Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th Jan 2012 17:41 UTC
Apple Apple's education event just ended, and just as Ars Technica said, Apple announced better support for textbooks, as well as a textbook authoring tool. The textbook authoring tool is heavily inspired by Keynote and Pages, and hence, I already know it's going to be top-notch and very pleasant to use. In addition, the company also repositioned iTunes U as a Blackboard competitor. As great as all these new tools are, several large red flags went up in my mind: I remember what it was like being the only student who didn't use Windows. Update: "Any e-textbook author that wants access to the iPad-toting masses must make his or her work an exclusive to iBooks 2."
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Most education content is provided to teachers. They educate based on pre-packaged programs and documents. It's really only later in education where one starts to hit professors who've written the content that the course is based on and even then it's not every teacher producing for the class.

Worse still is the number of educators who are not teaching in there field of study. Highschool was a huge pile of French Language educated staff teaching music and Music educated staff teaching multi-media and computers. Again, this is a lower level situation where grade/high-school staff are considered generic educators except in the very few topics where specialized knowledge is needed; it's more rare to find a kinistetics grad teaching science instead of gym.

I think it's a noble goal to strive for teachers educated enough in there topic, given time to developer there own course content and paid enough to make teaching a competitive decision when faced with the alternative of a corporate salary. I'd love to see Bob the Chem PHD hired to teach chemistry with adequate resources and a salary comparable to what he'd make in a pharmaceutical lab. Education really should get the kind of resources and importance that seems to be reserved for corporate drones and entertainers. I'm just not sure how one gets to this place from where the state of education is now.

Reply Parent Score: 6

Thom_Holwerda Member since:

My high school was like that. Every teacher had a university degree, several Ph. d.'s too, all in the subjects they taught.

Then again, my high school was kimda posh :/.

Reply Parent Score: 1

jabbotts Member since:

I mean that in the nicest way. I'd have loved to be in a school that where the teachers where highly educated in the topics they taught.

Around here the un-posh public school system is bad enough but you add in us kids growing up in the sticks with the local farmville school and it's all they can do to get classes covered of with anyone that has a teacher's ticket.

I remember one teacher that was properly over-educated for teaching highschool science; he left half way through the year for a university job. Music and french where probably the most constant subjects taught by topic educated staff.

Computers was the topic I really felt it in having surpassed the teacher's knowledge rather early on. Nothing like watching a teacher spend a week reinstalling Dos to fix a memory problem caused by missing autoexec/config.sys settings; all the while telling us *students* that we didn't have the right solution since he was the teacher.

Your lucky to have been in a place where higher value was placed on education.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Carewolf Member since:

Ehrrmm. Didn't you go to school in Europe? In Denmark the high school/early college equivalent require a university degree from teachers.

So by posh, you mean an completely average European high school?

Reply Parent Score: 3

unclefester Member since:

My high school was like that. Every teacher had a university degree, several Ph. d.'s too, all in the subjects they taught.

Then again, my high school was kimda posh :/.

This is normal in the better Australian private schools.

One of the private schools here in Brisbane Australia even has a former surgeon teaching biology

Reply Parent Score: 2

kragil Member since:

In Germany you need a university degree to become a teacher and I am not suggesting that every teacher writes his own books. All math teacher would write on 1,2 or maybe 3 books and most probably wouldn't contribute much, but that is just a numbers game like you don't need everybody to write Wikipedia to for Wikipedia to be useful to everybody.

Reply Parent Score: 4

jabbotts Member since:

I believe one needs a base degree here also before applying to teacher's colledge. It does not lead to teaching the subject one studied though. A degree in english plus your teacher's ticket can land you in a science classroom or whever else the school needs a warm body.

I'd like to see teachers be highly qualified to teach the given subject not just qualified to present the pre-packaged course material. That would mean compensating teachers well enough to attrack a PHD away from a university or industry job though.

Reply Parent Score: 2

SeanParsons Member since:

As an instructor, I completely agree with you about many of the challenges. Because education in my country, the US, is never going to compete financially with industry you are left with either under-educated instructors or occasionally you find someone very altruistic and loves the opportunity to share their knowledge.

I teach at a rather unique post-secondary technical school that doesn't charge tuition regardless of household income. I took a significant pay cut moving from working in pharmacy to teaching pharmacy technicians, but I am fortunate enough to have a spouse that understood my desire to do something different (she also works in pharmacy).

I was somewhat disappointed to find that the school where I teach was a Windows only shop and was very much into using overpriced poorly written textbooks (this describes most textbooks used in technical schools) and this was doubly surprising as we even bought the textbooks for our students.

Fast forward six years: I've written an open source pharmacy mathbook with all the ODT files posted on the web, I maintain a wiki for teaching a lot of items including pharmacy law and regulation, I have limited space in my lab for a plethora of computers but the three workstations in the back I placed an SSD in each that I loaded Debian on and simply use rdesktop for the students to log into their Windows accounts (if IT ever felt the need to do anything with the workstations I would just unplug the SSDs and boot them into Windows), because I wanted more access to the web in my lab I got a grant to buy a few cheap Android tablets, and because I wanted a course management system I installed Moodle on my own server and the entire medical department uses it now.

I still have a long list of things I want to change at my school, but I've made a lot of progress thus far.

Part of the challenge is to get instructors motivated enough to keep chipping away at these problems. Instructors need to be the first line of defense to stay away from vendor lock-in and if vendor lock-in is already present then it is up to us to get rid of it. Students do not have a loud enough voice to make these changes themselves.

By the way, even though it is not directly related to school policy, I even worked with the library to start an open source software library with burned discs and short write-ups explaining each piece of software.

Reply Parent Score: 3

jabbotts Member since:

Thank you. You sound like one of the teachers really involved in educating rather than getting through the work day. I suspect your students recognize the difference and remember as they continue on.

(One of the better teachers I remember had a great policy for us computer nerds; "if you break it, you fix it and if you do manage to break into it, let me know how you did that will you?" (an agreement that worked for everyone considering one of us helped admin the Novell server)

Reply Parent Score: 2