Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Digital textbooks slowly coming into play

States are slowly moving toward the U.S. government's mandate that all K-12 students use digital textbooks by 2017, officials say.

In February, Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, revealed the Digital eLearning Playbook, which calls for the implementation of digital textbooks and content in schools, Stateline.org reported Monday.

"It we want American students to be the best prepared to compete in the 21st century economy," Genachowski said, "we can't allow a majority of our students to miss out on the opportunities of digital textbooks."

So far, just Florida and Alabama have taken legislative action when it comes to introducing digital textbooks into the classroom.

In Alabama, legislation was introduced this year that would provide digital textbooks and tablet devices to all high school students. The $100 million project, to be paid for in bonds, was approved in the House Education Policy committee at the end of February, but has yet to be seen by the House.

Last year, Florida passed a measure that requires all schools to spend at least 50 percent of their annual instructional materials budget on digital content by the 2015-16 school year.

Other states have been going in other directions when it comes to digital integration in classrooms, the report said.

In Maine, all middle school students are issued a laptop by the state, with a goal of expanding to high school students as well by 2013.

Washington and Utah have started using online open resource material, utilizing free content already available, as well as creating their own.

In January, Utah said it will begin using "FlexBooks," an open resource program by the CK-12 Foundation that allows teachers to digitally edit and customize learning materials.

"As a local control state that's very important to us," said Tiffany Hall, the state's K-12 literacy coordinator. "The [open] textbook is actually supporting what we do."
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The digital teacher

By Maureen Downey

In every district, in every school, in every grade, there is that great teacher who all parents want for their children. So, parents cross their fingers and hope that their child is lucky enough to end up on that teacher’s roster.

What if every student in the class could get that terrific teacher rather than a fortunate few?

That is one of the promises of online elearning, said Bryan Hassel, co-director of Public Impact and a speaker at last week’s Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s panel on Education Reform for a Digital Era.

Hassel said that only about 25 percent of classes have one of these top-tier teachers at a given time. That means the other 75 percent don’t.

Education can enlarge the classroom of the teachers achieving the best results with students and pay them more for doing so by multiplying their reach through technology, Hassel said.

Relieve those great teachers of noninstructional tasks, use video to reach more students and incorporate smart software to personalize instruction.

While the panelists differed on how digital learning should be introduced, they agreed that it represents the future.

“There is a lot of hope and a lot of hype. We have yet to see too many programs in practice live up to their promise,’’ said moderator Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute. “To get it right, we need a much more fundamental and compelling school reform agenda than we’ve got today.”

Today, there is one computer for every three students across all k-12 schools. There is connectivity. There is hardware. Yet, of 55 million students total, it’s estimated that fewer than a million have taken an online course.

Most schools function as they always have — a single teacher overseeing a classroom with, on average, 23 students. That’s in contrast with every other industry in the country in which technology plays a larger and larger role in how work is done.

“Technology is inevitable,” said John Chubb, distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a founder of EdisonLearning. “We can’t put our fingers in the dikes and stop technology from coming.”

The role of skeptic on the panel was assigned to Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein, author of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future; Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30.”

Bauerlein outlined several obstacles that caused initiatives such as statewide laptop programs to stumble, including 50-year-old teachers who didn’t get on board or a lack of schoolwide coordination.

But the toughest challenges come from students who regard technologies as social tools and resist their conversion to learning tools.

“These tools have intense social meaning for them. They are largely mediums of peer pressures, peer absorption, peer fixation and peer topics — coming into their lives 24 hours a day,” he said.

“Try to control that classroom with 25 laptops open and keep students from drifting into social habits,’’ he said.

If technology became as integral to the academic lives of students as it has to their social lives, Chubb said, “this imbalance that clearly exists now would begin to change. There is not the option of keeping technology out. The challenge is how to make technology work for schools. Or schools will become, in the eyes of students, irrelevant.”

Today, teachers face classrooms that have students who are reading at below grade level and students reading at a college level. “Digital learning allows students to learn at their own level ... to customize instruction,” Chubb said.

Under rigid rules on teacher pay and class size, Hassel said there aren’t strong incentives now for teachers to embrace technology or become involved in shaping it. “There is no way they can use it to leverage their time. But if they can use technology in time-saving ways and take on more students and earn more, they will become active shoppers and become a driver of quality.”

That research suggests digital learning is not being done very well yet doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved, Chubb said.

“If we wait for definitive evidence that this new model works better than the old model, we will never get there,” Chubb said.

“What we want is to give educators, principals, school districts and charter school heads more flexibility and more incentive to try to figure out how to adopt technology. This is not something policy makers will figure out. Educators will figure it out.”

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/NgOGD

Why your co-workers don?t like you

Your co-workers are judging you. Beneath a veneer of professional collegiality, they’re taking note of the mess on your desk, how loudly you chew, even your word choices.

Obviously, serious misconduct such as discrimination and harassment can lead to a job loss. But small irritants can hurt productivity and build walls between co-workers.

“Those little annoyances, like having a really sloppy work area or being a disgusting desk eater, can loom large,” said Charles Purdy, senior editor at jobs site Monster.com.

To avoid negative judgments from your co-workers, experts advise avoiding the following behaviors.


The boss’s pet who ingratiates himself at the expense of his co-workers incites negative judgments, said Meredith Haberfeld, a New York-based executive and career coach.

For example, Haberfeld consulted for a human-resources company where a junior employee pointed out his co-workers’ mistakes after errors had been made.

“He created ill will with his colleagues because he didn’t ever go to them to provide any insights while he saw the ship sinking,” Haberfeld said. “Nobody wanted to work with him.”

Trying to take work from your colleagues, or take too much credit, are also bad moves.

“These people are seen as overly self-interested and therefore untrustworthy and difficult to work with,” Haberfeld said. “At a certain point, to go further in your career you need to not just be liked by your boss, you need support from your peers and people more junior.”


The occasional bit of gossip can relieve stress. Too much can make you look bad.

“Sometimes it’s fun to talk about the boss, but the person who is always complaining is widely disliked as well,” Purdy said. “Toxic negativity makes people feel like you are not a good co-worker. People associate negativity with you.”

According to a 2011 Monster.com survey, respondents reported that among their co-workers’ impolite behaviors, gossiping “ticked them off,” along with texting during meetings, being too loud and leaving a mess.

Employees also are judged when they interrupt colleagues, or ignore or discount others’ ideas, said Peter Post, author and great-grandson of etiquette expert Emily Post.

“Those are the kinds of things that people remember for a long time. You are really attacking the person and belittling them,” Post said. “They see you as a bully, and don’t want to interact with you.”



Complaining about “inappropriate” behavior that is, at worst, slightly off is also a problem. “It feels really condescending,” said Art Papas, founder of TheFit.com, a website where workers complete anonymous surveys about companies’ cultures. “Just because you’re offended that doesn’t mean you have to broadcast it.”


Messiness, particularly in communal areas and shared workspaces, can breed negative judgments.

“Food that’s left to become some sort of other thing in the refrigerator is really frustrating,” said Post.

According to a recent survey from staffing and consulting firm Adecco, a majority of respondents said people are most productive when their workspace is clean, though some view messiness as a sign of being busy, and others see it as an indication of laziness.


In offices with few doors and lots of cubicles, etiquette with regard to odors and noise is important.

Microwaving last night’s fish dinner for lunch in your cubicle today is a no-no. And your co-workers can sense if you didn’t clean up after bicycling to the office.

But a loud talker may be the top offender. “If you need to concentrate and somebody is yapping, it can affect your work,” said Margaret Fiester, operations manager for the human-resources knowledge center at the Society for Human Resource Management.


It’s important to fit into an office’s culture. That can include how you dress, and what you say.

“I was in a meeting the other day and somebody dropped the S-bomb. The third time they did it, it became unprofessional,” Papas said.

There’s also a code of conduct for email. “Maybe someone is overly brusque, or is always putting urgent or cc’ing everything,” Purdy said. “Bcc is almost always a dangerous idea. Transparency is important—it prevents you from seeming sneaky. If you are bcc’ing someone to get someone else in trouble, you are being the office jerk.”

Ruth Mantell is a MarketWatch reporter based in Washington.