Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Affordable, Relevant and Timely Texts?

Are you searching for an affordable, relevant and timely text for your college course? Why not assemble or write it yourself via open-access sources?

I have recently developed a number of multi-disciplinary courses and found that the traditional text-book choices were either non-existent or ridiculously convoluted.

Dr. Melanie Borrego, Associate Dean in Brandman's School of Arts and Sciences, offered a couple of web-based suggestions: Flat World Knowledge and Open Textbook.

Flat World Knowledge

Latest news:  "Flat World Knowledge texts are no longer free."  See this follow-up from the Chronicle of Higher Education: .

What follows is her brief commentary comparing the two. “Flat World Knowledge is still developing. It will need more content and support to make it really useful in all subjects. It's, however, a good fundamental idea because we can take chapters from one source, chapters from another, write some of our own material and reassemble it and post for student access.

There's also Open Textbook which I like even better. All of these books are peer-reviewed by experts in the field before being posted for use. They work on the same model as Flat World Knowledge, but have so far focused on texts for lower-division courses. They also have a hard-copy 'print by order' Lulu feature at a fairly reasonable cost.”

Let's not forget Professor Richard Baraniuk's and Rice University's leadership in the open-access textbook movement.

Everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach. 
Connexions is a free and open space where teachers can learn and learners can teach.”

Richard Baraniuk

Richard Baraniuk explains the vision behind Connexions, his open-source, online education system which cuts out the textbook, allowing teachers to share and modify units of course materials freely in the following TED presentation.

Below is a link to Connexions at Rice University where I have posted a number of units from my own HUMU 345 course: [NOTE: If you are interested in reviewing them, just do a search for my name “John Freed.”]

And last but certainly not least is an invaluable compendium of university-level, open-access resources compiled by the Hilton C. Buley Library at Southern Connecticut State University.

John Freed, Ph.D 
Associate Professor of Humanities/Liberal Studies
Brandman University
a member of the Chapman University System

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Old College is Dead. Long Live the New College!

Extra!  Extra!  Hot off the Presses!

Classroom for Let

Brandman University's media watching professor Leigh-Ann Wilson sent me this morning the link to a very illustrative article from Time Magazine.

In it Amanda Ripley extensively describes what MOOC's are like right now and ventures to project what impact they may have long range on the construction of higher education throughout the globe.

As we at Brandman have known for some time, the internet is no longer a “disruptive” force in education; it may well be its “driving” force.

John Freed, Ph.D 
Associate Professor of Humanities/Liberal Studies
Brandman University
a member of the Chapman University System

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Interdisciplinary Research Study Set-Up

Your Brain on Jane Austen
An Exemplar of an Interdisciplinary Research Study

To Attend to or Distract from

Following Text Taken from an NPR broadcast on Oct. 9, 2012:

Could modern cognitive theories explain character development in one of Jane Austen's most famous heroines — Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennett? Dr. Natalie Phillips of Michigan State University thinks Bennett's distractability was key to Austen's characterization of her lively mind — and that Austen herself was drawing on the contemporary theories of cognition in her time.
If neuroscience could inform literature, Phillips asked, could literature inform neuroscience?
She decided to conduct a research study, looking at how reading affects the brain. She had volunteers lie still in a brain scanner and read Austen. Phillips sometimes instructed her volunteers to browse, as they might do at a bookstore. Other times, she asked them to delve deep, as a scholar might read a text while conducting a literary analysis.
Phillips said the experiment produced some surreal moments: "If you asked me on a top 10 list of things that I did not expect to find myself doing as an 18th-centuryist when I first started this study on the history of distraction, I would say laying on my back in an MRI scanner trying to figure out how to position paragraphs by Jane Austen so that you wouldn't have to turn your head while reading with a mirror."
Phillips and her collaborators scanned the brains of the volunteers using a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine. The scanner paints a rough picture of brain activity. A computer program simultaneously tracked readers' eye movements across the page, and researchers kept tabs on the volunteers' breathing and heart rate. At the end of the experiment, Phillips asked each volunteer to write a short essay based on the passages he or she read.
Neuroscientists warned Phillips she wouldn't see many brain differences between the casual reading and intense reading.
"Everyone told me to expect these really, really minute and subtle effects," she said, "because everyone was going to be doing the same thing, right? Reading Jane Austen. And they were just going to be doing it in two different ways."
Phillips said she mainly expected to see differences in parts of the brain that regulate attention because that was the main difference between casual and focused reading.
But in a neuroscientific plot twist, Phillips said preliminary results showed otherwise: "What's been taking us by surprise in our early data analysis is how much the whole brain — global activations across a number of different regions — seems to be transforming and shifting between the pleasure and the close reading."
Phillips found that close reading activated unexpected areas: parts of the brain that are involved in movement and touch. It was as though readers were physically placing themselves within the story as they analyzed it.
Phillips' research fits into an interdisciplinary new field sometimes dubbed "literary neuroscience." Other researchers are examining poetry and rhythm in the brain, how metaphors excite sensory regions of the brain, and the neurological shifts between reading a complex text like Marcel Proust compared with reading a newspaper — all in hopes of giving a more complete picture of human cognition.”

Professor Natalie Phillips, MSU

Here are links to two other articles on Dr. Phillips' study:

The first is from entitled “Your Brain Loves Jane Austen” – – and the second is from Stanford where she conducted the MRI testing for her research study – .

Incorporating Materials into my Undergraduate Course:

I intend to use Dr. Phillips' research set-up and another on cats described in a recent Atlantic article entitled How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy” – – as case studies of the construction and use of the scientific method in my re-development of Brandman's liberal arts core foundations course, LBSU 300.

John Freed, Ph.D 
Associate Professor of Humanities/Liberal Studies
Brandman University
a member of the Chapman University System

Saturday, October 6, 2012

An Introduction to Autism and Related Disorders from Yale's Child Study Center

An Open-Access Course from Yale Not to be Missed

This course [It is in the Yale course catalog as PSYC 350] complete with all of the video lectures and even the accompanying PowerPoint slides is a treasure trove resource for the latest scholarship and methodologies in the current treatment (2012) of autism and related disorders. The course is led by Professor Fred Volkmar, the director of Yale's Child Study Center.

I personally have gone through this course and firmly believe that every prospective teacher, child-care worker and parent should acquire this knowledge. I know of no more efficient way of acquiring it.

It is one click away: .

John Freed, Ph.D 
Associate Professor of Humanities/Liberal Studies
Brandman University
a member of the Chapman University System

Friday, October 5, 2012

New Media Opportunities for Undergraduate Students in Humanities' Research Activities

Today's entry is a highlight referral to my good friend's, Ken O'Donnell's, recent post about undergraduate research opportunities on his cutting-edge higher educational blog -- “Diffusions of Light.” .

Ken O'Donnell

My readers may have had the great, good fortune of seeing one or more of Ken's masterful presentations at a recent WASC Conference or on a Cal State campus.

This week Ken featured an exemplary undergraduate research project at the University of Richmond that can be tapped into right now. Its title is "Visualizing Emancipation" :

Ken also provided a link to a range of case studies from the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education: that we can ponder and be illuminated by.

John Freed, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Humanities/Liberal Studies
Brandman University

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Learning Environments Resource Course from Stanford

Upcoming Open-Access Resource

(related to Brandman's proposed new course – 
 “Education and Society in the Twenty-first Century”)

Designing New Learning Environments (Oct 15, 2012 – Dec. 20, 2012) from Stanford University's Venture Lab

taught by Paul Kim, Assistant Dean of the School of Education

The Course
What constitutes learning in the 21st century? Should reading, watching, memorizing facts, and then taking exams be the only way to learn? Or could technology (used effectively) make learning more interactive, collaborative, and constructive? Could learning be more engaging and fun?

We construct, access, visualize, and share information and knowledge in very different ways than we did decades ago. The amount and types of information created, shared, and critiqued every day is growing exponentially, and many skills required in today’s working environment are not taught in formal school systems. In this more complex and highly-connected world, we need new training and competency development—we need to design a new learning environment.

The ultimate goal of this project-based course is to promote systematic design thinking that will cause a paradigm shift in the learning environments of today and tomorrow. Participants are not required to have computer programming skills, but must have 1) a commitment to working in a virtual team and 2) the motivation to help people learn better. All of us have been involved in the learning process at some point in our lives; in this course we invite educators, school leaders, researchers, students, parents, entrepreneurs, computer programmers, illustrators, interface designers, and all those who are interested in working together, to create a new learning environment.

After the completion of this course, students will be able to:
  • Identify advantages, disadvantages, limitations, and potentials of at least 10 interactive learning models and solutions.
  • Describe how online communication, collaboration, and visualization technology play a role in the behavioral, cognitive, constructivist, and social dimensions of learning.
  • Describe the major components and processes involved in development of interactive education systems.
  • Communicate rationales of learning technology design approaches through team-oriented collaborations.
  • Evaluate the value of ideas, principles, and techniques used in educational media or systems.
As a Final Team Project, students will design a new learning model catering to 21st century environments and learners. Each self-formed team will design and develop an application or system that combines team interaction activities and learning support features in ways that are effective and appropriate for today's computing and communication devices. Students must consider potential idiosyncrasies with various learning devices (e.g., tablet, phone, PC), infrastructure requirements (e.g., cellular network, wi-fi, Bluetooth), and any special hypothetical circumstances if relevant. In addition, each team must create and defend a business model (non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid) for the launch and scale up their solution.
Additional consideration will be given to teams that come up with system feature ideas presenting meaningful learning interaction and performance analytics.

Video Introduction to Prof. Kim's course:

John Freed, Ph.D 
Associate Professor of Humanities/Liberal Studies
Brandman University
a member of the Chapman University System