#ICParkSM Farewell

As our last blog post, the #ICParkSM class was asked to write about their experiences in the course and what they have learned according to the course objectives.

The first thing that I can say is that the course helped to guide my decisions in applying for future careers. Although I don’t want to stick to journalism, I’ve become cemented in the fact that I want to pursue a job in the digital spectrum, dealing with social media and marketing across social media platforms.

And this course has given me several helpful lessons:

  1. Branding – Whether it be personal branding (or branding for an organization or company) I now know how to put forward a collective front through social media.
  2. Analytics – How would you know if something works, if you can’t look at any of the numbers involved? Through weekly audits and our social media analysis, #ICParkSM has given me the tools necessary to scan social media statistics.
  3. Engagement – Perhaps the best lesson was the power of engagement through social media. Capture an audience, involve the audience and build an audience were what we focused on as a group of journalists, but this strategy can easily be applied to marketing. Tweetchats are definitely becoming one of my weekly tools in expanding my network and knowledge.

A truly powerful lesson that also comes along with learning about social media platforms is the awareness of the ever-evolving field of communications.

As a a soon to be graduate, it should be set in stone that I never have to sit in a classroom again and learn new skills and techniques. BUT if this course has taught me anything it’s that you have to constantly be updating yourself and teaching yourself new things. And I think that perhaps will be the guide to keeping me at the top of my game.

The fight for arts education

In the recent years, as nationwide school funding has struggled to keep up with the prices of education, their has been many cuts in school district’s budgets. Where have the biggest cuts lain: in the arts.

11473503074_11baa27e4e_b.jpg

Because of the changing focus to standardized testing in the early 2000s, schools began to focus on the “core curriculum,” meaning that subjects like English and math were considered to be more beneficial for a student’s education, and their likelihood of passing the test. (Although the No Child Left Behind Act considers the arts to be a core subject.)

In 2014, the New York Times reported that 20 percent of public schools in New York City don’t even have an arts teacher on staff.  The year before that, the Chicago Public School system laid off approximately 105 arts teachers (ten percent of the lay-offs they made that year) on their payroll.

The diminishing of arts, especially in the public school systems across the United States, has been received to significant criticism.

Most argue that while administrators are cutting the funding of arts programs, they are forgetting the benefits of arts educations to academics. In a Washington Post article, research is presented that states students with an arts-rich academic experience are more likely to continue their education.

Just this week, the Huffington Post posted a profile on an arts institute in New York City planning on bringing dance classes to all public schools.

The National Dance Institute, the main focus of the article, has been teaching about 6,000 students different dancing techniques and choreographies. The institute and its partners hope to expand their programs and bring the arts back to schools across the nation.

New York passes law to raise minimum wage to $15

In a city like Ithaca, where the cost of living is roughly thirty thousand dollars a year, workers are finding it difficult to live off the current minimum wage of nine dollars an hour.

Last year, there were protests throughout the country discussing the need for the minimum wage to catch up to the living wage, which is estimated to be approximately $14 across the state.

In New York City, the #Fightfor15 movement began when fast food workers all over the city went on strike last year, demanding an hourly wage that would cover their living costs.

Janice Singleton, store manager of a Dunkin Donuts in Ithaca, pays at a higher rate than minimum wage but she realizes that even this is not enough.

“We start our workers with an extra seventy-five cents on top of minimum wage but even my full-time employees struggle from check to check,” Singleton said. “Ithaca is an expensive place to live, and when you’re working 40-plus hours a week and still have to choose which bills you’re going to ignore this month…something needs to change.”

Since the first minimum wage protests in NYC, the movement has spread over six continents and hundreds of cities, and there has been legislation changes in places like Los Angeles and Seattle to raise the minimum wage to be closer to the cost of living in the respective areas.

In Tompkins County there are currently 106 employers who participate in a living wage certification program run by the Tompkins County Workers Center.

Pete Meyers, coordinator at TCWC, said that these employers are just an example that a higher nationwide minimum wage is possible.

“We have plenty of participation just in the county with businesses and companies getting living wage certified, and there’s certainly companies who haven’t completed the training who pay a comparable amount to their employees,” Meyers said.

“But there’s also a lot of human service workers who are funded by the state and federal government, and in order to be paid a living wage, [the government sector] needs to figure out their funding,” he continued.

New York joins the $15 minimum wage trend

On April 4, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law that will raise the minimum wage in New York State over a period of time.The plan, which was included in the 2016 – 2017 state budget, would eventually raise the minimum wage to $15 across the state.

According to the governor’s website, the increase would be made in different phases based off of the location in the state:

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 12.47.22 PM

A brief outline of Governor Cuomo’s action plan to enacting the $15 minimum wage. (Image provided by https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-signs-15-minimum-wage-plan-and-12-week-paid-family-leave-policy-law).

The plan has already received criticism by the public, particularly for the different pays in the different regions of the state.

As seen in the outlining of the plan, while New York City and adjacent areas would reach $15 in the next few years, other regions would only be reaching a minimum wage of $12.50. It would then be determined off of the available state budget to see how long it would take to level out with the rest of the state.

“The rationale behind those places reaching the living wage earlier is because the cost of living is generally higher in areas like New York City,” Meyers explained. “And while some of Upstate and Central New York do have lower costs, there are also areas like Ithaca where the cost of living is about the same.”

Cuomo’s plan also included a 12 week family paid leave which would become “the most comprehensive family leave program in the nation,” according to the governor’s website.
California had a similar law signed by Governor Jerry Brown on April 4, raising California’s minimum wage to $15.

Unions and the education system

This past week there has been breaking news about contingent faculty at Ithaca College attempting to unionize on campus. The push was denied by the college, but it’s not the first movement of education professionals to unionize in the education system.

History of the unions

In 1857, the National Education Association was founded in order to create a group of educators. The group would collaborate about social education issues as well as work to progress the education system and its providers.

Since the NEA’s recognition as a teachers’ union, many others have been formed across the country. In fact, teachers’ unions are considered to be one of the most powerful union sectors in the nation.

This however does not mean that they have not been criticized through the years as well.

In an article for the Public School Review, Grace Chen lists out the pros and cons of teacher unions, and their effect on the education system. While she says that unionized areas of teachers tend to have better student performance, unions have become a hinderance to reform in the education system.

The Cato Institute, a public policy research organization, published an article in 2010 that also looked at the effects of teacher unions in America.

Andrew Coulson, author of the research article, took a deeper glimpse into how the unions have been effected educational policy reform since its induction into our society. 

Unions still in the news

It seems like everyday in the media, viewers are hearing about some school district talking about going on strike because of lack of negotiation in contracts. Many times, unions are involved in these negotiations, and therefore make it more difficult for terms to be agreed upon.

At the end of March of this year, the United States Supreme Court reached a split decision in a case about collective bargaining and unions. The determination of the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case, made it so that regardless of membership teachers would still be required to pay dues in part of the negotiating that a union might complete at their school district.

Many have said that the split court decision would have been ruled differently if not for the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, but the court’s decision will pave the path for union to continue to keep their foot in the educational doorway.

Social media experts video conference into class

On Friday in our Mobile and Social Media Journalism course, several employees at Syracuse.com video conferenced in to talk to a class full of aspiring journalists about the practices the company has developed over the digital platforms.

Lead web and mobile producer, Katie Kramer, and social lead, Christine Loman, answered questions raised by the class about all social media practices inside of the company, including what platforms they think work best and using social media as a platform for journalism.

  • Kramer said it’s important to understand the type of voice a journalist should have on social media sites — even if it’s a personal profile, there should be a professional undertone to what it posted.
  • The Director of Digital Operations at Syracause.com, Trish LaMonte, also reminded the college students in the room to remember this when posting photos on social media platforms. “We expect college students to be having fun but that doesn’t mean you need to be posting idiotic photos of you being out of control,” she said.
  • The advisors also recommended using social media management tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck while working with multiple platforms to publish material in order to manage the constant need for updates.

The guest speakers also spoke about how they have personally used, and how their journalists are using social media to complete normal journalism duties.

More and more often, social platforms are conducive in finding story ideas and sources. The social media managers are also using online analytics provided from these social sites to determine which stories to push more on their website.

Since Syracuse.com’s transition to “digital-first news” was fairly recent, the employees also spoke to the class about the differences they have seen in the newsroom.

“It was different and difficult for the writers,” Kramer said. “It was hard to change the print journalism mindset of constant editing to the push of getting information out quickly over the social platforms.”

Kramer and Loman continued that where Syracuse.com is at now, most workers are barely even thinking about the physical paper.

Embracing social media will be the change in the news world they said, and it is important to master the skills in order to be successful in the ever-changing field.

A news-ranking app based off social media

This past Monday I presented to my Mobile and Social Media Journalism class about a new-ish mobile app on the market: BriefMe.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.03.37 PM

This is what the BriefMe app icon looks like in the Apple Store.

The app, released on the Apple Store in March 2015, presented a new algorithm to how news would be organized and presented to its users.

It was a trio of Harvard and Yale students who created the app just a few years ago, and have since worked together in the Harvard Innovation Lab to build the app to idea to a functioning prototype to a tangible product available to the public.

How does it work?

The purpose of this app is to provide users with the most relevant, updated news from multiple sources all aggregated onto one platform. The news is arranged based on its “virality” score, a number compiled based on how popular the article is on the Internet in real-time.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.38.15 PM

This is what the basic interface of the app would look like on an iPhone.

The top ten stories with the highest score, which ranges from 0 to 100, are then placed on the app’s home page interface complete with a little summary and the ability to read the complete article on the app, without having to go to another news site.

The virality score is also attached to each article, and if the user wishes to view it, all they need to do is click down and how the score was tallied is listed for their viewing pleasure.

What does this mean for the world of journalism?

We’ve been seeing the trend for a while of different articles, and even different news outlets, being more internet savvy.

With apps like BriefMe that run off of algorithms solely based on Internet popularity, users run the risk of only seeing the “click-baity” articles that are often thrown around and shared on social media sites. BriefMe, however, at least prevents the news users see on their phone from only being what their friends have shared.

One writer for TechCrunch believes that apps like BriefMe, and the social media trend in general, have given way to a “front-page” approach to news where editors no longer have the power to point audiences toward the best stories, but just the most relevant stories.

The writer also believes that this app follows social media in what he calls the “stability problem,” or the fact that on the Internet something is only going to “hot” for so long.

I believe that this app, like any other news source that the public uses, is never going to be a complete grasp of the news world. As it was once important to read more than one newspaper, it remains important to follow the news from more than one source or news-aggregation app.

Local school takes part in Farm to School movement

Inside of St. Catherine’s Greek Orthodox Church in Ithaca, high school students surround a food prep counter, watching as their teacher explains how to properly mix the ingredients for doughnuts.

 

These students are all taking part in the culinary arts course taught at the New Roots Charter School, where they have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience while also helping prepare lunches for the school’s cafeteria.  

Allyn Rosenbaum, teacher and “lunch lady” for New Roots, said the food that is used in the kitchen is all natural and locally grown.

“More than half the students eat lunch and breakfast here everyday,” she said. “Our change to using locally grown products came out of the desire to serve food that is as real as possible [to our students].”

New Roots is one of 1,453 individuals schools in New York State that is participating in the Farm to School movement, according to the state’s Farm to School website. But Rosenbaum said finding the funding to distribute solely locally grown food to the school was a difficult process.

“New Roots is a part of the National School Lunch Program so we have to operate within the financial rules,” Rosenbaum said. “Natural foods are more expensive, so we had to jump through a lot of hoops to get funding, and we had to counteract the costs by being fast and efficient in the kitchen.”

Rosenbaum is also Farm to School coordinator for New Roots, where she has worked to create a collaborative relationship with local farms.

“We have a Farm to School tract at the school and some of our students participate in the Youth Farm Project as well. This year our students are also going to be using a garden plot at the Ithaca Community Gardens to grow some of the produce we will use in our food,” Rosenbaum said.

The Farm to School movement has been sweeping across the country for the past several years. According to the network’s national website, 42 percent of schools in the United States are participating in some kind of Farm to School program.

In 2015, the national network pushed for the introduction of the Farm to School Act in Congress. Their goal is to have the act be included as part of the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization package, which would allot an additional $100 million to farm to school programs across the country.

The federal funds would help to meet the demands for assistance in implementing the programs into schools, as well as improving accessibility across the spectrum, from farms to schools.

The bipartisan bill was introduced to Congress in February 2015, and is currently being heard and voted on by the federal government, but the movement has also gained support through state governments.

New York State is among 40 states that have policies in support of the Farm to School movement.

In a 2015 press conference, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “The Farm to School initiative encourages thoughtfulness about what we eat and leads to better choices when it comes to nutrition. This program simultaneously educates our youth, promotes locally grown foods, and strengthens the connection between farms and schools across the state.”

But for now, supporters of the movement like Rosenbaum are thrilled just with the changes the federal government is making its lunch program.

“They recently mandated that only whole grains be used in schools, and if more schools are purchasing these products, the prices are going to go down for all of us. It’s important that students are eating nutritionally balanced meals, and at least they are making changes in the policy to promote this.”

The value of teacher evaluations

As it comes to the end of the semester, and the (foreseeable) end of my educational career, I thought I would take a look at one of the tools that it often used in the academic world.

Teacher performance evaluations/assessments are used across the schooling spectrum as a tool to determine whether or not their instruction is successful in communicating their subject matter. There has been many controversies over how an assessment should be completed, and how well it can actually calculate the value of a teacher.

A little history

The teacher assessment has been a part of the educational system since the mid-1800s, according to the book “Effective Supervision,” by Robert J. Marzano, Tony Frontier and David Livingston.

Soon, appraisals were being created using two different streams of measurement: Frederick Taylor’s scientific management and John Dewey’s educational theory of pragmatism. Taylor’s scientific theory tended to give way to more numerical and measurable data, and therefore was used to shape the earliest versions of teacher assessments in the early 1900s.

The tool continued to develop throughout time, moving more into individual measurements of a specific teacher to clinical supervision, the Hunter Model, reflective models, and the list goes on in terms of what models administrations have used to create a teacher performance evaluation system.

The controversy of teacher evaluations

In 2013, PBS published a comprehensive overview of recent controversies that have surrounded the use of performance evaluations in the school systems. Journalists Simone Pathe and Jaywon Choe wrote, “Why is it so hard to determine what makes a good teacher? The answer is both complicated and polarizing. In recent education reform history, judging teacher evaluations has become as much an issue as how to evaluate student achievement.”

Teacher and blogger for The Huffington Post’s Education section Shanna Peeples wrote that evaluations are as much testing the teacher on their performance as it is evaluating, and “Where, what, and who you teach will show similar patterns of “successful” and “failing” schools and teachers across your district.”

What the country is doing about the debate

And the concerns have increasingly been heard by school districts and different levels of government.

A school district in Oregon recently changed their pay scale so that it wasn’t solely performance based. The change was made after funding from The Chalkboard Project had depleted in the school district.

Senate Bill 364 was introduced to Congress in the 2015-2016 session. A major part of the bill would be to decrease the scale a teacher’s performance would be based on their students’ success.

 

Technology in the classroom

Children and teenagers in school right now, and young adults that are attending college, are often referred to as the “digital generation”; a generation that has grown up with the development of technology and has continually had access to the technology throughout their lives.

There is no doubt that technology has become a part of everyday life for many people, but how has it been integrated into education? And what are the impacts of technology inside of the classrooms?

Synthesis of Technology Into The Classroom

9610382650_767dc6edba_z

Accessed via Creative Commons.

I can remember in middle school when technology was first becoming a big tool inside of the classroom. Besides the teachers having their computers to enter grades and to print, they were using their computers to project onto the board instead of the old school laminate projectors.

In the fifth grade, there was a mobile laptop cart that all of the classrooms had access to, although it only had 25 computers for the 60 students in the grade. In 2009, the National Center for Education Statistics released a study that found that 97 percent of classrooms had access to one or more computers in the classroom everyday. StatisticBrain released findings in 2015 that revealed approximately 77 percent of teachers use their computers for instruction in the classroom.

Educators have also been finding ways to successfully integrate the use of technology into their students education. Edutopia suggested a list of different ways that students can learn through and with technology in their educations like,

  • Project-based Activities Incorporating Technology
  • Game-based learning and assessment
  • Learning with Mobile and Handheld Devices (Shoutout to #ICParkSM for being ahead of this trend)
  • Web-Based Projects, Explorations, and Research, and the list goes on.

There have also been frameworks (SAMR and TPACK) published by education experts to explain the successful integration of technology into classrooms so that the technology is seen as much as a learning tool as a dictionary or graphing calculator.

Positive Impacts Made By Technology in Classrooms

“A Look at Recent Findings on Technology in the Classroom,” published in The Huffington Post in 2013, reported that 78 percent of teachers found technology had been a beneficial tool in their classrooms.

9610346254_e357d70f9e_m

Accessed via Creative Commons.

The United States Department of Education also found several positive effects of the use of technology in their classrooms, including:

  • Increased motivation and self-esteem,
  • An impressive apprehension level of technical skills,
  • Accomplishment of more complex tasks,
  • More collaboration with peers,
  • Increased use of outside resources, and
  • Improved design skills

But, with the good comes the bad…

Technology undoubtedly provides students with more access to materials and learning tools than they’ve ever had before, but there has also been several negative thoughts of use of technology in the classroom.

In 2015, Edudemic published a post, “The Four Negative Sides of Technology,” citing technology

  • Changes the way children think,
  • Changes the way children feel,
  • Puts our safety and privacy at risk, and
  • Can lead to less physical activity.

Psychology Today has published studies saying that the technology does change the way that children are wired to think, and that there are being multiple studies completed to look at the short and long-term effects of the usage.

With great “power” comes great responsibility, and seeing as technology is becoming a necessary tool in life, it’s important for teachers and individuals to learn of the effects that come with the integration of the tech.

Our #ICParkSM class and myself will be live blogging #EdTech16 on Thursday, 3/24. Check out our site to see some of the technologies that are being introduced into classrooms!

Warmer winter weather impacts local ski mountain

It’s a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in the beginning of March. The sun is bright, the air is warm and there’s a gentle wind blowing across the ski mountain in Truxton, New York. And a girl of about seven years of age is skiing in gym shorts.

Surprisingly, Labrador Mountain is still open for skiers and snowboarders despite the lack of measurable snowfall in the past month. But the one running chair lift at the resort, that has had less than twenty unique users per day this past week, reflects the overall season the mountain has had.

“It’s just been a light season this year. Many less skiers than our usual,” Kevin Smith said. Smith has been a ski lift attendant at Labrador for the past 46 winters.

“Mother Nature doesn’t tell us what she’s bringing every winter, you just have to see how the winter goes. Unfortunately this winter brought us more rain than snow, and that really affects the conditions on the mountain,” he said.

The light snow and warm temperatures of the 2015-2016 winter season has taken a toll on ski resorts across the country. Thomas Franklin, an avid skier since 1970, said this ski season has been particularly slower on the mountains.

“I’ve been all over the East Coast this winter skiing and empty, every place is empty,” Franklin said.

The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester  published an article on March 8 reporting that ski resorts in New York State lost a third of their average annual revenue this season, or about $330 million.

Ski resorts in states like Michigan and Vermont have also felt the challenge of the unusual winter, having their mountains open less days than usual and having to use snow-blowing machines to make snow.

But just how unusual was this winter weather?

This winter was almost 5 degrees warmer than average, according to data published by the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.

“This winter, the months of December, January and February, had an average temperature of 30.7 degrees fahrenheit [in the area],” Jessica Spaccio, one of the center’s climatologists, said. “Normal is a 30-year average based on 1981-2010; the normal winter temperature [in Ithaca] is 25.8.”

Spaccio said this year’s winter could also have been affected by a natural phenomenon known as the El Nino, which she believes was particularly strong this winter.

The El Nino is a phase of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation cycle, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. During this phase, the ocean and the atmosphere interact in a climate interaction that produce a periodic warming of the ocean. The warm water then continues to impact other variables of the weather, like the temperatures and precipitation, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere.

Typically, El Nino “episodes”, and their effects, can last anywhere from nine months to about a year, but Spaccio believes warmer winters could become a trend in New York and surrounding areas.

“We have seen winters warming in the Northeast, due to climate change, and expect this trend to continue,” she said.

And these changes in the climate could lead to more changes in the environment, Spaccio said.

“With the warm temperatures and less snow, the mild winter made survival easier for some animals. This is also true for pests, like ticks.  The lack of snow also means the lack of spring snowmelt, this can change the timing of peak streamflow and soil moisture conditions. There was less lake ice and lake temperature will also be affected. Some winter crops were able to be harvested later than usual,” Spaccio said.  “[Even] allergies [will be] more of an issue.”