Aerial view of Finney Chapel, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, United States (

The idea of a university (updated)

Reda Sadki Quotes

So I’m reading John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University, which begins by asserting that the university “is a place of teaching universal knowledge”. I’m fascinated by the historical context (Catholicism in Protestant England), by the strength and substance of the ideas, and by the narrative style of carefully-constructed arguments. I’m also struck, however, by the centrality of learning as transmission, the line of demarcation between invention and teaching, and the belief that it is possible to know by disconnecting from society (although I acknowledge that concentration and flow tend to require quiet, in a pragmatic sense): To discover and to teach are distinct functions; they are also distinct gifts, and are not commonly found united in the same person. […] He, too, who spends his day in dispensing his existing knowledge to all comers is unlikely to have either leisure or energy to acquire new. The common sense of mankind has associated the search …

Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab (1950-1951) (

MOOCs for teachers, then and now

Reda Sadki Quotes

In February, Daniel Seaton and his colleagues shared data about the very high level of teacher participation (28% identified as past or present teachers) and engagement (over four times more active in discussion forums than non-teachers) in a series of MITx MOOCs.  Very interesting article when thinking of teachers as multipliers, mediators and facilitators of learning (and not just transmitters). Unlike earlier MOOC research that has been criticized for being ahistorical, Seaton shares the following example of pre-MOOC massive, open online education: One of the earliest precursors to modern MOOCs targeted high school teachers in the United States. In 1958, a post-war interpretation of introductory physics called “Atomic-Age Physics” debuted at 6:30 a.m. on the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) Continental Classroom. Daily viewership was estimated at roughly 250,000 people, and over 300 institutions partnered to offer varying levels of accreditation for the course. Roughly 5,000 participants were certified in the first year. Teachers were …