Berkeley

In a study involving 182 preschoolers, a child psychology researcher at the University discovered new learning capabilities in young children.

In their research, Cristine Legare, psychology assistant professor and Cognition, Culture and Development Lab director, and University of California, Berkeley psychology associate professor Tania Lombrozo concluded having young children explain how to do something helps them make connections that encourages cause-and-effect thinking.

“Cause-and-effect thinking is basically knowing how something works,” Legare said. “A child was more capable of putting [a toy] together if they had explained all the parts.”

The researchers compared explanatory thinking with observatory thinking by studying children as they put together a toy, after either observing the toy or being asked to explain certain parts of the toy and how they function.

“We created things that interact with each other,” Legare said. “The goal of the child is to see each thing and be able to put the big picture together.”

Legare and her team had a partnership with the Thinkery, a children’s museum in Austin, where most of the data was collected.

Misty Whited, museum marketing and communications manager, said being involved with local research helps them improve quality of learning for children.

“This research gives us knowledge to make the best decisions on what we can do better at our museum so children have great learning experiences,” Whited said.

Legare said child developmental research is in high demand amongst parents.

“Parents are curious,” Legare said. “They want to know how their child is learning about the world around them.”

According to Legare, a key part of children’s learning comes from a mechanical understanding of the things around them.

“Causality is core,” Legare said. “Understanding how things work together is a large part of child development.”

According to Jessica Church-Lang, assistant professor in psychology, the research findings could have big implications in the world of education.

“The results are good in the context of education theory,” Church-Lang said. “It can help us understand how kids best learn and how we can promote deep knowledge.”

Church-Lang said educating future teachers about their research and similar research will help integrate the research findings into classrooms.

“Implementing cognitive findings into classrooms isn’t always easy,” Church-Lang said. “But, teaching the students over in the education department about these new ways of thinking and learning will promote a better future.”

Professor Daniel Horowitz discusses Jewish feminism at the Liberal Arts Building on Thursday evening. The lecture covered feminism of the 1960s and feminist writer Betty Friedan.

A disproportionately high number of Jewish women influenced the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, according to Daniel Horowitz, an American studies professor from Smith College.

“There aren’t many prominent feminist writers of note in that period who weren’t Jewish,” Horowitz said.

In a lecture Thursday, Horowitz said he was a friend of Jewish writer Betty Friedan until he published the book “Betty Friedan and the Making of ‘The Feminine Mystique’” in 2000. The book exposed the secret of her communist past in the 1940s. According to Horowitz, Friedan’s first serious boyfriend at the University of California, Berkeley was a communist physics graduate student working on the atomic bomb. Horowitz said Friedan attempted to join the Communist Party herself in 1943, but was turned down because party leaders felt they already had enough intellectuals. In later years, Horowitz said, Friedan attempted to hide her radical past.

“There was a wonderful letter she wrote me once she realized what I was up to,” Horowitz said. “‘Dear Dan, How are you? How are the kids? How’s Helen?’ And then, ‘If you continue on this path, I will hire a lawyer and sue you.’”

According to Horowitz, Friedan did not write about Jewish culture in “The Feminine Mystique,” but instead focused the book on the struggle of middle class white women. Horowitz listed several other Jewish women who were a part of the feminist movement but never wrote about American Jews.

“They come out of a cosmopolitan universalist tradition in which the notion of womanhood or protestor is more important than the notion of Jewishness,” Horowitz said.

This may have been because they didn’t want their feminist goals to be overshadowed by their Jewish identity in the context of a wave of anti-Semitism in the middle of the 20th century, Horowitz said.

Sociology graduate student Carly Sheridan said she is currently taking a course about gender in the 1970s that has not mentioned the Jewish heritage of the feminists discussed in class.

“It’s not a popular topic that is often brought up,” Sheridan said. “These feminists are only known as feminists. I did not know they were Jewish.”

Robert Abzug, director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, said he asked Horowitz to come to the University because of his eminent work studying the crossovers between feminism and Jewish culture.

“His work, especially on Betty Friedan, opened up very big questions in the field on the roots of American feminism,” Abzug said. “He has now been developing the Jewish side of that.”

For university students, October means midterm anxiety and Halloween mischief. For the UT System Board of Regents, however, it’s again time to invest in an unproven, festively punctuated online platform claiming to radically change the 21st-century university experience. Nearly a year to the day after the Board’s Oct. 2011 announcement that it had invested $10 million in myEdu — the online schedule and professor review site formerly known as Pick-A-Prof.com — the Board of Regents announced last Monday that it will now invest $5 million in edX, an open-source online educational platform established by MIT and Harvard.

By becoming the fourth “X University,” the UT System — or UTx, as it is known at edX.org — will join the ranks of MIT, Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley by offering online courses through the site. According to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, edX will be used in a variety of instructional settings, including traditional “face-to-face” courses, “hybrid classes” and courses taught entirely online.

For most UT students, online classes are what you take when you want to cross a difficult or pointless lower-division course requirement off of your degree plan. Taking introductory history or beginner physics online from a Texas community college while wearing pajamas in your apartment or sipping a latte at a coffee shop allows students to avoid the rigor and cost of classes taught in person on the Forty Acres. The classes offered by edX are not those classes.

The site offers eight free courses for the fall 2012 semester, including CS188.1x Artificial Intelligence from Berkeley and 6.002x Circuits and Electronics from MIT. These courses are not offered for credit. Next fall, UT is scheduled to offer four courses on the site. While these courses will also be free, the announcements by the Board of Regents and edX allude to the possibility of charging fees in the future if students want to earn credit from the courses they take through the site.

Currently, students receive a certificate of completion upon successfully finishing one of edX courses. In the future, the organization says that this certificate may come at a cost. Additionally, Cigarroa has said that while UT’s initial online course offerings will be “open to the world for free,” the System is considering a tiered content model where certain for-credit courses would cost tuition. His proposal begs the question, what are college students paying for — the knowledge learned in class, or the piece of paper we get afterwards that says we know the material?

EdX says that the rigor of its courses is consistent with its member universities, but the recent addition of the UT System to edX challenges that claim. UT-Austin is not Harvard, and UT-Pan-American is not UT-Austin. Cigarroa indicated that all of the UT System courses offered next summer and fall on the edX website are likely to come from UT-Austin.  So while the entire UT System will benefit from membership in edX, it’s the System’s flagship campus that will be doing the heavy lifting.

UT President William Powers Jr. praises edX’s potential to augment the University’s course transformation initiative, wherein course curricula are redesigned to take advantage of up-to-date learning and teaching technology. “Hybrid” or “blended” university courses, in which some education happens in the classroom and some happens online, leverage the benefits of both learning models to students’ benefit. Fully online courses, like those that will be offered through edX, are as yet unproven substitutes for in-person learning — the kind of learning that has made UT and the other edX consortium schools some of the best in the world.

Like it has done in the music and publishing industries, Internet technology promises to transform standard operating procedure at institutions of higher education. UT administrators and regents would be wise to come out ahead of the technology curve by developing a clear vision for what a technology-based university degree will look like. The UT System’s investment in edX has the potential to lead the way in transformative learning, but so far System leadership has provided no vision for what this might look like. Without one, the partnership appears to be less about leading than about hitching a ride aboard higher education’s flavor of the month.