Sunday’s New York Times had a disquieting article about a potentially dramatic increase in substance abuse among teens for the sake of improved academic performance:
The boy exhaled. Before opening the car door, he recalled recently, he twisted open a capsule of orange powder and arranged it in a neat line on the armrest. He leaned over, closed one nostril and snorted it.
Throughout the parking lot, he said, eight of his friends did the same thing.
The drug was not cocaine or heroin, but Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that the boy said he and his friends routinely shared to study late into the night, focus during tests and ultimately get the grades worthy of their prestigious high school in an affluent suburb of New York City. The drug did more than just jolt them awake for the 8 a.m. SAT; it gave them a tunnel focus tailor-made for the marathon of tests long known to make or break college applications.
“Everyone in school either has a prescription or has a friend who does,” the boy said.
It seems like I’ve seen the site before, but Gideon Burton at Brigham Young University has digested a good deal of information about classical and Renaissance rhetoric at Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. The site “is intended to help beginners, as well as experts, make sense of rhetoric, both on the small scale (definitions and examples of specific terms) and on the large scale (the purposes of rhetoric, the patterns into which it has fallen historically as it has been taught and practiced for 2000+ years).”
In his article Sunday in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeffrey Young comments:
[Pooja] Sankar, a recent graduate of Stanford University’s M.B.A. program, leads a start-up focused on finding a better way for college students to ask questions about course materials and assignments online. Her company, Piazza, has built an online study hall where professors and teaching assistants can easily monitor questions and encourage students who understand the material to help their peers.
At first blush, the service seems unnecessary. Students can already e-mail questions to professors or fellow students, and most colleges already own course-management systems like Blackboard that include discussion features. But Ms. Sankar feels that such options are clunky. She says professors are finding that Piazza can save them hours each week by allowing them to post answers to a single online forum rather than handle a scattershot of student e-mails.
Piazza is a Web site that refreshes with updates as new questions or answers come in. Professors simply set up a free discussion area for their course on the service at the beginning of the term and invite their students to set up free accounts to participate. Ms. Sankar says that students typically keep Piazza open on their screens as they work on homework, often staying on the site for hours at a time.
For more information, including a Piazza tour and demonstration version, see here.