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B

Bartoon, A Igreja e os padres homosexuais

(Last edited: quarta, 30 novembro 2005, 8:49 )
a

Bill Gates diz que dentro de 5 anos 40 a 50% lerão a imprensa online

(Last edited: domingo, 30 outubro 2005, 6:03 )
Bill Gates diz que dentro de 5 anos 40 a 50% lerão a imprensa online

BILL GATES EM MEDRÕES

(Last edited: domingo, 5 fevereiro 2006, 10:48 )
PÚBLICO • DOMINGO, 5 FEV 2006

António Barreto

No dia em que Bill Gates se
passeou por Lisboa, um
canal de televisão, não
recordo qual, decidiu fazer
uma breve reportagem em Trás-os-
Montes. Não sei se foi de propósito ou
por coincidência, mas foi apropriado. Os
jornalistas apresentaram-se em Medrões,
aldeia e freguesia do concelho de Santa
Marta de Penaguião, distrito de Vila Real.
Visitaram a escola primária que recebe,
pelo que se percebeu, duas a três dezenas
de crianças da localidade e da vizinhança.
Trata-se de escola tipicamente rural. Uma
senhora, mãe ou professora, informa que
a escola tem já banda larga. Mas os alunos
têm de se deslocar a pé, alguns a dois ou
três quilómetros, pois não há transporte
público, nem sequer municipal. Por
aqueles lados, para que se saiba, quando
faz frio... faz frio! E quando chove... chove!
A escola não tem facilidades para tomar
refeições, pelo que as crianças têm de ir a
casa almoçar e voltar para as aulas da tarde.
Para muitos, quatro percursos por dia,
cinco a dez quilómetros entre caminhos de
montanha e estrada nacional com curvas
e carros. O abastecimento de água faz-se a
partir de um poço, pelo que os alunos, por
precaução, levam consigo umas garrafas
de água potável. Soubemos também que
a escola, perto da estrada, não tem vedação
nem protecção. Segundo informa
a cidadã, quando sai uma bola fora do
recreio e cai na estrada, os miúdos, com
a imprevidência habitual, correm a apanhá-
la. Mas, motivo de orgulho, a escola
tem banda larga!

O PRESIDENTE DA CÂMARA DE SANTA
Marta de Penaguião foi interrogado sobre
o assunto. O homem falava com uma
arrogância inusitada. Não via riscos nenhuns
na ausência de vedação. Quanto
à água, nunca tinha havido problema.
Acrescentou que se esse era motivo de
reivindicação, “não havia problemas, a
Câmara ia trazer água da companhia”. E
asseverou que não haveria transportes
camarários, pois que a tanto não era obrigado!
A lei, disse, “só obriga a assegurar
transportes em distâncias superiores a
três quilómetros”. Sobre a possibilidade
de organização de uma cantina ou sala de
refeições, garantiu, com fastio, que “havia
planos”. Apesar de incomodado com estas
perguntas descabidas e estes problemas
menores, o autarca não escondia a sua satisfação
pela oportunidade de falar para a
televisão e mostrar a sua rústica soberba.
E tinha banda larga!

ENTRETANTO, NA CAPITAL, BILL GAtes
dava brilho ao carrossel organizado pelo
governo em volta dele. Deram-lhe uma
grã-cruz. Fez discursos e deu entrevistas.
Recebeu o presidente da União Europeia
Durão Barroso (disse bem, recebeu), que
não quis faltar ao beija-mão. Fez uma conferência.
Deu uma aula a jovens seleccionados.
Presidiu a um Fórum global. E, em
cerimónia pública, acolheu oito ministros
oito e um Primeiro-ministro um, com os
quais assinou dezoito protocolos de cooperação
dezoito. Por via destes, a sua
empresa vai associar-se à modernização
da Administração Pública, dos serviços
fiscais, da educação, da ciência e de tudo
o resto. Os beneficiados serão um milhão
de jovens um.

APESAR DE SABER QUE A BANDA
larga acontecerá de qualquer maneira,
com ou sem governo, o mesmo sucedendo
com os computadores e a informática em
geral, não nego a eventual bondade destes
planos. Ou antes: espero para ver. Se
resultarem, fico encantado. O que choca
é o frenesim do Governo, a sua obsessão
com a propaganda. Como já toda a gente
percebeu, tivemos, a coincidir com as eleições
presidenciais e com os respectivos
desaires governamentais, um turbilhão
de iniciativas e de cerimónias de pura
publicidade. Uma empresa que vai construir...
Um grupo que pensa fazer... Uma
multinacional que está disposta a encarar
a hipótese... Pessoas que querem “fazer
coisas”, como agora se diz... Boas ou más,
as promessas sucederam-se. Sempre com
ministros a correr e o primeiro-ministro
a saltar. Acordos de princípio, intenções,
ideias que ainda não são projectos,
projectos que ainda não são programas,
propósitos, promessas de investimento,
tudo serve para inaugurar, assinar e organizar
“eventos” solenes. Energia, ciência,
computadores, imobiliário, vacinas, móveis,
tudo contribui para montar o circo
do governo. A maior parte dos projectos
está incompleta, é ainda incerta, falta saber
quanto investimento vem e quanto o
governo oferece, mas nada disso incomoda.
Pormenores... Certo é que, deste modo,
podem fazer-se ainda, para cada projecto,
mais duas ou três inaugurações.

O “EVENTO” BILL GATES SUPEROU
evidentemente tudo e todos. Sempre era
o homem mais rico do planeta. Uma das
multinacionais mais poderosas do mundo.
O maior filantropo da história. Só me
pergunto qual seria o outro país europeu
que se submeteria a este circo e se envolveria
nesta cerimónia de propaganda
própria de atrasados.

ENTRETANTO, EM MEDRÕES, A EScola
primária tem banda larga, não tem
vedação, água, cantina ou transporte
para as crianças. A escola rural de Medrões
já não é típica de Portugal, o que
não justifica o estado em que se encontra.
As escolas rurais estão a desaparecer a
ritmo acelerado. Muitas vezes, em pior
situação estão as escolas dos subúrbios
das grandes cidades. O desenvolvimento
desigual é assim, sempre foi. Há sectores
e áreas de actividade onde as vanguardas
avançam e melhoram, deixando para trás
os atrasados, os mais pobres ou os mais
isolados. Sabemos que é assim e espera-se
que os adiantados sirvam de estímulo para
que os outros, por cópia e emulação, sigam
o exemplo. Isto é o que vem nos livros
e o que a realidade nos diz todos os dias.
Mas não deixa de ser chocante que as autoridades,
os responsáveis pelas políticas
públicas, se entreguem sistematicamente,
com volúpia e exibicionismo, a preferir o
vistoso e a investir no que parece moderno.
E que sejam as próprias autoridades
a cavar o foço da desigualdade.

COM OU SEM BANDA LARGA, UM PAÍS
deveria ter bem mais orgulho nas suas
escolas aquecidas no Inverno, nos seus
transportes escolares, na água potável
nas escolas, nas cantinas para estudantes.
Para já não falar de alunos que tenham
positiva em matemática, que aprendam
português e que saibam escrever. Ou que
não passem quatro horas por dia diante da
televisão e três na Internet. Ao apetrechar
as escolas de equipamentos e materiais
pedagógicos indispensáveis, o governo e
as autarquias estão apenas e exclusivamente
a cumprir o seu dever. Nada mais.
E não o cumprem quando não fornecem
água quente, aquecimento, transportes
ou cantinas. Nada mais simples. Por que
deveríamos ficar excitados quando as
autoridades dão foros de generosidade
e de visão estratégica aos seus próprios
actos de cumprimento do dever? E por
que são tratados de pessimistas todos os
que justamente mostram que as mesmas
autoridades não cumprem deveres bem
mais simples, mas menos vistosos?

O ESTADO E AS AUTARQUIAS NÃO
cumprem os seus deveres quando deixam
as médias dos exames de Matemática, Português,
Física e outras baixar a medíocres
profundezas. E não cumprem os seus deveres
quando não conseguem examinar
e reformar os programas, os professores
e os métodos de ensino da matemática.
Como os não cumprem quando deixaram
desenvolver-se um enorme e monstruoso
universo, o dos manuais escolares, onde
proliferam erros e disparates. Ah! Como
eu desejaria viver num país que se sentisse
orgulhoso das suas escolas confortáveis,
das suas crianças a falar e escrever
um português decente, dos seus jovens
a perceber o essencial da Matemática e
dos seus manuais escolares rigorosos e
adequados! Quanto eu gostaria que o meu
país não ficasse deste modo encandeado
com as lentejoulas e o pechisbeque! Como
seria bom que o governo do meu país cumprisse,
em silêncio, o seu dever! ?

Blackboard vs....

(Last edited: quarta, 7 dezembro 2005, 4:45 )

Blackboard vs....

Last weeks news that Blackboard was buying WebCT, its top competitor for course management systems, caught many academics by surprise. Now that they have had a little time to think about it, campus technology administrators and faculty members who use the systems (and alternatives) offer a variety of views on what the merger means.

Some analyze the combination from the perspective that some big company (or a few companies) will dominate the course management industry. Clearly now that company is Blackboard, which in its expanded form will be doing business with thousands of colleges. To the companys fans, the combination of forces will lead to improvements and allow for more innovation. Others fear the loss of competition will take away the pressure that has led Blackboard to improve its customer support in recent years (and encourage it to jack up prices).

And many are skeptical of Blackboards pledges to continue to offer and support WebCT products. Thats not because they necessarily distrust Blackboard, but because of a pattern in which such promises are frequently made by technology companies, post-merger, and abandoned a few months later. Many chief information officials, from different types of institutions, when asked privately about Blackboards promises to keep both companys services, said, Yeah, right or If you believe that one, I have a bridge to sell you, or variations on that theme. None had specific information that questioned Blackboards claims, but all felt that they had been burned in the past, and werent going to believe anything just now.

Still other campus computing officials said that all the attention being given to the purchase of WebCT by Blackboard obscured the more significant trend in course management: the rise of open source competition. While open source advocates acknowledge that Blackboard is very much atop the market, they cite a number of leading colleges and universities that are going the open source route. And they think the merger may encourage others to follow suit.

The Blackboard Behemoth

Scott E. Siddall, assistant provost and director of instructional technology at Denison University, said that when he first heard about BlackCT, (as many are calling the growing Blackboard, even though it is keeping its name), I thought that things are not going to get any better. Since then, hes been trying to decide if that judgment was too harsh.

Denison is a Blackboard customer, and Siddall said that the concept of its products is good, and is popular with most faculty members. And Siddall said that he hoped the merger would allow for economies of scale and improvements on which Blackboard might now be able to focus. Siddall, who is a leader of the chief information officer group at Educause, said that the improvement he most wants to see is in customer support.

Right now, at this moment, I have a kid taking a test in Blackboard and he cant store, and we cant figure out the problem, and I know that if we call Blackboard, were not going to be able to help that student. We call and we dont get answers, Siddall said.

Tim Kaar, an instructor in Web design and multimedia at Elgin Community College, said he worried about the impact the merger would have on pricing. Kaar was on an Elgin committee that considered options for course management. He said that he liked Blackboard products, but not its prices. The college ended up going with Desire2Learn, a smaller Canadian company that is making some inroads in the American market.

Kaar said he worried about the impact of the merger on prices."The megaplayers in the software industry, when they dominate, their pricing model becomes: Lets pick the client up by their ankles and shake and see what comes out of their pockets, he said.

Other college officials are much more optimistic about the expanded Blackboard. Stephen G. Landry, chief information officer at Seton Hall University, said Blackboard did have real problems with customer service a few years ago. They were a small start-up company and they expanded their customer base much more rapidly than they were able to expand their support staff, he said. But Landry said that he considers Blackboard very responsive now and that there has been marked improvement in the last 18 months.

Landry, who recently applied to join a Blackboard advisory committee, said that he thought part of the skepticism among his colleagues was cultural and was unfair. Theres a lot of suspicion of corporations in higher education. We tend to be non-corporate in our world and to think that automatically something like this is going to be bad for everybody, he said. But corporations merge all the time, and products improve and prices drop and if they dont drop, someone else comes into the market.

Phyllis C. Self, special assistant for distance education at Virginia Commonwealth University, called herself a very satisfied customer of Blackboard. While there are problems from time to time, she said, What software product works perfectly? She said that the merger could be either positive or negative. She saw the potential for improved services and products and also the potential for worse service and higher costs.

She said it all depends on how the two companies are combined. Self cautioned against assuming that the merger would be either good or bad just because a giant is being created. Bigger is not always better, just as big does not need to be bad, she said.

In an interview Friday, Matthew Pittinsky, chairman of Blackboard, said that the combined company would indeed be better. He said that Blackboard was committed to taking the strengths of both companies for use in the future, and he cited service responsiveness as one of WebCTs strengths. (On the topic of Blackboards record in that area, he acknowledged past problems, but said that the company had made great improvements in customer support, and that he believed any lingering complaints were a legacy of a few years ago.")

Pittinsky was unequivocal in saying that WebCT customers should not fear that their services will disappear. We are absolutely committed, he said. It would make zero sense for us to do otherwise than to continue to market and support both products.

The Open Source Challenge

While many CIOs were focused on the fallout from Blackboards absorption of WebCT, other experts on technology in academe said that the real shift going on is away from corporate provided course management altogether.

While Blackboard may dwarf all the open source alternatives, two of them Moodle and Sakai have strong support, and Sakai is attracting the participation of a number of institutions that are influential in higher education generally and in technology specifically. In open source, all the course management software is available free and colleges can modify it and brand it however they want. Sakai was founded by Indiana University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of Michigan. In less than two years, it has quickly expanded to reach 80 colleges and universities, including community colleges and institutions abroad. Today, Sakai will announce the creation of a foundation to give the project a permanent infrastructure.

When the University of California at Merced, the newest UC campus, started operations this fall, it was using only Sakai to support its courses. We didnt want to create a vendors system, said Richard M. Kogut, chief information officer at Merced.

Until open source came along, he said, institutions had a buy or build decision, but open source has advantages of both in that a college can start off with a good base, avoid paying high fees, and then customize it. The danger of an informal collaboration like open source, he said, is that it wont last. But Kogut said that the strong backing Sakai has from top universities convinced him of the projects stability, and that Sakai is speedier than established companies at dealing with problems.

Kogut was formerly at Georgetown University, which uses Blackboard, generally to good reviews, he said. But things happened on Blackboards schedule and bugs got fixed when they got fixed, he said. Sakais team members at various campuses, he said, have been incredible in quickly fixing any problems, even though there is not the traditional contractual relationship of vendor and customer.

The sense of community is very important to Sakai proponents. The Foothill-De Anza Community College District, generally considered a leader among community colleges, joined Sakai early, not only to use the technology, but to contribute software it has created. Vivian Sinou, dean of learning technology at Foothill College, said that when she first heard about Sakai, she was dubious that a bunch of research universities would focus on software from a teaching perspective. But she was quickly won over, is now on the board, and is helping other community colleges get involved.

The whole emphasis is on collaboration and learning environments, she said, so the tools being developed by the research universities have value for her college, and the tools being developed by Foothills development team are being used elsewhere. Sinou noted with pride that a Sakai learning tool Foothill had developed would soon be used at the University of South Africa, which recently joined Sakai.

At the same time, prominent research universities that were not initially involved in Sakai are now taking a look. Rice University, a WebCT client, is currently doing a pilot project with Sakai with the goal of shifting to open source soon.

One of the big drivers to look at Sakai was the fact that with an open source, you can take that product in the direction that is your interest, said Carlos Solis, manager of educational technologies at Rice. You dont need to rely on a commercial vendor to integrate things that arent offered. Solis said, for example, that WebCTs software has disappointed Rice faculty members with its multimedia capabilities, and they like being able to take Sakai software and just adapt it.

Joseph Hardin, chair of the Sakai board and director of the Collaborative Technologies Laboratory at the University of Michigan, said that flexibility is a big part of Sakais growth. Anybody can take it and use it and revise it and redistribute it any way that they want to, he said. So you get software that you can do whatever you want with.

Of course to do what you want with it, you need to have people who know how to customize software and then you need a staff to support that software, and that makes things tricky at some colleges. Kaar, of Elgin Community College, has worked with Moogle and likes it, but he said that when he was on the committee looking at course management options, one reality was knowing that the college didnt have the money to hire more people. We would have had to hire additional people, and getting new hires requires an act of God.

Or as EduBlogr put it, on behalf of those who are in the classroom and might like open source: We are not the customers. We are the users. The customers are our bosses and their bosses, the VPs who sign the POs. Relatively few institutions especially small and medium-sized institutions can afford open source. Pay $75,000 a year for software licenses, or hire 1.5 FTE system administration/programmer-analysts at $60,000 to support open source. Even I can do that math.

One possible outcome as a result is that more colleges may be using open source and Blackboard at the same time. Both Hardin of Sakai and Pittinsky of Blackboard said that they wanted to work together. Pittinsky said that it was too early to tell how significant [Sakai] is going to be, but he stressed that Blackboard and open source are not mutually exclusive, and that he anticipated that some colleges would want to use Blackboard campuswide, but have Sakai applications used in certain disciplinary areas, and Pittinsky said that he applauded such an approach.

But there are also clearly tensions between open source and big corporations. Pittinsky noted that Blackboard had applied and been rejected for membership in Sakais program for corporate partners. Hardin said that Blackboard never met the eligibility requirements of having systems that support Sakai services.

Other companies may also come into play for open source institutions. David Wiley, an assistant professor of instructional technology and director of the Center for Open and Sustainable Learning at Utah State University, said that he was concerned that the RFP process favors large companies like Blackboard. While smaller companies are starting to offer support for open source, colleges would need to compare an open source proposal and such a business proposal against a single plan from Blackboard.

Wiley thinks this is too bad because hes not a fan of mergers, which leave you with half the performance for twice the price.

But he also cautioned against believing that open source, Blackboard, or any software could improve teaching. A mediocre instructor can go on being mediocre in Sakai, he said. Where he sees the advantage of an open source approach is for the professor who wants to be creative with technology and for colleges that encourage faculty members to be creative in that way. In the Blackboard world, if you have an original idea, you can request that they do it, and wait and see, he said. In the Sakai world, if you have an original idea, you may well be able to hire a computer science undergraduate to do it for you right away.

Scott Jaschik


Blatant copying' in coursework

(Last edited: quinta, 3 novembro 2005, 10:28 )
Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2005, 13:08 GMT o.gif
dot_629.gif
'Blatant copying' in coursework
student writing
Examiners wondered how much was students' own work
Examiners say they detected "blatant copying of material from the internet" in some of this year's coursework for GCSE English.

Staff at the AQA exam board are said to have been surprised at some of the more obvious examples.

They also said some schools gave students so much help it amounted to "a kind of mass plagiarism".

Another board, Edexcel, said teacher guidance stretched or even went beyond what was acceptable.

Disqualification

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) watchdog is shortly to publish the results of a two-year inquiry into cheating in school exams.

o.gif
start_quote_rb.gif Often moderators would find several paragraphs beginning with exactly the same sentences, and paragraphs would be arranged in identical order end_quote_rb.gif
Examiners' report
Coursework is expected to be one of the main areas identified as a problem.

The AQA examiners' report deals with the version of the board's English syllabus taken by most candidates this June - more than 424,000 in all.

It said there had been considerable publicity about the availability of essays on the net.

Moderators - who check samples of the coursework which has been marked internally by schools - "found some quite serious instances of blatant copying of material".

They warned that candidates found to have cheated would always be reported and in serious cases most probably would be disqualified.

"Moderators have expressed some surprise at the more obvious examples they have seen," the report said.

The style of some written pieces was so different from the rest of the candidates' work they wondered how teachers had failed to challenge it, especially as they knew the candidates much better than the moderator.

'Scaffolding'

In some schools many candidates responded to a set text in such similar ways it was hard to tell them apart.

"Often moderators would find several paragraphs beginning with exactly the same sentences, and paragraphs would be arranged in identical order."

Schools are allowed to use "scaffolding" - giving students an outline of the structure, to marshal their thoughts.

"Scaffolding is undoubtedly an effective strategy for helping students to structure writing," the examiners said.

"But a distinction has to be made between using scaffolding as a teaching tool for individual learners and using it en masse with classes for a single task which is going to be submitted for assessment."

They felt that in many cases it restricted candidates rather than helping them.

"In the most severe cases, moderators found themselves having to make judgements about whether there was so much scaffolding and so little of the candidate's work that it was a kind of mass plagiarism."

'Teaching by numbers'

AQA's staff were not alone in having concerns.

At Edexcel, examiners said there were very few examples of blatant plagiarism, though it was "still very much an issue".

They added: "More insidiously worrying is the growth of what one moderator described as 'teaching by numbers' and there were other references to 'over reliance on teacher notes' and 'similar responses within a centre'.

"In such cases teacher guidance to candidates stretches what is acceptable to the limit (and beyond) by providing over detailed essay plans, which specify what should go in each paragraph, including the points to be made and the quotations to be used," their report said.

Among other things this made external moderation very difficult, if not impossible, "because it is unclear what work is the pupil's own".

Edexcel's design and technology examiners saw more instances this year of candidates writing "unsuitable and inappropriate comments about their teachers and the exam in general".

They added: "This must be discouraged as it can be, and in some cases, it is, very offensive."