Comparing education systems based on their technology

(yes, I originally found this blog because of Scoble’s note on it BUT it was kind of interesting all the same)

Read Alex Mallet’s summary of his first week at MIT. Malletrivia: Summary of the first complete week

Wow – “There’s an incredible amount of material packed into each lecture” – and it sounds interesting…

Compared to some of the lecture content I have seen at our universities, you really must get what you pay for. While it sounds like Alex is writing frantically down notes in his classes, at least he’s finding something worth writing about in them.

Case in point: one of our local universities (Carleton) puts some lecture classes on the TV (like many universities do) – but you would think they purposely find the most boring professors to teach them. They put up PowerPoint slides with 30 points on them, speak in monotone voice (yes, imagine the typical caricature of the university lecture from years ago), tell the students to print their notes which they give out in PDF format, using the LARGE slides (if anyone can tell me how you can take an existing PDF of a powerpoint presentation and then shrink the content of the PDF file so it won’t take up one slide per page, (revised) without owning Adobe, please do!).

This has to be one of the biggest arguments for teacher re-certification (tried to find a reasonable link on this but couldn’t). Computers and TV are mediums for knowledge today – but only put people who know how to use them in front of them.

This isn’t a slam against Carleton – I know (revised) they have some great professors but where they show a real apathy is to the type of teaching they put forth to the public. Yes, in Canada, the cost of education is much different than in the US and many Canadian grads will say “if it’s not the same, it’s better than in the US” but our universities really need to teach their professors how to embrace technology and take advantage of it – and if they already do it, then they need to show people that they can do it (kind of like blogging – it’s not enough just to blog, you have to tell people that you’re doing it) (Note: if you know of some, add some comments and tell me where – I’d love to hear about them)

One school doing something like this is our local community college Algonquin. When our daughter was taking her classes there, while I didn’t like their software persay, each class had a discussion group, white board, etc directly hosted by the school and the materials were fairly easy for them to find. Comparing the two, I ended up leaving with the impression that Algonquin College was far further ahead technically than the (slightly) more expensive Carleton University was.

Note: revised from Ted and Steve’s comments

8 thoughts on “Comparing education systems based on their technology”

  1. I don’t think it’s wise to draw conclusions, or infer trends, from such a narrow sample. There’s surely as much variation within universities as there are among universities, nevermind among countries’ “education systems”.

    Moreover all the usual technology caveats apply: the first movers have had their share of failures, and those who invested long ago (or not so long ago) now find themselves with outdated even sometimes completely dysfunctional systems.

    Meanwhile, across the board, the jury is out on the benefits of technology in education, especially early education.

    It’s a multi-faceted and complex topic, the stuff of research, and dozens of Ph.D’s, with no clear winners either way. **–** Steve

  2. “(if anyone can tell me how you can shrink a PDF powerpoint presentation for notes purposes without owning Adobe, please do!)”

    I’d be glad to, if I understood the question:). Generating PDFs without Adobe? There’s a million solutions. I’ve been delighted with pdfFactory, pdf995 and “Universal Document Converter” although I own Adobe Acrobat, too. Also, will do it for *free*. It that the question?

  3. Good points to keep in mind, Steve and I will.

    I think just like you offered coaxing to improve my speaking skills when I was starting out, you would think that the schools would do the same, especially for their professors.

  4. Ted, re the Adobe, it’s not about converting a Powerpoint to PDF – it’s about someone sending you a PDF file of a PowerPoint presentation and then being able to convert that PDF file (where it’s one slide per page) into multiple slides per page.

  5. Thanks Ted – so the solution is to spend about $100 on pdfFactory/FinePrint or $1800 on a Mac.

    Hmmm… that’s a tough one -(seriously, I need an excuse to buy one of those new iMacs)

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