Daily Archives: February 18, 2010

Computer simulations can aid learning just as well as directly observed phenomena, study suggests

Science Direct reports:

A study found that people who used computer simulations to learn about moon phases understood the concepts just as well — and in some cases better — than did those who learned from collecting data from viewing the moon.

The results suggest the use of computer simulations in science classes may be an effective and often less expensive and time-consuming way to teach some science concepts, said Kathy Cabe Trundle, lead author of the study and associate professor of science education at Ohio State University.

“These results give us confidence that computer simulations can be effective in the classroom,” Trundle said. “But now we need to do further study to see if it works in others areas of science.”

Trundle conducted the study with Randy Bell, associate professor of science education at the University of Virginia. Their study appears online in the journal Computers & Education and will be published in a future print edition.

The article by Trundle & Bell is available here (free access to abstract; subscription required for full article).

Note: Cross-posted with my Cognitive Science Blog.


Schools struggle to prevent inappropriate dancing

MSNBC reports:

Across the nation, public schools have been putting the brakes on grinding — also known as freak dancing — where partners repeatedly rub their pelvises together in a sexually suggestive manner. Some schools have canceled dances altogether. Others are implementing dress codes and even requiring students to sign agreements that spell out acceptable behavior. And some schools are turning to more unconventional means, such as Pacific Hills School in West Hollywood’s recent threat to turn up the lights and play Burt Bacharach if students started to grind, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Did a Philadelphia school spy on its students using school-issued Web cameras?

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Lower Merion School District officials used school-issued laptop computers to illegally spy on students, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

The suit, filed Feb. 11, says unnamed school officials at Harriton High School in Rosemont remotely activated the webcam on a student’s computer last year because the district believed he “was engaged in improper behavior in his home.”

An assistant principal at Harriton confronted the student for “improper behavior” on Nov. 11 and cited a photograph taken by the webcam as evidence.

Michael E. and Holly S. Robbins, of Penn Valley, filed the suit on behalf of their son.

They are seeking class action status for the suit.

When the computers were distributed to students, the district did not disclose that it could activate the cameras at any time, the suit alleges.

It claims the school district violated federal and state wiretapping laws and violated students’ civil rights.