Lecturers at your service…?

August 17, 2010

Does lecturers do students a service? Of course we may respond.  But I think it is worthwhile to consider the notion of services and why people would see something as a service.

Lets draw an analogy to buying say an Internet service.  When will you be happy? There is two aspects to it. Firstly it must allow us to do something new or better. Connecting to the Internet, maybe faster than before… Fine. Secondly it must be doing so in a way that you are happy.  For the Internet service we may be looking at is it available enough, fast enough, and secure enough…

So now consider what we offer students.  The first criteria is easily met (I hope): we will provide them with new knowledge and skills.  The second criteria, however, provides a challenge. Why, well we need to provide it in a way they (the student, the customer) wants…  Granted, we live in world of constraints (I would have liked a 100G Internet connection at my house, but it maybe for now a bit unreasonable).  So we need to think about what the students can reasonable want. This brings about some questions for self-reflection:

  • Are we consistent in our delivery to students, do all of them get the same treatment?
  • Do we make the information accessible enough? Are we available enough?
  • Do we provide enough avenues to the information? Do we make our expectations clear enough?
  • Do we provide the material in formats they want? Or do we talk and chalk and let them read.  (news flash: that is not how young people operate anymore)

What do you think?  Do lecturers in general serve the customer?

What type of teacher are you?

July 23, 2010

In a previous post I contemplated what professors really do, what their main purpose in academia are.  I concluded that it is to provide learning opportunities to students.  Two kinds of schooling made me think…  Seth Godin identifies two types of classes that you can take, and I quote: Read the rest of this entry »

Videos to make kids maths interesting

July 19, 2010

Linchpin Laurie has sent me these videos that some Dr Math tutors from the University of Pretoria has made.  Well done!! Its an excellent example how one can do something small, yet possibly make a huge difference. And all it took was to ask some tutors “make up some short cute funny videos for kids that are suitable for cell phones”.

Watch the videos here.

You are free to share with your kids and teacher and schools, etc.

UPDATE: Now also available on youtube!

Straight Lines: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAZVNRhpWFs
Cutting Corners: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bm9a6b5ap34
Signs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10vAKFNnva0
The Gods must be Crazy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsuKKVIp2O8

And the winners are…

March 14, 2010

I often joke that the really good students do well “despite my teaching”… While I am not dead serious when saying it, there is a certain amount of discomfort in me when saying it.  This begs the question whether our education system produce winners?

Read the rest of this entry »

The (strange) economics of learning

February 19, 2010

The economists tell me economy is really the study of scarcity…  This seems like a rather acceptable definition to me as in a financial economy I certainly feel the scarcity… of finances this is. However others have defined economies with different units of commerce.  For example, Davenport and Beck defined an economy in terms of attention – you have limited attention to “share”, so that is indeed a scarce commodity.  Maybe something on what they say in more detail in a later post. However, since I’ve been in academia I have been thinking about “learning” – afterall, this is largely what is supposed to happen at universities, whether through teaching or research.

So I have been wondering whether the economic principles can apply to learning.  It is indeed a need for knowledge that drives people to universities… or am I missing something?  Learning is a relatively time-consuming exercise, so to argue that there is a scarcity could perhaps work? Although there is no shortage of knowledge, and we won’t easily run out of it, the unit of commerce is not the knowledge, but our “acquisition” of it. Maybe the unit of commerce is “learning opportunities”. Students (learners) pay some money to be afforded the opportunity to learn something.

BUT, maybe the same principles afterall does not apply!? If a learner were to buy, say a new cellular telephone and certain numbers does not appear on the keypad they would surely complain… However, if the unit of commerce is “learning opportunities” and I were to have a short lecture (say only 30 minutes rather than the schedules 90 minutes) the students mostly go “Yeah !!!! Bonus…! 🙂 ”

I can only conclude that learning seem to adhere to a very strange economy indeed.