Monday, October 31, 2011

Learning Management Systems

By Lori Becker, President & CEO

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are making their way into the K-12 space. It has been a long journey, but learning management systems are now gaining popularity in K-12 schools around the country. These systems were originally created for virtual learning. However, their popularity has transformed them into a tool to create a blended learning solution for the classroom for all ages of students. Teachers use LMS to do many things, including upload content, communicate with students, assess learning, and manage grades/attendance. There are a variety of systems from which to choose, and many states are adopting LMS platforms to run on state servers so that all schools can take advantage of the technology.

Check out Calcasieu Parish Public Schools and their implementation of an LMS at Publishers and development houses are now creating cartridges for various states as they request content for these platforms.

PSG has the technology resources to prepare content for these systems. If your publishing plans call for an LMS component, give us a call and we can help build the cartridge for you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Handwriting on the Wall

By Ken Scherpelz, Vice President of Sales and Business Development

I recently watched a piece on the CBS Sunday Morning show that featured a report on the current state of handwriting instruction. (Watch the piece here.)
The reasons this story of a seemingly antiquated skill caught my eye were:
• I used to work for Zaner-Bloser, one of the leading providers of handwriting instruction.
• Teachers today say they barely have time to teach the basic subjects like math and reading let alone cursive handwriting.
• I have pretty lousy handwriting.
In a world that sends out 294 billion e-mails and almost 5 billion text messages each day, you could reasonably assert that keyboarding and perhaps even thumb dexterity are more worthwhile skills than handwriting. Tamara Plakins Thornton, a history professor at Buffalo’s State University at New York, says that the disappearance of practiced handwriting skills did not begin with the popularity of the home computer, but with the arrival of the typewriter in the late 19th century. This device presented huge competition for handwriting, so Austin Palmer, an instructor at the Cedar Rapids Business College in the late 1800s, set out to develop a fast and efficient means to write and keep up with the typewriter’s keyboard. From this effort came the Palmer Method of Handwriting. Palmer was convinced that good handwriting, and the discipline it took to perfect the skill, would lead to better citizens overall. People claimed “penmanship could reform delinquents” and “assimilate immigrants,” said Professor Thornton.
While there are few today who argue that good penmanship can turn a delinquent into a model citizen, some researchers claim that handwriting is more effective for stimulating memory and language skills than keyboarding. Others disagree, but will concede that good penmanship is better than bad because people can form judgments on the credibility of a person’s ideas based on the handwriting.
So where does that leave us? Zaner-Bloser Publishers used to recommend that students spend 30-45 minutes practicing handwriting every day, but that recommendation has been reduced to 15 minutes per day, recognizing that teachers don’t have much time to spend on handwriting instruction, especially when it seems like an unnecessary skill.
As for me, I do a lot of business writing and personal letter writing via the keyboard, but I feel handwritten letters and cards are still the best forms of personal communication because of the time, technique, and personality evident through the ink and paper. When I re-read letters my parents wrote to each other while my dad was overseas, read a recipe card in my mom’s handwriting, or read notes my own kids wrote to me when they were young, I feel a closer connection with the writers than I would have if the pieces had been generated as text messages or e-mails.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Unexpected Children's Book Authors

By Annette Cinelli Trossello

When you first read these names, you are going to think: actress, singer, comedian, actress. But the following celebrities have also written children's books.

Julie Andrews: Perhaps best known for her roles in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, this multi-talented film and stage actress and singer is also the author of children's books. Her books include Julie Andrews' Collections of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies, a collection of favorites selected by Julie and her daughter; Mandy, the story of an orphan who finds a hideaway in a cottage in the woods; and Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, about a professor and three children who search for the Whangdoodle, a wise, kind, extraordinary creature.

Madonna: The material girl has written several children's books in The English Roses Series. The first book is a picture book called The English Roses, a book about four schoolgirls in contemporary London. After a second picture book, Madonna then began to co-write with several different authors a series of 12 chapter books about the English Roses.

Jerry Seinfeld: One of my favorite Seinfeld bits is when he recalls hearing about Halloween for the first time. "I'll wear anything I have to wear," he said. "I'll do anything I have to do to get the candy from those fools who are so stupidly giving it away." Little did I know the comedian also had a book based on this bit, called, appropriately, Halloween. This picture book about rules, bad candy, and costumes appeals to children and adults alike.

Jamie Lee Curtis: At one time known as a scream queen, this actress has written several successful children's books. Last year Publishing Solutions Group read one of her books, Big Words for Little People, to second graders at a local elementary school as part of our PSG Reads program. The book was a big hit with our little people! The students picked up right away on the rhyming format and loved learning new words.

Authors, unexpected or not, often need editorial help, and PSG can provide just that. We can work with your in-house staff or directly with your author. Don't have an author? Our editorial services include manuscript writing! We also offer project management, art and design, production, translation, and e-product services.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Meet the Fall 2011 PSG Interns!

By Lori Becker, President and CEO

Publishing Solutions Group is excited to welcome three new interns to the team for the Fall 2011 semester. Rachel Amico, Tracy Brickman, and Jorge Cortes are all students from Emerson College currently working toward bachelor’s degrees in Writing, Literature and Publishing.
Rachel is currently a junior at Emerson and spends her time doing a variety of different activities, everything from writing poetry to performing in a cappella groups to studying the Korean martial art of the sword called Kumdo. She describes her dream job as anything at W magazine, which combines her passion for words with her love of fashion and eye for photography. With her helpful attitude and positive demeanor, Rachel is a welcome addition to the PSG team.
Tracy is in her final semester and will graduate with minors in both Philosophy and Marketing in addition to her BA in WLP. She serves as the Treasurer and Publicist of the literary magazine The Emerson Review and has also worked as the Publicist and Lead Designer for Undergraduate Students for Publishing. Tracy hopes one day to work as a cookbook editor.
Jorge is also in his final semester at Emerson. He moved to Boston from Puerto Rico where he studied at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazon in Santurce. There, he worked as an English as a Second Language tutor and helped college students with their essays. Jorge also loves literature, everything from Shakespeare to Terry Pratchet, and hopes to one day work as a science fiction or fantasy editor.
Interns are an integral part of the PSG team, helping our project managers and our editorial, marketing, and production teams. We’re excited to help them learn about the publishing process and also for them to help us perfect our projects! Welcome, Rachel, Tracy, and Jorge!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The New Bachelor's Degree

By Jorge Cortes, Publishing Intern

As a senior expecting to graduate in December, there’s been one question that most people have been asking me: What are you going to do after you graduate? A few years ago, the answer would have been to look for a good job. Not many people continued school after their bachelors, the notable exceptions those going on to medical or law school. These days, however, it seems like a “good candidate” for almost any job needs a master’s degree just to be competitive. Whereas once a high school diploma was usually not enough to be considered for a good job, now a bachelor’s degree is becoming less and less impressive by itself on a resume. Master’s degrees are becoming a necessity in order to stand out.
Today, it’s not uncommon for college graduates—including about 75% of my Emerson College classmates—to be forced to move back in with their parents after graduating and work minimum-wage jobs in their hometowns. According to Richard K. Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University, unless you’ve graduated from an Ivy League school or an equally prestigious university, then you’ll probably need to get a master’s degree to stand out to potential employers.
The days of going back to school after a few years of work seem to be over. Now, earning a master’s degree is done immediately after your bachelor’s. And employers have become so selective about the people they hire that universities are forced to create programs so unique that it seems ludicrous to believe that they’re real. Recently, a friend was talking about getting an MS in Skeletal and Dental Bioarchaeology or an MA in Learning and Thinking. I hadn’t heard of either one until now.
Will we reach where all graduates hold master’s degrees in addition to bachelor’s degrees? Even now, companies like Welch Allyn receive so many resumes from people who have a master’s that they’re able to make a first cut based solely on that and eliminate about half of the candidates.
It also prompts me to ask another question: When will the PhD become the new master’s?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Education 3.0: Taking Teaching and Learning to the Next Level

By Ken Scherpelz, Vice President of Sales and Business Development

e-School News recently reported how schools in New Orleans are coming back in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Not only are the school buildings new, but the technology and means of teaching and learning are new. Working closely with California-based technology company Cisco Systems, administrators and teachers are creating what’s called “Education 3.0 .” Where Education 1.0 was the traditional method of teachers lecturing students, the 2.0 version brought technology into the classroom as an additional tool, like a chalkboard or filing cabinet. Now Education 3.0 is emerging as way to seamlessly integrate technology with lesson plans, instruction, student research, and presentation that will help to motivate students in their learning.

It’s wonderful to hear more good news coming from a city and region that is still recovering from the devastating storm. Kudos to the school administrators, teachers, and city leaders who saw this recovery effort as an opportunity to create a 21st-Century educational environment for its students.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Linking Cultures with Digital Library

By Rachel Amico, Fall 2011 Intern 

Moving is almost always more difficult than predicted. Faced with the slightly-too-rough moving guys, the unpredictable extra expenses, and the rearrangement of your entire life in a new location, moving can be hectic, to say the least. But as adults we can make lists, budgets and schedules to wrap our heads around the change. Children on the other hand, have no such luxury—especially when moving to a foreign country.
The International Children’s Digital Library is hoping to make this transition easier for young children. Those responsible for the ICDL are hoping to gather a large collection of children’s books online (both historical and contemporary) that represent every culture and every language spoken on the globe. The goal of such a project is to allow children to remain connected to their heritage, while also exploring new cultures (especially when relocating) through “the riches of children’s literature.”
Founded at the University of Maryland, the ICDL is comprised of an interdisciplinary research team comprised of computer scientists, librarians, educational technologists, teachers, graphic designers, graduate students, and now, hundreds of volunteers around the world. The organization is non-profit, and users of the website are encouraged to volunteer their time or become members by donating.
The site’s users are extremely diverse; and 2009 the site was visited by 228 countries, and browse-able in 16 different languages including: Spanish, Persian, Mongolian, Croatian, Portuguese, Hebrew, and Thai. Director Tim Browne writes that the ICDL’s mission is “to prepare children for life in an ethnically and culturally diverse world by building the world’s largest online multicultural repository of children’s literature,” and clearly there have already been great strides.
With the ICDL, children and adults have access to some of their favorite books—and the favorite books of their friends—making the transition from one country to another slightly less intimidating. Sure, the house is in shambles and you don’t speak French, but at least you can curl up with hot cocoa and read Mother Goose stories. You can read them in English first, but when you’re finished, don’t forget the hieroglyphics version is waiting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Strong Leaders in Schools

By Ken Scherpelz, Vice President of Sales and Business Development

We’ve seen notable examples of leadership lately—some strong and effective, others misdirected and damaging. All agree that strong leadership is needed to help the U.S. out of its economic troubles, so we search for the best political and business leaders to bring their talents and hard work to the fore. But where is the call for leadership in education?

An enormous amount of time, energy, and dollars are being focused on education reform—and with good reason. Our students consistently rank behind the students in other countries in academic performance, and in an economy that is more global than local, our graduates will be competing for the same jobs and opportunities with graduates from other countries. Many programs and initiatives address student performance, technology, and teacher training. But Bob Herbert, columnist for The New York Times, recently reported on an effort to get the best and brightest to turn to educational leadership. Harvard Graduate School of Education has created a new doctoral degree—the first in 74 years—focusing on leadership in education.

Herbert feels strong leadership in education is a critical part of being a strong and secure nation. Harvard seems to agree with Herbert’s assessment, as they are offering this program tuition-free. The university wants to reach out to the broadest possible field of candidates, and that can’t be done, according to Kathleen McCarthy, dean of the graduate school, “unless we remove all barriers to studying here.”

This is a huge step to addressing a complex and critical problem, and Harvard, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, should be applauded for its efforts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Evidence of Water on Mars

By Jordan Koluch, Publishing Intern

Part of me is a very rational, level-headed human being. The other part of me really wants to believe in extra-terrestrial life. Apparently, this is also tempting for NASA scientists, who are searching for any evidence of life-giving elements on Mars. And it seems that they may have caught a break.
Photos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show dark streaks on Mars’s steep slopes during the planet’s spring and summer seasons. Scientists believe that these streaks are evidence of flowing water currently present on Mars. Water, combined with carbon and an energy source, is a main ingredient to life as we know it. This means that Mars may currently be a life-sustaining planet.
Up until now, only dry riverbeds and ice had been found on Mars, leading some scientists to believe that water had once been present and was no longer, or that the planet was simply too cold to sustain life. Others hypothesized that Mars was home to the types of organisms that survive in very salty water, which freezes at much lower temperatures than fresh water and could therefore remain in liquid form at Martian temperatures. The types of salts that would facilitate this have been detected in solid form all over Mars. Still others say that if liquid water is only present for part of the year, which seems to be the case, organisms can remain dormant in the ice for extended periods of time.
Compelling as it is, the evidence is only circumstantial. The probe has been unable to detect any actual water, despite technology that allows it to do so. Scientists also cannot explain with certainty why water would darken the soil or why the streaks disappear in the winter. There are also only a few sites on the planet with such streaks and no explanation as to why water would only flow in those areas.
Further experimentation won’t be easy. The next Mars probe, launching later this year, will not land anywhere near the site of the streaks, nor is it equipped to navigate the steep slopes. According to Dr. Lisa M. Pratt, a biochemist at Indiana University, testing whether salt water can remain liquid and life can be sustained in the Siberian permafrost might be as close as we can get to actual experiments on Mars. Whether any of these developments points to real-life aliens remains to be seen.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Punctuation Matters

By Annete Cinelli Trossello

A few weeks ago in a hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, I passed "A Exit." That's not right, I thought. "That's not right," my friend Kerry exclaimed. I was staying there with a group of college friends and half of us are English majors. We were all irritated at the sign. "It should be An Exit," said one, "or just Exit," added another. "Maybe it's supposed to be Exit A? Not to be confused with Exit B?" I mused aloud. As we were waiting for the elevator we saw "B Exit" to our left. We all agreed it would have been better to have the letter after the word "exit."

Mistakes in punctuation, spelling, and grammar always jump out at me; as a copy editor, it's my job to notice those things. While I don't act on these errors, I do enjoy reading about people who do! Jeff Deck, an editor currently residing in New Hampshire, and Benjamin Herson, a college buddy of Deck who works at a bookstore in Oregon, went on a road trip across the US fixing errors in signs. They tell of their journey in their book just released this past summer, The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time.

Armed with markers, correction fluid, chalk, and crayons, the duo edited misplaced apostrophes (womens' room vs. women's room), incorrect word usage (you're vs. your), and misspellings (restarant vs. restaurant). One of the signs they edited was a historic sign at the Grand Canyon. They "deleted" an apostrophe and put one where it should be. They also noticed a misspelling, but left that alone. These vigilantes, as some media outlets have dubbed them, were sentenced to probation, fined, and banned from national parks for a year.

On their website, they have a page where they invite others to share typos and subsequent corrected signs. On this page, they are sure to advise readers to always get permission before fixing a typo. Lesson learned!