New School Lunch Standards (USA)

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution. I published a similar post, regarding school food and child obesity, last September.

This time by Jacelyn Thomas [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post, especially as schools meals is such a big subject over here in the UK too.

New School Lunch Standards Aim to Reduce Child Obesity, But will it Really Help?

Obesity—it’s an ongoing epidemic that some medical experts argue should be treated as an addiction, just like alcohol and marijuana.  It’s a condition that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $92 billion over the years and has contributed to a plethora of health issues—especially for our younger generation. In fact, childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So who’s to blame for our youth’s rapid weight gain? School cafeteria lunch programs, many argue. It’s no surprise either. Children have access to an array of unhealthy food options for school lunch including greasy pizza, hamburgers, fried chicken tenders, French fries and the new favorite, Flaming Hot Cheetos.

In an effort to get to the root of the problem however, the United States Department of Agriculture finally launched a new initiative last week that will change the standard of school lunches, the first major school meal reform made in 15 years. The push was part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move!  Campaign designed to get children to get healthier.

Under the new standard, public schools are now required to double the amount of fruits and vegetables offered daily as well as offer only whole-grain products and low-fat or fat-free milk. The sodium and trans fat levels will also be reduced. Caloric intake will also be strictly monitored: students in kindergarten through the fifth grade will be limited to an average of 550 to 650 calories for lunch, for example.

“We want the food [children] get in school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables,” Mrs. Obama said in a press release.While Mrs. Obama’s intentions are good, the question still remains: do parents actually feed their children nutritious foods at home? Many studies point to no: families rarely dine together anymore, the fast growing number of single-mothers who are pressed for time resort to take-out or fast food to get a meal on the table, and sometimes lower-socioeconomic families can’t afford healthier food options, so they’ll feed a $1 Hot N Spicy McChicken off the value menu to their child instead.

Not to mention, it’s not like this sort of health conscious movement hasn’t been attempted already—a Los Angeles school district changed its lunch options in late January, offering healthier alternative food choices like wheat pasta, Greek salads and turkey burgers just to name a few. While most faculty members and parents were gun-ho about the changes, according to news reports most of the students find the healthy food options “inedible” and even prompt some children to venture off to the local corner store to smuggle-in chips and other salty snacks. Those who are not as sleuth-ey sometimes just skip lunch all together. So will this mandatory nationwide school lunch reform actually solve anything?

In short, bad eating habits are a choice—those that want to eat poorly are going to find a way to do so. And unless good eating habits are introduced to someone as an infant, reforming school lunches won’t help much—but it is a start. That said, it’s really important parents take the initiative to make some major food changes at home, otherwise the food changes made at school will be ineffective.

Byline:

This is a guest post from Jacelyn Thomas. Jacelyn writes about identity theft for IdentityTheft.net. She can be reached at: jacelyn.thomas @ gmail.com.

Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/5790773819/ 
http://www.flickr.com/people/usdagov/
Thank you for using Creative Commons.

Differences in the English Language in a Post-Cultural World

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution.

This time the post is by Angelita Williams [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post, especially as the differences between our written languages is such an issue (especially for me!!!)

Differences in the English Language in a Post-Cultural World

I know; the title of this post is quite a mouthful. Not to worry though; I plan to take this topic in stride, offering first a brief history of American English and how it has differed from British English. As for the “post-cultural” idea, I will in essence be describing the evolution of the English language in the midst of the uprising of the Internet as a primary communication tool, particularly for international correspondence.

Brief History of American and British English

Aside from natural differences in dialect and culture that occurred between the isolation of these two English speaking countries, one of the first “active” catalysts which has differentiated American from British English is Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language.

Make no mistake, Webster was a politically charged revolutionary aiming for American independence from British culture. While this may seem a bit extreme or xenophobic even for our modern, melting-pot standards, do remember that Webster’s dictionary was published just over a decade after the War of 1812. And at this time, most nations were much more filled with nationalist pride than our modern day standards (particularly in America … despite what our Republican party may have you believe).

To be honest, most of Webster’s dictionary involved hair-splitting differences, notably in spelling (such as color rather than colour or center rather than centre or defense rather than defence). Some innovations never even caught on, like his spelling of tung as opposed to tongue. While many of these changes were discrete, I feel that they opened the doors of divergence between the two dialects. Also, I find it interesting that these differences have become more noticeable now that text has become the most popular communication tool online (a noticeable jump from previous mass media such as television or radio).

Since that publication, most changes between the two dialects have been due to natural variations of usage trends and connotations of various words. There are few words with completely different meanings between the dialects; more likely, there are words with both multiple shared and different meanings between the two. For example, the word “fall” means “to descend” in both languages but also means “to become pregnant” in British English and “autumn” in American English.

Post-cultural English?

Before I dig into this idea, I would like to disclaim that this term is entirely made up by myself and stems from the idea that an unofficial standard English has developed through mass media and the internet. For a good time, this spoken standard was American-favored, as American media has left its mark in Europe and the rest of the world for quite a few decades in the late 21st century. As demonstrated by the guardian, Hollywood still has a strong influence over British culture.

However, what are we to make of the English language as it appears on the internet? The memes, the multitude of abbreviations (“wut r u up 2?”), and, most importantly, the slang that passes for the English language is beyond puzzling. And it is also incredibly hard to track or even assess on a holistic scale because every site seems to have a wide variance of what it views as acceptable language. Take, for example, Hipster Runoff as opposed to Wikipedia. Or, for better measure of how massive amounts of people use English on the internet, compare Reddit and 4chan.

While perhaps none of these sites (with maybe the exception of Wikipedia) have set any sort of standard for an online dialect of the English language, they do all seem to have self-contained dialects that also share odd similarities, an online community dialect so to speak. And it is difficult to tell which country (if any) is responsible for these trends in online dialect. If anything, I would say that it’s not necessarily one place as it is one range of age (mostly young adolescents but as old as mid-twenties) from which these trends in internet language originate.

If I am to see any good come of these trends in online communication (trust me, I cannot see many), it would be that those exhibits of language encourage advocates of thoughtful, well-versed words such as myself (and I assume many of you readers) to cling tighter to our written roots. For every online community filled with shallow, poorly executed thoughts, a community like this one has an opportunity to emerge and demonstrate the English language as it should be. Whether American or British, the most important aspect of English in its online form should be quality and clarity.

By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of online courses.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7 @gmail.com.

School Cafeteria Lunch Programs in the United States

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution.

This time by Lauren Bailey [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post, especially as schools meals (and meals on wheels for the elderly) are such big subjects over here in the UK too.

School Cafeteria Lunch Programs in the United States

With childhood obesity and childhood type II diabetes steadily on the rise in U.S. in the past decade, there’s no denying that our society’s diet needs to be altered. In the past, the term “obesity” was only associated with adults because only adults could become clinically obese. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, however, childhood obesity affects nearly 25 million children today and is termed one of the most threatening epidemics in U.S. history. The truth is, in most cases, childhood obesity is the result of a flawed lifestyle. Genetics do come into play to some degree, but the only way a child can be clinically obese is if they ingest more calories than they expend. For many years now, the nutritional value of lunches in school cafeterias throughout the country has been under great debate.

School cafeterias have served greasy pizza slices, sugary soft drinks, fattening desserts, and tons of fried side dishes for years and years. In the past, schools’ cafeterias and vending machines were stocked with processed foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. With our kid’s health classes constantly preaching a healthy diet to help fuel their minds, it’s a strange contradiction to serve extraordinarily unhealthy food choices to our young learners. In many ways, kids were trapped into an unhealthy diet by the delicious, but dangerous food choices their educators and mentors provided them. With Michelle Obama and celebrity chefs speaking out about childhood obesity and diet, movement is afoot to bring change to school lunch programs across the country.


Michelle Obama has made it her mission as First Lady to improve the health of America’s youth. In 2010, she lobbied to Congress for the Child Nutrition Bill that expanded the school lunch program and set new standards to improve the quality of school meals. These government guidelines have helped schools prepare lunches that include fewer fried foods, smaller servings, and no cupcakes. These small steps in school districts across the country have helped make school lunches healthier and more suitable for our youth.


While these changes in school guidelines nationwide have been a drastic improvement, there are several obstacles still in place. One of the most struggling aspects of improving the diets of our children (and our nation as a whole) is money. For some reason, healthier food costs more. This is a huge concern for public schools trying to improve their school lunch menus. Schools receive $2.68 for each free meal that they serve through the National School Lunch Program. This small wage is used to purchase the food, pay the labor, and maintain the facility. Needless to say, $3 just isn’t enough to easily purchase non-processed organic food. Schools are being forced to raise their prices for their lunches, causing some students and their parents to really struggle.


This all just feels very backwards. Why would it cost more to provide our children with healthier meals? Why should schools and parents be burdened with high costs just to keep their students (our future leaders) well fed and ready to learn? Our own health and especially our youth’s health should be of top priority. While things are looking up for school lunches in the United States cafeteria rooms, there is still much to be addressed. But, with the growing awareness of the health risks a poor diet poses and the growing concern about the obesity epidemic among America’s youth, things can only improve.


By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for best online colleges.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 @gmail.com

Higher Education Technology: Clickers in the Classroom

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution.

This time by Lenore Holditch [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post.

Higher Education Technology: Clickers in the Classroom

Clickers- they’re not just for television anymore. In fact, clickers are being used by students in the university and college classroom as a part of a classroom response system with the potential to encourage student attendance, participation and engagement in class. Let’s take a closer look at what we’re discussing, shall we?

Original courtesy of Kevin Hickey: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevhickey/2657567571/What Are Clickers?

Clickers are handheld tools given to students that allow them to respond electronically when the professor poses a multiple-choice question relevant to the lecture at hand, according to Carnegie Mellon, a global research university in the United States renowned for its technology programs.  The clickers serve as remote transmitters, collecting the students’ answers and immediately feeding them back to the instructor. The instructor then has the opportunity to analyze the data for his/her own purposes or immediately display the data on a screen in front of the class to discuss the answers provided.

A Few Uses of Clickers

The clickers have several uses. For example, prior to exam reviews, professors can use the classroom response system to pose upcoming exam questions to see how many in the room are grasping the material. The answers delivered via clicker reveal to the professor the areas he/she would do well to focus on in his/her upcoming exam review.

Another example would be a literature professor requiring students to click in their answers to questions posed on the most recent assigned reading at the start of class so the professor can get a feel for the students’ understanding of the passages they read.

A philosophy professor might poll the class on certain questions relevant to the class, such as “Do you believe in God?” or “Do people have free will?” and get an immediate response from the class displayed on the screen for how much of the class leans which way. This provides great material for philosophical discussion based on the answered delivered.

Benefits of Clickers

The benefits of utilising such a system are numerous as well. For instance, clickers encourage classroom attendance when instructors require students to “click in” their presence in class as they enter the lecture hall.

Along with this, a New York Times article pointed out that requiring students to make use of the clickers throughout the class essentially forces students to pay attention. After all, if a student is focused on responding to his/her professor with the clicker, he/she likely isn’t napping in class or text messaging a friend on a cell phone.

Also, just like pedagogical strategies that emphasize active learning, use of clickers encourages engagement in class by helping to keep students constantly thinking about what the next question might be. It is something else to add to a professor’s toolbox for keeping students thinking about class while in class.

Last, clickers encourage participation because of the anonymous nature of their recorded responses. Take the philosophical question described earlier, “Do you believe in God?” Some students might be too timid to raise their hand and respond to this controversial question if the professor were to ask for a show of hands and they feel like they are in the minority.

Adult Education Applications

For older adult and nontraditional learners (24 and up, working adults, parents), such technology would be an effective active learning tool for instructors, particularly considering such classes for adult learners that are not delivered online are often offered on nights and weekends. At the end of a long workday or workweek, adult students with jobs and family obligations nagging at them need all the motivation possible to stay engaged in class.

By providing immediate feedback through the classroom response system, promoting learning from peers, and encouraging the sharing of experience, the use of clickers supports adult learning styles. After all, adult learners often want to pick the brain of the other adult learners surrounding them, and the response system allows them to do that quickly.

Finally, digital literacy is of the utmost importance to older age groups, and will be needed by those who wish to retrain for another career.

By-line:

This guest contribution was submitted by Lenore Holditch, who specializes in writing about top online colleges. Questions and comments can be sent to: holditch.lenore @ gmail.com.

The Rhetorical Context: Straddling the Pond

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have raised the subject of the ‘AmericaniZation‘ of our language before. E.g. https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/americanization/. I’ve also discussed the tendency towards misunderstanding between our cultures too: e.g. https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/people-are-rude/ which was written after several years of trans-Atlantic comments on a YouTube posting.  Roger Elmore then kindly supplied a considered response to the matter back in September 2010.

Now, I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic consideration of our language. This time by Mariana Ashley [see by-line below]. mariana.ashley031@gmail.com

We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post.

The Rhetorical Context: Straddling the Pond

I.

As a writer, I’ve long been amazed by the wonderful ways of language, and as a college graduate who once studied abroad in Sydney, Australia, I’ve come to love, as well, the wonderful subtle differences between different languages, especially between my American version of English and the version that many of my Australian friends spoke and wrote. Likewise, my travels to London, where one of my college friends now lives, have also allowed me to experience the wonder of British English.

I do not mean, at all, to make these other non-American versions of English into an ‘Other’ form, a less-legitimate or unnatural version of the English I speak; no, my praise is meant sincerely, for I value these differences, and I appreciate how they have created an entire English language that is both distinct and various.

But, as we have often seen, these distinctions bring with them a certain trouble, especially when we are concerned with meaning and the context that provides such meaning. For example, guides abound throughout the Internet that are meant to help students going abroad better prepare for these different contexts and possible miscommunications that could arise simply because the same word might have two different meanings between America and Australia, or America and Britain.

II.

This impulse to educate those who will soon be crossing over into new linguistic contexts is a very good one, and I think there ought to be more of it. Yes, languages will always shift as cultures change over time; however, there are certain linguistic shifts that should not happen if a culture wants to preserve some aspect of its past. In this case, those cultures who hold the lever regarding their influence on others should consider exerting some cultural responsibility when it comes to wielding that lever. Likewise, those cultures being influence can resist in unique ways, thus reappropriating the cultural impact. Consider, for example, the ubiquitous McDonald’s restaurant, which I saw many of in Sydney. I learned that Australians call McDonald’s by a slangy term: Macca’s. Yes, it’s a bit rough, but I thought it was interesting to see how Australians had appropriated what is essentially an American export and made it their own in a culturally significant way.

I believe that writers and educators, in many ways, are the guardians of the English language, and because of this, we must be mindful of how we make use of it in different contexts. My training as a writer, and as a one-time teacher of composition/rhetoric to freshmen students, has always made me aware of this. I view all communication through the prism of the rhetorical triangle: audience, purpose/author, message. If a writer is aware of this rhetorical context, he or she can sincerely do his or her best to engage in appropriate forms of communication that respect linguistic differences between groups.

III.

Let’s consider this post here: an American writer, trained in American universities, writing for a British audience and trying to explain one way by which we all could better police the less pleasurable linguistic shifts in language as a result of American English’s jargon infiltrating British English. I’ve tried, as an American author, to connect with my audience by giving some of my past, by explaining the pleasure I’ve taken from interacting with other forms of English. I’ve also tried to dial down some of my Americanisms; in fact, ‘dial down’ is the first Americanism I’ve used here, I believe. Yes, there are conventions I’ve maintained, such as certain spellings, and I cannot completely avoid allowing my idiosyncracies as a writer to shine, but I like to believe that I have made an effort to meet the expectations of my audience.

I think that an understanding of the rhetorical context, in many instances, could help us to avoid unwanted linguistic baggage. Of course, this will certainly not solve the issue, as many Americans and Australians and British are not conscious of how their speaking and writing of English might affect others, so my solution here is merely an individual one. The hope, then, is that by our example, others might become inspired.

By-line:

Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031@gmail.com.

Eduvel’s 2010 in review

Healthy blog!The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

 

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow. >>

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,500 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 72 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 133 posts. There were 11 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb. That’s about a picture per month. There were also many of David’s Flickr pictures seen – but these are not counted in the stats.

Featured imageThe busiest day of the year was June 9th with 111 views. The most popular post that day was Building VLEs.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were friendfeed.com, twitter.com, village-e-learning.co.uk, morrighan13.wordpress.com, and digg.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for theories of learning, arcs model, el buli, monet painting, and european hierarchy.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Building VLEs June 2010
16 comments

2

iPhone 3GS Accessibility January 2010
4 comments

3

Action Plans November 2009

4

A bit about David May 2009
3 comments

5

iPad in Tulsa August 2010
6 comments

 

This is all pretty much as it came to me from WordPress itself  although I’ve edited the layout and added a couple of things. Happy New Year.

Oceans Apart

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have raised the subject of the ‘AmericaniZation‘ of our language before. E.g. https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/americanization/. There’s also a tendency towards misunderstanding between our cultures: e.g. https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/people-are-rude/ which was written after several years of trans-Atlantic comments on a YouTube posting.

Roger Elmore [rogerelmore24@gmail.com] has kindly offered a considered response to the matter. We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post.

Oceans Apart: American and British English and the Importance of Knowing the Difference

Whether we like it or not, English is a fractured language, and the deepest fault line is the Atlantic Ocean. As any American who has visited England knows, we Americans speak a completely different language than our English brethren do.

Of course, America’s relentless cultural imperialism has served in many ways to dilute the distinctiveness of British English, much to the chagrin of many residing in the UK. Matthew Engle, in a Daily Mail article published earlier this year, made his disappointment about America’s invading Americanisms clear, and reader responses demonstrated resounding agreement.

Although we could argue all day long about which English is superior, we Americans must acknowledge and respect the fact that American English isn’t the only one in existence. In our increasingly globaliz(s?)ed world, we should become more familiar with the differences in language before either engaging in business with UK partners, creating software programs that may be consumed by Britons, or simply going on holiday to England.

Engel does concede in his article that language usage inevitably expands and contracts, but our American cultural hegemony has expanded to a degree that is unfair. This is especially true of software and online or mobile applications. Engel notes:

“We have to be realistic: languages grow. The success of English comes from its adaptability and the British have been borrowing words from America for at least two centuries…But the process gathered speed with the arrival of cinema and television in the 20th Century. And in the 21st it seems unstoppable. The U.S.-dominated computer industry, with its ‘licenses’, ‘colors’ and ‘favorites’ is one culprit. That ties in with mobile phones that keep ‘dialing’ numbers that are always ‘busy'”

To American ears, Engel’s grievances may sound more like the grumblings of a language snob, but we can’t forget that being ignorant of the differences between American and British usage of English can have very real consequences for certain people. For example, eLearning students in the UK, especially those with learning disabilities like dyslexia, are unfairly marginalized when they must use American software that requires learners to spell words in American English or that uses phrases and expressions with which an English learner would be unfamiliar.

For Americans who would like to become better acquainted with British usage, grammar, and spelling, there are various sources on the Internet from which to find out more. Wikipedia gives a fairly comprehensive overview, and an additional Engel article notes more Americanisms that have “snuck” into British usage.

Above all, if both Americans and Britons alike educate themselves about the differences–not just in language usage but in terms of culture, too–between us, we can avoid misunderstandings and celebrate what makes our common but diverse mother tongue so unique.

By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Roger Elmore, who writes on the topics of hotel management degree. He welcomes your comments at his email Id: rogerelmore24@gmail.com.