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School District Loses Anti-LGBT Discrimination Case

High school students in Camdenton, Missouri, can access Exodus International and People Can Change from their school computers. These websites are published by anti-gay organizations that offer advice for men and women who do not want to be gay. Essentially, they are telling people how to deny their natural feelings and pretend to be heterosexual.

The fact that students can access these controversial websites from a school computer is one thing, but when you take into consideration the websites that the school blocks, this becomes much more disturbing. Although students at Camdenton High School can access anti-gay websites, they cannot access websites that are supportive of LGBT people due to a Web filter that the school has been using.

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Learning Computer Code is Becoming Essential for Business Success

According to The New York Times, most foreign languages go in and out of fashion, but one language that is going to become increasingly valuable to know is computer code.

OK, so it’s not a spoken language, but learning to “speak” computer code is a great skill to have. The number of night classes and online classes that teach this language has been growing quickly as more and more people want to learn how to design websites, as well as iPhone apps. It also has many real-life applications for future employees, such as allowing you to customize a blog for your company, a skill which employers might find very appealing.

“Inasmuch as you need to know how to read English, you need to have some understanding of the code that builds the web,” said Sarah Henry, an investment manager. “It is fundamental to the way the world is organized and the way people think about things these days.”

Some colleges are also getting on board and offering classes that cater to this new field of interest. Stanford University offers two computer science classes that are free and offered online. So far, more than 100,000 people have tried out the classes.

Another way that you can learn computer coding is through Codeacademy, a new company that offers interactive lessons to help people learn how to write code. More than 1,000,000 people – including the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg – have signed up for the program since it started last summer.

Why the sudden interest in this field? I think that Peter Harsha, the director of government affairs at the Computing Research Association, said it best:

“To be successful in the modern world, regardless of your occupation, requires a fluency in computers. It is more than knowing how to use Word or Excel but how to use a computer to solve problems.”



Libraries Swap Stacks of Books for Robotic Retrieval Programs

girls in a libraryWhat do you expect to see when you enter a library on an university campus? Besides dozens of students cramming information into their brains in the hours before an exam, I expect to see thousands upon thousands of books. However, as part of its overhaul of its library, San Francisco State University is going against the norm and has hidden away 75 percent of its books in favor of digitizing its collection.

This school is not alone. In fact, many schools are digitizing their libraries in an effort to make it easier for students to find the volumes they are looking for. At San Francisco State University, the old library was a “rabbits’ warren,” according to the librarian, Deborah Masters. Now, after its “facelift,” the library has put an emphasis on open spaces, more computer and technology available for students’ use, and areas where students can study in groups or grab a coffee in the new cafe.

Some books will remain on display where students can access them on their own. These books will be the ones that are in highest demand, were published recently, or are recommended by a specific department. If a student wants to reach one of the many other books that are not currently on display, he can enter his query in a search engine, which will then cue a robot in another building to retrieve the book and delver it to the student in the library. This entire process is expected to take less than 10 minutes.

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“Facebook Parenting: For the Troubled Teen” Creates Quite a Stir on YouTube

facebook parenting screen shot from viral videoA new video is gaining a lot of attention on YouTube. The video, called “Facebook Parenting: For the troubled teen,” features a dad who is quite upset with something his daughter posted to Facebook.

In the video, the father, Tommy, reads a letter that his daughter, Hannah, posted to Facebook a few days ago. In the letter, Hannah rants about all of the chores her parents ask her to do…and by rant, I do mean rant. The video drags along for the first six minutes as Tommy reads the letter and expresses how upset he is about what Hannah wrote.

To be fair to Tommy, Hannah was very disrespectful towards her parents and used language that is not acceptable. Many kids today do feel too entitled and it does not make sense that a child should be paid because she is asked to help her family. I agree with almost everything Tommy says up until about the seventh-minute of the film. However, this is when things get a little too crazy for me.

At this time, Tommy gets out of his chair, shows us Hannah’s laptop, and proceeds to put nine bullets in the laptop from his shotgun. This seems like a bit of an over-reaction to me. If Tommy wanted to take her computer away from her and sell it, I’d be perfectly okay with that. However, he is acting immaturely and his actions are not any better than what Hannah wrote on Facebook. Instead, I think Tommy should have reacted in a more mature way by setting Hannah down, telling her what she did was hurtful and disrespectful, and then punishing her by taking away her computer and grounding her. By destroying her computer, he is reacting in a childish way that is just going to perpetuate the battle that is going on between them.

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Technology in the Classroom Might Not Be the Answer

typingFor almost 100 years, people have been predicting the end of the use of textbooks in public schools. The cause for the decline of textbook use is often due to some new technology that will forever change classrooms.

For example, in 1913, Thomas Edison was a nay-sayer concerning the future of textbook use.

“Books will soon be obsolete in the schools,” he said. “Our school system will be completely changed in 10 years.”

Edison was talking about replacing textbooks with videos to teach students. Sure, we do use videos today in our classrooms, but textbooks are still the main source of information in most cases.

So, should we be surprised that many education leaders, such as U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, are now pushing for the use of laptops and digital books in the classroom? Using history as our source, the answer is no.

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More Students Today are Cheating, Thanks to Technology and the Internet

person typing on black keyboardCheating today is a lot easier than it was a decade ago. It’s not because Little Sally is much more likely to show Little Timmy her homework assignment before school today than she would have been in the past. Nor is it because school districts feel pressured to attain high standardized test scores and let their students cheat in order to do so – although this has happened. Instead, the main reason that it is much easier for today’s students to cheat is sitting right in front of you right now: the Internet and technology.

Studies confirm this increasing trend in the number of cheaters: 80 to 85 percent of students have cheated at least once by the time they graduate high school. Until they reach the second grade, most of this cheating does occur in the traditional ways, but once they reach third grade, many are turning to the Internet to cheat. Internet plagiarism is on the rise, as is cheating with a cell phone. Students can text each other answers during a test, look up the answers to a problem on their smartphones, or take a picture of an exam and send it to a friend who has not taken the test yet.

So what are concerned parents to do about this problem? How can they keep their kids from becoming cheaters? The answer might be to start combating the issue while children are still young.

“You want to get good behavioral habits established while moral reasoning is developing and deepening,” said Thomas Lickona, Ph.D. and author of Raising Good Children and Character Matters – How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgement, Integrity, and Other Essential Virtues. “There’s research to suggest that even young children are more sophisticated and morally observant than we might give them credit for.”

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Pennsylvania Middle School Bans Uggs Boots in the Middle of Winter

bootsMiddle school students at Pottsdam Middle School in Pennsylvania can now add Uggs boots to the list of clothing items that may not be worn to school. It’s common knowledge that many schools have dress codes which prevent the wearing of some articles of clothing, such as baseball caps and extremely baggy pants, but I have never heard of a school banning a particular brand of shoes before.

According to the school, the shoes were causing problems…or more appropriately, it was the items that students were bringing into the school – hidden inside their shoes – that was causing the problems. Many students were hiding their cell phones in their furry boots and then texting during class. After several students were caught in the act, the school decided to ban the shoes in order to address the issue.

Some parents are quite upset about this new banned article of clothing. In addition to the ban being “totally ridiculous,” according to a Facebook post by a parent, some people are saying that the Ugg-ban is sexist against girls, who are the main wearers of the shoes.

“Pockets, bras, socks, what’s next?” one parent wrote on Facebook.

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Shannen Doherty Partners with ClassesPlease.com to Further Her Education

shannen doherty wearing sunglasses and white topWhat do Shannen Doherty and many other average Americans have in common? They have not earned as high of an education as they would like. However, going back to college can be difficult for working adults because of all of the other commitments they already have in their lives, such as friends, family, and their job. Luckily, Shannen has found a way to make her dream of getting a higher education a reality, and with ClassesPlease.com, you can too.

ClassesPlease.com is part of Education Connection, a website that makes it easier to find an educational path that is right for you. Like it’s parent-company, ClassesPlease.com allows users to find a college and major that will work with their schedule and meet their interests. Currently, ClassesPlease.com helps people find educational programs in career fields like information technology, criminal justice, business, culinary arts, and health sciences.

“I’m actually getting my degree in liberal arts,” said Shannen.

Shannen has partnered with the website in order to realize her life-long dream of earning a college degree. On a commercial for the website, Shannen says it’s easy to learn through this program because she can study whenever and wherever she is. Shannen is obviously doing an online program, but ClassesPlease.com also offers information about in-class programs.

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Apple Ushers in a New Way of Learning with New Educational Apps

apple ipadLast week, Apple held a media event in New York City. At this event, the technology-gurus revealed their newest software programs, which could forever change the way that education takes place in the classroom. Currently, there are 1.5 million iPads that are being used in classrooms across the country. There are also more than 20,000 education and learning apps available in the app store. However, these numbers can both be expected to increase in the near future, thanks to the release of these new programs.

So what exactly did Apple announce? On January 19, 2012, Apple announced that it was updating the iBooks app, creating a new category of books in the iBookstore, and also releasing a DIY e-book creator. This means that there are now many more new tools that teachers and students can use in the classroom to learn.

Let’s take a look at all of the new options that Apple is offering to make learning even more interactive and technologically-based:

  • The new iBookstore will have a textbook category. These textbooks will be media-rich and interactive, allowing students to watch videos, play with diagrams, view pictures, and of course, read. These books will be available for students in grades K-12.
  • The new books available in iBooks 2 will have search options, making it easier to find what you are looking for in the index, glossary, dictionary, or the book itself. You will also be able to highlight important information in the books, a feature that many students find very useful.
  • Many of the books will feature a Question & Answer section at the end of every chapter. This will allow students to gauge how well they are learning the material and receive instant feedback on their progress.
  • The books on iBooks will cost $14.99 or less. This is much cheaper than traditional textbooks, which cost about $75 each. For schools that are facing budget cuts or need to save some cash, this will be a great way to do so.
  • A new app, iTunes U, will allow teachers to post their class syllabus, lectures, course assignments, and much more for students to see and access. This new app will allow teachers and students in grades K-12 use it; a previous version was only available for students at certain universities.
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Apple Could Announce New Distribution Platform for Digital Books

digital textbookIf you are an Apple fanatic like me, then you have probably heard that the company is holding a media event on Thursday, January 19, 2012. What is Apple releasing this time? According to ArsTechnica.com, the company will be announcing a new platform that will be the “GarageBand for e-books.” Basically, it will be a distribution platform for digital books and textbooks.

Although some makers of e-books claim that the process of making an e-book from a physical copy of a book is very simple, the truth is that the entire process can be very difficult and frustrating. This could all be changing very soon, if Apple does in fact announce a “GarageBand for e-books” software later this week.

Matt MacInnis worked for Apple until 2009, when he left the company and started his own company, Inkling, which creates digital textbooks. MacInis thinks that Apple is about to make it much easier to actually create these books.

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