Thursday, February 15, 2018

Expanding and Contracting the TECH-Levers blog

Last update: Thursday 2/15/18

DLL Editor's note -- The TECH-Levers blog has evolved by expanding its scope from its initial focus on the STEM-related efforts of HBCUs ... to STEM-related efforts in the broader higher education sector ... to the even broader efforts of Black entrepreneurs and allied community activists to close the digital divide. In the next few months the blog will expand yet again, but it will also contract.

A. Expansion ... from HBCUs to Blacks in Higher Education
Long-time readers of this blog will be aware of my persistent concern that a focus on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a/k/a "HBCUs", ignores the long-term trend of higher and higher enrollments of Black Americans in non-HBCUs, i.e., in the so-called "predominantly White institutions (PWIs)." In 1958, over 90 percent of Black Americans received their higher education from HBCUs;  now flash forward sixty years to 2018 wherein over 90 percent of Black Americans are receiving their higher education from non-HBCUs. 

In the early years of the last century, W.E.B. DuBois delivered a ringing proclamation:
"The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men." … W.E.B. DuBois, The Talented Tenth, September, 1903
My highest ambition as a Black educator at an HBCU for over forty years was to have the biggest positive impact on the Talented Tenth because they would have the biggest opportunities to improve the conditions of all Black Americans. (Note: Were he alive today, I'm sure that Dr. DuBois would adjust his prediction to include Black women in this leadership group.)

The good news is that the nation's most elite and wealthiest colleges and universities have greatly increased their Black enrollments in the last ten years by boosting their recruitment efforts and by offering generous awards of financial aid to Black America's best and brightest. Indeed, their Black enrollments have become large enough to suggest that they now enroll the lion's share of the Talented Tenth, at least in STEM-related fields. (See the note I posted on this blog in May 2016, "Black STEM pipelines from top U.S. institutions")

So that's why this blog will (slowly) expand its focus beyond the STEM-related achievements of HBCUs to include the STEM-related achievements of Black Americans in all U.S. institutions of higher learning, but especially in the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities. 

B. Contraction ... EdTech
The blog's impending contraction with regards to its coverage of developments in educational technology that might contribute to closing the digital divide will be more subtle. 
  • Henceforth the blog will assume that the "EdTech Wars" are over and that the "good guys", the proponents of EdTech have won. So no more links to advocacy pieces that respond to snarky critiques of EdTech from the losers, i.e., the Old Guard ... :-)
  • The EdTech section of the blog will emphasize efforts to find out what really works as determined by plausible metrics. 
  • In other posts on this blog I have asserted my belief that HBCUs have been more effective than non-HBCUs in bringing Black America's Talented Tenth to their full potential because HBCUs enmeshed Black students in dense, overlapping networks of academically focused peers, advisors, mentors, and role models. Accordingly, the blog will focus on developments that use EdTech to provide dense, overlapping virtual support networks for Black students (and non-Black students) enrolled in MOOCs and/or in traditional online, blended, or flipped courses at non-HBCUs. 
  • Finally the blog will emphasize "analytics". Yes, this is a buzzword with lots of little brother and sister buzzwords -- data analytics, data science, learning analytics, predictive analytics, etc, etc, etc. Buzzy or not, all of these terms embody a commitment to combining powerful statistical and computational techniques with domain area expertise in order to analyze relevant data for purposes of improving important processes. 

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