Along Came a Spider: News on the Web [December 2005 Archive]

Turning in Cheaters
That's the purpose of a new website,, a service which allows teachers to compare their students' papers to a huge range of online sources, thus ensuring they haven't plagiarized the material. By the same token, universities are also taking steps to encourage the positive use of internet resources: for example, Purdue has created a faculty position in information literacy, in the hopes of providing students with a ready resource person to help them make sound scholarly use of references:

Read an article about it here:

Fruit With Fizz!
That's the idea of Fizzy Fruit, a new creation that carbonates the water naturally found in fruit—creating a healthy snack (no added sugar or other chemicals) that's also fun for kids to eat. (Your scientifically inclined students might be as interested in how the fruit is made as they are in trying out the results!) Schools in Oregon are among the first to taste-test this unique idea:

Joining the Club
For many students, there's nothing more natural than becoming involved in after-school activities—sometimes at younger and younger ages. That's good news for parents seeking to broaden their children's experiences or simply find a constructive place for them to spend a few hours after school. Experts say that the increase in group work and collaborative learning in today's classrooms has enhanced students' interest in group work and joining clubs. Just remember to give some options for the introverts!

Teaching With Technology
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development is putting a spotlight on educational technology, with a two-part special report on technology in the classroom:

and an exploration of how to teach today's "digital natives"—students who grew up thinking and living with technologies their elders often find overwhelming:

Or take the ASCD poll: what kinds of technology do you use in the classroom:

"Tip"ping the Balance
How the times have changed! This reprint of advice from past columns of Britain's Nursery World highlights how our attitudes about childrearing have changed (hopefully for the better). Some of the advice is funny, while other "helpful hints" are downright frightening, such as a suggestion that "wicked" children who are fussy eaters should be starved for a day:,,172-1910604,00.html

Music To Learn To
At the University of Washington, one professor has found a way to spice up his science lectures, by putting the content to music, singing his lectures to the tunes of favorite songs. They're not a hit with all students—he says he always has at least one in every class who begs him to stop!—but the idea is catching on elsewhere: the professor, Dr. Greg Crowther, runs an online database for math and science set to music, and there's even an organization for "singing scientists":,1284,69697,00.html?tw=wn_story_page_prev2

The database of music can be found here:

Procrastination Now
We all do it sometimes—but recent research has begun to explore the psychology of chronic procrastination: why some people can't seem to get going until the last minute possible. Some researchers suggest that procrastinators come in at least two flavors: the arousal kind, who like the thrill of the last-minute rush, and the avoidance kind, who delay . . . and delay . . . and delay—out of feelings of insecurity or inadequacy:

The State of Science
This recent review of science standards in America has some disappointing results: standard for science education are slipping. That's the bad news: fortunately, according to the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which commissioned the study, the problems with states' standards can be easily fixed:

Trying Out Technology
In Australia, a new study looks at the impact of PalmPilots in education. Students at four Catholic schools have been offered Zire 31 handhelds through a grant managed by the University of Tasmania, which will track the effect of the handhelds on their educational progress. The university hopes to expand their participant pool to students from schools around the country:

iPod . . . . Or Not?
That's a question many school administrators are asking themselves these days! While previous issues of News and Views have profiled the ways that some schools are making use of technology to enhance student learning, many others schools are preferring to stay with the basics—even to forbidding the presence of iPods and other MP3 players on school property. Critics of these rules say that the current generation of students are more comfortable multitasking, and may actually find it easier to make use of study halls and other opportunities for independent learning while listening to music or absorbing other content as well.

Editor's Comment: I'm often surprised when teachers are uncomfortable with students who multitask—since many of the teachers (and parents) I've known are possessed of truly formidable multitasking skills themselves! Indeed, some of the gifted teachers I know have begun playing music (usually classical or other instrumental pieces) in their rooms in order to make the educational experience more comfortable for students who like to multitask as well—and it can be a great opportunity to expose them to a wider range of music (try Carmina Burana with some of your hard-rock-oriented students—it made an opera buff out of me in the seventh grade!)

This article from the ASCD provides a more positive look at technology, with tips for educators on how to make the best use of the new and exciting educational opportunities offered by the technological equipment students already love to use:

Teaching Through TV?
In Africa, educators are considering just that approach: trying to add more academic content to TV programming, as an alternative to the increasing drive to rely on the Internet as a means of dispersing knowledge. Proponents of the plan point out that TV's educational value has been underused in many ways—and that before turning to the more expensive Internet, they would be well-advised to make use of existing technology:

Ask a Scientist
This excellent website invites students of all ages—as well as anyone with a question—to do just that, bringing their scientific inquiries to a pool of willing scholars and researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Possible venues for inquiry include a range of medical and biological topics, including genetics, neuroscience, and general biology. You may not even need to ask: the site offers an archive of past questions.

Student Citizens
This excellent piece from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development highlights an issue of growing significance for American schools: the responsibility of education in a democratic society to prepare students not just for the workforce but for the voting populace. With the increased focus on high-stakes testing it can sometimes be easy to forget that we also have to prepare our students to take an active role in the democratic process, not just by being "good citizens" who provide service to the community, but also by being critical thinkers who can make informed decisions about key social issues. The article argues that schools can be "laboratories for democracy:"

Great Schools at Your Fingertips
Looking for a school for your child? Want to see how your child's school stacks up to others nationwide? Then we have the tools for you! provides an overview of schools across the country, including basic statistics and parent reviews. For those in California—or soon to be living there—there's also Just for the Kids, which provides comprehensive data about California schools:

No, computers are definitely not just for "geeks" anymore! The current generation of teens—the first to grow up with the world at their fingertips by means of the Internet—is taking advantage of this access. For this group, experts say, the differences that their parents and teaches perceive between online interaction and "real-world" contact simply doesn't exist: they rely equally on instant messaging, cell-phones, email and blogs as well as face-to-face contact. Perhaps most significantly, it seems that this generation is more assertively interactive with advertising: corporations are finding that net-savvy kids who like their products will do their advertising for them—but will resist concerted efforts by corporations to attract them:

Acting Out
In Washington state, art may be making the grade for students—literally: this year, the state unveiled the first of some 60 performance-art-based tests. State officials hope that this will encourage the teaching of arts in the schools; in this era of accountability, it's often the case that what gets tested gets taught:

Acting OutGetting Math Down to a Science
Two excellent websites, the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education's curriculum page and Math Moves U, are offering teachers a wealth of resources for engaging students in math and science topics. The CIESE's site offers links to a range of science materials on everything from meteorology to plate tectonics, while MMU offers games with prizes as well as scholarship and grant opportunities:

Read an article about the sites here:

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