Saturday, December 10, 2011

Focus on Education: A Weekly Ontario News Update - December 10, 2011

A review of the week's education news in Ontario, including some noteworthy items from other provinces or the US.

Provincial Politicians Standing Up Against Religious Leaders
The province's education minister says she doesn't want a school system that discriminates.
News Talk 1010, December 10, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Focus on Education: A Weekly Ontario News Update - November 26, 2011

A review of the week's education news in Ontario, including some noteworthy items from other provinces or the US.

Education Quality and Accountability Office to Release Ontario Student Results on National Reading, Math and Science Test
At 10:00 a.m. on Monday, November 28, 2011, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) will release Ontario student results from the 2010 Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) test.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Investing in Early Childhood Education - Early Years Report Released

To truly transform kids' lives and give them the best possible start publicly funded education should start at the age of 2 -
We need to think of building education downward, but at the same time not ‘schoolifying' kids but stimulating kids” through optional, play-based programs...
This is the main message delivered by the newly released Early Years Study 3: Making Decisions Taking Action, the last report by the late J. Fraser Mustard and funded by the Margaret & Wallace McCain Family Foundation. It's all over the Canadian news, and rightfully so, it took the bold step of introducing an Early Childhood Education Index: based on five categories (governance, funding, access, learning environment, and accountability) it provides a snapshot of provincial early childhood education services.

To access the previous two reports:
  • Early years study 2: Putting science into action (2007) focused on the policy framework necessary to improve conditions in early childhood, with a view of improving the health of the population. 
  • The seminal Early years study: Reversing the real brain drain (1999) describes the critical importance of children's early interactions in shaping their development.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Focus on Education: A Weekly Ontario News Update - November 11, 2011

Focus on Education: A Weekly Ontario News Update - November 4, 2011 has 22 articles from the past week. Here are some of the news items covered:
  • Racist graffiti shocks U of W
  • Mutant worms and banana DNA – program gets kids into weird science
  • Teens think they'll earn $90,000 a year by age 30
  • Dropout rates rise with immigrant child’s age of arrival
  • Publishers Turn to Cloud Computing to Offer Digital Content
and more, see

Friday, November 4, 2011

Focus on Education: A Weekly Ontario News Update - November 4, 2011

Focus on Education: A Weekly Ontario News Update - November 4, 2011 has 22 articles from the past week. Here are some of the news items covered:
  • Racist graffiti shocks U of W
  • Mutant worms and banana DNA – program gets kids into weird science
  • Teens think they'll earn $90,000 a year by age 30
  • Dropout rates rise with immigrant child’s age of arrival
  • Publishers Turn to Cloud Computing to Offer Digital Content
and more, see

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Financial Literacy in Canada Report Released

November is Financial Literacy Month - who knew, and the BC Securities Commission has just released The National Report Card on Youth Financial Literacy - a survey of over 3,000 recent Canadian high school graduates, most of whom went on to a post-secondary program, found they are highly optimistic about their financial futures, e.g.:
  • The average survey respondent expects to earn $90,735 in 10 years; roughly three times the average income of 25 to 29 year-olds with post-secondary degrees ($31,648) according to Statistics Canada’s 2006 Census data
  • Nearly 3-in-4 (73%) expect to own a home within the next 10 years; according to estimates by Statistics Canada, only 42% of 25 to 29 year-olds are homeowners
  • A large majority of respondents (81%) believe they will be financially better off in life than their parents
  • Among those with a student loan, almost half (49%) say they will definitely or very likely pay it off in 5 years. However the real numbers tell us a different story. Student debt has nearly reached a record high at $15 billion according to the 2010-11 actuarial report released by the Federal Government.

This is the first comprehensive Canadian benchmark study on youth financial life skills, and what it's really telling us is
a) classroom-based Financial Literacy curriculum is not working...a position shared by the National Report Card, and
b) we suspect many of these kids have been coddled and sheltered from experiencing the crappy summer / school year jobs many of us had when we grew up. (Many of the recent graduates or university students we get seem to be walking into their first, second job, and from discussions many appear to have gone their teen summers without getting a job?!?!)

Below are links to the Ontario Minsitry of Education's guides to integrating Financial Literacy into the curriculum...also a mystery to many teachers:
Today's Toronto Star (Moneyville, a Star finance blog) also had an article on the report, and also worth reading is a previous article on Moneyville, Debt-free by 44? Many young Canadians think so...what a hilarious bunch.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ensuring the Value of University Degrees in Ontario - A COU Report

The Council of Ontario Universities has just release a report, Ensuring the Value of University Degrees in Ontario, explores "how universities define degree level expectations – the intellectual and creative development that students will acquire from a particular degree, and how these expectations are integrated into curriculum and the learning outcomes of specific courses".

The whole concept of defining degree level expectations and learning outcomes in a quality assurance context is a rather brave one. It's all very high-level, and is packaged more like a communications piece than an actual report. But this is surely meant as a piece to initiate thinking and dialogue about the university experience as process and investment. For example, the identified categories of knowledge and skills that students must demonstrate in order to be awarded a degree are:
  • Depth and breadth of knowledge
  • Knowledge of methodologies
  • Research and scholarship
  • Application of knowledge
  • Communications skills
  • Awareness of the limits of knowledge
  • Autonomy and professional capacity
And for each category they associate specific expectations per degree level, e.g. for Autonomy and professional capacity at the Master's dgree level, students must demonstrate:
The qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment
requiring the exercise of initiative, personal responsibility and
accountability; decision-making in complex situations; the
intellectual independence required for continuing professional
development; the ethical behavior consistent with academic
integrity and the use of appropriate guidelines and procedures for
responsible conduct of research; and the ability to appreciate the
broader implications of applying knowledge to particular contexts.
Yup, very broad and almost a generic résumé fee; to it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

UN's Global Education Digest 2011

Global Education Digest 2011: Comparing Education Statistics Across the World

The UN has just released its annual education digest. This document contains a wealth of international statistical data on the state of education across the various continents and socio-political landscapes.

Here are some of the highlights:
  • The number of students attending secondary school around the world is increasing dramatically and governments are struggling to meet the rising demand, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where there are enough school places for just 36% of children of age to enrol
  • Globally, secondary schools have been accommodating almost one hundred million more students each decade, with the total number growing by 60% between 1990 and 2009. But the supply is dwarfed by demand as more countries approach universal primary education
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in which the gender gap is getting worse at the upper secondary level, with 8 million boys enrolled compared to 6 million girls; and girls also face significant barriers in South and West Asia
And for data geeks, the report contains a wealth of data on enrolment and teaching staff, measures of progression and completion, youth literacy, international flow of mobile students, etc.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ontario School Board Cutbacks and School Libraries

Library at the De La Salle College of Saint Be...Image via WikipediaOntario school libraries appear to be an easy target for school board cutbacks; unfortunate in many ways, but especially in lower-income areas where access to computers and the Internet at home is not a given. And the decision to target school libraries becomes even more bizarre in light of the provinces EQAO how are these grade 3 and 6 students to get the supplementary readings, books, etc to help with their classroom work?!

Things are getting drastic in some boards. Last spring the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board laid off all but four of its library technicians and dismantled all its libraries. It's goal was to divvy up the library books in its elementary schools and distribute them to individual classrooms instead. Of course, teachers have plenty of time on their hands to pursue collection development and management to ensure their collections remain fresh and relevant...

A recent study by the parent-led non-profit group People for Education found that 56 per cent of elementary schools in the province have a teacher-librarian, down from about 80 per cent 10 years ago. And to make matters worse for students, hundreds of municipal libraries across the province are also facing some major cutbacks.

The above study seems to contradict the government's position on school libraries. A 2008 news release, More Library Staff For Ontario Students, stated that "Ontario will provide school boards across the province with an additional $40 million over the next four years to hire about 160 more library staff." 4 years, eh, that means the 160 extra library staff hiring proposal will be complete come, what happened in Windsor-Essex? Is the People for Education report working with very incorrect data?

It's all a little confusing, but one thing is sure, school libraries are not doing well.

Focus on Education: A Weekly Ontario News Update - October 28, 2011

I've decided to post news items again because I find myself bundling weekly collections for my own why not share them.

Focus on Education: A Weekly Ontario News Update - October 28, 2011 has 20 articles from the past week. Here are some of the news items covered:
  • Cheaters prosper because of school boards' zero intolerance
  • Time to bring controversy, politics into classroom, experts say
  • iPad helps Toronto special needs kids learn
  • Kindergartners Blend E-Learning, Face-to-Face Instruction
and more, see

Friday, October 21, 2011

Information and Communications Accessibility Standards - What this new regulation means to schools and school libraries

This past summer the Ontario Government filed regulation 119/11, the Integrated Accessibility Standards. O. Reg. 191/11 establishes the accessibility standards for each of the three following areas:
  • Information and Communications
  • Employment
  • Transportation
The following post is a review of the Information and Communications Standards (Part II of the regulation), and how they apply to libraries.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

e-Learning Updates

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseTextbook publisher Pearson announced today that it has acquired Connections Education, which operates virtual schools or academies in 21 US states, serves about 40,000 students, and has developed a broad array of educational technology tools. This marks the first time that one of the "big three" textbook publishers (Houghton Mifflin, Pearson Education, and McGraw-Hill) has stepped so deeply into the virtual education world.

McGraw-Hill Cos. will split up into two public companies with one focused on education and the other centered on markets. McGraw-Hill Education will be the new company focused on education services and digital learning. The education segment of McGraw-Hill is forecasting revenue of about $2.4 billion for the year, and an increasing percentage of this coming from digital textbook initiatives: sure to be a big money maker for publishers, and not surprising that the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board increased their collective stake in McGraw-Hill to 5.2 percent.

Then there's Apple's connection to education. Apple officials say they know of more than 600 districts that have launched what are called "one-to-one" programs, in which at least one classroom of students is getting iPads for each student to use throughout the school day. For example, Kentucky's education commissioner and the superintendent of schools in Woodford County, Ky., stated that Woodford County High will become the state's first public high school to give each of its 1,250 students an iPad: perhaps Kentucky isn't the "hick" state we all think it is. There are a number of schools and school boards across the states which appear to be taking the dive an investing heavily in iPads.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

E-Learning and Gifted Students

My Learning Ltd - Secondary Learning Platform LogoImage via WikipediaA recent article, E-Learning Opens Doors for Gifted Students, in Education Week looks at e-learning programs for the gifted in the US, with a focus on the increase and growing demand for these programs.

As funding cuts loom and the present climate of fiscal constraint around government services threaten to drain monies from programs for the gifted (in both Canada and the US), more schools, and parents / students may be looking to online education as a way to fill the gap in offerings.

Here's a list of some of the e-learning programs for the gifted offered in the US:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Browsing and Content Discovery...

A segment of a social networkImage via WikipediaTo my surprise there was decent article about web content and information seeking behaviour and resource discovery in this week's run of Mashable articles: Why Browsing Is So Important to Content Discovery. Highlighting the failings of the search-based or social methods of information discovery that dominate the web today, the author - a librarian...oh how we've grown, provides a nice overview of what we librarians all know, most users are really not quite sure what they're looking for when they sit down to do a web search.
the real problem for undirected and overwhelmed information seekers (and I argue we are in the majority) is that the structure of a social network is shaped by social rules, and not by the beautiful subject hierarchies or systems of classification that, while painstakingly and artificially constructed, can allow for effortless and organic navigation.
Worth a read.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Toll of Rising Tuition Fees in Ontario

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has just released a report on the increasing difficulty of meeting the skyrocketing costs of a university education for lower-to-middle class income families in Ontario - Under Pressure: The Impact of Rising Tuition Fees on Ontario Families.

Here's an excerpt from the articles abstract

"Over the past two decades, Ontario's system of financing higher education has become more regressive, exploiting already over-stretched families who want to help their children pursue their educational aspirations. In 1990, a middle-income family in Ontario could earn the equivalent of four years of tuition fees in 87 days; it will take 195 days in 2011. The situation is even more dire for low-income families who are looking at the equivalent of two years of income for four years of tuition fees in 2011.

By forcing all but the wealthiest families to play priority roulette, assume still more debt, or make the difficult decision that higher education is too great a financial burden to bear, Ontario is hampering its economic and educational potential, and we are all paying the price." (CCPA)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New "Bullying" Reports, School Uniforms, and More...

Some new research and reports released this week.

Bullying can affect a student's academic performance, but as an American Psychological Association conference paper finds, a school's bullying climate may be linked with lower overall test scores.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Google Plus and Schools

Last week Audrey Waters of ReadWriteWeb released an article on Google Plus and it's possible success in the education realm - Google Plus: Is This the Social Tool Schools Have Been Waiting For?. Worthwhile read, and it nicely captures the forces at play when it comes to social media in education:
There seem to be three forces at play when it comes to education and social media. The first is a lack of force, quite frankly - the inertia that makes many educators unwilling and uninterested in integrating the technology into their classrooms. The second is the force of fear - the pressures on the part of administrators, district officials, and politicians to curtail and ban teacher and students' interactions online. (See Rhode Island's recently passed legislation that outlaws all social media on school grounds as a case in point.) And finally, the third force is that of more and more educators who are embracing social media and advocating its use on- and off-campus - for student learning and for teacher professional development alike.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Impacts of a Violence Prevention Program for Middle Schools - A US Gov Study

The U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences just released a study on school violence programs in middle schools.

The report, Impacts of a Violence Prevention Program for Middle Schools: Findings After 3 Years of Implementation, presents findings from an IES-sponsored study of a violence prevention strategy - implemented at middle schools over the course of three years, and found there wasn't a significantly different effect on the rates of violence or victimization reported by students.

Friday, May 13, 2011

National survey on homophobia in Canadian schools

Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, a national [Canada] organization that conducts research and delivers educational programming on LGBT human rights in Canada, has just released the first ever survey exploring homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools: Every Class in Every School: The first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools. Final Report - May 2011.

The survey found (taken from a Toronto Star article on the survey):
  • 64 per cent of queer students and 61 per cent with queer parents feel unsafe at school;
  • 21 per cent of queer students report physical harassment/assault;
  • 27 per cent of queer students report physical harassment about their parents’ sexual orientation and 37 per cent report verbal harassment;
  • Transgender youth “are highly visible targets of harassment” who “may report experiencing particularly high levels of harassment on the basis of perceived sexual orientation” the report says;
  • About 10 per cent of heterosexual teens report being physically harassed or assaulted for their “perceived” sexual orientation;
  • 58 per cent of heterosexual teens “find homophobic comments upsetting.” Researchers said that suggests there is a lot of common ground to help push for an improved school climate.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

School safety report...some surprising findings

A report released by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago on the safety of their public schools, Student and Teacher Safety in Chicago Public Schools: The Roles of Community Context and School Social Organization, finds that the best predictor of whether students and teachers feel safe is the quality of relationships inside the school building.

The report "finds that while schools in high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods tend to be less safe than other schools, students’ level of academic achievement actually plays a bigger role in school safety than a school’s neighborhood. Furthermore, even in high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods, the quality of relationships among adults and students at a school can turn one school into a safe haven while another languishes as a center of violence." (Education Week)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fraser Institute's School Report Cards

Students holding report cards.Image via WikipediaThe Fraser Institute released its 2011 school report cards in March, and the Ontario Elementary Schools report card contains the usual detailed metrics that every parent loves but which can be so very misleading.

However, the Fraser Institute's report card site does have a really nice tool which allows users to compare schools by a slew of indicators (e.g. Grade level reading, writing, math), export the results into a pdf or excel file, and/or generate a chart immediately on the site. We know of many young parents of toddlers or elementary aged children who, when shopping around for a new home, always use the school as a benchmark for the areas they're willing to explore...this Compare Schools tool will definitely come in handy as a bit of a road map.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Anti-Bullying programs can only do so much...

BullyingImage via WikipediaA new study published in this months edition of Pediatrics, The Social Environment and Suicide Attempts in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth, explores the relationship between social environment and suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. And, no surprise, teen suicide attempts in socially/politically conservative environments is higher and more common. The study, based on the results of a total of 31 852 11th grade students (1413 [4.4%] lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals) in Oregon who completed the Oregon Healthy Teens survey in 2006–2008, found the following:
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were significantly more likely to attempt suicide in the previous 12 months, compared with heterosexuals (21.5% vs 4.2%). Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments. A more supportive social environment was significantly associated with fewer suicide attempts, controlling for sociodemographic variables and multiple risk factors for suicide attempts, including depressive symptoms, binge drinking, peer victimization, and physical abuse by an adult (odds ratio: 0.97 [95% confidence interval: 0.96–0.99]) (Article Abstract)
In these cases the school system, and the programs it offers, can be a reflection of its community, regardless of the mandate from above and afar, and many programs come up against a wall of ignorance and obstruction.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

iPads for kindergartners...

The brushed aluminum back of the iPad Wi-FiImage via WikipediaMaine school district to spend $200,000 on Apple iPads for kindergartners. Yes, that's right. Not sure how we feel about this, most kindergarten teachers we know are struggling to simply manage their classrooms while laying the needed groundwork for the grades to come: not to mention the fine motor skills needed to actually operate a tool like that, something which isn't exactly a first grader's strength.

Cheaters, bad behaviour, and 1st grader stress...some of the few studies reviewed this week

New research finds that cheaters overinflate their academic ability. In four experiments outlined in the March Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Temporal view of the costs and benefits of self-deception, researchers from the Harvard Business School and Duke University found that students who cheat on a test are more likely to deceive themselves into thinking they earned a high grade on their own merits, laying the foundation for future academic failure. The full pdf of the study is available along with the abstract.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Using Smartphones to Learn Math...

A fascinating project in the US, Project K-Nect, is making use of smartphones as a supplemental resource / teaching-tool to help at-risk students increase their math skills and interest in the subject.

Project K-Nect began as a pilot effort in North Carolina in 2007, with a million-dollar grant from Qualcomm, part of Wireless Reach Initiative created by this mobile technology company. The plan is to use smartphones to boost students’ skills in the so-called STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and math). The program is now operating in four districts in North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia, with about 3,000 students participating.

For more information see Making Math Connections in Education Week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Couple of Articles Comparing Education in Ontario and the US

Ben Levin, Canada Research Chair in Education Policy and Leadership at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, recently authored (and co-authored) a couple of articles published in Education Week (US education periodical). The articles provide an outsider's view of education in the US, and a good "discussion" piece on education systems and reform abroad (i.e. non-US, specifically, Ontario, Japan, Finland, and Singapore) and how the US can learn from them.

Thought I'd post them, since Ontario's education system rarely gets any mention in the US, and for those of us who work in it, it's interesting to see how it's portrayed.

  • Learning from Abroad is the other article, unfortunately it's membership access only. But I suspect it will soon be released as part of a package prepared by a working group on the “Futures of School Reform,” organized by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Education Week is running a seven-part series of Commentary essays expressing visions of members of the “Futures” group. The series, which concludes in the May 25 issue, is accompanied by a blog, written by the group.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Android app to help librarians with shelving and collection inventory

Posted today on ReadWriteWeb, an article about an new Android app which "reads a bookshelf, and with an AR [augmented reality] overlay, quickly flags those books that are misplaced. It will also point to the correct place on the bookshelf so the book can easily be re-shelved correctly".

Nice. Developed at Miami University's Augmented Reality Research Group (MU ARRG). Still some stuff to work out before this app can be taken seriously by university libraries, but that may not be far's the video

And the app will be demoed next month at the Association of College and Research Libraries 2011 conference.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Status Struggles - disputing the "social status" myth of school bullies

American Sociological ReviewImage via WikipediaA new study published in this month's American Sociological Review, Status Struggles: Network Centrality and Gender Segregation in Same- and Cross-Gender Aggression, suggests that students in the middle of the social hierarchies at their schools, rather than the most popular or the most socially outcast, are more likely to be bullies.

Prof. Robert W. Faris, University of California, outlined the motivation to bully - aggression, as simply one route to gaining and / or maintaining social status. And he paralleled this to the more acceptable ways for those in the "middle" to climb the social ladder, e.g.
"This is not the only way that kids climb socially. There are a lot of other ways—much more effective ways: being good in sports, being pretty, being rich, if you’re funny, if you’re nice." [Education Week]
Here's an excerpt from the study's abstract:
We find that aggression is generally not a maladjusted reaction typical of the socially marginal; instead, aggression is intrinsic to status and escalates with increases in peer status until the pinnacle of the social hierarchy is attained. Over time, individuals at the very bottom and those at the very top of a hierarchy become the least aggressive youth.
The study surveyed students at middle and high schools in rural and suburban North Carolina over a number of years (3,722 students from 2002 through 2005), and found that found that regardless of their social backgrounds, race / ethnicity, or grade levels, the patterns of aggressors’ places in the social spectrum were the same.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Elementary math and Google Earth... a few starting points

Google EarthImage via WikipediaDecided to take a look at how teachers have been using Google Earth for elementary-level math lessons and came across some really useful instructional videos.

Here are two of them which we found easy to follow and useful.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Texting, special education mentoring, and student mobility are some of the issues in this month's review of research and reports

A review of education reports, studies, and related research released in January 2011.

To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test
According to a recent research published online in the journal Science, taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, it can actually help people learn and works better than a number of other traditional studying techniques.

Science, January 20, 2011.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Education & Digital Learning Current Awareness for January 23/11

A review of news and blog articles, commentaries, reports, and technology issues as they relate to education, digital learning, children and youth. Covering the last three weeks of 2011.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Curriculum, online resources, and freedom of speech...when the three meet in court

U.S. Supreme CourtImage via WikipediaThis past Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal of a Massachusetts ruling on a school board's exclusion of web resources from a school curriculum guide regarding a long disputed genocide issue.

This case involves a curriculum guide released in 1999 as a response to a recently passed Massachusetts law which required the state board of education to develop recommendations on curricular material about genocide and human rights issues. The draft curriculum guide included a reference to the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish empire in 1915 and following years, and this immediately generated a request from a Turkish cultural group to add references to the "contra-genocide perspective."

The rejected appeal upholds the August decision that Massachusetts education officials did not violate public school students’ free speech rights in 1999 when they excluded sources that questioned the Armenian genocide. The original decision basically uses a "library metaphor" to argue its position:
...the removal of "contra-genocide" perspectives because of pressure from the Armenian community did not violate the First Ammendment because the websites constituted an element of the state curriculum, and not a "virtual school library." In other words, striking the information from the class was ruled to be the equivalent of taking one book off the course's suggested reading list, rather than removing the book from that school's library all together. (Education Week)
For more reading on this case see:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Education & Digital Learning Current Awareness for January 2/11

A review of news and blog articles, commentaries, research, reports, and technology issues as they relate to education, digital learning, children and youth. Covering the last two weeks of 2010.