Tuesday, April 29, 2014

We Are Made of Starstuff: The Return of Cosmos

by Olivia Billbrough, Spring 2014 Intern

“Come with me.” These are the words that Carl Sagan told us on his PBS miniseries Cosmos: A Personal Voyage as we set off on an adventure to discover what mysteries lie in the depths of space, the earth and humanity. Sadly, Sagan passed away in 1996, but he made his mark. Sagan took us on a journey to educate people on complex scientific matters and to expand their imaginations. What made Sagan so successful was that he didn’t give us a lecture on anything, but instead took us on a journey using wit, humor and memorable stories.

Now, 34 years after Carl Sagan’s beloved show, Neil deGrasse Tyson has taken the storyteller spot of Cosmos, giving the miniseries an updated look. With better CGI and a new name, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey begins with a clip and voice-over of Sagan from the original show and moves smoothly into Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining what and where we will be exploring.

The show, which was billed as the largest launch in television history, premiered on Sunday, March 9, 2014, on Fox and several other networks simultaneously. The miniseries is backed by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who has long expressed his support of science and wanted to help create a show that shows how amazing science can be. The show was created and produced by Sagan’s wife, Ann Druyan. Tyson, who had been close friends with Sagan as well as Macfarlane, was chosen to be the new presenter.

Tyson is a man of many positions in the scientific community. He is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, an astrophysicist and a writer, and has had resounding support as the new host of Cosmos. In popular culture Tyson is a prominent figure who has been featured on The Colbert Report several times and fact checks science in movies and television shows on his Twitter account.

Tyson allows Cosmos to keep the witty and humorous feel that Sagan brought to the original. He makes note in an interview with National Geographic that he does not want to replace Sagan, but instead, is “just the next storyteller.”

“Come with me,” Tyson urges in the opening of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. “Come on an adventure through space and time,” he means. “Come and explore the farthest regions of space and the deepest oceans. Connect with the cosmos and understand that we are all connected.” He wants us to remember that we are all “participants in this great unfolding cosmic story.” As Sagan so famously says in the original series: “We are made of starstuff.”

Did You Know?

The movie Contact, released in 1997 and starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, was based on a novel of the same name written by Carl Sagan. It was released a year after the famed and beloved astrophysicist passed away. The movie, though it is about the exploration of space and discovery, is, at its heart, a very human tale about a woman and how she views faith and science.

The novel, which was released in 1985, five years after Cosmos: A Personal Journey, was published by Simon & Schuster. The advance they gave Carl Sagan, two million dollars, was at the time the largest advance ever given. The novel is actually based on a screenplay that hadn’t made it to the screen, though it was later brought back to become the film Contact.
(DYK by Olivia Billbrough)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Do Students Need to be Praised by Teachers to Succeed?

by Nick Persad, Spring 2014 Intern

Throughout high school, I had teachers who would rejoice whenever anyone spoke up in class—particularly when they were answering a question correctly. Additionally, they would barely reprimand any student for causing any type of raucous behavior within the classroom.

Students loved these teachers.

However, I also had teachers who would offer no acknowledgment beyond “correct” when a student answered a question with the appropriate answer, but they would offer disapproval if a student answered incorrectly and scold any student for the slightest infraction.

Students didn’t love these teachers.

I didn’t realize it then, but I worked harder in the classes where the teachers were more likely to chastise me and where the opportunity to be praised was less frequent—sometimes nonexistent. I was determined to hear them utter some form of praise about my work, so I looked for any opportunity for that praise to be awarded, thus studying harder and being more attentive in their classes. But is this teaching method—where student praise is disregarded for a harsher approach—a successful tool to facilitate learning?

According to Joanne Lipman’s article “Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results” from The Wall Street Journal, “Studies have now shown, among other things, the benefits of moderate childhood stress; how praise kills kids’ self-esteem; and why grit is a better predictor of success than SAT scores.”
The article, based on Lipman’s experience with a high-school teacher whose methods would get him fired if applied today, lists eight traits that she believes need to be employed in the American teaching system so that students can gain rank over the rest of the developing world and not trail behind:

  1. A little pain is good for you.
  2. Drill, baby, drill.
  3. Failure is an option.
  4. Strict is better than nice.
  5. Creativity can be learned.
  6. Grit trumps talent.
  7. Praise makes you weak…
  8. …while stress makes you strong.

“All of which,” Lipman states, “flies in the face of the kinder, gentler philosophy that has dominated American education over the past few decades. The conventional wisdom holds that teachers are supposed to tease knowledge out of students, rather than pound it into their heads.”

I may not have liked those teachers in high school, but I appreciated their stricter methods. I never felt like I was the best, so I kept pushing forward. While I don’t intend to discredit the “nice” teachers, I learned more (and continue to learn more) in a more strict environment over one where I felt I could take a nap without the teacher noticing.

This brings about the question: How do teachers know which method will work for them and why do they choose to adopt it?

An article from The Atlantic called “Report: Teachers Aren’t Trained to Praise Their Students” states, “The report identifies ‘The Big Five’ of classroom management: Make rules; establish structure and routines; praise students for positive behavior; address bad behavior; and maintain student behavior. And it discovered that of all of these, the value praise was the least likely to be formally discussed.”

New teachers aren’t being taught how to praise students—something that seems innate—but rather to create a classroom environment where they are respected and have the full attention of their students.

Indeed, I think less praise and more pressure is better for students. Yes, they may feel more anxiety about succeeding, but they won’t become complacent—which can happen from continual praise, especially with young students.

Did You Know?

Mastery learning, according to the New York Times article “In ‘Flipped’ Classrooms, a Method for Mastery,” is such that “the student’s understanding of a subject is a constant and time is a variable; when each fifth grader masters prime factorization, for instance, he moves onto greatest common factors, each at his own pace.”

Briefly popular in the 1920s, one of the advantages of mastery learning is that the student decides the pace of the class, not the teacher. The teacher provides the necessary materials, but the students work at their preferred rates.

Initially a problem for teachers because of the varying levels of understanding among the students, mastery learning is being revived thanks to a process knows as the flipped classroom (check out our 2012 blog covering the topic), where “ teachers make videos of their lecture introducing new concepts and assign them as homework. That frees up precious class time to work directly with students on projects, exercises or problem sets—the stuff that students would traditionally do at home. Now instead, of struggling alone, students can do the most important work with a teacher or peers who can help.”
(DYK by Nick Persad)

Technical Artisans Collective: Making Learning Vibrant

by Eileen Neary, Assistant Project Manager

Technical Artisans Collective (TAC) isn’t your average arts education organization. In fact, through an interview with its co-founder Kim Guzowski, I learned there isn’t anything average about TAC. From its inception in the fall of 2012, TAC has been a confluence of theatrical production professionals, artisans and educators creating educational experiences in which students apply their knowledge as tools to build, make and create. TAC is the brainchild of Shawn Robinson, an expert in production electrics and rigging, whose résumé includes the technical directing of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and David Blaine’s “Electrified,” and Guzowski, a 20-year theater-teaching veteran and production manager/electrician.

The inspiration for TAC came in October of 2012, after Guzowski took students to see endurance artist David Blaine’s “Electrified,” in which Blaine was “electrified” by seven interactive musical Tesla coils for three days. Several founders of TAC (including Sarah Anderson, Becca Ball, Van Orilia, Mike Patterson and Where Huertas) who were working on this event, including Robinson, toured Guzowski’s former students backstage, answering all of their artistic, scientific and engineering questions. The stage technicians asked the students to consider how it was possible that Blaine was living with so much electricity being shot at him. They challenged the students to think about the difference between amps and volts. Guzowski talked with the students about the multicultural traditions of endurance arts as vehicles for spectacle, commerce and spiritual attainment. The students’ enthusiasm, combined with the knowledge that many of her fellow artisans were seeking ways to share their craft with students, led Guzowski and Robinson to the idea of Technical Artisans Collective.

By March of 2013, Robinson and Guzowski brought TAC to life. Production technicians, teachers, designers and artists began teaming up to create kinesthetic learning experiences for the youth population of the New York City Metro area. Sponsored by Fractured Atlas, an arts group that supports over two hundred fifty thousand artists and organizations, TAC set out to help students apply their academic and artistic studies through interdisciplinary hands-on projects inspired by artisanal and theatrical crafts.

As their programs took off, TAC members asked, “Why do we educate?” They realized students need the dichotomy between real-world experience and academia to end. Theater provides the ideal platform to display this concept; it is an environment where many aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) can be reinforced through practical application and be used to further engage students. TAC is a perfect example of the educational movement STEAM, in which arts are used to explore STEM.

TAC lessons are designed to give students experiences in which their academic and artistic learning is essential to the practical success of their project. Teachers hear students ask these questions all too often: “When would I need to know this?” and “Why do I need to know this?” TAC provides some very real answers. TAC is, as Guzowski says, “building a template for all industries” to show that all school subjects and vocational skills can be taught kinesthetically and have real-world applications.

Guzowski filled me in on a mantra of TAC teachers: “Help students apply the learning, make it vibrant and teach with consequences.” For students who choose to study production rigging, for example—their motivation lies not in getting a good grade, but in experiencing the success of seeing an object flying across the stage using newly learned engineering skills, or watching a truss bridge they built successfully bear the weight of speakers and moving lights. Whether it’s a one-day workshop or semester-long partnership, TAC challenges students to succeed not just with the hands-on materials, but to engage on an intellectual and emotional level. When seventh-grade students started reading Shakespeare in class, TAC helped them create set models based on student-chosen text to justify their design choices. This gave students a “different way to access the language,” which led them to a greater understanding. At the end of the course, they were able to green screen their creations, which allowed them to act on their set models through the use of video editing software.

In her years of using theater to reinforce academics, Guzowski and academic teachers with whom she has worked have found that the interdisciplinary experiential theater-based approach that TAC is using organically motivates all learner types, because every kind of student can find a way into the material in a manner they find interesting. In Guzowski’s experience, academic retention of material learned through these kinds of projects is very high. She suspects this is because of the layers of learning coupled with a real sense of pride students have in accomplishing a task with relevance to them.

In speaking with Guzowski, I discovered that educators benefit from TAC as well. TAC doesn’t replace teachers in the classroom, but rather works with them. TAC collaborates with teachers to choose the best projects to reinforce the lessons. During the lesson, the classroom teachers are present, and have the ability to observe their students’ personalities, strengths and learning styles as they engage with their scholastic materials.

TAC’s recent work includes training high school students who designed, built and stage-managed two school plays (including Shakespeare in 2D, 3D and HD); workshops in graphic design; leather work; customizing clothing; analog DJ techniques; movie sound effects; storytelling through lighting; live music mixing; and much more.

On April 26, 2014, TAC will be participating in NYC Parks’ 7th Annual Street Games at Thomas Jefferson Park in Harlem with a “Build Your Own Obstacle Course” event. On May 18, 2014, TAC will be offering their first full Rigging Workshop, where students will learn the principles of basic mechanics/physics and applied math through learning how to “float” themselves. Educators in the New York area can hear Kim Guzowski and Hackley School English teacher Nicole Butterfield speak about their collaborative educational work on May 3, 2014, at the NYSAIS Teaching with Technology (TWT14 Redux) Conference at Lycée Français de New York.

Technical Artisans Collective is just one example of encouraging the inclusion of arts in education. PSG has been a strong supporter of TAC since its inception, and backs other like-minded organizations. TAC is currently seeking partner schools in the New York City area to pilot curricula or to bring theatrical productions to life. TAC welcomes support.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Geo-Literacy: Encouraging Students to Develop a Global Perspective

by Liz Canon, Spring 2014 Intern

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published the 2010 results of the geography portion of their National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) given to fourth, eighth and twelfth graders. The results revealed that nearly 30 percent of tested students were below the Basic knowledge level. The NAEP defines the Basic achievement level as “partial mastery of the knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” In comparison to 2001 and 1994, the average score in geography has either stayed about the same or slightly increased across grades, but it is the number of students who tested below Basic that is worrisome. The results have illuminated the fact that many young Americans are unable to effectively read, interpret and design maps, graphs or other materials having environmental information.

Educational initiatives implemented in the last few decades often do little to encourage schools across the United States to focus on geography specifically. For example, the federally sponsored No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 allocated millions of dollars to fund language arts, math and science, civics and the arts, and the study of economics. The subject of geography, however, received no federal funding.

As a result of these figures, the National Geographic Society has teamed up with the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), CH2M Hill and Esri to found the Geo-Literacy Coalition. The coalition hopes to not only instill an understanding of geography in students across the United States but also to enlighten students about their positions in the global community.

According to the National Geographic Society, geo-literacy is “the understanding of Earth systems and interconnections that we all need to make good decisions.” In other words, we are all connected on a global scale and therefore our actions have an impact on the world. It is important for students to realize their existence in relation to the rest of the world. This type of knowledge can help students to make informed life decisions such as where they want to live, which products they want/need to buy or how they want to get from place to place.

The first step to implementing this type of global thinking into the classroom is through discussion. There are plenty of examples that represent the impact our actions have on our fellow citizens. Take, for example, the concept of acid rain. In the 1980s, scientists discovered that pollution created in the Midwest from power plants was traveling to New England and causing acid rain. This pollution caused an increase in the acidity of some of New England’s streams, soil and trees. Students can use examples such as this one to analyze the impact our decisions can have at local, national and global levels.

The Geo-Literacy Coalition is also urging citizens to petition the government to fund geography instruction in our schools. Some of their suggestions include going to Speak Up For Geography to petition for support of the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act (TGIF) or, if you are a college student, joining the Speak Up For Geography Campus Challenge.

Did You Know?

Geo-literacy and global literacy are two movements that aim to increase the knowledge of children and adults.

Geo-literacy, as mentioned above, is a current movement that encourages more geography instruction in schools in hopes that this knowledge will inspire students to make better decisions and understand that the decisions that they make affect others.

Global literacy is a worldwide effort to try and increase literacy rates among people in poverty-stricken countries around the world. Currently, almost 800 million people do not know how to read or write. Organizations like the World Literacy Foundation try and combat illiteracy by raising money to provide students and teachers with the tools they need for reading and writing. These tools include books, testing materials and technology. To help support their efforts, you can donate, become a partner or even “like” the World Literacy Foundation on Facebook.
(DYK by Liz Canon)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Piecing Together PISA Results

by Tess Klingenstein, Spring 2014 Intern

When the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results came out in 2012, they received more attention than usual because of the recent changes in educational policy. Measured against 64 other countries, 33 of which are other member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), American teenagers came in seventeenth in reading, twenty-first in science and twenty-sixth in math. The rankings were not unlike past results, but they spurred discussion surrounding why American fifteen-year-olds don’t do better on the international reading, math and science assessments.

American children do well on equivalent elementary school assessments, but once they hit high school, we see a decline in performance. Perhaps this fact catches people who are aware of the Flynn effect off guard. The Flynn effect refers to the increase in standardized test scores around the world. All over the globe, IQ results are higher with each passing year. There is no definitive reason why this should be the case, but there are many well-researched hypotheses that try to answer the question. Still, the Flynn effect applies to populations around the globe, so there’s no reason it can be used to undermine the concern that American children are not performing as well on the PISA as children in other OECD countries.

Many scholars are trying to figure out why the results are not better. Some cite the dissonance between what children learn in school and what the PISA tests actually measure. American schooling emphasizes memorization of formulas, but the assessment battery asks children to solve problems without an equation handy. Others suggest that it’s public schools’ focus on creativity that has left fifteen-year-olds ill equipped to tackle the math and science portions. Michael J. Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, says, “The question is, can we walk and chew gum at the same time?” before going on to explain, “There’s no reason why we can’t keep the creativity that we value while also teaching kids how to do math better.”

What’s interesting about the scores is that they give insight into the how socioeconomic status plays into results around the globe. Dana Goldstein, writer for Slate, notes, “PISA shows that with about 15 percent of the US achievement gap attributable to poverty, we are smack in the global middle in terms of the effect of socioeconomics on educational achievement.” A 15 percent gap makes the United States comparable to the United Kingdom, Singapore and Brazil, among others. Wealth, however, does not seem to have as big of an effect on American children as it does in other countries. On average—for those that take part in PISA—13 percent of a country’s students score in the top two categories in math. In the U.S.—even with all the resources available to children in the highest socioeconomic tier—only 9 percent of students score in the top two categories.

Whether these PISA scores should garner as much attention as they have received is up in the air. Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, is reported as saying that Americans should “stop hyperventilating” about the results. Others, including Goldstein, are interested in what we can learn from them in order to explore what we can do better.

Did You Know?

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, may rely on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a popular personality test, in his hiring process. According to a former Amazon employee, “Lots of managers had to take the Myers-Briggs personality tests” and “Eighty percent of them came in two or three similar categories.” What does Bezos look for in an “Amazonian?” According to that same employee: Highly meticulous, quiet engineers who “have no idea what to say to a woman in a bar.”

Although Amazon started out as a book distributer (whereas today it distributes anything from DVDs to shower curtains to MP3 downloads), Bezos has never been much of a booklover himself. Unlike his wife MacKenzie, a novelist, the CEO’s interest in book distribution “was totally based on the property of books as a product,” says the former insider.

But whatever the personality necessary to create a company like Amazon, Bezos—now worth over 32 billion dollars—clearly did something right.
(DYK by Tess Klingenstein)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Intern Spotlight: Meet Olivia

by Olivia Billbrough, Spring 2014 Intern

I cannot spell. Or, at least, I am very bad at spelling. While this is probably not the best confession to make as a budding publishing professional, I feel that it is an important part of me—that even though I have difficulty spelling, I can still write. Like how Beethoven was deaf and became one of the world’s most renowned musicians (not that I’m really comparing myself to Beethoven).

I might be exaggerating a little bit, but when I was younger, I was so bad at spelling that my third grade teacher actually made fun of me in front of the whole class during a spelling bee competition. The word was dangerous. As in, “I was dangerously close to tears, thank-you-very-much.”

So when I returned home from my sophomore year at Emerson College after being published in two literary magazines on campus, I was feeling pretty accomplished. I saw my third grade teacher at my old school, and she said that she was surprised that I could do it. And maybe that was the push I needed to continue writing and to prove, especially to myself, that it is something I can do.

Before coming to Publishing Solutions Group, I had taken several publishing and writing courses at Emerson College and was also part of Emerson’s Undergraduate Students for Publishing, in which I created a Tumblr page as part of the marketing campaign for one of the books being published.

Thanks to my experience in the Emerson College BFA writing program over the last four years, my writing ability has greatly improved, and after interning with PSG over the past couple of months, I have been able to practice this craft every day by writing a weekly blog post. While I may never be the kind of artist who creates such beautiful images as John Smith crashing The Last Supper, thanks to PSG, I know that despite my third-grade teacher’s doubts, writing is the kind of art I could do every day and still love. I certainly felt that way when contributing to the PSG blog campaign, especially when the blogs have to do with interesting topics such as education and literature.

Little-Known Facts About Olivia

Apart from hiding my bad spelling, my other hidden talents include being ambidextrous (not a fun word to spell, hello spell check), being a super-recognizer and starting a Doctor Who club at Emerson . . . that quickly devolved into watching tons of sci-fi shows and eating donuts surrounded by a group of young women swooning over David Tennant’s hair.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

STEM Schools Changing the Way We Graduate

by Olivia Billbrough, Spring 2014 Intern

When I was a kid, the best days in school were always the days we would build something in science class. I still remember the day we learned about solids and liquids by making Oobleck, a non-Newtonian fluid. The concoction was a cornstarch-and-water mix that was a solid when you rolled the mess in between your hands but turned into a liquid as soon as you stopped rolling. While this was a fun experiment, students across the nation seem to be lacking in such memorable experiences, as many are still not as interested in science and math subjects as some would like. It seems like there has always been a push to get students more interested in studying math and science in schools.

Enter the Sara E. Goode STEM Academy, a school in Chicago that uses STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields as the main focus. But the Sara E. Goode STEM Academy takes it further than this: Their students not only graduate after six (instead of the traditional four) years of school with a high school diploma, but also an associate’s degree and the promise of a job with IBM. The company is the school’s corporate sponsor and helps to create the school curriculum so that the students are being taught exactly what they need to know to succeed in a job with IBM as well as in other STEM jobs. While this may seem like a unique concept, it is not the only school that operates this way.

P-TECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School, is a STEM Pathways to College and Careers (STEM-PCC) school that offers education from grades 9 through 14. The six-year high school in Brooklyn partners with the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York (CUNY), the New York City College of Technology (City Tech) and IBM. Like the Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, P-TECH allows its students to graduate with an associate’s degree, which helps them get their foot in the door for STEM jobs, whether at IBM or elsewhere. STEM jobs are high in demand right now, which means that graduates with STEM degrees are also in high demand. In a 2011 brief by the US Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration [PDF download], people with STEM jobs were shown as having made more money than their fellow workers in non-STEM–related jobs. Those who had graduated college with degrees in STEM majors were shown as having made more money even if they were not working in a STEM field.

The demand in STEM jobs, and the seemingly secure job market in STEM jobs, has many people, such as the people behind schools like Sara E. Goode and P-TECH, turning to focus more heavily on STEM subjects in school. Many grade schools, not just high schools, are coming up with interesting and innovative ways to get young students excited about STEM subjects. For example, the Northfield Community School in New Jersey is doing some amazing STEM work with their students like teaching computer coding to second graders.

By showing students at a young age that STEM fields can be fun as well as educational, schools are preparing kids for a future where STEM jobs are highly prized. While STEM high schools are still relatively new, they show promise for students who are interested in STEM fields as well as for employers looking for young people with the particular skill sets that STEM fields provide.

Did You Know?

CoderDojo, founded in 2011, is an open source, not-for-profit program in over thirty countries where kids as young as five are being taught computer coding. Bill Liao, a philanthropist and entrepreneur who wears several other hats, and James Whelton, who was just 17 when he became the first person to hack an iPod Nano, founded the program with the intention of getting kids excited about learning computer code outside of a classroom setting. Liao said that he wants the clubs to be a sociable place for kids to learn and have fun, where the only rule is to “be cool.”

The kids who attend CoderDojo clubs start out learning basic programs like Scratch but can later move on to more complex back-end coding on the game Minecraft. One participant of CoderDojo even created his own app and was named the world’s youngest Mac app developer. The program is run by volunteers who have a working knowledge of of Java, HTML and CSS, and want to encourage young people to get excited about programming.
(DYK by Olivia Billbrough)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Are American Libraries Still Relevant?

by Liz Canon, Spring 2014 Intern

With the increasing use of ebooks and the internet, some people are asking the question: Are libraries still relevant? The answer, according to a recent Pew study, is yes. The study cites that 94 percent of Americans believe that libraries are still fundamental to our society.

Today our libraries offer members more resources than ever before. In addition to being able to check out a variety of books, you can also use libraries to find a job, apply to college or study for that big final you have coming up. Often, main library branches will offer events that are exciting, engaging and—best of all—free! The branches of the Boston Public Library (BPL) offer ESL beginner classes to adults, preschool and toddler story times, film series for adults, yoga for seniors and even a teen video gaming club. You can also access genealogy records, borrow museum passes, use free wireless, check out ebooks through the library’s online system and participate in the Author Talk Series at the central BPL location.

Major city are not the only libraries that have much to offer patrons. Libraries in smaller towns may be part of a large network from which members can borrow materials. For instance, 28 libraries north of Boston are part of the North of Boston Library Exchange (NOBLE), and 28 libraries south of Boston participate in the Old Colony Library Network (OCLN). Finally, 43 libraries west of Boston are part of the Minuteman Library Network (MLN).

With all of these great resources being offered, it is fair to say that libraries are more relevant and more exciting than they have ever been. While many people today rely on the internet for information, they might instead consider relying on libraries, truly valuable sources of knowledge. In fact, libraries are often better sources of information. Most of the books in libraries have been put through some sort of editing or quality-control process to ensure accuracy. This is not true for many sources of information on the internet. In addition, it is hard to find verifiable information online. In comparison, libraries are filled with resources that provide a thorough explanation for a wealth of knowledge.

For libraries to be able to maintain their relevance in today’s technology-driven society, they will need to continue to improve the technology available to their members in the future. Access to computers and printers are a popular service that libraries offer, and keeping these services updated and in working order is vital to keeping members happy.

There have been many suggestions as to how technology can be improved in our libraries. One popular solution is to have all media digitized so that libraries would become online-only resources. This is an unlikely solution, however, because it would be a costly endeavor. In addition, libraries provide so much more to their members than the ability to check out books. Therefore, I believe that the best solution would be to incorporate as much technology as possible into libraries while still maintaining a community atmosphere. Hopefully in the future, libraries will continue to be thought of as meeting spaces where members can do research, attend classes and have the opportunity to check out books in the most efficient way possible.

Did You Know?

The Library of Congress in Washington, DC, is the largest library in the world, boasting millions of books, maps, recordings and more. It was established in 1800 by President John Adams but didn’t last long thanks to invading British troops who set fire to the Capitol building in which the library was located. Thankfully, former President Thomas Jefferson offered to donate his personal collection to the nation. His private collection had been developed over a period of 50 years and amounted to over six thousand books! It included books on science, foreign languages, literature, philosophy and more. The collection provided a great foundation for future generations to build upon.
(DYK by Liz Canon)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Employee Spotlight: Annette Cinelli Trossello

This month’s Employee Spotlight features PSG’s project manager/editor/mother/literature lover/aspiring writer/self-proclaimed irony expert. Seriously, don’t mention an unfortunate coincidence as being ironic, or I will call you out on it.

I’ve been with Publishing Solutions Group since 2008, and in the office I can often be found phoning clients, emailing freelancers and updating schedules. In addition to such project management responsibilities, I also work as an editor. While I have experience with a variety of subjects, English language arts is my favorite, which isn’t a surprise, considering I graduated from Assumption College with a bachelor of arts in English and a concentration in writing and mass communications. Of the dozens of jobs I’ve worked on at PSG, some of my favorites have been modernizing outdated leveled readers and editing passages and assessment items aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Outside of the office, look for me at the library, park, swim class, New England Aquarium or the Discovery Museums with my active two-year-old son, Gabriel. After he goes to bed, I love to curl up with a book, whether it’s a new one for book club or one I’ve read multiple times. My favorites include J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife and Stephen King’s The Stand.

When an educational publishing editor marries a high-school chemistry teacher, education is a hot issue at home and work, which might explain why my husband, Andy, and I have already discussed when Gabriel should start kindergarten. Along with talking about education, we also enjoy watching our favorite TV shows (Modern Family and The Walking Dead), going to the movies (50 percent for the popcorn and previews, and 50 percent for the movie), and playing board games with family and friends. (I have a definite competitive streak.)

Twice a month, I meet with my writing critique group. I’m working on a new adult novel about a young woman forced to move from her apartment in Boston back to her parents’ house in idyllic small-town New Hampshire. Needless to say, shenanigans ensue! Other writers in the group are working on a variety of books, including an adult mystery novel, a young-adult road trip book and a middle-grade adventure series. Despite the different levels and subjects, the group’s members excel at giving constructive feedback and encouraging each other to keep writing. I’m hopeful that someday my book will be published.

Annette began working at PSG in February of 2008 and recently celebrated 6 years with the company.

Little-Known Facts About Annette

Annette once rickrolled the crowd at karaoke night. She began singing Bette Midler’s “The Rose,” but after the first two lines, she had the DJ switch it over to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

In college, Annette was inducted into the English honor society Sigma Tau Delta. At their annual conference in 2004, she presented a short story about her time studying abroad in Florence, Italy.

From 2005 to 2011, Annette wrote for The Pulse, a Worcester lifestyle and entertainment magazine. She wrote over 60 articles on a variety of subjects, including the importance of internships, being single in the city and the growing trends of brides to “trash the dress” after their weddings. She also established a book review column for which she wrote several reviews.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Enter The Twittersphere, Possibilities Abound

by Nick Persad, Spring 2014 Intern

As a graduate student in publishing, I am frequently asked the same thing by professors, peers and random people once they discover what I study. It is often some version of the question, “Where do you get your news?”

While I have my go-to publications that I read extensively to keep up with popular trends and changes within the publishing industry, my first response to that question is social media: Specifically, Twitter.

Twitter has revolutionized how people distribute information and how they receive and process that information. Personally, I don’t tweet anything besides pictures of food and shameless selfies, but I follow every Twitter account that can keep me informed about what’s happening in the world.

From The New York Times and CNN to Honey Boo Boo and BuzzFeed, I follow major news channels and websites, magazines and newspapers, prominent journalists and writers, publishing professionals, bloggers, celebrities, and athletes, and I am updated daily, usually within minutes, of the latest news in every possible category.

Twitter places all the information I want in an ordered list based on the time the information is posted, and I am able to scroll through and click on the links I want to read. Once clicked, a link takes you directly to the source, where you can read the entire story and see other articles that may interest you—that being the overall goal of the source website.

In the world of publishing, Twitter is a powerful tool. A Publishers Weekly article, “Twitter and Publishing: Growth Slows in 2013” states, “While Twitter continues to be indispensable as a publishing outreach tool, the sharp decline in growth reflects in part a change in the way publishers are using Twitter, as well as the natural slowdown after the huge gains following Twitter’s launch.”

According to the article, @HarperPerennial, the Twitter handle for a paperback imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, went from 805 followers in 2009 to 31,000 in 2013.

The article continues by stating, “Publishers have now figured out what works and what doesn’t. In a broad sense, they seem to be migrating away from strictly pushing titles with tweets in favor of doing more informal outreach, such as links to author appearances on TV and engaging with followers and the Twitter community at large.”

This engagement between producer and consumer via Twitter has had some powerful and unique effects. In the case of revered poet Walt Whitman (handle @TweetsOfGrass), Twitter has played home for the revitalization of his words to a potentially whole new audience, without them even realizing it. It can be best summarized in The Atlantic article “Walt Whitman Is Great at Twitter” with the statement, “And sometimes, just sometimes, across the cacophony, across the centuries, a few lines will reach out and speak so directly to whoever is out there following, that there is poetry in it—not just in the words themselves, but in the fact that they live on Twitter, and that on Twitter they can touch any reader, despite the distance of time and space.”

Publishers, as well as those who make their livelihood within publishing, such as authors, publicists, designers and so forth, are beginning to acknowledge that a Twitter presence is no longer merely a great addition to their marketing strategy, but it is often expected. It fuels the consumer desire for instant gratification. Twitter, it seems, is here to stay; so why not take full advantage of it?

Did You Know?

Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter and Blogger, is once again venturing into online writing with his latest start-up: Medium. The goal of the platform is to discover the future of online writing. Selectively released in 2012, Medium now receives 13 million different visitors a month. The New York Times article “With Medium, Evan William is Tackling Online Writing” describes Medium as being “for short posts and long ones, by amateur writers and professional ones. It emphasizes a clean design and relies on a network of writers and readers to edit and discover new posts.”

So how does Medium differ from Twitter and Blogger?

First, it pays some of its professional writers in order to acquire posts of assured high quality and some degree of establishment. Additionally, readers cannot leave comments on posts. Rather, they leave “notes” that can be attached to specific words or phrases. A Medium app for the iPhone was recently released that allows users to read posts but not write them.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Intern Spotlight: Meet Liz

Liz Canon, Spring 2014 Intern

I developed my love of literature when I was a teenager in high school. I found my English classes exciting because they were the only classes, besides my history classes, that I found remotely interesting. While most of my classmates dreaded analyzing dialogue and writing papers on The Scarlet Letter or Death of A Salesman, I wished that I could spend my whole day in English class pretending I was a character in a Dickens novel.

When I started attending Wheelock College, I was torn between wanting to teach and wanting to study literature. Thankfully, I was able to major in Literature and minor in Elementary Education, being able to experience the best of both worlds. Fast-forward to graduation, and I was ready to find a job as a teacher. I found one as a preschool teacher at a local daycare. While the kids were great, I soon realized that teaching at that level just wasn’t for me. In between applying for graduate school programs and trying to find another job, I ran across an ad for a company called Publishing Solutions Group that was looking for interns.

After reading PSG’s mission statement and seeing that it is a “full-service educational development company” I applied for the internship, excited to be able to intern in an environment that would allow me to gain experience in using both my educational and editorial skills.

I have been at PSG for two months now and can honestly say that my time here as an intern has been great. I have had the opportunity to write blogs on current and interesting topics, study copyediting techniques, and much more. I am looking forward to using these skills in future. I will be attending graduate school in the fall, where I hope to focus on learning more about literature and publishing—and hopefully to find a position in the publishing industry or higher education.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Internet Grammar: #FAIL?

by Tess Klingenstein, Spring 2014 Intern

The internet has undoubtedly changed the way we speak. BTW (alternatively, beeteedubs) has crawled its way into my daily vocabulary. Yesterday, my friend ended her sentence with IRL; my puzzled look led her to explain: “in real life.” Last week, I made a joke to my fifty-five-year-old father, to which he responded: “LOL.” But the internet has done more than create everyday acronyms; it has changed the way we use existing words in the English language.

Take the word because. I asked my roommate why human skin gets pruny after a prolonged period of time in water. Her answer? “Because evolution.” No need to bother with the of that would make her sentence grammatically correct in the traditional sense. Her use of because is what linguists are calling the “prepositional because,” “because noun” or “because + noun.”

Linguists and language writers are interested in the implications of this new trend in the word’s usage. Gretchen McCulloch says that it suggests “something like ‘I’m so busy being totally absorbed by X that I don’t need to explain further, and you should know about this because it’s a completely valid incredibly important thing to be doing.’” Megan Garber, writer of an article in The Atlantic that tracks the evolution of because noun, remarks on the universal quality that the new usage allows for. “When I say, for example, ‘The talks broke down because politics,’ . . . I’m making grand and yet ironized claims, announcing a situation and commenting on that situation at the same time.”

Because isn’t the only word that the internet has made some structural changes to; the word fail is another great example. What started as a verb morphed into an interjection. FAIL Blog, established in 2008 and credited with spurring the new usage, became popular for its comedic coverage of the financial crisis. But its coverage expanded to include even a meme of a cow with its head stuck in child’s toy, with the word “FAIL” branded on the bottom of the picture. Since 2008, fail, the verb-but-sometimes-interjection, has taken on another part of speech: the noun. When Amazon pulled its gay and lesbian literature from its sales ranking, the public labeled the misstep “Amazonfail.” More examples of people’s changing use of fail are the new hashtags that criticize various news coverage: #NYTimesFail or #FoxNewsFail. Similar to the prepositional because, this evolution of fail as a noun suggests that the fail is self-evident; the brevity implies that there is no need to go into further explanation. In that same vein, its direct and decisive nature allows people to both categorize with authority and speculate with hyperbolic opinion at the same time.

When the internet connects billions of people together, it make sense that people’s language should become more decisive, yet hyperbolic. How do you stand out among billions? “Make grand and ironized claims.” Garber’s words hit on the change in the use of the word literally as well. According to Merriam-Webster, literally can now mean “figuratively.” The trend to exaggerate has officially made it into the dictionary.

With new technology, it’s unsurprising that language has morphed to grant (brief, if exaggerated) expression. Every time Facebook users login, they are greeted with the question, “What’s on your mind?” sitting in the status update bar, and with only so many characters available, they have to pack as much opinion into their posts as possible. But what’s really exciting is not how the internet is changing the way we speak, but the rate at which it is changing the way we speak. I literally cannot wait until beeteedubs makes it into Merriam-Webster.

Did You Know?

There are two types of grammarians: descriptivists and prescriptivists. Edward Finegan of the University of Southern California explains that descriptivists ask, “What is English like?” while prescriptivists ask, “What should English be like?” Should dictionaries include words like ain’t and irregardless? If someone is disinterested, can that mean they are not interested?

A prescriptivist would argue that, no matter how prevalent the usage of the words ain’t or irregardless is, they should not be recognized in the dictionary as proper words; likewise, the prescriptivist would say that if someone is disinterested, they are impartial or objective, (ir)regardless of the fact that many people might have a different idea of its definition. The descriptivist, on the other hand, is more concerned with looking at and documenting language, no matter the evolution it takes. If enough of the population recognizes ain’t or irregardless as a word, they would recommend a new entry in the dictionary.

The internet (as there is power in numbers) plays a large part in furthering descriptivism. Urban Dictionary, Wikipedia and Free Online English Dictionary serve to define all words in English parlance with no concern for if they are “legitimate” or “proper.” In the digital age, the power of gatekeeping appears to be shifting from the prescriptivist to the public.
(DYK by Tess Klingenstein)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

College-Sanctioned Software: Can It Take the Place of a Student Adviser?

by Liz Canon, Spring 2014 Intern

Recently, Georgia State University (GSU) has increased its graduation rate by 22 percent thanks to recent changes in the way it is handling its academic advising program. One of these changes includes using a new type of software created by the Education Advisory Board (EAB). The software aids students and academic advisers by sending alerts to both parties when academic issues start to arise. For example, if a student did not sign up for a required class for his or her major or a student is in jeopardy of losing a financial aid package, the software will send a warning message to the student’s adviser and the student.

This new software has proven to be a great improvement to GSU’s academic advising program. As a result, the EAB is now in the process of creating similar software for two-year community colleges to use in their programs. In addition to sending warnings to students and advisers, this new software will provide the opportunity for students to complete a series of questions that the program will use to produce suggested majors for students. These suggestions will be accompanied by salary statistics from recent community college graduates who have completed the suggested majors. The software will offer other features for students such as schedule planning and directions around campus.

While this new technology will definitely benefit students, there are some downfalls to the software. Not all students have access to a computer at home, and therefore would have to travel to their college, a location offering computers for public use, or another source every time they wished to use the academic advising system. In addition, while the software is a great tool for students, most students express the need for additional in-person meetings with their advisers. No matter how easy or clear the software is to use, students will still likely want to interact and discuss their options with their advisers in person. Advisers will thus still need to schedule meetings with their students and will not be able to rely solely on the software.

There are community colleges that have already been successful in using this type of software to improve graduation rates. For instance, Sinclair Community College in Ohio is using academic advising software to its advantage. However, colleges and universities should also consider other advising options for students. According to Jane N. Ryland, president emerita of CAUSE, a grant program to benefit information technology professionals, community colleges should remain flexible when it comes to new technology because “today’s seemingly ‘hottest’ solution will pale before tomorrow’s innovation. . . . .” Therefore, new software should be used in addition to formal meetings with advisers, career fairs and counseling services to provide students with the maximum possible amount of support.

Did You Know?

Community colleges have been around for just over one hundred years. The first public community college was Joliet Junior College in Illinois, which opened in 1901. Others followed its example, and these early community colleges usually enrolled a few hundred students. The two-year colleges were of particular interest to those who wished to become grammar school teachers. Some states did not yet require postsecondary degrees for teachers of students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and community colleges were a way to receive training without obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

Community colleges provided job training for the unemployed during the Great Depression in the 1930s, and, by the 1960s, hundreds of community colleges had been founded throughout America to meet the educational needs of baby boomers. Today there are over one thousand community colleges across the nation and at least one hundred million students have attended a community college.