Kiersten Marek:

Lessonwriter.com is a Rhode Island-based education startup that has designed a great tool for helping teachers.

Originally posted on LessonWriter Blog:

As a middle school teacher I often faced classrooms of thirty plus students with ability levels that spanned four to five different grades levels. There was so much variance in ability, skills and academic preparedness that I might as well have been teaching in an old-fashioned schoolhouse with a row for each grade level.  I was always told that the answer was differentiated instruction.

The problem was most of my administrators had little advice on how to do this.  One year, my principal promised to present the staff with a well-differentiated model lesson, and instead he delivered an incredibly-challenging single-level, single-strategy lesson and asked the staff to journal about how infuriating an experience it was to sit through a lesson that didn’t meet our needs.  He said the point was to promote greater empathy for our students and motivation to work harder at differentiating- still he offered no answer…

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Netroots Nation Opening Day

Here’s what is on the agenda for opening day at Netroots:

9:00am – 10:15am

From Defeat to Triumph: Erasing the Death Penalty in America
Taking the Offense in State Elections
The Heart of the Beast: How the Grassroots is Taking on Big Banking
Agitation and Inspiration: The Power of Art and Cultural Organizing

10:30am – 11:45am

Handcuffs, Conventional Wisdom and Dirty Oil: Activism’s Big Win Against the Keystone XL Pipeline
Collaboration, Not Co-option: Labor, Community Organizations and Occupy Wall Street Working Together
Organizing Lessons from SOPA and PIPA
Beyond Occupy: What Does a New Economic System Look Like?

3:00pm – 4:15pm

Whose Law Is It Anyway? ALEC’s Influence on State Legislatures and What We Can Do About It
The Battle for Congress: Q&A on the 2012 Elections
Liberate Your Ass: Why Sexual Freedom is Key to Fighting the Right
Occupy Goes Home: The Occupy Movement and the Foreclosure Crisis

4:30pm – 5:45pm

Protecting Voting Rights in Communities of Color in 2012
Marriage Equality: Past, Present and Future
Emerging Movements: The Face of New Progressive Online Communities
Why the Fed is the Most Important Economic Issue You Know Nothing About

7:00pm – 8:30pm

Opening Keynote featuring Eric Schneiderman

Blogging for Dollars

George Monbiot, on AlterNet writes about paid internet trolls posing as private citizens, using comments on internet sites to sway opinion and create an illusion of popular demand. First, in China…

Anyone writing a comment piece in Mandarin critical of the Chinese government, for example, is likely to be bombarded with abuse by people purporting to be ordinary citizens, upset by the slurs against their country.
But many of them aren’t upset: they are members of the 50 Cent Party, so-called because one Chinese government agency pays 5 mao (half a yuan) for every post its tame commenters write. Teams of these sock-puppets are hired by party leaders to drown out critical voices and derail intelligent debates.

And here in the US, where the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ decision opened a flood of corporate money into political campaigns, it’s still good strategy to work undercover…

I first came across online astroturfing in 2002, when the investigators Andy Rowell and Jonathan Matthews looked into a series of comments made by two people calling themselves Mary Murphy and Andura Smetacek. They had launched ferocious attacks, across several internet forums, against a scientist whose research suggested that Mexican corn had been widely contaminated by GM pollen.

Rowell and Matthews found that one of the messages Mary Murphy had sent came from a domain owned by the Bivings Group, a PR company specializing in internet lobbying. An article on the Bivings website explained that “there are some campaigns where it would be undesirable or even disastrous to let the audience know that your organization is directly involved … Message boards, chat rooms, and listservs are a great way to anonymously monitor what is being said. Once you are plugged into this world, it is possible to make postings to these outlets that present your position as an uninvolved third party.”

There’s more in AlterNet. It’s short and packed with information– read the whole post here.

And backing up AlterNet’s point, Talking Points Memo captured an ad on Craigslist for an internet commenter paid to create ‘buzz’ on multiple sites.

AlterNet is covering the use of social media by corporations for advertising, PR, and political lobbying. Back in 2007 we covered the ‘astroturf’ efforts of the Bush administration in ‘Ministry of Truth Tells Us All We Need to Know’.

I’ve had many face to face discussions about the President, and I know that discouragement and disillusionment are real. I think that history will show that Barack Obama did much to keep the economy from crashing into another Great Depression, and I hope that health care reform is a beginning, since it’s so far short of the universal health care we need. It’s the job of citizens to keep tabs on the people we elect, and hold them accountable.

Still, some of the trashing of Barack Obama from almost day one on progressive sites like AmericaBlog and BuzzFlash makes me suspicious. Check the source. Check it on the ProJo editorial page too. They use a lot of very partisan writers, and RW organizations like to use bland names like Club for Growth.

The net news sites also use a lot of content that should not be read uncritically. This week there’s an article in the ‘sexual health’ section of Yahoo News called ‘The Pope, Condoms and HPV–What Pope Benedict XVI May Not Know’ that was written by free-lance writer Sheryl Young, whose bias is clear if you check out her site.

She’s surely entitled to her opinion, I only wish that article was labeled more clearly as opinion. (It’s tagged ‘commentary’, but placed in ‘sexual health’, not ‘op-ed’) Ms.Young is not a doctor, nurse or health educator, but she uses a lot of medical information to back up her preference for ‘abstinence-only’ sex education.

She cites one study to support her argument. The students in the study were 12-13 years old and followed for 2 years. It is appropriate to tell children that age to say no to sex. They’re not even of legal age to consent.

The children were randomized into groups and different teaching programs were tested. The ‘abstinence only’ group reported less sexual activity than a control group that got general health teaching. The ‘comprehensive sex education’ group also measured better than the control group.

Would a program that delays sexual experimentation for 12-year-olds work for 16-year-olds? That’s the next question. Sheryl Young cites a reputable study, but it doesn’t ‘prove’ that abstinence-only sex education is better than comprehensive sex education.

All the sex education programs were more effective than the control program of general health information. I would conclude from this study that it is good to teach children the facts of life in middle-school and not leave it to the Fox network and the Kardashians.

Long digression. But consider the source. Look up the source. It’s hard enough to sift through conflicting opinions, even more when it’s so easy to create an image on the net. And there are those who try to game the net.

I just read a book on ‘Urban Legends’. These are the stories that you heard at work that had to be true because they happened to the boss’ brother-in-law’s neighbor. Remember the Choking Doberman? Urban Legends were very big in the late 80’s. I started to be able to recognize them by their format. I wonder if they were some kind of CIA experiment? To track the spread of misinformation? Did I just start an Urban Legend? Can I make money off it?

No. But I can be bribed with blog hits. Nobody’s pure.

Wii Can Cure Anxiety and Depression, Too?

(cross-posted from my private practice site at kierstenmarek.com)

Now that we’ve gotten that pesky election out of the way, we can talk about really important things like Self Help Video Games!

Seriously, though, there is interesting news for therapists and gamers out there — a whole new fleet of video games are being developed to help people combat problems such as smoking and being overweight, with video games for depression, anxiety, and anger management not far off, I’m sure. Are therapists about to be replaced by Nintendo? Maybe for some people, but more than likely this transition will mean that for a select group of people, therapists will have a new tool to use to help people help themselves.

Read the full article at sfgate.com.

More on Podcamp Boston

Yesterday was my first experience liveblogging an event, and as you can see from the skimpy blog post, it was a challenge — getting on wifi, staying online when I paused to listen more intently to presenters, typing on the small hand-held computer screen, shutting off my technology so that I could interact with the people around me. But overall, it was an amazing first experience.

For me, though, what rises to the surface after an experience is almost better — that’s the real grist for the mill. For me, reflection is as important as experience, since it allows me to comparatively assess the depth of new information received and how it will impact my own thoughts, plans, ideas and actions.

I’m not going to go into detail, but the bottom line is that attending Podcamp helped me further conceptualize some possibilities for Kmareka as well as some possibilities for how to use new media in psychotherapy. To that end, I will be doing a lot more research and writing both online and offline in the coming months.

I want to thank the presenters and participants I met at Podcamp who took the time to talk with me and share their ideas. Your listening ears and engaging responses have bolstered my enthusiasm for my work:

Philip Robertson, Oovoo

Susanne Sicilian, Marketingprofs.com

Cristos Lianides-Chin, Dexrex.com

Jim Spencer, JBS Partners

Deborah Block-Schwenk, Writing and Social Media Marketing

Larry Lawfer, Yourstorys

Robert H. Blatt, Audio Engineer and Podcaster for the New York Sun

Crystal King, Sr Principal, Communications and Global Marketing, Ca.com

I’d also like to thank the people at Utterz.com for the really cute stuffed cow! My younger daughter is enthralled with it.

Liveblogging from Podcamp Boston

I’m at Podcamp Boston, broadcasting live from my husband’s iPaq. At the moment, I’m listening to a panel discussion on social media and marketing. I’ll be updating throughout the day.

The discussion now is on how social media is giving us so many new choices for what to pay attention to, as opposed to the world of just TV.

Best Practices for social media and PR:

–engage the audience and let them talk about you — Obama’s approach incorporates this.

–consumers are now controlling vendors more because of social media.

–smaller innovators can work more quickly and nimbly.

–concerned comments about companies managing liability of employees producing work with social media.

Lunchtime!

I’m now listening to Larry Lawfer talk about successful video blogging.

– “Work hard to make new mistakes, otherwise you are not progressing.”

–facilitate conversations for others, help them connect with others, and you will rise in their estimation.

–make good sound, otherwise people will click off.

Edutopia: New Media’s Potential to Improve Education

(Cross-posted from my private practice site.)

Edutopia has a fantastic June issue with a focus on using new media in education. In particular, they have a video about Albano Berberi, a blind high school student who uses assistive technology to do things like computer programming, video-game playing, and composing musical scores that he then performs on violin. Here is a link to the video.

Another interesting short article, “Wii Love Learning,” discusses the use of the Nintendo Wii in an Indiana elementary school. The educational potential of the Wii is just beginning to be recognized. Expect more uses for this versatile high tech game platform in the future.

But also, remember to unplug! The need for exercise in our culture — real live running around and engaging in activities that stretch and build muscle, raise your heart rate, your pulse, and all the rest, are just as important as ever. As this article indicates, while there is evidence that many things can enhance cognitive functioning, the one thing with the strongest research base indicating positive brain functioning enhancement is exercise.

Also, the need for face-to-face communication and relationships is still essential. The experience of having a conversation with someone when you can look into their eyes is still something we all need, and no amount of social utility networks and blog surfing can replace this.