Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Employment or Academia?

By Karen Parkman, Intern, Spring 2012

As a writer and a Literature major, it’s always seemed like a given that I would need a master’s degree to compete in the job market. Although I’m incredibly happy I’ve spent my college career learning how to detect the irony in Shakespeare’s plays and cite all my sources in perfect MLA format, those skills aren’t exactly what employers expect to find on a resume. Surprisingly, I wasn’t alone when I decided to take a year off after graduating college. My plan to gain work experience before heading to grad school is part of a much larger trend as described in this article in the New York Times. Many young women are entering the workforce, only to drop out in order to add to the list of degrees after their names.

For this reason, the rising unemployment rate may not be as desperate a situation as it first appears. Many of the people leaving their jobs are heading back to school. The number of women ages 18 to 24 enrolled in school rose by 130,000 in the last two years, with an increase of 53,000 for men of the same age. Despite the dreaded student loans that come with higher education, the economic downturn is motivating young people to duck out of the work force and upgrade their knowledge and skills until more job opportunities open up. I see this trend playing out among my peers—many of my friends, almost all of whom were not planning on going to grad school, are now studying for the GRE. Most of them are only one or two years out of college, but are ready to be back in the classroom. They cite lack of real interest in their jobs, restlessness, and a craving for academia as their motivations for hunkering down over textbooks yet again.

Though both genders show an interest in continuing their education, women far outnumber men in enrollment. For the first time in three decades, there are more women in school than in the work force. Women, who still face the wage gap and difficulty entering male-dominated fields, feel that education will ultimately give them an edge when they do finally search for work. They are 35 percent more likely to drop out of the labor force than men—indicating that women would rather hold out for better paying jobs while men are willing to take what’s available. There’s no way to predict how this gender gap will play out over the next few years, but economists think that it will give the next generation of women an advantage in the job market.
As one of these women preparing for even higher education, I also hope a good, stimulating job is waiting on the other side of grad school—one that will help me conquer the loans that go along with it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Technology? Not So Fast!

Ken Scherpelz, Vice President of Sales and Business Development

The past several years we have seen many stories about how technology is becoming an integral of part of classroom instruction, almost to the point that it is sometimes being touted as the solution to all of our education problems. While technology has certainly proved valuable in giving students access to resources and instruction and simulations previously unavailable to them, not every teacher is welcoming the electronic devices and software and links with open arms.
In 2011 the Idaho state legislature passed a bill requiring that all high school students must take some online classes to graduate, and that students and teachers be given computers—lots of them—to help facilitate this. The backlash from educators has been strong, for several reasons.
Many teachers saw districts shifting budget money from teacher salaries to technology purchases. With fewer teachers and more computers in schools, teachers were witnessing a fundamental change in the role of the classroom teacher, from lecturer to guide, all without the research that says online learning improves instruction and learning.
While many Idaho teachers didn’t object to the use of technology, they saw policy makers pushing technology into the classrooms without training for and input from teachers. Some, such as Ann Rosenbaum, a teacher at Post Falls High School in northern Idaho, wants to use technology to support her teaching methods, rather than use the technology as if it was the goal of learning. She says she uses the Socratic method of questioning to engage students, with the goal of “teaching them to think deeply, to think. A computer can’t do that.”
In all fairness, there are effective online course that can reach students who don’t have access to quality instruction, and there’s enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that students can benefit from using technology as a part of their instructional day. But we shouldn’t think that teachers all over America are clamoring to have their classrooms outfitted with the newest and shiniest pieces of technology as a solution to reaching the unengaged student. Many teachers still maintain confidence in their own skills and experience as the best tools for opening the minds of learners.