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Colleges to Drop Traditional Textbooks for Open Educational Resources

The national reform network for community colleges, Achieving the Dream (ATD), has announced that they will be taking the initiative to develop degree programs that will use open educational resources (OER). The OER Degree Initiative makes it so that programs will use openly licensed learning materials as opposed to purchasing expensive textbooks, saving their students thousands of dollars.

Currently, the cost of textbooks averages to about $1,300 for a full-time community college student. For the millions of students, the cost of textbooks alone prevents students from completing their education. The OER Degree Initiative will be implemented to save students money and improve the rate of college completion. According to a press release, “…there are enough open educational materials to replace textbooks in required courses in four two-year programs: business administration, general education, natural or general science, and social science. But only a few colleges are using those resources.”

“Through the OER Degree Initiative, these community colleges are simultaneously addressing two important challenges faced by educators and students: Not only will they provide their faculty the flexibility and academic freedom to align their open educational resources to curriculum objectives, but also, by lowering textbook costs, they will make it far more likely that their students will achieve the goal of attaining a degree,” said Barbara Chow, education program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

For this initiative, ATD will be in charge of assisting colleges in making the OER degree an important factor in their student’s efforts for success. Upon the initial implementation, the OER courses will be available on an online platform.

The OER Degree Initiative is backed by grants from foundations totaling $9.8 million. Participating colleges and systems were selected through a competitive grant process “based on their ability and capacity to implement OER degree programs, offer the full complement of degree courses quickly, or quickly scale the number of selections offered,” according to a news release.

For more information, please visit the article here or the Achieving the Dream site

Stephen Fry Launches Pindex, a “Pinterest for Education”

Pindex is also known as “a Pinterest for education”, making use of the powerful educational tool that the Internet can be.

Pindex is able to create educational videos for students and teachers. Stephen Fry was responsible for providing creative direction and is also the voice to one of the first videos.

Other videos focus on science and technology including drones and robots. John Leaver, one of the co-founders, explained that the idea of Pindex came from the same boring material that his daughter would bring home from school. He wanted to make topics more engaging and allow teachers to share their best material.

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While Fry has been involved with other significant projects such as Pushnote and Summly, he is planning to invest a lot of time to Pindex. He wants to make sure he creates high quality material. As Pindex grows, it will be using material from external makers such as Youtube bloggers. That way, their audience can expand as well as get insight from any other sources.

For more info, visit the article here.

Virtual Classroom

Teachers are now receiving more support to prepare them for an actual classroom. The University of Central Florida gives educators-in-training the option of practicing their teaching skills in a virtual classroom.

The program is called TeachLive, the first of its kind. The course challenges educators to navigate social, pedagogical and professional hurdles all at once. Educators are challenged to manage the classroom when the avatars misbehave, act in strange patterns, or ask difficult questions. Each avatar comes with their own personality. One avatar will interrupt class with their opinions on the lesson or teach, another avatar is the class chatterbox. Educators will also work with an avatar that is particularly anxious and may curl up on the floor of the classroom. With each session, the program allows users to change classroom events and avatar characteristics. Educators can practice responding to a targeted behavior or even to student disabilities.

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The program can also be set to specific teacher needs. TeachLive uses Skype conference call and a Microsoft Kinect motion sensor power. TeachLive is being used at more than 80 campuses across the U.S to train some of the next generation of educators. The team at TeachLive is exploring in which technology can be used to help people.

Click here to read more.

Smartphones and Mobile Payment To Be Top Malware Targets in 2016

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Students and smartphones come hand-in-hand. Usually, some level of computer literacy also comes along. But what is frequently absent is security skills- the ability to tell what downloads are safe, what sources can be trusted, and the knowledge of how to use the tools that are developed to provide a second line of defense against security intrusions. Malware developers know this, and a recent report says that they’ll target smartphones and related technologies more than ever in 2016. On compromised phones, criminals may even be able to get access to mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay or Android Pay.

On Android phones, these threats are becoming more sophisticated (new malware may gain root access to the device, making them immune to virus removal software), but the way they get onto the system remains the same. Users should make sure to keep the “Install Software from Unknown Sources” setting unchecked except for when specifically installing software from outside the Google Play Store. Additionally, users should make sure that these outside sources are trustworthy before installing anything from those sources.

In addition, students should be aware that extra devices that they use carry extra security risks. Internet-connected devices of all kinds confer ways that personal information can be stolen, or methods for hackers to gain access to other devices. And as the Internet of Things develops, these methods of intrusion will only become more prominent.

For more information on this topic visit the article here.

Sharing a New Way to Collaborate and Communicate

Wayne State University has developed a social networking platform, Academia, for users to better collaborate and communicate. It is designed from the ground up to work on any mobile device.

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Academia operates through “streams” which act like Facebook walls or Twitter hashtags. These streams can be created and followed by anyone, according to their permission levels. As an example, users could create a stream for a specific club and invite people to subscribe to it. Due to its successful launch, Wayne State is looking to expand Academia to other campuses.

Over the summer of 2015, Wayne State transitioned over from the old portal Academia. As they expected, there were growing pains, however there was great user acceptance and good performance. They initially created a feedback stream where users could post any problems they ran into, and had to a team to fix and respond to those users’ problems.

The director of academic and core applications, Rob Thompson, mentioned that the platform showed its significant impact when it was used for new student orientation. It allowed students who haven’t even started classes yet to connect with each other and share their interests or thoughts.

The Merit Network plans on expanding this across many other campuses. Some universities they have visited have already shown their interested in the platform.

For more info, visit the article here.