Culture change needed to attract, keep teachers in struggling schools

A new report released by The Education Trust emphasizes the need for policy and culture changes in the public education sector, and not just updated teacher evaluation systems, the Huffington Post reports.

“Making evaluations more meaningful is a critical step toward improving our schools. But being able to determine who our strongest teachers and principals are doesn’t mean that struggling students will magically get more of them,” Sarah Almy, director of teacher quality at The Education Trust and co-author of the report, said in a statement. “We have to be intentional about creating the kinds of supportive working environments in our high-poverty and low-performing schools that will make them more attractive to our strongest teachers.”

According to the report, teachers’ job satisfaction hinges more on the culture of the school — namely the quality of school leadership and staff cohesion — than it does on the demographics of the students or teacher salaries. Teachers who view their work environment in a positive light are more likely to evoke positive outcomes in their students…

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How a lone grad student scooped the government—and what it means for your online privacy

The FTC is ill-equipped to find out, on its own, what companies like Google and Facebook are doing behind the scenes, a ProPublica investigation reveals.

(Editor’s note: As the FTC tries to protect consumers’ online privacy—by publishing a report targeting the data-collection practices of mobile apps for kids, for instance, and launching a voluntary Do Not Track program for tech companies—an investigative report from the nonprofit journalism service ProPublica reveals how hamstrung the agency is in these efforts. Here’s ProPublica’s report, which was co-published with Wired.)

Jonathan Mayer had a hunch.

A gifted computer scientist, Mayer suspected that online advertisers might be getting around browser settings that are designed to block tracking devices known as cookies. If his instinct was right, advertisers were following people as they moved from one website to another even though their browsers were configured to prevent this sort of digital shadowing. Working long hours at his office, Mayer ran a series of clever tests in which he purchased ads that acted as sniffers for the sort of unauthorized cookies he was looking for. He hit the jackpot, unearthing one of the biggest privacy scandals of the past year: Google was secretly planting cookies on a vast number of iPhone browsers. Mayer thinks millions of iPhones were targeted by Google.

This is precisely the type of privacy violation the Federal Trade Commission aims to protect consumers from, and Google, which claims the cookies were not planted in an unethical way, now reportedly faces a fine of more than $10 million. But the FTC didn’t discover the violation. Mayer is a 25-year-old student working on law and computer science degrees at Stanford University. He shoehorned his sleuthing between classes and homework, working from an office he shares in the Gates Computer Science Building with students from New Zealand and Hong Kong. He doesn’t get paid for his work and he doesn’t get much rest.

If it seems odd that a federal regulator was scooped by a sleep-deprived student, get used to it, because the federal government is often the last to know about digital invasions of your privacy. The largest privacy scandal of the past year, also involving Google, wasn’t discovered by federal regulators, either. A privacy official in Germany forced Google to hand over the hard drives of cars equipped with 360-degree digital cameras that were taking pictures for its Street View program. The Germans discovered that Google wasn’t just shooting photos: The cars downloaded a panoply of sensitive data, including emails and passwords, from open Wi-Fi networks. Google had secretly done the same in the United States, but the FTC, as well as the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees broadcast issues, had no idea until the Germans figured it out.

Nearly every day, and often several times a day, there is fresh news of privacy invasions as companies hone their ability to imperceptibly assemble a vast amount of data about anyone with a smart phone, laptop or credit card. Retailers, search engines, social media sites, news organizations—all want to know as much as they can about their visitors and users so that ads can be targeted as precisely as possible. But data mining, which has become central to the corporate bottom line, can be downright creepy, with companies knowing what you search for, what you buy, which websites you visit, how long you browse—and more. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Target realized a teenage customer was pregnant before her father knew; the firm identifies first-term pregnancies through, among other things, purchases of scent-free products. It’s akin to someone rifling through your wallet, closet or medicine cabinet, but in the digital sphere no one picks your pocket or breaks into your house. The tracking is done mostly without your knowledge and, in many cases, despite your attempts to stop it, as Mayer discovered.

The FTC is the lead agency in the government’s effort to ensure that companies do not cross the still-hazy border between acceptable and unacceptable data collection. But the agency’s ambitions are clipped by a lack of both funding and legal authority, reflecting a broader uncertainty about the role government should play in what is arguably America’s most promising new industry.

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Online learning platform uses ‘Hollywood Squares’ model to boost engagement

Most MBA@UNC class sections have a dozen students.

The ever-present temptations of Facebook, Twitter, eMail, instant messaging, text messages, and online shopping are no match for face-to-face-to-face-to-face interaction.

The cure for the perpetual web-based distractions of class time in the online classroom might be webcams that put every face of every student on screen for everyone to see. Accountability might be the key to holding students’ attention.

Officials from the University of North Carolina’s online MBA program, known as MBA@UNC, said an online learning platform designed and operated by a Maryland-based company called 2tor has created a web-based classroom more engaged than any they have seen.

In 2tor’s online classroom, streaming video brings students—usually in small class sections—to each other in boxes posted across the computer screen. The instructor also appears in a box, speaking to each student face to face.

“Around here, we like to call it Hollywood Squares,” said Doug Shackelford, associate dean of UNC’s business school, referring to the old TV show featuring celebrities lined up in a cross section of windows. “The way we’re doing things, it’s much more intense than what happens in the traditional classroom. There’s no back row. Everyone sits in the front row.”

Read the full story on eCampus News

 

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