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Friday, April 29, 2011

Facebook Around the Globe

Map of Australia. Image from Greenwichmeantime
The world down under is in for a treat. An April 29 news article from ABC states New South Wales  has allowed teachers to access and use social media like facebook in school. This news left many teachers and school officials like New South Wales Secondary Principals Council president Christine Cawsey feeling happy. She said: 
Now they'll be able to access a clip that may be very useful... in the classroom to be able to show the students without having to feel that they're in breach of any social media policy.

Although Australia is going into new territory in terms of allowing staff to access facebook, they needn’t fear. There’s plenty of help and example all over the globe of issues and problems regarding facebook use to help ease the transition.  

Facebook in school lessons? Image from CBCnews
The first example lies in Canada. The April 13 Niagara Falls Review writes a growing number of teachers is using facebook as part of their lesson plans. This prompted Ontario’s college of Teachers to remind educators there are issues to deal with while using facebook as part of a lesson plan. The chief concern is teachers who blur the line of professional behavior.  Liz Papadopoulos, college chairwoman with the OCT said:

Our advice to teachers is to keep ethical standards – care, trust, respect and integrity – in line of sight.

Chart of European fb use. Image from Adhugger
Meanwhile, in Europe, educators are dealing with a different egg: underage facebook use. An article on Mobelia states that 43 percent of 9-12 year-olds have a facebook account. The news has mixed reactions from officials. In high school, officials view this as a problem in the education world because it means they need to come up with a policy that will allow staff to use facebook  lessons without harming the students and teachers. Elementary schools as shown in this cnn video have have figured out a way around this problem by using facebook to inform parents of their lesson plans.

Another issue with facebook our country keeps facing is cyberbullying. I might sound like a broken record, but this is still a growing problem and one that Australia will have to deal with on their own. Thankfully, there solutions to draw on for this problem like seminars for the public (ex: Salem, MA in 2010) that help educators and officials learn what they can do to help keep a school safe. There are also articles like this one from the April 18 Canton Rep in Ohio that can help the parent cope. 
One instruction manual coming up. Image from kiwicommons

Safe is something the New South Wales school district must keep in mind if this policy is going to work. Based on what is already out there, they should do fine. Kudos Australia and remember examples help when facing uncharted territory.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Online Classes for High School Students

Online class are in. Image from NY Times
On March 11, I went into a rant about what Tom Luna was trying to do to the education system in Idaho. One of my readers asked about information regarding online classes in high school.  So I thought I would take this column to explain that situation.
Online classes are quickly becoming a new trend in the education world. Some schools are using them to offer classes that would normally never make it into the curriculum. According to NY Times columnist Trip Gabriel on April 5, Superintendent Reze Namin used online classes to teach Chinese to the 10 students who were interested in taking it- which was a cost he would normally not be able to justify when his school is on a budget crunch. 
Online courses benefit students. Image from well trained writer
These schools also allow students to take classes at their own pace. It can also be a Godsend for students who struggle in traditional schools. In Arizona, 13 year old Connor Valesco was the target of bullies in regular school, and as a gifted student found his niche with online classes. The Arizona Daily Sun wrote on April 13:

Without the distractions of a traditional classroom and with the ability to set his own pace, Connor has been able to focus enough to tear through the subjects he's good at and take time on the subjects that don't come as naturally. With writing, for example, he dictates his papers into a voice recorder, and then plays it back as he types.

Florida student learns off computer.

Image from NY Times
Some tech savvy schools are beginning to take advantage of online courses. According to Gabriel, in Memphis students need at least one online course to graduate. Proponents of this system say students should have an online course to compensate for its increasing presence in the college setting as well as the work place. In Arizona  and Florida, schools themselves are becoming online classrooms where computers have now replaced teachers and students are asked to learn on their own.
Right now, there is a huge debate over whether schools should pursue online classes. Proponents for online classes say it offers schools a cheap alternative to regular classes, allows students to make up work, and can offer AP courses to students wanting to take them. Opponents say online classes trade a teacher for technology, can offer remedial course work to students, and make plagiarism easy to pull off. Both the Huffington Post and The New York Times (see first link) wrote articles outlining these pros and cons in depth as well as other arguments.
Should we learn through computers? Image from slapstick analysis
With the online world quickly invading the educational world, many schools are finding themselves staring down the barrel of change. As with the case in Idaho, experts have weighed in and put their opinions out on whether schools should embrace this type of learning and whether it is right for students. The only thing that is left to ponder is whether this type of education is right for the student or if it should be left outside the realm of education.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rules to Know for Online Posting

Image from: mrspal blog

The name calling game has stepped up to the next level in schools. In the old days, two people in an argument talked to the principal about what they said to each other in face-to-face conversation. Nowadays, they talk to the principal about what they said about each other online.

Welcome to the world of online posting where the entire world knows what you said in the click of a mouse. Despite all the information about online etiquette, it would appear that students and teachers are still learning about what to post. So I’ve decided to come up with my own five rules for online postings.

Rule 1: Anything that gets posted online is public NO MATTER WHAT THE PRIVACY SETTING.  With all the information online, it is easy to assume no one will be looking for what you post or that you can hide it through privacy settings. The truth is, sometimes things can come out through either looking up the information or word of mouth. Check out this video below to see the story of one high school student whose private my space page became known to school officials.

Rule 2: What you say can and will be taken seriously. It might sound obvious, but sometimes people say things without thinking and it sticks. Just ask Alejandra Sosa. MyFox news reported on March 2 12-year old Sosa called her teacher a pedophile because:

I was mad that day because of what he [did]. So, I mean I had no intentions of ruining his reputation.
Moral of this story is: be extremely careful about what you say.

Rule 3: Do not use online posts as a way of venting. Ranting to people you don’t know is uncomfortable and dangerous sometimes, so why do this online where everyone can read it? Teacher Natalie Munroe discovered this after she posted an online blog calling her high school students lazy, disrespectful and just generally annoying. CBS reported in February Munroe was using her blog to share information with her family and friends and got suspended from her job. At least she was smart and took her blog down.

Natalie Munroe and some of the things she allegedly said.
Image from: CBS

Rule 4: Do not use online posts to harass others. Thanks to Phoebe Prince, cyberbullying has come into the public light and many schools are making an effort to crack down on it. Think carefully before deciding to go this route. Oh, did I mention in some cases police have been getting involved? See this story from the April 1 Eagle Tribune in North Andover, MA for more information.

Rule 5: Follow the Golden Rule. I think this rule  covers etiquette rule 101.  

Many school districts are still trying to learn how to deal with new technology. Please do everyone a favor and leave bad facebook posting, name calling and harassment off the computer where it belongs. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Student Should Come First

Students protest the education bills going through Idaho
Legislature. Image from
*Update: On March 24, the Idaho senate approved this bill with major changes. Some of the changes include pushing back the date of when online classes would be mandatory and giving school districts more control over spending (thus eliminating the need to fire teachers). For more information, consult this article from the Magic Valley.

 “There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if the teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom, it fails.”
-Nancy Kassebaum

Kassebaum hit the nail on the head with this quote and also unintentionally hit on another big issue in the education world: Technology is a wonderful thing but if schools lose focus on trying to educate their students, all the technology in the world will not keep them afloat.

The legislature in Idaho would do well to remember this as they enter the last round of debate over a three part education reform outlined in the Shoshone News Press on March 8. The third part would fire 770 teachers statewide and fund money for mandatory online classes and technology in schools across the state.  State Superintendent Tom Luna, the author of this bill, is letting the students down by trying to fund the project themselves and believing online classes will benefit all students.

In the youtube video below Luna claimed the education system in Idaho is failing and there is no money to work with. (Warning: this video is long, but very informative. For those only interested in the quote, skip to 3:20-4:23) 
He has a point when technology like the iPad costs about $500 each to fund. But there are a number of different options to help counteract the costs, including applying for grants. Grant programs like E-Rate although time consuming can fund up to ¾ of total cost for the technology. Luna failed the students by not trying for grants at the federal level. In a January article from Technology News Report, he made it clear:

This plan, we’re going to do without federal dollars, without increasing the national debt, without relying on the federal government. 
 I have trouble seeing how not asking for government aid is going to keep 700 teachers in a job especially when considering the second part of Luna’s proposal. Online classes, although beneficial, will not be good for all students and not everyone will take an online course in the future. Online classes are good for students who possess traits like self-motivation and self-learning. Although online enrollment is up in most colleges, it is still not the preferred choice among college students. NDSU had just over 3,700 students taking online courses in the Fall of 2010 according to their website compared to the roughly 14,400 students taking classes at the University. Online courses may be the new wave to the future, but they are not a wave everyone should jump on.

Tom Luna said in the video above (14:40) student achievement is putting an effective teacher in every classroom. I hope the legislature thinks about his words and remembers that it is not the technology or the money that makes the school great, but the staff who run the school and the students who learn from them.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

ACT and SAT shouldn't worry about a cheating scandal soon

"Kyoto University president Hiroshi Matsumoto speaks during a press conference following a 19-year-old’s arrested on suspicion of cheating on the university’s entrance exam."
Image and quote from: Japan Times March 4, 2010

On Thursday, police arrested a 19-year old Japanese student in connection with an internet scandal that has rocked their University System. According to The Japan Times, the police believe the lone student uploaded questions from the Kyoto University entrance exam onto one or more cell phones during the February entrance exams. It is not entirely clear what happened, but the school believes the questions were uploaded to a popular website and someone with the “aicezuki” was asking for answers to the questions while the exam was in progress.

 This is a huge story for the learning world and especially for Japan who puts their education system on a pedestal. It made me wonder whether something like this could happen on the SAT’s or ACT’s. Interestingly enough, the possibility of someone cheating on standardized tests for college is astonishingly low due to testing policies. Something the standardized tests should look into is updating their punishment for cheaters who are caught.
With technology becoming a prominent part in the U.S. education system, cell phone use during exams has become a hot button topic.  Both the ACT and SATs did well by prohibiting the use of any technology other than what they specifically say you can use. According to the ACT website, Prohibited technology includes:

any electronic device other than a permitted calculator (examples include timer, cell phone, media player, PDA, headphones, camera).
 In addition to this, the ACT website specifically states one proctor will be looking online to screen for anyone uploading questions online for personal use.

The other thing to keep in mind would be the testing conditions. Both standardized tests do a good job of making sure there is someone at all times monitoring situation.  For example, when I took the ACTs, I went to a room where 50 plus people sat on long tables next to each other. What made cheating discouraging was there were a number of different people walking up and down isles at all times.  

What kind of punishment exists for those who break the rules? Unfortunately not a lot exists for someone who breaks the rules and cheats. Last year Washington Post reporter Valerie Stauss asked the College Board who owned the ACT what would happen to someone who cheated on a standardized test. Aside from taking the student aside, questioning them, and deleting a test score nothing else would be done to the student. I don’t know if such a policy is good for the College Board, however, I do believe the testing center should change their policy in order to set an example for others.

Both the ACT’s and SATs have good policies during the test and should keep those policies in place. They should however take a look at whether they should change their policy about punishing cheaters. The issue in Japan is one that will continue to unfold for awhile. Hopefully the student has learned his lesson and understands cheating is no laughing matter.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

laptops in college

As early as 2007, universities across the country were noticing more laptop users in college classrooms. Its reception into the education setting was mixed. Many professors commented to organizations like NPR about how distracting it is to try to teach a class while students were doing something other than taking notes. Some like, David Cole, full out banned using it in classrooms. Laptops are being used more during class and it would appear in general the feelings about using them are still as scattered as they were 4 years ago.  Both students and professors are still all over the place in terms of what to do about the problem and how they feel.
Students use laptops in class because they are a good way to take notes. Except as the user found out, there were quite a few distractions on the laptop that made note taking a mundane task. For this reason, some professors believe banning laptops are the way to go. Jeremy Littau, an assistant professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh, banned laptop use except for extreme situations because he found many students either distracted by the laptop or distracted by the computer screen around them.
Some professors have difficulty dealing with the technology and took extreme measure to make their feelings known. Two professors at Ryerson University in Toronto walked out on their class after repeatedly warning students to not use their laptops and cell phones in distracting ways. This walkout caused debate over whether it is acceptable for faculty to walk out on an unruly classroom.
The reaction was based on the students using the technology in a disrespectful way. Most students are still split in terms of whether to use a laptop in class. However, users and nonusers like Markita Underwood, and Lee Mallete feel any technology is going to be a distraction. Mallete, a student at University of Alabama believes:

"Some of my older teachers don’t like having that technology and assume you’re just on Facebook instead of taking notes,” Mallette said. “I think the majority of people are going to play on their phones if not their laptop and professors should just accept the new technology."

As the situation goes right now, most professors are adapting some sort of policy for laptop use in the classroom. The policies have been generated since professors first began spotting a problem with laptop use. Most of the policies I have seen here at NDSU are fairly reasonable once I got used to them.  I would like to hope in the future laptop use stays on campus and the problem stays either the same or goes down just as it has for the past 4 years.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

iPads in Schools: Good or Bad?

The iPad has reached the education world and taken it by storm. One school after another has jumped on board with using the technology and most will swear it works to keep students interested and wanting to learn. But is this enough to teach students the fundamentals? I feel using devices like iPads is a step in the right direction, but should not be used until parents and teachers figure out how to balance learning with the growing problem of over consuming media. 
Technology can do amazing things to aid in the education process. As this video on youtube shows below, there are several ways students can use iPads to aid in reviewing vocabulary, writing and reading. The problem lies in the fact most of these students are using technology without realizing there are other issues involved such as how much more media they can handle.  A recent report by the Kaiser Foundation reveals most 8-18 year old use entertainment media an average of roughly 11 hours a day. The study goes on to say children with the heaviest media use are more likely to have lower grades in school.

This leads to the question of what can we do to make sure students are still learning in this media saturated world.  Some authors like Laurie David and Susan Stiffleman believe schools should cut out technology altogether due to this media addiction.  In their recent article, they believe:
Increasing the use of technology in the classroom is like feeding our kids pop tarts and soda; it tastes good and they like it, but it doesn't offer the nourishment they need. If schools go hi-tech across the board, they'll be feeding an addiction that, as most parents can tell you, is already out of control.
The only problem with this idea is it appears technology will become essential in classrooms in the future. Chris Pirillo in a recent internet video (see below),  believes the iPad is here to stay because of the ease of downloading books onto it and the amount of space that will be saved from using the technology.  School officials like J.Gerry Purdy go as far as seeing textbooks becoming revolutionized by the iPad.  In a recent article by The Journal, he said:
We'll go from trying to feed PDF textbooks into portable devices to building interactive, dynamic applications that students can carry around with them.

Whether technology is here to stay or not, there are many things parents and teachers can do to ensure children are learning their material and staying away from over using media. Teachers, like the ones in Shore and Wennona in Australia, should use the iPad to ensure this is something their students can handle. Parents can reduce media consumption at home by enforcing rules about media use and encouraging family time. The Smart Bean Magazine offers additional tips both parents and teachers can use to reduce the amount of media children consume.
Regardless of what parents and teachers decide to do, the children should remain their top priority.  If they are not learning the material and are struggling to function physically and mentally, by all means pull the plug on iPads. But if they are not, parents and teachers should collaborate with each other to figure out how students can get the most out of their new invention without causing a lot of problems.