About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No child left behind, but the teaching profession trashed

Imagine being an oncologist or hospice healthcare provider and being told that you will be evaluated on how many patients die. If many die, you will be fired.

What does this have to do with education? Well, according to NPR, the president wants to extend no child left behind legislation and to include a provision for states to develop ways to evaluate teachers.

Let's begin with the NCLB. This was legislation that, while good intentioned, changed our educational system from one of creativity, innovation, and critical thinking to one of testing and numbers. As long as your children "pass the test", they have been educated. Likewise, students that can't pass the test are not educated. As a college professor, I can't tell you how many of my students have high SAT scores, test well, and yet flounder in my class. My teaching style is strong on analysis (many have not been taught how to analyze, come to their own conclusions, support their analysis, and--where they really fail--convince others of their ideas). In fact, some of my brightest students have entered college using an alternative method (starting non-matriculated, excelling in their profession and then going back to college, or community college first) when they did not "test" well.

In 1968, France was finally pushed to move from an educational system that tested from the cradle as it was found to be ineffective and unfair. It put too much stress on young children and made education elitist so that those with the means would rise to the top. How many innovations do you think came out of France in the 1960's. How many innovations came out of the US from the educational system many felt was too "touchy/feely" (think of the high tech industry and when those innovators were educated in the 1960's, 70's and early 80's)?

If NCLB is passed, however, (which will be the only way states can get federal dollars for education), the new provision for teacher evaluation will go into place. Which leads me to wonder where politicians have been for the last century. Have you never heard of teaching licenses? How is this different than a doctor's license? If a teacher has been found guilty of an impropriety, their license is taken away!!!!!!!!!!!! So why must we now put an additional "benchmark" on teachers? Children are people, just like patients are people. Some people die because they are sick and no medicine will help them. This does not mean that healthcare providers aren't trying to make them well. Likewise, some students will not achieve the lofty learning goals especially when a child may not have hit the maturity to reach those goals or they are dealing with issues such as malnutrition, poor healthcare, and lack of housing. This does not mean they will not make progress, just that they won't achieve the "benchmarks" outlined by politicians that know nothing about child development (or poverty or homelessness for the most part).

On the surface, this evaluation sounds good (again, why do we need it when we have licenses). However, in NY state, the teacher's union, administrators, and general public negotiated a formula in which test scores were included but did not amount to a major percentage. The board of regents, which overseas educational policy in NY, totally ignored this and set their own policy putting a substantial weight on test scores.

So why would I want to be teacher in NY state? Teachers in NY state make less than stockbrokers, nurses, lawyers, engineers, and many entertainers, yet they are responsible for raising our children, many times from before age 5 and after age 16, the required legal age for children to attend school in the US. They currently are required to have 2 masters in order to teach high school (one in their subject area and one in education) along with 200 hours every two years in additional training. They are not allowed by law to strike so many times they are forced to work without a contract. They are, in essence, powerless. And yet, when there is a raise in taxes, the teacher's union is blamed for the cost of education. How can that be? Isn't it possible that it is the unfunded mandates that push up the price of education?

It is time that we start looking at our society and stop trashing the profession of education. We have mechanisms in place (licensing requirements) that should be enforced for teachers that are not working. I don't always agree with my daughter's teachers, and I need to negotiate/speak to them to understand the situation. There does not need to be law for that. Please repeal NCLB and stop "evaluating" teachers who are evaluated on a daily basis by administrators, colleagues, parents, and students.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Curating, filtering, and increasing traffic

This week, my computer mediated communication class will be looking at filtering and curating, and the impact these have on traffic to sites. So with that in mind, I decided to write a brief primer on these topics.

Defining curating and filtering

My understanding of curating is the identification and categorization of resources. In the context of computer mediated communication, curating can be done by individuals for their own purposes, creating their own categories that work for their own personal uses and learning. I use curating in a number of ways: resources for classes, resources for my research interests, resources to share with family and friends on common interests, conversation starters.

Online, I use a number of tools and processes. My main tool over the past 5 years has been delicious.com. This program allowed me to access online resources from one of the three computers or 4 or 5 locations in which I work. In class, I am able to access websites for my class by going to sites tagged for the class (i.e. ACOM 203). I then can choose the resource that is relevant for the class and the lesson I want to teach for that day. I have instant access to the resource (as long as my internet connection works), which was not possible without the computer.

Filtering, on the other hand is keeping out information that may not be relevant or meet my needs. Like curating, it is focused on identifying resources. However, filtering is a way to avoid information overload. The key to filtering is finding the correct way to search for resources (i.e. the ideal key word, the correct network to access) and choosing those resources that meet my needs. This requires an ability to skim resources, identify their authors/purpose, and evaluate content.

Increasing traffic

The purpose for most who are active on the internet is to increase traffic. For example, organizations want customers to read their blogs, bloggers want increased traffic to their blogs, individuals want their youtube videos to "go viral", those on twitter want to build their followers. The more traffic to a site, the greater legitimacy it is given in cyberspace.

In the past, "experts" decided on what was relevant and who should have access to resources. With CMC, popular content becomes "expert" resources. If someone is able to access the computer, they are able to produce a resource that may be perceived as "expert."

Tools for increasing traffic

So it is important for anyone involved in computer mediated communication to know, understand, and use tools that will increase traffic. Some of these tools include:

  • labels, tags, and key words: people who look for resources using search engines input key words.  Blogs, facebook, photos, videos, and even webpages usually have the ability to identify their pages on the internet by using labels or tags.  It is important to use tags or labels that your audience will use for their searches.

  • Hashtags: twitter and a growing number of social networking programs use hashtages (a # followed by a keyword identifying a group or category, i.e. #ualbany, #running, #curating).  Related to this is the @ sign which identifies an author, as on twitter.  @comprof1 would identify anyone who wrote about me using my twitter name.

  • Links: using links to other sites that might increase traffic (i.e. from "experts" in the field or reporting agencies) can sometimes increase traffic.  Some of these sites have employees that track the links and either ask for the link to be removed (if they feel it is ruining their image) or may use a back channel (backlink) to the post/resource.

  • Using multiple channels: Whenever I blog, these days, I post to twitter the topic and the fact that I have posted something.  Some also use this when they upload a new video on YouTube or link the video onto their facebook page.  The more channels used to publicize a resource, the greater exposure to new potential traffic sources.  Related to this is that the greater the traffic in a concentrated time slot, the better the chance that the resource will be picked up in search engines or "highlights" in the social network programs like linkedin or blogger. Related to this is having various channels available for spreading the resources, e.g. facebook or twitter buttons on a blog, automatic updates on linkedin when you tweet something, or "most popular" posts or videos listed on a blog.

  • Commenting on others blogs, youtube videos, and/or facebook. The more visible a user is the greater the chance the user will be "checked" out by others.

  • Filtering and curating tools

    In addition to hashtags, tags, and labels, filtering and curating tools may include:

    Favorite: By identifying something as a favorite, others may access the resources or a resource may be retrieved for future use

    Page counts Programs such as google analytics or stat counter allow your page's statistics to be shown on your internet page (i.e. blog, webpage). This not only allows you to identify your audience, but also allows your audience to identify how "popular" your page is and where your audience is located.

    Ratings: By allowing others to rate your content, you are allowing for a review process from the public. Beware, however, that this might result in negative as well as positive traffic. Likewise, the ability to remove negative comments will aid in decreasing negative feedback that could be detrimental to building up traffic, but may also make curating and filtering less valuable.

    Notes and descriptions: Putting the resources into context helps to contextualize lists. Programs such as sticky notes, one note, google docs, and delicious not only help to identify resources, but also allow for evaluation of resources and explanations/links within categories.