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The Los Angeles Times recently had a story about the collapse of Solyndra – the once heralded poster-child of the Obama administration’s green jobs plan. A big part of Solyndra’s demise was due to the rapidly falling price of their competitors’ solar panels. In 2008, the cost of solar panels was a bit over $4 for each watt generated. Solyndr
As students have been choosing classes over the last year, one question I’ve received is: how important is the teacher vs. the subject matter? In general, I argue, your own attitude is the most important factor in how well you learn. However, truly terrible teaching can make that more difficult and truly wonderful teaching can change your life for the better.
At the beginning of semester students are signing up for classes and planning their degrees. Lately, a question I have been asked quite frequently is which classes will make new planners most employable? Students ask if computer aided design or GIS will be key. However, surveys of planning practitioners show that a far more basic set of skills is important—skills in communication, information analysis and synthesis, political savvy, and basic workplace competencies and attitudes.
Below, I highlight three of these studies from across three decades:
As education has become more expensive students wonder about what they are getting for their money. Evaluations of faculty, rankings of programs, and internet chat-room gossip all aim to find how to purchase the best value for money given a specific set of preferences. However, it is a misunderstanding to see students as primarily consumers of instruction. Rather the best students collaborate with faculty and other students to produce their own learning.
What does this mean? In planning, as an applied profession, the activity of producing learning has a number of components. The following represent just a few of these mechanisms.
Constantly updated, the internet has created an important tool for accessing up-to date information—text, still images, and video. Increasingly it also provides a window into aspects of history, including planning history, that have previously been difficult to find. Documents, indexes to archival materials, and the photographic and map collections of historical societies are accessible online. Less well known are film and video resources—resources that can be played online or downloaded. The Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division now boasts an outstanding collection of hundreds of videos relevant to urban issues.
Some examples illustrate the range: