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Archive for March, 2012

Technology in The Classroom

In the field of technology, the word disruptive is used for a technology or innovation that brings about a radical change in the way a sector functions by introducing efficiency, affordability and convenience. The technology revolution in the business sector is represented by the extensive use of smarter phones or web conferencing in American offices. However, the impact of disruptive technology on the education sector is much higher. A wave of smart classes and e-learning has transformed the way education is delivered and pursued, today.

The presence of technology in classrooms makes the student an active learner instead of a passive one. The education system becomes more student-centric. The student can choose, manipulate and generate what he wants to study and how. The student himself creates the learning environment and the mode of obtaining lessons. E-learning has made the education system more convenient and flexible. The student can learn through his own choice of platform. The role of the teacher also changes as he is no more the sole source of knowledge. He transforms into a mentor and is responsible for providing guidelines and resources to the students.

This system increases the self esteem and motivation levels of a student as he becomes an active participator in the whole learning process. It is known that a student learns more by hearing and visualizing than merely reading. The use of activity based audio visuals in the classrooms generates more interest in the lesson being taught. E-learning portals make education available to those students who did not have access to it before. Different courses and methods are being accessed by students of all age groups at their own choice of time and place. It makes the whole education system more dynamic and learner friendly.

One of the challenges the system is facing is that its standard testing model is not adaptive to children’s varied speed and ways of learning. Some students respond to the audio visual faster while for others the response time is comparatively slow. However, the challenge can be transformed into an opportunity by the teachers. The teachers can use the traditional ways of teaching for regular teaching. The K-12 e-classroom methods can be brought into use simultaneously, depending on the different learning capacity of the students for example, to improve the performance of the weaker students.

The use of technology in classroom encourages creative and out of the box thinking in students, as it presents the monotonous lessons in a very interesting and innovative manner. The process intrigues and stimulates the students. Activity and project based learning is appreciated and encouraged. American Universities were once considered the best in the world but are now striving to catch up on cost effectiveness with their global peers while delivering through the K-12 system.

The concept of smart class and elearning is a revolution in itself, making the education system of the country dynamic, efficient, student-centric and flexible. There are certain challenges, which are being dealt with and would soon be overcome with the introduction of newer technology, techniques and processes.

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$1.5M Fine Marks A New Era In HITECH Enforcement

Data breach at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and subsequent penalty stands an example of the financial fallout from poor healthcare IT security practices

By Ericka Chickowski, Dark Reading
Contributing Writer

Enforcement actions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) just reached a new level of reality last week when the department announced a $1.5 million settlement with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee over a 2010 data breach, making the organization the first pay out penalties since the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) went live in 2009. The question now is whether such tangible examples of financial fallout will convince healthcare IT to invest in better security measures.”It’s certainly a warning shot for the healthcare industry,” says John Nicholson, counsel for the global sourcing practice at Washington, D.C.-based law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. “But is that a sufficient amount to act as a deterrent? It’s hard to tell at this point. It’s at the upper end of what organizations can be penalized and when you break it down it equals about a buck a record lost. For companies that are dealing in millions of records, that penalty can add up. But that’s just at very large companies. And data breaches are becoming sufficiently routine that everyone sort of looks at it and goes, ‘Eh, it’s another one.'”

But Nav Ranajee, director of healthcare vertical for CoreLink Data Centers, believes that starting to hit the big organizations in the pocketbook and making a spectacle out of the process should have the desired effect. Many of these organizations have been deprioritizing security because there just hasn’t been enough financial incentive to push it up the stack on the IT to-do list, he says. The HHS making the risk of pecuniary damage a real risk of failing to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA Training) security requirements changes that financial equation for these organizations, he says.

“What I’m seeing now when we talk to our clients, say a hospital or a business associate like a software company that services a hospital, is that when it comes to HIPAA, the first priority of a CIO has historically to allocate funds to get that new EMR in house or that new clinical system, because that’s going to pay off in revenue,” he says. “But when it comes to making sure HIPAA requirements are up to date, that’s usually the last line item on the budget because it’s really a sunk cost. Now they’re going to have to look at the risk involved and wonder ‘Do I risk having a million dollar lawsuit if I don’t put the right security protocols in place?'”

The settlement BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee paid to HHS was a penalty for failing to prevent a breach that saw the theft of 57 unencrypted hard drives containing recordings of customer service phone calls. The drives were left behind in a data closet after the company stopped using a leased facility.

“This settlement sends an important message that OCR expects health plans and healthcare providers to have in place a carefully designed, delivered, and monitored HIPAA compliance program,” said Leon Rodriguez, director of HHS OCR. “The HITECH Breach Notification Rule is an important enforcement tool and OCR will continue to vigorously protect patients’ right to private and secure health information.”

According to Nicholson, the breach is a good lesson to healthcare organizations on how compliance really could have helped the security of the organization and maybe even prevented a breach. “One of the things that HIPAA and HITECH require is that you go through an assessment of your policies and procedures whenever your operations significantly change. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like BlueCross BlueShield of Tenessee may not have done that evaluation. If they had done it, they might have said, ‘We’ve got these hard drives containing this unencrypted PHI and it’s in a locked closet but that’s not sufficient in this leased space,'” he says. “That’s probably a lesson to healthcare organizations. You really need to do those evaluations anytime a significant aspect of your operation changes that has implications on PHI.”

For his part, Ranajee says the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee incident stands as yet another testament of the importance of encryption for healthcare data protection.

“Really, it’s all about making sure that if you have data servers in your office or workplace, they need to be locked down–they need to locks on them–and they need to be encrypted,” he says. “Those are two of the main things that are not commonplace but they should be.” Health Care Compliance

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My Takeaways from the 2012 Digital Learning and Media Conference

On March 2 and 3, I attended the third annual Digital Media and Learning Conference in my home city of San Francisco. Though I missed the first day of the conference, I got so much out of days two and three, connecting with educators and thinkers and other folks who are passionate about how we can use technology in smart ways to improve education and expand elearning beyond the classroom.

I won’t summarize all the panels I went to and the conversations I had, but instead will talk about two panels in particular that I found especially inspiring and that highlighted a concept frequently at play throughout the conference: Learning partnerships do not have to begin in the classroom to affect what happens there, and learning partnerships will be integral to the future of education.

The first of these panels, DML: Case Study in Digital Media and Learning Partnerships: A Youth-Centered Design Framework in San Francisco, featured Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian for San Francisco; Elizabeth Babcock, Chief Education and Digital Strategy Officer at California Academy of Sciences; Ingrid Dahl, Director of Next Gen Programs at Bay Area Video Coalition; and Matthew Williams, Educational Technologist at KQED. These four individuals, and the institutions with which they are affiliated, have come together to contribute the room, the resources and the expertise required to train youth to create digital media. Bourne explained that San Francisco’s main library would be allotting some 5,000 square feet to develop a teen-friendly space for young people to learn all manner of media production under the guidance of instructors from Bay Area Video Coalition. Cal Academy is hoping some of what the students will produce will be interesting multi-media productions aimed at helping children and teens get excited about science. And by airing the content the teens create, KQED can help bring these productions to a broader audience.

Here’s what I love about this partnership: First, each group brings something to the collaboration, and they each get something from it as well. And second, the partnership fills a need. Most schools do not have the money to buy and maintain the kinds of equipment necessary to do high-quality video and audio production, and they also lack the staff with the expertise required to teach these skills to students. This collaboration among various parts of the community helps to fill a void in “traditional” education. Jill Bourne, the Deputy Librarian, told me that she has recently formed working relationships with three different public high schools in San Francisco. I’m excited to track the progress of this partnership and see what the teens produce and how the teachers work with the group to incorporate media projects into their curricula.

The second panel discussion that had me feeling all fired up was Short Talk Panel: Playful interventions: libraries, college access, after school and media arts, which focused on creating richer learning experiences through games. “Gamification” (“Is that seriously a word?” a friend asked, when I was telling her about the conference. “Yes it is,” I replied) was a popular theme at DML2012, and I’ll be honest when I say people might be a little too game-crazy right now, for my taste. Learning activities need more than just badges to be innovative. Still, I also subscribe to the Alfred Mercier notion that, “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” And I’ve been know to create games in my own classes when teaching elements of syntax and sentence style, and I’ve found those games to be quite effective in reinforcing the “nuts and bolts” of solid sentence structure. So I was down to hear what the folks on this panel had to say about the role of games in teaching and learning.

Adam Rogers, Emerging Technology Services Librarian at North Carolina State University, gave a lively and interesting presentation about how he and his colleagues redesigned freshman library orientation at NC State by using iPods with the Evernote app installed. Freshman Composition instructors singed up their classes for orientation, and the students in the classes were broken up into teams of four or five students each, with one iPod per team. The students were also given maps of the library and a list of scavenger hunt questions to answer and activities to complete. They logged their answers using Evernote, which allowed them to do things like capture pictures of themselves with a librarian and make note of information contained in certain volumes in the library. It was a fun, engaging way to introduce the students to the library, its staff, and even each other, as they worked together to complete the scavenger hunt. I told Adam that I thought his game had potential to be reworked throughout the year to help students become really good at research. Teachers in various disciplines could work with the librarians to craft a similar game that results in the students collecting preliminary research on a specific topic, further helping them internalize where various kinds of information are to be found in the library, and where to turn if they need help finding better information than what their own search yields.

What both of these panels highlighted for me is the idea brought up at one of the plenary sessions–that education is moving from a one-to-many model to a many-to-many model. That is to say, it really does take a village to raise our youth and educate them and give them the skills they’ll need to survive and succeed in this rapidly changing world. Districts can and should capitalize on the potential of this “many-to-many” model by evolving traditional professional development days into learning partnership days. Teachers often have very little time or space for networking with others–inside and outside of their schools–and yet building relationships with other educators and with those who could contribute to education beyond the school walls helps to make the educational experience for both faculty and students so much richer. I left DML2012 full of hope for the future of teaching and learning and fully ready to be part of that future. My hope is that schools will embrace this future by thinking outside the classroom to find innovative ways to help the village contribute resources and expertise to the educating of our youth.

This article was originally posted at

Nelson’s digital learning bill advances

By Post-Bulletin staff

ST. PAUL — Legislation that encourages more online learning in the classroom passed the Minnesota Senate on Thursday with broad bipartisan support.

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, sponsored the digital learning bill. It would require the Online Learning Advisory Council, with the help of the Minnesota Department of Education, to develop a catalog for teachers of all the digital learning materials indexed to Minnesota academic standards. There will also be a system set up that will allow teachers and students to rate the material. The bill also requires a study to determine how to link student performance to the digital learning materials.

The bill also allows basic skills revenue to be used for digital elearning, and it encourages every Minnesota student to take at least one online class before graduating.

Nelson’s bill calls for a review of state regulations to identify any that might impede digital learning in the classroom.

The Senate passed the bill 53-11. The measure now goes to the House and, if it passes there, the governor.

This article was originally posted at

New Report Urges Online Learning Expansion in Texas

Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Public Policy Foundation would like to see Texas follow Florida’s lead in increasing access to virtual schools.

A report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation suggests that virtual education and blended elearning both present the opportunity for cost savings and academic gain in Texas.

“At the K-12 level, the potential of virtual education is enormous,” said the report’s author, James Golsan. “Through the use of technology, students in rural districts would have access to the same educational resources as students in more populated areas. Familiarization with technology could prepare students for the work force more quickly.”

While there is some concern about the ability of existing traditional institutions to convert to blended learning facilities, it’s a popular model for new start ups. Virtual education is already a success story in Florida and the TPPF wants Texas to follow Florida’s lead.

“Florida has one of the longest standing and most successful virtual education programs in the country,” Golsan said. “As Texas seeks to improve its own digital learning environment, an examination of the Florida model provides the state with an example by which to fashion, at the very least, its public virtual education after.

Several benefits to a virtual education model are highlighted in the report, such as increased course availability and access to quality instructors. Although virtual education institutions have come under fire in the past for high dropout rates, the report believes that dropout recovery could be best served in the virtual arena.

Another highlighted benefit to Texas expanding its digital education offerings is the potential for huge cost savings. Not only does the report claim that educating students online is cheaper than traditional in-person methods, but that cost efficiencies of scale accrue more under a digital learning platform.

“Currently, Texas funds its students at a rate of around $11,000 per pupil,” Golsan said. “Research suggests that full-time virtual students can be educated for between $1,500 and $3,000 less per student than those in traditional brick-and-mortar settings.”

The perceived benefits of online education have recently come under scrutiny from Great Lakes Centre for Education Research and Practice, but the TPPF remains enthusiastic.

The report also recommends the easing of the course approval process for digital coursework, the promotion of private provider participation in digital learning, the creation of a scholarship program for digital learners, and the opening of the Texas Virtual School Network to private and home-schooled students.

This article was originally posted at

Digital Learning, Acceleration Bills Advance

Some high school students could have an expedited path to high school graduation, while others could graduate already trained for jobs if a pair of House bills gets final approval in the Senate.

Rep. Kelli Stargel’s Acceleration Bill, HB 7059, passed the House on Monday and is awaiting action in the Senate.

If passed, it could allow K-12 students to progress through their schooling faster.

Another bill proposed by Stargel — which passed the House on Tuesday and is on its way to the Senate — is the Digital Learning bill, HB 7063, where students could take courses online either during school or after.

“They really go hand-in-hand,” said Stargel, R-Lakeland. “For highly functioning students, who says they have to go to school for 180 days a year or take courses only during the school day?”

HB 7058 would create the Academically Challenging Curriculum to Enhance Learning (or ACCEL) to provide accelerated courses or instruction to eligible students.

The program would allow students to skip grades or receive mid-year promotions. It would also allow eligible students to skip certain subjects if they passed an exam, similar to CLEP tests that can be taken for college credit.

It would allow early graduation for students after completing 24 credits and the standard graduation requirements. The bill also states that a district would not lost any of its full-time equivalency funding if a student graduates early.

Stargel said the bill would not only benefit students who plan on going to college, but as early as middle school students could enroll in vocational classes.

This article was originally posted at

Faculty Initiative: Technology in the Classroom

Colleges and universities across the country are rising to the challenge of utilizing technology in the classroom and meeting the demands of students in the technology age. St. Norbert College is not far behind the pack with a new faculty initiative.

Last February, President Kunkel and the Office of Faculty Development led a forum called “eLearning in the Digital Age.” This forum was held to raise awareness of the growing trend in higher education to make use of digital technologies in the classroom.

Dean Jeffery Frick then appointed a panel of faculty members called the “Digital Learning Initiative” task group (DLI) to continue with the discussion.

Members of the task group include Paul Johnson, associate professor of philosophy, Reid Riggle, associate professor of education, Gratzia Villarroel, associate professor of political science, John Frohliger, associate professor of mathematics, Blake Hensen, assistant professor of music and Kristin Vogel, director of the library.

The group has released a DLI report on technology in higher education. The report includes the context of the discussion up until now: a history of digital learning, the group’s guiding principles, the group’s recommendations, and the group’s vision statement.

The vision statement of the DLI is: “St. Norbert College shall work to establish and foster a culture of collaborative entrepreneurship across the campus which incentivizes, supports and acknowledges the development and successful incorporation of digital learning skills and technologies into the educational Mission of the College.”

The task group is interested in the pedagogy, or the teaching techniques, implementing technology in classroom and what this can bring to education.

One of the guiding principles in the document is, “Change is imminent, and St. Norbert College must adapt.”

“Until now, the discussion was kept to faculty and staff at St. Norbert College,” said Johnson, “but now an important next step in the process is to involve the students to broaden the conversation.”

The committee plans on taking the next step of involving students through general surveys and forums which students along with the St. Norbert College community would be invited to attend.

“I would like to see student focus groups,” said Riggle. “I think a focus group would be more structured and the dialogue would contain specific questions or concerns.”

An example of one of the questions the DLI has is the use of social media in higher education. Social media does not always transfer to the classroom and the task group needs the students’ opinions and thoughts on why this is.

There are two ideas the DLI has presented to boost technology in the classroom. The first is to provide faculty with a small stipend to promote the use of technology. The second is to delegate one faculty member in each discipline to be the technology advisor.

“The committee has the idea of the full spectrum pedagogy,” said Johnson, “One end of the spectrum holds the traditional professors and the other end holds the entrepreneur professors with all the colors in between.”

The committee values both ends of the spectrum because both are extremely valuable to the Liberal Arts experience.

Something the task group is aware of is the push and pull of the spectrum. “If we lean far towards technology then what do we lose in the classroom?” said Johnson.

“It’s important to maintain balance,” said Riggle, “We don’t want to leap into technology, but what is the best course environment as we progress into the future?”

The school plans to place implementing technology into higher education high on the school’s Strategic Plan.

This article was originally posted at

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