In the wake of our award from the Merlot group for outstanding multi-media educational resource, we have been thinking a lot about on-line teaching and learning here at TSP. Can everyone now say “MOOC”? Okay, that’s not been the only topic of conversation but it is a big—or should we say, massive—one. Anyway, if you are interested or intrigued about these huge courses now being pioneered on-line, the New York Times ran a fun little first person reporting piece on the phenomenon over the weekend. (And thanks to our colleague Rachel Schurman for highlighting this piece).
The Society Pages scored a nice little win in Las Vegas last week—not at the slots or the craps tables, but at the 6th Annual Meetings of the Sloan Consortium for Emerging Technologies for On-Line Learning. Our award was for Outstanding Peer-Reviewed, On-line Resource in Sociology. It came, unsolicited and much appreciated, from the Merlot (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and On-line Teaching) group, whose social science committee was chaired by Mike Miller, a sociologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio.
It’s a major award!
The conference was an eye-opener in many ways. An amazing array of new technologies and devices and platforms for higher education is already on the market or in production, and the amount of energy and capital devoted to new resources is astounding. (One plenary speaker claimed that venture capitalists invested over $1 billion in educational startup funds in 2012 alone.)
We were also honored to give a presentation on TSP. I gave a quick overview of the site and all its wonderful features and contributions, and talked about the unique publishing partnership with Norton that is our support system. And there was a good deal of talk and exchange—both enlightening and inspiring—about all of the ways in which the site is used for teaching and learning these days. (more…)
In Michael Pollan’s least-heralded, but perhaps best-loved, book, A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams, the author sets off to learn about architecture and building so as to create the perfect place to write. And he does! He eventually comes up with a little ship of a building, small but functional, with everything in its place and a pleasant view of his home at a nice enough remove to allow thoughts to bud and grow. How idyllic. (more…)
creative commons image by tonrulkens
Sally Hillsman of the American Sociological Association makes a strong and timely case for sociology as a “STEM” discipline in the February issue of Footnotes. Though STEM is an acronym for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” the social sciences have struggled to find a place at the STEM table.
In response, Professor Hillsman offers three compelling points:
1. Sociology is part of the national science community.
2. Sociology is a core part of applied science.
3. Sociology is a gateway to science for undergraduates.
Not every sociologist self-identifies as a scientist, though it is difficult for me to conceive of my research and teaching as anything but social science. Yet even friendly colleagues in the natural sciences seem surprised to learn that a sociologist like me spends time specifying and testing hypotheses, writing and reviewing National Science Foundation grants, attending the American Academy for the Advancement of Science meetings, and thinking about how my work might contribute to the systematic understanding of the (social) world. By spreading the word about the great diversity of good work being done by our colleagues, I’d also like to think that our Society Pages project can play some role in raising the profile of the social sciences.
The most recent wave of social science legitimacy issues are likely a product of internal conflicts as well as external attacks, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. In our view, sociology offers a near-ideal setting for teaching and learning scientific thinking — the phenomena we study are immediately engaging and accessible, yet their complexity demands critical analysis and sophistication in conceptualization and method. What better setting for educating our students and publics about science?
Addendum to my post last week criticizing Scalia’s characterization of the state of sociological research on the question of the impact of gay and lesbian parents on child development:
Phil Cohen (and others, in both public comments and private communications) point out that Scalia didn’t just miss the ASA brief or make up his claim that there is “no clear answer” among sociologists on the matter. Rather, it would appear that he got the line from reading another brief on parenting submitted by sociologist Mark Regenerus and his colleagues that explicitly and directly countered the organizational consensus account. (See Cohen’s account.)
So is Scalia off the hook? Not quite that easy. For one thing, Regenerus’s brief is based on a highly controversial paper published in the journal Social Science Research about a year ago. (To say that that study has been controversial is putting it mildly; just take a look at some of the reactions chronicled previously by Cohen). Setting aside the question of how this piece got published in the first place (a significant matter of speculation and consternation in the field), one wonders if Scalia read the paper, or subsequent commentary about it—much less really parsed through the research on both sides of the issue. And even if some of the findings hold more water than most sociologists will allow, there seems little ground to warrant the larger societal implications that Regenerus imputes.
I won’t get into the specifics further, except to paraphrase Cohen’s summary: So what we have here is one sociologist (or one sociologist and his collaborators) denying the scholarly consensus which Scalia takes to mean there is no consensus. “Just like with evolution and climate change,” as Cohen puts it. I guess there are folks scientists who still think the earth is flat or that gravity isn’t really real either.
In the airport!
(Sung, clearly, to the tune of Elvis Presley’s ridiculous but earworm-y “In the Ghetto.” Because the last thing the airport needs is another hungry editor to feed.)
There’s a lot to learn about humanity in an airport. From the way they dress to their choices to either hang back to board or hustle to get into the plane and loiter for longer than any of the other passengers like a WINNER, I can’t help but marvel at what everyone gets up to. And that’s sort of the thing, right? Social scientists get to make a career out of this curiosity. Hopefully, they get to go a step further, using what they learn through their observation and analysis to help society, inform policy, support and change and inform. (more…)
The weather sucked (and not just in Minnesota). Once again, our university spring break didn’t line up with the kids’, so my family didn’t get to go anywhere. And my big, make-the-best-of-it plans to catch up on deadlines and past-dues were only partially fulfilled, leaving me as stressed as ever. But enough about me. The worst news of the past week–and the part of spring break that really matters—came out of Congress. This week, it was announced that the Senate had voted to restrict NSF funding for political science research to only those studies that promise to “contribute to military security or economic growth.” Talk about a shock and awe attack. (more…)
Meet Us in Chicago
That’s right, we’re getting ready for a little Midwest Sociology Society roadtrip! Cheetos will be consumed, stereos will be cranked, and wordsmithing will be demonstrated. TSP will present a practicum on writing for the public on Friday afternoon next week at the MSS conference. Come talk, learn, educate, and hang out. We’re looking forward to it! In the meantime, here’s what we’ve been up to this week: (more…)
We’d like to think this is Dick Vitale asking if UNC’s community relations team is a bunch of “victim-blaming diaper dandies.”
“I have what I think is a sociology question for you,” a friend of mine in the administration recently said. Turned out to be a good one: “Why do organizations act so stupidly sometimes?”
“What prompted this question,” my friend went on, “is an email discussion with a friend [who lives in NC] about the controversy over the UNC rape allegation and the response of UNC [declaring the woman may have violated the school's honor code]. On its face—and one must acknowledge that we don’t know all the facts—it appears that UNC is acting really stupidly. Really: accuse a possible rape victim of violating the honor code? What century do they live in?” (more…)