Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Through Gates, Greenstein will seek Postsecondary Success

“Don’t fetishize the tools.”

What you see above is not, it turns out, a brainstorming session at the Gates Foundation's Postsecondary Success Strategy project offices but, rather, a fresco, "The Damned" by Luca Signorelli, circa 1500, in the Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto.  But you know, the thing is digitized, too, I'm just saying.

Ok, kids, meet Daniel Greenstein, just now appointed by the Gates Foundation as their leader of Postsecondary Success Strategy, “which aims to boost the number of students earning degrees and credentials by helping institutions adopt strategies and tools that will improve instruction and hold down costs” He replaces Hillary Pennington. (Inside Higher Education) 

And he doesn’t want you to “fetishize the tools.” About which more, below.

First, though, a brief intro. He comes from University of California—he’ll start with Gates July 2—where he is Vice Provost for academic planning, programs and coordination.

His most recent accomplishment was the launch of UC’s Online Instruction Pilot Project, the sort of venture that creates, among many, anxieties about job security and the future of faculties staffed primarily by human beings.

Greenstein has been quoted on this matter, in the Chronicle: "Change is hard, and fear is rife, especially in bad budget times, so it doesn’t surprise me  [fears of job loss, especially among lecturers at UC].  But, "We're not looking at replacing people. We’re looking at dealing with the undergraduate load with the faculty we’ve got."

So, no problem there.

Now, I thought I might share with you a few bits from a clip featuring Vice Provost Greenstein, as he chaired a meeting last year on the aforementioned online project.

This isn’t a complete transcript of the 12 minute clip, but it does give,I think, a flavor of his philosophy and management style.

“Don’t fetishize the tools,” he asks his audience, which consists of “Instructional Designers,” and faculty, working on the projects’ first courses.

“Don’t feishize the tools. We have a development budget.”

A pause. “But, we can’t…”

There’s some laughter. What can’t we do? I can’t make it out.

He picks up again, about the process—the gathering of “roadmaps” for the new offerings, and notes that it “Allows us to identify what the common needs are and then to prioritize our investment in them.”

“And from that we’ll be able to have a discussion with you about, you know…is that widget that you need,…is, well, you’re the only one.”

That’s clear enough. I suppose it could be rephrased as this: you are the only one who needs that widget.

But even if it is only you, and you alone, he continues, who needs that particular widget, “you’re perfectly placed and we’ll help you develop it.”

I think it’s already been mentioned that “We have a development budget.”

So I guess there’s no problem with your particular widget, except that you’re going to have to develop it within your project as opposed to these things that we are going to supply across the commons.”

A real life case is now presented: “If there are proctoring tools and there’s a bunch of proctoring uses, you know we’ll source it collectively.  It’ll be cheaper for us to source it collectively than for you to source it from scarce funds.”

Then again, an exhortation: “Do not fetishize the tools, do not fetishize the budget.”

“Don’t get all exercised about you know, I need this. I mean some of you do need very specific widgets and so obviously tell us.”


“My sense is that the ones who do need specific widgets already know what they are, and what you’re telling us is you need that widget, I need my widget, and that’s fine, that’s important to know too.”

“But others are more I need a widget that does something like that, so that’s really where we want you to focus on.”



Hope this helps with your grant proposals. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Cetaceous Utility Vehicle: A Report on the Nation's Soccer Dads

"[Red] Devils are good fellows enough.” I said, which was meant to show them that I was one of the guys, though as a cringing liberal, I’m not sure that’s entirely true.

I mean, I do want my children to be involved in sport, at least of the right kind, but I also worry about injuries—concussions, of course, are the real nightmare—and I also think that their manners are sometimes not improved by unbridled competition.