Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One Professor's Rant: Instant Viral Sensation

Mark Talbert, a professor at Cornell University, had a bit of an outburst during one of his lecture classes. A student was yawning - an "overly loud yawn", as Talbert puts it - and he finally had enough. He began asking the class who yawned, and when no one stood up, he asked the other students to identify who was disturbing the class. The video of the rant lasts for almost 3 minutes, and during this time he tells his students that if he hears another of the yawns, the student should "get up and walk the hell out." He also warns his students, "Don't push me to this point again."
Not only is this highly inappropriate, Talbert should have realized that almost every student has a cell phone with them (and on) during classes; especially lecture classes with over 200 people in them. Asking students to leave if they need to yawn is one thing; yelling at the entire class and cursing is definitely another. I watched the video and felt really bad for the students; it was terribly awkward and Talbert was frightening. And to threaten students? While I'm sure he didn't actually mean to threaten them, that is exactly what "Don't push me to this point again" sounds like. This video is just another testament to the fact that everyone - teachers and students alike - need to be careful of what is said in public. One never knows when he is being recorded.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spill: anonymously share you problems and recieve help from other students

Resources for college students needing help with personal problems is typically available through professional counseling on campus. However, a lot of students don't take advantages of these services. 82% cite that embarrassment was the number one factor as to why they haven't utilized counseling services before. A new website available on 10 campuses nationwide (thus far) allows students to ask other students for advice and help anonymously. Students post their personal problems on "Spill" and receive responses from trained student supporters within 24 hours. If the school subscribes to the service, any student with a .edu e-mail address can "spill". Each Spill is responded to by 4-6 student volunteers that are trained in effective listening and writing empathetic responses. This allows the spiller to see different perspectives on their problem that might be able to help them more.

This new service will help both students and the schools alike. This service will help schools see what is really bothering their students and can aid in suicide prevention, risk mitigation, see suggestions for improvements in the school, and can boost retention rates. It also collects the data from all the schools and allows the school to see where students are having the most problems within their own institution and compared to the other subscribers to the service. It's great because it's non-threatening to students who are receiving help and allows the schools to see where help is needed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Educational Technology Can Lower Costs

On November 17th, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated that schools are going to need to deal with their lower costs by increasing productivity; they're going to have to do more with less, essentially. Duncan stated that schools will probably have lower budgets for a long time, so they need to learn how to run effectively with less money. Duncan suggested possibly using more online texts, combining bus routes, and reducing personnel in order to deal with the lower budgets. He did acknowledge that becoming more tech-savvy may cost more money in teh short-term, but that it will be worth it in the long-term. I also really appreciate that he said that schools should consider having slightly larger class sizes instead of just automatically cutting music or art. I feel like cutting the arts is the easiest alternative for most schools, rather than the best alternative. The arts are really beneficial, so I am grateful that Duncan brought up that having a few extra kids per class may be less harmful than elminating the arts program.

Social Media Safeguard

Webroot has created a downloadable program that will have college students thanking them forever. Social Media Sobriety Test is a new online application that allows someone to choose a social networking site and the hours they wish to have a little bit of trouble logging on. For example, a person could choose Facebook and/or Twitter and the hours of 1-4 am. In order to log on to that site during this time frame, they would need to pass a series of tests that would be really difficult for someone who was inebriated. For all of those people who have a bad habit of drunk-Facebooking or drunk-tweeting, this could very well save them from a future job loss.
It is becoming common practice for employers to check candidate's Facebooks to see what kind of person he or she is. I went to see Lindsay Pollack speak last year, and she had said that employers call it "checking on [the candidate's] judgment." With job markets as competitive as they are, employers need to use every resource they have, which means that people need to start watching their social media outlets to ensure that they never have any problems. I feel that the Social Media Sobriety Test can be an easy way to help make sure that social media sites stay clear of all posts that could be deemed "bad judgment calls."

Smartphone Document Editing

Apparently Google docs has implemented a feature that allows smartphone users to edit entire documents from their phone. There are a lot of limitations and requirements that are needed in order for it to run properly, but honestly, I don't understand why one would want to. I understand the use of a smartphone in order to check one's e-mail etc and maybe shoot a quick answer back. However, to edit or compose and entire document on one's phone just seems a little silly to me. I have trouble grasping why this would be beneficial to have. As a country, we are way more connected and dependent on technology as a part of our everyday lives and we have more of a tendency to be workoholics than most other places. I think that having the option to edit documents in addition to all the other features on a smartphone could make that gap even greater. I'm all for technology progression, but sometimes I feel like certain advancements go to far.

Technology helping to redefine disability

Students with disabilities have long been unable to express their knowledge or gain new knowledge in traditional classrooms. Teachers committed to enabling these students have searched for ways to assist and empower them, and it looks like there's finally a way. According to Milton Chen, the senior fellow and director emeritus at the George Lucas Educational Foundation, rapid advancements in technology are helping to redefine ability and disability, with assistive technology devices enabling students with disabilities. For example, the Adaptive Captioning Through Interactive Video (ACTIV 2.0) technology can be used to make academic content accessible to learning disabled students through features such as alternative narration; regular, highlighted text; picture/symbol-based captions; verbal/visual cuing; interactive hyperlinks; and built-in quizzes. Other technologies, such as Signing Avatar, which is a software that can be used with 3D science and math dictionaries to help deaf or hearing impaired students, and Big Words, which is a software that can be used to teach polysyllabic words to students with disabilities, are also in the forefront of this movement towards technology for disabled students. John Kemp of Powers Pyle Sutter and Verville says that "giving students with disabilities more choice in how they would like to learn and which tools they would like to use in their learning process can go a long way in motivating them," which can often make all the difference in the classroom. Teachers should not only be aware of the possibilities of technology for learning disabled students, but should constantly be investigating and seeking it. One great resource is NCTI's TechMatrix, which provides free information on assistive technology for students with disabilities as well as for ELL students. I don't know how to add a second link, so here's the url for that: http://www.techmatrix.org/

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Schools get smarter about ed-tech energy use

Schools across the country are starting to take measures to reduce both energy and costs by rethinking their information technology systems. The Rio Rancho Public Schools in New Mexico were featured in this article. The executive director of technology in this district noted that “we’re estimating saving about $30,000 per year, and that’s [mainly] by consolidating servers.” According to CDW Government LLC, If schools do not start taking action like Rio Rancho, greenhouse gas emissions from IT data centers will surpass those emitted by the airline industry in the next ten years. The district has found this project to be changing their school in many ways. The $30,000+ a year savings could be redirected towards something that the school needs such as extracurricular activities, paying teachers or new technologies. Another big expense for many schools is air conditioning. In the article Romeo, the executive director of technology, described how they are replacing light bulbs that emit heat with high efficiency LED bulbs.
I found this article very inspiring and uplifting. So many stories in the news show schools negatively through cutting programs and laying off teachers. We've also talked in class about how districts are building excessively elaborate school buildings but not having the funds to run them. This school on the other hand, is doing something extremely positive and effective for the environment and their schools alike. I hope that more schools can adopt this concept to improve our environment and redirect where money is being spend. It excites me to know that this New Mexico district is so focused on making such improvements.

Webquest Project Response

Prior to this project, I have always had really negative experiences with webquests. In middle and high school we did them for my classes, but they were mainly a series of websites on a worksheet that we had to find specific information on. Oftentimes, the links were inaccessible and the process became extremely frustrating. To be honest, I was not thrilled with the idea of creating my own webquest when the project was assigned. It seems as though many of my fellow classmates have also had similar negative experiences with this type of technology in the past. However, after beginning my project and taking note of what my classmates were doing, my opinions begin to change. I did not realize all of the higher thinking that could be involved in the project, considering the mindless tasks I was asked to complete in high school. I really appreciate the ways that students can browse the web and find information on their own. Sometimes teachers can get into the habit of just "spewing" information at their students. This can be overwhelming and not very helpful for learning. Webquests allows the students to work at their own pace and study the information as much as they need to.
To be honest, the webquest project has not been my favorite assignment. I have enjoyed projects such as smartboard and digistory because they involve more artistic and visual creativity. However, I will definitely incorporate the webquest technology into my future classroom and student teaching experiences.

Webquest Response

Before attempting to make my own webquest, I was really unsure about it. I had tried looking at some of the examples that are already available online and was actually really disappointed. The tasks on a lot of them sounded great. They involve higher order thinking, independence and/or group collaboration, an alternative method for gathering information that had the potential to be fun. However, I have some reservations about webquests. A lot of the ones I came across when trying to do research for my own had a lot of broken links. It's kind of a Catch-22, the internet is always changing, which is great, but it also makes creating online based lesson plans rather difficult. I suppose it makes a difference as to where the sources come from too. I tried to make sure all of the ones I used were either government based and/or from some sort of an educational institution because I think those websites change less often.

I also find graphic organizers extremely helpful, no matter what the capability is for a student. I feel like anything that can make something clearer and easier to grasp is necessary in the classroom for all students. It kind of amazed my how many different kinds of organizers were out there and how few I had been introduced to as a student. If I had had those I feel like I could have been a much more organized and overall better prepared student.

WebQuest Reflection

I had no idea what a WebQuest was until we worked on it in class. I really wish that my teachers had utilized them on certain projects in high school. A WebQuest is, in a lot of ways, an eco- and user-friendly version of most of the hand-outs I received. A teacher would hand me a paper that explained the assignment and included most of the information I needed. A WebQuest is, to me, very much a hand-out, but is more explanatory and easier to comprehend. I love that it has the task, process, evaluation, conclusion and notes all in one place without wasting paper. A WebQuest is also, in my opinion, a better alternative to hand-outs because useful websites can be hyperlinked and if the students or teacher wished to, the finished assignments can easily be posted on a class blog for other classmates to evaluate and give suggestions. I think WebQuests are a really great piece of technology that can give a different feel to classroom assignments.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Webquest Reflection

Before working on this project, webquests had a rather negative connotation in my mind. The only time I had seen webquests were in my high school French class. The ones we were assigned only asked us to find information to fill in the blanks on the worksheets and we constantly had to search through poorly designed and confusing websites and had to work around broken or incorrect links. Because of that negative experience, it was really fascinating to see what webquests are intended to be. I think they are a fantastic way of facilitating higher level thinking and independent work. As Liz said, it's important for students to be able to find information on their own, rather than getting all of their information from the teacher. I think these webquests would be really empowering and interesting, as well as challenging, for students. I'm really glad that we made real webquests and have them posted online so that they are available for future use. If I ever teach in a middle school social studies class, I would definitely like to try and use my webquest in the classroom!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Liz Exo's Blog Post:

Before working on this WebQuest project and my WebQuest Tech of the Week project, I did not have that much previous knowledge about WebQuests. I had maybe done one or two in my high school or junior high years, but they did not involve that much critical thinking and were more worksheet-based. So, doing this WebQuest project helped me to see that there are many different types of tasks like creative, compilation, analytical, self-knowledge...etc. I think this is important to keep in mind because WebQuests should challenge the students to create something, rather than simply completeing a question-answer type of task. I also think that WebQuests are great activities to get students to interact and share their knowledge. It breaks the routine of the teacher being the primary source of information, which would keep the students more interested in learning.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Google Offers Free In-Flight Wi-Fi for the Holidays

This holiday season how airline passenger will be able to enjoy free wireless interest while flying. The article describes that, "This is the second year in a row that Google has offered free Wi-Fi, with the program expanding this year to three airlines - AirTran, Delta and Virgin America." The deal is supposed to last from November 20 through January 2.

Though this article has very little to do with education or our class, I'm still very intrigued by the concept of free wi-fi while flying. Oftentimes, while flying on long cross country flights, I get bored and wish that I could access the internet. The article brought up a good point that it would be useful to contact family members that a person is going to visit while they are in the air so discuss pick up times and last minute plans.

I'm quite impressed that google is taking such drastic measures to promote their name. However, a lot of people are going to benefit from the free internet and likely use their services. Way to go google.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

University web site addresses gender gap in “STEM” fields

Liz Exo’s Blog Post:

One of the ongoing issues in education is the gender gap. This article specifically targets the gap that is present in the science, technology, education, and math (S.T.E.M.) fields. This means that each of these fields are dominated by a specific gender, which sometimes makes it intimidating for the minority gender to want to study in that field.

This article discusses Arizona State University’s new web resource available to help close the gender gaps. The website will have “HerStory” video clips of women that have started up careers in these fields that are dominated mostly by males. These videos will depict women of specific professions, as opposed to women studying in the general field of math or science, for example. ASU believes that by giving examples of real women in specific jobs will help boost the morale of other women hoping to get into on e of these “STEM” fields.

I really think this is a great use of technology. It gives women a way to gain confidence that they can choose whichever field they want to study. I also think this article brings up another point; would this idea of “HerStory” videos be suitable for younger students as well? I almost feel that college may be a little too late to be providing the inspiration, so maybe ASU should look into using their idea for high school aged students.

Scientists move closer to live 3-D video

This article discusses the advances made by scientists towards creating live 3-D video capabilities for the internet. It explains that, if successful, the videos would resemble holograms. While the images would not actually be projected into the air, they would appear that way to someone looking at the screen. While this technology is still a work in progress, as the team working on it needs to gain more speed and more camera angles in order to create true 3-D video, it is well on its way to becoming a reality.
The article says that these videos would be used primarily in classrooms and laboratories, but also notes the implications they could have for advertisements, car and airplane design, and military training. I think that, if made readily available, this technology could have a huge impact in the classroom, specifically for science lessons. While it is currently possible to do virtual dissections online, there is much debate as to whether or not they are as valuable as real-life dissections. With this 3-D video technology, students could actually watch live dissections and get the full effect as if it were right in front of them. Similarly, advanced students could watch more involved procedures that they would not otherwise be able to witness, such as cadaver dissections and autopsies. This technology could also be useful for virtual field trips and conferences with experts and other students.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

‘Academic fraud’ filtering hopes to crack down on plagiarism

There is much said about tech savvy students who plagarize term papers, etc. and there is a concentrated effort made to lessen academic fraud. I don't think students are given enough credit for the work they actually do. I know of very few students who think so little of their education that they are willing to pay the price (financial and/or ethically) for cheating.

What concerns me more at times, is the way information is presented. I have often stumbled across tests and assignments and powerpoint presentations that some high school teachers have claimed as their own work, that has clearly been lifted "word for word" from someone else's website. The "tech-savvy" student who finds these instances is really getting mixed signals from their instructors.

It is okay to "borrow" complete lesson plans from someone else without giving credit, but it is not okay for the student to go to the same site and "borrow" the answers. I think that teachers should consider what their expectations are of their students and make sure that they comply with those expectations as well. For example, my sister told me that her AP teacher stood in front of the class one day and when on about how he had chosen specific picture in a powerpoint presentation for some very profound reasons - implying how long he had worked on getting the presentation "just right". Yet that same afternoon, as she was looking for information on something else, she stumbled across the exact powerpoint, with everything identical except the author. That same site had her AP History packets - which are assigned weekly and consist of 8-12 pages each of three and four part questions posted, along with the answers. We wonder what the consequence would be if she simply copied those answers and turned them in as her own.

I think we all have to remember that we each have a moral and ethical responsibility to ourselves and to others, to give credit where credit is due. It is fine to expand on someone else's ideas, but we should never claim them as our own.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blekko: The Newest Search Engine

Liz Exo’s Blog Post:

This article gives readers a look at a new search engine that may give Google some competition, according to the author. It’s called Blekko, and it has a few new “dimensions” that makes it interesting to new users.
The author of this article was originally skeptical about this new search engine, but he put it to the test and found that it can definitely compete with the trustworthy Google. So, here are some of the features of Blekko that are newer than what Google is offering;
The “tag” feature allows registered users to add important tags that may apply to the site they are looking at. As long as it is used properly, the tag feature would help let other web surfers know more about the site before they open it up.
The SEO (search engine optimization) feature is great for the owners of a website because it allows them to compare different sites.
The “IP” feature shows the IP address under which the current site is operating. If you choose to use the IP feature, you can see what other sites use the same IP address. This could be interesting to see if this would help you find extra websites, if you were doing a research task, for example.
There are other features like the links, chatter, cache, and spam feature that set Blekko apart from Google as well.
I think this search engine is an interesting concept, and I would love to hear if anyone has any input to see how this could be used in the classroom or maybe just for the benefit of teachers? I seem to think that these features could somehow be put to beneficial use.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Daytona State College - All eBooks

As my title alludes, Daytona State College is looking to get rid of traditional textbooks. The campus started using eBooks in several departments in 2009, and is hoping to be a 100% eBook campus by next fall.
Instead of each book costing students anywhere from $50 to over $200, each eBook will cost about $20. Students can either buy an eReader (like the Kindle or the iPad) at a reduced cost from the school, or read their books from one of the school's computers. Students and teachers could also print out their eBooks and place them in binders, if they so choose.
The CFO of Daytona State College is hoping that by having such a large reduction in costs for textbooks, more students will be able to stay in school.
No one is very sure about the success of this program, however; the National Association of College Stores sent out a survey to college students, which found that 74% of students prefer to have printed textbooks in class.
I have to say, I agree with that 74%. It would be really difficult to have to carry around something like an iPad to every class and/or to the library. I would be really afraid I would drop it. Every classroom would need to have a bunch of power outlets, also, just in case several students' eReaders were losing power at the same time. And, if the students doesn't buy an eReader and just uses a school computer, how would he be able to bring his book to class? There are positives to using eReaders, though; instead of carrying around 4 large textbooks, a student would only need the eReader and it is much more environmentally friendly. All in all, I am really unsure about how I feel about going 100% eReader on a college campus. I think it could have many more problems than benefits.

Digital access, collaboration a must for students

This article was written in response to a survey refereed to as “Speak Up 2009: Creating Our Future: Students Speak Up about their Vision for 21st Century Schools,” which is the latest education technology survey put on by Project Tomorrow. According to the survey. Students are emerging as "free agent learners" which are students who increasingly take learning into their own hands and use technology to create personalized learning experiences.
I think that this article is articulating everything that we have been talking about in class. The survey stresses that using technology in the classroom is becoming increasingly important to students.

The survey noted, "Students, regardless of community demographics, socio-economic backgrounds, gender, and grade, tell us year after year that the lack of sophisticated use of emerging technology tools in school is, in fact, holding back their education—and in many ways disengages them from learning." I feel as though this statement alone expresses everything that I have learned so far in my education classes. In order to close the achievement gap and ensure that our students are succeeding to their highest potential we need to find innovative ways to incorporate technology in the classroom. This semester has really taught me the many ways that I can accomplish this very goal. The report identifies three essential elements of a new emerging student vision for American education. They are:
  • Social-based learning: Students want to leverage emerging communications and collaboration tools to create and personalize networks of experts to inform their education experience.
  • Untethered learning: Students envision technology-enabled learning experiences that transcend the classroom walls and are not limited by resource constraints, traditional funding streams, geography, community assets, or even teacher knowledge or skills.
  • Digitally-rich learning: Students see the use of relevancy-based digital tools, content, and resources as a key to driving learning productivity, and not just about engaging students in learning.
The article also noted "[that] while the three elements offer the potential for remarkably new approaches to teaching and learning in a classroom, students likely will see the use of these emerging technologies as a “natural extension of the way they are currently living and learning outside of that classroom.'"

Overall, I was really impressed with the way that this article truly describe everything that we have been learning in class. I'm really glad that we post all of our stuff online so that we can access these resources and use them in our future classrooms.

Monday, November 1, 2010

State data systems present privacy concerns

This article was all about privacy concerns that are taking place in the state of Indiana with school data systems. Kalina stated "We are truly paranoid about privacy and maintaining the integrity of the system." There has been great concern regarding keeping student records in online data systems. Last year I remember receiving an email from IWU explaining that someone had "accidentally" forwarded a document full of student information including addresses, social security numbers and academic info to a plethora of people on campus. Getting this email was honestly terrifying. How could someone "accidentally" send this type of information. As a student, I was frustrated that the university that I trusted with my personal information had betrayed this trust. After this incident I'm still really hesitate to submit anything to the university online. The article suggested that "Having as few people as possible have access to student-level data is probably the best thing you can do to make sure you maintain [data] privacy and security." Though this statement may seem obvious, in IWU's case apparently the person who was supposed to be in charge of this information misused the privilege whether on accident or not. Overall, great precautions need to be taken before I will feel comfortable with student records being available on online data bases.