Parent Assisted Learning Grants

This grant program will award up to $100,000 in instructional materials to each grant recipient. Districts that are working to improve parent involvement are invited to submit applications to receive proven, standards-based instructional resources that help parents effectively contribute to their childrens academic success.


Gulf Coast students share stories via video

For the children in Gulf Coast communities that were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, telling their stories and sharing their emotions is a valuable step in the healing process. This past summer, many of these students had the chance to do just that by scripting, shooting, and editing their own digital films, thanks to a series of technology summer camps in the affected areas.

Organized by the Pearson Foundation, the philanthropic branch of educational publisher Pearson Inc., along with cellular provider Nokia Inc., these “Digital Arts Summer Camps” have given approximately 500 middle-school students from New Orleans, Plaquemines Parish, La., and Bay St. Louis, Miss., the chance to learn valuable technology skills while also channeling their creativity.

Working together in small teams over the course of intensive, week-long workshops, camp participants used the latest in cell-phone and computer technologies to script, shoot, and edit digital films that combined their personal stories and reflections about Katrina with their hopes for the future of their communities. The results are an astonishing group of personal films that chronicle the students’ experiences.

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of Katrina, about 300 camp participants and their families gathered in New Orleans to show off their creations. During the Mobile Learning Institute Gulf Coast Film Festival, held at the W New Orleans Hotel on Aug. 28, the students also learned their films would have a wide distribution–and they’ll become part of the permanent historical record for future generations.

Officials from Nokia and the Pearson Foundation presented discs with all 150-plus student-created films to libraries based on the Gulf Coast, including the American Red Cross, Tulane University Library, Historic New Orleans Collection, Hancock County Historical Society, New Orleans Public Library, and Plaquemines Parish Public Library.

In addition, the National Geographic Channel and the Smithsonian Network announced plans to share these films with a national audience. The films will be broadcast on National Geographic on Demand beginning in September, and they’ll air on the Smithsonian Network later this year.

A report on the project appears in the September print issue of eSchool News, and you may view a video clip about the students’ work here:

“These are amazing films,” said Lisa Ling, a correspondent for the National Geographic Channel and host of the Aug. 28 event. “And these are absolutely amazing young people. They’ve helped report the impact Hurricane Katrina continues to have on their communities and in their own lives. In the process, they’ve demonstrated how important it is for people all over the United States to continue to care about the residents of the Gulf Coast.”

The first camp was held in Plaquemines Parish, an area 10 miles south of New Orleans that was devastated by Katrina. Terry Smithson, educational strategist for Intel Corp. and founding manager of the Hurricane Educational Leadership Program (HELP), a coalition of more than 30 ed-tech companies and organizations dedicated to restoring education to Gulf Coast communities, described the genesis of the summer-camp program:

“We went to Plaquemines Parish, and here’s what became painfully obvious: There are no playgrounds; there are no shopping malls; there are no movie theaters; there are no sports complexes; there are no golf courses–I mean, everything is gone. And when you think about all these children, thousands of children across the Gulf Coast who are sitting in 10- by 20-foot [FEMA-issued temporary housing] trailers–they have no outlet for anything to do through the summertime. So Mark Nieker, the president of the Pearson Foundation, came up with the idea of doing the summer digital-arts camps.”

The camps were split into four class periods. The first of these was an English-language period, in which students were asked to write about their Katrina experiences; the second was a digital-arts period, in which students learned to use college-level movie-making software to take the Katrina story written in the first period and make it into a movie.

The last two periods of the summer camps were a physical-education period and an elective period that featured cooking and drama.

How meaningful was the experience for students?

“The students would come up and say [something like], ‘This [movie-making course] was so important to me, because this is my first outlet to be able to share what I think. I can’t talk about this at home. My parents are always fighting; they don’t have any money, because they are waiting for insurance payments; they haven’t gotten anything. We don’t want to bring [our feelings] up, because it’s a burden.’ Those were the kinds of comments we have received,” Smithson said.

At the Aug. 28 film festival, about 40 computer workstations were set up, each containing a complete collection of the students’ films. Students could show their own movies to their families and also view the works of others.

“This was a great way for everyone involved to get a sense of the breadth of the program,” said Nieker of the Pearson Foundation. Giving a complete archive of the students’ work to local historical societies is also a way for the project to have “some lasting impact,” he said.

In addition, Nokia and the Pearson Foundation announced that the digital-arts program would be extended this fall to schools in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Plaquemines Parish, and Algiers Parish, La., and to schools in Bay St. Louis/Waveland, Miss.–so this kind of work can be done with students throughout the school year.

“This event is really something special for our children,” said Sandra Reed, a principal in Mississippi’s Bay/Waveland School District. “They’re presenting their work to their families and to other students. They’re seeing that people all over the country are eager to help them share their stories. Most important, they’re seeing that all over the Gulf Coast, we’re still all rebuilding and recovering from Katrina together.” Samples of the videos that students have produced can be viewed at the program’s web site.


Pearson Foundation/Nokia Mobile Learning Institute

HELP Arrives microsite


ASCD Outstanding Young Educator Award

ASCD, in its search for what works in schools, has decided to seek out, highlight, and celebrate the accomplishments of a young educator who achieves excellence and equity in teaching and learning. The award recognizes an emerging educational leader and shares her or her exemplary practices with the education community.


Get on TRAX Fall Grant

Three grants of 100 SmartTRAX student licenses will be awarded to schools (one each for an elementary, middle, and high school) based on need, enthusiasm, technology integration, innovation, and methodology.


New search engine offers homework help

USA Today reports that AOL launched StudyBuddy, a new homework aid, just in time for the new school year. StudyBuddy is a brand-new, free search engine that is pre-screened by teachers and librarians. AOL’s vice president for education and consumer services said the search engine was created because of complaints that regular search engines simply aren’t useful for homework. A premium version of StudyBuddy is available for $4.95 per month, while the free version is ad-supported; it carries fewer ads than other AOL sites, and none on the homepage…


Report: States fall short on academic standards reports that according to a new report released by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, more than half of U.S. states received either a “D” or “F” overall for elementary and high school academic standards in math, science, and history. Nine states earned an “A” or a “B.” Of those states, California, Indiana, and Massachusetts all received “A” grades for all subjects, while four states, Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming flunked overall. The report examined each state’s standards and the guidelines for what each student was expected to learn for each grade or grade cluster…


National Veterans Day Poster and Essay Contest

The Paralyzed Veterans Association’s contest gives school-aged children the opportunity to creatively express their gratitude for America’s veterans. This year’s theme, “Veterans: A History of Service and Sacrifice,” hopes to promote awareness of and appreciation for our nation’s 26 million veterans, as well as give parents and teachers an opportunity to teach students the long history of sacrifice and accomplishments by America’s veterans.


Critics slam RIAA copyright advice to students

CNET reports that the Consumer Electronics Association and the group Public Knowledge are among those who issued a joint statement condemning some statements in a RIAA video which is pending release to the nation’s universities. The video suggests that students should always be skeptical of free content and that copying a song is always illegal. During the seven-minute video, a narrator attempts to explain copyright law and other issues related to downloading music on the web. The video narrator claims at one point that: “Making copies for your friends, or giving it to them to copy, or e-mailing it to anyone is just as illegal as free downloading.” This statement appears to conflict with information included in the FAQ section that accompanies the video. The RIAA claims that so far, 350 universities have expressed interest so far…


Technology and Media Services for Individuals with Disabilities (Steppingstones)

This award program is intended to improve results for children with disabilities by promoting the development, demonstration, and use of technology, by supporting educational media services activities designed to be of education value in the classroom setting, and by providing support for captioning and video description that is appropriate for classroom use.


Challenge Grants

These grants help institutions and organizations secure long-term improvements in and support for their humanities programs. Awards are made to museums, public libraries, colleges and universities, research institutions, historical societies, public television and radio stations, state humanities councils, and other nonprofit entities to improve the quality of their humanities activities and their financial stability.