Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Benefits of eBooks

By Sean Scarpiello

After a recent trip to the college bookstore, I saw that there were a lot of signs up advertising eBooks. While I have heard about eBooks before, it was not until recently that my school had started to pass down the benefits of eBooks to students. Essentially, eBooks are the same as the books that anyone can buy in print; however, they are accessible only on a device such as a laptop, iPad, Kindle, or other tablet. Along with the benefits of pulling up a  textbook's worth of data on a small device, eBooks often have special features allowing users to highlight, bookmark, and take notes all within their eBooks. This allows for ease of use and greater benefits for the user. In addition to all of this, I was most surprised by the costs of eBooks for students.

Surprisingly, eBooks, which offer many services and are more convenient than traditional textbooks are, in many cases, cheaper. At first, this is shocking because eBooks offer features and even have simulations, videos, and other multimedia outlets to help students learn. With more thought however, it makes sense why eBooks are cheaper. There are no costs spent on printing and binding the textbook, as well as no transportation or shipping costs. In addition, eBooks are much simpler to access as they can be downloaded at any time from any place with an internet connection. They can be purchased with a credit card, debit card, and even through websites such as iTunes, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Since students have so many different options available to quickly browse at different prices, they can take advantage of deals and sales right as they pop up.

More importantly, returning back to my college’s bookstore, many companies allow students to rent eBooks. This is done by allowing students to purchase the book to have and use over a certain amount of time. In some respects, this may not be beneficial in the case of certain majors in college. For instance, Chemistry majors would not want to rent an introductory chemistry book because they would eventually lose it and be unable to return to and reference it in upper level chemistry classes. However, if chemistry majors simply rented eBooks outside of their major, such as English or History books, they would save a lot of money because once the class is over, there is a rare chance that they will need to reference one of these textbooks. This case also holds true when you take into consideration the amount of money students spend on textbooks. Often times at the end of the semester or school-year, students then become a part of text book buy back projects where companies buy students’ book back in exchange for cash. While this sounds like a good idea to the average college student, these companies often pay students significantly less than what the business ultimately turns it around to resell it for. Therefore, a rented eBook would save money for the student from the very moment they purchase the book.

The one flaw that is associated with the eBooks is that they require expensive computer devices that must have a lot of memory to store all of the textbooks. This is difficult because the devices alone cost just as much as a semester of traditional textbooks. However, once students invest in a high quality device, the money saved buying eBooks as opposed to regular textbooks will save the student money in the long run. For schools implementing the use of eBooks, they too will save money as eBooks cannot be lost or wear out like traditional textbooks. Plus, many of the devices available to use and store eBooks have many other utilities and useful gadgets that can be used in other areas of education or recreation.

eBooks are quickly becoming more and more popular and it would be smart for students and educational professionals to look into buying or renting eBooks for classes. While they are much more versatile and easy to use as compared with traditional textbooks, they are much cheaper too. Once students and educators can clear the hurdle of the initial investment of the device to use and store the eBooks, they will quickly save money as they buy more eBooks.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Online Gambling comes to New Jersey - NOT a good thing.
WHEN will they put - Education - Online?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Get Students to Work to Their Full Potential

By Sean Scarpiello

Looking back into my years as a grade school student, I feel as if we, as students, were not really pushed to our full potential. While questions were encouraged by teachers, very few of these questions extended into the analysis of the material we were learning. Questions were primarily based on confusion or misunderstanding of the material. While this is fine, I feel as if the majority of my educational career consisted of students sitting back and absorbing information as it was presented. Once students get to college, there is a spike in the use of the students’ minds. College differs from all previous schooling because professors begin to challenge students to think in new and different ways than before. Most of all, college forces students to not only absorb the information they learn, but apply, evaluate, analyze, and challenge it.

I would not say that applications of higher degrees of learning are missing in grade school, but there is much less of it. Students first begin to apply what they learn in math class. After learning about the values of numbers and the principles surrounding addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, students were then put to the test of applying these principles towards problems they had not seen previously. Yet often times in math, students are still pushed to simply memorize and regurgitate information. When I leaned my multiplication tables in 3rd grade, we were taught to memorize them. We instantly thought of 3x3 as 9, rather than thinking 3+3+3=9. More often than not, younger students either love math or completely hate it. I wonder if this is because it requires upper level thinking which is tough and tiresome for many students at a young age. While this may be, many students continue to have an aversion to math.

The next time students are really asked to apply their knowledge comes in high school when writing essays for classes like social studies or on tests in math and science. Teachers now begin to nudge students into formulating their own opinions in political science courses, while science teachers ask students to address questions about complex phenomena by asking more questions to get a better idea of information. Either way, students are not as engaged as possible, causing many students to be bored with the material because they haven’t found their niche in school. However, once students do find their place in subjects like math, science, writing, psychology, or political science, they quickly become much more actively engaged on their own and later flourish in college.

A major way we could address this issue in schools is by simply utilizing technology. While technology is expensive, it is an extremely easy way for students to begin to challenge themselves at an early age. Many applications allow students to grasp concepts more quickly, and then apply them. By continuously testing themselves in subjects like grammar, math, science, writing, and history, students will develop a basis for higher level thinking early in their academic careers. Then, students will be able to innately carry over this same kind of critical thinking and analysis into other subjects and into their daily lives. Devices such as iPads and Leap Frogs are full of applications and programs which actively engage students to apply their knowledge in a manner that is fun and fascinating for them. There are even more simulations and programs that can be implemented in a classroom setting that gets all types of students to evaluate, analyze, apply, and use the material that they learn in class to solve problems and generate discussion.

In all, while it seems as if students are not utilizing their full potential in class, this can easy be fixed by implementing technology in school. When students are actively applying themselves in a way that is fun and interesting for them, they will be more likely to learn higher level thinking skills earlier and be able to apply these skills both in and out of the classroom.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

No Cost Online Education Resources for Young Students

By Sean Scarpiello

As the internet is quickly becoming more and more integrated into our society, it is evident that education will follow suit. In light of this, online education is quickly finding its way into the classrooms of high schools and colleges. With such an increase in society’s use of the internet in the past several years, why aren’t young students, in middle and even elementary school, utilizing the internet in class? Recently, I discovered two such websites which are geared towards younger students. Websites such as Weebly and Collaborative Classroom are sure to be the future in educating elementary and middle school students. While each website makes learning easier for the students, teachers and parents can also benefit.

First, the website, Weebly, allows teachers to have a class blog for students and their parents. The program is completely free for both teachers and students. In addition, it works with each student’s email address or their parent’s email address to send daily or weekly updates to parents. This allows parents to easily understand what is going on in class, and what can be expected for homework. It also allows parents to form open or closed discussions to talk about struggles that their children may be experiencing directly with the teacher. The fact that Weebly makes communication between parents and teachers easy is its biggest asset. Studies have proven that students with parents that are more active in their children’s learning process are more likely to succeed in school. This type of program makes it easy for teachers to reach out to parents, while making the parent’s job much easier to remain involved in the learning process.

Another benefit that programs like Weebly have is that teachers can assign homework and give daily updates to their students. This is extremely beneficial because it gives the teacher the opportunity to post simulations, videos, and other links that can be used outside of class to continue or supplement learning. In my experience, I had high school teachers who would give us a worksheet with a link on it to complete for homework. Once we attempted to complete the homework, we found that the link was no longer active and had to wait until the next day in class due to the poor amount of communication between teachers and students. Weebly on the other hand, would allow students to simply log on and directly click to a link and answer questions on their computer. If there was a problem with the homework or link, it could be resolved quickly and easily.

Another website that allows for better communication between teachers and students is Collaborative Classroom. This program has already won several awards and has been given some great reviews. Teachers who have used this program in their classes report that class participation and willingness to learn increases substantially. By allowing students to access class material and ask questions more easily, learning comes almost effortlessly. The program also allows teachers to assign, collect, and grade homework assignments all through the internet. This allows both teachers and students to avoid the hassle and expenses of printing out worksheets and homework. The program also comes with a free online topic library where students can easily access a database of articles to use in homework assignments and class projects.

In all, while the internet is being utilized more and more in society, education is following suit. With this, it is important to integrate younger students into the online world early on in their educational career. Websites such as Weebly and Collaborative Class offer many different resources for teachers, students, and parents to access for no cost. In addition to using technology more in school, the learning process is also made easier by increasing the amount of communication available in school as well as providing more accessible resources.