Wednesday, February 21, 2007

History Department Bans Wikipedia as a Reference

The History Department of Middlebury College, Vermont, banned Wikipedia, following an incident in which several students cited inaccurate information for an exam. The students' exams inaccurately reported that the Jesuits supported the Shimabara Rebellion in 17th century Japan based on information found in Wikipedia. However, any Jesuits in Japan at the time were in hiding and not in a position to support a rebellion.

When the History Department faculty asked students why they used Wikipedia, they claimed their high school teachers condoned the practice. As a result of a series of incidents in which students used inaccurate information found in Wikipedia, the department enacted the ban.

The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has publicly stated that students should not cite Wikipedia, or any other general encyclopedia, including Encyclopedia Britainnica. One objection to Wikipedia is the collaborative nature by which articles are composed and the lack of credentials of the authors. As a wiki, just about anyone can enter and edit an entry.

To teach students how to create wikis, some college professors have students author articles for Wikipedia. At Oberlin College, students edited Wikipedia entries for a Middle East and an Ancient Rome course. At Columbia University, graduate students created a bibliograpy project on Japan critiquing library references, newspaper articles, and books, posting the project on Wikipedia.

Whereas professors find fault with citing Wikipedia as a reference, they do not hestitate to have their students author on the site, claiming the practice helps develop consice writing skills. Students posting to the site claim their ability to author and edit entried on the site has contributed to their ambivalence about the veracity of information found on the site. Although steps are taken to monitor submissions, vandalism of the site occurs. The error regarding the Shimabara Rebellion persisted on the site even following publicity about the error.

Do you believe schools should ban Wikipedia as a source students cite in papers?

Information for this posting was gathered from a The New York Times, Feb. 21, 2007, article, found on p. B8, entitled "A History Department Bans Citing Wikipedia As a Research Source," author by Noam Cohen.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

NCLB Leaves Teachers Behind

The Commission on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) recommends that educators working in high-poverty schools be judged on students' test scores. The implications are that thousands of teachers could lose their jobs as Congress prepares to consider the renewal of NCLB. Teachers' unions are among those attacking the proposal. The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Edward McElroy, claims there is no reliable means to connect student achievement to teacher performance. The executive director of the National Center for Fair and Opening Testing says the recommendation will only intensify the teaching-to-the-test mentality. The NCLB Commission has also recommended that national standards, instead of state ones, be enacted. In addition, the Commission calls for consistency across states in reporting test results. Do you believe national standards, national tests, and standardized reporting of test results are in order? Moreover, should educators in low-performing schools be held accountable for students' test performance?
Credit: picture found in Wikiepedia in NCLB entry, 8/19/07

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Teacher May Serve Up to 40 Years for Computer Use

Here is important news that all teachers who use computers in their classroom should know. Julie Amerio of Windham, CT was arrested for accidentally letting pornography sites cycle on the computer where she substitute taught in Kelly Middle School in Norwich, CT. She claims that as a luddite she did not know how to turn off the pop-up pornography sites once they infiltrated the classroom computer. Although she tried to block students from seeing the images by standing in front of the computer, she also left the room to seek help, leaving students behind to view the material.
The case also raises challenges for the school system. First, the school administration acknowledges maintenance fell behind of computers in the school to block inappropriate sites. Amerio's arrest leaves open the question of culprity. During Amerio's trial, Robert Hertz, information services manager for the Norwich school system, said the filters to block the pop-up sites were not operational because needed information was lacking for several weeks. Amerio faces 40 years in prison with sentence.
What if she were called to the school to substitute on another day? What if the school had the computer properly maintained? Is Amerio's sentencing fair?

Follow this link to learn more: One summary offered: "A 40-year-old former substitute teacher from Connecticut is facing prison time following her conviction for endangering students by exposing them to pornographic material displayed on a classroom computer. The graphic images were pop-up ads generated by spyware already present on the computer prior to the teacher's arrival."
Post comments on the case.


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Gifted Left Behind

Since passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), gifted programs face demise. In Connecticut, 22 percent of school districts eliminated gifted programs after NCLA passed in 2002. Other districts cut back programs. West Hartford remains one the towns continuing its program, spending over $600,000 this year to pay teachers, allowing 13 percent of students considered intellectually gifted to attend pullout programs. This option means fourth graders such as Ben Harney and Caroline Monnes study math at the sixth-grade level and eight graders Adam Harris builds a robot that plays the piano, Cinzia Alfano hones engineering skills designing a board game, and Mariam Hellalat solves crimes via forensic techniques. Is your town cutting programs for gifted to fund NCLB? What is your opinion on this issue?

(Acknowledgement: The New York Times, 2/7/07, Joseph Berger’s Education column, “Federal Law Drains Resources for the Gifted,” bylined, West Hartford, CT. See page B9; Joe’s email is

National Council of Teachers' Blog

The National Council of Teachers of English Blob is available at:
Keep up to date on literacy and other issues related to the language arts curriculum by reading this blog and sending in comments.

New Survey Finds Teachers Lag in Media Literacy

Once again, teachers come up short in a survey. A survey commissioned by Cable in the Classroom (CIC) found that 60 percent of educators said schools were not preparing students to be media savvy for the 21st century. Young people turn to the television and the Internet for their news, not the newspaper. Yet, literacy instruction in the schools give little attention to critical analysis of the media. The new generation creates websites, blogs, and podcasts, authoring and publishing for wide audience. Shouldn’t educators assume some responsibility for helping the young use these tools wisely? The survey results also found 80 percent of the educators claimed they were not prepared to teach media literacy.
To read more about the survey, go to this EdNews story:
For the National Council of Teachers of English's "Position Statement on Cmposing with Non-Print Media, follow this link:

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