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Brain food

A patron who read my blog on Monday asked about where you might find classes or courses to get microcertification.
I had mentioned the need of a friend to update his skills in certain areas and also to be able to prove that he had done so in a job-interview setting. A certificate is an easy thing to include with a resume or to hand over to an interviewer, and it does carry some cache if from a reputable place.
My suggestion to the inquiry was that she check out the offerings on Coursera.org. This is a portal to college-level classes on 1,800 subjects from hundreds of universities around the world. Some of the courses are for specialization certification and some are just for one's own edification.
I have taken seven or eight Coursera.org courses this past year, and I found them all very worthwhile.
Perhaps the most interesting was a course called "Big History" offered by a university in Australia. I also took a course in the U.S. Constitution from a professor at Yale, and a course in physics from a professor at the Universitiy of Virginia.
I do highly recommend these courses for people who want to update or expand their fields of knowledge, especially retirees who don't want to go to class but want a challenge. The courses are all free and offered online.
Check them out here.


I have a friend who is in his early 40s, and his job is going away from natural causes: the problem it was created to solve has been solved.
That's great for the business, bad for my friend.
So what does he do now? He really does need to reinvent himself, but there seem to be no real options available for him to actually do that.
Could he go back for another degree? Possibly, but that's expensive and would take more time than he has since he is father of one and another is on the way. Could he take a lesser job and hope to work his way up again? That's more the more likely route, but still not a very good one since he would very likely be underemployed in a big way.
We talked yesterday about his situation and he talked about getting some kind of license or certificate via a shorter-term educational process.
What, I wondered, would that look like?
Turns out that what he wants and needs is just now becoming available. It's called MicroCredentialling.
Here is some information from Steve Bell, writing for Information Digest:
"College affordability is a significant barrier to access. Academic librarians know the havoc that student loan debt plays with our students’ futures. MOOCs could help some students to earn credentials, but these rarely work well for less experienced learners. Short-form programs that lead to certifications or other employer-sought skill sets could give these students a better, affordable path to a college degree. Imagine colleges re-engineering degrees around sets of microcredentials, at far lower tuition, that allow students to more quickly gain career-oriented skills. To earn their bachelors or masters, students would continue to earn microcredentials or enroll in full-tuition courses. If an elite institution such as MIT can launch a MicroMasters program, is it possible that some LIS graduate programs could do something similar to create more affordable entry to the library profession?"
Obviously, Bell is concerned here about librarians. But, why couldn't this kind of thing work in other fields, such as my friend's?

Teach the children well

It's a darn good series of questions: Where do students get news? What do they know about where they get their news? How do they know it's news they're getting?
Michelle Croft and Raeal Moore set out to answer some of those questions when they posed some of them to students who took the ACT test this year across the country. Students were asked where they got news, how accurate they thought their sources were and what they did to make sure that the accuracy ws actually attained.
The results were mixed. Students knew about traditional sources such as The New York Times and Washington Post, but they were also accustomed to using nontraditional sources with more questionable sets of values, such as honesty and fairness.
Sources clearly on the fringes were also cited.
There is evidence here, then, that there is work to be done by educators in pointing students toward sources that are dependable and reputable and trustworthy. Is that in the Texas public school curriculum somewhere?

Library envy

Last spring, several library staff members and supporters drove to area libraries to get ideas for what we might want in the way of expanded services or spaces in our own library here in Wimberley.
I must say that the library that left the most lasting impression on me was the public library in Seguin, east of New Braunfels on I-10.
The library is about a year old now. It was constructed of glass and steel on a beautiful creek in downtown, thanks to passage of a $14.5 million bond issue sponsored by the city, which owns and operates the library.
The facility is an acre under glass on two floors.
It's pretty spectacular when you look at the library itself and the lot it sits on. If they had a cafeteria and a bunk bed, I could just move in there and live.
Another of our number went over to look at the Seguin library yesterday, and he came back with the same rave review. Both of us are wondering how we might get some of that drama in our own expansion plan.
None of us has been to the new Austin library in downtown yet. It must be pretty darn special, though. It cost about $630 per square foot, which puts its cost on a footing with the most expensive libraries in California, where prices are always, always higher than anywhere else.
I'll get over there some day for a tour. But, I can't imagine it's better than what they have put together in Seguin.

Being wary

People are just not particularly dumb when it comes to what passes for news these days.
In fact, they're pretty darned sophisticated.
That's one conclusion you might draw from data collected in focus groups and surveys conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.
InfoDocket issued a summary of the Reuters study today.
The surveys were among adults in the United States, the UK, Spain and Finland (I don't know why) and were designed to see what the respondents might know about the origins of fake news and their opinions about fake news.
One thing is clear from the findings: People tend to be skeptical, period.
And, that's a very good thing these days. If your mother says she loves you, check it out!
Here is InfoDocket's conclusion:
"Our findings suggest that, from an audience perspective, fake news is only in part about fabricated news reports narrowly defined, and much more about a wider discontent with the information landscape— including news media and politicians as well as platform companies. Tackling false news narrowly speaking is important, but it will not address the broader issue that people feel much of the information they come across, especially online, consists of poor journalism, political propaganda, and misleading forms of advertising and sponsored content."
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