education & tech

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Education + Tech

Education & Tech, was created to build hope that education based on social technologies, can transform the new century, and enable abundance not only spiritually but economically. Milton Ramirez, Ed.D. - @tonnet is the founder & editor. He is a teacher, tech blogger, writes on education, and hails this blog from Union, NJ. For further questions, tips or concerns please e-mail him to:miltonramirez [at] educationandtech [dot] com

Teacher + Scholar

If you are a regular to Blog Education & Tech, you shall remember that I am a blogger and I'd written a post about education almost everyday since 2003. Education & Tech provides you with education news, expert tech advice, classroom management ideas, and social media tools for educators, administrators, parents and k-12 students.

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Make Cheap International Calls/Texts With Vonage Mobile

Skype and Google Voice had established themselves as great apps. But if we take a little bit of what Google Voice does and a little bit of what Skype does, we can create a unique package to get cheap rates, lower than those offered by Skype itself.

Full disclosure: Education & Tech has been paid to write this article on behalf of Vonage Mobile.

As many are still very comfortable with Skype, Vonage Mobile app, however, tops it when it comes to 1) cheaper rates and 2) much better address book integration. Vonage Mobile outdoes Google Voice with free calls/texts.

In overall, Vonage Mobile rates are much cheaper than other carriers. The chart below is a sampling of Vonage calling rates to landlines or mobile phones, and Skype rates to the same countries. Call any phone number in over 200 countries averaging 70% less than most major mobile carriers.

If you don’t see the calling rates for the country you need, you can check calling rates to a specified number from within the Vonage Mobile app.

So far, media comments and analysis are positive in regarding the revamped Vonage. Kxoradio reports: "Vonage Mobile consolidates the best features of our prior applications, while adding important functionality, better value and improved ease of use," said Marc Lefar, CEO of Vonage. "It combines the best of free high-def voice and messaging along with incredible value for traditional international calls, all while using the existing mobile number and address book for unsurpassed ease of use."

While Hack College summarizes: "Though it’s not the end-all be-all in VOIP apps, Vonage Mobile has some very strong features that make it better than Skype/Google Voice in some respects. While it doesn’t replace those two great apps, it’s definitely worth a download as a free calling app whenever you want to avoid using your minutes.

To receive updates on all things Vonage, including special promotions and offers, please click here.



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Education Reform and its Implication to Tenured Teachers

Guest Post by Brittany Lyons*

Teachers across America are losing their tenure—at least, in the traditional sense. For years, the term applied to educators whose seniority essentially made them insusceptible to lay-offs. However, several states are tossing out the old ways in exchange for a new tenure system determined by overall classroom performance, rather than years spent at a single institution.

According to one of the resources for top online PhD programs, tenure as Americans knew it had been around since the early 20th century. In addition, statistics from the Center for American Progress indicate that, until very recently, the majority of states (33) granted tenure after three years at the same school. The 17 others awarded tenure at various intervals between the first and fifth year. Notably, every state had a system in place, and virtually all of them automatically awarded tenure when the benchmark year was reached.

Now, a handful of states are leading the charge for tenure reform. Most proponents argue that the old tenure system is antiquated, and allows ineffective teachers (or worse) access to the nation’s children. Florida has pursued the issue most aggressively, essentially nullifying all potential tenure opportunities for new teachers and laying out a plan to dismiss any teacher with multiple poor evaluations. Other states, such as Colorado and Nevada, also support the practice of laying off teachers with mediocre ratings, while Rhode Island allows up to two years of poor performance before dismissal is required. In all, 11 states now mandate school districts to consider job performance when deciding which teachers to retain the following year, and about half of all states grade educators on classroom effectiveness.

Last month, The Huffington Post reported that teacher unions nationwide began to fight the new changes. Opponents argue these reforms unnecessarily target older teachers by denying them “due process.” However, many experts believe the recent shift is merely an initial step toward complete reconstruction. “Tenure laws will be under assault for many years to come," said Marjorie Murphy, a history professor at Swarthmore College who penned a book about the teacher labor movement titled Blackboard Unions: The Aft and the Nea, 1900-1980.

Many believe the legislative changes are a reaction to soaring rates of school attendance in the United States. As Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a proponent of the reforms, told NPR, many urban school districts face large-scale issues in the face of crowded classrooms. "I believe this issue of education is the democracy issue of our time, the economic issue of our time and the civil rights issue of our time when you look at the achievement gap," he said. "And you look at the fact that in urban schools, you have a 50 percent dropout rate. And 80 percent of the kids are scoring at the bottom 20 percentile. We should be working together."

The Obama Administration has made a major push for charter schools—but these privately managed learning institutions also play a key role in the tenure debate. As they announce plans to strip teachers of tenure rights, states like Florida and New Jersey are awarding grant monies to developers whose charter schools have proven to be successful. Since they are independently owned, these establishments base their teacher contracts and subsequent extensions on overall classroom performance, not seniority.

To appease critics, Deseret News reports that several organizations that favor the new tenure system are creating complex models that eliminate the “black and white” appearance of the reforms. The Gates Foundation, for example, suggests a "value-added model" that establishes a baseline level for each student at the outset of each school year. This way, teacher scores are based on annual progress, not overall achievement.

How remaining states choose to address the issue and reform traditional tenure will play out in the coming months. Many believe that effective education for children should take ultimate precedence in this debate. As many legislators have seen, however, several factors are critical to the development of a performance- based teacher merit system—and all of them lie at the heart of this complex debate.

(*) Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

Distance Learning - The Road to Riches

How far would you take yourself or your kids for receiving the best education of its kinds? Well, the answer in the present generation is likely to be chorused with not much far, as today, education is available at your fingertips. Are you surprised? Well, don’t be; the advancement of technology and the dominance of Internet in global living have allowed individuals to embrace the shift in educational approach that came forward in the name of online education. Yes indeed, distance education within a decade took little steps forward to move up to the digital world making education easily accessible for all.

The Journey so Far

Education during the previous years was strictly confined within the traditional setting of a four-walled classroom that came alive with the hustle and bustle of the students and loud voice of the teacher from the pedestal. Distance learning, introduced during the 70’s though arrived with many promises, failed to live up to the expectation given to the strict dominance of the traditional learning mode and the means of delivering knowledge and sharing content via postal service.

It was only during the 90’s that distance learning received the long-due thrust in the hands of technological advancements and dominance of Internet technology. The concept of delivering knowledge anytime and anywhere without the barriers of time, distance, and geographical boundaries spelled the magic for the learning mode that was defined as comfortable and flexible. Learning via distance holding onto the support of tech-tools soon became a favorite with learners worldwide, as it offered them the opportunity to learn and earn simultaneously.

Distance Learning and the Tech-Advancements

The fact that distance learning grew hands in hands with technological advancements is undeniable. After all, the notion that learning can be accomplished at your own home via mouse clicks took the world of education to unprecedented heights. Integration of technology in education has indeed made it possible to transpire a physical classroom setting in the virtual world making face –to face interaction possible via webcams and communication easier via online chat forums and discussion boards.

Presentations and problem solving can also be achieved through video and audio conferencing, while the huge domain of e-library replaces the traditional library setting conveniently. Additionally, submission of assignments, offering feedback, and taking on students’ assessment in the present age can easily be achieved via learning management systems or software. The trick of distance learning lies in the fact that students can learn at their own pace and learning is accessible to them, as per their needs and interest.

Learning is no more confined within a convention; rather it has spread its wings unfolding new opportunities for the learners allowing a better educational environment.

This is a guest post contributed by Lucia Smith. For more information about Distance Learning, she recommends: http://www.rdi.co.uk/distance-learning/

Education & Tech

Traditional Textbooks: Are they on the Brink of Extinction?

Guest post written by Mariana Ashley.

For years, the knowledge that resides within the bound pages of paper textbooks has helped students grow into successful doctors, lawyers and fellow educators. But if Apple has anything to say about it, tangible textbooks will get the boot indefinitely --and in the wings waiting to take its place? It's digital counterpart, electronic textbooks.

While a small selection of e-textbooks have been available since the invention of the iPad and competing tablets, Apple recently teamed up with textbook giants McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to release iBooks 2 --an updated iPhone and iPad app introduced in late January that not only offers an extended selection of textbooks, but also boasts features that can help stimulate the learning and teaching experience even further. Students and professors can view interactive images, embedded video, and have access to additional study aid tools. While the app mostly targets students enrolled in K-12, college students will have a large selection of e-textbooks to choose from as well, most of which are $14.99 or less. And since according to the College Board the average college student attending a 4-year public university spent $1,168 on books and supplies in 2011-12 school year alone, this price may seem pretty appealing.

The tech company also announced the launch of iBooks Author, a new app designed to give educators the power to do much more than just create lectures available for download --they can actually create their own e-textbooks with video and imported text included.

Collectively these two apps are a huge game changer in the way students learn and how educators instruct --maybe that's why Apple sold 350,000 textbooks within just the first three days of the app's release, according to analysts.

While totally switching over to e-textbooks won't happen overnight --after all schools need to equip students with iPads first-- it could be a very promising investment if schools do in fact choose to adopt vast amounts of iPads for the classroom. Why? For starters, the average lifespan of a grade school textbook for example is only about 3 years. And according to the most recent statistics, it costs about $6.4 billion to publish textbooks each year. But if there is one slight mistake found in a textbook, schools are typically required to purchase new editions spend more money. But with the app, mistakes wouldn’t cost as much—there are not printing prices to consider and students could download updated versions for hardly anything at all.

To watch a promotional video of what the app can do on how it's "reinventing" the textbook, click here.

Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031[at]gmail[dot]com.

Science As a Physical Phenomena -- False Science?

Science & Religion for the Perplexed:

Of late I have been engaged in a discussion with Tom and Todd about whether or not Intelligent Design (ID) is scientific. Todd and I say it is not; Tom says it is. Related to this, the question I would like to address is: Is my — admittedly cursory — definition of science as a "search for physical explanations for physical phenomena" acceptable? That is, by confining science to the physical, am I doing it injustice? Tom seems says yes to this question in the following statement:

As scientists, we don’t blindly and obstinately hold to the less explanatory and more inconsistent theory for some philosophical reason, i.e., that only other physical phenomena can be responsible for the current state of physical phenomena. There is no a priori reason why that explanation has to itself be physical. It either could be, or it could not be. Thus, if there are supernatural "realities," as I believe, then we cannot assume that they have no interaction with the physical.

To understand better the cargo cult science, as Richard Feynman defined false science, please head over to: psnt.net



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Vonage Mobile offers free Canada and U.S. calling for a limited time

Vonage already provided free calls between Facebook users last year. With the recently launched a new version of its Vonage Mobile app, the company is making calls free to anyone in Canada, the U.S, and Puerto Rico for a limited time, regardless of whether or not those other users have the app installed --and you stay under the 3000 minutes per month, of course. After that, rates will be "on average 70 percent less than major mobile carriers and 30 percent less than Skype," according to a advertisement package we have received.

Full disclosure: Education & Tech has been paid to comment on this free calling app for local and free international mobile calls.

VoIP service Vonage new app works on the iPhone (including the iPad) and Android. Vonage promises free app-to-app calls and 30-percent cheaper VoIP than its well-known rival. In fact, voice calls using the Vonage Mobile will save you 70% over major carriers and costs 30% less than Skype. For calls to mobile users without the app, they can add calling credit in either $4.99 or $9.99 increments right from the iTunes store or Android Market.

As you’d hope, there is integration with your phone’s address book, and you’re contacted via your existing mobile number. Unlike Dell Voice, which gives you an entirely new number, for example; outgoing Vonage calls shouldn’t be cause to have your recipients hit the Ignore button.

In a consumer communications market outside North America which tops the $300 billion, Vonage mobile app puts the company in direct competition with Skype and raises the stakes for other carriers looking to protect their existing business model.

After installing the free calling app for iPhone and Android, users need to activate the app via a six-digit number sent via SMS. Vonage Mobile also asks for your email address so it can send you update notifications. Vonage Mobile, however, doesn't integrate directly into the phone's dialer. You'll have to launch the app, select a contact, and then dial. The drawback is that Vonage Mobile is an enormous app. It has consumed a full 25 Mbytes on my iPhone.

For more information on Vonage Mobile, please go to www.vonagemobile.com.



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IT Bill of Rights for Students

The only thing you need to do is run a quick search for Bill of Rights and you'll be directed to some of the these links: Academic Bill of Rights on Wikipedia, The Bill of Rights for Students of Engines for Education, and this Bill of Rights elaborated specifically to students at NSNA (National Student Nurses' Association).

You may have read some other pages about the rights for professionals. But what you haven't read is which are the rights of the students using information technology as an educational tool. Brad Flickinger of the Digital Learning Environments has come up with thoughtful article where he presents a 'work in progress'.

Read away.

10 Educational Technology Bill of Rights for Students

1. I have the right to use my own technology at school. I should not be forced to leave my new technology at home to use (in most cases) out-of-date school technology. If I can afford it, let me use it -- you don’t need to buy me one. If I cannot afford it, please help me get one -- I don’t mind working for it.

2. I have the right to access the school’s WiFi. Stop blaming bandwidth, security or whatever else -- if I can get on WiFi at McDonalds, I think that I should be able to get online at school.

3. I have the right to submit digital artifacts that prove my understanding of a subject, regardless of whether or not my teacher knows what they are. Just because you have never heard of Prezi, Voki, or Glogster, doesn’t mean that I should not be able to use these tools to prove to you that I understand what you are teaching me.

For the other 7 Rights for Students, please visit guide2digitallearning.com

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