Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paper: One of Today's Educational Resources Becoming Obsolete

By Sean Scarpiello

When looking back onto the changes that have occurred in the last decade years in education, it is amazing to see how many of the educational tools used in classes just ten years ago have become completely obsolete. Just thinking back to my elementary education years, we had very basic computer programs like the pixelated Oregon Trail game and the creative software Kid Pix. If you told any student, teacher, or education professional back then that within the next ten to fifteen years that schools would distribute iPads, computers, and individual email addresses to each of their students, no one would believe you. Technology moves at an extremely rapid pace, and while the field of education often struggles to keep up with the latest gadgets, it makes me wonder about many of the today’s different educational resources that will be obsolete in the next fifteen years to come.

It is very difficult to predict what exactly will be outdated in education, simply because technology is moving so fast. However, one of today’s most common educational resources that has been used for decades in the classroom that I see becoming obsolete in the upcoming year is paper. With the today’s heavy integration of technology in education, many educational institutions already have the ability to go completely paperless. In fact, if my college wanted to go completely paperless in classes by tomorrow, it would really not be a problem at all. Reports can all be submitted via email or other online software, while tests and homework can be distributed and completed over the internet. My school even has the ability to send financial and billing information to all of its students and employees through web adviser software. This can even hold true in elementary level education too. Email addresses through companies such as Google, Hotmail, Yahoo, and others are essentially free to everyone. Therefore, essentially every student with a family computer and internet connection can “plug in” to class and complete coursework through technology. There are even schools that give their students their own email addresses for school. Less than four years ago, when I was in high school, we did not even have our own school based emails. Ten years ago, I hardly if ever sent out an email. Now, there are middle school students who send out multiple emails daily.

Looking beyond the idea that only worksheets, homework, and tests in schools will go paperless in the upcoming years, we can also expect textbooks to go paperless as well. Every day, companies are bringing digital memory to us at lower and lower costs. This, along with the increase in technology in education will inevitably lead us to a textbook free classroom. Students will eventually be able to simply log into their iPad or laptop and pull up thousands of pages of textbooks in the form of eBooks. In the long run, this will definitely save schools money, as they can purchase eBooks for lower prices and even rent eBooks for a limited amount of time at even lower costs. Further, schools will not have to pay to replace large sets of worn-out textbooks every few years.

While going paperless in the upcoming years in the field of education is just one of the many major changes we will see, there will definitely be a lot more of today’s educational resources simply becoming obsolete as technology advances. As these changes come about, I am sure that they will come with a lot of benefits for both schools and their students. Schools will be able to save money in many different areas, while students will receive a much more individualized and fun form of education through technology. Overall, this leads us to a field of education where more students can receive a higher quality of education at lower costs, all through the integration of technology.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck in AP Classes

By Sean Scarpiello

With the cost of college being so high today, many students are enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) classes during high school in hopes of saving money in college. When taking an AP class, students are essentially taking a college level class. Then, at the end of each AP class, students can take a test to determine if they can receive full college credit for the course. If a students do well enough on their AP test, skipping a class can allow them to take other classes to work towards a double major, or even shorten their college experience down to three years, saving them money altogether. Yet, while there are many financial benefits to this option, there also seem to be a few problems with this arrangement.

Many different colleges have different opinions on AP classes. Some schools have very strict policies on them, while others are very relaxed. Therefore, it is very important for students to look into these college policies when choosing a school. For example, at my college, if a student takes AP Biology 1 and 2 in high school and receives a 4 on the AP test, they can skip General Biology I in college. If a student scores a 5 on the AP test, they can skip both General Biology I and II. Other colleges have different polices and will allow students to skip classes with lower scores on the AP tests. And while this sounds like a great idea, there are even more specifics students should look into when choosing a school, AP classes, or even a graduate programs. Because while colleges have their own opinions on AP coursework, so do many other institutions.

Referring back to my example, if a student scores a 5 on the AP test, they can skip the two general biology classes and jump right into upper level biology classes. But does a student really want to do that? Many graduate and doctorate programs in the sciences require that students take the general science courses at a four-year college. Therefore, it would be a shame if a student chose to bypass these general biology courses early in their education, and then had to retake these courses later to get into a graduate degree program. Further, while AP courses technically are the equivalent of a college level class, they are not equal in a few ways. The biggest way in which they differ is that AP classes lack the lab component of many science classes, which, for science majors, is very important. A student who tests out of general science course with a lab may struggle through the lab components of their upper level classes. This is because they enter higher level courses without the ability to properly write abstracts, read scientific articles, and use proper lab techniques which are the fundamentals taught in first year science courses.

Even when taking non-science courses in college, high school classes such as AP Statistics, AP History, or AP English simply lack the college course layout. Sitting through a college class is much different than those in high school. College classes are generally shorter, require much more independent work outside of class, and students have much less one on one contact with their college professors than they do with their high school teachers. Therefore, I feel as if AP classes work well as a jumping off point for students when they get to college. This is because students learn all of the material of a college level class in high school, but when they take the same class in college, they can focus on the course’s structural differences and get used to what it takes to succeed in a real college class.

Another option that works well for students planning on taking AP classes for college credit is to take AP classes in subjects you do not want to major in during college. While it is still great for students to take AP classes in fields their interested in, AP credit works best for the students who can avoid certain types of classes altogether in college. A great example of this would be a political science or business major who took an AP science course in high school. Most colleges require just a few science distribution courses, so if the student can bypass courses they need to take for distribution through the use of AP credit, they have an upper hand. Plus, this political science or business major, who may never use this science again or in their career, can completely avoid having to take the difficult science course with expensive textbooks and long labs. With this option, they can completely cut their college experience short a year by finishing distribution and general education classes before they even arrive at college. Otherwise, these students can cut out these general requirements and pick up a double major or take classes they can greater benefit from during their four years at college.

Overall, while AP courses are fantastic, it is important to approach them strategically. By doing this, students can take the AP classes will most benefit them financially in college by allowing them to cut college short and save on tuition or for focusing on more important classes in their major. In fact, if high schools increased the numbers of AP courses offered, students can save a lot of money not just in tuition, but also textbooks, lab fees, and more. In all, AP classes are great for education as they provide it at a lower cost for many students across the United States.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Integration of iPads into K to 12 Classrooms

By Sean Scarpiello

Recently, I read an article about how Princeton Day School, a private school for students in Pre-Kindergarten to grade 12, has slowly begun integrating iPads into their classrooms. While the school has not gone completely digital, the program has seen much success in the grades that are based on the iPads. Therefore, the school plans on extending the program to further digitize even more classes in future. Compared to traditional classes, the program has many advantages for school administration, teachers and students.

In the long run, integrating iPads into every classroom will save schools a lot of money. While the initial cost of buying iPads for every student in the class is great, the school will be able to save money over the following years. This is because the cost of eBooks is much lower than traditional, heavy textbooks. Also, unlike regular textbooks, eBooks do not need to be replaced every few years because they do not become outdated or fall apart. Plus, iPads offer many applications, designed specifically for the classroom, at low or no cost. With these applications, students can learn through the use of interactive worksheets, challenging games, and other options that are much more stimulating than boring, black and white worksheets. Therefore, students will look forward to learning, as they want to gain more points in a computer based grammar game or solve a math puzzle on their iPad.

This technology also offers many advantages to teachers. iPads can be used to give daily updates to students, as well as make any changes to the course syllabi. The integration of iPads allows for students to work on their assignments anywhere and turn them into their teachers instantly. Applications available for teachers on these devices allow teachers to track where students are struggling, so they can address certain problem areas in the class material. This allows each student’s education to be further individualized to meet their needs and focus on the areas where they struggle which means students will further benefit from this technology.

As students eventually graduate to work in the real world, they too will need to integrate to the technology that we use in hospitals, small businesses, banks, laboratories, and in many other occupational fields. Therefore, being exposed to technology early on in their education means that they can pick up and learn to integrate into the systems used in the workplace extremely easily. Last year, when I had the opportunity to use an iPad in my Organic Chemistry class, we had the ability to use an annotation function on our iPads to write out lab reports simply by speaking into a microphone which typed up the report for us. This technology is not dissimilar to the annotation tools doctors, nurses, and many other employees use daily in the workforce. Further, there are other applications which allow students to surpass today’s employees in many other areas in technology. Many students now are learning to make movies and animations to present in class as a project. In the real world, many of today’s employees will struggle to try and create this type of media. Therefore, those who can build an animation or movie to use in a work presentation can excel in the workplace.

Overall, while the initial price tag of iPads as a learning technology in schools may seem expensive, schools will save in the long term. Beyond the savings on eBooks and education applications, teachers and students will benefit from these technologies in many ways. In all, these sorts of programs where schools are digitizing their classrooms with iPads are sure to improve the experience of learning for many students while remaining at a low cost for schools.