orgtheory.net

amazon won’t destroy college as we know it

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I’m really bad at keeping up with the media cycle.

So last Wednesday, Vox put up this cute piece with the catchy title, “How Amazon Could Destroy College as We Know It.” Written in the form of a letter from Jeff Bezos to shareholders in the year 2030, it tells the story of how Amazon came to supplant traditional higher education by developing, and selling at cost, badges that people could earn to demonstrate particular skill sets. As the value of badges became evident, companies became more and more interested in using them in hiring—to the detriment, presumably, of traditional indicators like college degrees.

It’s a clever article, and well-written. It also doesn’t quite make the claim the headline implies—that the rise of Amazon badges would destroy higher education. Nevertheless, although I think that the piece gets at something real that is going on, and that is eventually going to be an important source of change, this is not how I see it going down.

Anyway, Wednesday night I started writing a blog post using a similar Bezos-to-shareholders conceit, but from a 2030 that looked quite different. It just wasn’t quite working, I think because it’s hard to see Amazon pioneering the kind of change I can imagine. Pearson, maybe. But even I can’t name the CEO of Pearson. (Apparently it’s John Fallon.)

So the format wasn’t quite working, but the underlying point still nagged. While badges may become a thing, and perhaps Amazon may even pioneer them, they are not going to be “the” new form of educational currency. The world in which “as many as half of major US employers now consider Amazon badges to be one of their top five criteria when determining whom to hire” will remain a fantasy.

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Written by epopp

February 1, 2016 at 1:20 pm

congratulations to karissa mckelvey

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Guest blogger emeritus Karissa McKelvey just won a huuuge award. Her project just won a Knight Foundation grant. Her team is going to build a search engine that allows people to access data and make sure the data is update. Think of it as Bit Torrent for data, not illegal downloads. Good job!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

February 1, 2016 at 12:01 am

bull in the heather

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

January 31, 2016 at 12:01 am

iowa caucus poll 2016

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

January 29, 2016 at 3:07 am

theory of fields vs. dynamics of contention

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I am currently working on a piece that closely reads the emerging theory of fields and the (non?) synthesis of movement research and organizations. At present, I am interested in the following theoretical questions.

  1. Is the theory presented in Theory of Fields the current standard? Lots of people have taken aim at ToF (including myself) but few people have offered alternatives. Is that accurate?
  2. What is the difference between Theory of Fields and Dynamics of Contention?
  3. What are the distinctive predictions of ToF/DoC?

A few brief responses:

  1. Even though ToF/DoC were thoroughly critiques, I think a lot of research can safely be described using the ToF/DoC framework. For example, if we look at recent issues of Mobilization, we see that many articles focus on “fields of organization” and topics that fit into the broad category of “state-challenger dynamics.” We also see some applications of the less appreciated parts of ToF, such as social skill theory, when we look at activist repertoires and political skill. In contrast, a lot of the critics of the ToF/DoC axis have yet to offer a systematic alternative.
  2. After reading ToF and DoC very closely, it is clear that ToF is an expansion and generalization of DoC. The main piece of evidence is that each book presents a diagram illustrating the basic unit of analysis – the incumbent/challenger episode of contention. In each book, the conflict cycle is almost identical. In ToF, it is Fgure 1.1. on page 20. In DoC , it is Fure 2.1 on page 45. The main difference is that (a) ToF situates the incumbent-challenger conflict episode within any field, not just the state and (b) ToF has some additional theory about distinctive fields and organizations (e.g., the state and accreditors/regulators within fields).
  3. On one level, ToF/DoC might be viewed more as a useful language than a theory with predictions – you can describe the anatomy of any conflict in ToF/DoC terms. On another level, ToF/DoC does make implicit predictions. The idea is that fields are structured patterns of relations, resources, and identities. Thus, any serious change should really focus on disruptions of that system, which, on the average, will be contentious.

Add your comments on field theory, ToF/DoC, and institutionalism in the comments.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

January 27, 2016 at 12:01 am

james coleman: a rememberance

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At Education Next, Sally Kilgore offers a thoughtful overview of James Coleman’s career. For example, the aftermath of the EEOC report:

Coleman’s claims drew a vitriolic response, particularly from some fellow sociologists, who assumed he no longer favored desegregation.  At the 1976 meeting of the American Sociological Association, posters bearing swastikas and Coleman’s name were displayed in the main auditorium, and the ASA’s president, Alfred McClung Lee, led a failed attempt to have him expelled. The flap eventually subsided, and though Coleman’s work on education remained controversial for more than a decade, he was elected president of the ASA in 1990.

The attacks by colleagues must have been especially painful for a man who had actively opposed segregation. In July 1963, he and his first wife, Lucille, had taken their three boys—Tom, 8, John, 6, and Steve, 5 months—to participate in a demonstration at a whites-only amusement park outside of Baltimore. As the Colemans attempted to enter the park with a black family, they were arrested, as anticipated, along with nearly 300 fellow demonstrators.

And:

“Public and Private Schools,” which reported our results to the Department of Education, generated a new wave of controversy for Coleman. The report’s most contentious finding was that minority students attending Catholic schools had higher levels of achievement than those in public schools. The study also found that students in private schools increased their participation in extracurricular activities in each succeeding grade, while public school students appeared to decrease their participation. Critics pointed out, justifiably, that we had not adequately controlled for initial differences in the student populations as they entered either public or private schools. For instance, the family background variables we used to control for such differences may have failed to capture more nuanced variations in parental interest in education. Coleman never balked at criticism; he quickly looked for alternative methods to improve the control over initial differences. (A few years later, using survey data from the second round of “High School and Beyond,” the team showed that students in private schools had greater learning gains between their sophomore and senior years than did students in public schools. Thus, the achievement gap could not be attributed solely to the performance of the incoming freshmen.)

Read the whole thing.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

January 26, 2016 at 12:01 am

brayden king on boycotts at freakonomics

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Bryaden recently appeared on the Freakonomics podcast to discuss the effectiveness of boycotts. Click here to listen.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

January 25, 2016 at 5:47 am

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