Thursday, October 28, 2010

Universities commit to open-access journal movement

This article discusses the move made by a dozen major American universities towards making academic research material available online free of charge. These universities, which include Duke, Harvard, Cornell, MIT, University of Michigan, and University of California Berkley, among others, have signed the Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity (COPE), which means that rather than paying $10,000-$20,000 in subscriptions each year, the universities will cover the costs of publishing the articles themselves (about $1,000- $3,000) and will be able to access the other open-access articles. This movement, which is essentially "increased open access, means more opportunities for the research of our faculty and researchers to reach a wide audience and have a meaningful impact on the world,” says Peter Lange, Duke's provost. I think that this movement encompasses everything that is right about today's movement towards technology. Technology should be enabling and encouraging the sharing of knowledge between scholars and learners alike. The increased availability of professors' research will no doubt enrich the education of students and lead to more progress for other professors, as it should.

School Leaders’ Opinions on 21st Century Skills

Liz Exo’s Blog Post:

As it is probably clear to most of us already, with the new century came new technology and new technological skills to be learned. This article discusses the possibilities of creating new assessments that are directed towards new technological skills. 43% of the schools that responded to the survey stated that their school district already implemented new assessments to test skills like problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking.

The article also discusses the issue of cyber bullying, and it states that 34% of school districts said that anti-bullying and other computer safety policies have already been implemented.

A final point brought up in the article revolves around the push towards electronic “textbooks” if you will, rather than traditional printed books. The problems that would need to be addressed before making the switch would be to make sure each student has equal access to the internet outside of school, which seems to be a problem for many low-income areas. It is interesting to note that 24% of schools that responded to the survey said schools should move towards electronic reading because textbooks are boring. However, I feel like this may be a controversial issue. I personally have trouble reading long texts online, because I feel like if I cannot write on the text (underlining or highlighting important information) I have a lot more trouble understanding and remembering what I read. So, besides the issue of availability, educators should look at all perspectives before making the switch.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Metal Detectors are No Longer Enough

School districts have begun using x-ray machines in schools to increase the level of safety. There have been over 100 installed in Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, and New York. People who support using x-rays in schools argue that this way, security officers can see what is in a bag, rather than just knowing that there is metal in it. While this makes sense, I went to a school that had no security checks at all. The thought of metal detectors is strange to me, but to put an x-ray machine in a school? It would make me feel as if I was trying to get on a plane, not go to class. I feel very mixed about this issue; I feel that it is a good idea, and that certain schools probably do need this amount of security, but at the same time, it could really disrupt the way students enter school. Is there going to be a machine at every single entrance? I went to a very small school and we still had 8 or 9 doors around the building. A school would almost have to block off every entrance other than the one that had the machine to truly keep the students safe. And blocking off these entrances could create a huge line of students waiting to get into the building.

New Possible Changes for Higher Education

The University of Phoenix, the nation's largest online university, will begin offering a free, 3-week trial run for potential students, in which time they will be able to tell if they can handle online courses and at the difficulty level of the university. This program is in response to the federal government re-evaluating its regulation of for-profit colleges and universities, due to the amount of debt students are leaving with. The company that runs the University of Phoenix, Apollo Group Inc., thinks that the government’s re-vamping of colleges and universities is only going to lower the chances of lower-income students to be able to get into college. The university is going to have fewer people enrolling, which translates into less revenue.

This program ultimately comes from the fact that the government believes that universities are recruiting students that simply are not ready for, or cannot handle, the life of a college student. These students drop out without another, better-paying, job prospect, but still need to pay back their students loans. When students cannot pay back their loans, the loan goes into default and taxpayers end up paying for it. The government has decided that if students are leaving a college or university with too much debt, or if too few students repay their loans, it will limit the amount of federal financial aid a school receives, which makes it harder for lower-income students to attend. Because of the new changes to the school, Apollo Group expects the enrollment rate at the University of Phoenix to drop by 40%, which of course lowers the amount of revenue the school receives. Investors are worried this trend is going to continue in the world of higher education.

While I agree that students do leave college with too much debt, I do not think it is right for the government to without federal financial aid that is given to students. What will happen to lower-income students that try to get into a school like Wesleyan? Because in general, our students do leave college with quite a bit of debt, that means that if we are affected by this change, some of our financial aid could be getting cut. I know that if it were not for my financial aid, I could not afford to come here, so what will happen to the lower-income students? Are they expected to go to a cheaper school that may not have the academics that we have simply because they are lower-income? I sincerely hope the government realizes the problems with this new plan before it gets implemented at any other schools.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Purdue’s student achievement technology goes national

Students at Purdue University have developed an educational technology that they claim will "boost retention and success." The new tool, Course Signals, is intended to inform students of their grade status by using a color coded system that displays green when a student is passing, yellow when their grades are falling and red if they are failing. As of right now, Course Signals is becoming available through a partnership between Sunguard Higher Education, which is the same system as MyIWU. The cool thing about it is that the system will give tips and resources in whatever area may need improvement. The system seems like it is aimed towards college educators and students, but I don't feel like that is where it would be most effective. Yes, it would be nice to know grades in college, but I don't feel as though many professors would take the time to update something like this unless many students were in jeopardy. I believe this best place to utilize such a tool would be in a middle school or junior high setting, so students can learn to be accountable for themselves and learn to adjust and fix whatever the problems may be based on the suggestions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Google Reports on Government Requests and Censorship

Lately, Google has been receiving criticism from transparency and privacy advocates for complying with government requests to block Internet traffic to certain websites. In response, Google has created a new tool called the transparency report (www.google.com/transparencyreport/). The report shows when and where traffic is blocked and annotates the blockages when possible. For example, the report shows that YouTube has been blocked in Iran since the presidential election in 2009. The report also features a map that shows every request made to Google by governments. I think that this tool could be extremely useful in the classroom. It provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the governments and societies of other countries within the framework of technology and freedom. Students could learn about current events, geography, constitutional law- all while discussing the benefits of technology and the opportunities it provides us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Students say video lectures allow for more napping?

Liz Exo’s Blog Post:

This article describes the ins and outs of video lectures. InterCall did a survey on college students and in their results, over half said they “learn more effectively and improve their grades” when lectures are posted online. This seems to make sense; if students can review the material online again, they can better absorb the information. However, the online lectures have turned into an excuse for skipping class altogether. InterCall also reported that a majority of the students said they would only go to class that day if there was an exam scheduled or if they had to borrow notes from a classmate. This means that online lectures are allowing for students to be lazy by doing a minimal amount of work for their classes.
What really disturbs me about this trend is its implications for the future; if college students would rather take a nap to skip class, how are they going to fare in the real world when they have real jobs? I think this shows the immaturity of a lot of college students.
So, although I do think there are many advantages to the online lectures, I think we need to find a way to keep students in class and only using video lectures as a supplement to their classroom participation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Gates Foundation launches $20 million program to expand technology use

Liz Exo’s Blog Post:
This article focuses on the advancements in technology use that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to fund to help with college readiness and completion. The Gates Foundation really wants to help out with this cause because, although access to higher education has become more available, by age 30 fewer than half of Americans have earned a college degree. So by funding the use of up-to-date technology for postsecondary education, we can hopefully increase the amount of students that earn a college degree.
Here is the proposal that addresses some specific challenges that should be taken on in the postsecondary education world:
1. Increase the use of “blended learning models” (this means combining face-to-face learning with online learning)
2. Strengthen students’ engagement through interactive technology
3. Support the availability of high-quality open courseware
4. Help institutions, instructors, and students benefit from learning analytics, which can monitor student progress and customize personal support.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Integration of Web 2.0

This article focuses on schools that are beginning to accept Web 2.0 into not only their classrooms, but into the district in general. In a compendium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) profiled 6 different school districts that are embracing Web 2.0. This compendium includes a profile of each school district, the ways in which Web 2.0 is incorporated and librarians’ takes on the importance of school media centers when it comes to implementing Web 2.0 into the school districts.

The article acknowledges that Web 2.0 does still have problems and that it is not perfect yet, but also points out that the benefits far outweigh the possible harms. The author also grants that the integration of Web 2.0 will differ greatly; some school districts will be totally open to Web 2.0 and will change lesson plans and teacher tools to incorporate it, and others will only incorporate what is easy for them to do. There will always be different levels of implementation.

I think the article makes a very valid point; some districts will want to change their methods of teaching and will want to integrate Web 2.0, but other districts will wish to stay with the white board and overhead projectors. A lot of school won’t have the financial resources to make the switch, or the teachers may not want to change their methods. I do, however, think that the districts that do incorporate more Web 2.0 will continue to grow and test scores will continue to rise; and the districts that don’t incorporate Web 2.0 will see the difference. Web 2.0 gives students another method of learning; Web 2.0 is hands-on in a way that has not been possible before and I think it can really help students who haven’t necessarily found their perfect learning style yet.

facebook for school?

This article proposes that facebook, or other social networking, if used appropriately, can be beneficial in a school setting. They suggest that by using a group filter or lists to restrict access to certain content of facebook, it could be used as a means of communication to organize group projects and other similar activities. They are adding features such as group chat and document sharing, similar to google docs. The question is whether this is a good idea or not. As of right now, most schools have filters that will not allow access to facebook at school. If the restriciton is lifted for educational purposes, how will that affect learning and the school environment?

From personal experience, I feel that by restricting something, it makes students want it more. I think lifting the ban on it all together might make this less of a problem. I remember in high school people finding proxy sites in order to get around the firewall so that they could use facebook, but it was typically for school related purposes like getting word out about a game or extracurricular event, or trying to track someone down for information for the yearbook. More and more society in general is using facebook to organize things such as events. It's an easy way to get word out about extra-curricular activities for people still in school, but maybe not so much for curriculum based usage. I do feel that there maybe should be some sort of facebook tutorial or something about internet safety presented in classes, because, as much as educators don't want to admit, things like facebook are part of our culture and society and most people don't really know how to use it correctly. Only five percent of facebook users actually take advantage of the privacy and safety controls, which is a very minute number when one thinks about it. The executive director for the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use "From [an online] safety perspective, I think this is really helpful, because it will allow young people to set up groups based on degrees of trust,” said Willard. “[But] there are other Web 2.0 platforms that I think are far more geared for effective educational use. To my knowledge, Facebook does not have a team of educational professionals who are working with [the web site] to design specific educational products.” Which is why I feel that facebook should be allowed in high school, but maybe only after school for extracurriculars rather than classroom related things. I still think google apps and other similar, free internet sites would be better suited for that purpose.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Technology access law helps those with special education needs

This article described a new law that will give Americans with disabilities better access to critical technologies. Personally, I found this interesting because a close family member of mine is handicapped. Oftentimes, new pieces of technology can be overwhelming and confusing for him to navigate and understand. I would be very grateful if companies could create software and devices that are more user friendly.
Especially as a future educator, I am saddened to know that a lot of technologies are literally inaccessible to so many people. I'm actually surprised that more hasn't been done up until this point with technology for disabled people. Technology can be a great asset in the classroom to people who may not always be able to do the same things as the rest of the students. For example, a student who has difficulties speaking can use a keyboard projected onto a screen to convey his or her ideas to a classroom and therefore can be a very active part of class conversations.
Overall, I am excited to see the changes that will be taking place in the technological world to make devices more accessible not only for the disabled, but for everyone.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Online Privacy Education

This article focuses on the Rutgers University tragedy and asks the question: Do we need to provide more online privacy education to students? A student, Tyler Clementi, was filmed by his roommate and one of the roommate's friends without his knowledge or consent, and a video of Clementi having sex was posted on the internet. A few days after the video was posted, he committed suicide.
This incident is causing leaders on college campuses nation-wide to consider making online privacy education necessary for incoming students. I personally think this is a great idea. I don't know how many people realize that even if you delete a Facebook comment or a Tweet, it doesn't matter. Someone, somewhere probably saw it the second that person posted it. Just because someone thinks a phrase is harmless, or an act is a joke or that it's just between friends, as soon as it is on the web, anyone can see it. I think it is really important for students to know things like that. Even if most students know this information, a lot don't. I'm sure the roommate who posted the video never realized that people all over the world would be - or could be - looking at his Twitter account page or his Facebook wall, but they are. Posting one video, or making one comment can literally change a person's life. It definitely has changed the lives of the students at Rutgers University.

SmartBoard Response

I am very glad we worked with SmartBoard in this class. I was not familiar with SmartBoard when we started, because at my high school we were still using overhead projectors in every classroom.

I feel that this technology is in the beginning stages and that it will keep getting better and be easier to use and better to teach with. SmartBoard has the wonderful ability to cater to different learning styles at once because of the combination of visual, auditory and hands-on aspects of the software. I was always really lucky in that I am generally an auditory learner, but most of my friends are visual learners. The fact that SmartBoard can include videos, pictures, and even demonstrations can really help visual learners whereas sometimes a plain white board or an overhead projector just aren’t good enough.

Even though this technology is fantastic, there are always downsides. For me, the main downside was the difficulty I had including multimedia in my project. I am not very good with computers, so I had to make a lot of phone calls when I couldn’t transfer a YouTube video into a flash file or into just an audio clip. Fortunately, I have friends that are good with technology, but some people may not have those resources. Also, when my file got too large, my computer would either freeze or totally shut down when I was trying to transfer my file onto my flash drive.

Overall however, I think this is a great new piece of technology that is only going to get better. This is potentially the beginning of a new era in education, in which we can cater to all learning styles at once.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

College Yearbook Collections Go Digital

Making old yearbooks and course catalogs available online is a truly excellent idea. It makes information about the universities much more accessible from an academic standpoint as well as being a great way to preserve memories. If primary sources aren't digitized, they are only available to a very limited number of people at the university. They're usually kept in private collections, and very few people know where to go to access them, or that they even can. In high school, I was on the yearbook staff and one of the coolest things we got to do was to look through the old books, and use them as resources. If you don't have a book available, you can't do that. Last semester my roommate was in a course about the Black Jazz Age and one of their assignments was to write as though they were a person living during that time period. She chose to be a student, but had to jump through numerous hoops to try and track down information about schools during that time. Having resources like yearbooks and course books available would have made it easier then trying to track down phone numbers and send e-mails to get said information; and could even make assignments like that feasible and much easier to achieve with younger students. It could make for a very fun lesson.

Smartboard free write response

Smartboard software is an excellent teaching tool, when it works. I was really excited to learn about all of the interactive features that are already included within the program. I didn’t realize there was quite so much just available right there at your fingertips. The number of tools and interactive activities that you can just plug stuff into was great. It was also fun trying to find online resources that could be fun to do “hands on” by literally clicking on the Smartboard. I think the number of multimedia components that can be used and taken advantage of on a Smartboard is great, but utilizing all of those was quite the feat. I had a number of problems, I feel like it may have been because I tried to include too many elements. I had the whole file wipe out on me at one point, which was really discouraging, but I guess that’s a price to pay when working with technology. On the plus side, the internet is a really great resource for trouble-shooting. It’s very likely that others have had the same problem as you, granted it took me three or so hours to fix one of my problems trying different things, but I was still able to.

Before starting this whole unit, I was a little concerned that smartboards wouldn’t lend themselves very well to teaching subjects like math or music. I kind of just thought it was a fancy, interactive version of power point, and I’d never seen a math or music presentation before so I was really worried. To my surprise it actually worked out quite nicely. Liz’s presentation included a lot of the same ways we learned to conquer those subject areas hands on, but by using technology. Instead of trying to keep track of a hundred small coins, you can do it all on the smartboard etc. As far as music, being able to used sound clips with images is a lot cheaper than having actual instruments to demonstrate. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to have each child try a virtual piano keyboard than to get each student one etc.

Overall, I think smartboard would be a great asset to every classroom. In the long run, the benefits outway the initial costs, I’d say.

Do students need more online privacy education?

I think that online privacy education is something that should be used in every school. It obviously become a huge problem in colleges because of the sexual videos and images being posted. However, I'm becoming concerned for middle and elementary schools having similar problems. In reality, many children are engaging in sexual activity at younger ages. Without proper education, they could easily disclose this same personal information online which could result in the same tragedies that have been prevalent among college campuses. Besides posting inappropriate videos and pictures, online bullying has become a great concern over the past several years. If we are to incorporate e-mail, blogs and other types of online technology in the classroom, we must ensure that our students are properly educated in online conduct.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Smartboard Project Wrap-up (Liz Exo)

Before this project, I was not really familiar with smartboard, other than having heard about the basics uses of it. To me, it just seemed like a more expensive whiteboard. But after doing the project and learning about the endless tools and applications, I've realized that interactive whiteboards are a very efficient way to teach. I really like how online videos can be linked onto the slides,and I think that there are so many interactive/multimedia options available for the teachers to use within their lessons. Not only does it have so many options, but I also really like how it is such an interactive experience for the students themselves- nothing gets students more interested in learning than using the "coolest" and latest technology!
Overall, I think that interactive whiteboard technology is the future of education, and educators should not hesitate to learn the many uses it has to offer.

Notebook Project Wrap- Up

Overall, I have really enjoyed learning to use the notebook software. I like creating these types of presentations because I can be really creative and incorporate many tools that are useful. Prior to this course, I could not have imagined all of the things that can be done on smartboards. For example, the amount of games and activities that already come with the software are truly outstanding. I'm glad that I was able to use videos to demonstrate the ideas I was talking about.
After watching everyone else present their projects, I have gained insight into other tools that I could have used in different ways. In the future I would like to use more of the screen shade and side-by-side screen functions so that students can be doing more than one thing at once and can reference previous slides to help them with an activity. I'm excited to learn about more types of technology and the tools that are available online as resources in the classroom. Prior to this project, I would have never imagined using Panoramio or artPad in a formal presentation.
I'm frustrated, however, with the amount of problems that I encountered while trying to create my project. The combination of notebook and my mac caused the program to shut down and lose my work multiple times. At least I am now fully aware of how these problems can be detrimental when trying to use new technologies.
Overall, I think that I will use the smartboard quite frequently in my future classroom.

Smart Notebook Project Reflection

I'm really glad that we did a project on the SmartBoard software because I think it will be extremely useful and relevant in my future as a teacher. This project not only allowed us an opportunity to practice using the software, but also made me aware of the huge range of resources available on SmartNotebook. I had no idea that there were so many templates and activities at our disposal. It really made me think about how kids will learn the best during a lesson, and I think that it is through interactive activities, which the SmartBoard can provide. There were some technological challenges throughout this project, but they provided opportunities to brainstorm solutions and discover alternate ways of doing things. I think that the time spent on this project will make me more likely to use the SmartBoard in my future classroom and more adept at doing so.

Social media blackout eye-opening, “annoying”

Liz Exo’s Blog Post:
Recently Harrisburg University banned access to any and all social media websites (Facebook, Twitter, AOL…etc.) on the school’s network for an entire week. It was meant to serve as a reminder to students to see just how much they are hooked on these websites and how much time they spend on them during class or instead of focusing on academics.

The point of this experiment was not to show that Facebook or Twitter has a large impact of student grades (because research has shown that it really does not affect grades), but rather to make students more aware of how it distracts them during class. Many college professors have noticed that in lecture classes students just log in to facebook and ignore the lecture.

After the week ended, students reported that the ban was “annoying,” and students still found ways around the ban (using private networks or blackberry phones to log onto facebook). The article also leaves us with something important to think about… should the students’ bad reactions to the ban warn us about how students will adjust in the workplace?