Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Educational Facebook

By Sean Scarpiello

In the past month, thousands of college students around the world have just opened a new collaborating internet account. No, it’s not Facebook, but rather an educational spinoff of Facebook. The program is called Blackboard and it seems to be making quite the buzz.

The Blackboard platform is essentially a modern blackboard posted up onto the internet. The program is for all classes, kindergarten through graduate school. Teachers can post whatever they woud like up onto their course’s blackboard. Three of my four current college professors utilize the technology and post everything from biology PowerPoints and syllabi, to YouTube videos about split brain syndrome in psychology. Even my calculus professor posted some helpful links and practice problems. Teachers can also post announcements and reminders when class is not in session, due dates on a personal calendar, and individual notifications or alerts. Although I was not fortunate enough to encounter this program in grade school or high school, I have found it extremely simple to use. Schools can even set it up to use the exact same username and password that you use on their computers.

More schools should use this program because it makes studying more interactive for students; thus they have a more enjoyable time exploring the information each class has to offer. In fact, with a few modifications, teachers could teach entire courses to vast amounts of people across the planet, without ever having to meet in a classroom. Students even have the ability to seek extra help through the site. Blackboard even simplifies classes for students by allowing teachers to post full PowerPoint presentations so students don’t have to quickly copy the entire presentation during class instead of listening to the teacher’s important ideas. Therefore, students can focus on the instructor’s lectures and can later pull up the PowerPoint from any location with an internet connection.

The one downside to the program is that it costs money. But why? Millions of websites let people access tons of information for free because of advertising. This site should be no different. If Facebook charged an annual fee, it wouldn’t have millions of daily users. I am all for allowing advertising on educational websites and even in or around schools in general. I would much rather have to put up with seeing targeted advertisements to my demographic as opposed to paying for an online service. In fact, I think all schools should use marketing to their advantage. If the owners of Lucky Charms or Coco Puffs want to put up posters in the local elementary school so the fourth and fifth grades can get all new textbooks, then go ahead. These same kids are going to run home and see these same advertisements amid their cartoons and it will not make a difference.

Ultimately, the Blackboard program is extremely useful for all levels of students. It proves to be an exceptional learning tool that should be used by more students and teachers worldwide. The website is already available in forty-nine different languages. The only downside it has is a quick and easy fix that could eventually change the entire world’s view on education.

1 comment:

Alisandra Wederich said...

I agree that advertising through schools is a good way to offset costs, but I know that many responsible schools are going to worry about what messages the advertising sends. For instance, by agreeing to let Coco Puff's or Lucky Charms advertise, they can be accused of contributing to childhood obesity. No schools is going to want to take responsibility for that - especially with all the pressure they are currently undergoing to reform school cafeterias.