Students show practical uses for math, science

Journal Gazette & Times Courier reports that fifth graders from the Mattoon grade in Illinois, like their counterparts in various grades from across the state, combined ingenuity and technology with their studies in science and math to research a variety of environmental and biological topics. Students presented their findings Tuesday in one of many displays in the Eastern Illinois University Grand Ballroom, at a gathering for Project STAR, the Science/Mathematics and Technology Applications and Research initiative.

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Vendor: school bus GPS may cause luekemia

Sun-Sentinel reports that school-district officials are discounting claims that the GPS technology used by everyone from backwoods hikers to drivers navigating the best route to work could cause leukemia among children traveling to and from school on GPS-equipped buses.

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Milwaukee schools to try out blog

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that members of the West Bend School Board’s Technology Committee have launched an internal blog on the district’s curriculum development. If it works out, the district could use blogs as public tools for getting information to parents and students while seeking feedback from them.

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Survey: Online education is ‘growing by degrees’

Nearly two-thirds of all colleges and universities that deliver face-to-face instruction now also offer online courses, and last year’s enrollment in these online courses was up nearly 20 percent over 2003 figures, according to the latest survey representing the state of online instruction at the nation’s higher-education institutions.

“Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005” is the third in a series of annual surveys sponsored by the nonprofit Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and conducted by the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C), a group dedicated to pursuing the benefits of online education. If the survey’s findings are any indication, its authors say, the breadth of online college courses soon could rival traditional brick-and-mortar offerings.

“Colleges and universities are starting to understand that online courses help increase enrollment and improve diversity without the need for additional classrooms,” said Frank Mayadas, president of Sloan-C and program director for the Sloan Foundation. “It also helps address professors’ needs for workplace flexibility, among other issues challenging academia.”

The group’s research, which is based on responses from 1,025 colleges and universities, found that online enrollment increased from 1.98 million students in 2003 to 2.35 million students in 2004. While this growth rate of 18.2 percent was actually down 4.7 percentage points from last year’s survey, three out of four schools said they expected their online enrollments to continue to increase. According to Sloan-C, the rapid growth in online enrollment is ten times greater than the projected rate of expansion by the National Center for Education Statistics for the general postsecondary student population.

For the first time this year, Sloan-C carried out its survey in conjunction with the College Board, a nonprofit membership association of more than 5,000 educational institutions whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity.

“The third year of the Sloan survey was a landmark year for us, because we have now formed a partnership with the College Board,” said Elaine Allen, the report’s co-author. “It gave us a sense that, since the College Board approached us to do this, there is legitimacy to the numbers we produce.”

Hal Higginbotham, president of collegeboard.com, said online learning is rapidly becoming a mainstream college experience.

“Starting this year, we will include Sloan-C questions in our ‘Annual Survey of Colleges’ to better understand online learning in higher education,” Higginbotham said.

“We are hoping to achieve some kind of benchmarking of the trends,” explained Shauna Morrison, vice president of content for collegeboard.com. “Online [learning] is a recent phenomenon. We’re interested in whether it’s going to pan out for the kids. Is it going to continue to grow?”

This year’s Sloan-C survey seems to indicate that it will.

“The statistics that stick this year are the penetration rates,” said Sloan-C’s Allen. “If you offer an online program, or a course in a certain discipline, you are getting to be a majority. You’re likely to offer the same things online that you do in a face-to-face setting.”

About 63 percent of all institutions that offer face-to-face undergraduate courses also offer undergraduate courses online, the study found–and 65 percent of institutions that offer face-to-face master’s-level courses offer master’s-level courses online. The analysis does not address the number of courses that institutions offer in face-to-face versus online modes, but only whether they offer courses in both modes.

Far fewer schools that offer undergraduate-level courses offer entire bachelor’s degree programs online; only 19 percent of these institutions offer both face-to-face and online undergraduate degree programs. But doctoral and master’s programs have online penetration rates of 38 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

Business education programs have the highest online penetration, according to the survey, with 43 percent of colleges offering face-to-face business courses also offering at least one online course. Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities offer 40.2-percent online penetration, and computer and information science programs have an online penetration of 35 percent.

A majority of chief academic officers agree that online education is critical to their long-term strategy. That number has increased from 49 percent in 2003, the first year of the study, to 56 percent in 2005. Small schools and private, nonprofit institutions were least likely to support this view.

The survey also showed that core faculty members teach the majority of online courses at 65 percent of schools offering these courses. This finding dispels the notion that the move toward online education will cost jobs for core faculty, researchers said.

Most academic leaders were neutral on the statement that it takes more faculty time and effort to teach online, but one-third of respondents do believe this to be the case. In schools that offer online courses, a higher percentage of respondents believe it takes more effort and faculty time than those who believe there is no extra effort involved to teach virtually.

“We haven’t seen a lot of maturity yet in online education,” said Allen. “We will be able to see by next year if there are economies of scale,” by which she meant the ease with which teachers approach a course once they’ve previously taught it. “Certainly there is [greater ease] with face-to-face [instruction]. Once I’ve taught [a course] face-to-face, it’s definitely easier the second time around.”

In addition, the survey found that 70 percent of academic leaders in schools that offer online courses believe students need more discipline in an online course than in a face-to-face offering.

“Next year will be the first time we actually reach out to students to see what they think about [this issue],” said Allen.

Links:

“Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005”
http://www.sloan-c.org/resources/growing_by_degrees.pdf

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
http://www.sloan.org

The College Board
http://www.collegeboard.com

Far fewer schools that offer undergraduate-level courses offer entire bachelor’s degree programs online; only 19 percent of these institutions offer both face-to-face and online undergraduate degree programs. But doctoral and master’s programs have online penetration rates of 38 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

Business education programs have the highest online penetration, according to the survey, with 43 percent of colleges offering face-to-face business courses also offering at least one online course. Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities offer 40.2-percent online penetration, and computer and information science programs have an online penetration of 35 percent.

A majority of chief academic officers agree that online education is critical to their long-term strategy. That number has increased from 49 percent in 2003, the first year of the study, to 56 percent in 2005. Small schools and private, nonprofit institutions were least likely to support this view.

The survey also showed that core faculty members teach the majority of online courses at 65 percent of schools offering these courses. This finding dispels the notion that the move toward online education will cost jobs for core faculty, researchers said.

Most academic leaders were neutral on the statement that it takes more faculty time and effort to teach online, but one-third of respondents do believe this to be the case. In schools that offer online courses, a higher percentage of respondents believe it takes more effort and faculty time than those who believe there is no extra effort involved to teach virtually.

“We haven’t seen a lot of maturity yet in online education,” said Allen. “We will be able to see by next year if there are economies of scale,” by which she meant the ease with which teachers approach a course once they’ve previously taught it. “Certainly there is [greater ease] with face-to-face [instruction]. Once I’ve taught [a course] face-to-face, it’s definitely easier the second time around.”

In addition, the survey found that 70 percent of academic leaders in schools that offer online courses believe students need more discipline in an online course than in a face-to-face offering.

“Next year will be the first time we actually reach out to students to see what they think about [this issue],” said Allen.

Links:

“Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005”
http://www.sloan-c.org/resources/growing_by_degrees.pdf

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
http://www.sloan.org

The College Board
http://www.collegeboard.com

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Explore educational software titles with ESPG’s ’05 Preview Guide

The Educational Software Preview Guide (ESPG) Consortium recently announced the release of its “2005 Online Educational Software Preview Guide.” Now in its 22nd year, the guide is published by a consortium that represents organizations involved in evaluating educational software and other technology resources throughout North America. Hosted by the Fermilab Lederman Science Center, the 2005 version is meant to provide guidance for educators looking to integrate technology effectively into their classrooms and includes more than 800 educator-reviewed materials for pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade classroom use. Educators interested in researching relevant software titles can search the guide by keyword, subject, grade level, mode of use, and hardware platform. Though the site contains information about certain software titles, its developers caution that it is not intended to serve as a “buying guide” and “has been developed solely as an aid to educators in locating programs they may want to preview.”

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Loans for rural internet aid are hard to get

New York Times reports cross rural America, entrepreneurs, lawmakers and Internet company executives say they are frustrated with a loan program created by Congress in 2002 to help extend high-speed Internet service to rural areas. Run by the Rural Utilities Service, an arm of the Department of Agriculture, the program has been allocated nearly $3 billion but the agency has lent less than half that.

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Atlanta school to pilot $20M learning initiative

Bizjournals.com reports the BellSouth Foundation will spend $20 million on an eLearning initiative, BellSouth’s 20/20 Vision for Education, and it will use Atlanta’s Carver School of Technology as a pilot for the program. Atlanta-based BellSouth said the initiative is a way to help close the achievement gap and increase graduation rates, particularly among low-income and minority students, across the Southeast. The $20 million will be spent over five years on support for state-led virtual schools and technology based learning.

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Ohio charter schools will go on trial

According to Beacon Journal, Ohio Supreme Court plans to hear arguments Tuesday about the constitutionality of state-funded academies, or charter schools. Beacon Journal says that, because of the sheer size of the movement and its notably poor academic performance, the case merits national attention and portends broad implications.

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Programs aim to stop ‘cyber bullying’

Schoolyard bullies are becoming increasingly high tech, as a growing number of students now engage in “cyber bullying” by spreading rumors through web sites or harassing students through text messages or eMail. To combat this trend, anti-bullying programs across North America are adding information about cyber bullying and its effects on today’s youth.

The federal government, for instance, recently added information about cyber bullying to the $3.2 million “Stop Bullying Now!” campaign that it launched last year. The Beaverton, Ore., school system is revising its health curriculum, and cyber bullying is among the topics that officials there might include. Cyber bullying also has been added as a topic in many internet safety courses, such as the free lessons from i-SAFE America Inc.

Such efforts come at a time when cyber bullying is on the rise, experts say.

In the last month alone, a Portage, Ind., high school student was accused of threatening the life of another student over the internet–and in San Francisco, an unidentified student reportedly hacked into a high school web site, posted a student’s face over vulgar and mocking images, then added racist captions using the victim’s name.

i-SAFE America, a nonprofit internet safety foundation for K-12 students, conducted an online survey of 1,500 children in grades 4-8 last year. In that study, 42 percent of children said they were bullied while online, 35 percent said they were threatened online, and 21 percent said they received mean or threatening eMail or instant messages.

In October, Sameer Hinduja, a criminal justice professor at Florida Atlantic University, and Justin Patchin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, announced the results of their own online survey of 1,400 youths, one of the first major university-sanctioned studies of cyber bullying. More than a third of those surveyed had experienced bullying online, mostly in chat rooms or through text messaging, the researchers said.

The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use (CSRIU) classifies cyber bullying as sending or posting harmful or cruel text or images using the internet or other digital communication devices.

On its web site, CSRIU identifies a handful of different forms that cyber bullying may take, some of which include “flaming,” or sending angry, rude, or vulgar messages; harassment, or repeatedly sending harmful messages; cyber-stalking, or harassment that is highly intimidating or threatens harm; and denigrations–sending or posting untrue or cruel statements.

Bullying itself is nothing new. But experts say technology allows students to take bullying to a new–and potentially more insidious–level.

Cyber bullies are more likely to do or say things online that they normally wouldn’t in person, because electronic means of communication provide invisibility, according to CSRIU. Additionally, the bullying might be worse online or by other electronic means, because those doing the bullying do not actually see the effects of their harsh words or actions on others.

“I do a lot of work with school districts, and cyber bullying is definitely popping up on the radar screen,” said Nora Carr, chief communications officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., Schools. Carr writes a monthly column on stakeholder and community relations for eSchool News and has extensive experience in educational communications and marketing.

“Instant messaging has really taken off, and unfortunately cyber bullying has taken off with it,” Carr said.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 74 percent of teens now use instant messaging as a primary form of communication. And as children become increasingly knowledgeable about technology, Carr said, they find new ways to intimidate others.

“One reason cyber bullying is particularly devastating is that it follows you home,” Carr said. “It invades your sanctuary. They tell kids to walk away from bullies–well, you can’t if it follows you home.”

She added: “I think the scary thing is that it can spread so rapidly. The very things that make technology a boon for fast communication work equally well against people.”

Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), agreed.

“The more insidious aspect of cyber bullying is that it is unrelenting and can go on continuously,” he said. “Traditional bullying is troublesome, but it doesn’t have the same frequency that cyber bullying has, just by virtue of the extended audience” that online forms of harassment have.

Programs such as “Stop Bullying Now!” aim to stifle this trend.

Administered by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, “Stop Bullying Now!” is a campaign to prevent bullying and youth violence in partnership with more than 70 health, safety, education, and faith-based organizations. The program includes a web site with information for teens, parents, and teachers about what bullying is and what stakeholders can do to stop it.

A cyber-bullying scenario is included among the 12 animated “webisodes” on the program’s web site. These webisodes, which offer examples of hurtful behavior, aim to make students think about the consequences of their words and actions. In one of the webisodes, a character named K.B. recalls her first day at a new school, during which a group of girls take a picture of a ketchup stain on her pants and post it online for the entire student body to see, along with the caption, “K.B. = Ketchup Butt.”

The site also includes information about what students should do if they are the victims of cyber bullying.

“If you are being bullied online, don’t reply. This may actually make the bullying worse,” the site says. “Instead, be sure to tell a family member or another adult you trust. If possible, block any more communications from this person. & Save evidence of the bullying. If you get a nasty eMail, print it out or save it so that you can show it to an adult.”

One twist to cyber bullying–as suggested by the “Stop Bullying Now!” scenario–is that girls are just as likely to engage in this behavior as are boys. In fact, this was the theme of a recent musical for teens, performed by Canada-based Stage Kids: The Edu-Tainment Company.

Called “Ctrl Alt Delete,” the show revealed to its audience the truth about bullying: It doesn’t just happen with shoves on the playground or in school hallways, and boys aren’t the only ones who choose to intimidate their peers. While boys tend to bully with physical aggression, girls often resort to more psychological and emotional methods, the musical explained.

“There’s a lot involved in the show, including how cyber bullying occurs, its consequences, and how to deal with it,” said Barbara Onrot, the producer of Stage Kids productions.

Female bullying has been a favorite topic of books and movies such as Mean Girls, but it leaves lasting effects that aren’t portrayed in Hollywood’s versions. Physical, emotional, and mental scars often follow girls into adulthood, sometimes affecting their social skills and career abilities, experts say.

Earlier this year, “It’s a Girl’s World,” a series of radio and television programs by the Canadian Broadcasting Company and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), examined relationships among young girls–and how girls often use friendships to hurt each other and win social power. The program showed how social aggression in girls is being studied for the first time, after decades of research on physical bullying among boys.

“Research conducted around the world shows that girls everywhere are motivated to use their closest relationships as weapons, regardless of class, race, or family background,” says the NFB’s web site.

Experts say students might have a hard time telling parents or teachers about cyber bullying, because they fear adults won’t understand the problem. But programs such as “Ctrl Alt Delete” and “Stop Bullying Now!” urge the victims–and witnesses–of cyber bullying to speak up.

“Kids should speak to someone,” said Onrot. “Of course, they don’t want to tell their parents, but we encourage them to. We show the consequences of what happens if you let it go and don’t talk about it. There’s regret involved–the ‘If only I had said something, if only I hadn’t let this go on.'”

NASP’s Feinberg agreed: “We have to try to convince our children that telling an adult about bullying isn’t a sign of weakness. Let a concerned adult know. Sometimes children endure these behaviors because they believe that they have to, and we have to change that attitude.”

For school leaders, cyber bullying is harder to control, because it can happen in schools and at home. Sometimes, the threatening communication can be tracked on school computers–but it’s much harder to address the issue if it’s happening from home.

“Clearly, schools need to have a well-articulated and broadly distributed code of conduct that should be known by children, parents, and staff. Bullying can be an absolutely terrible, tormenting experience, and schools and homes must work collaboratively in their efforts,” Feinberg said.

Some state officials and internet safety experts advocate legal action to prevent cyber bullying.

Washington State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, in April introduced a bill that would require cyber bullying to be included in schools’ lists of prohibited behavior. Under Washington’s current state law, school districts are required to have policies prohibiting bullying–defined as “written, verbal, or physical acts that negatively affect a student or the school environment.”

Kohl-Welles’ bill would add electronic bullying to this definition. The bill did not pass, but Kohl-Welles said in an eMail message that she hopes the bill will pass in the future.

“[The bill] languished in the Senate Rules Committee with other bills having higher priority at the time,” she said. “I am hopeful in getting it through in the 2006 session.”

Carr said keeping home computers in open spaces is one way parents can prevent cyber bullying.

Children and young adults need to feel not only physically safe but also emotionally safe, and bullying of any kind will affect social relationships and skill development, she said.

“I think we need to be aware that cyber bullying is an issue, that it may be the same bullying we’ve had forever, but it’s taking new forms,” Carr said. “Make students aware that it’s not OK–and it will not be tolerated.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Links:

“Stop Bullying Now!”
http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov

i-SAFE America Inc.
http://www.isafe.org

Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
http://www.csriu.org

National Association of School Psychologists
http://www.nasponline.com

Stage Kids: The Edu-Tainment Company
http://www.stagekids.com

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In store for Kentucky’s ed-tech future

The Kentucky Standard reports that political stances for the 2006 legislative session and a futuristic view of education made for an interesting evening Thursday, at the Region IV Kentucky School Boards Association, hosted by the Bardstown City Schools. On the surprise end, KSBA is getting into the middle of the gaming issue fray.

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