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Missouri Senate Repeals Facebook Friending Ban for Teachers

September 16, 2011 2 comments

I blogged previously about how the Missouri Senate had banned teachers contacting students through unapproved channels (like corresponding with them via personal email accounts not supervised by schools, or friending them on Facebook).

The law was problematic for a variety of reasons, but one thing that concerned me was the liklihood of a teacher violating it unintentionally given the ubiquity of electronically-mediated communication in everyday life. Read more…

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Missouri’s Ban on Teachers Friending Students on Facebook is a Golden Gate to Impracticality

July 30, 2011 3 comments

[Update: newly-signed law is now being challenged in court by the Missouri State Teachers Association | via Slashdot]

The Missouri Senate recently approved Senate Bill 54 the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act” a law aimed at preventing schools from moving teachers facing misconduct allegations around from school to school without alerting parents.

Unfortunately, however, it contains some other more draconian provisions and social media takes some shrapnel.  Of concern is that it bans teachers from friending students on any social networking site, limiting them to creating fan pages to which all students in a class may have access.

Like so many ham-handed legislative measures, it curbs speech and interferes with education in the name of saving the children.

One of the many stupid facets of this bill is that the victim for which the bill is named was sexually assaulted by a teacher 20 years ago, long before the advent of social networking. Read more…

The Importance of Data Integrity: Community College Rankings Based on Flawed Data?

August 25, 2010 1 comment

Enrollment Report Data

Apropos of my recent post about the error uncovered in how Michigan colleges report data to the Federal Government, a story just appeared in Inside Higher Ed about the Washington Monthly’s rankings of Community Colleges in the US.

The Washington Monthly has yet again irked some educators, as it did three years ago, by ranking what it calls “America’s Best Community Colleges” using openly available student engagement survey data.

Using benchmarking data from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) and four-year federal graduation rates in an equation of its own making, the magazine attempts to rank the top 50 community colleges in the country in its latest issue. Though the periodical’s editors say they only hope to highlight “what works and what doesn’t” at these institutions by ranking them, CCSSE officials have denounced the use of their data in this way and argue it may do more harm than good.”

The data available about your organization can and will be used with or without your permission.  With more information being published and the increasing ease with which that data can be used – it’s critical to be aware and vigilant.  Even with the best of intentions on the part of a journalistic entity like the Washington Monthly, it can damage an organization’s reputation (and mislead stakeholders).

In the executive summary explaining their rankings, the Washington Monthly acknowledged the limitations of their methodology and wistfully remarked about the lack of data available:

“Of course, our rankings aren’t perfect. Like the president, we wish we knew how community college graduates fare in the job market and their future careers. We’d like to know if students who transfer to four-year schools get good grades, earn bachelor’s degrees, and go on to graduate and professional schools.”

The upside is that the data they seek may soon be available from other sources.  For example; what if we were able to pull employment data from social networking platforms like Linkedin and Facebook (or even people-oriented search engines like Pipl.com that catch references to employment in press releases and newspapers) and mash it up with the data from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement?

We may soon be able to complete the loop and better track student success (which is a challenge all educational institutions face).

Not only that, but what if we could monitor tweets and Facebook content (there are already algorithms that can evaluate tweets to determine whether they’re positive or negative) to look for warning signs that might allow counseling or student support services to intervene with a student to get them resources before it’s too late and they fail out of classes?

There’s a lot of possibility out there, and it’s up to us to tap into it.

Recommended Slideware: Prezi

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

A few people have asked what I used for the slideshow that accompanied my Social Media Best Practices presentation; it’s a web-based tool called Prezi (www.prezi.com).  If you’re so inclined, you can interact with the slideshow here.

an example of a Prezi presentation

A screenshot of my Prezi slides.

It gives you a huge canvas to work with and streamlines the process of putting together a slideshow by limiting the options for adding content.  One of the coolest features of Prezi is that you can either map out a path you’d like to navigate through OR you can click on any item to zoom in on it (giving one a lot of flexibility in doing an extemporaneous presentation).  In addition to online hosting – Prezi offers the option of downloading your slideshow as a flash document.

The only problem I’ve had with Prezi is that on occasion it will fail to load images that I’ve uploaded (they just go dead and never fully load and one has to delete them and replace them.  Other than that the experience has been excellent.

For my peeps in education, Prezi currently offers a free education package – for details click here.

Google Zeitgeist 2009 Results

December 2, 2009 1 comment

Every year, Google publishes what it calls “Year-End G0ogle Zeitgeist”; it sifts through all of the data collected throughout the year and creates a variety of “top ten” lists.  Examples include top ten “Fastest Rising (global),” top ten “Fastest Falling (global),”  in other categories like Entertainment, Sports, Food and Drink, etc.  They also sort them by region (filtering out national search terms).

For some inexplicable reason, grcc.edu (Grand Rapids Community College’s web address) appeared in the top ten searches for Detroit, MI:

Detroit, MI

  1. celebration cinema north
  2. opel news
  3. cinema carousel
  4. grar.com
  5. grcc.edu
  6. grandville public schools
  7. kent county jail
  8. huron valley schools
  9. rivertown crossings mall
  10. elps

I checked with our Institutional Research & Planning Department and we have very few students that come from Detroit (only a few dozen), so it’s unlikely those searches come from prospective students.  Unless the ranking is the result of some sort of glitch in the filtering process, my theory is that all of the events we host and content we publish (whether it’s through our YouTube site, or our various departmental projects) makes us a destination, but that’s only a theory without data to back it up.

The Dangers of Pay-for-Play in Social Media

August 12, 2009 Leave a comment

I was troubled by a recent story in “Counsel” the publication of the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (an organization for marketing pros at two-year colleges) that discussed Colorado Mountain College’s practice of paying students to blog on behalf of the school:

“By far, the best marketing money Colorado Mountain College has ever spent is a small budget for student bloggers.  For about $25 per week per blogger (plus a hoodie and coffee mug), the college has purchased content far more powerful than anything it could dream up.  Even a high-powered agency couldn’t come up with this stuff.  The student bloggers write about what they do when they’re bored, have a conflict, or get crazy with a group of friends.  In turn, the college gets rich content – and credibility.”

Read more…

A Community College PR Flak’s Review of “Community”

August 12, 2009 Leave a comment

[Caution Spoilers] After “Ain’t It Cool News” tipped me off that Facebook “fans” of “Community” can watch the pilot episode free on Facebook, I signed up and watched the episode to see how it treats Community Colleges.  In the way of disclosure, not only do I work at a community college as an administrator and adjunct faculty – but I’m the product of two years at Lansing Community College in mid-Michigan (one of the best experiences of my life).

For what it’s worth, I know that community colleges (like many workplaces) are ripe for satire.  I’ve seen plenty of sitcom-worthy material (like a professor who happens to own a chain of strip clubs and recruits dancers from the student population).  My hackles only go up when jabs at community colleges are directed at the students, cheapening their earnest efforts to improve their lives.

Read more…

PayScale.com’s [Bogus] College Salary Report

August 11, 2009 Leave a comment

PayScale.com has returned with its “College Salary Report,” which purports to rank higher education institutions based on the salaries their graduates make after college.

In addition to further de-valuing higher education by helping our culture reduce it to a horse race for the almighty dollar, they do so with really sloppy methodology.  Time Magazine weighed in on the problems in the figures, but I also found a number of problems with how they tabulate their results: Read more…

Accreditation as Protectionism in the New Economy

August 3, 2009 Leave a comment

[Update: Am I prescient or what?  Inside Higher Ed just published an article about the battle going on at the federal level over which accrediting agencies are deserving of recognition.]

In his book (which I highly recommend) “What Would Google Do?,” Jeff Jarvis introduces a theme that runs throughout his discussion of how the Internet is fundamentally reshaping the world: “Protection is not a strategy for the future.” The most au courant example of this unwise strategy (which we can watch failing in real-time) is the newspaper industry, but there are plenty of others littering the info superhighway:

“How many companies and industries fail to heed the warnings they know are there but refuse to see?  The music industry is, of course, the best example of digital dead meat.  Detroit waited far too long to make smaller cars and pursue electricity as a fuel.  Many retail chains opened stores online but stopped there, not seeing opportunities to forge new relationships with customers as Amazon had.  Telecom companies were blindsided by the emergence of open networks that undercut their business – even as those networks operated on the telecom companies’ own wires.  Ad agencies kept trying to forestall the reinvention of their industry, still buying mass media evn as more targeted and efficient opportunities grew on the internet.  News executives thought they could avoid change and even believed they should be immune from it because they were the holders of a holy flame: Journalism with a capital J.  [...] They lost their destinies because they wanted to save their pasts.”

As I read this section, it occurred to me that even the non-profit sector is not immune from the threat of an inclination toward protectionism.  For colleges and universities, protectionism takes the form of accreditation.

Read more…

YouTube .EDU Hints at Possible Future of "Open Source Education"

April 7, 2009 Leave a comment

YouTube’s recent release of its “.EDU” site which features channels and content from educational institutions hints at a possible “open source” future for education (particularly higher education). Grand Rapids Community College has a thriving YouTube channel as a result of the excellent work done by our Media Technologies department (which produces content for the Grand Rapids Public Schools as well as a number of local colleges and universities).

In fact, GRCC is one of the heavyweights in the new YouTube EDU site (as others have noticed, including Time Magazine in a recent article titled “Logging on to the Ivy League”); it has more content up than Harvard and almost as much as MIT. Many of the four-year universities in Michigan don’t even have YouTube channels.

Watching the potential of online courses leads me to this question: what is the difference between an online course and a traditional course? This question is important, because as online course content from top-tier universities is increasingly available for free through the web – they’re going to offer some serious competition to other education institutions.

One of the things the web does best is to free people from the geographic bonds that hold them; you’re no longer limited to the offerings at your local mall, dating pool, or social circles. The same is true of education.

I see a possible future where students from across the US (and around the world) take online courses from the best faculty at the best schools, and the role of regional higher education becomes to provide the necessary support services, lab space, proctoring and resources for those students to become credentialed.

That is to say, your semester (assuming there’s still a need to keep rigidly-defined calendars, which is less and less likely) looks something like this:

  • You fill your class schedule this semester with an online Chemistry class from M.I.T., an online English class from Yale, an online Social Science class from U.C. Berkley, and an online Ethics class from Oxford.
  • You watch podcasted lectures, participate in collaborative group exercises with Google Apps, and interact with the faculty (or their graduate assistants) in immersive virtual environments.
  • Then, when it comes time for tutoring, lab experiments or testing/assessment – you head to Grand Rapids Community College for the one-on-one instructional support and hands-on learning (which is GRCC’s true core competence as a “teaching” institution).

One particular aspect of that scenerio that is particularly promising in terms of creating a dramatic opportunity for regional education institutions is assessment. Currently the means we use to measure comprehension (standardized tests) are woefully-inadequate; they’re inherently biased with respect to culture and learning styles – yet they’re necessary in order to keep class sizes manageable while still being cost-effective.

If we’re free of some of those time constraints – suddenly a dramatic window opens up for personalized, one-on-one interview-style assessments of one’s ability to comprehend, master and think critically about course material.

The reasons this can’t be the near future are rapidly eroding away – which means that it’s an increasingly likely future. Something to consider.

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