Archive for October, 2010

(More on) Education and Training in HE

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Further to my previous post on the role of vocational training in Higher Education, I was struck by this refreshingly measured perspective on education and training by A C Grayling – Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London – writing in the New Statesmen.

In response to impending spending cuts in the humanities, Grayling asks us to question the fundamental role of Higher Education. Addressing the current ‘hybrid’ nature of universities, he argues for a balance between training and what he calls ‘proper’ education:

“Engineers and biochemists can benefit from thinking about ethics and politics (they might find themselves working in the oil industry in developing countries where already vulnerable lives might be adversely affected by what they do). In the other direction, literary scholars can benefit from training in logic and the social sciences… both training and education are necessary. To fail to explain to someone the point of being trained in a skill is to halve its value, while to invite people to reflect and discuss if they know little and cannot reason is futile. But are engineers taught ethics? Are students of literature schooled in logic?”

This, argues Grayling, requires a “proper mixture of training and education that advanced study should deliver.” Yet a Higher Education that is increasingly driven by models of economic efficiency and scientific bias can only lead to restrictions in both time and resources, squeezing out opportunities for critical and reflective learning.

In a comment on my previous post, Virginia Yonkers expressed concern over prevailing business-orientated approaches to education in the US, at the expense of “the development of future members of our society… new solutions to problems, fairness in the distribution of resources, and an engaged civil society.”

In a similar vein, Grayling concludes by suggesting:

“Society certainly needs engineers, physicists, doctors, computer specialists, biochemists and geologists. But it also needs its lawyers, journalists, politicians, civil servants, writers, artists and teachers – and it needs everyone on both sides of the science-humanities divide to be a thoughtful voter, good neighbour, loving parent, responsible citizen. In short, society needs to have a civilised conversation with itself about its values and about what is to be learned from the experience of mankind.”

sm@jgc Redux

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Next month I’ll be back at the Jubilee Graduate Centre (JGC) with LeRoy Hill to run a new round of social media sessions for the new academic term. The original series of three lunchtime sessions earlier in the year attracted a great group of enthusiastic, multi-disciplinary PhD students and early career researchers, and led on to a further single all-day session at the Engineering Graduate Centre, and a presentation and paper (forthcoming) at the Future Learningscapes e-learning conference with JGC manager Tracy Sisson. (We also have a couple of sessions lined up at the Arts Graduate Centre, but that’s for another post).

This time round, we’re presenting two longer sessions at the JGC. We have limited preparation time, so we won’t be diverting too far from the original format; combining presentation, discussion, and the opportunity for quick demos – and we are updating our online resource which support the sessions to encourage further exploration of the social media we are discussing. Our key aims remain to raise awareness of the potential of using social media in academic and research work, and provide an opportunity for dissuasion and sharing of best practices. But I hope the new sessions will also indicate both my and LeRoy’s evolving thought processes and perspectives from our individual doctoral research projects and our own personal and reflective use of social media.