Student video ‘Gotta Keep Reading’ inspires nation

The subject of reading seemed like the most logical choice for the flash mob video, said principal Sharyn Gabriel.
The subject of reading seemed like the most logical choice for the flash mob video, said principal Sharyn Gabriel.

In a powerful example of how online social networking, youth exuberance, and digital media can combine to affect a nation, students at Florida’s Ocoee Middle School created a video called “Gotta Keep Reading,” an infectious message that has “gone viral” and inspired other schools and big-name TV stars to endorse reading as a path to success.

The video began when the school’s reading coach, Janet Bergh, thought it might be fun to do something like The Oprah Winfrey Show’s “flash mob” video in Chicago last year. Winfrey and her producers elected to kick off the 2009 season with a live open-air version of the show in Chicago, featuring the Black-Eyed Peas and other performers. The Black-Eyed Peas rewrote the words to their single “I Gotta Feelin” as a Winfrey tribute dubbed “Oprah Feelin,” and hours before the show began the approximately 21,000 audience members were taught choreographed steps to the piece to create a flash mob dance.

Don’t miss Florida’s Ocoee Middle School’s video, “Gotta Keep Reading” on page two of this article. Page two does require free registration to eSchool News Online and includes additional benefits for you as you’ll have access to all our news and features online.…Read More

RandomDorm: Chatroulette for the college set

Using the video chat service Chatroulette can be highly entertaining, but there’s always the chance of encountering something unsavory on the service, which randomly matches strangers for video interaction. One entrepreneur is hoping to limit the chances of that, at least for the collegiate set, with a new web site called RandomDorm, reports the New York Times. RandomDorm takes the thrilling serendipity of being paired with an anonymous stranger in a video chat room and limits it to college campuses. Participants need a college eMail address to access the web service. Or, they can sign in using Facebook as long as the primary eMail address tied to that account ends with “.edu.” Tying the users to a specific identity in theory will make them more accountable, although it’s unclear whether RandomDorm’s limited pool will increase the chances of seeing someone chugging beers online or performing more extreme college antics. For now, RandomDorm is limited to students at schools in the United States, but in the future, the company hopes to open it up to international universities, as long as there is demand…

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Why no one cares about privacy anymore

Google co-founder Sergey Brin adores the company’s social network called Google Buzz, CNet reports. We know this because an engineer working five feet from Brin used Google Buzz to say so. “I just finished eating dinner with Sergey and four other Buzz engineers in one of Google’s cafes,” engineer John Costigan wrote a day after the Twitter-and-Facebook-esque service was announced. “He was particularly impressed with the smooth launch and the great media response it generated.” You might call Brin’s enthusiasm premature, especially since privacy criticisms prompted Google to make a series of quick changes a few days later. Activists have asked the Federal Trade Commission to “compel” Google to reprogram Buzz a third time to adhere to the no doubt well-informed specifications of Beltway lawyers. A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of an aggrieved second-year law student is underway. But a funny thing happened on the way to the courthouse: relatively few Google Buzz users seem to mind. Within four days of its launch, millions of people proved Brin right by using the messaging service to publish 9 million posts. A backlash to the backlash developed, with more thoughtful commentators pointing out that Google Buzz disclosed your “followers” and who you were “following” only if you had elected to publish that information publicly on your Google profile in the first place…

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Distance-ed students forming college clubs online

At a handful of institutions, students working toward degrees online are meeting outside of class via the web to form online clubs as well, USA Today reports. These extracurricular organizations offer online students what many feel they are missing: the social and professional opportunities that historically have been part of the college experience. “When you’re on campus, you have opportunities to engage your faculty and your peers,” says Debra Ann Mynar, 39, an online psychology student at Pennsylvania State University‘s World Campus. “When you do distance education, you don’t have those similar opportunities unless you make them.” Mynar, a full-time business administrator by day, is the president and co-founder of the World Campus’s psychology club, a completely online group that sprung up several years ago alongside the World Campus’s psychology program. The club, which has 124 members from far-flung states and several foreign countries, hosts online discussions and video lectures—mostly focusing on career advice—through the campus’s learning management system. And unlike many live talks held by traditional student clubs, the events are archived online for posterity…

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MySpace outlines makeover after executive shake-up

Long ago lapped by Facebook in popularity and with fast-growing Twitter on its tail, social networking site MySpace is planning a series of updates over the next months that will link its users’ posts to those sites more easily and carve out its niche as an entertainment hub more clearly, reports the Associated Press. The changes were unveiled by co-presidents Jason Hirschhorn, 38, and Mike Jones, 34, this week following the abrupt departure of CEO Owen Van Natta in February after just 10 months on the job. The two remaining executives acknowledged that change has been slow coming to the site, and critics have often cited its clunkiness compared to Facebook. MySpace’s monthly visitors declined 7 percent in January from a year ago to 120 million worldwide, compared with Facebook’s 471 million visitors, a 100 percent increase, according to internet tracker comScore Inc. Hirschhorn said MySpace needs to be more uniquely focused on the 14 million musicians who put songs and videos on the site and how fans interact with them, and it will give more control to artists over their profiles. The site also will open up its platform for games more widely and reward users who act as evangelizers of content. Refocusing its gaze on the core 13-34 age group that represents more than half of its visitors and 84 percent of all time spent on the site, MySpace also will add a better, smarter “stream” that allows users to see more of what their friends are doing in a central location, as well as a “Super Post” update bar that allows users to post links, videos, and updates to MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter all at once…

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Education reform, one classroom at a time

Sitting on the desk of the secretary of education are dozens of ideas bold enough to finally start solving our country’s education crisis, says Melinda Gates in an editorial opinion piece for the Washington Post. They are contained in applications by 40 states and the District of Columbia for grants from the Race to the Top fund, a $4.35 billion piece of the stimulus package designed to dramatically improve student achievement. Congress established strong guidelines to guarantee that states spend Race to the Top money on audacious reforms. Many states responded with equal fortitude, submitting proposals to radically improve how they use data or to adopt college- and career-ready standards — concepts that used to be considered third rails in the world of education. Never before has this country had such an opportunity to remake the way we teach young people. One reason I am so optimistic about these developments is because, after decades of diffuse reform efforts, they all zero in on the most important ingredient of a great education: effective teachers. The key to helping students learn is making sure that every child has an effective teacher every single year…

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Facebook group urges Rutgers to reconsider internet speed cap

In just three weeks, more than 1,000 Rutgers students banded together on a Facebook group to protest a new speed cap on the university’s residential internet network, reports the Daily Targum. Implemented at the start of the spring semester, the new speed cap for downloading and uploading is set to a maximum of 1.5 megabits per second and 768 kilobits per second, respectively. School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Kevin Song created the group, called “Rutgers Students for Faster Internet.” Song established the group to convince the school’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) to change the new policy to something more satisfactory. Before, the residential network had a bandwidth limit but no speed cap. OIT Director Frank Reda said numerous complaints from students and faculty prompted the university’s decision to remove the download limit when their internet privileges were suspended after exceeding the limit. “Providing uniform, uninterrupted internet access to all students is a fair solution. Now, no student will have coursework impacted by suspension of internet connectivity,” he said. “The only potential con is that peak transmission speeds are slower than previously available.” The new policy has affected students in different ways. “I used to have video chats with my family back home,” sophomore John Campagnone said. “But with the [new] speed cap, the video quality is horrible, and I can’t really see them.” But Reda said the speed caps should not affect network resources on campus, or internal university web sites such as Sakai and school eMail accounts…

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Google tweaks Buzz social hub after privacy woes

As it introduced a new social hub, Google quickly learned that people’s most frequent e-mail contacts are not necessarily their best friends, the Associated Press reports. Rather, they could be business associates, or even lovers, and the groups don’t necessarily mix well. It’s one reason many people keep those worlds separate by using Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for professional contacts, or by keeping some people completely off either social circle despite frequent e-mails with them. Google Inc. drew privacy complaints this week when it introduced Buzz and automatically created circles of friends based on users’ most frequent contacts on Gmail. Just days later, Google responded by giving users more control over what others see about them. Google introduced Buzz on Tuesday as part of its existing Gmail service. The service includes many of the features that have turned Facebook into the Web’s top spot for fraternizing with friends and family. Like Facebook, Buzz lets Gmail users post updates about what they are doing or thinking. Gmail users can also track other people’s updates and instantly comment on them for everyone else in the social circle to see. But while Facebook requires both sides to confirm that they are friends before making that relationship public, Google automatically does so by analyzing how often they’ve communicated in the past. Those frequent contacts become part of the circle of people you follow and who follow you.

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Google’s eMail gets social in Facebook face-off

Google Inc. opened a new social hub in its e-mail service on Tuesday, leaving little doubt that the Internet search leader is girding for a face-off with Facebook, reports the Associated Press. The new Gmail channel, called Google Buzz, includes many of the features that have turned Facebook into the Web’s top spot for fraternizing with friends and family. It comes less than a week after Facebook made changes of its own. Among other things, Facebook now shows a list of friends available for chatting on the left side of the page, similar to where Gmail now displays its chat feature. The Google Buzz features won’t reach all of Gmail’s estimated 176 million users worldwide for several more days. A link to the service will appear on the top left of the page, in a prominent position just under Gmail’s inbox tab…

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Students create site for college journalists to talk about the craft

Two young entrepreneurs have launched an online community where college journalists are sharing ideas on technology, leadership, news judgment, and content, Poynter.org reports. Kelsey A. Schnell and Brandon Martinez built CollegeNewsroom.org in Big Rapids, Mich., the home of Ferris State University. So far, students from about 30 colleges have joined. Schnell, creative developer for CollegeNewsroom.org, is editor-in-chief of the Ferris State Torch. Martinez is web editor for CollegeNewsroom.org and the Torch, which are independent of each other. CollegeNewsroom.org, which launched in November, has featured discussions about college editors’ use of Twitter and, within days of its launch, the iPad. Posts about whether college papers should print the n-word and whether it is OK to take a reporter’s byline off a poorly written story have made for some lively discussions on the site. Other posts include information on how to come up with catchy headlines and how to retain and motivate staff

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