whether or not it’s entertaining. Wales asks, “why wouldn’t you have the most entertaining professor, the one with the proven track record of getting knowledge into people’s heads?” Is there evidence that the most entertaining lecture is the one that gets “knowledge into people’s heads”? Again, I’m not suggesting that a boring lecture is going to do the trick, but I’m arguing that entertaining students doesn’t necessarily equate with teaching them something. When I lecture on Kant, I don’t think I’m really entertaining my students. In my opinion, Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals doesn’t lend itself to entertainment; it’s a dense text that needs some serious explication. Now, I don’t speak in a monotone and I try to find relevant examples to help them make sense of the material, but I’m not standing in front of the class hoping that they’ll all have a great time; I’m standing there with the express purpose of teaching them about Kant.
Note: this is the second in a series of posts opening up issues relating to journal process for general discussion by the international-studies community.
All journals commit to publishing "the best work" that they receive within their remit. All journals aspire to publish "the best work," period, within their specialization. This raises special challenges for a journal such as the International Studies Quarterly, which constitutes the "flagship" publication of the International Studies Association (ISA). The ISA is incredibly diverse. It includes members from all over the world--nearly half are based outside of North America--who work in different disciplines and within heterogeneous research cultures.
Of the 6 churches I passed on my way to the office this morning, 3 reminded me that today is National Day of Prayer. In the spirit of the day, I’m following my Grandmother-in-Law’s advice and suggesting that we all pray for our enemies. Here’s my list:
e-International Relations asked me to write a piece about doing policy-relevant research. I thought I'd cross-post it here, especially timely given recent posts on this blog along with Ronald Rogowski's screed that our work is too policy-relevant but policymakers just don't want to hear what we are saying (HT: The Monkey Cage). Here is the full post:
During graduate school, the community of up and coming scholars who wanted to do policy-relevant research seemed a bit like Fight Club. It was something each of us secretly wanted to pursue but were reluctant to talk about in public. We found each other at those few conferences and workshops that were designed for folks like us such as SMAMOS, New Era, and even IQMR. More recently, as junior faculty, like-minded academics would come across each other at IPSI, the Next Generation Project, and Term Member gatherings of CFR.
Does it get better? For years, we have seen warnings and lamentations by some of our senior colleagues about the policy-academic divide (see here, here, here, here, here, here). Some attribute it to a rise in statistics and later game theory, others suggesting it has to do with the professional incentives that encourage scholars to eschew grand theory for more targeted, esoteric work in semi-obscure peer-reviewed outlets.
Note: this is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts opening up issues relating to journal process for general discussion by the international-studies community.
Although many readers already know the relevant information, let me preface this post with some context. I am the incoming lead editor of International Studies Quarterly (ISQ), which is one of the journals in the International Studies Association family of publications. We are planning, with PTJ leading the effort, some interesting steps with respect to online content, social media, and e-journal integration--but those will be the subject of a later post. I have also been rather critical of the peer-review process and of the fact that we don't study it very much in International Relations.
The fact is that ISQ by itself--let alone the collection of ISA journals and the broader community of cognate peer-reviewed publications--is sitting on a great deal of data about the process. Some of this data, such as the categories of submissions, is already in the electronic submission systems--but it isn't terribly standardized. Many journals now collect information about whether a piece includes a female author. Given some indications of subtle, and consequential, gender bias, we have strong incentives to collect this kind of data.
But what, exactly, should we be collecting?
Dear PhD Prospective (with kids or thinking about kids),
Thanks for contacting me. It sounds like you missed Steve Saideman’s sage advice and are actually going to be trying to get a PhD in political science. Many top people in the discipline will keep working to discourage you from attending – with your best interest at heart – but it sounds like you aren’t going to take their advice to avoid a PhD altogether. So, welcome aboard! It’s a fun profession and you’re just at the starting line.
It also appears that you are either (a) a parent already or (b) thinking about becoming a parent sometime during your PhD. This isn’t surprising – a typical PhD path overlaps with a good chunk of a person’s child-bearing years. There has already been a lot written on how difficult it is to be on the tenure-track or in a policy position with kids. For those interested in policy work, Anne-Marie Slaughter recommended the option (mainly for women) of avoiding the profession until after your kids are grown. This might work for you and you are contacting me with kids in college. If so, congrats! You avoided this issue and just have to hope that your family commitments stay limited while you work on your PhD. For all us other sorry souls without a trust fund/wealthy spouse that can support us while we sit on the sidelines for 20 years, please keep reading – this (faux) email is for you.
(click on the image to enlarge)
I'm usually cautious about linking to anything in the PSJR/PSR family of sites, but this strikes me as pretty interesting: a wiki devoted to tracking political-science journals. Contributors note the journal, the turnaround time, and information about what happened to the article. Despite the promulgation of end-of-year journal reports, the submission-to-review-to-outcome process remains a mystery to many. In general, more information is a good thing -- especially considering how much influence peer-reviewed publications have on the allocation of status, prestige, and resources in the field.
I'm passing along some ideas from Brian Matzke, a Ph.D. student in the Department of English at the University of Michigan. Making social rules and expectations explicit is a big part of contemporary classroom management, and this document is a good starting point for other instructors developing their own syllabi or cataloguing their own expectations. This version has been very lightly edited; you can see the original (with comic strip!) here.
Etiquette Guidelines for Students Interacting with Instructors
Success in any college course is determined by your performance on the graded material—the exams, the papers, the other assignments—but it is also determined by the relationship that you cultivate with your instructor. This might not seem intuitive, but making a good impression on your instructor and cultivating a positive relationship with them can lead to many tangible benefits. It can mean that the instructor will be more likely to excuse an absence or provide you with an extension on an assignment. It can make them more inclined to bump up a borderline final grade. It can turn them into a source for a letter of recommendation. And it can determine how harsh or lenient they are when they evaluate the more subjective components of your grade, like essays or participation. Cultivating a positive relationship with an instructor requires following certain etiquette rules. Some of these may seem obvious, but they are all important:
DISCUSSING COURSE POLICIES
- DO read the syllabus closely and consult it for answers to questions about course policies.
- DON’T ask your instructor questions about the course that are answered on the syllabus.
- DO ask for clarification about course policies or assignments as soon as possible.
- DON’T wait until right before the due date to ask questions about the assignment.
"My main job [as an assistant professor at insert-flyover-university-here] is advising presidential policy on public religious life." I actually heard a Ph.D. tell his neighbor that on an airplane.
I know that there might be more worthwhole topics for my first post in months (I haven't been a total slacker, I have been doing some programming), but none is more pressing ...
I have made back-to-back trips to conferences (first ISA and then MPSA) this week, and have connected through Atlanta each time, providing me with the rare opportunity to ride the airplane with other political scientists who I do not know personally.
In these journeys, I have realized that political scientists are weird animals, and we say dumb things to strangers on airplanes. More examples below the fold.
Practically the whole roster of Duck bloggers is out at the biggest IR conference of the year--the ISA Conference is in San Francisco this year--leaving this think tank Duck in DC alone and further pondering the divide between the policy and academic worlds. In light of this cri de coeur from a high ranking Navy officer, I had a long conversation this weekend with a former high ranking Army officer who before recently joining the private sector spent two years back in higher education studying classics/philosophy/politics.
In my first and second post after joining this group blog--whose primary aim is to bridge the policy-academic divide--I attempted to highlight how an academic puzzle in search of an explanation is very much tantamount to a policy problem in search of a solution, and then threw out an idea for an Academic Policy Center as a real world device for making this happen. We actually ran this up the pole at the 2010 G8 Summit in Canada, but after the proposal generated ample enthusiasm around the negotiating table, it got lost in the whole mini scandal that upended the summit at the time.
The now private consultant, who spent several tours in Afghanistan prior to her departure, was not wholly optimistic. She concurred that both DOD and the State Department could really use such a Center, but knowing the culture she commented that it would take a philosopher king in order to make it happen. I was forced to concur. We agreed that the best shot we all have of this vast suspension bridge getting built would be, in very practical terms, having a Secretary of State and/or Defense who has a social science PhD and real experience in academia. S/he would also have to be highly motivated to ensure over seveal years time that the products of the Center would get read and acted upon.
One of the topics online and at the ISA has been the gated-ness of academic writings. Journal articles are almost always behind a paywall so
I am happy to invite my friend Tom Nichols to guest-post about the continuing Iraq War debate. Tom responded so substantially to my original post series on the war (one, two, three), that I invited him to provide a longer write-up. Tom is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and an adjunct professor in the Harvard Extension School. His blog can be found here, his twitter here. His opinions of course are his own, so whenever he says I’m wrong, you probably shouldn’t listen… REK
I’ve been reading Bob’s thoughts – cogent as always – on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War. I reject Bob’s exploration of the “culpability” of the IR field for providing any kind of intellectual infrastructure for the war, mostly because I don’t think anyone in Washington, then or now, listens to us, and for good reason. Joe Nye long ago lamented that lack of influence elsewhere, and others agree (by “others” I mean “me”). So I won’t rehearse it here.
Bob and I sort of agree that the outcome of the war doesn’t say much about the prescience of at least some of the war’s opponents: there were people whose default position was almost any exercise of U.S. power is likely to be bad, and they don’t get points for being right by accident.
Spring (where it exists) is the time of year when applicants to PhD programs find out the outcome and decide where, if any place, to go. While there are many factors that one must take into account, including what might happen if your preferred adviser leaves (Will Moore's take and mine), there is something far more fundamental: are you going to get funding?* If the answer is no, then the decision is painful but easy: don't go.
About a month ago I wrote that:
The recent obsession with MOOCs has its roots in three interlocking trends: the application of business-school speak to higher education, technology fetishism, and the quest to push down labor costs. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that these are three faces of late-modern capitalism: the colonization of all modes of life by scripts associated with capitalist exchange relations, the “virtuous cycle” of rent-seeking by advocates of “creative destruction,” and relentless pressure to enhance profit by increasing capital-labor ratios.
I've been intending to expand on these claims. But now David Brockington has basically written a better version of that nascent post, so I'm going to outsource to him.
As many expat American professors working in Britain tell me, the UK looks an awful lot like the extrapolation of current trends in US academia. And that future isn't pretty.
It is time again for the International Studies Association Annual Conference. With thousands of attendees, a phone book full of panels, and a slough of receptions, dinners, meetings, and opportunities, the whole thing can be a bit overwhelming as a grad student (and for everyone else too!). You've likely received advice on how to present your work in 10 seconds or less- but what about the rest of the conference? Here are a couple of key tips for surviving the four days and getting the most out of the experience.
Before we get to the real essentials (food, shelter, and clothing), let's start with networking:
In addition to all the obvious tips (always wear your name tag, ask your supervisor to invite you along to some key dinners/meetings, hang out in the common areas and just generally act like you are speed dating, but for a job and contacts rather than for a mate) here are some more unconventional tips for making an impression:
- Do get up and head down to the lobby if you have jet lag and can't sleep at 4am. There is always the potential that you'll be invited to join a tequila tasting/debate on the norm diffusion/poker game, or that you'll see your academic idol passed out in the lobby- who wants to miss that for reruns of 'What Not To Wear' in the hotel room?
- Do Google image all of your academic idols. If you end up behind Ole Waever in the Starbucks lineup you don't want to miss the chance to (quickly) introduce yourself and tell him you use his work in your thesis. Also, if Ole comes to your panel, and you don't recognize him, and he asks a difficult question about securitization (hey, it is possible!) you don't want to a) accuse him he doesn't know what he's talking about b) go into detail about what an idiot you think Ole Waever is c) ask him if he's related to Kevin Bacon because there is something familiar about him. On that note, Don't (ever) use the coffee lineup, receptions, or the bar as an opportunity to ask someone like Ole to explain what they mean by social security or to tell them what aspects of their theory you think they got wrong. You may be right, and you may be brilliant, but there is a fine line between making an impression and burning a bridge/looking like a total douche.
- Don't follow the advice "ask a question at every panel, but start by talking about your research first." People who tell you to do this want you to fail. Yes, you should ask questions if and only if you have a strong, relevant question- let's be honest, that won't be at every panel. And, yes you should always introduce yourself first. But no one wants the Q&A time hijacked by someone pitching their own research- save that for the bar or receptions.
Ok, on to the other essentials: