By DAVID MYTON
And now for something completely different – a blog about Tweets and Twitter. Over the past 28 days I have published 114 Tweets on @HE_CG. My aim is to reflect the variety of thought, opinion and research relevant to anyone interested in education, with a bias towards higher education.
I include Tweets about developments in marketing and advertising, areas of great importance to many people as they seek to understand how, when and why people receive their information.
I also Tweet my own posts, which examine developments under the general title of HECG Highered Trendwatch.
As I looked back on the feed this week it struck me, not for the first time, just what an amazing space is higher education and its related fields.
Scrolling down the page I felt a sense of, well … wow, that’s a lot of stuff happening.
Wouldn’t it be good to step back and briefly (but in more than 140 characters) take a second look at just some of those Tweets to get a slightly more nuanced look the great contributions made by researchers, scientists, public intellectuals, and policy experts.
Among my Tweets of May 5 was an article by author and academic Yuval Noah Harari in Bloomberg View looking at how in the not-too-distant future it may be possible for a machine-learning algorithm to “analyse the biometric data streaming from sensors on and inside your body, determine your personality type and your changing moods, and calculate the emotional impact that a particular song – or even a particular musical key – is likely to have on you”.
Of all forms of art, he says, music is probably the most susceptible to Big Data analysis, because “both inputs and outputs lend themselves to mathematical depiction”.
“… algorithms may learn how to compose entire tunes, playing on human emotions as if they were a piano keyboard. Using your personal biometric data the algorithms could even produce personalized melodies, which you alone in the entire world would appreciate”.
So watch out musicians, you may soon be out of a job.
The next day’s Tweets included an article from the excellent Aeon magazine by City University of New York’s Barbara Gail Montero (a former ballet dancer), who argued that the true expert does not perform in a state of “effortless flow” as argued by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell. To boil down her 3,600 word essay, an artist’s or sportsperson’s so-called flow is anything but effortless – it just looks that way because they practice a lot.
Again on May 6 I Tweeted a piece from Techcrunch on how Amazon is beefing up its R&D facilities in Cambridge, UK, with a plan to move into a large new building in the city with capacity for more than 400 staff. Amazon was quoted as saying that staff at the site will include machine learning scientists, knowledge engineers, data scientists, mathematical modellers, speech scientists and software engineers, “with teams set to work on programs including its drone delivery effort, Prime Air; Amazon devices; and Alexa, its AI voice assistant tech”.
What would Erasmus and Thomas Cranmer think of that?
Then on May 7 I put out a very instructive piece useful to highered practitioners from ecampus news on Three musts for creating a high-quality online learning course. I won’t go into the very handy points but they were related to some interesting info from the Babson Survey Research Group. It found that the number of US highered students taking at least one online course had reached 5.8 million (nearly one half taking all their classes online). Some 28 per cent of all students enrolled in highered took at least one online course.
On May 8 I re-Tweeted an article from EdSurge that came with a headline that really grabbed my attention (well done anonymous headline writer!): What would happen if learning in school became more like working at a start-up? A great question that led to a tour through some programs that offer students the chance to engage in entrepreneurial thinking before they enter university.
Just a little later I was intrigued by a piece in University World News reporting on a new alliance of Asian universities, which at its inaugural meeting in Beijing pledged to increase student and faculty mobility between Asian countries “to counter the tendency of professors and students to look towards the West”. The new Asian Universities Alliance, initiated and chaired by Tsinghua University in Beijing, was launched with 15 universities from 14 countries taking part and involving 400 university presidents, professors and students.
A couple of days on I put out a great article from Inside Highered’s Higher Ed Gamma blog presenting us with 11 lessons derived from the history of universities. As writer Steven Mintz says, it’s easy to think that the history of higher education is irrelevant to the challenges faced by today’s colleges and universities – but you would be wrong. Read it and find out why.
On May 9 the highly focused team at The EvoLLLution once again caught my attention with the wordy but nevertheless enticing handle Student-Centricity and the Amazon Experience: Evolving IT to Meet Students’ Expectations. Jack Chen, CIO at Adelphi University, expands on the idea that today’s students behave more like customers than ever before. Rather than ignoring this trend, he says, institutions that “can adapt and create an Amazon-like experience for their learners will improve student satisfaction while reducing operating costs …”
A little later I came across an article in The Conversation that would have piqued the interest of academics across the country – Pilot study on why academics should engage with others in the community. This story related to the Australian Research Council’s new scheme to quantify impact and engagement by academics. It’s part of proposed funding changes under the National Innovation and Science Agenda. As author Ian Moffat neatly puts it: “Australian academics will soon have a new incentive to get off campus and into the community to engage with the people who ultimately fund their research – the taxpayers.”
I followed this with a research-based story from The Australian’s higher education reporter John Ross, which would have given coffee addicts everywhere one more reason to keep on drinking. It turns out that Harvard University neurobiologists have found that caffeine can not only ward off sleep but also neutralise the collateral damage of fatigue.
Then came #Budget2017 on which I published eight or so Tweets relating to its impact on higher education, but I won’t go into that here as it has been extensively covered.
There are many more Tweets not mentioned here, which you can find @HE_CG.
But before signing off to go Tweet this blog, I should say that the person I Tweet the most – every weekday in fact – is the redoubtable Stephen Matchett with his Campus Morning Mail, replete with hard facts and insider analysis of all things higher education in Australia. Always worth a read.