What’s the Role of Tech in Student Grouping?

The New York Times recently ran a piece on the quiet reemergence of grouping students by ability in the classroom. After falling out of favor some 20 years ago because of charges of inequality, it’s slipped back into the mainstream:

“A new analysis from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a Census-like agency for school statistics, shows that of the fourth-grade teachers surveyed, 71 percent said they had grouped students by reading ability in 2009, up from 28 percent in 1998. In math, 61 percent of fourth-grade teachers reported ability grouping in 2011, up from 40 percent in 1996.”

The question of what role technology plays into this trend is an important one: if grouping by ability helps teachers better manage students, can technological tools help reduce the downsides of doing so?

The article notes that teachers have “become more comfortable using computers to allow children to learn at different speeds”—and in interviews, teachers said one challenge of grouping by ability is the need to create multiple lesson plans and track student progress more closely.

These certainly seem like tasks tailor-suited to software that could be customized to specific curricula and environments.

Introducing Citelighter Clipboard

You already enjoy Citelighter to automatically generate your bibliography. To make your writing and research even easier, we’re happy to introduce a new option: Citelighter Clipboard.

Integrated directly into Google Docs, Clipboard lets you take a gander at all your research in the same place–and drag and drop facts and notes. The best part is that you can snag this feature for only $3 a month–less than a third of the cost of regular Citelighter Pro!

Check out the clipboard in action below and head here to upgrade your account.


The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Citelighter

Citelighter is fundamentally about helping students and teachers improve learning and performance. But here’s something even more fundamental: why did we decide to tackle these enormous issues, and how are we going about doing it?

In the video below, Citelighter CEO Saad Alam discusses the personal experiences that sparked his passion to co-start the company, beginning with a simple story about his brother’s academic struggles. He also notes our constant engagement with teachers to improve Citelighter’s functionality, and shares our excitement around creating a Google Docs-integrated platform—one that’ll let us study and enhance students’ research habits. Take a look!

NYC Diversity, as Seen via Twitter

New York City stands out as an extraordinarily diverse place, as the Citelighter team that lives and works here is privileged to see and experience every day. From Spanish Harlem to southern Brooklyn to eastern Queens, a wide range of groups collaborate, create, and commingle here.

But how do they tweet? This unique map below, courtesy of Science News, provides an amazing illustration of non-English tweets sent across the city, with Spanish, Dutch, Russian, and more highlighted. Check it out!

A Digital Bill of Rights?

Online learning has exploded. Courses and course-offering institutions proliferate. Colleges eye opportunities to lure new students. Major institutions are piloting programs to allow credits for courses.

Sounds like a pretty good time, then, to introduce something like this:

Dubbed the “Online Students’ Bill of Rights,” it offers a bold paradigm for expectations and needs of students and learners in the digital age, confronting issues ranging from data collection to programmatic outcomes.

Definitely worth a look – courtesy of Onlinecolleges.net.

Two Telling Infographs on American Education

At Citelighter, we focus on making research and writing more efficient for anyone interested in learning. And the most basic and crucial component of learning, of course, is reading.

Linked here is a startling recent infographic on the state of reading in our schools among elementary school students—it shows just how important it is to academic and life success. Below is one element of it:

A more elaborate set of infographics was released recently by the United States Census Bureau, highlighting the strong link between school enrollment, attendance, and college success. Definitely worth checking out below:


Introducing Citelights

As part of our recent redesign of the dashboard, we’ve dropped in a “Citelights” feed on the top right portion of the dashboard for logged-in users. This handy feature gives you a quick snapshot of Knowledge Cards and Citelighter Pro-accessible articles in an intuitive way:

Under the “Relevant” category, you’ll see material that’s most relevant to the projects and citations that you have created. Under “Trending”, you’ll find snippets from our most commonly accessed Knowledge Cards. And under “Citelighter Pro”, you’ll get pertinent article excerpts from the expansive scholarly library we offer for Pro users.

We hope you enjoy the new feature set, and we look forward to any suggestions on how to further enhance your research and citation experience!

On Learning

The tools we provide are designed to aid students, teachers, and researchers. What connects these three groups is something that’s easy to forget when you’re focused on details: a passion for learning and knowledge.

Education News recently ran an illuminating interview with Professor Sir David Watson, a leading academic light who teaches at the University of Oxford, on a wide range of subjects, including his ideas on what the ideal academic system looks like, standard tests, emotional and intellectual development, and critical thinking.

One important theme he keeps returning to is instilling in students a global perspective and appreciation for critical learning:

“The public discourse is heavily dominated at present by a perception…of student instrumentalism. What counts is “employability” (even more than “employment”) and whether or not students are prepared for it.  Meanwhile, students themselves confound expectation further: by returning to the liberal arts, by returning to volunteering (even while they simultaneously have to work much more frequently for money than their predecessors), and by reviving student-led political activism (all around the world).”

What makes this comment stand out is that online learning and online courses do tend to focus on what’s “efficient” and “practical”, especially in emphasizing convenience over physical classrooms. It will be interesting to see in the coming years whether this changes—or simply continues as produces students who are less civically minded.

Major Schools Announce Plan to Offer Credits for Online Courses

In a largely unprecedented move, numerous major public universities have announced plans to offer free introductory online courses—with credit.

As the Times article explains, the schools will select which courses to convert into an online format and students who successfully complete those courses will earn credit toward a real degree:

“‘We’re taking the MOOC idea, but now it will be part of a degree program, not a novelty,’ said Randy Best, the chairman of Academic Partnerships, a company that helps public universities move their courses online.”

Schools involved in the bold move include the University of Cincinnati, the University of Texas, and the University of Arkansas.

The hope, of course, is to draw more students into public school systems facing budgetary problems due to state funding cuts; Masters and Bachelors programs will be offered.

The move represents an interesting, and increasingly strong, synergy between the world of MOOCs and brick-and-mortar schools, and shows that the relationship doesn’t need to be antagonistic.