Late modernity, education and journalism

29 03 2009

According to Zygmunt Bauman, we are living in a state of permanent impermanence. The social forms and institutions which organize human experience, are losing their referential frame. In Education and the press, the same struggle, Roland Legrand sees an interesting parallel between education and journalism which bears directly on Bauman’s theory of  liquid modernity.

The learners – consumers and producers of knowledge and skills – are getting used to free learning and knowledge. Just as is the case for news, it will become increasingly difficult to make people pay for courses and workshops.

Professional teachers and professors will be confronted with teachers and facilitators from outside the profession. Many of those newcomers will be amateurs, but some will be recognized specialists in their own professional networks who have other and possibly more interesting things to teach than the professors in the established educational institutions.

I think that many debates about news gathering – can bloggers be trusted, how to determine whether information is trustworthy, how to earn a living as a professional journalist etc – will run along the same lines for the educators.

This is a debate that institutions of higher learning should be having. As far as I can tell, Flemish tertiary education is not. On the academic agenda in Flanders are concerns about institutional concentration, ‘output financing’, tenure tracks and productivity demands (publish, or else!). All these topics seem but small piece meals compared to the all-you-can-eat buffet of a de-professionalized arena of higher learning.

Brave new classroom 2.0

22 12 2008

Currently making its way through the blogosphere is another one of Michael Wesch‘s Digital Ethnography videos, this time on learning and teaching in media life and equally thought provoking as his classic The Machine is Us/ing Us. Read more at

I’ll have the MSc special. With fries.

25 09 2008

The 1999 Bologna Declaration reformed European higher education in at least two fundamental ways: the introduction of Bachelor-Master curricula and the promotion of teacher and student mobility. Flanders responded by implementing a two-tier system of higher education with professional and academic degree programs governed by 5 awarding bodies, i.e. inter-institutional associations between universities and university colleges.

At present, there are five such associations in Flanders (.pdf, p19):
• the K.U. Leuven Association
• the Ghent University Association
• the Antwerp University Association
• Brussels University Association
• the Universiteit – Hogescholen Limburg Association.

All associations are secular, bar Leuven, which honors a Roman Catholic denomination. The K.U. Leuven Association is also the largest, with 13 institutions of higher learning. As of 2012, the K.U. Leuven Association will adopt a ‘multicampus’ model (in Dutch); spread over 13 cities, no fewer than 21 campuses will be able to award KU Leuven university degrees. Send me an email if you want one, too.

In a response to an opinion piece (both in Dutch), K.U. Leuven Association Dean André Oosterlinck argues that this move will benefit the research quality (and thus output) of university colleges. In the words of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard: nigga, please. University college personnel is understaffed and overworked. When are they supposed to conduct research? Apply for research grants? Publish?

In the name of construct validity

31 05 2008

In a previous academic life, I constructed and administered reading proficiency tests for primary school students in Flanders. Working with Item Response Theory experts on language assessment was quite the eye-opener: for instance, the work that goes into writing plausible distractors for multiple choice items is painstaking yet crucial if you take student assessment seriously.

On Friday, a number of colleagues organized a one-day conference on language teaching that brought together some 80 applied linguists, language instructors and assessment professionals. One of the poster presentations was a joint effort by the Business English team, comparing pretest and posttest student performance on the Dialang self-assessment test and the course final. The results suggest that 1) ESP training improves students’ writing skills and lexical range and 2) that the Dialang self-assessment test is a reliable predictor for student performance on the final Business English exam in terms of grammar, vocabulary and listening.

Stolen moments in Milan

24 04 2008

Just got back from Milan where NT&T capo Geert and I taught a 2-day seminar on press releases. With so many pleasing distractions (nice weather, warm people, superb cuisine) on hand, Milan more than lives up to its reputation of top European destination. Personal highlights included: people watching at the Vittorio galleria, Dan Flavin‘s minimal art at the Chiesa Rossa, dining on goat cheese risotto & IGT wines, listening to Lyle Roblin hold court and gawking at Pinarello bikes. Now that’s windowshopping.

An anatomy of the poison pill

18 03 2008

I teach a Business English course to second year Business Engineering students at Ghent University. During last week’s class, I tried to explain the intricacies of the flip-in and flip-over poison pill tactic. Blank stares ensued. Then a couple of questions. More blank stares, this time on my part. Let’s try to set the record straight here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lessius guest lecture

4 03 2008

Gave a guest lecture on news production today at Antwerp’s Lessius University College. My presentation slides (in Dutch) can be downloaded here. Some 40 MA Journalism students attended the lecture. While I was caught off guard by their negative attitude towards advertorials and other forms of hybrid news genres, I enjoyed their views on flat earth news, preformulation and newswriting. A big thank you to Priscilla for her hospitality.