Journalism students turn to Wikipedia to publish stories

Fifty-two percent of students said they frequently used Wikipedia for class work.

Fifty-two percent of students in a recent survey said they frequently use Wikipedia for class work.

College students know the online resource of which they dare not speak: Wikipedia, the voluminous internet encyclopedia demonized by many in higher education—and a resource that two University of Denver instructors use as a centerpiece of their curriculum.

Denver journalism students are writing Wikipedia entries as part of a curriculum that stresses online writing and content creation as readers move to the web en masse.

Journalism instructors Lynn Schofield Clark and Christof Demont-Heinrich said students are told to check their sourcing carefully, just as they would for an assignment at a local newspaper.

“There’s a sense of anxiety about it, because professors have a pretty negative attitude toward Wikipedia,” said Demont-Heinrich, who first assigned the Wikipedia writing to students in his introductory course taught during the university’s recent winter semester.

“Students are leery about mentioning Wikipedia, because they might be subjected to criticism. … But I tell them it’s an online source of knowledge that just has some information that might be questionable, but that doesn’t mean you have to dismiss all of [its content].”

Students in the university’s Media, Film, and Journalism Studies Department have composed 24 Wikipedia articles this year, covering everything from the gold standard to San Juan Mountains to bimettalism, an antiquated monetary standard.

Demont-Heinrich said the Wikipedia entries didn’t require old-school shoe leather reporting—because the online encyclopedia bars the use of original quotes—but they taught students how to thoroughly research a topic before publishing to a site viewed by more than 68 million people a month

Read the full story at eCampus News.


Reading scores hold steady on nationwide test

Fourth grade NAEP reading scores remained unchanged.

Fourth-grade NAEP reading scores remained unchanged.

The reading scores for fourth- and eighth-grade students on a national test held mostly steady last year, continuing a stubborn trend of minimal improvement across most racial, economic, and geographic groups.

Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a series of federally funded achievement tests commonly referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” rose in two states and the District of Columbia in grade four and in nine states for grade eight in 2009. Overall, the fourth-grade average remained unchanged, while eighth-graders rose one point.

Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Utah showed higher eighth-grade scores. In fourth grade, average scores rose in Kentucky, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia, while the average scores fell in Alaska, Iowa, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

The average score for both grades was only four points higher than it was in 1992.

“Today’s results once again show that the achievement of American students isn’t growing fast enough,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

Fourth-grade math scores flattened last year, and eighth-grade scores improved two points—scores that were considered stagnant compared to years of dramatic improvements; there has been a 27-point increase in math scores overall for fourth-grade students since 1990. By contrast, those leaps have never been seen in reading.

“There are tremendous implications for the quality of teaching and the development of school leadership to make sure we have high-performing schools across the country,” said Steven Paine, superintendent of West Virginia schools and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the tests.

The test results come eight years after the enactment of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law championed by President George W. Bush, which set a goal for every student to read and do math at grade-level proficiency by 2014. In 2009, just 33 percent of fourth-grade students and 32 percent of eighth-grade students scored at the proficient level in reading.

President Barack Obama is urging states to turn around low-performing schools and is offering billions in competitive grants aimed at spurring reform in education. The administration also has proposed overhauling NCLB, moving away from punishing schools that don’t meet benchmarks and instead focusing on rewarding schools for progress.

“There’s no magic bullet in all of this,” said David Gordon, a governing board member and superintendent of Sacramento County schools. “I don’t think any project or program is going to create improved performance. I think it’s back to the basics. I think it’s good teaching and good leadership in schools [that] produces improved student performance.”

Fourth-grade students scored 221 on average out of a 500-point scale, with 33 percent at the proficient level, which is considered at grade level. Eighth-graders scored an average of 264, with 32 percent considered proficient. The scores for each grade are four points higher than they were in 1992.

While the overall scores remain relatively unchanged, researchers say there are important trends—and progress—taking place within subgroups. Tom Loveless, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, noted that the gap between the lowest and highest performers has consistently been shrinking from year to year.

The lowest 10th percentile of fourth-graders scored an average of 170 in 1992 and 175 in 2009, and those in the 25th percentile increased their average from 194 to 199 during the same years. Meanwhile, the highest-performing students jumped three points, from 261 to 264.

“To the extent that there are gains, they’re found amongst the lowest achievers,” Loveless said.

He suspects that pattern is related to the enactment of more accountability systems at the state and federal level that focus attention on the lowest achievers and punish or reward schools based on progress with that group.

The report also offers a snapshot of how students are doing across racial and ethnic lines as the face of the average United States classroom continues to change. White students made up 56 percent of fourth-grade test takers in 2009, compared with 73 percent in 1992, reflecting the growing diversity of schools in America. In the same period, Hispanic students have increased from 7 to 20 percent.


ACLU mulling lawsuit over fake cameras installed in school bathrooms

Principal Stephanie Nance thought she had a creative solution to vandalism in some bathrooms at Florida’s Crestwood Middle School, reports the Palm Beach Post: She installed fake surveillance cameras to deter would-be graffiti artists. But the outcry began almost immediately. Parents, who heard about the cameras from their children, wanted to know why their children’s privacy was being intruded upon. “If it is fake, I still have a problem with that,” said Michael Messineo, whose 12-year-old daughter attends the school. “But I don’t know that it’s fake. I don’t know if there were images on a computer somewhere. My concern is the safety of the children.” As quickly as they went up last week, the cameras came back down over the weekend, the school district says. But the incident highlights a growing debate in education about how to balance the safety of students with their right to privacy, particularly in a digital world where the line between public and private is so often blurred. Jim Green, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Palm Beach County chapter, said the ACLU is considering whether to pursue a lawsuit against the school. He said even a fake camera can intrude into the children’s privacy by evoking the feeling of being watched…

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A move to incorporate computing into the math curriculum

The latest draft of the Common Core Standards Initiative recommends making computer science a part of high school math education, Dr. Dobbs reports. The draft standards, developed together with teachers, school administrators, and experts, seek to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare U.S. children for college and the workforce. Interestingly, “computer science” is included as a senior-level high school course for students who meet the “readiness level” by grade 11 within the latest draft of the common math standards. According to John White, CEO of the Association for Computing Machinery, “Given the critical role of computing for our global information society in preparing students with the knowledge and skills they need for the 21st century, this inclusion in the draft Common Core Standards is a huge boost for the field and its future…”

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Privacy battle looms for Facebook, Google

European regulators are investigating whether the practice of posting photos, videos, and other information about people on sites such as Facebook without their consent is a breach of privacy laws, reports the Associated Press. The Swiss and German probes go to the heart of a debate that has gained momentum in Europe amid high-profile privacy cases: To what extent are social networking platforms responsible for the content their members upload? The actions set the stage for a fresh battle between American web giants and European authorities a month after an Italian court held three Google executives criminally responsible for a user-posted video ( Any changes resulting from the investigation could dramatically alter the way Facebook, Google’s YouTube, and others operate—shifting the responsibility for ensuring personal privacy from users to the company…

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eBook sellers face a battle to win iPad customers

When it comes to buying and selling books on the iPad, we’re about to witness a strange dance between those who make or sell electronic books and those who read them, reports the New York Times. On April 3, when customers pick up their Apple iPads and want to purchase an eBook, they will have to decide which online bookstore they want to give their money to. From the start, no one bookstore will come with an advantage: No matter which bookstore application iPad owners choose, they will have to download it first. Even Apple’s iBookstore won’t come preloaded on the device. Some booksellers might try to attract customers with better pricing or compatibility with their existing e-libraries. With so many choices for consumers on the iPad, eBook sellers will face the challenge of creating new experiences and incentives to lure customers. And that’s going to be good for bookworms…

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Can the iPhone save higher education?

What happens when you give about 2,000 college students and their teachers Apple iPhones and iPod Touches and tell them “Go mobile, go digital?” No one knows. But that’s what Abilene Christian University is trying to find out with its Mobile Learning project, Network World reports. What ACU is trying to explore isn’t whether the iPhone itself will transform teaching and learning, but whether always-on, always connected, personal digital devices and social networks can. Higher-education computing programs now often mandate or provide wireless laptops, but many of these are ad-hoc efforts, with more or less no funding. By contrast, when ACU first gave 650 entering freshmen in 2008 a choice of iPhone or iPod Touch, it was already putting in place a funded program to equip and encourage faculty to begin exploiting the handsets in the classroom, and a framework to evaluate the results. The goal, in effect, was eventually to turn the entire campus into a laboratory for mobile learning research, experimentation, and analysis. “Based on the feedback we’re getting, we’re convinced it’s working,” says CTO Kevin Roberts…

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Pennsylvania establishes first statewide Digital Learning Library

Penn State University is helping to create the content to be included in the DLL.

Penn State University is helping to create the content to be included in the DLL.

In a groundbreaking effort to give educators and students free access to standards-aligned digital media content, Pennsylvania has announced the launch of its Digital Learning Library (DLL), which aims to bring learning into the 21st century though interactive and customizable digital content.

Recently, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) formed an education technology initiative to create digital learning resource centers aligned with state standards and connected with student data systems. The goal was to help teachers find free, high-quality educational materials to help them address their students’ learning needs. (See “Free digital resource centers coming soon.”)

Now, thanks to a partnership with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and Penn State Public Broadcasting (WPSU, an affiliate of PBS), Pennsylvania has created and launched the first of these state DLLs, providing thousands of digital assets to classrooms statewide.

“Digital media is transforming children’s lives, from the way they play to the way they learn,” said Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS.

“Digital media allows for collaboration and interaction—it’s not just information that’s being fed to you. We must embrace technology in order to teach to today’s children. It is with this in mind that PBS is proud to partner with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and WPSU to provide the commonwealth of Pennsylvania [with] a standards-aligned DLL.”

The DLL originated two years ago as a way to harness the most relevant and high-quality curriculum materials produced by public TV stations to improve student achievement.

“A lot of focus today is placed on assessments,” said Gerald Zahorchak, Pennsylvania’s secretary of education. “But what really needs to be in place as well is a strong curricular framework.”

Zahorchak described the components that make up the Pennsylvania standards-aligned-system (SAS): clear standards, fair assessments, a curricular framework, instructional materials and resources, and interventions and safety nets.

“In order to have a great curricular framework, you have to have the best materials and resources, and that’s why we decided on this partnership,” said Zahorchak.

All assets in the DLL are aligned with state and local standards, and the collection hosts both nationally and locally created content. The content is offered exclusively through local public television stations, and assets include video, audio, images, games, and interactive content.

“We want to maximize the opportunity of the power of broadband,” said Rob Lippincott, senior vice president of education for PBS. “We think this is coming at a great time, [owing] to the recent announcement of the National Broadband Plan. We also wanted to help individualize instruction by providing multiple modalities of learning.”

According to Ted Krichels, general manager of WPSU, Penn State University is helping to create the content to be included in the DLL, thanks to the work of its Nobel Prize-winning faculty and its strength in research and education practice.

“Not only do we have expertise in the creation of digital media, but we also help to underscore the educational mission of local public broadcasting,” explained Krichels.

Krichels demonstrated two specific examples of the kinds of media teachers can expect to find in the DLL.

One was a video of a 3-D representation of a city’s underground water infrastructure. The other demonstration showed students, through expert interviews and satellite imagery, how geospatial technology can influence a person’s life.

How to use the DLL

The DLL, located here, lets educators search for digital assets by subject and by grade level.

After completing either a basic or advanced search, educators can find relevant digital content, as well as any posted lesson plans, instructional content, resources, or assessments.

Each asset includes a description, grade level, the length of the asset, the size of the media file, and the rights and credit information.


Class in 140 characters or less?

Fourteen percent of college faculty said they saw educational value in social media like Facebook.

Only 14 percent of college faculty said they saw educational value in social media such as Facebook.

There are more than 20 million college students in America, and more than 50 percent will not graduate. The No, 1 reason contributing to student dropout rates is a lack of engagement. The billion-dollar question for our education system is: How do we motivate and stimulate students to take a more proactive role in their academic success?

An obvious starting point might be the environments in which we know today’s students are currently engaged, all day, every day—social networks. To date, a significant chasm has existed between students’ interactive, stimulating experiences with social media and the reality of their “low-tech” classrooms.

Of course, there are exceptions, but on the whole, the nation’s higher-education system isn’t yet capitalizing on the social networking and Web 2.0 tools that keep today’s digital natives motivated. It’s time to unleash that potential.

In a recent McGraw-Hill Education survey, a staggering 98 percent of students agreed social networking is beneficial to their education. Yet a CDW-G survey indicated only 14 percent of instructors believe there is educational value in using social networking sites.

This disconnect between student and instructor perceptions stretches across the range of social media sites and even to what many in the commercial sector now think of as traditional technologies.

Given the nature of higher education—that is, a culture typically built on collaboration, research, shared information, and real-time communication—it seems only natural that social media would be an important education technology tool for instructors and students alike.

Read the full story at eCampus News.


New online social network aims to encourage effective teaching

Site of Week 032410Taking advantage of current social media technology, Teachers Network—with funding from the Ford Foundation—has introduced a new online forum for collaboration on issues affecting educators. The web site aims to bring together educators and policy makers within a national online community to share ideas, suggestions, and best practices for improving teacher effectiveness and retention. The site includes findings from a recent survey conducted by Teachers Network, called “What Keeps Effective Teachers in the Classroom,” suggesting that effective teaching is largely the result of continued professional development, support for teacher collaboration, and opportunities for leadership.