The Economist Debate Series

Along with the K12Online Conference, here is another unique opportunity for online participation in the month of October. It was sent to me by Jeff from Sparkpr on behalf of The Economist.  Get in there and vote, the check out the debate!

Hi Troy – Jeff here from Sparkpr for The Economist.

I saw your blog, Digital Writing Digital Teaching, and am delighted to invite you and your readers to be part of an extraordinary first for Economist.com. The Economist Debate Series officially kicks off October 15th and voting is underway now to determine the propositions that will be debated. The first subject being debated is education and we’d love to have you participate in the debate and link to the lively conversation.

The Economist Debate Series is an ongoing community forum where propositions about topical issues will be rigorously debated in the Oxford style by compelling Speakers. The Economist is inviting you and your readers to take part by voting on propositions, sharing views and opinions, and challenging the Speakers.

Five propositions have now been short-listed to address the most far-reaching and divisive aspects of the education debate covering: the place of foreign students in higher education; the position of corporate donors; and the role of technology in today’s classrooms. The highest ranking propositions will be debated, with the first launching on Oct 15th.

Cast your vote now at: http://www.economist.com/debate/?sa_campaign=debateseries/debate1/blog/DigitalWritingDigitalTeaching

Choose the most resonant propositions to be debated from the list below:

Education – The propositions:

1. This house believes that the continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education.

2. This house proposes that governments and universities everywhere should be competing to attract and educate all suitably-qualified students regardless of nationality and residence.

3. This house believes that companies donate to education mainly to win public goodwill and there is nothing wrong with this.

4. This house believes that the “digital divide” is a secondary problem in the educational needs of developing countries.

5. This house believes that social networking technologies will bring large changes to educational methods, in and out of the classroom

Join the Debate

The debate schedule is as follows:

  • Sep 17th-Oct 12th – Vote for your favorite proposition and join the open forum to discuss topics
  • Oct 15th – Winning proposition is revealed and the Debate begins
  • Oct 18th – Rebuttals. Share your comments on issues so far and vote for your winning side
  • Oct 23th – Closing arguments by the Speakers. Post any additional comments you would like to share and vote for your winner
  • Oct 26th – The debate winner is announced.

To receive debate updates sign up at http://www.economist.com/debate/?sa_campaign=debateseries/debate1/blog/DigitalWritingDigitalTeaching. We will then contact you to announce the winning proposition and details of the debate as it unfolds.

I look forward to you joining us and fellow Economist readers for this lively debate. In the meantime, check the site to track which proposition is winning, and to view guest participants and the announcement of key Speakers at http://www.economist.com/debate/?sa_campaign=debateseries/debate1/blog/DigitalWritingDigitalTeaching.

Bringing the Open Source Ethos to Test Prep Resources

Recently, I was contacted by Nick from ProProfs.com [corrected link on 10/9/07] about their SAT preparation wiki and resources. While it is a for-profit enterprise, ProProfs invites teachers and professors to blog and compose wiki pages that offer free SAT help, help that is often unaffordable for many students. To that end, I found the site compelling. Yet, I was a bit discouraged by the Google ads that populate it, many sending users to essay writing sites.

Here is what Nick sent me in his introductory email:

Free SAT Test Training (nationwide)
E-learning Website Could Save Students Thousands of Dollars

Students & parents can potentially save thousands of dollars this year in preparation for the SAT’s – the nations most important pre-collegiate examination. Instead of buying books, materials or registering for pre-SAT courses, they now have access to ProProfs (http://www.proprofs.com/sat/), a free online training site for the SAT Test.

The site features a comprehensive collection of SAT preparation material (covering all three major areas of the exam) that includes study guides, flash cards, practice questions, and even simulated exams. Quizzes, videos, blogs, wiki and interactive forums are also provided

More than two million students take the SAT each year. With the launch of SAT Test School, ProProfs aims at providing students and educators the resources they need, free of charge, and in a convenient format.

The ProProfs SAT School also uses Web 2.0 technologies like Wikis to continually improve by being open to the e-learning community for editing and content contribution. Discussion forums, online file exchange, creation of quizzes/flashcards, student blogs and tagging of resources are
also supported.

For more information about ProProfs SAT School, please visit – http://www.proprofs.com/sat/

About ProProfs:
ProProfs.com, a leader in online learning, provides free resources to students and educators. ProProfs provides the tools necessary for students to succeed in diverse fields ranging from technical certification to college entrance examinations. ProProfs also delivers free e-learning content around the world to students from all backgrounds.

I then visited the site and checked out some of the services that they offer. I am not an expert on the SAT, per se, but have quite a bit of knowledge about the way that the MEAP is designed and scored. As I quickly viewed the site, especially the section on writing the essay, the advice seemed consistent with my experiences in test-based writing what many professionals are now calling for with their efforts to study “writing-on-demand” as a genre.

And, what’s most interesting to me is that it’s a wiki. If it is inaccurate, I suppose that any teacher could sign up to become an editor. That feels empowering to me as a teacher of writing — the idea that we could have the power to offer genuine advice and think about how to situate SAT writing as one (and only one) of a variety of types of writing that students need to be able to do. To say it in our words, rather that through “official” test prep guides may be a unique opportunity that this site provides.

Still, I was a bit uncomfortable about the commercial nature of the the Google Ads directed at essay writing services. That said, Nick offered many reasons in a return email about why ProProfs. From his second email:

– We are primarily a community supported free site with revenue coming from onsite advertising. Users create content such as blogs, wiki articles, quizzes and flashcards. Content is then open to the community for use, rating and comments. This allows community filtering of best content. This is much along the lines of how community powered sites like wikipedia work (though we are not a non profit).

– I regret that you came across some advertisers through the google network that you would not consider reputable. Even though we source this through a reputed company like Google, we are constantly working to ensure that only reputable advertisers get access to our site and periodically update our ban list. You can read about out most recent update to ensure safe advertising at:
http://www.proprofs.com/forums/blog/proprofs/index.php?showentry=254

– Professors and teachers use our site in various ways. Some use our unique features to create and share resources for their own coursework such as quizzes, flashcards etc. Others use the resources already offered by the site such our very popular IT certification resources. An interesting case study on how a Virginia School was using ProProfs was published in THE Journal recently. For your reference it is located at: http://thejournal.com/articles/20681

Rest assured you would be pointing your readers to a reputable resource. To convince you further of our reputation, I am enclosing a coverage in About.com (a leading website in education):
http://homeworktips.about.com/b/a/257749.htm

So, that is where I left the conversation. From what I can tell, ProProfs is offering a unique service and hoping to keep it free for many students by utilizing volunteer writers and Google ads. I would encourage all of you to check the site out, too, and let me know what you think. Nick’s final words offered more contact info:

If you need any further information from me or feel free to contact Sameer Bhatia, Founder & President, ProProfs.com. Sameer is reachable via email at sameer@proprofs.com

K12 Online 2007 Conference Launches

Kevin reminded me that the K12 Online Conference begins this week. I will be inviting my pre-service teachers to check it out this week and encourage others to pass along the news, too. From their website:

K12 Online Conference 2007

Welcome to the K-12 Online Conference!The K-12 Online Conference invites participation from educators around the world interested in innovative ways Web 2.0 tools and technologies can be used to improve learning. This FREE conference is run by volunteers and open to everyone. The 2007 conference theme is “Playing with Boundaries”. This year’s conference begins with a pre-conference keynote the week of October 8, 2007. The following two weeks, October 15-19 and October 22-26, forty presentations will be posted online to the conference blog (this website) for participants to download and view. Live Events in the form of three “Fireside Chats” and a culminating “When Night Falls” event will be announced. Everyone is encouraged to participate in both live events during the conference as well as asynchronous conversations.

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