Why Online Gradebooks Are Changing Education


Flipped Learning
Students solve problems in Crystal Kirch’s pre-calculus class at Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. A growing number of teachers are implementing what is known as “flipped learning,” in which students learn lessons as homework, mostly through online videos produced by teachers, and use classroom time to practice what they learned. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

How did my son perform on his high-school physics test this morning? Seconds after the teacher posts his score online, I can find out. With just a few more clicks, I can also tell you how the grade affected his overall performance for the quarter, his GPA for the year, how many times he was late for school, and what he ate for lunch this week.

All of this information is readily available to parents at any time through our school district’s virtual gradebook

—an increasingly popular tool that is reshaping parental involvement in schools nationwide and opening up the black box of student assessment. Experts predict that these programs will evolve using the latest technology to measure increasingly varied facets of students’ educational lives. While many parents seem to appreciate the increased connections with their schools, others—myself included—are not interested in the constant surveillance and assessment of their children.

More here


The Last Drunk at the Party

I’ve written at least one blog post nearly every weekday since July 2003. Twelve years. That’s crazy, right?

Blogging has been very, very good to me. I learned how to write quickly for an online audience about topics that they found interesting. I met a lot of really cool people who offered a joke, an insight, and a kind word.

The conversation between bloggers ended five years ago. Traffic patterns changed. People moved to other ventures. Nearly all of the original bloggers dropped out. I kept at it,  mostly because I enjoyed the conversation with my readers, and I liked having control over my ideas and words. Even with the changing online landscape, there was always a reason to go to the computer after the kids got on the bus and write.

I must end Apt. 11D as we know it. The mashup of personal and professional and political. The daily posts. The link-fests. I can’t do it anymore.

Twelve years of daily blog posts with tons of images and graphics creates a mammoth problem. My current serving company can’t manage it. Cleaning up this mess would cost some serious money.

I don’t have enough time to blog properly. My days are getting eaten up with professional writing and local organizing. I’m so overbooked that I’m making mistakes. I’m missing meetings, not returning e-mail messages, and not even doing a great job with blogging. I have to reduce my responsibilities.

So, I’m leaving. I’m the last drunk at the party, who wanted the fun to keep going on and on. But someone turned off the tunes and put on the bright lights. It’s time to grab my purse and get on the subway.

Here’s the plan. I’m not going to dump the website. I want to preserve the historical record. I might come back every couple of weeks to add a personal post about food and kids, because that makes me happy. If you want a ping when I write something, sign up for a subscription (sidebar bottom).

I will set up a professional website at some point. I’m not sure if it will include a blog.

I’m on Twitter and Facebook. Follow me there.

I’ll miss everyone terribly, especially the regular commenters. We’ve been together for a long time, and our little community is the smartest, funniest, kindest group of people ever. I’m sure that I’ll have the DTs from blog withdrawal for a very long time. I hope that we all find each other in some other corner of the Internet or in real life.

Lots of love. Laura

The P.C. Debate

I’m slowly slogging through Jonathan Chait’s “Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say.”  (Disclaimer — I’m a member of the Facebook group “Binders Full of Women” that is mentioned in the article.)

I am particularly fond of the P.C. term cis-gender. I had to google it a few months ago.

It’s a long article and there’s been a lot of commentary on it. I’ve largely been ignoring it, because I find PC criticism as tiring as political correctness itself.

I want to pull out one little small bit of the article, because it relates to something else that I’m writing. It’s the role of social media in creating a new political correct movement.

In a short period of time, the p.c. movement has assumed a towering presence in the psychic space of politically active people in general and the left in particular. “All over social media, there dwell armies of unpaid but widely read commentators, ready to launch hashtag campaigns and circulate Change.org petitions in response to the slightest of identity-politics missteps,” Rebecca Traister wrote recently in The New Republic.

Social media has created a new brand of journalism that specializes in click-bait. Tail wags the dog. This click-bait crap consists mostly of a SEO-friendly headline and an image. After the first sentence, the rest of the article could be in Latin, because nobody reads it. These click-bait articles published by slimy, journalism-ish companies are not only fueling PC nonsense. They are basically a wet dream for conspiracy theorists.

Is the Internet a Cure for Loneliness?

At Salon, Toni Telfer has an article about the Internet and loneliness. Is the Internet a refuge for lonely people or does logging onto the computer take us away from other activities that would make us less lonely?

My philosophy about blogging and the Internet in general is Real Life First. I say yes to all social engagements or as many as possible. If I have to choose between a diner date with neighbors or participation in an online thread about gerrymandering, I choose the diner. If those priorities are kept in order, then the Internet is a great place to form a community.

When Ian first started having problems, I had to turn to the Internet for answers. When I was stuck at home and missing academic discussions, there was the Internet. In those cases, I had unique problems and unique interests, so I needed a larger sample size than my community to get answers.

In a few cases, online friends have become real friends, because we live close enough to meet for coffee. Some of my real life friends appear in the Apt. 11D comment section. The lines aren’t that clear anymore.

I think pretty much everybody here understands the “Real Life First” rule. This debate about virtual communities versus real communities was a bigger deal about ten years ago. Robert Putnam had some bits about this in his “Bowling Alone” book. It was funny to see this topic brought up at Salon again. I wonder if it is a real problem.

Social Media and Journalism

People are consuming news in a whole new way. They aren’t walking to the end of the driveway, unfolding the Times or the Wall Street Journal, and then flipping through the pages. (Well, one person still does that. That’s Steve.)  They aren’t even going to the webpage for the newspaper and trolling through their content. (I still do that.)

Mostly, people log onto Facebook or other social  media, and then read what they’re friends are recommending. (I also do that.)

The NYT has an article about the changing modes of news consumption. ( I found this article through a link on Facebook. Very meta.) About 30 percent of adults in the United States get their news on Facebook. At the Washington Post, more than half of its mobile readers, are millenials who consume news digitally and largely through social media sites like Facebook.

More stats — “Facebook now has a fifth of the world — about 1.3 billion people — logging on at least monthly. It drives up to 20 percent of traffic to news sites…”

How does this impact the way that news is created? The article doesn’t really answer that question. Let me try.

News sources now need more content than ever, because they don’t know what will stick and what won’t. They need more and more writers to produce this content, but have less resources to pay them. So, freelancers.

They hire SEO experts, who write clever headlines that will make Facebook and Google happy. These headlines sometimes don’t reflect the content of the article, because people don’t necessary read that far into an article.

They produce a lot of the same articles that they know will appeal to the Facebook linkers. I would love to see some content analysis how the article topics have changed in the past ten years.

An Online Life

Last month, there was much twittering about the fact that the uber-popular DIY bloggers at Young House Love are taking a break from blogging. They said that they needed to spend more time in their real life, and less time online. Today, the New York Times picked up this story about blogging burnout.

Look, it’s not always easy to keep this blog going. Sometimes the blog and my interests dovetail perfectly. I’m thinking or writing or teaching stuff in the real world that has an easy carry over to the blog. I don’t put too much time into making the blog posts look pretty, because that takes up an enormous amount of time. I can push out a blog post in five minutes, when there’s this nice convergence. Other times, my real life is consumed with boring, but necessary chores and that doesn’t work well as a blog post.

I’ve been busy in the past few weeks resurrecting my used book business. It went on the back burner for a while. I need more inventory, so I’m back to visiting estate sales on Fridays. I live in an area with a load of well read, old ladies. There are free old books everywhere, and some have an online value. It’s a weekend hobby. Maybe I can squeeze one blog post out of that experience, but it doesn’t translate into daily content.

I’m taking a break from writing, because I’m fed up with the freelance commissions. That means that I’m not necessarily keeping up with the online news articles as much as I should. That puts a dent into blogging.

We’re taking Ian to more concerts, and I’m exploring new restaurants in New York City. All fun and good real life stuff, but not necessarily blog post material.

If I was a super professional blogger, this disjunction between my real life and the blog would be very stressful. Good thing that I’m a dilettante blogger. So, in the next six months, you’re going to get a lot more real life type blog posts, and fewer politics and policy and news blog posts.

Millennials and the New Economy

Maureen Dowd’s column is an absolute train-wreck this week. The first three paragraphs are so confusing and tone-deaf that one should avoid the whole thing. But I did read it. At the end, she had some interesting quotes about millennials and the tech boom.

“The 23-year-olds I work with are a little over the conversation about how we were the superpower brought low,” said Ben Smith, the editor in chief of Buzzfeed. “They think that’s an ‘older person conversation.’ They’re more interested in this moment of crazy opportunity, with the massive economic and cultural transformation driven by Silicon Valley. And kids feel capable of seizing it. Technology isn’t a section in the newspaper any more. It’s the culture.”

Ben Domenech, the 32-year-old libertarian who writes The Transomnewsletter, thinks many millennials are paralyzed by all their choices. He quoted Walker Percy’s “The Last Gentleman”: “Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him.” He also noted that, given their image-conscious online life in the public eye, millennials worry about attaching themselves with a click to the wrong clique or hashtag: “It heightens the level of uncertainty, anxiety and risk aversion, to know that you’re only a bad day and half a dozen tweets from being fired.”

Jaron Lanier, the Microsoft Research scientist and best-selling author, thinks the biggest change in America is that “technology’s never had to shoulder the burden of optimism all by itself.”

And that creates what Haass calls a tension between “dysfunctional America vs. innovative America.”

Walter Isaacson, head of the Aspen Institute and author of the best-selling “Steve Jobs,” agreed that “there’s a striking disconnect between the optimism and swagger of people in the innovative economy — from craft-beer makers to educational reformers to the Uber creators — and the impotence and shrunken stature of our governing institutions.”

You know what your problem is, old fart? You need to have the swagger of a craft-beer maker! So, grow yourself a beard and stop whining!

There are a handful of people making a load of money on the Internet with companies that sell preppy belts on Instagram or that help you locate people who want to hook up. There are also a handful of people who call themselves gurus and are suffering from the dreaded fullashit disease. They write books about belts on Instagram and one-night stand software. They make a nice living, too. Good for them!

I don’t know how the new economy is working out for millennials. The Atlantic and their 15-year old writers pump out daily articles about how they can’t buy houses or cars, because they have so much student loan debt. I’m on a ‘secret’ Facebook of 27,000 women writers that complain about working for free. The latest list of most well paid careers went to old-fashioned sort of careers like anesthesiologists. Not German barbecue pop-up store owners in Williamsburg.