For Profit Fight, Veterans, Accessibility, Muni Networks, Libraries, Twitter, Philosophy, Comics

Gunfight at the For-Profit Corral
by Doug Lederman
Dec. 10, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

. . . “With dueling news conferences and documents, advocates for the sector went toe to toe with the government entities and agencies that have been aggressively scrutinizing the colleges for the last 18 months, producing much more heat than light. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the developments of this week is that, for the first time in a long while, it was slightly difficult to tell who was more on the defensive: the colleges or their government critics.”

“That’s mostly because of Wednesday’s revelation by The Washington Post that the Government Accountability Office had significantly revised the highly damaging ‘mystery shopper’ report it produced this summer as the centerpiece of Sen. Tom Harkin’s second hearing on the for-profit college sector.”

“The report provided videotaped and other evidence that employees at all 15 for-profit colleges visited by Congress’s investigative arm had made “deceptive or otherwise questionable statements” to students about accreditation, graduation rates, employment outcomes, program costs or financial aid. And it has since been Exhibit A (if not B and C and D) of the need for tougher oversight of the industry, used not only by Harkin and his colleagues in Congress, but by Education Department officials to help justify new rules the department has proposed to zero in on commercial colleges to assess whether they are providing a meaningful and valuable education to their students.” . . .

Profits and Scrutiny for Colleges Courting Veterans
by Eric Lipton
Dec. 8, 2010, New York Times

“When Congress moved in 2008 to sweeten tuition payments for veterans, it was celebrated as a way to ensure that military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could go to college at no cost and to replicate the historic benefits society gained from the G.I. Bill after World War II. Now, a year after payouts on the so-called Post-9/11 G.I. Bill started, the huge program has turned into a bonanza of another kind for the many commercial colleges in the United States that have seen their military revenues surge.”

“More than 36 percent of the tuition payments made in the first year of the program — a total of $640 million in tuition and fees — went to for-profit colleges, like the University of Phoenix, according to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, even though these colleges serve only about 9 percent of the overall population at higher education institutions nationwide.”

“As the money flows to the for-profit university industry, questions are being raised in Congress and elsewhere about their recruitment practices, and whether they really deliver on their education promises. Some members say they want to place tighter limits on how much these colleges can collect in military benefits, a move certain federal officials say they would welcome.” . . .

Colleges Lock Out Blind Students Online
by Marc Parry
Dec. 12, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Ed

. . . “Colleges that wouldn’t dare put up a new building without wheelchair access now routinely roll out digital services that, for blind people, are the Internet equivalent of impassable stairs. Roughly 75,000 students at colleges and trade schools are visually impaired, according to Education Department figures. Barriers to access could deny them equal learning opportunities. And colleges are finding that the problems are lawsuit bait, generating litigation and complaints.” . . .

“Some other examples:
— College Web pages are “widely inaccessible” to people with disabilities, according to a recent National Science Foundation-backed study that looked at 127 institutions in the Northwest over five years. A recent study of 183 colleges, nationwide, found similar problems. (See table.)
— Many colleges have no centralized way to ensure that online courses comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, says a November report from the Campus Computing Project and the Wiche Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications.
— At one of the country’s most prominent public institutions, Pennsylvania State University, blind students and professors suffer “pervasive and ongoing discrimination” because of inaccessible campus technology, says a federal complaint filed in November by the country’s largest organization of blind people. The complaint names problem areas that include Penn State’s library catalog, departmental Web sites, and, crucially, its “almost totally inaccessible” course-management software.
— At Arizona State last year, advocates including Mr. Shandrow sued the institution over its use of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, which lacked audible menus for blind people. Arizona State agreed that it would strive to use accessible devices if it deployed e-book readers in classes over the next two years.” . . .

Municipal Broadband’s Jekyll and Hyde: Some High-Profile Efforts Have Failed, But Quite a Few Have Succeeded
by Kevin McCaney
Dec. 8, 2010, Government Computer News

“Municipal broadband efforts have had their share of success, but in a highly competitive environment, even the most well-intentioned plans can go wrong.” . . . “But despite some high-profile failures, quite a few municipal broadband networks appear to be thriving. Chattanooga, Tenn., in September beat everyone to the 1 gigabit/sec barrier with its community-owned fiber optic network, putting the region on par with high-tech Hong Kong. A report in May by the non-profit New Rules Project details municipal efforts around the country, and includes charts comparing municipal speeds and rates with those of commercial providers.”

“The report, which argues in favor of the cost-effectiveness of municipal networks, cites hundreds of successful efforts, involving both fiber and wireless networks large and small. Lafayette, La., and Monticello, Minn., for example, offer some of the fastest connection speeds at the lowest rates in the country. Oklahoma City’s wireless mesh network has helped the city modernize its agency offices” . . .

Breaking the Broadband Monopoly,” May 2010, The New Rules Project.

Who Needs Libraries?
by Richard Paul
Dec. 10, 2010, Soundprint

“As more and more information is available on-line, as Amazon rolls out new software that allows anyone to find any passage in any book, an important question becomes: Who needs libraries anymore? Why does anyone need four walls filled with paper between covers? Surprisingly, they still do and in this program Producer Richard Paul explores why; looking at how university libraries, school libraries and public libraries have adapted to the new information world. This program airs as part of our ongoing series on education and technology, and is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education.” See “Your Life’s Work: The Librarian.” (1947)

8 Percent of Online Americans Use Twitter
by Aaron Smith, Lee Rainie
Dec 9, 2010, Pew Internet & American Life Project

Eight percent of the American adults who use the internet are Twitter users. Some of the groups who are notable for their relatively high levels of Twitter use include:
— Young adults – Internet users ages 18-29 are significantly more likely to use Twitter than older adults.
— African-Americans and Latinos – Minority internet users are more than twice as likely to use Twitter as are white internet users.
— Urbanites – Urban residents are roughly twice as likely to use Twitter as rural dwellers.
Women and the college-educated are also slightly more likely than average to use the service.

#Hindsight2010: Top Trends on Twitter
by jodiolson
Dec. 13, 2010, TwitterBlog

An astounding 25 billion Tweets were sent in 2010. We analyzed all those Tweets to identify the year’s Top 10 Trends, as well as the leading Trends in eight categories: News Events, People, Movies, Television, Technology, World Cup, Sports and Hashtags. Each Trend in the Top 10 list includes multiple related terms, to give the most accurate view of the topics that people cared about most in 2010. (To find out more about how we define and calculate Trends, check out this blog post.)

Top 10 Twitter Trends of 2010
1. Gulf Oil Spill
2. FIFA World Cup
3. Inception
4. Haiti Earthquake
5. Vuvuzela
6. Apple iPad
7. Google Android
8. Justin Bieber
9. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows
10. Pulpo Paul

Community-College Association Turns to Old Pro at Crucial Juncture
by Jennifer Gonzalez
Dec. 5, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education

. . . “Those who know Mr. Bumphus say he has the right mix of skills and personality to lead the large advocacy association, which represents almost 1,200 institutions, with a total enrollment of more than 11 million. Known for his collaborative and entrepreneurial style, as well as his buoyant enthusiasm, he brings to the position wide-ranging experience.”

“He is a professor in the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin and chair of the department of educational administration. He earned a doctoral degree in educational administration from the university there. Mr. Bumphus, a Kentucky native who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Murray State University, has worked in community-college positions ranging from system president to dean of students. He also had a stint in the private sector as president of the higher-education division of Voyager Expanded Learning, a Dallas-based provider of intervention programs in reading and math for schools.” . . .

Philosophy with John Searle: Three Free Courses
by Dan Colman
Dec. 8, 2010, Philosophy, UC Berkeley

You can’t dabble in the world of philosophy very long without encountering John Searle. One of America’s most respected philosophers, Searle did important work on “speech act” theory during the 1960s, then later turned to consciousness and artificial intelligence, out of which came his famous “Chinese room” thought experiment. Searle has taught philosophy at UC-Berkeley since 1959, and, until recently, his courses were only available to matriculated students. But this fall semester, the good folks at Berkeley recorded three courses taught by Searle, and made them available online. We have added them to the Philosophy section of our big collection of Free Online Courses. Or, you can simply access the courses below, using your computer or your smart phone.

10 Ways to Create Comics Online
by Richard Byrne
Dec. 10, 2010, Free Technology for Teachers

Creating cartoons and comic strips can be a good way to get reluctant writers writing. While creating comics you and your students can work through the elements of fiction in a context that is fun and familiar to them.

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For Profit Fight, Veterans, Accessibility, Muni Networks, Libraries, Twitter, Philosophy, Comics