Blog #4

Title: Alternative University Textbooks

Part 1: Summary

The price of a student textbook for college classes is so steep that it has become somewhat of a mockery.  The article I am reviewing today discusses the transition many college professors are making in switching to cheaper online versions of the textbook.  To say textbook prices are steep is an understatement.  According to a 2014 study conducted by the Student Public Interest Research Group found that 65 percent of students skip out on purchasing textbooks due to the cost. Some professors, picking up on this trend, have switched to “open source” textbooks.  These books are written by faculty, peer reviewed, and available to the students for free.  I feel this is a extremely beneficial move,as I have personally been a student in a classroom using an open source textbook.  As a college student providing my own tuition, books can often be a struggle and there is a debate every semester as to whether I can afford to purchase the textbook for a class or if it is a class I will have to go without.  This way of thinking is extremely detrimental to the the student’s education.  Due to price monopolizing textbooks are driven to absurd amounts and become a resource that the majority of students do not have access to.

By switching to these open source texts, students would all be able to participate in the class to the best of their ability.  This is a much more favorable outcome than determining a student’s basic resources for a course based on the student’s socioeconomic standing.   I hope to see this trend continue, as this development will potentially make higher education a more realistic and holistic opportunity for those with lower socioeconomic standing.  The only problem I see with this is through switching to open source texts, textbook companies will push back in the opposite direction and attempt to raise copyright issues and discredit the open source materials.

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Blog #3

Title: Online Student Assessments

Part 1: Summary

We are now living in the digital age, however it seems that as far as education is concerned we often cling to old and archaic systems in lieu of newer improved upon systems.  In North Carolina they are attempting to usher in the digital age of testing in schools.  North Carolina is developing a digital learning plan, with the goal of taking advantage of the modern technology available and using it to further students education.  The most striking of these and the subject of the article I am reviewing is the transition of state testing from paper and pencil to online.

Testing online has several benefits over the standard paper and pencil tests.  The first of these is the speed with which schools and students are able to receive their results.  Online testing has shortened this wait period from 8-10 school days to a mere 72 hours.  Another potential benefit raised by this article is the ease to which students can engage the test.  Children today are subjected to much more technology than in the past, and are often times more comfortable operating a tablet than a book.  Online testing seeks to take advantage of this by dispensing the test through a medium with which the students are better accustomed.  This familiarity is beneficial to the students and can help eliminate decreased performance due to issues arising outside of the course material, such as errors in filling in scantron sheets.

I think this is a good move, however it must be approached with caution.  One question this raises for me that was not addressed in the article is how exactly the testing procedure is carried out.  If properly proctored I think this is a effective, streamlined way to assess students.  I do however see potential for abuse of this system by a select few students.  As we move further into the digital age, student’s understanding of technology is slowly eclipsing that of some educators.  If left unchecked I feel this could be exploited by the more “tech-savy” students and make cheating on these standardized tests more prevalent.

Blog #2

Title:  Teaching Foreign Language Online

Part 1: Summary

This article from KQED News discusses a new method in online teaching of foreign languages.  Often, when attempting to learn a language online the lack of immersion causes a barrier that is hard for the average student to overcome.  I personally experienced this when attempting to take a Spanish course online as a summer course.  It becomes too easy for students to take shortcuts in their learning when given the vast resources of the internet just a mouse click away, and this in turn leads to superficial memorization.  This new series seeks to solve these issues by immersing the student in different activities or conversations.  None of the interactions are slowed down for the student’s benefit which I see as a step in the right direction.  When completing my online Spanish course, I found I was able to conduct the course work adequately, however when it came time for conversational Spanish I would have trouble keeping up.  Another interesting way that this program approaches learning a new language is by requiring students to speak and record their own responses to questions, which provides feedback on pronunciation and inflection.  A final interesting thing to note regarding the program is the way it attempts to incorporate grammar.  The program seeks to introduce grammar in a way that invokes critical thinking, and in doing so further solidify the rules in the student’s mind.

I believe that in theory this is a good program that seems to address multiple issues facing online learning.  I do, however, have some questions regarding the effectiveness of implementing this program in schools.  I am curious as to how school districts would intend to use this software in the classroom setting.  While I do feel that this is a vast improvement over other online options I don’t feel it is a valid substitution for in person instruction.  I think if the online program was used in conjunction with coursework, for example assigning homework using the online program, it can be used effectively and a tool for reinforcement. In dealing with online programs in my own scholastic experience I have noted a tendency for these type of programs to experience issues and this seems to be the main complaint leveled against the program.  If this or any single program is relied on too heavily, it is detrimental to the learning process as it takes valuable time away from instruction and draws the focus away from the material.

Blog #1

Title:  Learning in a transformative decade

Part one:  Summary

This article highlights some key points from the 2015 FETC conference.  This is a conference to discuss the role of technology in education as well as highlight new innovations in the classroom.  This article in particular discusses the role of gaming and 3D printing in the classroom.  As a teacher the most important thing is to capture the attention of your students, and it seems over the last several years there has been a shifting of viewpoints when it comes to the role video games can play in the classroom.  It was discussed at the FETC conference that video games could be introduced into the classroom in a controlled way, so as to engage the student and introduce the positive emotions associated with gaming into the classroom.
The second part of the article discusses the “maker program”.  This is essentially a student-driven method of exploration.  The process of “making” consists of three parts; The students must understand the process and tools at their disposal, there must be a person present to coordinate the program, and there must be a space in which the student can explore.  One classroom example of this program would be to use 3D printers to create a car to be used in a school derby race.  This exposure and ability to explore these new technologies in a scholastic environment could go a long way towards not only furthering our students’ understanding of these technologies but also lead to new innovations for the tools being used.

Part two:  Questions and Answers

What is your opinion of the article? Do you agree or disagree?

Overall I found this article thought provoking, while introducing this technology to the classroom would idealistically bring about more enlightenment for the student body, I have to question if this technology would be put to the correct use in the classroom.  I personally remember when I was in school and we had a day in the computer lab the first five minutes of class was spent finding a proxy server so that we could play games when the teacher wasn’t paying attention.  While I feel this technology could be used in the ways described in the article, I am doubtful of it’s successful practice.  In my opinion the key to this technology in the classroom is introducing it in a way that engages the student, because at the first slip of concentration the only thing that has been introduced to the classroom is a new distraction.