To ‘friend’ or not to ‘friend’: Professor-student Facebook relationships

Student-led Facebook groups rail against the presence of faculty on the site.

Kathryn Linder used to accept Facebook friend requests from her students, until the Suffolk University official considered the repercussions of blending her social and professional lives.

Linder, assistant director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Suffolk in Boston, activated Facebook’s most stringent privacy settings when she realized students could see her profile page and various posts, comments, videos, and photos.

“Eventually all they could see was my name and eMail address, so it didn’t seem purposeful to accept friend invitations anymore,” said Linder, who published a list of suggestions for how instructors should interact with their students on social media sites. “It’s important to keep in mind that it is the instructor’s responsibility, not the student’s, to create and enforce appropriate boundaries for social networking in the classroom and out.”

Few in higher education faced the dilemma of “friending” students on Facebook when college students first flocked to the site in the mid-2000s. But as Facebook accounts become commonplace among all ages, faculty members find themselves in the awkward position of accepting or rejecting students’ friend invitations, and according to a 2010 research paper, most instructors choose the latter.

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US students stressed out: study

First-year students on US campuses are experiencing record levels of stress, according to a study showing increasing financial and academic pressures on young people entering university, reports the AFP. The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study, which surveyed 200,000 students entering their freshman year on American campuses last year, was released Thursday and found that just under 52 percent reported their emotional health was very good or “above average.” That figure represents a major decline from 1985, the first year of the self-ratings survey, when nearly two-thirds of incoming freshmen placed themselves in those categories. It’s also a decline of 3.4 percentage points from 2009…

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LA police: wounded school officer made up story

The report of a school police officer shot last week touched off one of the largest Los Angeles-area manhunts in recent memory and forced thousands of students to remain in their classrooms for hours as officers searched for the attacker. Now law enforcement officials allege Officer Jeffrey Stenroos was lying when he said a gunman shot him in the chest as he patrolled near a San Fernando Valley high school Jan. 19th, the Associated Press reports. He was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of filing a false police report.

“The current state of the investigation refutes Stenroos’ initial account of the incident and we are now certain that there is no outstanding suspect in this shooting,” Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference Thursday night.

A law enforcement official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the case, said Stenroos was mishandling a firearm when he was shot, but he did not go into any more detail…

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Netflix CEO wades into net neutrality debates

Netflix, the DVD mail-order-company-turned-online-video-giant, is firing back at cable and telecom firms as it weighs in on an increasingly thorny debate over net neutrality, the Washington Post reports. In a blog Thursday, Netflix published a ranking of how internet service providers perform in delivering Netflix’s online streaming videos. Chartered gets highest marks for delivering videos at high speeds, therefore better resolution. Clearwire is ranked last in the United States (of course, Clearwire is a wireless firm, which isn’t exactly an apples to apple comparison). Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Cox rank high. And after reporting strong fourth-quarter earnings, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a letter to shareholders that the practice by Internet service providers such as Comcast of charging networking firms such as Level 3 more to bring videos and other content to users is “inappropriate…

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Community Colleges: Where’s our $12 billion?

The Obama administration has touted community colleges as the one institution in higher education that can best adapt to the nation’s economic realities and still deliver the education and training Americans so desperately need, reports NPR. During a 2009 speech, President Obama promised $12 billion for community colleges. But they never saw any of that money because the president couldn’t sell his plan to Congress. Now the ongoing cuts in state funding for higher education are so deep that community colleges are struggling to deliver the very services they’ve been praised for…

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Brooklyn College revokes instructor’s appointment to teach Mideast politics

Last fall, it was an assigned book that brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict home to Brooklyn College. A wealthy alumnus said he was cutting the college out of his will because all incoming freshmen had been asked to read “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” by Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor there.

This week, it was a course — a graduate seminar on Middle East politics scheduled for the spring semester. The focus of the dispute was the adjunct professor who had been appointed to teach it, a doctoral student whose writings raised hackles even before he set foot in the classroom.

On Thursday, the professor, Kristofer Petersen-Overton, said he had learned a day earlier that the college was rescinding his appointment, saying he lacked the academic qualifications to teach such a high-level course, reports the New York Times. But the timing of that decision has led Mr. Petersen-Overton and others to question whether the decisive factor might have been politics…

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Forum explores how to spur school innovation

Panelists at a recent forum focused on how to encourage more innovation in education.

Innovation was a key theme of President Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 25, and it also was the theme of a recent forum in Washington, D.C., that explored how policy makers and education leaders can encourage more innovation in the nation’s schools.

Hosted by the Aspen Institute, the Education Innovation Forum kicked off Jan. 20 with Education Secretary Arne Duncan calling on states to implement the Common Core standards and integrate more technology into classrooms.

“We’re nowhere near where we need to be as a country,” Duncan said. “The brainpower here, the innovation, the creativity [can help us] get not just incremental change, but … dramatically better outcomes for young people.”

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s recent visit to the United States raises questions about U.S. competitiveness in the global economy, and Duncan listed several facts that “compel us to act differently.”

For one thing, the high school dropout rate in the U.S. is around 25 percent, which translates into about a million students every year. “That’s economically unsustainable [and] morally unacceptable,” Duncan said. “There are no good jobs out there in a globally competitive economy for high school dropouts.”

He also cited the mediocre performance of U.S. students on a recent international exam, as well as the nation’s college attainment rate.

“A generation ago we led the world in college graduation rates, [and now] we’ve flat-lined,” he said. “While we’ve stagnated, nine other countries have passed us by. They’re out-educating us, they’re out-investing, they’re out-innovating, and they’re going to out-compete us and continue to out-compete us.”

Duncan said common standards are necessary to accurately compare schools across the nation.

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School district turns snow days into ‘e-days’

A small rural Ohio school district is experimenting with a new version of the traditional snow day — one that some kids are not likely to enjoy much, the Washington Post reports. When snow makes it took difficult to keep schools in operation, classes are canceled and kids sleep in and goof off the rest of the day. But this year the Mississinawa Valley School District, on the Ohio-Indiana border, has lessons ready for students on their computers at home that they are expected to do. There are rules, too, for kids who don’t have home computers: They are expected to complete the work too, though they have longer to do it because they don’t get the assignments until they get back to school…

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Facebook boosts security, allows ‘sponsored stories’

Facebook unveiled new security enhancements on Jan. 26 designed to protect the content of users’ profiles, RedOrbit reports. The new security tools include the availability of one-time passwords that members can use at shared computers in places such as airports or coffee shops, where keystrokes might be saved. Users can request a one-time-only password that expires in 20 minutes by sending a mobile phone text message “otp” to 32665.  The mobile phones must be registered in Facebook users’ accounts to receive the temporary passwords. The announcement of the new tools coincides with this week’s international Data Privacy Day, the company said. “This Friday is Data Privacy Day, an international effort by governments, businesses and advocacy groups to raise awareness about the importance of staying in control of personal information. A key part of controlling information has always been protecting it from security threats like viruses, malware and hackers,” wrote Alex Rice, a security engineer with Facebook, in a posting on the company’s blog…

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U.K. university awards first Beatles degree

A Canadian woman has become the first person in the world to graduate with a Masters degree in Beatles studies, Reuters reports. Former Miss Canada finalist Mary-Lu Zahalan-Kennedy was one of the first 12 students to sign up for the Liverpool Hope University course on the Fab Four when it began in 2009 and was the first to graduate, the university said on Jan. 26. “I am so proud of my achievement,” Zahalan-Kennedy said. “The course was challenging, enjoyable and it provided a great insight into the impact the Beatles had and still have to this day across all aspects of life.” The launch of the unique MA in Beatles, Popular Music and Society was a world first when it took its first class. Zahalan-Kennedy was the first to accept her degree in person from the university. The course looks at the studio sound and composition of the Beatles and how Liverpool helped to shape their music. The MA examines the significance of their music and how it helped to define identities, culture and society…

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