News Update :: Tuesday, November 28, 2006

News

ETS: Undergrads Lack Sufficient Tech Literacy to Succeed

Most students do not have the technological literacy necessary to complete college-level assignments efficiently or successfully, according to a new assessment by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Despite the assumption that today’s college students are tech savvy, ETS said, many “lack the critical thinking skills to perform the kinds of information management and research tasks necessary for academic success.”

The conclusions are based on evaluations of the responses of 6,300 students to the company’s information and communication technology (ITC) Literacy Assessment this year. The test measures students’ ability to use critical thinking to reason in a technological environment. Test takers were asked to perform 15 information management tasks – such as extracting information from a database, developing a spreadsheet, or composing an e-mail summary of research findings – in a simulated online testing environment.

Only 52 percent of test takers could correctly judge the objectivity of a Web site, and only 65 percent could correctly judge the site’s authoritativeness, said ETS. In a Web search task, only 40 percent entered multiple search terms to narrow the results. And when selecting a research statement for a class assignment, only 44 percent identified a statement that captured the demands of the assignment.

“Those in academia have long suspected that while college-age students can use technology, they don’t necessarily know what to do with the content the technology provides,” said Irvin Katz, a senior research scientist at ETS. “Our preliminary findings show that, in large part, those suspicions are well founded.”

Alexius Macklin, an associate professor of library science at Purdue University, said today’s students routinely blur the lines between factual and fictional information sources. “They draw information from questionable resources because they don’t know the difference between information they find from an ad or a biased source, and that which they find on an authoritative, timely, objective site.”...

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First OLPC Laptop Batch Rolls Off Chinese Assembly Line

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, founded by the MIT Media Lab’s Nicolas Negroponte and other faculty to provide a laptop to every child in the world, announced that the first 1,000 “XO” low-cost laptops designed for the project had rolled off the assembly line at a manufacturing facility in Shanghai.

The computers, manufactured by Taiwan’s Quanta Computer Inc., will now be put through environmental testing to simulate the harsh conditions under which the laptops will be used. “We have answered the question of whether or not we can build a low-cost laptop,” said Walter Bender, president of software and content of OLPC. “The challenge now is to fine-tune it to the needs of children’s learning.”

Following the completion of this phase of testing, the next units to be built in early 2007 will go to school children in Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, and Thailand – the first countries to participate in the OLPC program. These laptops will be used by the children in real-life conditions as the final phase of testing before mass production begins in the summer of 2007. The pricing goal will start near $100 and then steadily decrease, OLPC said...

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U. Colorado to Offer Bachelor of Innovation Degrees

The University of Colorado Board of Regents approved a new family of degrees – Bachelors in Innovation – for students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The board approved recommendations by UCCS chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak and CU president Hank Brown to offer what is believed to be the first degrees of their kind in the U.S.

Initial offerings will include a BI in computer science, BI in electrical engineering, a BI in game design and development, and a BI in business administration. The degrees are designed to prepare graduates for their discipline as well as to give them experience in the innovation process and working extensively in team environments, officials said. Students will be able to specialize further in areas such as globalization, creative communication, advanced engineering, and advanced business.

Shockley-Zalabak thanked the board for approving “[what] we believe will be a unique educational experience that allows students to expand their base of knowledge and to meet the needs of industries who must compete globally.”

“The need for a dramatic reform in engineering education is nationally recognized,” added Jeremy Haefner, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “UCCS is responding to this need by working to create engineers with business and innovation skills who will be effective in furthering the goals of both [for-] profit and non-profit organizations.”...

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Start-Ups Beat Down Dorm Doors to Recruit Testers

Internet product and service start-ups are using college students like never before to help choose successful designs and marketing ploys for their new products, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“Corporate America has bombarded college students with marketing messages for a number of years, passing out offers for credit cards, newspapers, or music services,” the paper reported. “But now, especially in the hot consumer Internet areas of social networking and digital media, some early-stage companies are bringing students into the mix to help with important business decisions such as product design and marketing. They are no longer just consumers.”

One new Web social networking site, Ripl, set up a 13-person “student advisory board” to test and analyze new ideas and problems. Ripl also recruited three interns this summer who essentially became its marketing department, going so far as to set up a group on campus called “Students for Social Networking,” the paper reported.

“It was really helpful,” said Mohit Srivastava, the founder of Blue Dot, a Web site that allows users to rate Internet content. Blue Dot worked with three UW interns to organize focus groups. “College students are oftentimes the early adopters, and you can sometimes get a sense of what the market is going to be like in a year or two by understanding the trends.”...

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UNC Project Builds Robots to Attract Students into Science

The University of North Carolina’s NC-MSEN (North Carolina Mathematics and the Science Education Network) has formed a partnership with the North Carolina Technology Association use robotics to reverse the low percentages of middle school students who say they want to purse college majors in the sciences. The partnership will operate through project called Robotics: Opportunities for Building Outstanding Talent in the Sciences (R.O.B.O.T.S).

R.O.B.O.T.S., which was awarded an $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, will develop a model to show how robotics can be used to enhance science learning among 210 middle school students and to encourage them to pursue majors and careers in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM). Sixth grade students recruited from the partnering school districts will attend Saturday Academy and Summer Scholars programs for a total of 200 contact hours each year.

Other partners for this project include The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), Tyco Electronics, and IBM (The IBM Center for Advanced Studies)...

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