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Education Technology

Building a Better Tech School 62

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-option-than-certification-hell dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In late 2011, Cornell University won a prize from NYC Mayor Bloomberg's contest to design a new science school. Google donated some space in Manhattan, and since January this year students have been enrolled in the school's 'beta class, a one-year master's program in computer science.' The beta curriculum is designed to equip the students with all the knowledge they need to jump right into a tech startup: there's a mandatory business class, the U.S. Commerce Department stationed a patent officer on-site, and mentors from the private sector are brought in to help with design. 'The curriculum will not be confined to standard disciplines, but will combine fields like electrical engineering, software development and social sciences, and professors will teach across those boundaries. In fact, no professor has an office, not even the dean, and Dr. Huttenlocher insists they will not when the campus moves to Roosevelt Island, either. Instead, each person has a desk with low dividers, and people can grab conference rooms as needed — much like the headquarters of a small tech company.' It's a long, interesting article about how they're trying to turn 'tech school' into something a lot more rigorous and innovative than something like ITT Tech."
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Building a Better Tech School

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  • by drsquare (530038) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:56PM (#43441709)

    Will every other school be getting perks like a government bureaucrat working for you full time, and free expensive office space from a company?

    • What difference does it make? For the students that graduate from there, it's great (assuming it really is a great school, which I have serious doubts).

      The thing is to try a bunch of different things and find out what works. When you find something, then worry about scaling it up.
      • (assuming it really is a great school, which I have serious doubts)

        For what it's worth, Cornell is currently ranked something like fifth in the US(*) in terms of their computer science department, and the Technion is hardly a degree mill either. I don't know what their hybrid programs are going to be like, but at least the source departments seem solid. Admittedly, rankings are largely bullshit and the student guarantees far more of outcome than the institution, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that

      • by femtobyte (710429)

        What difference does it make?

        The difference that it makes is that the success of a few model schools (backed by infusing huge amounts of cash, providing excellent facilities and top-notch staff) will be trumpeted to influence national policy decisions to roll out a new generation of privatized, for-profit schools (with plenty of tax money help pad investors' pockets). The mass-produced "copies" will be miserable corporate factories to churn out low-wage worker drones, without any of the advantages that the few super-subsidized model sc

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Experiment on lab rats rather than human beings. Don't we already have enough idiots walking around in corporations who really don't know the fundamentals of either science or business who somehow manage to have more influence than they deserve?

        • How exactly do you experiment with new teaching methods on lab rats? Will the rats schedule the conference rooms too often, do you think?
    • In Soviet Russia, government bureaucrats work for schools fulltime.

      Oh wait, that's not the other way around, is it? I'm confused.

    • by eyendall (953949)

      ' a government bureaucrat working for you full time"

      We call them teachers.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      A patent officer, in a school? This is stupid. It sounds like the government is believing all the false hype about startups and entrepreneurship. Patents are rare for individual engineers, and business classes just ruin students so that they won't be able to be engineers in the first place. Teach students to be citizens, rather than teaching them to follow get-rich-quick pipe dreams. Most of the money made in the economy comes from stable companies and not volatile start ups. Will they teach them that

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @02:00PM (#43441743)

    Why master's level? and not AA/AS and BA/BS level?

    The devry and ITT Tech's are main at the AA/AS and BA/BS level.

    At the AA/AS and BA/BS level is where need to rework and add in more of a apprenticeship like system and the older idea of it needing to be 2-4+ years also needs to be reworked as well.

    at the NON devry and ITT schools it can very but some of them have to much theory and a lacking in real skills also they are some what loaded with fluff / filler classes as well lot's of required classes (some schools still have swim tests) Why should you be foreced to take PE at (college price levels).

    Also about people who learn better hands on who may do very good at tech stuff but are not so good at other stuff at hurt the GPA / forced to retake classes in the forced art history classes and other NON core big lecture classes?

      The devry and ITT have smaller classes as well more teachers who are in the field and not people who have been in the school system most of there life.

    • To me it seems like the intent of this school (especially with the business classes and in-school patent office!) is to create a new class of startup owners, not just technical workers.

      Also all of the lower level stuff can be pretty well learned online or at a lot of schools, this school can operate at a higher level by presuming a strong technical background in all candidates.

      I've never thought about going back to school after graduating but this school is tempting.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      I refute the argument above by directing attention at the expression of the argument above.

    • at the NON devry and ITT schools it can very but some of them have to much theory and a lacking in real skills also they are some what loaded with fluff / filler classes as well. lot's of required classes (some schools still have swim tests). Why should you be foreced to take PE at (college price levels). ?

      Do any of these places offer remedial English?

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday April 13, 2013 @02:01PM (#43441751)

    Instead, each person has a desk with low dividers, and people can grab conference rooms as needed â" much like the headquarters of a small tech company.

    I've seen attempts at that. It quickly turns into whomever has the highest status permanently booking a conference room. In effect, turning it into their own office.

    I'd recommend focusing on teaching science and skip the gimmicks.

    • Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tlambert (566799) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @02:22PM (#43441853)

      Instead, each person has a desk with low dividers, and people can grab conference rooms as needed â" much like the headquarters of a small tech company.

      I've seen attempts at that. It quickly turns into whomever has the highest status permanently booking a conference room. In effect, turning it into their own office.

      I'd recommend focusing on teaching science and skip the gimmicks.

      This is how the Google workplace is arranged, and I have zero doubt that this was heavily influenced by that. The "Open Plan" at Google was in turn influenced by Intel's Andy Grove, a hero of the Google executives.

      Having spent some time teaching, and having worked at Google, I'd say that this is, as another poster called it, a gimmick.

      The conference rooms tend to be booked for project meetings, which they will likely not have there, and interviews, which they will also likely not have there, and tend to have a smaller number than you'd like because of tearing down space to make labs and/or more room for new hires due to space pressure, which they don't have there. The conference rooms are more likely to also be 2-4 people sized, where you can jam in 4-5 people if you have to, rather than class-sized things.

      The Patent Officer is clearly their way of saying "we expect great things of you, don't disappoint us", but is unlikely to have much work, as things do not go to a patent officer unless the patent has been proposed, approved, filed, and then after that, it goes to them -- this is unlikely to happen unless the persons there get patentable ideas in the first six to nine months. Unless, it occurs to me, that the Patent Officer is there as a benefit to the faculty?

      The cross-disciplinary work isn't going to pan out, either, unless they only hire faculty who are already cross-disciplinary, since teaching is easier and more effective when you teach what you know. It's unlikely they are going to be able to hire James Burke to work in a cubicle farm, for example.

    • Yeah, I suspect the Dean has 40 individual repeating meetings scheduled in the largest conference room.

    • I've seen attempts at that. It quickly turns into whomever has the highest status permanently booking a conference room.

      Which is why you don't book a room, you use it AS NEEDED.

      I have seen more than attempts at this, I have seen "this" as in a conference room or area that you do not book. You just use it. If someone else is using it already when you need it, you use the next one. It's not hard and it works just fine.

      • by Kijori (897770)

        Where have you seen this used? It seems like it wouldn't work anywhere where you have external consultants or clients attending meetings, or meetings with more than a couple of people - in either case because it would be a big deal if you turned up and the conference room was being used.

  • Make it a apprenticeship system starter after HS and not after 4 years with loads of loans.

    • by sethstorm (512897)

      Or just make it an extension of the K-12 system in terms of funding - except that you now have a choice of where to go - with no slot restrictions or payment requirements for US citizens. Then milk internationals for all they've got and then some, and put them below citizens on priority.

    • I would suggest tech schools should follow the Co-op model pioneered by the University of Cincinnati (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_education). It provides students experience in their fields of study, as well as extra funds.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @02:44PM (#43441949) Homepage Journal

    ... can we cram onto a single campus?"

    "I don't know, but let's find out!"

  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sootman (158191) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @02:54PM (#43441991) Homepage Journal

    3 things I almost never see mentioned in "let's make schools better!" articles:

    • Learning is hard, and not always pleasant.
    • If you're interested in a subject, it is generally more pleasant to spend time and effort learning it, but it's still work.
    • Some people are just naturally good at or well suited for certain things.

    Making school fun, or like a game, or like a startup, or like an ice-cream parlour, or whatever, will help some people, but it's not a magic fix that will suddenly make everyone a successful learner.

    • Good points. It could also be added that working hard for something, and achieving it, or learning something worthwhile, feels a lot better than 'fun.' Fun becomes empty after a while, but some people aren't willing to put in the effort to go over the first humps.
      • Sorry, you're both wrong.

        Question: What is fun?

        Answer: "Fun" is the sensation experienced when the brain is focused on an absorbing and mentally stimulating task.

        Question: What is "learning"?

        Answer: Learning is the process of stimulating the brain to develop new connections.

        Logically, then, we can conclude that all learning is fun. In fact, learning is the core of all fun. Whether you're barrelling down a steep hill with two planks tied to your feet or choosing a square of marble to stand your carved

        • No, sometimes if you want to learn something, you need to work. Language learning is a good example, eventually you just have to learn a lot of vocabulary.

          It's like lifting weights, you feel good after, but while you're doing it, there can be pain.
          • No, sometimes if you want to learn something, you need to work. Language learning is a good example, eventually you just have to learn a lot of vocabulary.

            Do you say that as a polyglot fluent in 4 adult learned languages, conversationally capable in 3 others and knowing bits and pieces of another half-dozen, and currently working teaching your native language, having also taught 2 of your non-native languages in the past? Because as one of those, I say: yes, you need to learn a lot of vocabulary, but if the course is well structured and well taught, it's surprisingly easy. Sadly my courses aren't brilliantly structured or taught, but I'm working on it.

            It's like lifting weights, you feel good after, but while you're doing it, there can be pain.

            It's

            • Well, I certainly admire your efforts to teach better. And if you have any tips on how to learn vocabulary more easily, I would be happy to hear them.

              At the same time, if you are going to sit back and wait for someone to spoonfeed you all the time, then yeah, you might be able to have fun the entire time you learn things. Otherwise, if you want to progress beyond classes, to where you are teaching yourself things, and learning things no one has ever learned, then you're going to hit roadbloacks, pain, and
              • At the same time, if you are going to sit back and wait for someone to spoonfeed you all the time, then yeah, you might be able to have fun the entire time you learn things. Otherwise, if you want to progress beyond classes, to where you are teaching yourself things, and learning things no one has ever learned, then you're going to hit roadbloacks, pain, and need to work through hard times to reach your goal of knowledge.

                ...aaaaand that's what we call "moving the goalposts".

                We were talking about learning in schools.

                Sootman said "Learning is hard, and not always pleasant." and criticised the idea of trying to make learning fun.

                You agreed with him.

                My point was that "making learning fun" is a natural consequence of "making teaching better", but that they generally do that the wrong way in modern teaching.

                Yes, when you leave the classroom, you're on your own... but the fact that there's no teacher when you're genuinely dealing

                • lol so do you have an easy way to learn vocabulary or not?
                  • lol so do you have an easy way to learn vocabulary or not?

                    Not really, because the logical structure behind vocabulary isn't visible to the learner -- it's the teacher's job to structure it in a way that takes advantage of this logic and teaches the logic to the learner.

                    The simplest tips I can give are:

                    Learn vocabulary that is of immediate relevance first, because it only sticks if you use it.

                    Read full-length novels. By page 150, you'll have encountered most of the vocabulary and phraseology that the author tends to use, and it will repeat again and again and agai

                    • The first few chapters will be hard going,

                      Yes, yes it is. I tried that with Chinese, brutal.

                      However, I will try it again, since you suggest it.

                    • Try to learn to identify unimportant words from the sentence structure. EG. adverbs are not normally vital to understanding the meaning of a sentence, and the same can often be said of attributive adjectives (ones that sit right next to the noun -- eg "on the green table). Only look up the words you need to know to understand the sentence initially, but when a word you haven't looked up has appeared about 3 or 4 times, you'll start actively wondering what it means -- then it's time to look it up.
                    • Hmmmm good tips, I'll try them out.

                      Here is my current attempt to aid the effort of language learning [github.com], FWIW. I've been adjusting it to see how I can best review words to have them stick in my mind. I don't mind if it's boring though, as long as it gets me to the destination fastest.

                      I do remember when I've been in language classes, that each week I had to memorize 25 words or so. After time passed, I looked back on the words I learned, and it seemed I had only remembered 20% of them, maybe less. I thought
                    • Here's an idea, imagine if someone wrote a book, that started in English, then began substituting foreign words and phrases, and by the end switched completely to the foreign language. Something like this [i18nguy.com], but with languages instead of spelling. And novel length. Then by the end, you've learned a language.
    • Some of the basics of school / college are dated and some people learn better hands on.

      If you're interested in a subject you should be able to take classes and get a cert / badge / ect that means something and not be tied down to getting a 2 year AA/AS 4 year BA/BS or even higher up. Not all stuff needs to take 2-4+ years and some things are on going learning / need learn more hands on. The college system / timetables are not really cut out for stuff like that. (The devry and ITT's do offer better time tabl

    • The first two points are addressed in this new model. Because they is reward from the process (actual business or invention) you have much more motivation than simply doing something difficult to reach a result a million students before you have found.

      The third point I totally agree with. But that's why this is a masters program; because anyone applying for a CS masters obviously knows they enjoy working with computers in some form. If it were just raw high school students I would say that was a huge iss

  • The beta curriculum is designed to equip the students with all the knowledge they need to jump right into a tech startup: there's a mandatory business class,

    As long as it's understanding of the idea that not everyone is suited for a startup - and teaches the business course appropriately - then it's more than adequate for the job. Regular work with an established company is not out of date and pays the bills more reliably - unlike the startup.

    • Yes, one questions whether they teach the students that they will probably be ripped off working at a startup, and probably in multiple ways.
      • one questions whether they teach the students that they will probably be ripped off working at a startup

        This school is not about teaching people to work AT a startup, it's there to teach them how to START the startup.

        In other words, they train to be rippers, not rippees.

  • I do give them props for at least trying something differently. However, when there is govt. money tied to it, it is going to be changing real quick. And more than likely not for the better. With that govt. money comes a lot of govt. oversight. I don't believe the politicians and various other dumb-asses in our govt. can keep their hands/noses out of it and morphing it into just another mill. It is was all privately funded by corps, I think the odds would be a little more favorable, but not much. It's too b
  • http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/nyregion/justice-denied-bronx-court-system-mired-in-delays.html?hp&_r=0 [nytimes.com]

    Truly unbelievable story about the total collapse of city gov't for the poor.

    Yes, in the golden island of Manhattan, where the wealthy roam, Mayor Bloomberg has brought a sanitized, bowdlerized version of NYC that people seem to like.
    (I mean anyone in NYC who would eat at chain resturant like macdonalds is scum)

    The price , tho, has been high

  • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @06:56PM (#43443455)

    You cannot even teach a classical master of any worth in a year. Now they want to do something like this in a year? This will be completely worthless, as it will have absolutely no depth. And the "no office" BS is going to make it worse. Thinking of any quality requires quiet and solitude and real communication between people much the same. Forcing everybody in a noisy, focus-preventing environment when doing knowledge work is just the height of stupidity.

  • From what I have seen with elite schools, they have bright graduate, but this is because they hired bright students. That suggests elite schools are just a waste of resources for education. They are just there so that employers can hire the bright persons by just looking at what school they have graduated.
  • I like this idea.

    I spent some time in an Italian university once. A lot of profs there don't have offices either, or at best have to share with several other profs. It's really nice, because it makes them want to not hang around much beyond the minimum class times. Also, profs tend to have home offices with all their books and stuff, because there's no room at the university, and it's not like those shared offices are very safe for keeping valuables.

    Overall, if you're a prof, it's really pretty good for

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