Town turns tables on school prank

The cool kids thought it would be funny to elect an unpopular girl to the homecoming court at Ogemaw Heights High, then taunt her for being an outsider, writes Francis X. Donnelly in the Detroit News. But the people of West Branch, Michigan, a small farm town, rallied around sophomore Whitney Kropp.

Kids pointed at her in the hallways and laughed. The boy who was picked with her withdrew.

Students told her that, in case she was wondering why the boy had dropped out, he was uncomfortable being linked with her.

“I thought I wasn’t worthy,” said Kropp, 16. “I was this big old joke.”

But her family persuaded Kropp to go to the game and have a great time.

“Going to homecoming to show them that I’m not a joke,” she wrote on Facebook. “Im a beautiful person and you shouldn’t mess with me!”

Then word spread, thanks to a Facebook support page, and backing the “free spirit” against the mean girls went viral. Local businesses offered to “buy her dinner, take her photo, fix her hair and nails, and dress her in a gown, shoes and a tiara,” writes Donnelly.
Josh Awrey, the football player who’d dropped out, decided he’d join her after all when the homecoming court is presented at halftime.
“Im sick of everyone blaming me. I had nothing to do with this,” he wrote (on his Facebook page). “I think what they (students) did is rlly rude and immature.”

“Team Whitney” — including graduates who hadn’t been to a football game in decades — vowed to pack the stands at the homecoming game to cheer for her. Normally dressed in black, she got a red dress for the occasion.

Can gaming close the high-tech gender gap?

To close the high-tech gender gap, “encourage your daughters to play video games,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told Dana Goldstein.

. . .  childhood gaming and hacking experience has motivated many computer programmers to enter the field, including Sandberg’s boss, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The leap toward more advanced computing comes not only from playing games—today, 94 percent of girls are gaming, compared with 99 percent of boys—but in becoming curious about how they work and then beginning to tinker with code in order to modify game results. Boys are still much more likely than girls to explore this type of simple computer programming, and not every young girl who is curious about how computers work has an encouraging parent at home or the hardware she needs.

So it’s not just the gaming. It’s the tinkering. My nephew just got hired (first paying job out of college!!!) by a company that makes “pink market” fashion design games.  Girls might learn about fashion design, but I don’t think they’ll learn programming. That’s Alan’s job. (He may know less about fashion than anyone on the planet.)

K-12 educators are trying to hook girls on the “computational thinking” that makes programming possible, writes Goldstein.

The Academy for Software Engineering, a public school whose curriculum will be built around computer programming and Web development, will open in New York City this September. Just one-quarter of the incoming freshman class is female, but the school’s founders, who are closely tied to the New York tech community, have ambitious plans for pairing female students with women mentors working in the field, in order to tamp down on attrition, direct girls into meaningful careers, and recruit more female students to the school in future classes.

In Pajaro Valley, Calif., south of Santa Cruz, researcher Jill Denner launched a program that teaches low-income Latina girls and boys, in gender-segregated classrooms, to create their own computer games.

I’m skeptical that mentors or “pink” games will turn girls into programmers, but I guess it’s worth a try.

Why Twitter is not a good teaching tool

Once a “cool teacher” who advocated teaching with social media, Paul Barnwell now thinks Twitter and Facebook Are Not Good Instructional Tools.

While summarizing is a real skill, do we really want students to further fragment their thoughts and attention in this age of incessant digital distraction and stimuli with 140-character blurbs? Do we want students to spend even more time in front of a screen, bypassing opportunities to converse and collaborate face-to-face?

Web applications and social media tools may engage students at first, but the wow wears off quickly, Barnwell writes. Teachers waste time on gimmicks. Students “become dependent on technology that requires too many templates, cheapens thinking, or relies on flashy graphics and movement.”

The “net generation” isn’t truly tech savvy, he adds, citing a report by the Economic & Social Research Council, which interviewed British college students. They “use Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, most often as distractions from their studies rather than learning tools.”

Do many students you interact with know how to do much more than Tweet, post to Facebook, or browse YouTube? Email is antiquated to students; after all, many kids are so used to fragmenting their thoughts that writing a substantial email is drudgery. Twitter is all the rage for teenagers and is a constant source and depository of mindless banter and instant gratification. Being tech savvy should include the ability to synthesize ideas and media forms, and create something original.

Barnwell is no technophobe: He teaches a digital media and storytelling course at a Kentucky high school, teaching students to use technology to create “photo essays, audio slideshows, and short documentaries.”

Schools vs. free (rude) speech

What Right Do Schools Have to Discipline Students for What They Say Off Campus? No right at all, argues civil libertarian Wendy Kaminer  in The Atlantic.

Griffith Middle School in Indiana aims to transform “learners today” into “leaders tomorrow.” Leaders of which country, I wonder, after reading the Griffith Middle School Handbook. North Korea? The U.S. Constitution appears to have no standing in Griffith.

Students can be suspended or expelled for “innuendos.”  The ban on profanity, pornography or obscenity includes  “other inappropriate materials” and “using or writing derogatory written materials.”  This is “breathtakingly vague,” Kaminer writes. Griffith students may be expelled for “disrespect” toward staff or other students or for “disruptive behavior,” including “arguing.”

Idiotic rules like this are bound to be enforced idiotically, but the consequences for students are not amusing. Griffith Middle School is now being sued in federal court for expelling three 8th grade girls for engaging in a girlish exchange on Facebook that included jokes about classmates they’d like to kill. Their conversation, which lasted less than two hours, was conducted after school, on their own time and on their own computers.

The girls used “LOL” (laugh out loud), smiley faces and all caps to indicate sarcasm, writes Kaminer. They were joking. One of the allegedly threatened students said he didn’t feel threatened and knew the girls were joking. But someone’s mother complained. The girls were expelled for the rest of the school year for bullying, intimidation and harassment.

The students have a very strong First Amendment case — if the First Amendment retains any relevance in public schools. There’s no question that those of us not in actual or virtual custody of school authorities have the right to make jokes about killing each other. Student rights, however, are increasingly limited; anxiety about social media and hysteria about bullying or drug use have only been exacerbated by the post 9/11 authoritarianism that permeates our culture and our courts.

Has the campaign to end bullying — and the fear of school violence — gone too far?

A six-year-old boy in Colorado was suspended for sexual harassment for saying, “I’m sexy and I know it” to a girl standing next to him in the lunch line. The song is featured in a commercial for M&Ms.

Teen sues over Facebook bullying

Two classmates created a fake Facebook account in 14-year-old Alex Boston’s name, using it to suggest that the Georgia girl is fat, promiscuous, a drug user and a racist. Her middle school principal said the school can’t regulate off-campus activity. So the girl and her parents are suing the cyberbullies for libel.

The page features a distorted photo of  Boston.

The account was also used to post a racist video to YouTube that implied that Boston hated African-Americans, and to leave crude comments on the Facebook pages of other friends, suggesting she was sexually active and smoked marijuana.

. . . The activities exposed Boston to “hatred, contempt and ridicule by her classmates and peers,” according to the complaint, which accuses the teens of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and seeks punitive damages. The parents of the defendants are named in the suit because they paid for the internet access that allowed their children to create the account and post the messages, and allegedly failed to supervise their activity.

Georgia law doesn’t penalize cyberbullying and schools have no authority over students’ off-campus behavior.

According to the lawyer, Facebook did not respond to requests to delete the false account until after the lawsuit was filed and publicized on CNN.

75 minutes without Facebook: Is that so hard?

College students show up for class, then spend 75 minutes checking Facebook photos, sending Tweets to friends and ignoring the professor.  She thinks it’s rude. They disagree.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Is it the professor’s job to teach manners?

‘We’ got into Yale? Don’t Facebook it

It’s tacky to brag about your kids’ college acceptances on Facebook, writes Rosemary Sellers. Especially if you write that “we” got into Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth.

Yes, it feeds the college frenzy, but there’s no way to keep middle-class parents quiet when their children hit the Ivy jackpot.

Admissions staff check Facebook profiles

In the college application, you’re a teen-age saint who tutors the underprivileged and picks up trash in the park. Online, you’re a party guy or gal flashing gang signs and strewing beer cans.

College admissions officers are looking at applicants’ Facebook profiles, according to Kaplan’s 2010 College Admissions Survey. (Here’s an infographic.) They also check Twitter and YouTube. Sixty-two percent said social-media profiles usually help applicants get accepted; 38 percent said  online profiles hurt students’ chances.

Newark bickers over Facebook donation

Newark’s troubled schools are getting $100 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Mayor Cory Booker has raised another $44 million in donations, so far.  But Newark is split on how to spend the windfall, reports the Wall Street Journal. Booker, who spent $1 million surveying what parents want from the schools, plans to close failing schools, open new schools and let charters share space with district-run schools. He also wants longer school days and weaker tenure protections for principals and teachers.

This week, nearly $1 million was awarded to five new high schools, which will share space with existing schools. Critics say the money should go to the old schools. And they want Booker to reveal the donors who gave $44 million.

“I know you’re not supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth,” said Councilwoman Mildred Crump at a public hearing Wednesday evening at City Hall. “Well I’m checking this one out.” Residents in the audience applauded her sentiment.

Only 22 percent of Newark’s high school students pass the state graduation exam and earn a diploma on schedule; another 33 percent graduate through an alternative system. Tens of thousands of children are on charter-school waiting lists. Even before Zuckerberg’s donation was announced in September, new schools were in the planning stages, Booker points out.

Newark schools have been under state control since 1995.  Republican Gov. Chris Christie fired the superintendent in February. Booker, a Democrat, is collaborating with Christie on school reform plans. That’s angered and alarmed unionized teachers and their political allies who don’t want to see the spread of non-union charter schools.

(Councilwoman) Crump joined a union rally and protest outside of City Hall Wednesday afternoon before the public hearing. She implored the protesters to vote for a certain slate of candidates on April 27. “We have a clear choice between those who will do nothing for labor and those who will do everything for labor,” she said into the microphone. She told the protesters to vote for the three candidates who “are about labor.” She then led people in a chant: “Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs,” and added: “Jobs that are safe and secure!”

District enrollment is declining. Some 400 school district employees may lose their jobs this year.

Newark school woes transcend money, summarizes USA Today. “Last week the school advisory board voted against opening the new schools. The district plans to open them anyway. Students are already signing up.”

Laptop-closing prof accused of battery

A professor who shut a student’s laptop — allegedly hurting her finger — was arrested for battery last week, reports The Spectator, Valdosta State University‘s student newspaper.

Frank J. Rybicki was teaching a class on Law and the Media, when he told Krista Bowman, 22, to stop surfing web sites unconnected to the class. She argued. He closed the laptop. She went to the police.

Rybicki, out on bail, has been suspended with pay. Students who witnessed the incident were told by campus police officers not to discuss what they saw, reports the Spectator.

In the comments, many students strongly support the professor and accuse the student of being rude and disruptive. One commenter points out the student had “plenty of other options.”

A Don’t be so rude in a classroom.
B If you are going to play on your laptop .. either don’t take the laptop to class, or don’t take yourself to class
C Do what the teacher says for half a second; he / she probably knows more than you do so grow up and take some responsibilities; College isn’t another episode of High School where you can get away with being a distraction; some people here WANT to learn, if you don’t care, .. then get out! Or at least be somewhat polite.
D Don’t take this to such an extreme!!!!

Many professors say they have students who text, tweet, update their Facebook status and let their cell phones ring in class — and then complain the professor didn’t explain the material well enough.