Thursday, October 31, 2013

Surveying the Way to Better Education

by Melissa Mui, Fall 2013 Intern

What would you do if you were able to see into your child’s classroom? Many school districts around the country are conducting surveys of teachers, students and their parents to gather more insight on day-to-day happenings behind school doors. The state of Illinois began conducting one such survey, the first statewide education survey, in early 2013. The survey was taken by over one million teachers, students and parents, and researchers and educators hope to reach even more people in the follow-up surveys planned for every two years in the future. The purpose of the survey is to uncover any oversights and highlight concerns regarding  the public school system as a whole. Not only will the data from these surveys help prevent negative influences in schools, it will also help to enhance the education of students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

The Illinois 5Essential Survey (5E) is backed by over 20 years of research from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR). The survey is meant to analyze the need for school reform and to make data accessible to parents of students so they may better understand the environment that their children are learning in. 5E is conducted o  nline and made accessible to all through a website that houses the survey and sorts the data. It is not mandatory for anyone to take 5E, although the percent of participants in each school determines whether or not the school will receive a detailed report of the collected data.

The Federal Race to the Top project currently funds the survey. The state of Illinois hopes to offer it every two years, to track progress and keep data current. The many questions on the survey are meant to provoke thoughtful and honest answers from participants. “How safe do you feel in the hallways and bathrooms of school?” This question is one of many asked of students to assess their perceived safety in day-to-day activities. There are also statements meant to provoke thoughtful responses from teachers: “The principal at this school is an effective manager who makes the school run smoothly.” This statement and others allow participants to respond based on how they agree/disagree with the sentence. Teachers’ concern for how the school is run can be expressed, which could both change policy and alert parents to issues that might not otherwise have been exposed to the public eye.

One major concern comes to mind when so many people and opinions are involved in changing the structure of education. The data is based on the word of millions of different people. This leaves room for human error, bias and conflicting opinions. 5E would be even more helpful to education reform if it were partnered with follow-up inspections to verify any findings. This would allow researchers to gather unbiased information to ensure that the changes to education are made appropriately.

Illinois is pioneering how education reform is conducted in the United States. Versions of 5E have been conducted in schools in several other states including Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Indiana. While there are still variables to consider, 5E provides invaluable information and insight into public classrooms in the United States today.

Did You Know?

The name 5Essential refers to the five qualities that schools need to be successful as described by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (CCSR):
• Effective Leaders
• Collaborative Teachers
• Involved Families
• Supportive Environment
• Ambitious Instruction
These five components all revolve around support: of learning and of students and teachers. The hope is that by understanding what each part looks like and how it should be implemented, schools will be able to identify a “strategic vision” for success. In fact, CCSR claims that schools boasting strong models of at least three of these qualities are “10 times more likely to improve student learning.” The creation and implementation of the educational surveys were inspired by the findings described in Organizing School for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago written by past and current CCSR members.
(DYK by Emeli Warren)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Books to Film: Upcoming Movie Adaptations

by Alex Garner, Fall 2013 Intern

Many upcoming films are adaptations of popular books, a large portion of which are based on young adult literature. From 2013 to 2014, at least a dozen movies coming out are adaptations of novels, both new and old. Based on popular books, the films will be sure to have fans of the original novels filling up seats.

One highly anticipated film adaptation is based on Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, a novel about a woman who disappears on her wedding anniversary. A thriller, the book was number one on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list for eight weeks, and at other rankings for even longer. It has sold over two million copies both in print and ebook format, and the production company paid $1.5 million for the screen rights. The film will star Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck.

One of the most popular books read in elementary schools, Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel The Giver has sold more than 5.3 million copies. The film adaptation, set for release in August 2014, will star Jeff Bridges as the Giver, alongside Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard and Taylor Swift. Called a classic by the Huffington Post, the dystopian novel has also received the Newbery Medal, the most distinguished award given for American literature for children.

A more recent novel to be turned into a film, also geared toward young audiences, is John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
—it was number one on the New York Times Bestseller list for children’s chapter books for seven weeks, and as of January 2013, nearly a million copies were in print. Set for release for June 6, 2014, the film will star Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Mike Birbiglia, Willem Dafoe and Laura Dern. The film also cast real teen cancer survivors to play parts in the support group that the main character attends in the story. Green’s book was also named the number one fiction book of 2012 by Time, so the film has a lot to live up to!

Also on the New York Times Bestseller list for a substantial amount of time, the movie version of Veronica Roth’s Divergent is scheduled to hit theaters on March 21, 2014. Like The Fault in Our Stars, it will also star Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, along with Kate Winslet, Theo James and Zoe Kravitz. Summit Entertainment has already revealed that a sequel, based on Roth’s Insurgent, is already in the works.

Other young adult books turned into films are The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Hunger Games series, Ender’s Game, The Hobbit, Delirium, Beautiful Creatures, and The Host. Choosing books for films has always been a popular decision among production companies, and it seems many readers—especially fans of young adult novels—will be excited to see their favorite books on screen.

Did You Know?
Movies adapted from YA novels­­­—or rather any novel­—have big shoes to fill. Usually, by the time a book hits the big screen, the writing has gathered a large following, looking for the movie to stay true to the original intent of the author. One of the most important components is ensuring that the movie maintains the emotional resonance found in the writing. Part of this lies in casting actors that portray character personalities and appearance, and finding a director passionate about the story is arguably equally as important. Before the advent of the Internet, there was much more mystery involved in adaptations. Films were made in a vacuum of sorts, where fans didn’t have access to details about the film until it was about to be released. Nowadays, moviegoers and book fans can view trailers, research the cast and read interviews before the movie is finished. This opens up the film to criticism, preferences and comments while still in production, forcing filmmakers to listen to their expectations while trying to remain true to their own artistry. Movie creators have to be even more creative and skillful as they attempt to aptly translate a book into a major motion picture. In some cases, such as with Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower, the book’s author will adapt his or her own writing into a screenplay. In this case, the movie was released thirteen years after the book was published. Chbosky wanted the film to appeal to the demographics of both those who read the book when it was first released, and those who read it when the movie came out. Chbosky had to self-edit and cut back on scenes that didn’t focus on central characters, balancing the emotion of the writing while remaining subjective. He called the process “the most gratifying and challenging work” he had ever done professionally, and his hard work certainly paid off when fans fell in love with his coming-of-age story all over again. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Public Schools in the 21st Century

by Nick Perricone, Fall 2013 Intern

Teachers, administrators and students are using social media in all new ways. How can public schools use social media? Schools have often relied on traditional ways of disseminating information such as town hall meetings or newsletters. But more and more opportunities are arising for public schools to get their message out using social media. There are many different ways educators and administrators are using social media to interact with their communities.

Facebook is not just meant for college students; it and other social networking sites have a wide range of ages for their users. According to Pew Research data, the percentage of adults using social networking is on the rise, with the number of responders saying they use a social networking site (such as LinkedIn or Facebook) more than doubling since 2008. With this increase in online users, some think public schools would be remiss not to reach out to community members, particularly when considering those who may have otherwise found it difficult to stay connected.

Amid budget cuts and other issues, many think it is especially important today for schools to be actively involved with their communities through social media. In some cases, educators from public schools have used social media to protest policymakers. In Florida, teachers used Facebook pages of more than 200,000 combined members to protest a bill they thought would have harmful effects. Because of their engaged online activism, the bill was eventually vetoed by Governor Crist.

Teachers are using social media to do more than protest bad policy. They’re also using it to teach. For example, Spanish teachers in a Baltimore school have been posting tweets in Spanish that they expect their students to respond to, or contain links to videos or other documents that the students are required to view. Students get the chance to expand their learning outside the classroom through this interactive approach.

With these developments, it is a wonder why high school or younger students have not used social media for ends other than socializing. According to a survey of middle and high school instructors throughout the country, a large majority of teachers say that social media is helping students express themselves creatively. What other uses might students be making of their social media platforms? With tools like Instagram making image sharing instantaneous, perhaps public schools could encourage students to share school-related events with the wider community. This would allow students to express themselves, and make their thoughts and perspectives known to community members. Social media can provide a voice to all ages, and a purpose for those who choose to use it productively.

Did You Know?

Mashable, a website that covers topics related to what they call “the connected generation,” cites the seven best ways to use social media to promote learning. Here are two of the most unique:
      1. The all-encompassing: Teacher Anna Divinsky created an iTunes U class at Penn State that she converted into a MOOC (a massive online open course). The 58,000 students enrolled in her class “Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques” were required to use social media in critiquing each other’s work. Some students uploaded pictures of their art to Flickr, others tweeted about it on Twitter or posted on Facebook. Each post required the specified “artmooc” tag.
      2. The mass-twitter questioning: According to a survey released by YPulse, 21 percent of 14–30 year-olds use Twitter as their main source for news. To capitalize on this, a professor at NYU encouraged students to live tweet their questions in a class of 200 during a speakers’ series of prominent journalists. In using the hashtag #IJNYU (investigative journalism New York University), the journalists were able to view and answer questions in real-time during their discussions. After the class, students had 24 hours to use Storify to create a summary of the tweets. Storify allows users to collect media data from the web and then publish it on their site which dually shares it with others and notifies the sources.
Other ideas include student-ran blogs, or using alternative outlets for hosting classes such as Google Hangouts, Edmodo and Second Life.
(DYK by Emeli Warren)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Are Publishing Seasons Outdated?

by Alex Garner, Fall 2013 Intern

An article in Publishers Weekly posed the question of whether publishing seasons are dead, reasoning that print books now have to compete with ebooks, which are essentially seasonless. Originally determined by the physical shipping schedule of books, publishing seasons may not be relevant anymore. However, this change in publishing seasons concerns mostly trade cycles—educational and academic publishers, regardless of the format they are publishing, still adhere to cycles determined by learning institutions.

NPR weighs in on ebooks, discussing how they have greatly influenced the publishing business model, including the ways books are sold. Books that are only in e-form do not require the same rigid sales structure: Little, Brown and Company has experimented with digital one-day sales, which consequently launched books like An Unfinished Life, a JFK biography that is back on the best seller list. With the traditional sales seasons essentially eliminated for ebooks, high sales can prove difficult, which is why unique ideas such as Little, Brown’s can be very influential.

With publishers wanting to keep up and be current in today’s instant information society, traditional publishing seasons may be hindering. There are several reasons for the blurring or combining of seasons: online services for publishers, the constant news cycle and the changing roles of sales representatives. Edelweiss, “an online, interactive cross-publisher catalog service,” has made it possible for publishers to continually add to the lists of books from which bookstores buy their stock. This online process allows for more “drop-in” titles throughout the year, diminishing the need for strict-scheduled, seasonal purchasing meetings with publishers’ sales representatives. The service also keeps track of information for each title from Twitter, Goodreads and blogs, making it easy for a publisher to quickly glance at a book’s media exposure. Many bookstore buyers rely on information from Edelweiss to determine purchase figures before a sales representative’s appointment.

While many see the need to buy and sell seasonally fading, many publishers and booksellers still favor the idea. Some like seeing trends and changes through the different seasons, and seasonal selling also makes overlooking a book less likely. Eliminating seasons would essentially mean constant drop-ins for buyers, who find it challenging for scheduling purposes as well as limiting for potential sales, causing some booksellers to be worried. The convenience of Edelweiss and blurred seasons both pose a danger to the distinction of a book’s individuality—a list covering countless titles throughout the year can make all books look the same. Without the in-person scheduled meetings, it is harder to distinguish books and their various strong points from one another, which could result in difficult purchasing decisions for booksellers as well as lower book sales if important selling points are never introduced. The buying departments of most booksellers rely on the information provided in seasonal meetings with publishers’ sales representatives because it can help them in better forecasting the potential market for a title.

One bookseller for Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee summarized the questioned necessity of publishing seasons well, stating, “What [publishers] define the season as has kind of gone away. You have the fall/Christmas season and the rest of the year.” While this certainly seems to be true in the sense that books are no longer purchased simply in the traditional seasons, it does not necessarily mean they will be eliminated any time soon. That sense of structure that comes with an expected season makes scheduling easier for publishers, booksellers and readers alike. But an understanding that the market has changed leaves room for more possibilities, including flexibility in seasons and new approaches for ebook sales.

Did You Know?
The immediate reaction to the word “seasons” is to think of fall, winter, spring and summer—the four calendar seasons representing the changing weather. But in the world of a publisher, only two seasons usually exist based on catalog releases: spring and fall. Even though books are published year-round, Bunkerhill Publishing argues that summer and winter are just interludes between the other two, as the majority of books are still released during these the spring and fall months. Although this may no longer apply to all books since the advent of ebooks and ereaders, it is still a general guideline followed by trade book publishers. Each season, publishers release a front-list catalog that they send to potential buyers, investors and media representatives. The catalog for the spring issue is decided well before fall even rolls around, and publishers distribute them in plenty of time to create buzz around the books they will be releasing in the upcoming seasons. This gives the media time to schedule interviews, receive galleys (bound pages of books that have not been copyedited or proofread, used as means to market and to gain feedback) and to write stories and reviews for their publications.
(DYK by Emeli Warren)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Reimagining Shakespeare

by Rachel Hill, Fall 2013 Intern

Revivals and film adaptations of the immortal Bard’s work have always been staples of the entertainment industry. With a Romeo & Juliet movie, directed by Carlo Carlei, released in October 2013, it’s time again to look back at other famous Shakespeare works that made the transition from stage to film. Modern or modernized film adaptations make Shakespeare more accessible, not only logistically in terms of the ease of obtaining or viewing a movie versus seeing a play, but also stylistically in terms of language, setting and interpretive scope. Since West Side Story, about a star-crossed pair from rival Manhattan gangs, made it to Broadway in September of 1957, directors have reimagined and reset Shakespeare increasingly in the modern day—especially such popular tales as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

Some might not realize that Hamlet inspired 1994’s animated classic The Lion King, as well as a 2000 film that borrows the original play’s name but places the action in a modern surveillance culture. 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You reinterprets The Taming of the Shrew as a fin de si├Ęcle high school drama, and in a similarly loose fashion, She’s the Man gives Twelfth Night a 2006 spin, with a modern tomboy disguising herself as her twin brother to prove she can make a men’s soccer team. Baz Luhrmann’s celebrated Romeo + Juliet, released in 1996, takes the story of the lovers to a contemporary fictional location called Verona Beach. The age-old story also holds a place in this year’s casually futuristic Warm Bodies, which pushes the envelope with its humorous depiction of star-crossed love during a zombie apocalypse.

In 2001, O adapted the story of Othello to the highly tense and dramatic scenes of high school romance, jealousy and basketball. Joss Whedon’s 2012 Much Ado About Nothing received largely positive reviews for its fresh interpretation as a black-and-white modern-dress version of the play, shot in just twelve days. The Boston Globe called it “just about the sloppiest Shakespeare ever put on the screen” and “the most exhilarating.”

By contrast, Carlo Carlei’s Romeo & Juliet was noted in the media, following the release of the film’s trailer and poster, as a strictly traditional retelling. The director decided to flout the trend of modernizing the Bard’s classics and instead opted for more of a period piece shot in fair Verona, Italy. He even got award-winning costume designer Carlo Poggi on board and tasked his set designers with creating a recognizably sixteenth- or seventeenth-century scene. This approach has been called “purist” and “almost refreshing and unusual by comparison,” but some reviewers are unimpressed with the traditional take. Prior to the film’s release, one critic blasted its poster for “trying to give off the impression it’s a modern day retelling when it most certainly isn’t,” which could represent a move to market the film to a broader audience, though it may end up frustrating viewers instead.
While it certainly looks to be a beautiful adaptation, Carlei’s version must stand on its own amid a veritable army of creative Shakespeare interpretations. Does Carlei’s vision lend something fresh to the Bard’s most famous tale? Or does it fall flat? We’ll see.

Did You Know?
Turner Classic Movies claims that there are over 30 Romeo and Juliet movies (and this is before it was announced that another would be released in October of 2013). This number includes silent, foreign and modern versions, starting with MGM’s 1936 black-and-white take; with the lead actors in their mid-30s and -40s, and a budget over $2 million, this was the most expensive sound film at the time. According to Focus Features, there have been at least 50 feature film releases of Hamlet, while Absolute Shakespeare argues that the number extends over 60 film adaptations and 21 television renditions. The site also estimates that there have been more than 250 Shakespeare movies produced. This doesn’t include the many opera, musical, short-clip and stage productions created from all of Shakespeare’s plays beyond Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, the well-known and often-overlooked alike. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Should More Students Consider Community College?

by Melissa Mui, Fall 2013 Intern

The cost of higher education is always on the rise. The main concern for many students looking into college is the rate of tuition. When considering their academic future, students’ considerations no longer focus mainly on educational offerings, but also on the need for scholarships and student loans. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, the average cost of public community colleges is less then half that of public four-year colleges and approximately one-tenth the cost of private four-year colleges. If money is such a concern, why aren’t more students looking into community colleges?

In addition to the almost guaranteed savings, many people find community college a viable option because they are not yet sure what academic path they wish to take. Not all high school graduates know what subjects they would like to study or employment fields to enter, whether the time to make the decision falls at the expected time upon graduation, or in the years that follow. Those who know their desired major or focus can seek specialty schools or programs at traditional four-year colleges, but for those who are having difficulty finding a focus, taking core classes at a community college can give them the necessary time to find themselves and their passion. New research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that an estimated 27.3 percent of undergraduate students will work in a field that pertains to their major. This low percent represents not only the students who are unable to find work after graduating, but also those who might have gone to school for a field in which they did not want to spend their lives working.

When considering the opportunities community colleges provide rather than prohibit, the benefits seem to outweigh any shortcomings. Indeed, the biggest drawback that most people find about community college is simply the lack of campus life. There are clubs that students may join, though many work and do not have the time to participate. If a very tight-knit community is a requirement, community college is not the place to look. Community colleges also have a smaller selection of courses and subjects than traditional colleges.

For those purely seeking an education, a social life might not even be a factor in the decision-making process. In these cases, campus life is considered far less important than availability and schedule flexibility. These instances are often the cases of people seeking community colleges who are not fresh high school graduates. Between 2007 and 2011, the average age of a community college student was twenty-eight, 60 percent worked 20 or more hours a week and 41 percent transferred to four-year public institutions. Many junior colleges are able to offer a variety of class times for students who have busy schedules. At its Charleston, Massachusetts campus, Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), for instance, has been offering midnight classes since 2009. While a midnight class might not work for some, may students who work odd jobs or are accustomed to overnight shifts find the midnight classes perfect for their schedule. Many community colleges follow this concept—to create opportunities for people with a variety of schedules.

Ultimately, college is what students make of it. Whether they attend community college, a four-year college or some combination thereof, it is up to the students to know what they are looking to get out of their education and to effectively obtain the knowledge they seek.

Did You Know?

In evaluating two- and four-year institutions, the numbers make for an interesting comparison. The College Board has several helpful charts and tables that not only make cost breakdowns more accessible, but simplified as well. One such chart shows the fees for tuition and room and board for both two- and four-year colleges. These fees have more than doubled in the last decade despite the type of school being analyzed, and the difference in fees for a public in-state institution versus a two-year in-state school is almost $6,000. However, the average family income is dropping rather than rising. Over the past three decades, up to 2011, the average family income has dropped more than 5 percent each year—at least for the already low-income families that make up 20 percent of the population. The average family income for those already in the top 5 percent of families, however, has only risen over this time period. These facts may make the loan averages for students less surprising: In October of 2012, the average debt for college students had reached an average of $27,000—up 5 percent since 2010—while the unemployment rate remained at nearly 9 percent. One bit of information that may be encouraging for college grads, however, is that this 9 percent is still much lower than the 19 percent unemployment rates that high school graduates faced in 2011. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Academics Still Prefer Print

by Nick Perricone, Fall 2013 Intern

The use of electronic formats of things we read is on the rise. The population of Americans aged 16 and older who read e-books has grown from 16 percent to 23 percent over the past year. More and more people are now buying e-book readers and tablets. Universities, following this trend of electronic information, are developing ways of replacing the textbook with more interactive ways of learning, such as massive online open courses (MOOCs), which consist of online lectures and homework assignments.

Publishers are following suit by creating digital formats of their products consisting of a mix of text, video and homework assignments. With this tendency towards new ways of learning and reading, are students favoring the digital over the printed word? The answer, according to a new study on “Student Reading Practices in Print and Electronic Media,” might surprise you. According to this study, which followed college students’ reading habits over 12 days, while students tend to choose digital formats for shorter and nonacademic reading, they still prefer print when it comes to longer academic reading.

Students more often directly engaged with a text by highlighting, underlining and taking notes in the margins when reading in print format, and preferred to do their academic reading in this way. While students were also able to engage with texts in electronic formats, which offered some advantages such as search function or links embedded in the text, they also found these to be a distraction. Although digitally formatted textbooks are less expensive than their print counterparts, students often chose to print off portions of the digital reading, adding a new cost that sometimes offsets the costs they originally saved when buying electronically.

For nonacademic reading, however, especially shorter items such as news articles or blog entries, students tended to use digital formats. While print was used for longer, more engaged reading, students reported that they used “skimming” to take in the information when using digital products.

Given these markedly different reading habits, it is possible that the future will not look quite as digital as some textbook companies and universities are imagining. Right now, only 2 percent of textbooks sold in college bookstores are fully digital titles. And it’s likely that students will continue, at least for the time being, to engage with a text in good old-fashioned print.

Did You Know?

Students may still prefer academic reading in print to digital, but more teachers are becoming aware of the benefits to be had in teaching writing and reading using supplemental digital products. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 78 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers noted that they believe technology (namely social media, the Internet, and even cell phones) have promoted “student creativity and personal expression.” The teachers also believe that these technological formats allow students to share their work with a wider and more diverse audience, encouraging working with others and collaborating on ideas. Although the research showed that students invest more in their writing and projects since the advent of digital technologies, teachers have acknowledged their increased awareness of plagiarism and fair use. It should be noted, however, that the research performed by Pew, although diverse in its coverage geographically and the size and characteristics of the student bodies, the research was skewed toward academically successful students and advanced classrooms. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Social Media’s Presence in College Recruitment and Application

by Rachel Hill, Fall 2013 Intern

Colleges are now better able to engage past, current and prospective students through new social video trends like Vine and Instagram. Vine is a mobile application that gives users the capacity to create and share six-second looping video clips. Released in January 2013 and operated by Twitter, maven of micro–social media sharing, Vine “inspires creativity” through “the brevity of videos,” according to Twitter’s official blog post about the release. The new platform application occupies the gap in mobile apps between YouTube and Instagram, as a snapshot of sorts in video form.

Instagram is a nearly three-year-old app and site that acts as a one-stop shop for photo uploading, allowing users to capture and share images with the option of adding different editing filters. Not to be outdone, Instagram started letting users share 15-second videos in June, just a few months after Vine’s kickoff.

Many colleges use these and other social media outlets for managing their public relations face as well as recruiting tools for prospective students. With the developing social video trend, universities find themselves in a race to be the savviest competitor for youths increasingly inundated with technology.

As Colin Huber, writer and social media coordinator at Oregon State University, puts it, “When new platforms come out with social media, if it's something that you think could be of use, it's important to be one of the first ones on there.” About 40 schools are already using Vine to interact with students, alumni and prospective students, building an impressive array of brief shots of well-known campus buildings and activities.

Now students, too, are seeing the benefits of advertising themselves on social media, using new tools to showcase their talents, skills and even teacher recommendations. However, officials also have some advice: As always, be careful of what other content is on your public profile if you want to reach out to a school (or any institution, for that matter) via social media. Your old videos could show the college something they don’t want to see in a prospective student. Use hashtags used by the college and its students, not only to catch their attention, but also to keep up with current affairs. Finally, don’t call attention to a video that isn’t your best work.

Prospective students and colleges are learning to use social media tools in many innovative ways to produce exciting, compelling videos or images that market their best features. College officials are just as excited as students about the many possibilities for social media platforms, which are being explored every day.

Did You Know?

What do Princeton, Harvard and Yale have in common? Sure, they are all Ivy League universities, and they also grace the top three slots for best national universities based on a 2013 report by U.S. News & World Report. But beyond that, all three universities have their own Instagram and Twitter accounts. Instagram, being a newer technology, has data in the hundreds for number of posts and thousands for followers of each school. Princeton is at the middle of the pack as far as number of posts go, with substantially more posts than Harvard but less followers; Harvard has less posts than Princeton but many more followers; and Yale leads the way  with more posts and more followers than both its rivals. However, when it comes to Twitter, Harvard blows their competition out of the water. The @Harvard account boasts that the university has tens of thousands of tweets and hundreds of thousands of followers. @Yale comes in second with number of tweets approaching ten thousand and number of followers close to a hundred thousand; and @Princeton trails close behind with tweets nearing ten thousand and number of followers between fifty thousand and a hundred thousand. But what does this mean for their students? Yale is constantly tweeting out information on campus upgrades and events, while Harvard leans on discussions about research and relevant news; Princeton is more of a combination of both. At the same time, students are utilizing their own accounts to get attention from the universities. One potential student added the @Princeton tag to a tweet that mentioned being nervous about applying to Princeton. The Princeton account replied with a link to the Undergraduate Admission page, which is full of information for new and incoming students. These types of interactions are becoming more and more popular and will only continue to increase as schools dive further into their social media accounts. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Penguin’s Book Truck Travels to Spread the Word

by Melissa Mui, Fall 2013 Intern

In May 2013, Penguin Group (USA) unveiled their first mobile bookstore, the Penguin Book Truck. Combining the book carts of old with the ever-popular food trucks, Penguin hopes the truck will be “bringing the writer to the reader.” The truck planned appearances at several literary events across the country, such as Shakespeare in the Park in New York City and Tom Sawyer Day in Hartford, Connecticut. Fans of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath can also look forward to the Book Truck’s road trip, following the journey of the beloved Joad family, as depicted in the novel.

The truck’s journey began at the Stanley Tubbs Memorial Library in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, with twelve stops planned along Route 66 West, stretching to its final destination at Weedpatch Camp in Arvin, California. The remaining ten stops consist of libraries, museums, universities and other historical sites, including the Route 66 Museum and California State College.

The truck is not only a mobile bookstore, but also home to the Penguin Book Cart. Adopted from a similar cart used by Penguin in London, the US model can be found in public recreational locations near the truck’s location. You can check in with the truck and push cart to see the planned routes through the end of 2013. Fans can also check out the truck’s own Twitter and Facebook pages for the latest news and details on up-and-coming locations.

While the truck is well underway in its first year of operation, the idea did not start here. In 2010, Penguin had a Mini Cooper, dubbed the Penguin Car, painted their trademark bright orange and decked out in Penguin’s logo. When the car’s marketing purpose proved successful, it became obvious that a single car could not hold enough books. The company soon came up with a clever solution, and designs for a truck modeled after popular food trucks began. The London-inspired pushcart brought the final addition, making up the team to undertake the excursion around the country.

Beyond simply bringing books to readers, Penguin has also held author signings. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, joined the book truck’s expedition on September 7 in Frenchtown, New Jersey. Along with her works, the truck also featured Gilbert’s personal favorites in their classics section. Fans were able to meet the author at two venues—The Book Garden and Two Buttons—while enjoying live music.

The Penguin Book Truck’s intent is to encourage a love of reading and interaction with literature, not to be competition for bookstores, as some concern people have opined. Contrary to this supposition, Penguin (USA) has declared support for bookstores as well as denying any competitive intent towards bookstores, allowing the assumption that the book truck is just a method of trying something new and literally getting the word out. For now, Penguin has released a list of truck stops into February 2014 on their site, a trip that fans hope will extend both in time and scope.

Did You Know?

The traveling Penguin Book Truck is not the only celebratory event marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath publication. There is an entire festival dedicated to Steinbeck and his works—and it happens every year.  The National Steinbeck Center hosts a yearly festival to celebrate the works of the author, with events that include concerts, film, poetry, walking tours, book signings and discussions. Next year’s festival, scheduled for May 2–4, 2014, will be the thirty-fourth the center has hosted, and will include events unique to the program. The program for this special festival is already up online: “The Journey,” taking place in October of 2013, covers the route of the Joad family, as outlined in the book and also followed by the Penguin Book Truck. Because this trip will be lead by musicians, artists and writers conducting interviews along the trip, the 2014 festival will be used to showcase their discoveries. The festival will also host outreach to schools, libraries and museums in order to promote the reading of The Grapes of Wrath. The Center also hopes to promote their international segment, titled the “International Fringe Fest,” that has been hosted in places including Amsterdam, Jerusalem, Cairo and Berlin. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Major Issues With the Common Core State Standards

by Ken Scherpelz, VP, Sales and Business Development

In trying to explain the ins and outs of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Grades K through 12, it’s just as important to explain what the standards are
not as it is to explain what they actually are. Executive Director Jay Diskey of the American Association of Publishers (AAP) PreK–12 Learning Group did just that in a web presentation to educational publishers on September 9.

In a nutshell:

  • The CCSS, finalized in June 2010, is a state-led initiative developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) Center.
  • The standards were designed to identify the knowledge and skill set that every K–12 student should possess in math and English, and to increase the rigor over that of most current state standards.
  • Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have initially adopted the standards.
  • The federal government provided funding to develop tests as well as to provide incentives for states to adopt the standards.
Unfortunately, several recent public polls, including those conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International/Gallup and Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, discovered a lack of understanding among many Americans.

The results found
  •  a lack of knowledge and support for both CCSS and corresponding assessments.
  •  fewer than one-half of Americans with children in public schools had heard of CCSS.
  •  a majority of respondents said the standards will make the United States less competitive or have no effect.

Some information about the standards that has been circulating is simply inaccurate. Among the misinformation:

  •  The CCSS Initiative is an attempt to federalize education.
  •  The federal government is mandating that all states adopt the standards.
  •  The federal government will use the standards and assessments to collect personal data on students.
Strong opposition to the standards is growing from groups that span the political spectrum, such that 14 states have introduced legislation to delay adoption or to prohibit that state’s board of education from adopting the standards. Some groups oppose the standards because they feel that implementing the CCSS will result in more testing, even though many states are planning to replace current state-specific standardized tests with CCSS-focused tests. Budget-strapped districts have also complained of the costs required to train school staff and to replace current standardized tests.

It was clear that many attendees of the presentation were concerned about the need for initiatives to educate the public about the standards in order to facilitate their acceptance. The AAP is currently discussing what its role needs to be in supporting the standards and responding to critics and misinformation, but nothing official is forthcoming. And what about the NGA and CCSSO, the original developers of the CCSS? Well, it seems that in our hyper-political climate, the governors, 36 of whom are up for reelection in the 2016 midterm elections, are reluctant to take a strong stand supporting the standards for what appear to be obvious reasons.

Many districts have been purchasing and using curricula that address the new standards in an effort to have the standards fully implemented by the 2014–2015 school year. But the path to overall acceptance, adoption and implementation is still rocky and rife with obstacles.

Did You Know?

To assess students using the CCSS, there are two options for states to choose from:
the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), is a consortium of 18 different states plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), is made up of a state-led consortium that is developing assessments. These organizations were started to help states implement the CCSS into their core curricula. To simplify, CCSS identifies the standards that each curriculum should align to, while PARCC and SBAC help the states form tests that align to these required standards. So what’s the major difference between the two options? SBAC offers the adaptive computer component, meaning that as a student is tested, the level of questions increases in difficulty depending on the previous response. PARCC, however, uses streamlined questions, called fix-formed delivery, that have predetermined difficulty levels. For a more in-depth look at the options that each state faces, the Educational Testing Service developed a white paper with the facts. School Leadership 20 lists out the comparisons on its website as well. (DYK by Emeli Warren)