Free classroom data loggers for measuring energy waste

iScience will loan teachers a free HOBO data logger kit for two months. The logger kit will include instructions on setting up the data logger and ideas on where teachers can monitor energy usage in their schoolsmeasuring temperature, relative humidity, light usage, and more. Teachers submit their class results online after they are finished. Every teacher who uses a HOBO data logger with his or her students to investigate energy waste and submits the results will get to keep their data logger free of charge (a $200 value) and will be eligible for one of three grand-prize awards: an 8-piece HOBO classroom logger set.

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$50,000 in computers and accessories for “popular schools”

Urge your school’s stakeholders to show support for your school and its technology initiatives by voting in the Mobile Computer Lab Contest. The five schools with the most votes on the FutureReady site each will win a mobile computer lab provided by Dell, Microsoft, and Intel. Each prize includes Dell notebook computers, a mobile cart, wireless access point, and a Dell laser printer. Your extended school community also can vote on the site.

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$3,000 to improve mathematics competence

This grant supports professional development to improve competence in the teaching of mathematics for one or more full-time classroom teachers. Grants worth a maximum of $3,000 will be awarded to person(s) currently teaching at the K-5 level. Proposals should outline the professional development plan and address how the proposed project will improve the teacher(s)’ competence and affect students’ learning. Any acquisition of equipment must support the proposed plan but not be the primary focus of the grant. Recipients must have three or more years of teaching experience in grades K-5. Entries will be judged on the following criteria: clarity of the professional development plan, how it will enhance the applicant(s)’ mathematical knowledge, and its anticipated impact on students’ learning.

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$10B gaming field inspires new curricula

Responding to the digital media industry’s appetite for skilled workers and the tastes of a new generation of students raised on Game Boy and Xbox, a growing number of schools and universities–including at least one Ivy League institution–now offer courses in video game design.

Down the hall from Shawn Lawson’s classroom at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), college students study steel design and software engineering. In Lawson’s class, they learn how to digitally animate a ball bouncing through a flaming hoop.

“We need to give him a real squish when he lands,” Lawson advises his students.

Animation I, Cognition & Gaming, and Computer Music are being offered as part of the year-old minor in game studies at RPI, one of dozens of schools that have added courses or degree programs related to video gaming in recent years.

RPI, which plans to offer a major in the field next year, graduated 27 gaming minors in its first year and expects a jump this year.

“The concept of designing good video games, or designing good human-computer interactions–that’s what I’m interested in,” said Chelsea Hash, a senior with a video game minor and a major in electronic arts.

From Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute to the University of Colorado, at least 50 schools around the country now offer courses in video game study, development, or design, according to industry groups.

Some of the schools offer full-blown academic programs. The University of Washington offers a certificate in game design; the Art Institute of Phoenix gives a bachelor of arts in game art and design; and the University of Pennsylvania has a master’s in computer graphics and game technology.

Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, said the high number of schools adding programs in the past few years shows how the game industry is maturing.

Della Rocca said that in the early “Space Invader” days of game development, one developer could mentor a handful of workers. Now, games can cost $10 million to develop and require 200 workers, making the industry hungrier for specialized skills.

RPI humanities dean John Harrington said the idea of teaching about video games in college “brings out the Puritan in some people,” but he said the technology-oriented school can’t afford to ignore the booming field of digital media.

Administrators at RPI say they have developed a serious academic program that marries technology and creativity.

Marc Destefano, who teaches the psychology of play, system dynamics, and game theory in his introductory course, wants students to appreciate the interplay of mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics that he says makes a video game work–be it “Pac-Man” or “Resident Evil.”

It’s not all about design, however: Katherine Isbister teaches students about the social and emotional aspects of gaming. Her research lab looks more like a teen’s dream living room, with a sectional sofa, plasma-screen TV, and a shelf full of video games. Less obvious are the cameras that can focus on players’ faces.

Many of the academic programs at RPI and elsewhere are still new and are just starting to become a feeder system for the $10 billion-a-year video game industry.

Della Rocca compares it to the emergence of film studies programs decades ago. Dismissed at first, they now produce big-name directors in a field considered by many to be a serious art form.

“Just like when rock and roll came of age, everybody wanted to be a rock star–as video games have come of age, everyone wants to be a developer,” said Carolyn Rauch, senior vice president of the Entertainment Software Association.

Links:

RPI’s Minor in Game Studies
http://www.rpi.edu/dept/hss/igsm/IGame/gamestudies.htm

International Game Developers Association
http://www.igda.org

Entertainment Software Association
http://www.theesa.com

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Feds ease testing rules for storm-ravaged schools

The Washington Post reports that, under pressure from hurricane-stressed states, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced yesterday that the agency will for one year relax academic accountability standards under the administration’s signature education law, allowing schools affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita to recover without facing penalties for poor annual assessments. To qualify, schools would have to show that displaced students hurt test scores.

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$2,000 to encourage technology education programs

The purpose of this grant program is to recognize and encourage the integration of a high-quality technology education program within the school curriculum. Criteria include evidence of an effective, high-quality technology education program; documented success in the integration of technology education with other academic subjects; and plans for professional development via the anticipated grant.

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$225,000 for ideas about technologys impact on learning

Teachers, administrators, and other school employees are encouraged to submit their ideas for how technology can impact teacher lesson plans and educational goals. Submitting their ideas online can earn school employees a chance to win an Intelligent Classroom provided by Dell and Microsoft.

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Up to $50,000 for astronomy and space science projects

The Initiative to Develop Education through Astronomy and Space Science (IDEAS) Grant Program, administered by the Space Telescope Science Institute, is an independent education and public outreach grant program that does not have direct attachment to a science research program. The spirit of IDEAS is to provide start-up funding to explore innovative, creative ways to integrate astronomy and space science into United States education and public outreach venues through partnerships between astronomers or space scientists and education professionals. Proposals must reflect an astronomy/space science focus, as well as an innovative approach.

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$1,000 to encourage tech-ed teachers professional development

The Foundation for Technology Education announces a grant made available through the generosity of Dr. William David Greer, Jr. Its purpose is to encourage the participation of classroom teachers and supervisors in technology education professional development. The successful applicant will receive a check in the amount of $1,000 to offset the expenses of attending an International Technology Education Association conference.

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