At the intersect between education and technology

November, 2017

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Advancing Innovations in Post-Secondary Education

The first joy that many of us attribute to being in a post-secondary education is the moment the letter of acceptance arrives. Stacked with it, potentially a few other acceptance letters, and maybe a few rejection letters as well. We bide our time and wait for the first day of classes, many of us packing our bags and leaving home for the first time, while never knowing how research paper writing is done.

Entering this type of education can be a far cry from the lives we led before. Maybe in a previous life you were a high school student, or maybe you have left the work force for re-education. Either way, it is a new way of learning and students must be prepared to write papers while drawing on corrected information.

Gone are the days of pen (or pencil) to paper and welcome the world of BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. Today these education devices are being used by many to communicate through different devices. For example, Colleges and Universities are using Skype to minimize classroom environments, which could in turn decrease distractions for other students due to classmates working on other school work during these times.

However, education technologies are not all Skype and minimal interactions. Many students are benefiting from the availability of the internet. While using these technologies can be antagonizing for educators who have failed to maintain with the pace of societal changes, these same machines are improving students’ abilities to create dynamic research papers. There is the ability to fill in the gaps where a Teachers Assistant has not. This is in ways such as a full understanding of how to write a decent paper.

A decent paper that includes a solid hypothesis, a structured analysis and a critical look at all sides of the proposed approach. Not all TAs can provide this, and a simple tool like the internet can help. This educational technology has a plethora of people whom are willing to support a student through these academically difficult times.

Even a simple tool like YouTube, can teach someone face to face, how to properly research an academic writing paper. There are many websites and articles that can provide misleading information about educational technologies that are available, therefore having someone to visually provide cues can improve student performance.

Finally, it is important for a student to note, that the person teaching them was once a student too. The difference is that the person educating them may not have had the advantages of learning how to cite or write research papers from multiple sources. They were at a disadvantage, because if they did not understand how it was taught, a book was still their only resource.

But this is not all that research writing is about.

Connecting old ideas with new ones, advocating for a solid stance on the position of the paper and providing reasonable, supported documentation is the final step. Research paper writing is challenging, especially when coming from high school or different employment, but if utilizing proper educational technologies, there should be lowered difficult but it is important to reflect essential services if necessary.

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Fighting Fake News in the Classroom

According to research from Stanford University, school-aged students are easily fooled by false information they encounter online. Since the 2016 US election, there has been a lot of discussion about the proliferation of fake news, and experts, including those involved in the study at Stanford, have described it as a threat to democratic values.

But it’s not only about fake news. Fabricated news stories are only part of a much bigger problem. Information and misinformation, advertising masquerading as news, half-truths and opinions presented as hard facts. The problem is more like an information tidal wave.  

Young people, especially, get a large portion of their news from social media feeds, which are notorious for spreading false information, and sponsored and embellished content. Just because children today are surrounded by technology, doesn’t mean they are inherently aware of the dishonest ways that it can be used. Being digitally literate doesn’t not guarantee that a child will be able to critically analyse the digital media they encounter.

To try and tackle this problem, and provide kids with the right tools to help them educators around the world have launched programs, teaching journalism and content creation techniques to prepare young people to become savvy digital communicators and help them sift fact from fiction as they navigate the bewildering digital media landscape.

That can involve giving children the ability to spot tell-tale signs of fake news. Things like bad spelling and grammar, claims that can’t be backed up by evidence, odd URLS or advertising links. Helping children understand concepts like Search Engine Optimization or SEO, can help them decide whether a source will be credible as well. Being aware of how Google’s algorithms rank sources of information can help kids understand how authoritative a site is.

High Schools in the Czech Republic have been teaching teens how to identify propaganda online, and in Sweden, students as young as 10 years old are taught responsible ways to consume news. Elementary schools in Kansas and California have teamed up for ‘fake news challenges’ using skype to get fourth graders in separate states to write their own fake news articles, and present them alongside real news via skype sessions. The opposing class then had to determine which news article had been fake, and provide their reasons why. Innovative ideas like this not only teach kids how to be critical of the information they receive from the news, but also when they receive it from their peers.

Programs and initiatives like these help students learn to detect biases and agendas online, and empowers them to distinguish fact from fiction. This approach makes students more than savvy communicators and consumers. They become informed and critical thinkers, effective problem solvers and content creators that can advocate for themselves and the public.

Equipping today’s youth with the tools and know-how they need to make sense of the digital world is the best way to ensure that their critical thinking can still flourish surrounded by a digital soup of advertorials, misinformation and fake news.

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