Monday, October 25, 2010

Digital College Recruitment

By Kaitlin Loss, Editorial Assistant

Today, the word 'college' is almost synonymous with the word 'online.' You can apply to college online, register for classes online, read textbooks online, and even take classes online. So it’s not really that surprising that many colleges are beginning to recruit students online. Gone are the days of college fairs in high school gyms, where recruiters speak to a handful of overwhelmed students for around two minutes each, the days where high school juniors and seniors find their mailboxes overrun with brochures for every college in America. Now, with the Internet, a recruiter can reach out to hundreds and thousands of students at a time without leaving their office.

The most important tool a college recruiter now has is the school’s website. There, they can give virtual campus tours, show samplings of work done by current students, and house important information in one easy-to-use place. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube not only allow recruiters to reach out to potential students, but also for those potential students to get to know each other, current students, and what the school has to offer them.

Since it’s less expensive for colleges to translate online materials into other languages than printed materials—without taking into account the money they save in postage, paper, and travel expenses for their recruiters—it’s no wonder most schools have moved on to digital recruitment. Most teenagers visit the Internet more than they visit their mailboxes, and so recruiters have a better chance of coming into contact with qualified and interested students through the internet.

Because so much of the college process now takes place online, it’ll be interesting to see how the digital recruitment process affects students once they actually get into college. Will they opt for e-Books instead of textbooks? Or will they even try and find online classes instead of spending time in the traditional classroom?

Monday, October 18, 2010

iPads: iPerfect for Classrooms?

By Ken Scherpelz, Vice President of Sales and Business Development

It should be no surprise that many new technologies are making inroads into schools and classrooms. Most every school has computers and SMART Boards, and many teachers receive answers to tests from students via hand-held wireless devices.

Apple's iPad has been making its way into schools since it was released, but there seems to be a recent surge of these devices and their accompanying apps that are addressing the potential of this innovative tablet in the classroom.

  • Winthrop, Minnesota schools intend to put an iPad into the hands of every student. High school students note the iPad will replace the 20-30 pounds of books they carry in their backpacks.
  • St. Catherine's School in Racine, Wisconsin now requires all new middle school students to pay a $400 technology fee to cover the cost of an iPad, replacing the previous textbook fees, and obviously, replacing the textbooks.
  • California is in its first year of a major trial to use the iPad instead of a textbook for classes in Algebra 1 in Long Beach, Riverside, Fresno, and San Francisco. The 400 students in the trial will be able to access more than 400 videos instantly from their iPads via a program developed by a major educational publisher.

There's no doubt this new means of accessing instructional content will have an impact on the classroom and learning, and the way students interact with the content, their teachers, and each other. And it should be noted that the initiative in California is being evaluated by a firm that will measure the success of the "e-textbook" approach compared to the success of students using traditional print materials.

But not everyone is banging the drum for this new player in the classroom. Some warn that the schools will need to restrict the use of the iPads so students cannot download inappropriate apps. (Most districts already do this with student computers.) One critic of the program at St. Catherine's felt these young students would become targets toting around expensive technology. (After all, who would want to steal a math book?) Larry Cubin, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, warns "There is little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines. iPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning."

I recall the same things being said about computers twenty years ago, and the desktop and laptops seem to have earned a permanent spot in educating our kids. And if iPads truly engage students, that can be an important first step to learning. Time will tell how this newest technology will fare, but the iPad and its programs will need to work hard (and well) to satisfy the skeptics.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Identifying Dropouts Before They Drop Out

By Ken Scherpelz, Vice President of Sales and Business Development

While government agencies and school administrators focus on standards, AYP, accountability, and other urgent issues in education, an oft-overlooked segment of students is receiving some welcome attention. The proposed federal budget for 2010 has assigned $50 million to be used for dropout prevention. The stimulus package includes $3.5 billion to help turn around low-performing schools, and presumably a portion of that will also be earmarked to help lower the dropout rate. According to current estimates, some 1.2 million students drop out of school each year--equivalent to 7,000 students a day.

A recent report from the National Association of State Board Educators includes these recommendations for addressing the dropout issue:

  • Promote community partnerships to encourage student retention.
  • Develop a comprehensive student data system that can help identify potential dropouts.
  • Deliver the needed training to schools and districts to help them foster effective partnerships and dropout prevention plans.
  • Create multiple pathways to graduation.

The second item regarding identifying potential dropouts struck me as quite interesting. The state of Louisiana has an exemplary program called DEWS: Dropout Early Warning System, that tracks indicators such as high absentee rate; GPAs under 1.0, a sudden half-point drop in a student's GPA; and if a student is older than the typical age for that grade level. Once major publisher offers a software program that tracks this type of student data, flags potential dropouts, and helps teachers and administrators prevent these at-risk students from dropping out.

These programs - and the dedicated teachers and administrators who implement them - can help throw out a safety net for these kids before they fall through society's cracks. Bravo to all for these efforts.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Race to Adopt

By Ken Scherpelz, Vice President of Sales and Business Development

It looks as though the movement to adopt the Common Core Standards is gaining momentum. These standards, drawn up by state school chiefs and released this spring, will provide a set of Math and Language Arts objectives that will bring consistency to what our children are taught across the country. Pushing for these national standards will also discourage states from "weakening" their standards to avoid being penalized by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

As reported in The New York Times twenty-seven states have already adopted the standards, and another dozen should sign on this summer. This quick acceptance and adoption of the standards by so many states is due in part to the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" competition, an initiative designed to improve instruction in our nation's schools. The states that adopt the new standards by August 2 will earn points for a share of the $3.2 billion in education funds to be awarded to states this fall.

While the "Race to Adopt" (as some have called the move to accept the standards) has been swift, some supporters have cautioned that during these tough economic times, not all states will have the money to pay for the full implementation and training required, possibly resulting in less-than-satisfactory achievement based on the new standards.

What does this mean for our colleagues in the educational publishing world? Most likely many are evaluating their major programs against the new standards to see how much revision will be needed for complete alignment. Others may be anticipating that developing a basal program to align with one set of standards will be more economical, instead of having to customize programs to meet a wide variety of states' objectives. But unless California, Texas, and Florida get on board, the industry may still see the need for separate editions.

Need help with program alignment? PSG has a lot of experience with the current states' standards, and we've been doing our homework preparing for work with the new Common Core Standards. Contact us if you're considering any work with aligning your current program or developing a new program to align with these new standards.