Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Online Education of the Future

By Sean Scarpiello

As college tuition rates rise more and more many people are searching for new and cheaper ways of educating people. In order to bring cheaper education to more people experts are turning to the Internet. Online courses are slowly being introduced to college campuses across the nation because they are simply cheap. Plus, studies have shown that more information is absorbed by using online programs as opposed to the “old fashioned” classroom learning. Some experts say that the typical college campuses of today will be obsolete sometime in the near future. It is also predicted that online courses will fast track learning so that more people will be able to learn more information at a faster rate. So fast that 4 year college degrees will be compacted into only three years of instruction. Although, there is a lot of hype over this new revolution in college education. Is it going to work?

I think that for the most part it will be successful. However, there are some areas which may not be as successful as predicted. First off, one area where this system may fail would be when it comes to math education. Math is all conceptual learning. Therefore, learning math is much more difficult to learn and teach than other subjects, such as history, which is strictly recall learning. Teaching concepts, in my opinion, would be much more successful if instructors are utilized. Teachers are able to give more examples of math problems, while teaching it in greater detail than a computer. Also, instructors are able to give feedback and help confused students. There are ways to teach math effectively online; however, it is very complex to carry out on a computer.

Another flaw of online education could be its inability to teach proper lab techniques in classes such as biology, chemistry, and physics. This poses a problem because students wishing to enter the science field are expected to graduate college with a lot of lab experience. This lack of lab experience hurts students when applying for jobs after graduation. There are few employers that would hire a science major that doesn’t have any experience in a lab.

This sort of shortfall in online education can also hold true while learning languages. Languages need to be learned by reading, writing, speaking, and listening to the language. Currently, we have the technology to teach many aspects of language, but we are lacking the technology to teach students to fluently speak the language. In colleges, students are able to have conversations in class using the language. To have the same kind of conversation online is just difficult at this point in time. Also, the best way to learn a foreign language is through complete immersion in the language. Online learning simply cannot provide such an experience. Plus, it would be easy for students to cheat during online tests. Students could have a window up on their computer screen like “Google Translate” which can instantly translate a ton of data. Instructors would be unable to monitor this kind of cheating and students just would be experiencing the same quality of education as those who go to class.

Other than these few exceptions online education has a lot of potential to completely revolutionize the education system as we know it. Not only is the future of online education cheaper, but it looks as if it will be much faster and be available to more people, which are all great characteristics.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

To All the Children Seeking Love from Their Parents

By Anthony Pellegrino

Today my thoughts are on all the children who are crying out for love and attention from their parents. We parents make their lives happy or we make their lives miserable. May we never forget that we are parents of children who need us. Let us not forget that we once were children. The thoughts and love our parents gave us are who we are today. Please think about the meaning of the poem I wish to share with you.


By W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, "Goodbye, Daddy!" and I frowned, and said in reply, "Hold your shoulders back!"

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive - and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. "What is it you want?" I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding - this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bed-side in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: "He is nothing but a boy - a little boy!"

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother's arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Four Day School Weeks

By Sean Scarpiello

Recently in Texas, there has been a law proposed to cut typical five day school weeks to four day school weeks. The idea is still in its initial stages, so there isn’t a solid framework of exactly how school weeks would be structured. There would be an extra hour of school added to each of the four days to make up for loss of one full day. Also, this would cause students to have a three day weekend. If the idea is examined deeper, we may be able to see some benefits or maybe not.

At first, this idea sounds great to both students and schools. For students, it means less work and less days going to school. For schools, teachers have to work less. School administrators love this for budgeting purposes because it means there is less money that has to go towards transportation, school upkeep, and cafeteria costs. This plan is a great way to save money because it literally cuts out one fifth of the school year out for students, teachers and administration. Parents, however, hate this entire concept. For one it may mean that their children’s education will not be as strong as it could be. Also, parents are then burdened with having to arrange people to watch their children for an entire day.

From an educational standpoint, this is probably the worst idea for American education ever. The amount of time that students are in school has a direct correlation with the amount students learn. Even though the plan would be to increase the length of the four remaining school days, there would still be a loss of hours of instruction. A few hours here and there add up and at the end of the school year there would be a significantly less amount of instruction time. The argument that some people have is that students will be doing more work outside of class on their own. This is terrible reasoning because students in middle school and below need the direction and guidance of teachers. Simply telling children to teach themselves math is not a good solution.

Furthermore, students’ mindsets would definitely change when it comes to school. Since they are only going to school for a little more than half of the week, students would develop a poor attitude about school and learning. They would most likely become lazier and be more likely to skip school in high school and college. The education of students in Texas may even lose out later on in life because of their lower amount of education. Colleges would be more cautious about accepting Texas students because those students may be labeled as poorly educated.

In all, it is important to try to save money in the education field and many people are finding great ways to bring cheaper education to more people. This idea is just bad. As professionals seek new ways of improving education, it is vital to remember that the quality of education should never take the back seat to saving money.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Restructuring the School Year for Success

By Sean Scarpiello

Over past years, the United States has slowly begun to drop in the ranks of the best educated students around the world. As students from all across the globe take standardized tests, it is becoming clear that one of the world’s superpowers is not doing so well among its peers. Countries like Japan, China (particularly in Shanghai), are proving to have some of the highest test scores in math and science. As the United States struggles among other emerging countries, many people are wondering exactly what is the United States’ educational system doing wrong. What can we learn from other countries’ educational system in order to improve that of the United States?

One initial solution to the problem that is constantly argued by critics is to increase the number of days students go to school. Japanese students attend more than 60 extra days of schools when compared to students in the United States. The Japanese also did much better on tests in comparison to the United States. There is definitely a correlation between the number of days at school and test score, but I do not see the benefits of adding 60 more school days to American students. Increasing the school year by 60 days in the United States would cause more harm than good. It would increase the length of the school year by 33% and thus all the teachers’ paychecks would need to be increased by 33% as well. This would just cause too much of an increase in taxes that Americans would be paying. Plus, it would increase costs for school districts in many other areas, such as transportation and cafeteria costs.

There could still be a bit of an increase in the number days students go to school, but I do not think any more than 20 extra days would be beneficial. Just a small increase in the number of school days would allow teachers to move at a bit of a slower pace so that students can take their time to learn the information more fully. It would also alleviate a lot of the stress for teachers so that there is not anything in the curriculum that needs to be crammed into the last week of school. A few weeks extension would also increase the pay of the teachers, but not to a huge or unmanageable extent.

Another option is to have a school year that goes through the summer. I know that it is an unpopular idea but it would definitely raise test scores. The lack of a long summer break in countries like Japan and China are more beneficial than their extra school days. In the US, the first two to three months of the school year are a review of the material learned the previous year. If there was just a constant flow of learning, material would not have to be relearned each year and more would get done. There is too much wasted time that goes towards relearning material in schools and to win that time back would allow a lot more new material to be taught. The transformation to a year round school year would not be difficult. Winter and spring breaks could be made longer and summer break could be made shorter in order to implement this year round learning. If the United States education system adopted a year round regimen, there wouldn’t be a need for lengthening the school year because time will be saved by simply not reviewing the previous year’s material.

Ultimately, either option could help out the United States greatly in the international ranks. However, each would take a lot of time and collaboration to design a schedule that is both practical and efficient.