Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

In the classroom

The New Kid on Campus

June 28, 2011

When I was a newspaper reporter covering education, among other beats, in Connecticut, one thing was overtly clear to me as I strolled down the hallways, reported on school assemblies and sat in on class presentations: smartphones and iPods have quickly become the most popular kids on campus.

Almost 10 years ago, when I first started high school, cell phones were the biggest thing to hit school (after Pogs and Tamagotchis). Verizon had just introduced the concept of a family share plan, and kids couldn’t wait to start whipping out their Nokia cell phones.

Once kids were lucky enough to receive a Nokia phone (and even luckier once they received rhinestone phone covers) they would use the phones sparingly in school, predominately to play the riveting game called “Snake.”

The Not-So Ugly Side of Facebook

June 30, 2011

So I spent some time in my previous blog posts bringing up the less than glamorous side of Facebook, but for this entry, I have decided to change my tune (and attempt to fit in with my Facebook aficionado generation).

Facebook is perhaps one of the biggest education technology tools in the classroom today and the social networking site continues to grow in popularity.  Despite some of the more troubling actions that Facebook enables such as cyber bullying, procrastination and cheating in schools, Facebook is also one of the best ways to link teachers to their students academically. 

Is Spell Check Making us Less Intelligent?

July 7, 2011

An interesting question was raised by one of my classmates when we were juniors in high school about to take the AP English exam (and no it was not “Does anyone have a pencil?” or “What test is this again?”) Instead it was, “Can we use dictionaries?”

While my peers initially laughed at our classmate, chuckles were soon replaced by nervous giggles as the fear set in that we would actually have to write our essays without (GASP!) the use of Microsoft Word which so kindly “reds” words that are misspelled. Or, better yet, autocorrects.

I am going to venture a guess that this type of panic spanned more than just Westchester County as computer dependent kids nowadays don’t know what to do when they are forced to put the good ole’ pen to paper and try to spell words without their trusty computer companion. 

Changing my Tune: iPads Making Positive Dent in Schools

July 12, 2011

My initial gut reaction when I hear the terms “iPads” and “school” together is: “What happened to good ol’ lectures on blackboards and scribbled notes in black composition books?” I mean, at a certain point isn’t too much technology in the schools, homes, workplace – insert anywhere – a bad thing?

But after seeing this video clip on ABC below, I have had a change of heart.

This video follows seven-year-old Zachary who was clinging to his life a year ago after he experienced a fluke bicycle accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury, a two-week coma, a four-month rehabilitation program and a learning disability he did not have before the accident.  Accordingly, he had to enroll at High Road Academy in Maryland, a school for children with learning disorders.

Has School Plagiarism Gotten a Whole Lot Easier?

July 14, 2011

Let me paint you a picture: Fifteen years ago, if high school freshmen were looking for a little “extra help” on their English papers about deconstructing social hierarchy in “The Great Gatsby,” in order to get that help (and by help, I mean cheat), they would have to dig up their older sister’s paper that she wrote four years earlier on the same topic and copy the passages they liked… by hand.

A process that was tiring, though it got the job done (if, of course, you had a different teacher than your sister).

But, fast forward 15 years later and cheating has gotten a whole lot easier and a whole lot faster.

I recently chatted with my fellow TMC co-worker Rich Steeves, who was a middle school teacher for nine years before venturing to TMC, about school plagiarism and how technology in the classroom has facilitated this frowned upon behavior.

Spark Notes: The Good and the Ugly

July 19, 2011

Last week, I referred to Spark Notes, one of the most popular study guides for students as they navigate through English classes, as a “cheater’s best friend.”

After all, before your big AP Lit paper is due, it is pretty easy to go to, type in themes for “Jane Eyre,” and come up with a rocking thesis that the novel is all about the quest to be loved.

But talking about how Spark Notes can be a catalyst for cheating got me thinking further about the online educational platform and whether I am being too hard on it.

Here’s my dilemma.

To Friend or Not to Friend your Teacher

August 4, 2011

It definitely makes you think twice when you hear that high school freshmen are “friends” with their teachers on Facebook, but I bet it also makes you think twice at the thought that this practice could become illegal?

This week, news spread like wildfire that Missouri signed into law that it is now illegal for teachers to be “friends” with students on any social networking sites that allow for private communications. That means Missourians can say good-bye to friending their teachers on Facebook to see what their husbands/wives look like or following their students on Twitter to see what they are actually doing in their spare time (since it’s clearly not homework assignments).

The law does provide a clause though that while teachers and students can’t be friends, they can interact publicly on walls of fan pages.  

Should You Go Through the Third Degree When Trying to Visit a School? Absolutely

August 23, 2011

Here are some unnerving stats for you: 160,000 kids stay home every day because of bullying; 8.2 million students a year suffer from the hands of bullying; 739,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. roam about; and school enrollment is expected to grow at nine to 10 percent between now and 2018.

So what is the common thread between all these figures? That finding the right school security technology is paramount to finding the most educated teachers and the most-up-to-date technology teaching supplements.

Back to School: I Can Smell the Sharpened iPads

September 6, 2011

In addition to getting to know new students, teachers and school layouts (for all those incoming middle and high school students), the tens of thousands of students who are headed back to school this week will also be greeted by new education technology innovations. From SMART Boards and iPads to Kindles and online educational systems, back to school is bound to be more interesting than ever before.

This year for example, the Millville Public School District is amping up its use of computer software and handheld devices to monitor how students are taught. Specifically, the McREL Power Walkthrough technology, installed on a range of handheld devices, makes it possible for administrators and teachers to sit in a classroom and quickly create a database on how a class is run.

All Aboard My Education Nostalgic Train

September 20, 2011

I have a confession to make:  I am one-half Russian, one-fourth German and one-half nerd.

When I think about all the students who get to buy new notebooks and pens (Velocity for sure), sit through hour-and-a-half lectures about how one finds the moral fortitude to challenge company policies,  or enjoy a 40-minute high school period about symbolism in “Emma,” I get nostalgic. While others might actually miss the high school prom, beer pong, and formals instead (and yes I miss that, too), call me crazy, but I actually miss the learning part more.

In the spirit of nostalgia (and as I sit here fantasizing about what I would be doing at 2:30 p.m.

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