Students look to the skies in this new inquiry-based activity from NASA

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are collaborating on a new educational activity that encourages students to research the question, “Do people everywhere see the same number of stars in the night sky?” In answering this question, students will discover why people might not see the same number of stars, depending on where they live. The Star Count Project is a part of NASA’s Student Observation Network, a collection of online inquiry-based activities that challenge students to find answers to research questions by making their own observations and interpreting them with NASA data. There are many factors that affect how many stars can be seen at night, and NASA and the CSA are inviting U.S. and Canadian students to study those factors. CSA astronaut Steve MacLean, a member of the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the next mission to the International Space Station, is supporting the project. MacLean will perform the Star Count experiment during the mission. While in space, he will upload star observation information into a database via the Star Count web site. Students will learn how to estimate the number of starts observed based on random samples of sections of the sky. They’ll also add to the database by entering their location, number of stars observed, and information about their viewing conditions, then compare their observations with MacLean’s and others.

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How to vie for a share of billions in new funding from the Gates Foundation

As you can well imagine, June 15 was a magical day for education grant-seekers across the country: If you read the front page story in the August edition of eSchool News (“Ed to win with Gates, Buffett”), you know that billionaire investor Warren Buffett announced he would begin giving his fortune away to five foundations now, rather than waiting until his death. And, the recipient of the biggest chunk of his donation will be the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has championed education reform.

What makes this gift so incredible is the dollar amount that will be added to the assets of the Gates Foundation on an annual basis. Although some articles have identified the gift as having a value of \$31 billion, it’s hard to know what the actual amount will be at this point. That’s because Buffett has committed to giving a specific number of shares of Berkshire stock to the Gates Foundation and four others each year. The value of this gift will fluctuate depending on the stock’s value at the time. Based on its value today, the gift is worth about \$31 billion–but if the stock’s value goes up, as Buffett has said he hopes it will, the actual value of the entire gift could be a staggering amount over the next few years.

There is an interesting stipulation to this gift, which will have a significant impact on the grant-making potential of the Gates Foundation. According to Buffett, the Gates Foundation will have to spend, annually, the full dollar amount of his contribution–as well as the amount it is already giving from existing assets. This is somewhat unusual in the world of private foundations, as most foundations do not spend the entire amount of their contributions in a given calendar year. This stipulation will force the Gates Foundation to award larger gifts, give more grants, or a combination of the two.

It will be fascinating to see what impact Buffett’s gift will have on the education grant-making of the Gates Foundation. If you visit the foundation’s web site, you’ll notice most of the grants that have been given to date are for large sums of money–and they are intended to have an impact on numerous schools in the same district or, in some cases, an entire state. There are few grants given to isolated schools serving small numbers of students.

If you’d like to be one of the recipients of the new grant monies and you don’t come from a large, urban school district, I would encourage you to start discussions with your state education department. Try to come up with a statewide initiative that could impact all of the students in your state, not just those in your district.

Review the values of the Gates Foundation and the letter from Bill and Melinda Gates that can be found on the web site, as well as the information that is included about the foundation’s education initiatives. You will see that the Gates Foundation is currently supporting high-school reform efforts, so be sure your initiative falls under this area of interest. Further reading of the information shows that the Gates Foundation is looking for strong partnerships between the private and public sectors, so a statewide initiative should have a nice variety of powerful collaborators involved. I would also encourage you to contact the foundation’s current grantees and ask them about their experience in securing funding.

Keep your eyes and ears open over the next few months (and years) to see what changes might occur to the Gates Foundation’s grant-making activities in light of this new contribution. You might also want to take a look at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which, according to an article in Fortune magazine, plans to “expand into public education” as a result of the additional funds it will receive from Buffett’s decision.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
http://www.gatesfoundation.org

Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation
http://www.buffettscholarships.org

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CoSN Launches New Initiative to Help District Technology Leaders Calculate the Value of Their Investments

Washington, DC–Sept. 29–The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has launched its newest leadership initiative, Value of Investment (VOI). This initiative was created to help district level technology decision makers assess the costs and evaluate the benefits of proposed technology investments before making acquisition decisions.

“Across the country, school leaders are purchasing hardware and software to enhance teaching and learning,” said Rich Kaestner, Project Director for CoSN’s Value of Investment and Total Cost of Ownership Leadership Initiatives. “With the advent of new classroom and administrative technologies, schools need a way to assess the benefits and costs of their options. Our new VOI methodology seeks to apply the business concept of ROI (Return on Investment) in an arena where outcomes are measured not in dollars and cents but in the education of our children. This new initiative provides tools to take the guesswork out of evaluating education technology projects.”

Sponsors of the initiative include Intel Corporation, with additional support provided by Gateway and SchoolNet.

“Intel applauds CoSN’s effort to support schools in making informed decisions regarding projects dedicated to improving student achievement,” said Eileen Lento, education strategist, Intel Corp. “The K-12 tool set should help the educational system answer the calls for greater accountability and prepare the students for success in the 21st century global economy by assisting school leaders in evaluating the costs and benefits of proposed technology projects.”

The Value of Investment initiative includes a web site, www.edtechvoi.org, that provides a set of rigorous assessment tools to assist education technology leaders articulate the benefits of education technology projects. The Project Cost Estimator tool helps education technology decision makers calculate the cost of and identify potential savings from proposed projects. The Project Benefits Worksheet helps school leaders demonstrate how these investments can help achieve educational goals. The tools are designed to be a companion to the well-known free CoSN/Gartner K-12 TCO tool. The project web site outlines a five-step approach for determining the Value of Investment:

1. Estimate Project Costs

2. Assess Risk

3. Calculate Anticipated Savings and Revenues

4. Measure Qualitative Benefits

5. Evaluate Results

“Though many educators and district level administrators are tasked with procuring education technologies, few have the tools they need to truly evaluate the value of their investments,” said Kaestner. “The VOI project will help these leaders to state concisely the anticipated benefits and costs of proposed projects.”

About the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) is the country’s premier voice in education technology leadership with a mission to serve as the national organization for K-12 technology leaders who use technology strategically to ultimately improve teaching and learning. CoSN provides products and services to support and nurture leadership development, advocacy, coalition building and awareness of emerging technologies.

CoSN leadership initiatives include: Accessible Technologies for All Students (www.accessibletech4all.org); Cyber Security for the Digital District (www.securedistrict.org); Data-Driven Decision Making (www.3d2know.org); K-12 Open Technologies (www.k12opentech.org); Taking Total Cost of Ownership to the Classroom (www.classroomtco.org); Value of Investment (www.edtechvoi.org) and the development of the Council of School District Chief Technology Officers (CTO Council).

CoSN’s membership includes a unique blend of education and technology leaders, policy makers, and influencers from the public and private sectors. Our audience includes key technology leaders (often called Chief Technology Officers–CTOs) in leading-edge states and districts, policy makers, private sector leaders, as well as those technology leaders who wish to accelerate their districts’ or states’ systemic technology use. Visit www.cosn.org or phone 866.267.8747 to find out more about CoSN’s programs and activities supporting leadership development to ensure that information technology has a direct and positive impact on student learning in elementary and secondary schools.

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Institute of Museum and Library Services and National Endowment for the Humanities Partner to Spur Innovation

Washington, DC–Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Dr. Bruce Cole, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, announced today that they will dedicate \$1.5 million to Advancing Knowledge: The IMLS/NEH Digital Partnership. Through this new partnership, IMLS and NEH are joining together to help teachers, scholars, museums and libraries take advantage of developing technology. These new digital tools will aid in the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge about our past and our culture. The announcement was made at the ninth meeting of the National Museum and Library Services Board.

The NEH and IMLS partnership creates a new funding opportunity-Advancing Knowledge: The IMLS/NEH Digital Partnership. These grants will bring together museum, library, archives, and IT professionals with humanities scholars to spur innovative projects. In addition, IMLS and NEH will work together to encourage libraries, museums and cultural institutions to take part in NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants.

Dr. Radice noted that, “We are eager to get this partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities underway. Libraries and museums connect people to information and ideas. These grants will be a catalyst for innovation and new collaborations.”

Dr. Cole said, “Our partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services will combine our agencies’ talents to find new ways for digital technology to advance humanities scholarship and education. The ultimate goal is to make more resources more broadly available to more people.”

They noted that digital technology developments to support science research are outpacing the development of such advances for the humanities. Collaborative work of the two federal agencies can help turn that around. Advancing Knowledge: The IMLS/NEH Digital Partnership will encourage digital scholarship, develop and maintain open standards and robust tools, and create extensive and reusable digital collections.

IMLS and NEH staff will jointly develop and distribute the grant guidelines for the new Advancing Knowledge: The IMLS/NEH Digital Partnership. The release of the guidelines is scheduled for early 2007. Applicants will use Grants.gov to apply electronically to the grant program.

NEH’s Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants are intended to encourage scholars with new ideas that incorporate new ways of using technology in the humanities. The Start-Up Grants with applications deadlines in 2006 and 2007 will support the planning or initial stages of digital humanities in research, publication, preservation, access, teacher training, and dissemination in informal or formal educational settings.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities. NEH grants enrich classroom learning, create and preserve knowledge, and bring ideas to life through public television, radio, new technologies, museum exhibitions, and programs in libraries and other community places. To learn more about NEH, please visit: www.neh.gov.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to grow and sustain a “Nation of Learners” because lifelong learning is essential to a democratic society and individual success. Through its grant making, convenings, research and publications, the Institute empowers museums and libraries nationwide to provide leadership and services to enhance learning in families and communities, sustain cultural heritage, build twenty-first-century skills, and increase civic participation. To learn more about the Institute, please visit: www.imls.gov.

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JVC ANNOUNCES FIRMWARE UPGRADE FOR BR-HD50U ProHD VTR

WAYNE, NJ (September 29, 2006)–JVC Professional Products Company announced today the release of firmware upgrade for the BR-HD50U ProHD VTR accessible by end users through the JVC Professional web site (http://pro.jvc.com). Owners of JVC BR-HD50U VTRs purchased in the United States can download the upgrade file and instructions free of charge using a Windows or Mac computer, and perform the update themselves.

The upgrade optimizes the interoperability of the BR-HD50U ProHD VTR with Final Cut Pro 5.1.2, which provides native editing support for the HDV720 24P and 25P format. Additionally, the upgrade enables the VTR to record (via IEEE1394) and playback 720/60p and 50p signals from JVC’s new GY-HD250U ProHD camcorder.

The firmware upgrade will also enable the cloning of tapes when recording from another HDV source, such as a GY-HD100U, GY-HD110U, GY-HD250U or another BR-HD50U VTR.

“The capability of the JVC BR-HD50U ProHD VTR to enable owners to upgrade the firmware of their equipment is a tremendous advantage,” said Craig Yanagi, National Marketing Manager, JVC Professional Products Company. “This helps ensure our customers that the products they purchase today can easily have the most current firmware installed in their units when they become available. Equally as important, this feature enables ProHD users to upgrade their equipment efficiently in the convenience of their own facility, minimizing down time.”

Currently shipping units of JVC ProHD BR-HD50U VTRs being sold that have an “(A)” indication on the product and do not require the upgrade.

The BR-HD50U VTR firmware upgrade is now available free of charge on the JVC Professional web site (http://pro.jvc.com). Customers who don’t wish to install the firmware themselves have the option of sending their unit to JVC Service and Engineering to have the firmware installed for a fee of \$75.

Additional information is available on JVC’s Web site at http://pro.jvc.com.

ABOUT JVC PROFESSIONAL PRODUCTS COMPANY JVC Professional Products Company, located in Wayne, New Jersey, is a leading manufacturer and distributor of a complete line of broadcast and professional equipment. For more information about this, or any other JVC Professional Products Company product, contact JVC at (800) 582-5825; or Candace Vadnais at PFS Marketwyse 973-812-8883, or visit JVC’s Web site at http://pro.jvc.com

K12 Inc. Completes Modifications in Science Curriculum to Reflect Pluto’s New Status

Online curriculum provider sets a new standard as one of the first publishers to change its science curriculum to reflect Pluto’s new status as a “dwarf planet”

Herndon, VA- Since the International Astronomical Union (IAU) vote on August 24, 2006 to change Pluto’s status as a planet, teachers and curriculum supervisors across the country have scrambled to get the most accurate, up-to-date information for their students. However, that is not a concern for the hundreds of teachers and over 25,000 students who are using the innovative, web-based K12 curriculum in schools across the country.

Today, K12 Inc., a leading provider of high-quality curriculum and academic services, announced that they are one of the first education publishers to complete all the modifications to its science program in every grade to reflect the IAU’s new classification for Pluto as a “dwarf planet.” The teachers, students and families in schools using the K12 curriculum were notified of the updates to the science curriculum and can now access the most accurate information about our solar system through the K12 Online School.

After hearing the news of the IAU’s decision, the K12 science team immediately set out to make the changes to the K12 Online School, electronically updating the text and graphics in the science curriculum.

“This is a significant accomplishment for K12 since most publishers change their products every five-seven years,” said Mary Catherine Desrosiers, K12’s Vice-President of Product Development. “Because K12 has developed a powerful, web-based learning program delivered through K12 Online School, we are able to make the changes to our science curriculum in real time and quickly distribute the new information to the teachers, students and schools we serve.”

Desrosiers added, “Science teachers often note that science is not carved in stone. As new information becomes available, and as new discoveries are made, science changes. The science team at K12 has effectively responded to the ever-shifting field of science by literally rewriting the curriculum in the K12 Online School with great speed so that students receive the latest scientific information.”

The following is an example of one of the text changes:

Old Version: [The planets] differ widely in size as well as distance from the sun. The largest is Jupiter; the smallest is Pluto. Pluto is so small and its orbit so different that scientists debate whether it should be considered a planet at all. However, traditionally it has been known as one. Its orbit is far from circular. Sometimes it even dips closer to the sun than Neptune’s orbit, making Neptune the farthest planet at times.

New Version: [The planets] differ widely in size as well as distance from the sun. The largest is Jupiter; the smallest is Mercury. Pluto is so small and its orbit so different that scientists debate whether it should be considered a planet at all. However, in 2006 scientists determined that Pluto should be considered a “dwarf planet.”

K12 Inc. is a leading provider of high quality education programs and academic services. K12 has developed a comprehensive, research-based learning program in traditional subjects, including curriculum, tools, materials and an innovative lesson delivery system. The K12 core curriculum covers the subjects of English/Language Arts, Math, Science, History, Art, and Music.

Central to the K12 learning program is the Online School (OLS), which hosts over 10,000 interactive, engaging and comprehensive lessons presented in a mix of printed and multimedia forms. The Online School also includes lesson assessments, planning and progress tools, and an attendance tracking system to determine the number of instructional hours completed by the student.

The K12 learning program is used by over 25,000 students across the country in a variety of public schools, including traditional schools and classrooms, public virtual (online) schools, and other education settings. There are currently 13 states and three major cities (Chicago, Houston, and Washington, DC) with public virtual schools that use the K12 curriculum.

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Riverdeep to Provide Math and Reading Software to Underserved Children

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. and NEW YORK, NY, September 29, 2006–Riverdeep, the leading provider of interactive products focusing on education, today announced it is donating 3,000 copies of math and reading software to help underserved children succeed in school by giving them access to engaging learning tools they can use at home. The donation, valued at \$200,000, is being made through Computers for Youth (CFY), a national non-profit organization committed to closing the learning gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers by improving their learning environment at home.

CFY offers sixth grade students a computer designed to be used as a family learning center, complete with award-winning educational software, tailored web content, on-going technical support and one year of Internet access. Riverdeep’s math and reading software will be loaded onto the computers and distributed to families through school systems in New York and Philadelphia. “Partnering with CFY and extending Riverdeep’s educational reach directly into households also extends our vision of a greater home  school connection,” says Gail Elizabeth Pierson, Riverdeep’s chief education officer. “We are pleased to provide underserved children with access to educational tools that will help reinforce what they are learning in the classroom and help them succeed in school.”

Riverdeep’s educational products are clearly a favorite among the students who received CFY’s computer-based home learning center in 2005-06. Students reported that, of all the learning software on the computer, Riverdeep’s Mighty Math® “Galactic Math” was the program that helped them the most in school. More than half said they used the program at least once a week and, of these students, 82 percent said that having a home computer helped them do better in math. About one-third of the students reported that it helped them do “a lot” better in math. “Partnering with Riverdeep integrates perfectly with CFY’s mission of using technology to improve a child’s learning environment at home,” said Elisabeth Stock, president and co-founder of CFY. “When you consider that only 13 percent of children’s waking hours are spent in the classroom, it’s vital that they have quality learning resources at home.”

Riverdeep, the largest publisher of digital education content for both school and home, has donated learning software through CFY for the last several years. “Riverdeep understands and recognizes what an important impact CFY has made in children’s lives by improving their learning environment at home,” adds Pierson. “Growing our partnership directly benefits those who need it the most.” About Riverdeep

Riverdeep Inc., A Limited Liability Company, with offices in San Francisco, California, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Dublin (Ireland) and Manchester (United Kingdom) is a leading publisher of interactive products focusing on education and personal productivity for the consumer and school markets. Riverdeep’s rich portfolio of interactive award-winning products feature such well-known brands as the Destination Success® solution, which includes Destination Math® and Destination Reading®; The Print Shop®; Reader Rabbit® and Kid Pix®. For more information, call toll free 888-242-6747 or visit www.riverdeep.net. About Computers for Youth

CFY’s mission is to close the learning gap between low-income children and their more affluent peers by improving their learning environment at home. CFY partners with public middle schools in low-income communities and offers all sixth grade families a home computer designed by CFY to be used as a family learning center complete with educational software, tailored web content, and initial Internet access. Every participating family attends an interactive, half-day training, and then receives ongoing technical support. CFY also works at the school level, coordinating parent workshops and training teachers how to use home technology to improve student performance. CFY’s comprehensive program supports parents as learning partners, opens educational opportunities, and connects classroom learning with the home. For more information on Computers for Youth, visit www.cfy.org

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TOM SNYDER PRODUCTIONS RELEASES MAXDATA

Watertown, MA October 2, 2006–Tom Snyder Productions, a Scholastic company, announces the release of MaxData, a new kid-friendly program that gives students an age-appropriate introduction to databases. MaxData teaches students all aspects of data handling, from the first steps of simple representation of data, to learning database concepts such as fields, field types, records, tables, and filters. The program’s accessible interface has three grade-appropriate levels so students can concentrate on the ideas, relationships, and information being explored.

“Educators have begun to realize that students need proficiency in a variety of technology, including databases, but this can be daunting to a busy teacher, ” said Rick Abrams, General Manager of Tom Snyder Productions. “MaxData makes integrating technology into the classroom simple and fun. The easy-to-use, curriculum-aligned program takes the anxiety out of teaching and learning through the use of databases.”

MaxData was developed by the makers of Scholastic Keys(, the only program to make Microsoft Office(r) kid-friendly. Much like Scholastic Keys, the new software is a powerful tool for reinforcing classroom curriculum through technology. The program walks students and teachers through the use of databases and their practical application to the core curriculum.

Other product highlights include:

* Database wizard that guides students through naming the database, adding fields and field types, and saving the database

* Three levels of functionality allow for differentiated instruction

* View records in table and group views

* Create standard reports–table, column, and graph–or design your own

* MaxPaint–drawing tool to add pictures to records

* Clip art library with over 800 images

MaxData includes a Windows CD-ROM, a User’s Guide, and learning activities. The program can be purchased individually or as a bundle with Scholastic Keys.