Posts Tagged ‘Education’


Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

January 6, 2010

Posted by: Chad M. Gesser

Twitter: @profgesser


Are you a digital native or a digital immigrant? Nick Skytland, a rocket scientist with NASA, shares his “Digital Natives” presentation on Slideshare, embedded below.

Do those students brought up with technology as part of their educational experience have an advantage in the 21st century learning environment?  What about in the workplace?

If you are reading this blog post, you obviously “inhabit” some portion of the digital environment.  I for one would likely be considered a digital immigrant: meaning, I had to learn the tools of technology to fit in to the digital culture.  For many younger students though, the internet, email, YouTube, Facebook, amongst many other information technologies are just part of their everyday lifestyle.

Do you think the social change brought about by information technology is a good or a bad thing?  Why?  Do you feel your information technology skills are sufficient for being successful in the global society?


Is Education A Civil Right or a False Promise?

July 17, 2009

Sociologists can divide societies into two broad groups based upon class mobility: open societies and closed societies. Open societies allow for people to move up or down the class structure. For example, a person might be born into a poor family, but later become rich through work, talent, and luck. A closed society, however, doesn’t allow for social mobility; if you are born poor, you will die poor. Of course, most societies don’t fall neatly into these extremes, but instead fall somewhere between.

Some sociologists hold that our society is closer to an open system, while others believe that it is closed for many people. Social scientists who believe that our society is more open argue that it provides “ladders” for motivated people to move upward in both social and economic class. Among the most common of these mechanisms for upward mobility is education. The belief is that all children have the opportunity to acquire an education that will afford them a life-improving career, for example as a lawyer, dentist, engineer, doctor, or nurse. Depending upon their desire and ability, it is argued that most people have the ability to fulfill their life potential through a government-provided education. However, other researchers hold that education is not equal in society, so neither is opportunity.

Watch the video below and if you like, respond to one of the talking points below:

1. How closely do you think education is linked to civil rights in our country?

2. Do you think the author is right and it is time for another civil rights movement? How would you remedy this situation?

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Equal Before the Law?

June 10, 2009

Some sociologists contend that people are not treated equally in our court systems. They hold that a person’s education, sex, income, and age are factors which might influence whether they are arrested, what they are charged with, whether they are convicted, and the severity of punishment. An example might be a speeding ticket. A ticket with a $250 fine might be a bigger punishment for a person who makes $15,000 a year than for someone who makes $350,000 a year. This might suggest a person’s income should be taken into account when determining a fine.

I guess you have to be looking at your speedometer and your dashboard clock on this road.

I guess you have to be looking at your speedometer and your dashboard clock on this road.

The associated press reported that in Helsinki, Finland, a man was fined $103,000 for doing 46.5 MPH in a 30 MPH zone. The speeder’s fine was not determined based on the severity of his crime, but on his income. In 1999, the driver reportedly made $5.2 million as a executive of a large corporation. The courts later reduced to the fine to $5,245, but many Finns were upset. They charged that people are not being treated equally by the Finland court system! Some members of Finland’s Parliament are demanding the processes of determining fines should be changed. They contend that no matter who you are, you should be treated equally under the law—sex, race, age,and income should not matter!

What do you think? Would you like to post a response to this article? If so, select a topic from below:

1. Do you think people are affected differently by laws based upon social characteristics such as race, age, sex, education, or income? If so, do you think the law should take these characteristics into account when determining if someone should be arrested, fined, or jailed? Why?

2. What would be some advantages and disadvantages of applying Finland’s approach to calculating speeding fines in America? What would be some advantages and disadvantages of applying it to more serious crimes such as drug sales?

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Does Social Class Still Influence Life Course?

April 26, 2009

Some sociologists have suggested that in “advanced societies” such as America, Britain, Canada, and France, class isn’t as relevant in determining individuals’ life courses as it is in other societies. Sociologists define life course as the opportunities and choices people make. In simpler terms, it is the major and decisive happenings in your life such as marriage, family size, education, or career direction.

In the past, a person’s economic status, religion, race, ethnicity, or sex could limit or expand their choices and opportunities. Usually, these characteristics determined social position in a social stratification or a social ranking. The key thing to remember is that people in different positions were afforded different choices.

50004british-flag-postersRecent research in Britain conducted by Dr. Atkinson and presented at the British Sociological Association Annual Conference suggests social class might still have a significant effect on a person’s life course. In other words, the education level, wealth, and social connections a person’s family has may affect the choices that person has in life.

The research suggested that working-class people in the study were less able achieve a higher education than upper classes in part because they couldn’t afford a private education, tutors, and other expenses associated with preparing for and attending college. This might explain why only 13% of the British working class go to college compared to 44% of the British middle class.

What do you think? Would you like to respond to this question? If so, please post your response to one of the discussion topics below:

1. Do you think your parents’ social status affected the important choices you had about the direction of your life?

2. Do you think your life goals are affected by your social status? Do you think your opportunities are affected by your social status?

3. Which do you think has the strongest effect on your life course: your social status or your parents? Why?

4. How could you integrate the findings described in the study above to support the strain theory of crime?

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The Function of Academic Competition in Education

April 26, 2009

U.S. Secretary of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education

For some time, select schools in America have been experimenting with the idea of ending some forms of competitive grading. Some sociologists suggest that this would eliminate something called “stigma.” Stigma is a life changing, negative, social label. The underlying idea is that students will become demotivated if they receive poor or failing grades—bad grades causes more bad grades.

What do you think? If you would like to respond to this topic, please choose a discussion point below:

1. Do you think students should be graded for their work? Why?

2. How can traditional grading both help and hurt students’ motivation to learn? What do you think determines which effect it has?

3. If schools don’t grade students’ work, how can future employers judge whom to hire? How would this affect processes of higher education admissions?

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