News Update :: Tuesday, May 2, 2006

News

Michigan to Require High School Grads Earn Online Credits

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed legislation that would add the completion of an online course to the state’s requirements for a high school diploma. The rule is part of a legislative package, signed by the governor last month, to revamp the state’s high school graduation requirements. Students will be required to take an online course or have the “online learning experience incorporated” into each of 16 credits required by the new Michigan Merit Curriculum, which includes a spread of secondary school learning disciplines.

The legislation requires the Michigan Department of Education to develop guidelines for the online coursework by August 1, 2006. In addition, the State Board of Education must approve the basic level of technology and Internet access required for pupils to complete the online course.

"Our online learning requirement makes Michigan a leader among all the states in using the power of the Internet to create learning opportunities in the classroom, the home, and the workplace,” said Governor Granholm. “In a world that demands lifelong learning, we are giving our students and our state a competitive advantage when it comes to landing the good-paying jobs of the 21 st-Century economy.” Michael Flanagan, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and member of the Michigan Virtual University Board of Directors, said the move was comparable to “efforts to teach young people how to use print resources in a public library 50 years ago.” For more information, click here.

Profs Campaign to Bridge Faculty Digital Divide

Professors at the University of California at Berkeley have proposed that the university provide a baseline computing standard for all faculty and instructors to correct what they see as a “digital divide” on campus between science and liberal arts professors.

A proposal by the university’s Academic Senate Committee on Computing and Communications (COMP) calls for "a funded commitment to provide all faculty and graduate-student instructors with a basic desktop/laptop computing platform, including peripherals, software, network access and support, and help-desk infrastructure."

David Messerschmitt, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and co-chair of COMP, told the Berkeleyan Online that departments generously funded with research grants tend to have excellent computing facilities. Others are "left to their own devices to keep it all running. The greatest shortcoming in many departments is the absence of administrative and technical support for computing." For more information, click here.

Missouri State Frosh Take New Computer Skills Assessment

Students at Missouri State University are taking the Educational Testing Service’s (ETS) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) literacy assessment, which is now part of the university's required general education "Computers for Learning" class.

The ICT assessment is a simulation-based test designed to measure a student's ability to use critical thinking to manage information in a technological environment. Test takers are asked to perform 15 tasks – such as extracting information from a database, developing a spreadsheet, or composing an e-mail summary of research findings – in about 75 minutes. The core level of the test is designed for high school seniors and first-year students at community colleges and four-year institutions.

Sue McCrory, coordinator of Missouri State's Computers for Learning course, said there is a wide disparity of ICT skills in the freshman class. "There is an assumption that because students have grown up with computers, they are ICT proficient," McCrory said. "Yes, they can instant message and buy things online, but many of them have never used a spreadsheet or don't know whether the information they are finding on the Internet is from an authoritative source. As students are entering Missouri State, we need to gauge where they are on the proficiency scale so that we can determine in which areas we need to invest the most time and resources.” For more information click here.

Blackboard 7 Update Gives Administrators Flexibility

Blackboard Inc. has offered Application Pack 1 for Blackboard Release 7. The pack is described as a vehicle for smaller, more manageable software updates without a major upgrade. Among the new features offered through the update is the ability to create distinct domains within the Blackboard Community System and administer them separately. Also available is the ability to flexibly create an unlimited number of new system management roles and to select from hundreds of privileges for each role.

Kettering University systems administrator Donna Wicks said the pack offered her the ability to “share control of the Blackboard system with administrators and users all over campus…enabling it to match how the university actually operates. It frees up my time, while empowering others on campus to do what they need to get their jobs done." For more information, click here.

Social Networking Software for Cell Phones

Virtual Communication Expression & Lifestyle, a small startup firm, unveiled VcellVibes, a social networking service for cell phones. The downloadable Java application allows users to create a profile on their Web sites, download the application on their cell phones, and send an invitation for friends to join. Users have control over their profile either from phone or from a Web browser. They can leave comments on both Web and mobile profiles, plan group activities, as well as offer voice commenting and free text messages. For more information, click here.

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