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University of Missouri To Use Open Source And Other Cheaper Alternatives For General Education Textbook

University of Missouri To Use Open Source And Other Cheaper Alternatives For General Education Textbook

Rudi Keller, writing for Columbia Tribune: The University of Missouri will move quickly to use open source and other cheaper alternatives for general education textbooks, building on initiatives already in place, system President Mun Choi said. At an event with members of the Board of Curators, administrators, lawmakers, faculty from all four campuses and student representatives, Choi said the intent is to save money for students while providing up-to-date materials. Faculty, including graduate assistants, will be eligible for incentive payments of $1,000 to $10,000 for preparing and adopting materials that save students money, Choi said. Textbooks are sometimes overlooked as a contributor to the cost of attending college, Choi said. “We want to provide our students an opportunity to have a low cost, high-quality alternative,” Choi said.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
Physicists Discover A Possible Break In the Standard Model of Physics

Physicists Discover A Possible Break In the Standard Model of Physics

Slashdot reader freddienumber13 write:
A series of experiments has shown that tau particles have decayed faster than predicted by the standard model. This has been observed at both CERN and SLAC. This suggests that the standard model for particle physics is incomplete and further research is required to understand this new area of physics.

Nature adds:
One of the key assumptions of the standard model of particle physics is that the interactions of the charged leptons, namely electrons, muons and taus, differ only because of their different masses… recent studies of B-meson decays involving the higher-mass tau lepton have resulted in observations that challenge lepton universality at the level of four standard deviations. A confirmation of these results would point to new particles or interactions, and could have profound implications for our understanding of particle physics.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
Mathematical Biology Is Our Secret Weapon In the Fight Against Disease

Mathematical Biology Is Our Secret Weapon In the Fight Against Disease

An anonymous reader shares excerpts from a Scientific American article: In recent years, increasingly detailed experimental procedures have lead to a huge influx in the biological data available to scientists. This data is being used to generate hypotheses about the complexity of previously abstruse biological systems. In order to test these hypotheses, they must be written down in the form of a model which can be interrogated to determine whether it correctly mimics the biological observations. Mathematics is the natural language in which to do this. In addition, the advent of, and subsequent increase in, computational ability over the last 60 years has enabled us to suggest and then interrogate complex mathematical models of biological systems. The realisation that biological systems can be treated mathematically, coupled with the computational ability to build and investigate detailed biological models, has led to the dramatic increase in the popularity of mathematical biology. Maths has become a vital weapon in the scientific armoury we have to tackle some of the most pressing questions in medical, biological and ecological science in the 21st century. By describing biological systems mathematically and then using the resulting models, we can gain insights that are impossible to access though experiments and verbal reasoning alone. Mathematical biology is incredibly important if we want to change biology from a descriptive into a predictive science — giving us power, for example, to avert pandemics or to alter the effects of debilitating diseases.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
Wisconsin Speech Bill Might Allow Students To Challenge Science Professors

Wisconsin Speech Bill Might Allow Students To Challenge Science Professors

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: There have been some well-publicized incidents in which student groups or other protesters have interfered with scheduled appearances by right-wing speakers at U.S. universities. In response, a number of states have considered “campus free speech” bills based on model legislation produced by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank. Different bills introduce specific penalties for students who shout down the speech of others and prevent college administrators from disinviting speakers, to give two examples. One such bill is being debated in Wisconsin. Faculty and university officials in the state are concerned about what else might be prevented by the bill’s overly vague language, according to the local Cap Times. As often happens with bills relevant to science education, the debate has also elicited some rather bizarre comments from the bill’s sponsors. The trouble comes from this section of the bill: “That each institution shall strive to remain neutral, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day, and may not take action, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day in such a way as to require students or faculty to publicly express a given view of social policy.” While the bills’ scope is focused on public events involving invited speakers, there are a couple key questions here. University officials want to know how far this requirement “to remain neutral” extends. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has spoken out against proposed bans on stem cell research on campus. Would the university run afoul of this law if it did so again?

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
Teaching why, not how: My takeaways from Google’s certification training

Teaching why, not how: My takeaways from Google’s certification training

Editor’s note: Donnie Piercey is a fifth grade social studies teacher and technology integration specialist at Eminence Independent Schools in Eminence, KY. In this post, part of Google for Education PD Week, he shares his experience of becoming a Google Certified Educator. PD Week is an opportunity for educators to learn new ways to connect with peers, learn Google tools, and get certified. If you’re an educator, learn more about #GooglePDWeek by following @GoogleforEdu on Twitter and reading the schedule. If you’re an administrator, visit the Transformation Center for inspiration on creative approaches to PD.

I’d bet I’m not the only teacher who’s looked at my room full of students and thought, “This looks like any other classroom on the planet.” I strive to avoid that; my students are special and I want them to feel it every day. But that doesn’t always happen when I’m lecturing and they’re looking at identical worksheets.

A few years ago I hit a turning point. I wanted more opportunities to work individually with my students, to develop their writing skills, and to help them become better collaborators and communicators. I knew technology could help me achieve this, but I wasn’t totally sure how my students and I could take full advantage of tools like G Suite for Education. For example, my students already loved working in Google Docs, but mostly as a substitute to pencil and paper. I thought they could do more with Google Docs to generate ideas, work together and problem solve. This sense of potential drove me to seek out more official professional development opportunities—and complete the Google Certified Education training.

The simplicity and flexibility of the training made it easy to complete both the Level 1 and Level 2 courses—the videos were easy to follow, and I could go at my own pace. It didn’t feel like mandated professional development. It was actually something I wanted to do.

After getting certified, I joined a Google Educator Group (GEG), helping to connect me with a network of tens of thousands of other certified educators around the world. I can send a message to one of my groups, like “I’m trying to figure out a way to help my students understand where important events in history took place using Google Earth,”  and learn how other educators are did this in their classrooms.

For me, training and GEGs have sparked ideas for activities. For example, I decided to have my students create YouTube videos to teach students in other classrooms how to update images of Google Street View to offer a richer view into their communities on Google Maps. My peers inspired me to engage my students with lesson plans that focus on memorable storytelling as well as the subject matter. I’ve learned how to use Google Slides to design better presentations that include videos and images. I can share a presentation with one click and my students can access the material at home.

Donnie Piercey-EDU.png
Donnie Piercey, fifth grade teacher and Google Certified Educator, uses technology to help transform learning for students. (Photo credit: James Allen, Eminence Schools)

Outside of lesson planning, the greatest impact of Google certification is the time I’ve saved. I’ve learned shortcuts like tagging a student in a document or using Hangouts to chat about a question from that day’s class. A few minutes here and there add up, and the extra this time goes into developing relationships—working one on one with students and talking with parents. 

In general, the time I’ve spent on professional development during the summer and other breaks has been more than made up for by the energy it’s injected into my classroom every day. Spending a few hours on professional development during the summer and other breaks is more than worth it. In my district, half of our staff have reached Level 1 certification, and this year I’m working with a cohort on Level 2 as a Google Certified Trainer. I see the results every day in my classroom, where I’m no longer lecturing to a room of students reading from the same workbook. The experience is new every time we start a lesson. I look forward to learning more during the summer so I can bring fresh ideas to my new students this fall. Have a great summer!

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education

“Be Internet Awesome”: Helping kids make smart decisions online

As a parent, I’m constantly talking with my two daughters about how they use the Internet. The way they use it to explore, create and learn inspires me to do my best work at Google, where I lead a team making products that help families and kids have positive experiences online. But for kids to really make the most of the web, we need more than just helpful products: We need to provide guidance as they learn to make their own smart decisions online.

This is one of the most significant issues that we all face as a new generation grows up with the Internet at their fingertips. It’s critical that the most influential people in our kids’ lives—parents and teachers, especially—help kids learn how to be smart, positive and kind online, just like we teach them to be offline. It’s something we all need to reinforce together.

With school out and summer break giving kids more time to spend on the Internet, it’s a great time to introduce Be Internet Awesome: a new way to encourage digital safety and citizenship.

Developed in collaboration with online safety experts like the Family Online Safety Institute, the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and ConnectSafely, Be Internet Awesome focuses on five key lessons to help kids navigate the online world with confidence:

  • Be Internet Smart: Share with care
  • Be Internet Alert: Don’t fall for fake
  • Be Internet Strong: Secure your secrets
  • Be Internet Kind: It’s cool to be kind
  • Be Internet Brave: When in doubt, talk it out

The program includes a range of specific resources for kids, educators and parents, so everyone has the tools they need to learn and participate in the conversation.

For kids

To help kids learn these lessons in a way that’s fun and immersive, we created an interactive, online game called Interland. It’s free and web-based so it’s easily accessible by everyone, and most importantly, it’s in a format kids already love. In this imaginary world of four lands, kids combat hackers, phishers, oversharers and bullies, practicing the skills they need to be good digital citizens.

For educators

We partnered with the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and educators across the country to create a classroom curriculum that brings the five principles of being Internet Awesome to life, at school. To practice being Internet Alert, for example, students can work together to identify whether websites and emails contain signs of a phishing attempt. The lesson plans, activities and worksheets align with the International Society for Technology in Education’s Standards for Students, which educators look toward to define skills for safe and positive action online.

“Building these skills in our students will require ongoing attention as new technologies pose challenges and opportunities for students both at home and at school,”  says Carolyn Sykora, Senior Director of Standards at ISTE. “Be Internet Awesome provides materials educators and parents can use to help students learn about online safety in a fun and engaging way.”

After reviewing the game and curriculum, ISTE has awarded Be Internet Awesome its Seal of Alignment for Readiness. Educators can find the curriculum on the Be Internet Awesome resource hub, or as part of a new online course in the Google for Education Training Center.

For parents and guardians

Without some guidance, having a meaningful conversation about digital safety and respect at home can be really hard. These are sensitive topics and parents may not know where to start. To help make starting the conversation easier, we teamed up with a group of YouTube creators, including John Green, the What’s Inside? Family and MinutePhysics, to launch the #BeInternetAwesome Challenge, a video series that makes talking about online safety fun and accessible. Families can reinforce important lessons at home by signing the Be Internet Awesome Pledge to stay smart, alert, strong, kind and brave online.

My team and I will continue Google’s work to make the Internet a safer, more positive place for kids, and this is an exciting new chapter in our ongoing efforts. Ready, set, Be Internet Awesome! g.co/BeInternetAwesome

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education, Families, Safety & Security
As Computer Coding Classes Swell, So Does Cheating

As Computer Coding Classes Swell, So Does Cheating

An anonymous reader shares a report: College students have flooded into computer science courses across the country, recognizing them as an entree to coveted jobs at companies like Facebook and Google, not to mention the big prize: a start-up worth millions. The exploding interest in these courses, though, has coincided with an undesirable side effect: a spate of high-tech collegiate plagiarism. Students have been caught borrowing computer code from their friends or cribbing it from the internet. “There’s a lot of discussion about it, both inside a department as well as across the field,” said Randy H. Katz, a professor in the electrical engineering and computer science department at the University of California, Berkeley, who discovered in one year that about 100 of his roughly 700 students in one class had violated the course policy on collaborating or copying code. Computer science professors are now delivering stern warnings at the start of each course, and, like colleagues in other subjects, deploy software to flag plagiarism. They have unearthed numerous examples of suspected cheating.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
It's Time For Academics To Take Back Control Of Research Journals

It's Time For Academics To Take Back Control Of Research Journals

Stephen Curry, a professor of structural biology at Imperial College London, has a piece on The Guardian today in which he outlines the history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research. An excerpt from the article: “Publish or perish” has long been the mantra of seeking to make a success of their research career. Reputations are built on the ability to communicate something new to the world. Increasingly, however, they are determined by numbers, not by words, as universities are caught in a tangle of management targets composed of academic journal impact factors, university rankings and scores in the government’s research excellence framework. The chase for metricised success has been further exacerbated by the takeover of scholarly publishing by profit-seeking commercial companies, which pose as partners but no longer seem properly in tune with academia. Evidence of the growing divergence between academic and commercial interests is visible in the secrecy around negotiations on subscription and open access charges. It’s also clear from the popularity among academics of the controversial site Sci-Hub, which has made over 60m research articles freely available on the internet. Over-worked researchers could be forgiven for thinking that the time-honoured mantra has morphed to “publish, and perish anyway.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education