R2D2: A model for using technology in education

The Cyber Security Education Consortium has more than 1,200 students.

The R2D2 learning model helps instructors accommodate diverse learning styles.

(Editor’s note: This article was written with college-level instructors in mind, but it’s just as applicable to secondary-school classrooms.)

“We’re doomed.” –C3PO to R2-D2

Frustrated. Challenged. Excited. Passionate. Overwhelmed. Opportunities. Waiting. These are the things I hear when I ask college professors around the world for two or three words to describe the use of web technologies in their classes. It does not matter if I am in Thailand, Taiwan, or Transylvania: I hear the same words. Many view technology as simultaneously a transformative tool for teaching and learning and one that should be avoided where possible. That is not surprising, given the barrage of new technologies to consider since the start of the millennium–including wikibooks, podcasting, Twitter, Second Life, digital books, open educational resources, shared online video, Facebook, and much more.

During the past two decades, I have designed several models and frameworks to help college professors sort through their options. The Read, Reflect, Display, and Do (R2D2) model is one such framework. While some look at it as a learning-style model, it is intended as a problem-solving wheel that represents phases of learning–from reading and exploration, to reflective writing, to visualization of the content learned, to attempts to try it out. R2D2 is also a means to help instructors consider diverse learner needs. At its core, it is also a tool for reflecting on one’s teaching practices. The four phases are described below.

Phase One: Read

The web contains countless resources for reading, researching, and listening. You can have your students discover and read online articles from open-access journals, expert web sites, or online portals of famous scientists like Albert Einstein, Jane Goodall, or Charles Darwin or writers like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, or Edgar Allan Poe. There are tens of millions of online documents to read, discuss, debate, juxtapose, connect, compare and contrast, and perhaps turn into something totally different. Your students might also download and read scores of free eBooks made available by Google, the Internet Archive, ManyBooks.net, Bookyards, and others. Instead of reading from experts, students also might listen to podcasts that relate to course content. Some professors are currently pushing the edges of the risk continuum in this phase of the R2D2 model by using Twitter as a teaching tool. For example, students might be assigned to track the activities of a world-famous person who tweets.

Phase Two: Reflect

A natural next step is for students to blog about the concepts or ideas that they learned from their reading or listening activities. Such blogging might be done individually or in teams. Critical friends within the class or experts outside it might provide feedback on their blog posts. Your students might also read or track the blog posts of experts that relate to the topic of a class or program of studies. To push beyond the instructor as the sole source of knowledge, they might watch and reflect upon keynote speeches and the teachings of other participants from online conferences. Your students might also reflect on cases or scenarios that are posted online.

Phase Three: Display

The third phase involves pictures, timelines, flow charts, diagrams, and films. Such resources can now be found online in nearly any discipline. There are timelines of U.S. presidents, flash animations of cash flow principles, simulations of chemistry experiments, or stunning overviews of statistical procedures. Pubcasts from SciVee bring your students into the world of scientists. They can see and hear from the people who wrote the articles they have read. Shared online videos posted to YouTube, TeacherTube, FORA.tv, Link TV, CNN Video, Google Videos, NASA TV, TV Lesson, and other such places provide tremendous video content to help clarify or explain key course concepts or principles in visual ways.


Video games take bigger role in education

Teachers trying to get students interested in molecular biology, world culture, or space exploration now have a new tool, Reuters reports — video games. As more children grow up playing video games, educators are partnering with game developers and scientists to create new interactive experiences for the classroom. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) game developer Escape Hatch Entertainment created "Immune Attack" to plunge 7th through 12th graders into the microscopic world of immune system proteins and cells. The goal of the game is to save a patient suffering from a bacterial infection. Along the way, players gain an understanding of cellular biology and molecular science. The FAS also worked with UCLA’s Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative and the Walters Art Museum to create "Discover Babylon," a game aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds that teaches about the significance of Mesopotamia in world culture using library and museum objects. And on Jan. 18, serious games developer ARA/Virtual Heroes will release a free downloadable prototype game called "MoonBase Alpha," which has been designed in conjunction with NASA engineers and astronauts to teach science, technology, engineering, and math to students across the United States. The game thrusts players 30 years into the future and requires players to team up and use real scientific thinking to overcome challenges that astronauts might one day face…

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Iowa schools get $60 million for technology

Iowa schools are getting $60 million from software giant Microsoft’s payment to settle an antitrust lawsuit in the state, reports the Des Moines Register. Iowa schools will use the money for technology upgrades, and state officials say it could not come at a better time: The nation’s schools face mounting pressure to find new ways to teach children, who will need critical thinking and high-tech skills to compete for jobs. More than 1,000 Iowa schools, about 75 percent, will get a piece of the Microsoft money, which will go only to schools that report a certain share of children who are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch. The vouchers will go out in January, said Judy Jeffrey, the state’s top education official. School officials who apply for the money must explain how they will tie technology to the Iowa core curriculum, the state’s mandatory blueprint for what students should learn. Microsoft was the target of a federal lawsuit that claimed the company overcharged Iowa consumers and businesses for certain products. The case was settled in 2007, and Microsoft has paid millions of dollars to consumers in several other states as well. Iowa’s share was about $180 million, and Iowa schools were to receive about half of the money not claimed by consumers…

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McGraw-Hill Education’s Online Resources Ease Learning at Home During H1N1 Outbreak

NEW YORK, Dec. 10 – When H1N1 or other illnesses prevent school attendance, students, parents and teachers can now access a variety of McGraw-Hill Education’s free instructional resources on the web. The company’s new Continuity of Learning site complies with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s call to minimize disruptions to classroom teaching and learning in case of school closings or absenteeism caused by H1N1 and other situations.

"Every day, our McGraw-Hill partners with schools and school districts to produce comprehensive teaching and learning solutions preparing students for lifelong success," said Bill Oldsey, executive vice president of McGraw-Hill Education. "We’re very proud to enhance those solutions by offering a variety of digital resources that facilitate teaching and learning well beyond the boundaries of the physical classroom."

Available at www.mhsegsolutions.com/continuity, this McGraw-Hill Education website includes access to digital components of McGraw-Hill Education’s leading PreK-12 instructional programs and resources, including:

  • The Math Connects Web Portal: Math Connects is a research-based, balanced Grades PreK-6 mathematics program with both print and digital instructional tools that help all students learn math concepts and problem solving.


  • The Treasures Web Portal: Treasures provides Grades K-6 students with balanced instruction using high-quality, engaging fiction and nonfiction literature. Research-based, proven strategies and routines give teachers the tools they need to help students succeed in reading and writing. Diagnostic and assessment tools along with leveled materials aid teachers in addressing the needs of all students.
  • Media Library: This resource allows students and teachers to expand their knowledge by providing high-quality multimedia assets for study at home or on the go. View the samples or select your State, Level, Subject and Book to navigate to your textbook resources.
  • Passkey: This modular diagnostic and prescriptive software program for self-paced instruction in Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies is ideal for curriculum supplementation, preparation for standardized tests, at-risk students, and elementary through adult education.

About McGraw-Hill Education
McGraw-Hill Education, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP), is a leading global provider of print and digital instructional, assessment and reference solutions that empower professionals and students of all ages. McGraw-Hill Education has offices in 33 countries and publishes in more than 65 languages. Additional information is available at MHEducation.com.


Parents sue school for role in ‘sexting’ tragedy

The parents of a teenage girl who committed suicide after being harassed over an incidence of sexting, or sending explicit photos via cell phone, are accusing the girl’s school and her peers of playing a significant role in her death.

In 2008, Jessica Logan, a senior high school student from Ohio, sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend. After she and her boyfriend broke up, the boyfriend sent the photo to one of Jessica’s peers, who was 16 at the time. That person, in turn, forwarded the photo to many others.

According to Jessica’s parents, her peers and friends began to harass her mercilessly after the photo was circulated—including to other school districts. When she tried to talk to  school officials, her parents claim, the only action they  took was to ask Jessica’s peers to stop circulating the photo.

Jessica went on a Cincinnati television station to warn other teens about the dangers of sexting. During the interview, her face was not shown. But her TV appearance reportedly had no effect on her constant harassment.

According to a new poll released by the Associated Press and MTV, sexting is relatively common among youth. (See "Poll finds sexting common among youth.")

Two months after the television interview aired, Jessica hanged herself in her closet.

Now, her parents are saying the school’s actions weren’t enough, and if the school had taken more aggressive action against the bullying, Jessica would still be alive today.

In their lawsuit, Cynthia and Albert Logan say the other students’ "degrading sexual insults" caused their 18-year-old daughter severe emotional distress, which led her to kill herself in July 2008, a month after graduating from high school.

They are also suing Logan’s school, Sycamore High, for negligence. They say the school violated their daughter’s constitutional rights by failing to follow policies on harassment.

The filing, described in a Courthouse News Service release, alleges that Jessica sought the help of Sycamore High guidance counselors, who referred her to the school resource officer, co-defendant Paul Payne, a City of Montgomery police officer. Payne told her he "could ask students to delete the photo from their phones but there was nothing else he could do," according to the complaint.

Logan’s parents say Payne claims he "confronted the kids who were harassing Jessie and took her to the prosecutor’s [office] to see if he could press charges, but he said because Jessie was 18 there were no laws to protect her."

When Cynthia Logan decided to go public with her story, she told Matt Lauer of NBC’s The Today Show that a school official told a local television station  he had given Jessica the option of prosecuting her tormentors.

"That was not so. It’s absolutely not true," she told Lauer. "And if he did, why didn’t I get a notice in the mail that he gave her that option?"

"There absolutely is a law," Parry Aftab, executive director of Wired Safety, told Lauer.

"It depends on the age of the child. If somebody’s under the age of 18, it’s child pornography, and even the girl [who] posted the pictures can be charged. They could be registered sex offenders at the end of all of this. Even at the age of 18, because it was sent to somebody under age, it’s disseminating pornography to a minor. There are criminal charges that could be made here."

When contacted by the Associated Press, the school district’s attorney, R. Gary Winters, said that Jessica’s death was a tragedy but school officials are not to blame.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Aftab said that often it’s normal kids, like Jessica, who fall victim to the perils of the internet and the easy exchange of information on cell phones.

"We talked about her being a good kid, a normal kid. Those are most of the ones [who] are sending out those images," she said. "Forty-four percent of boys say that they’ve seen sexual images of girls in their school, and about 15 percent of them are disseminating those images when they break up with the girls."


Wired Safety

Courthouse News Service


Report names top threats to campus networks

Eight out of 10 colleges included in a recent study were deemed vulnerable to cyber attacks that could cost IT departments thousands of dollars, highlighting the security downfalls of decentralized campus networks with little interconnectedness. 

WhiteHat Security, a California-based web site risk management company founded by a former Yahoo information security officer, published a white paper last month saying that 83 percent of educational sites managed by the company are susceptible to viruses, hackers, and other security breaches.

The white paper is the eighth in a quarterly series that examines web site security statistics.

WhiteHat’s analysis is the latest national report to suggest that higher education’s decentralized IT networks create a challenge for technology officials in safeguarding the dozens of various web sites maintained on campus—making colleges and universities an attractive setting for internet hackers trolling for personal information.

Social networking web sites aren’t the only sites more vulnerable to cyber attacks, according to the white paper. The analysis included likely reasons for college networks’ vulnerability.

Cross-site scripting, which often contains "malware-laced … web worms," allows web attackers to bypass a computer’s access controls. The impact can be minor if the hacked web site does not contain sensitive information.

University networks, though, are jam-packed with personal data, such as students’ IDs and Social Security numbers. Cross-site scripting in a school’s site can leave student and faculty information open to anonymous attackers.

Content spoofing is another common tool used by internet hackers, according to the WhiteHat white paper.

Web users receive a link that transfers to a screen instructing them to type in a user name and password. These sites are often hosted with interfaces that mimic a legitimate campus site, making it difficult for users to tell that they are on a fraudulent site designed specifically to steal their personal information.

"Decentralization translates into a lack of control in respect to security," said Stephanie Fohn, WhiteHat’s chief executive officer. "People pretty much do their own thing … and often the university will then try to institute global policies after the fact, but it is very difficult to enforce those."

Information leakage also has posed a persistent threat to campus computer security, according to the report. The leakage occurs when a campus web site "knowingly or unknowingly" reveals software version numbers, error messages, developer comments, source code, and internal IP addresses. A hacker can use any of this information to compromise campus networks.

Shannon Ortiz, director of IT security at Fordham University in New York, said relying on automated machine-run scans of a college’s massive network can produce false positives—a series of warnings that might not be harmful to campus computers—while destructive malware lurks in the background, slowing down internet connections across campus.

"We have a human verify every vulnerability we find," said Ortiz, who has been at Fordham for 18 years and uses WhiteHat security tools. "We get the data back so we know [what] we’re actually finding … and it definitely weeds out the necessary information."

Creating a centralized IT infrastructure and having staff sort through potential security threats, Ortiz said, can help campus decision makers avoid network breaches that affect the college’s bottom line.

"The long-term effects can be a public relations nightmare," he said. "[Faculty members and students] worry about their data, so they might not want to come to a school knowing that their data is at risk. … In the long run, you lose enrollment and quality of faculty."

The WhiteHat report comes three months after Identity Theft 911, an Arizona-based company founded by consumer advocates and experts from the financial industry and law enforcement, released a report called "America’s Universities: A Hacker’s Dream." That report documents some of the largest recent computer security breaches on college campuses and discusses solutions for IT decision makers and students.

Twenty-seven American colleges and universities saw personal records stolen in the first seven months of 2009, and the report concludes that a "sprawling profusion" of disparate computer networks and servers—each with a different security policy—makes IT departments "powerless to enforce any standards," meaning student grades, credit information, and Social Security numbers remain vulnerable.

Campus IT officials said school networks often are vulnerable because thousands of students and faculty access the networks every day using their laptops or other personal mobile devices.

"Many of those we don’t own, we don’t have any management responsibility for them, and yet they do introduce problems we have to deal with," said Robert Ono, the director of technology security for the University of California at Davis.

Ono said 35,000 computers connect to the campus’s network every day.

Centralizing campus computer networks would require categorization of personal information. In this scenario, data would be separated according to sensitivity level, the Identity Theft 911 report says, adding that no one outside the university’s financial aid department would need to know a student’s Social Security number, for example.

Fohn said the culture of higher education is not conducive to airtight IT security measures. With many campus officials supporting online communication between students and faculty, Fohn said, colleges have hesitated to embrace comprehensive security methods.

"There’s an open nature to colleges, and people chafe against being more restrictive," she said. "I think that’s starting to shift, because people are starting to see the need to guard sensitive personal data."


WhiteHat Web Site Security Statistics Report

Fordham University


In the league of extra-ordinary software companies

Today the world recognizes and respects India’s prowess in terms of outsourcing and IT solutions. Indian software companies have created a niche for themselves with software development services par excellence. These services range from offshore software development outsourcing to consultancy across various industry domains. The number of IT companies which are now in a position to provide stiff competition to any international IT contemporary is increasing at a steadfast pace.  

Soft System Solution is one such front runner in terms of highly skilled software outsourcing companies with its presence in New York as well as in India. With an impressive client base collated by providing an array of services, Soft System Solution has the making of one of the premier technology services outsourcing companies in this domain. From professional website design services, ecommerce web designs, flash website designing to astonishingly affordable search engine optimization services, one can be guaranteed that your website or software development needs will be efficiently and effectively catered by Soft System Solution.  

The primary reason this company is on a fast track to success is because of the right investment decisions made by the management. The investments have been made in its people. Come to think of it, one can certainly deem it as a smart move. With a team assembled and nurtured to provide highly professional website design services, the company ensures high level of customer delight with every project and milestone.  

The offshore software development outsourcing business demands adherence to timeline with room for almost zero variance. This is what Soft System Solution is good at. With development centers in India and New York, it ensures that delivery of its software development services is on time. For example, if one is looking for an affordable search engine optimization services, the critical element is to ensure results with a stipulated and mutually agreed span of time while maintaining a low resource count to meet your financial requirements. Here is where Soft System Solution walks the talk.  

There might be a galaxy full of software outsourcing companies when it comes to technology services outsourcing, but there is a league of extra-ordinary companies who deliver results with exceptional consistency. Soft System Solution definitely makes that cut.  

Visit http://www.softsystemsolution.com for more information about the gamut of services provided by Soft System Solution  


Give Your Building a ‘Health Check’

In the week when world leaders meet in Copenhagen to make decisions that could change history, Electrical supplies – Meteor Electrical are getting in on the act by announcing they will offer energy saving consultancy and energy management advice as an additional service from February 2010.


You would have to be living under a rock in the deepest regions of the jungle, or the frostiest regions of the arctic to avoid knowing that climate change is among us, and awareness of your carbon footprint is becoming more and more important. But Charlene McCaffrey from Meteor electrical says their new service offers more than just the feel-good factor: “it isn’t simply a case of replacing inefficient or obsolete systems in order to help the environment” said McCaffrey. “On top of that; in 99.9% of cases, the replacements advised and provided actually pay for themselves over a period of time with almost all saving money over the lifetime of the system.


Meteorelectrical.co.uk will initially service Domestic, Industrial & Commercial clients throughout Northern & Southern Ireland with a view to offering the service into mainland UK in 2011.


The service includes:

Ø      Sketches/Plans of the site

Ø      Specification List detailing fittings & Lamps

Ø      Advice on Decorative lighting & Accessories

Ø      Written Quotation

Advice & recommendations regarding electricians and other lighting related queries


NSF’s “Science Nation” aims to bring science to the masses

"Science Nation" is a free, weekly online magazine from the National Science Foundation that looks at discoveries with the potential to transform our world — such as an artificial retina that can help the blind to see, new materials for building things stronger and lighter, what we’re learning from organisms in hot volcanic vents, and ice core secrets that could reveal the answers to global warming. "Each week, ‘Science Nation’ takes a dynamic, entertaining look at the research — and the researchers — that will change our lives," the site proclaims. http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/index.jsp


More than 10,000 in Mo. seek free tech training

The state says more than 10,000 Missourians have requested vouchers for free technology training being offered through a partnership with Microsoft, reports the Associated Press. The partnership is called Microsoft Elevate America. It offers free access to e-learning and certification programs from Microsoft. Missouri is receiving nearly 25,000 vouchers entitling residents to access specialized e-learning programs for Excel, Word and other Microsoft programs and platforms…

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