EdSurge HigherEd Welcomes Jeff Young

EdSurge HigherEd Welcomes Jeff Young

Young (left) reports from a school in Lebanon.

Some weeks on our calendar earn themselves a gold star—and this was one. We're delighted to share this week news that Jeffrey R. Young, long-time writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education, is joining the EdSurge team as a senior writer and strategic thought-partner in building out our coverage and involvement in higher education.

Jeff's record of writing and reporting speaks for itself. He's led work on reporting on college technology, as well as on college admissions and student life. He's been an active podcaster, too, creating programs on the future of higher ed, and on the sometimes-brilliant sometimes-frustrating role of technology in education.

And Jeff's also served as an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Maryland at College Park, teaching a course on multimedia storytelling. He spent a year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and he has written about education trends outside the U.S. in countries including China, India, Singapore and South Korea.

Expect to hear—and see—a lot of Jeff in the coming weeks and months. To get us rolling, we figured we'd ask him a few "get to know you" questions. Have other questions for Young? Share them with us @HigherEdSurge.

EdSurge: You've spent more than 20 years writing about higher education: What's a trend that's now central to understanding where higher education is headed that wasn't even on the radar when you got started?

Young: Skepticism about the value of college. Higher education had this halo for so long in the culture, and that has seriously faded in the last few years. And that helped open the door for new approaches both on and off campus.

EdSurge: MOOCs, MOOCs, MOOCs! So what happened here? Is the idea of "free education for all" dead?

Young: Long live MOOCs! The hype was definitely overblown (I’m looking at you Thomas Friedman). But as it turns out, massive online classes are still with us—my wife and I are slowly making our way through a philosophy MOOC from the University of Copenhagen. And all that hype actually brought money and attention to new models of teaching on campuses, like flipped classrooms. Stay tuned.

EdSurge: You did a big profile a while back about Sherry Turkle, the MIT professor who has become a critical voice in how our phones and other tech is dominating our attention. What was particularly memorable to you about that article?

Young: She’s someone who went from being utopian about technology to being one of the most important voices pointing out the pitfalls of tech in our lives. I think everyone in edtech should read her book, “Alone Together,” because it is so full of examples of little ways we distract ourselves, and do things like read articles on our iPhones while our kid is on the playground being ignored. It’s just a good reality check.

EdSurge: We're building up our reporting and writing chops: What are some of the best practices in journalism you're eager to share with us?

Young: The value of storytelling. Life is messy—and interesting. Showing readers how a particular professor, or student or entrepreneur worked through a challenge often reveals the range of issues keeping some new idea from working.

EdSurge: Love your podcasts! (And hint, we hope you'll keep podcasting at EdSurge.) What have you liked—or not—about his medium?

Young: I’m addicted to podcasts. There’s something about a voice in your ear that’s just primal—there’s a connection. And when people get into a relaxed conversation, you can sometimes get past the formality of standard interviews.

EdSurge: If you could wave a magic wand and accelerate one trend in HE edtech—because it would benefit students—what would it be?

Young: That’s a tough one. Probably some of the new tools in career services that can help connect alumni mentors to students looking for jobs. If that could help equalize opportunities for students from all backgrounds, that could be a big win.

EdSurge: At least for now, we know you're staying in DC: What's one thing that you pack in your traveling bag (or briefcase) that might surprise us?

Young: I have a lucky shirt I wear on long plane flights—it’s just a checkered shirt, not particularly flattering. And I don’t have a Kindle or any e-book reader. Still print books and magazines.

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