Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Parents Prefer Paper

Parents Prefer Paper

by Jordan Newell, Intern Summer 2012

I have often been called a bookworm, and I’m proud of it. I love the smell and feel of a book—I’ve spent many years building up my personal library. When I first heard about the e-book, I thought it was neat, but not something I would ever rely on. There is just something about the experience of a print-on-paper book that doesn’t translate into electronic format. And that’s coming from an adult audience; what about children’s books? How is anyone supposed to enjoy a pop-up book using a Nook or a Kindle?

Sales of e-books of children’s titles have hardly changed. Even if they are avid readers of e-books, many parents, according to The New York Times, prefer their children to have paper books. This preference is based on the learning experience parents want for their children. Books are very popular gifts, and parents often flip through an entire book at the store before purchasing it for their child, something that is not always possible when shopping online. Because children’s books are known to be vibrantly colorful and sometimes fun shapes, there is much speculation on the ability to adapt their designs to electronic devices. The New York Times quotes Junko Yokota, the director for the Center For Teaching Through Children’s Books at National Louis University in Chicago: “[Designs] become part of the emotional experience, the intellectual experience. There’s a lot you can’t standardize and stick into an electronic format.”

Not to mention, I wouldn’t trust my six-year-old cousin with my new iPad. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t trust her with a hard copy of my favorite Harry Potter novel either, but I would feel safer knowing the book was easier to replace than an expensive device. My iPad is also a different form of entertainment to my cousin; she associates it with the games I help her play. I doubt she’d really be able to focus on reading when she knows which button will let her play her favorite game. So for now, it seems, the children’s book market will continue to enjoy the advantages of ink on paper while the parents can hold on to their gadgets for a little while longer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Leading Higher Education Technology

Technion-Cornell Goes for the Lead in Higher Education Technology

by Holly Spicer, Intern Summer 2012

In keeping up with the fast-paced growth of the technology industry, New York City is fighting to establish itself as the technological center of the world. Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently began a $2 billion plan for a new tech school in the city, whose first stages were a competition between 17 of the world’s top universities. The winners, Cornell University and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, will build and operate CornellNYC Tech Campus, a brand-new, high-tech graduate school on New York City’s Roosevelt Island. Atlantic Philanthropies, founded by a Cornell alumnus, has donated $350 million to help build the new school.

Education News reports that Bloomberg’s project proposes to stimulate 20,000 construction jobs and inspire approximately 600 new businesses, creating even more jobs. In addition, the city will gain $1.4 billion in tax revenue. The new graduate school is also projected to provide education in math and science for 10,000 children in New York City, enhancing existing programs, as well as working closely with PS/IS 217 and the Child School, the two elementary schools already located on Roosevelt Island.
Google has agreed to host Cornell in its New York offices during construction until Phase I of the project’s construction on Roosevelt Island is complete in 2017. Cornell and Technion will use some of the newest technology in the world to create their buildings. The first building, the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute (TCII), will be “the largest net-zero energy building in [the] eastern United States—meaning it will harvest as much energy from solar power and geothermal wells as it consumes on an annual basis,” according to a Cornell University press release.

In terms of education, TCII will offer to master’s degree candidates their choice of three specialties or “hubs”: digital media in the networked age; medical informatics and devices; and smart buildings, urban environments and infrastructures. With the way technology continues to rapidly improve, new schools like the Technion-Cornell project will keep cropping up, and there are potential plans for other universities to create second campuses in New York City for tech-savvy students who pursue specialized degrees such as these.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Flipped Classroom

by Colleen Joyce, Project Manager

I have mostly fond memories of school, but one not-so-fond memory is the frustration I would feel trying to complete my math homework. I never had a problem in other classes, but math—almost any kind of math—always eluded me. I would pay attention in class as the teacher explained how to do something in geometry or calculus, and sometimes I would even think I understood the concept at the time. But as I sat down that evening to complete my homework, it almost never failed that the process of arriving at the correct answers would escape me. My frustration would often result in giving up. Now the idea of “lecture in class, practice at home” is being turned on its head. And it all happened kind of by accident.

In 2004, Salman Khan began posting videos on YouTube to help his cousin who was struggling to learn algebra. Other students found Khan’s videos and started watching them. Similarly, in 2007, teachers Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams began to record their lectures and post them online for students. Soon these online lectures started spreading, and the two realized they were on to something. Bergman and Sams began talking to other schools about their methods, and Sal Khan caught the attention of Bill Gates, which gave birth to Khan Academy.

Today, the flipped classroom is being piloted in many schools across the country. Students watch lectures at home about a particular skill, after which skills practice takes place in the classroom aided by a teacher. Clintondale High School near Detroit adopted the model with great success. Before the program, over 50% of freshmen failed English and 44% failed math. After instituting the flipped classroom, the rates dropped to 19% and 13%, respectively. Another by-product of the model was that discipline cases dropped from 736 to 249.

Some experts aren’t sure if the flipped classroom is the model of the future its proponents purport it to be. Ramsey Musallam, writing for Edutopia, addresses some of the criticisms: “Critics . . . argue that online instruction puts students that lack Internet access at a disadvantage. Moreover, . . . lecture is still a poor mode of information transfer.” But Salman Khan has a different take on it: “They could . . . pause and repeat the lectures without worrying that they were wasting my time. They could review topics from previous sessions without feeling embarrassed, and they could tackle new topics without the stress of someone watching over or judging them.”

I cannot go back in time and find out if the flipped classroom model would have ended my math homework frustration, but this concept that is gaining popularity sure is intriguing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

German Speakers in America

Where Have All the German Speakers Gone?

by Kate Carroll, Editorial Assistant

Last year when I studied abroad in the Netherlands, learning a few Dutch phrases became necessary for survival. (How can you buy cookies at the local supermarket without being able to thank the cashier with a dank u wel?) What I didn’t expect to learn was that German held a stake in the origins of not only the Dutch language, but English as well. I knew nothing (nichts!) about German’s influence on my own language, and even less about German itself.

But in the past few years, high school students have held an attitude similar to mine; the US Department of Education found in 2008 that only 14 percent of American high schools offered German as a part of their curriculum.  This decline in interest in the German language has increased over the past several years, beginning after a surge of popularity born from the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Why, since then, has interest in learning German decreased? The German government hired two men, Dr. Michael Legutke and Dr. Daniel S. Hamilton, to discover the answer and aid the country in establishing German as a relevant language in the United States. The researchers came to a common conclusion: The United States is now a more multicultural society. Typically, German is spoken by white males—Drs. Legutke and Hamilton found that of 1,424 interviewed German teachers, 96% were white, and 40% were over the age of 50. This influences the rate of learning because students learn best when they can relate to their teachers. The going thought among students seems to be: Why learn a language only spoken by Germans and older people who are perceived to not represent their interests?

In terms of utility, the disinterest makes sense. As our world seems to be getting smaller and smaller, inching its way towards a global community, which languages will be primarily spoken? Already we can see the use for certain languages—English, of course, but Spanish can also be heard nearly anywhere; French is more widespread than German; and American classrooms are following a trend of teaching Mandarin due to China’s close economic ties and influence upon the United States. Somewhere in the process, German has taken a backseat.

The goal of the German government is clear: to increase the amount of people, particularly Americans, who speak their language. Social interest cannot be forced, so how can they do it? Perhaps trips to Germany to provide a closer look at the culture? Personally, I find the most appeal in the nostalgia angle. Latin is now a “dead” language in terms of speech, so let’s trace another one of our roots. After all, if it weren’t for German’s influence on the English language, what on Earth would we call a hamburger?