Twitter finds a place in the classroom

Social media and education
Students tap away at their cell phones, laptops and iPads during Enrique Legaspi’s high-tech history lesson. A technology enthusiast, Legaspi learned how to incorporate the social network into his 8th-grade curriculum while attending the annual Macworld convention in San Francisco earlier this year. “I had an aha moment there,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘This is going to really engage my students.”Teachers across the country have been incorporating Twitter into classrooms for a few years, but the site’s adoption by educational institutions appears to be limited. A survey of 1,920 U.S. teachers published in April found that 2% of them use the micro-blogging site in college lectures. About half those polled said the use of Twitter and Facebook in class is harmful to the learning experience, according to the study from consulting firm Pearson Learning Solutions. Still, Legaspi is hopeful. When he explained the plan to his students at Hollenbeck Middle School in East Los Angeles, he learned that only one of them had used Twitter. But most, he said, live on their phones. So getting them started wasn’t difficult. Students who don’t have Internet-connected gadgets of their own can use the class computers. A teacher for eight years, Legaspi said experience has taught him that a small group of students tend to dominate classroom discussions. During the seminar at Macworld, other teachers reported seeing broader student participation through Twitter.
Source:, June 9, 2011


Crowdsourcing put to good use in Africa

Global development
Back in 2008, a group of bloggers based in Kenya came up with an idea in response to the wave of ethnic violence sweeping the country in the wake of elections: Ushahidi – meaning testimony in Swahili – aimed to use crowdsourcing to track a fast-moving crisis. Since then, the open source platform has been deployed 12,000 times across the globe, from earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand and Australia to the tsunami in Japan this year. Now it is preparing to launch next week its next big venture, Huduma, which will use crowdsourcing in Kenya to monitor the effectiveness of services such as health and education. The idea behind Huduma (the Swahili word for service) is that people can send – by text, email or Twitter – reports on the performance of services in their district, explains Erik Hersman, one of the founders of Ushahidi. This will then be mapped on the Huduma site and the responsible authority will be identified. So he has a warning for those who see Ushahidi’s crowdsourcing technology as a silver bullet: “A tool is only as good as the people who use it.”Having said that, Hersman believes technology is transforming Africa at a pace that no one ever predicted. The exponential growth of the internet connectivity across the continent offers huge opportunities for wealth creation, he suggests. But so far the bulk of Ushahidi’s work in Africa has been around governance issues. In 2010, Ushahidi was used for the first time in a systematic way in votes – a referendum in Kenya and an election in Tanzani
Source:, May 19, 2011

Speaking up in class, silently

Wasn’t it just the other day that teachers confiscated cellphones and principals warned about oversharing on MySpace? Now, Erin Olson, an English teacher in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, is among a small but growing cadre of educators trying to exploit Twitter-like technology to enhance classroom discussion. Last Friday, as some of her 11th graders read aloud from a poem called “To the Lady,” which ponders why bystanders do not intervene to stop injustice, others kept up a running commentary on their laptops. The poet “says that people cried out and tried but nothing was done,” one student typed, her words posted in cyberspace. “She is giving raw proof,” another student offered, “that we are slaves to our society.” Instead of being a distraction — an electronic version of note-passing — the chatter echoed and fed into the main discourse, said Mrs. Olson, who monitored the stream and tried to absorb it into the lesson. She and others say social media, once kept outside the school door, can entice students who rarely raise a hand to express themselves via a medium they find as natural as breathing. “When we have class discussions, I don’t really feel the need to speak up or anything,” said one of her students, Justin Lansink, 17. “When you type something down, it’s a lot easier to say what I feel.”
Source:, May 13, 2011

A country of dictators

Demonstration Virus
One of the classical images of the Egyptian revolution: a toothless, shabby man looking triumphantly at the camera after Hosni Mubarak’s resignation became known, “we will be bigger than America and Europe, ” he said. “Watch us. ” Egyptians are nationalistic. So when, in imitation of Tunisia they managed to disperse their oppressor, they immediately thought that they were a example to their Arab brothers and sisters, that they honored their Pharaonic past once again and that they had proven to be a potential candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. That feeling of superiority and chauvinism goes very deep.

Therefore the demonstrations will continue. Some of the protesters want to be in the Guinness Book of Records with the largest demonstration ever. An Egyptian journalist pointed out through twitter, that people should focus on a joint goal At the moment the goals are too diffuse.. But many are now tired of demonstrating. The irritation against the protesters has been growing. An Egyptian writer complained on television that they first had to deal with one dictator, and now with lots of dictators: the young people who now say that it would have never succeeded without them, and who want to hold on like grim death. A columnist for the newspaper Al Ahram said that people become addicted to protesting and that the Tahrir Square has become a Kaaba for unemployed young people who spend all day keeping lists of who was there during the uprising and who was not.
Source:, April 13, 2011

Reciprocity improves care for the elderly

Give and Take
Frail elderly people often receive care without being asked what they want or need. The care significantly improves when caregivers take reciprocity in the relationship into consideration. Even though most care is given with good intentions, recipients of care often don’t see it that way.

Prof. Dr. Vernooij-Dassen from the University Medical Center Saint Radboud: “The sense of dependency and impairment, can greatly decrease your self-image and self esteem. With a decrease in say over your own life, your autonomy, independence and ability to care for yourself are under a lot of pressure. Particularly in a situation where one’s dependency is emphasized, even if that is not done consciously, people tend to give up. Studies show that care is much better accepted and effective, when there is room for reciprocity in the relationship. Frail elderly people don’t want to be only on the receiving end, but they want to give as well.
Source:, April 4, 2011

Netherlands under the spell of optimism

Increased cheerfulness
We are still not a society that always smiles when the sun is shining, but the Social Cultural Planning Office signals a trend in the national state of mind: more and more Dutch people see that The Netherlands is heading in the right direction. Since the introduction of the Citizen Perspective Research project, the Social Cultural Planning Office had found that one forth of the people were constantly optimistic about the state of the country.

From the 13th and latest measurement, the image arises that optimism has increased dramatically. Now one third of the Dutch people get the feeling that everything will turn out fine. “An unexpected optimism that we have never measured before” says SCP-reasercher Paul Dekker. Where does this increase (with the side note that 56 percent of the Dutch people are not that positive about the future) in buoyancy comes from? The SCP-reaserchers believe that it has to do with the new cabinet. According to the reaserchers, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his colleagues make a positive impression. A growing number of Dutch people associate the new government with ‘a fresh sound’, decisiveness and the habit of calling a spade a spade when it comes to naming national problems.
Source:, April 4, 2011

Girls are smarter than boys

Emancipation of girls
Girls are smarter than boys. They do better in languages, follow higher education more frequently and are more likely to get a diploma. This is evident from figures published Wednesday by the National Education Inspection. More girls than boys attend an academically orientated secondary school. The percentage of boys is higher in secondary schools specializing in vocational training .

In primary school, the number of boys and girls is about equal. Girls are generally better in reading comprehension and spelling; boys in mathematics. In special education the percentage of boys is 66 percent. More boys than girls have to redo a year at the primary as well as the secondary school level. In higher education, more women than men stick to their first choice of study and are less inclined to drop out.
Source:, March 30, 2011