Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Here’s the follow up to the story of the student who faced expulsion for running a Facebook study group for his chemistry class.  He was not expelled but does have to take a course in academic honesty.  In addition, he’ll get a zero for the homework, which counts as 10% of the grade.

This sounds like a triumph for digital natives over digital immigrants.  But, unlike when I made the first post, now I’m not so sure what I think.  I talked to some of the teachers I was working with this week, and they pointed out that unlike a face to face study group that usually has 5 to 10 members, this group had 146 members.  And, the follow up article makes a crucial point: “The professor had asked that students perform their work independently.”

That sentence hit me hard because I am always arguing that the piece where the immigrants can have an influence on students is in the ethics department.  There is certainly no way that we could argue that working with a group of students in Facebook could be considered doing your work independently.  And, if it was an unstated assumption, then I could back them up.  But, in this case, the professor stated that he expected independent work. Doesn’t he have a right to punish students who violate that stated expectation?

I suppose we could argue about the expectation itself.  We live in a networked world in which the traditional view of a solitary student studying seem outdated.  We live in a world in which students will be working collaboratively to solve problems.  But, we also live in a world in which, now and then, you are expected to work alone.  We live in a world in which we are expected to do the right thing even when no one is watching.  In this case, considering the prof’s expectations, the right thing to do seems to be that you work alone.

I think the most frustrating part of this for me is that we are hearing everything second hand.  The first article did not mention the fact that the prof expected them to work alone.  And, that one sentence doesn’t give enough information: work alone on projects? work alone on homework?


Brenda Dyck, over at wwwedu, posted a link to this article about a Canadian college student accused of cheating because he organized a Facebook study group where students worked together on their homework. Turns out it is the university’s responsibility to make sure that students do their own homework. As the students rightly point out, there are many face to face study groups in which students are working on homework, but none of them have been expelled.

To me, it seems like a clear case of the “digital divide” between young people and adults, with the latter having a misunderstanding of social networking. I’m impressed that students are using Facebook for more than just idle chatter. In addition, I would guess that these future chemists will be collaborating with others throughout their careers so they are getting a good start on that skill as well.

Maybe part of the concern is that once the homework problems are posted this semester, students in future courses won’t have to actually do the homework. Hmm…you mean the instructor might have to find new problems? Or reconsider how to teach the course using Facebook as part of the curriculum rather than banning it?

Just finished reading The American West by Dee Brown, who is probably best known for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the classic history of Native Americans. The American West is a collection of short historical pieces roughly organized in chronological order. It reviews much of the Native American history but also covers railroads, cowboys, and the rise and fall of Western towns. I really enjoyed it, despite having a pretty solid knowledge of much that it covers. My husband and I have explored a good bit of the territory that Brown describes, mostly during our Lewis and Clark trip in 1998.

Part of what made The American West so good was the extensive use of photographs and maps. I think history is often a dull subject to students because it the materials tend to text-based, and unless you’ve got an engaging writer like Brown, the endless dates, names and locations can be overwhelming.  For me,  history lives in the stories that Brown tells and those photographs and maps helped flesh out the story for me.

This morning, I sat down to add the book the my LibraryThing catalog and then started poking around the Library of Congress website. What a treasure trove of visual representations! The site covers not just items in the LOC collection but also links to other sites, such as the University of Washington’s online exhibit about the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest. These repositories offer a wealth of materials for the teacher to use but also for digital storytelling projects as well.

I searched the Google maps directory and was surprised that I couldn’t find an overlay about Native Americans or even western history.  What a great project that would be for students who are studying history.  It helps make the link between geography and history.  For instance, the National Park Service has an interactive map for the Battle of Little Bighorn that can be used with Google maps satellite view to better understand the terrain and the battle itself.   I was never very good at deciphering battles from text descriptions so this offers some new understanding.

 I’ve been reading Native American history lately, and I have a draft of a blog post about the American West waiting for a little more work.  So, I eagerly clicked on the link in my gmail this morning that took me to this Discovery Channel article about new archaeological discoveries related to Native Americans.  It seems that, based on mitochondrial DNA, they can be traced to six founding mothers.  The article itself is worth a look, especially for educators, since at the bottom of the first page there is a nice video about the “cool” job of archaeology.

Here’s my question on this early Sunday morning: how did Google know?  Or, was it just a coincidence?  I’m used to the links at the top of the page being related to my email.  In fact, it’s even funny sometimes how they find just the right link to go with whatever I’m reading.  But, as far as I know, I haven’t either sent or received email related to Native Americans.  I have, however, done several Google searches so perhaps that’s where it’s coming from.  Or, maybe, it is just a coincidence.  And, while it worries me a little that Google seems to know a lot about me, I’m also sort of happy since I probably wouldn’t have found the article on my own.

State report shows many students are not ready for college –

From today’s ASCD SmartBrief, a report that while some 80% of Massachusetts high school grads go on to college, 37% of them are ill prepared and require remediation.  The article quotes a higher ed official and a NJ department of ed official about the report:

“This reports what we’ve known anecdotally for some time, and that is there are certain groups of students that, despite our best efforts, are still not graduating from high school ready to pursue college-level work immediately,” said Eileen O’Connor, spokeswoman for the Board of Higher Education.

Acting Commissioner of the Department of Education Jeffrey Nellhaus said: “We hope that the data in this report serves as a catalyst for steps to be taken statewide to improve the academic preparation and performance of the Commonwealth’s public school students.”

Or, maybe now is the moment for us to realize that children and young people and even oldsters like me learn and mature at different rates and are ready for different learning experiences at different times.  I taught one of those remediation writing courses at a public university, where students had three semesters to pass in order to gain admission.  Sadly, some of them took the course three times and still failed.  Some failed because their skills were still weak, but many because they just didn’t want to be there.  I couldn’t help but thinking that we were really wasting their time, time they could have been using to move into the world and learn more about themselves rather than academic writing styles.

I wasn’t ready for my own first experience with graduate school.  I graduated with honors from William and Mary but didn’t really have the necessary passion to be a literature professor nor the discipline to be a full-time writer.  In addition, my personal life intervened, making school difficult.  I dropped out after taking much of the course work and discovering a love for rhetoric and African American writers that I carry with me to this day.   I know what it feels like to fail educationally.  I just wasn’t ready.  I certainly don’t blame WM.   And that doesn’t mean I gave up.  I just had to wait for the right time and the right program.  Later, I found the perfect MA program, designed for writing teachers rather than English professors.  I loved it, and my thesis on literacy continues to inform the way I think about new media.

I finished that degree in 1991; now, 25 years after completing my BA in English at the same school, I’m moving towards completing my PhD.  In those 25 years, I did public relations for an art museum, taught high school and middle school, learned about technology, got pretty passionate about educational technology, and, voila, the perfect PhD program seemed to materialize in front of my eyes.  I was ready, and the education was there.  While I admire young professors who found their passions early on, I’m happy that I waited this time.

OK, I think I’m starting to sound a little mystical here and getting away from the original point:  students are very much individuals, and as much as we would like it if we could somehow guarantee that each one has identical skills and knowledge when they pick up that high school diploma, that simply isn’t going to happen because each person brings her own dispositions, her own passions, her own concerns, her own learning styles to those skills and knowledge.  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my vision of education.  I tend to be a pragmatist who tries to work with people where they are, but in my heart, I have a sense that if we really were willing to change everything, school could be this amazing experience, rather than something that kids get through.

So, part of my vision of edutopia includes multi-age classrooms where each child gets the time they need to learn, but more importantly, the room they need to find their passions.  One of the hallmarks of a leader according to Warren Bennis is passion.  I think this is easier to envision at the elementary school level because I think there’s a sense that, at some point if we do it right, all students should be at the same place at least when they hit high school.  At the secondary level, edutopia means that we start redefining “college” and finding ways to blur high school and college experiences.  Helping kids make a plan for the future that makes sense to them and supports them beyond their walk across the high school gym stage.

So, here’s one of those weird conjunctions of old and new technologies. The website is called Flashcard Friends and allows users to create, tag, and share sets of flashcards. The cards can include audio, video, and images. I did a quick browse and found everything from Spanish to medicine. As someone who has used flashcards to study as recently as a semester or two ago, I’m a firm believer in them as a content learning tool. And, of course, I like just about anything that digitizes a formerly analog process, so this makes sense. But I feel just a little ambivalent as well. I mean, we have this technology that can change everything about how we teach and learn, and what are we using if for? Flashcards! On the other hand, as someone who works with teachers and administrators who are all along the continuum of educational technology awareness and use, this might be the low threshold application that gets them in the door.

This is a perfect example of leadership skills in the 21st century. These students know how to take advantage of the media that is available to them. The video below is just terrific!

There are also two websites set up:

Marc Fisher – College Got What It Signed Up For –

This is a bit off topic from educational technology and media, but I think this editorial does a good job of summing up what happened to Gene Nichol.  I am very disappointed in my college right now.  But, I am very proud of Nichol and his unwillingness to let the Board of Visitors shunt him off the field without at least a little fight.  I can’t help wondering what’s going to happen now?  Will the cross go back onto the altar?  Thus reversing the small step that Nichol took towards reaching out to non-Christian students?  Will the sex show go away?  Thus, reversing the small step that Nichol took towards offering a wider view of the world than many WM students have had?  And, finally, what about his work towards diversifying the campus?  Surely, the Board of Visitors can’t have a problem with that, right?

My biggest regret in this whole thing is that I was silent, not offering Nichol the kind of support that might have made the Board think twice before making their decision.

Today I am doing a workshop for principals about integrating technology. This is the third workshop with this group: they’ve had the big picture (globalization, 21st century skills), been introduced to some Web 2.0 tools, and now the job is to put all that together and figure out what it looks like in the classroom. If you want a peek at what I’m doing, here’s the link to the wikispaces page.

The page includes a quote from Education Week, January 30, 2008:
“Technologically literate students not only know how to operate hardware and software, they can also analyze the information flowing through it, evaluate that digital content’s relative merit and relevance, and use it creatively and ethically in communicating with others.”

Boy, that’s got to be one of the best summaries of the skills our students need as they move into their lives.  And, according to the article, we are not assessing these skills at all. Oh, there are tests out there, but because NCLB does not require testing, most schools and states are not interested.  Plus, as someone who was involved in Virginia’s SOL technology test, I would argue that a paper/pencil test is not the way to do that assessment.  These kinds of skills must be integrated into everything kids do in school and assessed formatively rather than summatively.

Ed in 08

I haven’t signed the pledge but the video is very compelling. And, I certainly agree that I would like to hear A LOT more about education from the candidates.