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1. Gary King: an update on Dataverse

At the American Political Science Association meetings earlier this year, Gary King, Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University, gave a presentation on Dataverse. Dataverse is an important tool that many researchers use to archive and share their research materials. As many readers of this blog may already know, the journal that I co-edit, Political Analysis, uses Dataverse to archive and disseminate the replication materials for the articles we publish in our journal. I asked Gary to write some remarks about Dataverse, based on his APSA presentation. His remarks are below.

*   *   *   *   *

An update on Dataverse

By Gary King

 
If you’re an academic researcher, odds are you’re not a professional archivist and so you probably have more interesting things to do when making data available than following the detailed protocols and procedures established over many years by the archiving community. That of course might be OK for any one of us but it is a terrible loss for all of us. The Dataverse Network Project offers a solution to this problem by eliminating transaction costs and changing the incentives to make data available by giving you substantial web visibility and academic citation credit for your data and scholarship (King, 2007). Dataverse Networks are installed at universities and other institutions around the world (e.g., here is the Dataverse network at Harvard’s IQSS), and represent the world’s largest collection of social science research data. In recent years, Dataverse has also been adopted by an increasingly diverse array of other fields and protocols and procedures are being built out to enable numerous fields of science, social science, and the humanities to work together.

With a few minutes of set-up time, you can add your own Dataverse to your homepage with a list of data sets or replication data sets you make available, with whatever levels of permission you want for the broader community, and a vast array of professional services (e.g., here’s my Dataverse on my homepage). People will be able to more easily find your data and homepage, explore your data and scholarship, find connections to other resources, download data in any format, and learn proper ways of citing your work. They will even be able to analyze your data while still on your web site with a vast array of statistical methods through the transparent and automated connection Dataverse has built to Zelig: Everyone’s Statistical Software, and through Zelig to R. The result is that your data will be professionally preserved and easier to access — effectively automating the tasks of professional archiving, including citing, sharing, analyzing, archiving, preserving, distributing, cataloging, translating, disseminating, naming, verifying, and replicating data.

Dataverse_Network_Diagram
Dataverse Network Diagram, by Institute for Quantitative Social Science. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Dataverse is an active project with new developments in software, protocols, and community connections coming rapidly. A brand new version of the code, written from scratch, will be available in a few months. Through generous grants from the Sloan Foundation, we have been working hard on eliminating other types of transaction costs for capturing data for the research community. These include deep integration with scholarly journals so that it can be trivially easy for an editor to encourage or require data associated with publications to be made available. We presently offer journals three options:

  • Do it yourself. Authors publish data to their own dataverse, put the citation to their data in their final submitted paper. Journals verify compliance by having the copyeditor check for the existence of the citation.
  • Journal verification. Authors submit draft of replication data to Journal Dataverse. Journal reviews it, and approves it for release. Finally, the dataset is published with a formal data citation and back to the article. (See, for example, the Political Analysis Dataverse, with replication data back to 1999.)
  • Full automation: Seamless integration between journal submission system and Dataverse; Automatic Link created between article and data. The result is that it is easy for the journal and author and many errors are eliminated.

Full automation in our third option is where we are heading. Already today, in 400 scholarly journals in the Open Journal System, the author enters their data as part of submission of the final draft of the accepted paper for publication, and the citation, permanent links between the data and the article, and formal preservation is taken care of, all automatically. We are working on expanding this as an option for all of OJS’s 5,000+ journals, and to a wide array of other scholarly journal publishers. The result will be that we capture data with the least effort on anyone’s part, at exactly the point where it is easiest and most important to capture.

We are also working on extending Dataverse to cover new higher levels of security that are more prevalent in big data collections and those in public health, medicine, and other areas with informative data on human subjects. Yes, you can preserve data and make it available under appropriate protections, even if you have highly confidential, proprietary, or otherwise sensitive data. We are working on other privacy tools as well. We already have an extensive versioning system in Dataverse, but are planning to add support for continuously updated data such as streamed from sensors, tools for online fast data access, queries, visualization, analysis methods for when data cannot be moved because of size or privacy concerns, and ways to use the huge volume of web analytics to improve Dataverse and Zelig.

This post comes from the talk I gave at the American Political Association Meetings August 2014, using these slides. Many thanks to Mike Alvarez for inviting this post.

Featured image: Matrix code computer by Comfreak. CC0 via Pixabay.

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2. 3rd Annual Christmas Spectacular


Authors in the Park, the long-running showcase for local authors, is coming back to downtown Mount Dora with the 3rd Annual Christmas Spectacular set for December 20th.


This year’s event will feature Steve Boone of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band The Lovin’ Spoonful. Boone will be on hand to promote his memoir, Hotter Than a Match Head.


Authors in the Park is an author event series which supports local authors and community literacy. The event is sponsored by MillerWords.com and Arts for the Community, Inc. (a local non-profit).

“It is great to have Steve at this year’s event. Not only is he a rock legend, but also a Florida author,” Mark Miller, founder of Authors in the Park, said.

In addition to Boone and Miller, other local authors will be on hand including: Sharon Coady, Illustrator Victor Donahue, De Miller, Olivia Miller, Theresa Oliver, D.G. Stern, C. Kevin Thompson and Colleen Wait.

“Another great thing about these authors is their commitment to their community,” Miller said. “This year’s line-up features educators, inspirational speakers and more.”

The Christmas Spectacular will take place Saturday, December 20th from 5p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Donnelly Building at Fifth Avenue and Donnelly Street in the center of festive downtown Mount Dora. It is free to attend and the authors will be available for photos and autographs. The city will be showing off its holiday light display and local shops will be open.


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3. Investing in My Students

Today’s guest bloggers is Lindsey Roache, Assistant Principal at University Heights Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana.

IMG_1923As a principal, I know that if my students are going to care about school, they have to know their school cares about them. Sometimes this means our school buys clothes, purchases bus passes, provides a Thanksgiving meal or adopts a family around the holidays. It also means we make sure our students have great books.

We do our best, but we have limitations. My school has no library, therefore we have a limited amount of books. Our teachers dig into their own pockets to buy books for their students and we apply for grants. We also have First Book.

IMG_1920Last year, when I delivered brand new books and dictionaries to classrooms, the looks on the students’ faces were priceless. The students were incredibly thankful. They felt their importance. They knew that we were committed to investing in their future and helping them in any way possible.

This holiday season, please help our students and others know we care by giving them brand new books. Join me in creating a generation of invested learners who will read, learn and succeed. Please donate to First Book today — every $2.50 you donate through December 31, 2014 will be matched with an in-kind donation of two books from Disney.

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4. The importance of mentoring

Throughout my career, there have been many times when advice, support, and criticism were critical for my own professional development. Sometimes that assistance came from people who were formally tasked with providing advice; a good example is a Ph.D. advisor (in my case, John Aldrich of Duke University, who has been a fantastic advisor and mentor to a long list of very successful students). Sometimes that advice was less formal, coming from senior colleagues, other academics at conferences, and in many cases from peers. The lesson is professional advice and support — or to put it into a single term, mentoring — comes from many different sources and occurs in many different ways.

However, there is growing concern in political science that more mentoring is necessary, that there are scholars who are not getting the professional support and advice that they need to help them with career decisions, teaching, and the publication of their research. There are many good programs that have developed in recent years to help provide more mentoring in political methodology, for example the excellent “Visions in Methodology” program. And the Society for Political Methodology recently approved the foundation of a new professional award, to recognize excellent mentors. But more needs to be done to improve mentoring and mentoring opportunities in academia.

During the 2014 American Political Science Association conference, there was a very informative panel discussion, “How to Be a Good Mentee: Mentoring for Methodologists.” The discussion was chaired by Megan Shannon of the University of Colorado, and participants were Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer (Rice University), Tiffany D. Barnes (University of Kentucky), and Brett Ashley Leeds (Rice University). I had an opportunity to listen to much of this panel discussion, and found it quite helpful.

After the conference I sent Leslie, Tiffany, and Ashley some questions about mentoring by email. Their responses are informative and helpful, and should be read by anyone who is interested in mentoring.

R. Michael Alvarez: How have you benefited from being involved in mentoring relationships?

Tiffany D. Barnes: I have benefited in a number of ways from being involved in a mentoring relationship. Mentors have provided me with feedback on research at multiple different stages of the research process. They have provided me with professional advice about a number of things including applying for fellowships and grants, marketing my book manuscript to university presses, and navigating the negotiation process at my university. My mentoring relationships have broadened my network of scholars with similar research interests and/or professional goals, which in turn have resulted in a number of different opportunities (e.g. coauthors, and invitations to participate in conference panels/round tables, mini-conferences, and edited volumes/special journal issues). Equally important, my mentoring relationships have resulted in a number of valuable friendships that make working in the profession more enjoyable.

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: As a mentee, I really benefited from getting guidance, feedback, and research assistance from many different formal and informal mentors over the years. As a mentor, I get to give that back which is a great opportunity.

Brett Ashley Leeds: I believe fundamentally that no one figures everything out on his or her own. I know for sure that I did not, and I have had (and continue to have) a variety of mentors throughout my career. As a mentee, what I really value is knowing that I have people who respect me enough to tell me when I am wrong and to help me improve. As a mentor, I not only learn a lot from thinking intently about my mentees’ work and articulating my opinions for them, but I also get great personal satisfaction from the relationships that evolve and from helping others to succeed. It feels good to pay forward what has been done for me.

Woman looking away and smiling. © GlobalStock via iStock.
Woman looking away and smiling. © GlobalStock via iStock.

R. Michael Alvarez: Why has the issue of mentoring become an important topic of conversation in academia, and in particular, in political science?

Tiffany D. Barnes: Although it is well established that mentoring is an important aspect of professional development, it has recently become an important topic of conversation because academics have become aware that not all scholars have the same opportunities to develop mentorship relationships nor do they derive the same benefits from mentor relationships. In particular, women and minorities may face more challenges when it comes to identifying mentors in the field and they may not reap the same benefits (e.g. opportunities to collaborate, sponsorship) from mentorship relationships as men do. In the long run, this “mentor gap” may have negative repercussions for the retention and career advancement of some otherwise talented scholars.

If a scholar feels they would benefit by mentoring, how can they seek out a mentor? What should they look for in an appropriate mentor?

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: Mentoring relationships can be both informal and formal. Informal relationships often emerge when scholars ask for advice and support from colleagues in their department, subfields, or various disciplinary organizations. Formal relationships sometimes emerge organically or at the initiative of a mentee or mentor, but they also can be entered into through a number of mentoring programs in the discipline. For women, the Visions in Methodology program offers a mentoring program through which mentees can ask to be paired with a mentor. They usually ask the mentee to suggest someone they would like to be paired with and then check with the suggested mentor about interest and availability. The Midwest Women’s Caucus has a mentoring program for women in any subfield. They ask individuals interested in mentoring and being mentored to volunteer to participate and then pair them by interest. Other organizations and groups probably offer similar programs.

In seeking a mentor, either formally or informally, you should think about exactly what you want out of the relationship. Are you looking for someone to provide you with general guidance about the profession or are you seeking someone who is willing to read your work from time to time and talk through research challenges when you come across them? Are you in your first year out, feeling lost, and needing help getting back on track or are you close to tenure and looking for guidance on how to navigate the process? Do you want a mentor whose style is to give “pep talks” or “straight talk?” Knowing what you want out of the relationship will help you identify the right person for the job.

Tiffany D. Barnes: Scholars who want to find a mentor can look for a mentor by signing up for a formal mentor match or by identifying someone in the profession who shares similar research interests or professional goals.

A formal mentor match is good option for identifying someone who is interested in serving in a capacity as a mentor. Typically the mentor program will ask you questions about what you are looking for in a mentor relationship, your research interests, your rank, and your professional interests. The program will try to match you with a mentor based on this information. If you are paired with someone through a program, you can be confident that your mentor wants to help you. These relationships can be very valuable, but, as with all mentor-mentee relationships, it requires initiative on the part of the mentee. It is the mentee’s responsibility to drive the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentees should identify why they want a mentor and reach out to the mentor and ask for help in areas where they can benefit the most. One criticism of formal matching programs is that they may not always result in the best “fit.” Even if you do not think the match is the best fit, there are still a number of benefits you can derive from the relationship. Your research interests do not have to perfectly overlap for you to benefit from the relationship. Indeed, most successful scholars have a wealth of information, advice, and perspective to offer junior colleagues. It is up to the mentee to identify areas where your needs or interests intersect with the mentor’s strengths, experiences, and interests — and to capitalize on these opportunities.

A second option is to develop a more informal mentor relationship. To do this, mentees should identify someone in the field who has similar research interests or professional goals. Mentees should identify different opportunities to get to know scholars with similar interests and try to develop these relationships from there. For example, you may have the opportunity to establish relationships with scholars when you present research on the same panel, when someone shows interest in your work by offering comments or questions about your research (or vice versa), or even when you have the opportunity to bring a guest speaker to your university. By following up with people after the initial meeting and/or taking them up on their offer to read and comment on your research, you can begin to establish relationships with them. These relationships may take time to develop and they may be difficult establish if you are new to the profession or do not know many scholars in your field. Finally, when attempting to establish more informal mentor relationships, it is important to be self-aware. Some people will show interest in you and be eager to get to know and help you, others will not, and no one is obligated to do so. Respect people’s rights to not be interested in you and try not to take it personal.

Brett Ashley Leeds: My view is that it is less important to find one person that can be identified as “a mentor” and instead to focus on finding mentoring, even if it comes from a variety of people. I encourage scholars to identify people who have skills, abilities, and/or information that they think would be useful to them– basically people they would like to emulate in particular areas of their work. Approach these folks politely in person or by email (for instance, asking to have coffee at a conference) and ask questions. Some will not be responsive, but many will be responsive and helpful. Follow up with those who are helpful. In some cases a relationship will develop.

R. Michael Alvarez: What are the most important “dos” and “don’ts” for a scholar who is in a mentoring relationship?

Brett Ashley Leeds: Since below I cover some tips for mentors, here are some tips for mentees: (1) Figure out what it is you want to know/learn. Think of both specific and general questions so you are prepared to ask when the opportunity arises. (2) Recognize the time and costs of what you ask and make things as easy as possible for your mentor by reminding him/her of past interactions and explaining the specific feedback you are looking for. (3) Understand that ultimately you are responsible for your own decisions. Ask your mentor to explain why he/she believes a particular action/approach is best, and for major decisions, seek advice from multiple people. (4) Let your mentors know about the outcomes. For example, if a mentor helps you with a paper, send a note when the paper is accepted for publication.

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: For mentees, be assertive and discuss with your mentor when your relationship begins just what you each want from the relationship and are willing to commit to it. If you need something from your mentor, don’t wait for him/her to reach out to you. Email, call, or arrange to meet with your mentor at a conference. Since the mentee is the one who needs the mentoring relationship the most, the mentee needs to take the initiative to ask for help or guidance from the mentor.

Tiffany D. Barnes: Establish clear expectations and boundaries. Tell your mentor what you are hoping to get out of a mentoring relationship, and don’t be afraid to ask your mentor for help in areas where you could benefit the most. That said, it is important to acknowledge that your mentor may not always be willing or able to help you in the ways you want. Respect these boundaries and do not take them personal.

When establishing boundaries, it is important to respect your mentor’s time and to be cognizant and courteous with the time you ask of your mentor. For example, if your mentor agrees to meet with you for half an hour, pay attention to the time and wrap up your meeting in a timely manner. Your mentor will likely appreciate not having to cut you short, and, if they know you respect their time, it may make them more likely to make time for you in the future.

Don’t expect any single mentor to fulfill all of your mentoring needs. Different people, depending on their experience and expertise, have different things to offer. Try to identify the areas where your mentor is most likely to be of help to you and build on these strengths. Along these same lines, although your mentor likely gives great advice, you cannot expect them to have the answer to all of your questions. It is important to weight their point of view carefully and to seek out a number of different perspectives.

Seek to develop a number of mentoring relationships. It can be useful to have mentors within your own department, in your university (but outside your department), and in the discipline more broadly. Moreover, it is often just as useful to develop relationships with senior mentors, as it is to develop relationships with peer mentors.

Student With Teacher In Class.  © monkeybusinessimages via iStock.
Student With Teacher In Class. © monkeybusinessimages via iStock.

R. Michael Alvarez: What are the responsibilities of a mentor?

Brett Ashley Leeds (1) Create an environment in which you can provide effective constructive criticism. This tends to require first establishing an environment of mutual respect. (2) Know what you know and what you don’t, and know that your experience is not universal. (3) Always explain why you are giving the advice you are giving and be willing to consider alternatives. (4) Recognize that in the end, your mentee should make his/her own decisions and may not always take all of your advice. (5) Recognize how important your opinion may be to your mentee; wield this power responsibly.

Tiffany D. Barnes: A mentor should establish clear boundaries with their mentee. Be honest and upfront the role you are and are not willing to play as a mentor. Be clear about your time constraints and the amount of time you are willing to commit to your mentee.

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: If it is a formal mentoring relationship, make sure you and your mentee establish ground rules at the beginning about what each of you wants from the relationship and are willing to give to it. Don’t commit to something you aren’t willing to follow through with and be sure to follow through with whatever you commit to do for your mentee. If you can only commit to an hour of time twice a semester, that is fine, but make sure your mentee knows that and agrees that it is sufficient for him/her. If you are willing to provide general guidance but don’t want to read/comment on your mentee’s work, that is fine. But, again, make sure your mentee knows that from the beginning. Keep in mind that your mentee may place very high value on your advice and guidance so give it carefully.

R. Michael Alvarez: What are the personal and professional benefits of being a mentor?

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: Too numerous to list in a short response!

Brett Ashley Leeds: It has often been said that one only really knows something when she can teach it to others. Mentoring gives me an opportunity to clarify and articulate my views on professional issues and research in a way that I otherwise might not. I frequently learn in the act of mentoring. The main benefits, however, are personal, and come from the satisfaction of helping others to achieve their goals and the feeling of paying forward what has been done in the past for me.

R. Michael Alvarez: How can professional organizations (like the Society for Political Methodology) facilitate professional mentoring?

Brett Ashley Leeds: The most important thing that professional organizations can do is provide opportunities that encourage interaction among scholars who don’t already know one another, and particularly between junior and senior scholars. Small conferences, dinners, and receptions help a lot with this. Poster sessions in which junior scholars are matched with senior discussants also help.

Tiffany D. Barnes: In my experience professional organizations play both, an important formal and informal role in facilitating professional mentoring.

Professional organization can formally facilitate mentoring relationship by matching mentors with mentees. I have two different successful mentoring relationships that were products of mentoring matches. This is a great way to help young scholars identify someone in the profession who is willing to serve as a mentor.

Professional organizations can also facilitate mentoring by simply providing both professional and social opportunities for junior scholars to meet likeminded senior (and junior!) colleagues. By becoming involved in professional organizations that align with your professional interests you will establish relationships with colleagues in your field. Most of these relationships will emerge naturally and develop slowly over time. Although you may not formally call the individuals you meet here “mentors,” they will become an important part of your mentoring community.

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: One of many ways is a formal mentoring program. The Visions in Methodology mentoring program is a fantastic example, but it is only for women. This is a very positive feature of the program because women in a field with a small representation of women face different and sometimes more challenging sets of obstacles than men. However, plenty of men in the field would also benefit immensely from mentoring and so offering a similar program for men or a program that is open to both women and men, if it does not already exist, would help to facilitate formal professional mentoring in the methods subfield.

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5. The other side of El Sistema: Music education, discipline, and profit

The Venezuelan youth orchestra scheme El Sistema is perhaps the world’s most famous music education program today. It’s lauded as a revolutionary social program that has rescued hundreds of thousands of Venezuela’s poorest children. Simon Rattle has called it “the most important thing happening in music anywhere in the world.” Classical music education is back in vogue, now aligned with the rhetoric of social justice.

However, the training of social or ethnic Others (the poor, the destitute, the non-white) as classical music performers is hardly a new idea, and delving into its long history may improve understandings of El Sistema outside Venezuela, which are currently very limited. While this training might have provided a helping hand to the most disadvantaged in society, it also had less benevolent aspects.

The music conservatoire has its roots in the conservatorios, or orphanages, of Renaissance Venice. Young female orphans were trained in music at institutions such as the Ospedale della Pietà, where Vivaldi worked. These institutions served a clear charitable purpose, providing for destitute children and aiming to turn them into productive citizens. Yet it’s worth noting a couple of further points: discipline and profit.

The Ospedali Grandi’s purpose was primarily to regulate the city’s social environment, and along with the opportunities provided to impoverished girls went strict control over their day-to-day lives. As Vanessa M. Tonelli notes, the young musicians had to submit to an inflexible monastic routine: silence, lots of work, and little leisure time. When the English music historian Charles Burney visited in the eighteenth century, he noted “good discipline observed in every particular,” and he described the orchestra as “under the most exact discipline,” with its musicians “under that kind of subordination which is requisite in a servant to a superior.” Clearly, then, musical training was an extension of the Ospedali’s social control. It also had an economic angle: concerts by the orphan girls became a major attraction, and the Ospedali were thus able to turn their musical talents into profit, enriching the institutions and their administrators by eliciting larger donations.

Naples, too, had a conservatorio system, in which, as David Yearsley writes, music “was drummed into thousands of children in a system of forced labor…. There was huge international demand for the fashionable Neapolitan style, and the conservatories fed it.” Employing a training system that was “often cruel,” these “music mills” forged highly trained performers for export across Europe. Their art “belied the inexorable regime of study, discipline, and punishment that lay behind it”: Burney described sweatshop-like conditions, with students practising ten hours a day with only a few days off per year.

Caracas_Brass
Caracas Brass, El Sistema. By Agonzalez. CC-BY-SA-4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Yearsley posits a “dialectic of musical enlightenment: on one side of the split screen was the musical workhouse of the poor orphans, on the other, the courtly chamber filled by the most elegant music played by bewigged and fully-trained instrumentalists.” Enchanting music emerged from conditions of control and exploitation.

The alliance of coercion and beauty was not limited to Europe. The Spanish Conquest of the Americas saw missionaries fanning out across the continent and founding schools that taught music as a core subject. A key aim was to instill in the indigenous population what the Spaniards called policía–order, Christianity, and civilization. Music education thus served as a handmaiden of colonialism.

In nineteenth-century Britain, music education was promoted among the poor as part of a drive for moral and religious improvement. Howard Smither argues that a key motivation was the political protection of the upper and wealthy middle classes. Music was seen as a way of keeping the workers out of taverns, increasing their productivity and decreasing their opportunities to discuss revolutionary ideas. Similarly, David Gramit underlines how nineteenth-century educational reform in Germany reaffirmed the social and economic order; music education proponents “sought to create a disciplined but docile labor pool” and thus promote more efficient capitalism. Grant Olwage explores how the perceived efficacy of music education as social control in Britain made it an obvious tool for disciplining and “civilizing” the black population in its colony in South Africa.

What all these programs had in common was an attempt to order and control social Others. They reveal music education in its guise of disciplinary practice, and thus as profoundly ambiguous. As Michel Foucault argues, discipline is effective and productive, as the high level of performing skill attained by many of these musical trainees attests. But discipline also “imposes unequal, asymmetrical, non-reciprocal relations” (James Johnson), and produces docile, apolitical subjects. Music education thus brings benefits, but they often accrue as much to the educators as the educated (as economic and symbolic capital) and may be accompanied by significant (if hidden) costs.

Training, discipline, profit: these three threads run through the history of music education of social or ethnic Others. Let’s now turn to Venezuela.

El Sistema has been lionised by the international press as a revolution in artistic education and a beacon of social justice. Clearly, then, there has been a failure to connect it to similar music education initiatives stretching back half a millennium and to take account of the darker side of music education. For all the contemporary talk of a “revolutionary social project,” El Sistema offers little that is new—its core ideas were presaged in sixteenth-century Latin America and nineteenth-century Europe–and such programs have historically been reactionary, not revolutionary.

Historical precedents alert us to the possibility that alongside El Sistema’s undoubted productivity lie discipline and profit. And indeed, the Venezuelan program displays a familiar urge to control social Others and benefit from their musical activities. Founder José Antonio Abreu has said: “As an educator, I was thinking more about discipline than about music.” Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, meanwhile, have become mainstays of the global music industry, attracting the kind of international praise and wonder that Venetian orphan musicians did centuries earlier, and generating considerable revenue in the process. Like the Neapolitan conservatorios, it drills young performers intensively to fulfill the desires of audiences across Europe; once again, the musicians’ “naturalness” is celebrated, their unbending training regime overlooked.

To understand El Sistema, we need to remember music education’s two faces. The press and public have fixated on one–“rescuing” and training the poor–and have largely ignored the other: discipline and profit. Only when the second is fully grasped can a proper assessment be made.

Headline image credit: ‘Maestro. Orchestra. Conductor’. Public domain via Pixabay

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6. Music teachers on Facebook: separating the wheat from the chaff

I just reviewed yet another “hot off the press” piano composition. It was posted on Facebook by someone I don’t know – either as a person or by reputation. It looks good, but that is only because note-writing software has become so easy-to-use that anyone with the most basic knowledge can quickly crank out a “could-have-been-published” looking piece.

This particular piece doesn’t sound very good. It is mismatched. The notes themselves are at an upper-beginning level, yet it’s written with a complicated key signature and accidentals only an advanced student could understand. There are notational errors. Yet, I know that many unknowing teachers will print it off and rush it to their unfortunate students before the day is out without knowing better.

My professional life is better because of my Facebook presence that I control from the comfort of my hilltop home in a small town. I have made connections with numerous wonderful teachers I might not have met otherwise. I have discovered new books and interesting repertoire and also have contributed my two cents when I felt called to do so. I recognize, however, that I have been thrown without rank or file, onto a massive heap of piano teachers. Perhaps I stand out because of my reputation, but probably not. Up until recent times, the gatekeepers of quality have included respected publishers and one’s reputation through professional associations. Facebook’s format equalizes everyone regardless of accomplishment or education. There is no gatekeeper here.

I work in an unregulated industry as an independent music teacher in the United States. No professional degrees, training, or licensing of any kind is necessary to start up a studio. One simply needs to hang a sign and gather willing students. While this has been a longstanding issue in our field, recent trends in social media have combined with advances in technology to make everyone look equally valid on the screen. It is impossible to discern from a glance whether one’s content is senseless, stellar, or stolen.

With the ease of creating websites, music teachers have jumped into the writing arena. No credentials are needed to set up a site, write something, and post links in every professional music group on Facebook. The volume is overwhelming and often includes blog posts that are only copies or rewrites of someone else’s work. From appearances on screen, there is no way to sort the good from the bad and unethical.

Likewise, when questions are posed in groups, anyone can answer. There are no algorithms measuring the veracity or usefulness of an answer, or even the level of competence of the person responding. Running parallel to this is an anti-educational drumbeat that attempts to elevate those who have no formal education in their field to the highest level of achievement simply because they have passion for what they do. “People don’t know what they don’t know” as the old saying goes, and on Facebook no one seems bashful in rushing to confirm the truth of this statement. On the ubiquitous blue and white screen we all stand as equals — or at least we look like we do.

Adding to this are the wearisome writers who purport that “having fun” should supersede the steady and sturdy learning that is required to gain success in any field. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with fun, but students subjected to a form of “teaching” with only pleasant, mindless activities devoid of content or educational merit will never see a reasonable level of achievement — certainly not enough for them to gain entry into a respectable music school.

Untrained teachers whose main goal is keeping kids happy are falling into this trap by droves by using well-marketed, but substandard and mostly self-published literature that is woefully lacking in sound pedagogy. There is a bandwagon mentality of rushing to download the latest composition or method, which leads to a sense of belonging to the coolest group in high school – I mean – on Facebook. But, when one method advertises that “Our teachers do not need to possess advanced playing skills, prior teaching experience or a music degree. They must simply love to play the piano…” where is it all headed?

Parents would never allow their children to study math with someone who simply had a passion for adding up numbers, yet many sign them up for music lessons without researching the qualifications of the instructors or the soundness of the materials. The books are slick, the websites dynamic, and the appearances on Facebook omnipresent. But does the emperor actually have any clothes?

With 8,000 piano teachers in one group and several thousand in others, it is an unmanageable task to separate the wheat from the chaff. I suspect that these groups will have short shelf lives moving forward as their members begin to realize the unreliability of the information and the questionable value of material shared. What this backlash will create is yet to be determined, but I trust it will be a positive, quality-driven platform. For me, this can’t happen soon enough.

Image courtesy of Deborah Rambo Sinn

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7. FOUR TITLES FROM OWLKIDS BOOKS

OwlKids Books promotes awareness of our world to encourage young readers to become more astute observers of how their choices can affect the natural world. OwlKids Books appeal to readers who enjoy bold graphics with quick facts using minimal text. Why We Live Where We Live Written by Kira Vermond; Illustrated by Julie McLaughlin ISBN: 9781771470117 Grades 4-6 Vermond takes readers on a

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8. Questions surrounding open access licensing

Open access (OA) publishing stands at something of a crossroads. OA is now part of the mainstream. But with increasing success and increasing volume come increasing complexity, scrutiny, and demand. There are many facets of OA which will prove to be significant challenges for publishers over the next few years. Here I’m going to focus on one — licensing — and discuss how the arguments seen over licensing in recent months shine a light on the difference between OA as a movement, and OA as a reality.

Today’s authors face a number of conflicting pressures. Publish in a high impact journal. Publish in a journal with the correct OA options as mandated by your funder. Publish in a journal with the correct OA options as mandated by your institution. Publish your article in a way which complies with government requirements on research excellence. They are then met by a wide array of options, and it’s no wonder we at OUP sometimes receive queries from authors confused as to which OA option they should choose.

One of the most interesting aspects of the various surveys Taylor & Francis (T&F) have conducted on open access over the past year or two has been the divergence between what authors say they want, and what their funders/governments mandate. The T&F findings imply that, whilst there is generally a shared consensus as to what is meant by accessible, there are divergent positions and preferences between funders and researchers as to what constitutes reasonable reuse. T&F’s surveys always reveal the most restrictive licences in the Creative Commons (CC) suite such as Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivs (CC BY-NC-ND) to be the most popular, with the liberal Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence coming in last. This neither squares with the mandates of funders which are usually, but not always, pro CC BY, or author behaviour at OUP, where CC BY-NC-ND usually comes in a resounding third behind CC BY and CC BY-NC where it’s available. It’s not a dramatic logical step to think that proliferation may lead to confusion, but given the conflicting evidence and demand, and potential for change, it’s logical for publishers to offer myriad options. At the same time elsewhere in the OA space we have a recent example of pressure to remove choice.

Creative Commons. Image by Giulio Zannol. CC BY 2.0 via giuli-o Flickr.
Creative Commons. Image by Giulio Zannol. CC BY 2.0 via giuli-o Flickr.

In July 2014, the International Association of Science, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) released their ‘model licences’ for open access. These were at their core a series of alternatives for, and extensions to the terms of the established CC licences. STM’s new addition did not go down well in OA circles, as a ‘Global Coalition’ subsequently called for their withdrawal. One of the interesting elements of the Coalition’s call was that, in amongst some very valid points about interoperability, etc. it fell back on the kind of language more commonly associated with a sermon to make the STM actions seem incompatible with some fundamental precepts about the practice of science: “let us work together in a world where the whole sum of human knowledge… is accessible, usable, reusable, and interoperable.” At root, it could be interpreted that the Coalition was using positive terminology to frame an essentially negative action – barring a new entry to the market. Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion on the new STM licences. We don’t have any plans to adapt them at OUP (we use CC). But it was odd and striking that rather than letting a competitor to the CC status quo exist and in all likelihood fail, some serious OA players felt the need to call for that competitor’s withdrawal.

This illustrates one of the central challenges of the dichotomy of OA. On one hand you have OA as a political movement seeking to replace commercial interests with self-organized and self-governed communities of interest – a bottom-up aspiration for the common good, often suggested to be applied in quite restricted ways, usually adhering to the Berlin, Budapest, and Bethesda declarations. On the other you have OA as a top-down pragmatic means to an end, aiming to improve the flow of research and by extension, economic performance. The OA pragmatist might suggest that it’s fine for an author to be given the choice of liberal or less liberal OA licences, as long as they meet the basic criteria of being free to read and easy to re-use. The OA dogmatist might only be satisfied with the most liberal licence, and with OA along the terms they’ve come to believe is the correct interpretation of their core precepts. The danger of this approach is that there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ and, as can be seen from the language of the Global Coalition in responding to the STM licences, that can very easily translate into; “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

Against this backdrop, publishers find themselves in a thorny position. Do you (a) respect author choice, but possibly at some expense of simplicity, or do you (b) offer fewer options, but potentially leave members of the scholarly community feeling dissatisfied or disenfranchised by your standard option?

Oxford University Press at the moment chooses option (a), as we feel this is the more inclusive way to proceed. To me at least it feels right to give your customers choice. But there is an argument for streamlining processes, avoiding confusion, and giving users consistent knowledge of what to expect. Nature Publishing Group (NPG), for example, recently announced that as part of their move to full OA for Nature Communications they would be making CC BY their default, and only allowing other options on request. This is notable in as much as it’s a very strong steer in a particular direction, while not ruling out everything else. NPG has done more than most to examine the choice issue – changing the order of their licences to see what authors select, sometimes varying charges, etc. Empirical evidence such as this is essential for a viable and credible resolution to the future of OA licensing. Perhaps the Global Coalition should have given a more considered and less emotional response to the STM licences. Was repudiation necessary in a broad OA community which should be able to recognise and accept different variants of OA? It would be a shame if all the positive impacts of open access for the consumer come hand in hand with a diminution of scholarly freedom for the producer.

The opinions and other information contained in this blog post and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.

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9. Five key moments in the Open Access movement in the last ten years

In 2014 Oxford University Press celebrates ten years of open access (OA) publishing. In that time open access has grown massively as a movement and an industry. Here we look back at five key moments which have marked that growth.

2004/05 – Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) converts to OA

At first glance it might seem parochial to include this here, but as Rich Roberts noted on this blog in 2012, Nucleic Acids Research’s move to open access was truly ‘momentous’. To put it in context, in 2004 NAR was OUP’s biggest owned journal and it was not at all clear that many of the elements were in place to drive the growth of OA. But in 2004/2005 NAR moved from being free to publish to free to read – with authors now supporting the journal financially by paying APCs (Article Processing Charges). No wonder Roberts adds that it was ‘with great trepidation’ that OUP and the editors made the change. Roberts needn’t have worried — NAR’s switch has been a huge success — its impact factor has increased, and submissions, which could have fallen off a cliff, have continued to climb. As with anything, there are elements of the NAR model which couldn’t be replicated now, but NAR helped show the publishing world in particular that OA could work. It’s saying something that it’s only ten years on, with the transition of Nature Communications to OA, that any journal near NAR’s size has made the switch.

NAR Revenue Streams  2004
NAR Revenue Streams 2004
NAR Revenue Streams 2013
NAR Revenue Streams 2013

2008 – National Institutes of Health (NIH) Mandate Introduced

Open access presents huge opportunities for research funders; the removal of barriers to access chimes perfectly with most funders’ aim to disseminate the fruits of their research as widely as possible. But as both the NIH and Wellcome, amongst others, have found out, author interests don’t always chime exactly with theirs. Authors have other pressures to consider – primarily career development – and that means publishing in the best journal, the journal with the highest impact factor, etc. and not necessarily the one with the best open access options. So it was that in 2008 the NIH found it was getting a very low rate of compliance with its recommended OA requirements for authors. What happened next was hugely significant for the progress of open access. As part of an Act which passed through the US legislature, it was made mandatory for all NIH-funded authors to make their works available 12 months after publication. This was transformative in two ways: it meant thousands of articles published from NIH research became available through PubMed Central (PMC), and perhaps just as importantly it legitimised government intervention in OA policy, setting a precedent for future developments in Europe and the United Kingdom.

2008 – Springer buys BioMed Central (BMC)

BioMed Central was the first for-profit open access publisher – and since its inception in 2000 it was closely watched in the industry to see if it could make OA ‘work’. When it was purchased by one of the world’s largest publishers, and when that company’s CEO declared that OA was now a ‘sustainable part of STM publishing’, it was a pretty clear sign to the rest of the industry, and all OA-watchers, that the upstart business model was now proving to be more than just an interesting side line. It also reflected the big players in the industry starting to take OA very seriously, and has been followed by other acquisitions – for example Nature purchasing Frontiers in early 2013. The integration of BMC into Springer has happened gradually over the past five years, and has also been marked by a huge expansion of OA at the parent company. Springer was one of the first subscription publishers to embrace hybrid OA, in 2004, but since acquiring BMC they have also massively increased their fully OA publishing. It seems bizarre to think that back in 2008 there were even some who feared the purchase was aimed at moving all BMC’s journals back to subscription access.

2007 on – Growth of PLOS ONE

The head and shoulders of Janet Finch, pictured on the platform as a guest speaker at the 11 November 2003 General Meeting of the Keele University Students' Union. KUSU Ballroom, Keele, Staffordshire, UK. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The head and shoulders of Janet Finch, pictured on the platform as a guest speaker at the 11 November 2003 General Meeting of the Keele University Students’ Union. KUSU Ballroom, Keele, Staffordshire, UK. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Public Library of Science (PLOS) started publishing open access journals back in 2003, but while its journals quickly developed a reputation for high-quality publishing, the not-for-profit struggled to succeed financially. The advent of PLOS ONE changed all that. PLOS ONE has been transformative for several reasons, most notably its method of peer review. Typically top journals have tended to have their niche, and be selective. A journal on carcinogens would be unlikely to accept a paper about molecular biology, and it would only accept a paper on carcinogens if it was seen to be sufficiently novel and interesting. PLOS ONE changed that. It covers every scientific field, and its peer review is methodological (i.e. is the basic science sound) rather than looking for anything else. This enabled PLOS ONE to rapidly turn into the biggest journal in the world, publishing a staggering 31,500 papers in 2013 alone. PLOS ONE’s success cannot be solely attributed to its OA nature, but it was being OA which enabled PLOS ONE to become the ‘megajournal’ we know today. It would simply not be possible to bring such scale to a subscription journal. The price would balloon beyond the reach of even the biggest library budget. PLOS ONE has spawned a rash of similar journals and more than any one title it has energised the development of OA, dispelling previously-held notions of what could and couldn’t be done in journals publishing.

2012 – The ‘Finch’ Report

It’s difficult to sum up the vast impact of the Finch Report on journals publishing in the UK. The product of a group chaired by the eponymous Dame Janet Finch, the report, by way of two government investigations, catalysed a massive investment in gold open access (funded by APCs) from the UK government, crystallised by Research Councils UK’s OA policy. In setting the direction clearly towards gold OA, ‘Finch’ led to a huge number of journals changing their policies to accommodate UK researchers, and the establishment of OA policies, departments, and infrastructure at academic institutions and publishers across the UK and beyond. The wide-ranging policy implications of ‘Finch’ continue to be felt as time progresses, through 2014’s Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) for England policy, through research into the feasibility of OA monographs, and through deliberations in other jurisdictions over whether to follow the UK route to open access. HEFCE’s OA mandate in particular will prove incredibly influential for UK researchers – as it directly ties the assessment of a university’s funding to their success in ensuring their authors publish OA. The mainstream media attention paid to ‘Finch’ also brought OA publishing into the public eye in a way never seen before (or since).

Headline image credit: Storm of Stars in the Trifid Nebula. NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

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10. Is American higher education in crisis?

American higher education is at a crossroads. The cost of a college education has made people question the benefits of receiving one. To better understand the issues surrounding the supposed crisis, we asked Goldie Blumenstyk, author of American Higher Education in Crisis: What Everyone Needs to Know, to comment on some of the most hot button topics today.

A discussion on the rising cost of higher education.

What does the future of higher education look like?

Are the salaries of university presidents and coaches too high?

A look into the accountability movement in higher education today.

Featured image credit: Grads with diplomas by Saint Louis University Plus Memorial Library. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

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11. The Kubert School is having a open house tomorrow

kubert school open house The Kubert School is having a open house tomorrow

The longest running stand alone school to teach cartoonist is having an open house tomorrow from 1-4. Prospective students will meet faculty and get a tour.

Open houses at The Kubert School are a great way to learn about the school and program. Any prospective student and their family is welcome to attend. A tour of the school, teacher demonstrations, and meetings with our faculty are a part of the Open House experience. Scheduling a time is not necessary.

Founded by the great Joe Kubert, the school is currently run by his family, including Andy and Adam Kubert. Grads include Amanda Connor, Shane Davis, Skot Collins, and many more.

 

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12. In person online: the human touch

What is the human touch in online learning? How do you know if it’s there? What does it look and feel like? My epiphany on this topic occurred when a student told me “I thought I would have done better if I had a real teacher.”

This pronouncement triggered a cascade of questions: Why didn’t she see me as real? Because we weren’t in the same physical space? The physical separation of instructor and students creates a psychological and communications gap, and the missing element is the perception of people as real in an online environment — the human touch. Did she think the computer produced the instruction and the teacher interaction? How could this happen when I felt deeply involved in the course — posting detailed reading guides and supplementary materials, leading and participating in discussions, and giving individual feedback on assignments? Was technology getting in the way or was it the way I was using it? In the online classroom we hope that the technology becomes transparent and that students just have a sense of people interacting with other people in an online learning community. And this issue isn’t limited to students. Instructors are sometimes concerned that they won’t be able to achieve the energy of the face-to-face classroom and the electricity of an in-person discussion if they teach online. It’s a matter of presence and personal style.

Internet Cafe after Jean Beraud
Internet Cafe after Jean Beraud. Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

We can create the human touch by establishing an online presence – a sense of really being there and being together for the course. To be perceived as real in the online classroom we need to project ourselves socially and emotionally, and find ways to let our individual personality shine through whatever communications media we’re using. We can look to our own face-to-face teaching style for ways to humanize an online course. What do we do in a face-to-face classroom to make ourselves more approachable? We talk with students as they arrive for class, spice up lectures with touches of humor and relevant personal stories, treat discussions as conversations, and sometimes depart from what we planned so we can follow more promising asides.

To translate these techniques for the online classroom we can look to the issue of physical separation. We use the terms “face-to-face” and “online,” but online isn’t synonymous with faceless and impersonal. In fact, faces can contribute to the human touch. Pictures of the instructor and the students, brief instructional videos, and video-enabled chat all provide images of real people. They add a human touch and contribute to a more vivid sense of presence — of being perceived as real. And posting short introductory autobiographies helps course participants establish personal connections that pave the way for open communication and collaboration. With the use of strategies like these the technology may begin to recede from consciousness, the focus can shift from technology to people, and ultimately the technology may even seem to disappear as people just interact with each other.

Once you’ve established a sense of presence, you want to maintain and extend it. Regular, brief, informal announcements like those we typically make in a face-to-face class — a welcome message at the beginning of a course, reminders of due dates for assignments, current news items relevant to course content — help make our presence felt and assure students that we’re there, we’re working along with them, and we’re interested in their progress and success. Using our normal conversational tone for any online instructional posts (the agenda for the week, descriptions of readings, instructions or prompts for discussion posts) reinforces that sense of personal style. A practice of poking your head in to asynchronous discussions and making brief comments lets students know you’re there and available for help, but avoids the impression of dominating the discussion. Audio or video-enabled synchronous meetings provide a place where people can be themselves, join in informal discussions, show their enthusiasm for their subject matter with individual presentations, or experience the energy of brainstorming sessions — much as they would in a face-to-face classroom. All these techniques can contribute to that human touch, helping us reveal our real selves and engage our students in a vital online learning community.

What personal touches have you used online? Have you found particularly successful techniques you’d suggest others try?

Headline image credit: Headphones. CC0 via Pixabay.

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13. Writing Videos

Brian Sanderson has posted videos of all his lectures from his 2013 creative writing course.

http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/

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14. What is the most important issue in music education today?

Fall is upon us. The temperature is falling, the leaves are turning, and students are making their way back at school. To get a glimpse into the new school year, we asked some key music educators share their thoughts on the most important issues in music education today.

  *    *    *    *    *

“The history of music education in the United States is integrally linked to general educational policies and initiatives, as well as American culture and society. Rationales for why music is an important component of students’ education have utilized utilitarian, aesthetic, and praxial arguments, often attempting to connect the goals of music learning with the educational priorities of the day. In the “data driven,” high stakes testing milieu of today’s educational reform movement, music educators find themselves having to defend not only music programs, but also the teaching profession in general. Political rhetoric and shrinking budgets have too often resulted in the false choice of ‘basic subjects’ over other areas of study, such as music and art, that can provide meaningful ways of understanding the world and equipping individuals to live a ‘good life.’ In this environment it is important that music teachers remain strong, articulate advocates for the value of music in the complete education of children, and to not resort to superficial reasons for music’s inclusion in school curricula. All persons deserve the opportunity to experience a life enriched through active musical participation that includes creating, performing, and listening to music. Robust school music programs help to provide the foundational understandings to make that possible. As Karl Gehrkens, former president of the Music Supervisors National Conference, stated in 1923, ‘Music for every child; every child for music.’”

Dr. William I. Bauer, Associate Professor and Director of the Online Master of Music in Music Education program at the University of Florida, and author of Music Learning Today: Digital Pedagogy for Creating, Performing, and Responding to Music

  *    *    *    *    *

“Access to quality music instruction is the most important issue in music education today. Some American children have a daily opportunity to make music during school with a certified music teacher who assists them in creating music, performing music, and responding to music. However, many children do not have this opportunity. In some cases, children may have daily access to a music teacher, but that music teacher may not organize instruction in a way that offers the opportunity to create, perform, and respond to music. Many children have access to a music teacher only a few times per week and oftentimes the lack of resources for that music program leads to a subpar experience for students. Due to a lack of state level policy regarding music education, many children have no music teacher in their school building. Although there are rich opportunities for outside of school community music in the United States, many children cannot afford to pay for music instruction outside of the school setting. Citizens interested in making a difference in music education must advocate for a well-prepared, certified music teacher in every school building. Music needs to be mandated at least twice a week in a dedicated space at the elementary level and every secondary student should have the opportunity to participate in choral, instrumental, and general music.”

Colleen M. Conway, Professor of Music Education, School of Music, Theatre & Dance, University of Michigan, Editor-in-Chief of Arts Education Policy Review, and the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research in American Music Education

*    *    *    *    *

“The most important issue in music education today is one that has existed for as long as has formal music education: assessment. The term raises many eyebrows, and I believe in viewing assessment for both its positive attributes and for the dangers it can present. Assessment of student work is vital for accountability, curriculum development, and instructional planning, but assessment can be dangerous when it accounts only for standardized measures, when it is used punitively, and when it does not properly inform educational decision-making. Good assessment of student work in music should help students to understand their own progress, and allow them to explore music creatively. Assessment of music teachers’ work is just as crucial because music teachers must be outstanding musicians, pedagogical thinkers, and instructors. Similar to assessment of student work, assessment of teachers should help to inform teachers of their strengths and areas for growth. Good assessment of teachers should provide feedback for improvement of planning and instruction, and should encourage teachers to incorporate new ideas, technologies, and types of interaction with their students. Assessments of teachers should be based on their actual performance rather than on that of their students, as is the unfortunate case in many high-stakes testing scenarios. Thoughtful, positively focused assessment can be a powerful motivator for educational progress and change, and can help students and teachers alike to participate creatively in music.”

Jay Dorfman, Assistant Professor in Music Education at Boston University, and author of Theory and Practice of Technology-Based Music Instruction

*   *   *   *   *

“With the current trend towards turning student evaluations into teacher accountability measures, we risk narrowly focusing music education to those skills based elements that can be easily measured.  As music teacher educators we need to resist the urge to succumb to the standardized testing movement and broaden our students’ notions of what it means to be musical. We need to ensure a learner centered music education for all students that fosters creative thinking and divergent outcomes, such as composing, improvising and other forms of sonic exploration and expression through traditional and non-traditional approaches to music making.”

Gena R. Greher, Professor of Music Education at University of Massachusetts Lowell, and co-author of Computational Thinking in Sound: Teaching the Art and Science of Music and Technology

*    *    *    *    *

“The most important issue in music education today is the lack of understanding shown by policy makers, school leaders, local politicians, and governments of the value of systematic and successful music learning across the lifespan, especially for our children and young people. Engaging in active music learning over a sustained period generates measurable physical, psychological and social benefits (as well as cultural benefit) that are long-term for the individuals and groups involved. The scientific evidence of music’s value (from clinical science, neuroscience, and social science) is increasing every day. Although we don’t yet understand clearly all the mechanisms of how music learning can promote long-term benefit, there can be no doubt that music can make a powerful and positive difference to health (physical, emotional, cognitive), whilst supporting different aspects of intellectual functioning (such as literacy) and fostering social inclusion and cohesion amongst and across diverse groups. Investing in high quality music education should be a priority for all, not just the lucky few, because music can transform lives for the better, across the lifespan.”

Graham Welch, Professor, Institute of Education, University of London, and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Music Education, Volume 1 and Volume 2

Headline Image: music-classical-sheet-music-piano. Creative Commons License via Pixabay

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15. A Path Appears

Kristoff hi-res jacket frontToday’s blog post is an excerpt from A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, the latest book from New York Times’ columnist and best-selling authors Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

In A Path Appears, which was released yesterday by Random House, Nick and Sheryl highlight “some of today’s most successful local and global initiatives to fight inequality.”  The book “makes clear how typical citizens can drive the momentum of worthy solutions to our world’s most pressing social problems.”

We are honored that Kyle Zimmer, First Book president, CEO and co-founder, is one of many social entrepreneurs featured in the book:

“While visiting the homes of those children, she noticed that there were few if any books. When she gave some children books, they would confide: This is my first book. That gave her the idea to found First Book, a nonprofit to deliver books to children living in poverty and then encourage them to read. She started the endeavor with two colleagues originally as a hobby organization, but it turned out to be impossibly tough to hire a good manager for it: “We had about $1.30 in our bank account.” So she quit her corporate law job in 1995 and took on the role of chief executive…

There were plenty of missteps. When First Book started asking [publishers] for book donations, Zimmer arranged for a few trucks to pick them up. “I was sitting here thinking I knew what I was doing, and I started rounds of calls to get books donated,” said Zimmer. “The publishers were wonderfully generous, and the fire hose of books for turned on.” First Book soon was scrambling for pickups, larger trucks – any form of transport. When one employee found a distributor willing to transport the books, Zimmer was delighted. But they had some explaining to do when a truck with a beer company logo pulled up in front of the schools to unload boxes of books…

First Book now distributes books to church groups, libraries in low-income neighborhoods, Head Start programs, homeless shelters, youth outreach center, and pediatrician’s officers through Reach Out and Read. After twenty years – and significant transformation – First Book has distributed some 115 million books to 90,000 organizations.* In 2013, First Book accounted for 2 percent of the children’s books distributed in the United States. Not bad for a nonprofit.

*Since A Path Appears went to press, First Book has continued to grow and expand. To date, we have distributed 120 million new books to a network of 140,000 schools and programs.

Excerpted from A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Copyright © 2014 by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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16. The Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney






We begin with Amira's 12 birthday.  She is finally old enough to wear a toob yet young enough to enjoy her Dando lifting her to the sky.  Amira lives on a farm in South Darfur surrounded by friends and family, but changes are afoot.  Amira's best friend Halima and her family are packing their things and moving to the city.  They say the city has more opportunities.  Amira wishes she could go with them to Nyala and attend the Gad Primary School with Halima.  Amira is not so sure about her Muma's old fashioned ways.

                  "She does not like the idea of Gad,
                    or any place where girls learn
                    to read
                    or write,
                    in Arabic or English
                    or think beyond a life
                    of farm chores and marriage." (p. 13 arc)

Soon, the extra chores of 12, missing Halima, and trying to solve the ongoing bickering between her father and villager Old Anwar seem anything but troubling.  The relative peace of her village is shattered when the Janjaweed  attack, changing Amira's very existence.

Amira and the other survivors must pick up the pieces and leave the ruins of the village to find safety.  Their trek takes them to the refugee camp Kalma - the Displaced People's Camp.  Amira doesn't like this space surrounded by fences and barbed wire.

                    "Everywhere I look,
                      I see
                      people, people, and more people.

                      I'm glad to stop walking.
                      I'm glad we have finally reached who-knows-where.
                      But already I do not like this place." (arc p. 139)

It would be easy enough to give up in such a desperate place with no real end in sight.  Amira and her family have lost so much.  But when Amira meets Miss Sabine and is given a gift of a red pencil she discovers some things about herself, her family and those on the journey with her.

Written in free verse, The Red Pencil is a story of family and loss and hope.  It was eye opening for me on a number of levels.  One is that it is so easy for me not to see what is happening in the world from my perch here in NYC.  The horrors of Darfur in the early 2000s seemed so far away in time and place that I wonder how many people in North America are aware of what was happening.  I find myself very impressed with the deftness of Andrea Davis Pinkney's hand when it came to writing the passages dealing with the violence.  She truly tells the story from a 12 year old's point of view, and the free verse format allows for silences that speak volumes.  The illustrations by Shane W. Evans are playful within this serious book and somehow bring a feeling of safety to the pages.

A must read for librarians, teachers and students.


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17. Making Math Fun

Getting kids excited about math can be a challenge.   Because there are expected to be more than eight million STEM jobs in the United States by 2018, math skills are becoming more and more important for today’s student. If today’s student lacks math skills, three million of tomorrow’s jobs may go unfilled.

MathStart is an award-winning series filled with visual representations of math concepts through light-hearted, kid-inspired stories.  Vetted by a team of math teachers, MathStart makes math skills for kids ages three to seven interesting by showing young characters using math in everyday experiences.  Plus, each book comes with teaching tools and activity suggestions for educators.

To inspire kids to enjoy math and to meet the challenge of creating a strong workforce for the future, First Book teamed up with the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) to bring this collection of books to the First Book Marketplace.

The First Book Marketplace now carries two books from each level of the series:

Jack the Builder ThumbJack the Builder (Age 3+):  Jack uses his imagination and all shapes and colors of his blocks to create different creatures and objects teaching kids beginning number operations and counting.

 

Just Enough Carrots ThumbJust Enough Carrots (Age 3+): Join young rabbit at the supermarket to compare what items each character is buying and learn about addition, subtraction, “more,” “fewer” and “the same.”

 

Elevator Magic ThumbElevator Magic (Age 6+) :  Brian rides the elevator at his mother’s work and discovers new things on each floor.  Along the way kids learn the number line and subtraction.

 

 

Tally O'Malley ThumbTally O’Malley (Age 6+):  On a family vacation the O’Malleys start a tallying competition to pass the time, teaching kids how to keep track of numbers as they count.

 

Lemonade for Sale ThumbLemonade for Sale (Age 7+):  The member’s of Elm Street Kids’ club decide to sell lemonade to raise money to fix their clubhouse, tracking their business on a bar graph.  Kids learn gathering data, charting and comparing results.

 

Shark Swimathon ThumbShark Swim-A-Thon (Age 7+):  This fun story about a team of sharks swimming laps to raise funds for camp helps reinforce the skill of two-digit subtraction.

 

Do you work with kids in need?  Sign Up with First Book today to gain access to this great math series.

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18. Learning with body participation through motion-sensing technologies

Have you ever thought that your body movements can be transformed into learning stimuli and help to deal with abstract concepts? Subjects in natural science contain plenty of abstract concepts which are difficult to understand through reading-based materials, in particular for younger learners who are at the stage of developing their cognitive ability. For example, elementary school students would find it hard to distinguish the differences in similar concepts of fundamental optics such as concave lens imaging versus convex lens imaging. By performing a simulated exercise in person, learners can comprehend concepts easily because of the content-related actions involved during the process of learning natural science.

As far as commonly adopted virtual simulations of natural science experiments are concerned, the learning approach with keyboard and mouse lacks a comprehensive design. To make the learning design more comprehensive, we suggested that learners be provided with a holistic learning context based on embodied cognition, which views mental simulations in the brain, bodily states, environment, and situated actions as integral parts of cognition. In light of recent development in learning technologies, motion-sensing devices have the potential to be incorporated into a learning-by-doing activity for enhancing the learning of abstract concepts.

When younger learners study natural science, their body movements with external perceptions can positively contribute to knowledge construction during the period of performing simulated exercises. The way of using keyboard/mouse for simulated exercises is capable of conveying procedural information to learners. However, it only reproduces physical experimental procedures on a computer. For example, when younger learners use conventional controllers to perform fundamental optics simulation exercises, they might not benefit from such controller-based interaction due to the routine-like operations. If environmental factors, namely bodily states and situated actions, were well-designed as external information, the additional input can further help learners to better grasp the concepts through meaningful and educational body participation.

learning body participation
Photo by Nian-Shing Chen. Used with permission.

Based on the aforementioned idea, we designed an embodiment-based learning strategy to help younger learners perform optics simulation exercises and learn fundamental optics better. With this learning strategy enabled by the motion-sensing technologies, younger learners can interact with digital learning content directly through their gestures. Instead of routine-like operations, the gestures are designed as content-related actions for performing optics simulation exercises. Younger learners can then construct fundamental optics knowledge in a holistic learning context.

One of the learning goals is to acquire knowledge. Therefore, we created a quasi-experiment to evaluate the embodiment-based learning strategy by comparing the leaning performance of the embodiment-based learning group with that of the keyboard-mouse learning group. The result shows that the embodiment-based learning group significantly outperformed the keyboard-mouse learning group. Further analysis shows that no significant difference of cognitive load was found between these two groups although applying new technologies in learning could increase the consumption of learners’ cognitive resources. As it turned out, the embodiment-based learning strategy is an effective learning design to help younger learners comprehend abstract concepts of fundamental optics.

For natural science learning, the learning content and the process of physically experimenting are both important for learners’ cognition and thinking. The operational process conveys implicit knowledge regarding how something works to learners. In the experiments of lens imaging, the position of virtual light source and the type of virtual lens can help learners determine the attributes of the virtual image. By synchronizing gestures with virtual light source, a learner not only concentrates on the simulated experimental process but realizes the details of the external perception. Accordingly, learners can further understand how movements of the virtual light source and the types of virtual lens change the virtual image and learn the knowledge of fundamental optics better.

Our body movements have the potential to improve our learning if adequate learning strategies and designs are applied. Although motion-sensing technologies are now available to the general public, massive applications will depend on economical price and evidence-based approaches recommended for the educational purposes. The embodiment-based design has launched a new direction and is hoped to continuously shed light on improving our future learning.

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19. Changing legal education

Martin Partington discussed a range of careers in his podcasts yesterday. Today, he tackles how new legal issues and developments in the professional environment have in turn changed organizational structures, rules and regulations, and aspects of legal education.

Co-operative Legal Services: An interview with Christina Blacklaws

Co-operative Legal Services was the first large organisation to be authorised by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority as an Alternative Business Structure. In this podcast, Martin talks to Christina Blacklaws, Head of Policy of Co-operative Legal Services.

 

The role of chartered legal executives: An interview with Diane Burleigh

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives sets standards for and regulates the activities of legal executives, who play an important role in the delivery of legal services. In this podcast Martin talks with Diane Burleigh, the Chief Executive of CILEX, about the challenges facing the legal profession and the opportunities provided for Legal Executives in the rapidly developing legal world.

 

Educating Judges and the Judicial College: An interview with Lady Justice Hallett

The Judicial College was created by bringing together separate arrangements that had previously existed for training judicial office-holders in the courts (the Judicial Studies Board) and Tribunals Service (through the Tribunals Judicial Training Group). In this podcast Martin talks to its Chairman, Lady Justice Hallett, about the reasons for the change and ways in which the College is developing new ideas about judicial education.

 

Headline image credit: Law student and lecturer or academic. © Palto via iStockphoto.

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20. Research replication in social science: reflections from Nathaniel Beck

Introduction from Michael Alvarez, co-editor of Political Analysis:

Questions about data access, research transparency and study replication have recently become heated in the social sciences. Professional societies and research journals have been scrambling to respond; for example, the American Political Science Association established the Data Access and Research Transparency committee to study these issues and to issue guidelines and recommendations for political science. At Political Analysis, the journal that I co-edit with Jonathan N. Katz, we require that all of the papers we publish provide replication data, typically before we send the paper to production. These replication materials get archived at the journal’s Dataverse, which provides permanent and easy access to these materials. Currently we have over 200 sets of replication materials archived there (more arriving weekly), and our Dataverse has seen more than 13,000 downloads of replication materials.

Due to the interest in replication, data access, and research transparency in political science and other social sciences, I’ve asked a number of methodologists who have been front-and-center in political science with respect to these issues to provide their thoughts and comments about what we do in political science, how well it has worked so far, and what the future might hold for replication, data access, and research transparency. I’ll also be writing more about what we have done at Political Analysis.

The first of these discussions are reflections from Nathaniel Beck, Professor of Politics at NYU, who is primarily interested in political methodology as applied to comparative politics and international relations. Neal is a former editor of Political Analysis, chairs our journal’s Advisory Board, and is now heading up the Society for Political Methodology’s own committee on data access and research transparency. Neal’s reflections provide some interesting perspectives on the importance of replication for his research and teaching efforts, and shed some light more generally on what professional societies and journals might consider for their policies on these issues.

Research replication in social science: reflections from Nathaniel Beck

Replication and data access has become a hot topic throughout the sciences. As a former editor of Political Analysis and the chair of the Society for Political Methodology‘s Data Access and Research Transparency (DA-RT) committee, I have been thinking about these issues a lot lately. But here I simply want to share a few recent experiences (two happy, one at this moment less so) which have helped shape my thinking on some of these issues. I note that in none of these cases was I concerned that the authors had done anything wrong, though of course I was concerned about the sensitivity of results to key assumptions.

The first happy experience relates to an interesting paper on the impact of having an Islamic mayor on educational outcomes in Turkey by Meyerson published recently in Econometrica. I first heard about the piece from some students, who wanted my opinion on the methodology. Since I am teaching a new (for me) course on causality, I wanted to dive more deeply into the regression discontinuity design (RDD) as used in this article. Coincidentally, a new method for doing RDD was presented at the recent (2014) meetings of the Society for Political Methodology by Rocio Titiunik. I want to see how her R code worked with interesting comparative data. All recent Econometrica articles are linked to both replication and supplementary materials on the Econometrica web site. It took perhaps 15 minutes to make sure that I could run Stata on my desktop and get the same results as in the article. So thanks to both Meyerson and Econometrica for making things so easy.

I gained from this process, getting a much better feel for real RDD data analysis so I can say more to my students than “the math is correct.” My students gain by seeing a first rate application that interests them (not a toy, and not yet another piece on American elections). And Meyerson gains a few readers who would not normally peruse Econometrica, and perhaps more cites in the ethnicity literature. And thanks to Titiunik for making her R code easily accessible.

The second happy experience was similar to the first, but also opened my eyes to my own inferior practice. At the same Society meetings, I was the discussant on a paper by Grant and Lebo on using fractional integration methods. I had not thought about such methods in a very long time, and believed (based on intuition and no evidence to the contrary) that using fractional integration methods led to no changes in substantive findings. But clearly one should base arguments on evidence and not intuition. I decided to compare the results of a fractional integration study by Box-Steffensmeier and Smith with the results of a simpler analysis. Their piece had a footnote saying the data were available through the ICPSR (excellent by the standards of 1998). Alas, on going to the ICPSR web site I could not find the data (noting that the lots of things have happened since 1998 and who knows if my search was adequate). Fortunately I know Jan so I wrote to her, and she kindly replied that the data were on her Dataverse at Harvard. A minute later I had the data and was ready to try to see if my intuitions might indeed be supported by evidence.

Feel free to use this image just link to www.rentvine.com
Typing on Keyboard – Male Hand by Dave Dugdale. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

This experience made me think: could someone find my replication data sets? For as long as I can remember (at least back to 1995), I always posted my replication data sets somewhere. Articles written until 2003 sent readers my public ftp site at UCSD. But UCSD has changed the name and file structure of that server several times since 2003, and for some reason they did not feel obligated to keep my public ftp site going (and I was not worried enough about replication to think of moving that ftp site to NYU). Fortunately I can usually find the replication files if anyone writes me, and if I cannot, my various more careful co-authors can find the data. But I am sure that I am not the only person to have replication data on obsolete servers. Thankfully Political Analysis has required me to put my data on the Political Analysis Dataverse so I no longer have to remember to be a good citizen. And my resolution is to get as many replication data sets from old pieces on my own Harvard Dataverse. I will feel less hypocritical once that is done. It would be very nice if other authors emulated Jan!

The possibly less happy outcome relates to the recent article in PNAS on a Facebook experiment on social contagion. The authors, in a footnote, said that replication data was available by writing to the authors. I wrote twice, giving them a full month, but heard nothing. I then wrote to the editor of PNAS who informed me that the lead author had both been on vacation and was overwhelmed with responses to the article. I am promised that the check is in the mail.

What editor wants to be bothered by fielding inquiries about replication data sets? What author wants to worry about going on vacation (and forgetting to set a vacation message)? How much simpler the world would have been for the authors, editor, and me, if PNAS simply followed the good practice of Political Analysis, the American Journal of Political Science, the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Econometrica, and (if rumors are correct) soon the American Political Science Review of demanding that authors post, either on the journal web site or the journal Dataverse, all replication materials before an article is actually published? Why does not every journal do this?

A distant second best is to require authors to post their replication on their personal website. As we have seen from my experience, this often leads to lost or non-working URLs. While the simple solution here is the Dataverse, surely at a minimum authors should provide a standard Document Object Identifier (DOI) which should persist even as machine names change. But the Dataverse solution does this, and so much more, that it seems odd in this day and age for all journals not to use this solution. And we can all be good citizens and put our own pre-replication standard datasets on our own Dataverses. All of this is as easy (and maybe) easier than maintaining private data web pages, and one can rest easy that one’s data will be available until either Harvard goes out of business or the sun burns out.

Featured image: BalticServers data center by Fleshas CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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21.

Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life. ~ Johann Christoph Friedrich v. Schiller, German Poet (1759-1805) Using fairy tales, fables, and other story forms to guide and nurture our children. I’m very excited to announce the launch of my publishing site […]

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22. Changes in digital publishing: a marketer’s perspective

We all have a great deal of resources at our disposal most of the time, we look things up on our tablets and phones immediately, and are able to retrieve information on almost any topic at any time, almost anywhere. We’ve never been so connected globally. As a marketer, I’m intrigued and excited by engaging with this global community; working in global online product marketing, I’m keen to embrace new technologies and digital resources so we can fulfill our aim to disseminate content to everyone and anyone who wants and needs it. I think about digital resources a lot, mulling over the best way to use new technologies to tell people that these resources exist, reflect on how I can best show people what they can do, and ponder what they have to offer students, academics, and professionals. (You just haven’t lived the full life of a marketer until you wake up thinking of how to best run a digital advertising campaign.)

This is because I work in the online product marketing department at Oxford University Press and am responsible for the marketing of several online products, including Oxford Scholarship Online and University Press Scholarship Online.

I started my OUP life in the medicine marketing department. It was here that I learnt about how to market a list of books. And not just any old books, but ones that help save lives. I learnt about how to pick out the key features and benefits in order to draw the reader into what the essence of the book is about, I learnt about what makes a good book-jacket design, how to produce creative and engaging material to tell our audience about these books. I traveled abroad to all sorts of conferences to show doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists directly the academic content we had to offer.

In the almost four years I’ve worked at OUP a not insignificant shift has taken place towards an online environment, as more and more people begin their research online (who doesn’t start everything with a Google search?), connect with colleagues and peers through social media, and increasingly use online resources in their teaching to be able to reach students across the globe. As a result of this shift more and more of our books were placed onto various online resources (in medicine this largely took the form of Oxford Medicine Online) and as marketers we relish rolling with the changes, adapting, embracing, and championing this new way of providing content to people.

It was a big shift and involved a change in the way we thought about our lists and marketing. But the skills and aims at the heart of what we do remained the same: how can we best engage with you, our audience?

This has led to our ways of working continually changing with this shift to digital (and this is true of all marketing departments and companies everywhere). We are now able to reach and interact with a global audience through our digital campaigns, no longer having to solely rely on printing and mailing thousands of leaflets without knowing if anyone ever read them. We now tweet, post on Facebook and Tumblr, create podcasts, videos, write blog posts, and encourage authors, contributors, librarians (the wonderfully named Tumblrians spring to mind) to join our communities and get involved. The way we relate to our audience has changed; there is an increased desire for a dialogue between publishers and users of our content. We want to talk and listen to our community — we are closer to people than we’ve ever been before. In this brave new world people can tell you what they think in hardly any time at all via a Facebook post or tweet — a scary, but exciting prospect.

As for what the future holds for marketing, I think the communities that continue to grow and evolve are vital. It is the people who use and value what we make who are going to be sharing, commenting, contributing, and making us better.

I can’t wait to see how we’ll be communicating in another ten years’ time!

Featured image: Computer by kropekk_pl. Public Domain via Pixabay.

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23. 187 Reasons Why a Teacher Needs Books

Today’s guest blogger, Sarah Kilway, wrote to us after receiving hundreds of new books for her students. We couldn’t resist sharing her story with you.

Davis 9th grade center 7_croppedI teach 187 kids at Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center in Indianapolis, IN. The majority of my students live in poverty. Most have only one parent at home.

Not many of my kids own books, nor were they read to as children. Even as 9th graders, they lack basic common knowledge of fairy tales, fables and iconic book characters.

Our school has many great resources, but when something is lacking, my colleagues and I step in. This often means spending my own money on books and other items for my students, but it’s totally worth it. I also have First Book.

Davis 9th grade centerThanks to First Book, I was recently able to give a new book to every single one of my students – all 187! A few told me it was the first book they’d ever owned. Some said it was the first book they have ever finished. Such a proud moment for me and them – one that I wanted to share with you.

My students now ask me to go to the library on a daily basis.

Please give to First Book today so I can continue helping them discover and enjoy reading, and so other teachers can too. Your support puts a whole new world within their reach.

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24. 10 ways to survive being a psychology student

How do you survive as a psychology student? It might be a daunting prospect, but we here at OUP are here to give you a helping hand through three years of cognitive overload. Here are our top tips:

1. Do some essential reading before you start your degree! Psychology is a very broad subject, so build some strong foundations with a wide reading base, especially if you’re new to the subject. Check out our Essential Book List to get you started (and recommendations welcome in the comments below).

2. Stay up-to-date with current affairs. Psychology is a continually evolving subject, with new ideas and perspectives emerging all the time. Read blogs, journals, and magazines; watch TED talks; listen to podcasts; and scan newspapers for psychology-themed stories.

3. Always keep your eyes and ears open. University is your chance to learn beyond the classroom. Pay attention to life – just watching your favourite TV programme can give you an insight into how a theoretical concept might actually work. Use everyday events and interactions to deepen your understanding of psychological ideas.

4. Learn from everyone around you. Psychology asks questions about how we as humans think – so go and think together with some other humans! Compare and contrast different ideas and approaches, and make the most of group learning or other opportunities, like taking part in other people’s surveys or experiments. Joining your university psychology society is a great way to learn from your peers and to balance work with play.

Photo by Reidaroo CC BY-SA 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons
Business Student. Photo by Reidaroo CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

5. Learn how to study independently. This is your chance to learn what you want, not what you have to. You will have much greater academic freedom than ever before. Wherever you choose to study, you will have to take on your own independent research, and if you see yourself building a career in psychology, then independent investigation is crucial.

6. Hone your note-taking / diagram-making skills. On your laptop, tablet, smartphone — or with paper and pens — you’ll be writing a lot of notes over the course of your degree. Referencing and formatting might not seem like the most exciting aspects of your degree, but good preparation and organisation will make them more bearable (and quicker!). Get to know how best you learn, remember and process information.

7. Get enough sleep. Sitting up late staring at textbooks and computer screens is easy, but it’s not the healthiest habit to get into. Studying well is less about the number of hours you put in, than how effectively you spend those hours. Keep up a balanced diet, stay hydrated, do regular exercise, and find someone to talk to if you’re feeling stressed.

8. Don’t be afraid to admit to your own weaknesses. Psychology is a demanding subject, and questions are more common than neat answers.

9. Try to enjoy your studies. There are many ideas to explore, from behaviour to dreams, memory to psychoanalysis. Keep looking at different topics that interest you to stay motivated. When it does get too much, don’t be afraid to step back and take a break.

10. Finally, remember what psychology is about. You can get lost in surveys and experiments, theories and concepts, but try to always keep in mind what drew you to psychology in the first place. In studying psychology you’re taking part in a great tradition of questioning how the human mind works and behaves – be proud of that.

Heading Image: Student. Photo by CollegeDegrees360, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

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25. True or False: facts and myths on American higher education

American higher education is at a crossroads. The cost of a college education has made people question the benefits of receiving one. We asked Goldie Blumenstyk, author of American Higher Education in Crisis? What Everyone Needs to Know to help us separate fact from fiction.

True or False? It doesn’t pay to go to college.

False: Generally speaking, college is still worth the money in the long run. According to the latest figures from the College Board, the median earnings for a person with a bachelor’s degree was 65% greater than those for someone with just a high-school diploma over a 40-year working career. Those with associate degrees, typically earned in community or technical colleges, had earnings that were 27% higher. What’s more, the job market of the future will continue to offer more opportunities to those with post-secondary education. By 2020, experts predict two-thirds of jobs will require at least some education and training beyond the high school level. Forty years ago, only about 28% of jobs required that higher level of education.

It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to college.

False: While there are colleges that charge upwards of $50,000 a year for tuition, room, and board (at least 175 of them, counting the half-dozen or so public universities that charge their out-of-state students that much) most colleges cost a lot less. Last year half of all four-year public-college students attended an institution where the annual in-state tuition rate was below $9,011. Some 85 percent of them attended a college where tuition charges were below $15,000. Private colleges charge more but with student aid from the federal and state governments and the colleges themselves, the price students actually pay is often substantially lower than the “sticker price.” Last year the average “net price” at a four-year private college was $12,460. And the average tuition at community colleges, where about four out of ten undergraduates now attend college, was about $3,300 a year.

Student debt is unmanageable.

True (and False): About 40 million Americans now carry student-loan debt and for many of them, particularly recent graduates struggling to get established in a tough job market, student-debt burdens are a real challenge. That’s evidenced by the rising rate of defaults on student loans. But according to the latest data from Project on Student Debt, for students graduating from college with debt, those who attended four-year public colleges had an average debt burden of $25,500. For comparison sake, a new Ford Focus automobile costs anywhere from about $17,000 to $35,000, depending on the options. The average debt level for graduates from four-year private colleges was $32,300. About 40% of student debt is for balances smaller than $10,000, according to the College Board.

Of all the factors that have propelled college prices up faster than the costs of most other goods and services over the past for 40 years, the cost of all those tenured professors isn’t one of them.

True: Actually, while college costs have been rising, the proportion of faculty members who are tenured professors, or on track to be considered for tenure, has shrunk precipitously during the same period. In the mid-1970s according to the American Association of University Professors, about 45% of all faculty members were tenured or on the tenure track; today only about one-quarter of them are. Full-time professors are well paid, but colleges now increasingly rely on faculty members who they hire annually, adjunct professors who they pay only about $2,700 per course, on average, and graduate teaching assistants. Meanwhile, factors that do seem to more directly drive up costs and prices include: growing numbers of administrators, new facilities, major reductions in state support, and the costs for student aid.

Online education takes place primarily at for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix and DeVry University.

False: For-profit colleges like those were among the first to use distance education-technologies to expand their enrollments, but online education is now increasingly commonplace in more traditional public and private colleges. According to the latest available data, more than five million students — about a quarter of the student population — took at least one course that was fully or partly online in fall 2012. About half of them took a class that was exclusively online. The medium, however, still seems more popular for certain fields of study. For both graduate and undergraduate education, the most common courses and degrees offered via distance education are in business, marketing, computer- and information-technologies, and health-related fields. In the future, students can expect to see more and more classes that use distance-education technology in a hybrid format, mixing face-to-face instruction with online components.

Headline image credit: Graduation By Tulane Public Relations, CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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