View the latest images from Mars during this live webcast from the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium of San Francisco is holding a live webcast May 12 featuring an update on the Cassini spacecraft, which continues to orbit Saturn, sending back astonishing images of the ringed planet and its moons. Students and educators are invited to join Exploratorium Senior Scientist Paul Doherty as he looks at the latest images from the spacecraft and leads hands-on activities to help students understand the photos and other details about the planet, such as information about Saturn’s moons. The Cassini webcast is one of several in a series of events hosted by the Exploratorium; other recent webcasts have explored new Martian discoveries (accompanied by a teacher’s guide, photos, and other links of interest) and how changes in the climate affect our health. All previously held webcasts remain archived on the site for teachers to use.

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EAST program motivates students, encourages innovation

Exciting things are happening in Star City, Arkansas. This small town of a little more than 2,000 people just learned that its high school Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program was named the 2007 recipient of the Timothy R. Stephenson Founder’s Award by the EAST Initiative, an educational nonprofit that oversees EAST programs nationally.

How did a small, rural school stand out from the field of more than 170 programs nationally? The school merely motivated its students to outperform anyone’s expectations in providing community service using very sophisticated technology tools.

Among the projects that the Star City students have undertaken are an awareness seminar in the opportunities for women in high-tech fields; a comprehensive, anti-drunk-driving campaign (which has led to collaboration with the Arkansas State Police on a statewide video campaign); and a seminar titled “Enough is Enough,” involving local self-defense instructors and the Arkansas Attorney General’s office, that aims to raise awareness of the issues of child abuse and abduction. Any of these seminars would be worthwhile for local teens to attend, but the Star City students are actually coordinating and developing these activities. They are taking charge of their education in a way that benefits their whole community.

But that’s not all the students from Star City are doing. They have developed and hosted a senior adult technology training program that teaches basic technology skills to the elderly in the community–a project that is being replicated in other communities in the region. They have collected data on the availability of broadband access in their town as part of a regional project aimed at increasing this availability. They have collected oral history of the wartime experiences of local veterans. They are collaborating with a local environmental group and gathering GIS data on a local bayou (which just happens to be the longest in the world, and one of the two most ecologically diverse bayous in North America). Somewhere amid all of this activity, the 57 students in the Star City EAST program also go to English, math, and history classes and worry about prom dates and homecoming basketball games just like every other high school student in the country.

The EAST program

Where is this innovation and incredible work coming from? A program that started in Arkansas a dozen years ago, called EAST, that has been recognized nationally as an innovative, relevant, and successful approach to education. EAST combines the power of cutting-edge technology, real teamwork, and significant community service in a manner that helps students develop their own interests and aptitudes in a positive environment. At the core of the EAST program is a dedication to service.

All students, regardless of past experience or previous expectations, are encouraged, expected, and required to work in teams that tackle self-selected community service projects. In the context of these projects, EAST students often move beyond being “merely” volunteers and begin assuming roles of responsibility for solving local issues. This transition from volunteer to leader is smoother than might be expected, because the students bring skills and expertise in areas of technology that many established leaders in the community need but do not have.

The EAST model allows students to take ownership of both the challenges in their communities and the responsibility for seeking solutions. The students move beyond the theoretical exploration of issues and into active learning and service in the cause of bettering their communities. This model empowers students to become good citizens at a time in their lives when we know that they are beginning to adopt habits that will stay with them the rest of their lives. It teaches leadership in a natural way that does not focus on who is in charge as much as who has the needed skills, the passion, and the interest to solve the myriad problems. It teaches character development by putting a premium on learner-positive habits of person. Most importantly, it teaches all of these valuable life skills not by “teaching” them, but rather by allowing students to experience them in a safe environment (a facilitated classroom) where they can further their intellectual and personal development.

Students in this program have access to a wide variety of technologies to help them in their projects–from GIS/GPS applications, computer-aided drafting tools, and digital film tools, to high-end animation and web design tools, computer programming tools, virtual reality design tools, and so on. The EAST classroom is equipped with more than 65 different software applications in a student-maintained network of servers, workstations, and peripherals.

EAST recognition

Since its birth in 1995, the EAST program has gained support and recognition from groups and organizations in America and around the world. In its home state of Arkansas, EAST is heavily supported by the Arkansas Legislature and the Arkansas Department of Education, which is soon to publish the findings of a three-year scientific research study of EAST and its impact on student learning and motivation.

Preliminary results from the research have documented that EAST students have significantly improved in the areas of problem-solving skills, school motivation, and perceptions of their learning styles. In problem solving, EAST students score significantly better in the areas of problem identification, implementation, evaluation, and reorganization. In terms of school motivation, they score significantly better in effort and social concern. Statements such as, “The harder the problem, the harder I try,” and “I like to help others at school,” are indicative of the EAST students’ attitudes. EAST students are equally adept at working in groups and taking responsibility for self-directed learning. They feel significantly better than non-EAST students about their ability to explain their role in a group, take a leadership role in a group, and complete a project with limited assistance from others. When comparing the plans that EAST students have after they graduate with those of their peers from similar demographics, a statistically greater number of EAST students intend to attend college.

The U.S. Department of Education has named EAST a model program and included it in its National Education Technology Plan in 2004. But perhaps the greatest testament to the EAST model is the growth it has seen since it began as an experiment in 1995 in Greenbrier, Arkansas, with 20 at-risk students. Today, the program is flourishing in more than 170 schools in Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania.

The growth of the model has led to the formation of an educational nonprofit organization, the EAST Initiative, in 2001. The organization provides training and support to EAST facilitators and students and is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Links:

EAST Initiative

http://www.eastinitiative.org

Star City Schools

http://www.starcityschools.com

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Take stock of this rising trend in grant giving: the ‘portfolio’ approach

At a conference held by the Grant Professionals Network of Central Florida in March, I was intrigued by a session presented by Mark Brewer, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Central Florida Inc. I have heard Brewer speak before, and he is always well prepared and provides thought-provoking comments. This session was no exception. Titled "The Evolution of Grant Seeking: Professional Development Strategies for a New Generation," Brewer’s presentation identified some of the future trends in grant seeking and advised grants professionals to begin thinking about their roles in a new way.

According to Brewer, two trends will have a significant impact on the grants landscape in the not-so-distant future. The first is that foundations will be looking at community needs or problems and designating a pool of money targeted to meet these needs or develop solutions to the problem–a trend known as "portfolio grant-making strategies." This will result in what he identified as another significant trend: Grant seekers will find themselves writing fewer requests for individual projects. Instead, they will have to collaborate with others in their community to come up with a "group" approach that results in a project with a significant amount of buy-in and participation from a variety of community-based organizations–including schools, businesses, nonprofits, and so on.

Some national foundations already have adopted this approach, addressing a community’s needs (such as economic development or homelessness) through a multidimensional approach. These foundations have set aside a specific amount of money and, in many cases, have designated a specific timeframe (typically three to 10 years) for project partners to develop and try new solutions to meet the identified needs.

This approach, according to Brewer, results in the development of one contract that requires all entities participating in the project to sign off on it. While the funder naturally will monitor progress, each entity also must monitor its own progress in achieving the goals and outcomes as stated at the project’s start. Those partners who do not fulfill their obligations may be asked to leave the partnership during the course of the project–and new entities may be invited to join, depending on what they can contribute to the project.

Developing collaborative relationships has always been an important skill for grant seekers, in my opinion–and this new approach to funding most likely will elevate the importance of this skill to an even greater level.

Under this scenario, school leaders will have to be even more amenable to looking beyond their walls to meet the needs of their students. Classroom teachers no longer will be seen as the only major influence on student achievement. Transparency among schools, parents, community members, and funders will become the norm. Grant seekers will have to be more amenable to working with others beyond their districts to help meet students’ needs. Grant seekers also will need to serve as negotiators among various partners, often outside school, to clearly identify a project, define the roles that partners will play, and identify the expected outcomes. And, finally, grant seekers will have to articulate clearly in their proposals how this "unified" approach to addressing the problem was developed, how it will be implemented, and how it will be measured for its effectiveness.

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Next-generation Wi-Fi planned for this summer

Expect blazing new wireless devices to begin arriving in July and August. The next generation of wireless internet products is expected to be available this summer, even though a final standard for the technology isn’t due for at least another year, according to the wireless industry trade group Wi-Fi Alliance.

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced on May 16 that it will begin certifying wireless routers, networking cards, microchips, and other so-called "Draft N" products in June. The products, which take their name from the upcoming 802.11n technical standard, are expected to reach schools and other consumers shortly thereafter.

Wi-Fi comes in several flavors–"b," "a," "g," and soon "n"–referring to the subsection of the technical guidelines issued by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technical professional organization.

The "n" version is expected to be about five times faster than the widely used "g" variety, reaching hypothetical data rates of up to 248 megabits per second (Mbps)–though in practice, speeds rarely reach what is listed on the box. Draft N products are said to offer better reach through walls and into dead spots and will use multiple radios to send and receive data, making them better at handling large video files.

Gear rated to handle n-level wireless connectivity already is being sold. But the Wi-Fi Alliance says certified Draft N equipment from different vendors is guaranteed to work together and to work with older certified Wi-Fi products, giving the devices an official stamp of approval.

Marc Liebman, superintendent of the Berryessa Union School District in California, said the "n" standard’s faster speed could spur the more widespread use of wireless networking in his district’s schools–giving students the flexibility to work in groups from different locations on campus. Berryessa has been slow to deploy wireless so far, he said, "because many of our applications include streaming video technologies."

"We need that speed when lots of kids are using the same material and the system gets overloaded," Liebman said. "Up to now, hardwire is the way we have needed to go to address that need for bandwidth."

Despite the new standard’s promise, some school technology directors told eSchool News they’ll be holding off on buying n-certified products, at least for now.

"For our school district, I believe that ‘n’ will be the next logical progression of our wireless infrastructure, but I would doubt that we will make much of a move in that direction for another year–if that soon," said Bob Moore, executive director of information technology services for the Blue Valley Unified School District in Kansas.

Noting that the final version of the "n" standard isn’t expected for some time, Moore added: "I think it is unfortunate that some vendors are so desperate for product churn and revenue that they are willing to sell products at the ‘draft’ level. Isn’t that another term for ‘beta,’ as in not ready for prime time?"

Karen Hanley, senior director of marketing for the Austin, Texas-based Wi-Fi Alliance, said the wireless industry shipped 200 million Wi-Fi products worldwide last year. Over the next few years, she said, these products will expand from mostly laptops and access points to Wi-Fi enabled cell phones, televisions, and video games.

Hanley said the final 802.11n standard isn’t expected until 2009.

Links:

Wi-Fi Alliance
http://www.wi-fi.org

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
http://www.ieee.org

Blue Valley Schools
http://www.bluevalleyk12.org/

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ED seeks school safety feedback

The U.S. Secretary of Education wants to hear from educators and others on how to improve campus security and school safety. In the wake of the tragic events at Virginia Tech, President Bush called on U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt to lead a national dialogue on ways government officials, schools, parents, students, and others can prevent tragedies in America’s schools and on the nation’s college campuses.

As part of this effort, in early May Spellings met with state and local leaders, educators, mental health experts, parents, students, and local law enforcement officials in Albuquerque, to determine how the federal government can best help states and localities keep students safe.

Spellings announced that she is seeking public comment online in an effort to expand this important discussion and gather thoughts and suggestions from across the country. Spellings will consider these suggestions as she develops recommendations for a report to President Bush next month.

Over the next few weeks, federal officials are traveling across the country to meet with state and local leaders, educators, mental health experts, parents, students, and law enforcement officials. Upon completion of this national tour, Secretary Spellings will work with Secretary Leavitt and Attorney General Gonzales to summarize the issues raised and provide a report to President Bush that outlines how the federal government can best help states and localities keep students safe.

Among the information being sought, the following issues will be addressed: How technology can help to communicate with students and school professionals–before, during, and after a crisis situation; how the various institutions involved in protecting students–schools, colleges, law enforcement agencies, the medical and mental health community, and others–can share critical information in a way that protects individuals’ privacy but doesn’t sacrifice public safety; and what the most effective programs and best practices are for preventing school violence and managing crises at U.S. schools and college campuses.

To share comments and suggestions, users can visit http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/dialogue.html. Submitted ideas will help Spellings in developing recommendations that will be incorporated into the larger report to the President next month.

"Nothing is more important to American parents than the safety of their children," said Spellings. "I invite all concerned Americans–parents, educators, law enforcement officials, and students–to share their ideas about school safety online at safeschools@ed.gov. Together, we can strengthen our best practices, raise awareness of warning signs, and help prevent tragedies."

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Pacific Media Launches Information Service Covering "New Era" Front Projectors

Menlo Park, California, USA–May 17, 2007. Pacific Media Associates, the global market information experts on large-screen displays, announces that they are introducing a new market information service focused on an emerging class of front projectors that are different in both their technology and their target buyers.

During the past two years, the front projector market has seen numerous developments of components that are quantitatively and/or qualitatively different from the classic ("Old Era") models. Enabled by advances in lasers, LEDs, imager chips, and other technological changes, these "New Era" models are typically considerably smaller, dimmer, lower-powered, and less expensive than most Old Era models. Pacific Media has been tracking their evolution since the beginning, and now is prepared to provide thorough reporting on this emerging market segment.

As with any early-stage development, this segment is marked by considerable confusion and a broad range of technological combinations. For example, most of the smallest models that incorporate LEDs or lasers are battery-powered, but at least one (relatively bright) model requires wall power. The only characteristic that all seem to have in common currently is that they all offer less than 500 lumens of brightness.

Pacific Media´s new information service aims to identify, classify, and quantify the markets for products such as the following types:

*Stand-alone mini-projectors (also known as pocket projectors)

*Snap-on or embedded mini-projector modules for mobile host devices

*Embedded mini-projector modules for "big" host devices

*Lower-end "toy" projectors

*Higher-end gaming projectors

*Personal projectors

The New Era Front Projector Industry Service´s deliverables will be a subset of Pacific Media´s current Front Projector Industry Service, which sets the industry standard for comprehensive coverage of the front projector markets.

About Pacific Media Associates

Pacific Media specializes in global display market information, covering all large-screen display categories: front projectors, plasma and LCD TVs, and rear-projection displays. Their Large-Screen Displays Industry Service family of publications provides detailed worldwide quarterly updates (sell-in data and forecasts) on large-screen display markets, newsletters on new products and other key industry developments, monthly advertised price tracking, ad hoc analyses, and annual Web surveys of North American end users (including organizations and individual consumers) and both North American and EMEA resellers/retailers. Their Large-Screen Displays Tracking Service family of monthly reports offers timely sell-through data and analysis on unit sales, true volume-weighted street prices, and inventories of large-screen displays sold by leading North American retailers, resellers, and distributors. Pacific Media Associates was established by Dr. William Coggshall, who was previously a co-founder of Dataquest and helped start the syndicated high-tech market information business. The company headquarters is at 1060 Siskiyou Drive, Menlo Park, CA 94025. Telephone +1 650-561-9020 www.pacificmediaassociates.com

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What Makes Students Sit Up and Listen? A Great Read Aloud!

New York, NY (May 17, 2007)–They are the idols of the classroom, the stars of children´s storytelling. These three teachers produced captivating videos of themselves reading to their students, and they are the winners of this year´s Scholastic Book Clubs "Read To Us" contest.

A second grade bilingual teacher, a librarian and a kindergarten teacher each offered something special and memorable–one dressed up like a main character to make children feel a part of the story; another read in Spanish to her bilingual classroom; the third used his talent for character voices to add something extra to the reading.

"We are excited to give these three talented teachers the recognition they deserve for showing how reading aloud can dazzle the imagination and teach about the world," said Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, a division of Scholastic, the global children´s publishing, education and media company. "Each teacher perfectly demonstrated how to connect children with the material. They made you want to listen, then go home and read more!"

The 2007 Scholastic Book Clubs "Read To Us" winners, whose videos are available at http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/contests/winners/readaloud/index.htm, are:

Paula DeRubeis
Harrison Elementary School, Janesville, WI

Ms. DeRubeis, a Kindergarten teacher, read Mrs. Toggle´s Zipper by Robin Pulver. The children were active participants in the storytelling, reciting the portions of the book they had memorized and playing along as Ms. DeRubeis acted the role of the book´s main character, wacky teacher Mrs. Toggle. Ms. DeRubeis even wore a purple jacket matching the one Mrs. Toggle wears in the book!

E. Raymond Wells

Jane Long Elementary School, Freeport, TX

Mr. Wells, a librarian, read a chapter from The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman and Peter Sis. Drawing upon his amazing repertoire of character voices, he gave life to sections of dialogue while reading this novel. His unique style entertains even the most reluctant readers.

Tania Llambelis
Jefferson Elementary School, Oakland, CA

Ms. Llambelis, a second-grade bilingual Spanish teacher, read La Cucaracha Martina by Daniel Moreton to her class in Spanish. She demonstrated an enthusiasm for storytelling through her vibrant and expressive reading. Her talent for reading aloud has no language barriers.

Judged on their creativity, originality and presentation, the winners were picked from a pool of more than 400 entries. Each earned a $5,000 professional grant from Scholastic.

For 56 years, Scholastic Book Clubs have provided monthly catalogues offering top quality books and reading materials from all publishers to teachers and students in pre-school through junior high. Today, eleven different Scholastic Book Clubs reach over one million teachers each month, providing the most sought-after titles at affordable prices for children in classrooms nationwide.

About Scholastic:

Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world´s largest publisher and distributor of children´s books and a leader in educational technology. Scholastic creates quality educational and entertaining materials and products for use in school and at home, including children´s books, magazines, technology-based products, teacher materials, television programming, film, videos and toys. The Company distributes its products and services through a variety of channels, including proprietary school-based book clubs, school-based book fairs, and school-based and direct-to-home continuity programs; retail stores, schools, libraries and television networks; and the Company´s Internet site, www.scholastic.com.

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Web-Based Software–Useful Tool for Children, Parents and Teachers Alike

(Atlanta GA, May 17, 2005). The new web-based software, I Can Write Online (www.icanwriteonline.com) is receiving positive responses from parents, teachers and students. The authors of this software queried users at each level recently for feedback on how well the software helped children write.

Teachers like Jennifer Rice in GA write, "Words cannot express the excitement that my students get when they are asked to go to I Can Write Online and work on their writing…. Once they start writing, they don´t want to stop until they get to the final draft … I Can Write Online takes the writing process and puts it into a format that´s kid friendly and fun."

This program is especially well liked by both teachers and parents because it scaffolds the writing process. Traditionally, students have been given writing assignments with a pre-determined prompt. With I Can Write Online, students choose their own topics and have nine unique graphic organizers that provide structure for organizing their pieces and working through the first draft. On subsequent screens, parents or teachers can write comments for revision and editing.

The bottom line is the software provides a friendly, supportive tool for writing. A study by Zhu (2004) who videotaped students faces, voices, fingers on the keyboard and the computer screen, found the program to be intuitive and user friendly with auditory directions from friendly Freddy the Frog. On their own, students demonstrated they could use revision tools extensively. Parents who may not have writing expertise can rely on this program for guidance in supporting their child´s writing.

A Georgia third grade parent "My child has never been so excited about writing. He can´t wait to get on the program. It is a great way to help children to organize their writing and to help them to write." A second grader´s mom said: "It was neat that he can get online and do it (write) on his own. He could write and see it right there. It was more important because it was on the computer."

Students like Chasie, a third grader in SC, writes: "I Can Write Online helps kids, because it offers constant help if it is needed." Another third grader in SC, Amber, stated, "I love it because you can get on it anywhere. I can get on it at home. Can you?" Well, Amber, anyone can get on the website anywhere or at anytime. It does not rely on a particular operating system or browser. You simply have to be connected to the Internet. It is totally self-contained with a student´s writing saved on the creators´ server and printable without having to be exported to another program.

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Atomic Learning Releases Online Training Tutorials for Moodle

Little Falls, MN–May 16, 2007–Atomic Learning has recently released a new training series on Moodle, a popular online tool for educators.

Moodle is a free, open-source software package that allows educators to build online learning communities, also known as learning management systems or online course management systems, which foster collaborative learning and the building of 21st century skills. Moodle is used by universities, high schools, elementary schools, and home-schooling families in over 175 countries around the world.

Atomic Learning´s training series on this package is called "Moodle–What´s New?" and focuses on its latest enhancements. Atomic Learning also has an introductory series and an intermediate series for Moodle users of varying experience levels.

About Atomic Learning

Atomic Learning, Inc. was formed in 2000 by a group of technology educators with a mission to create useful and affordable online products focused on teaching people how to effectively use technology. Atomic Learning delivers a library of thousands of short, easy-to-view-and-understand tutorial movies that can be used as an integral part of a professional development program, a valuable curriculum supplement, and an anytime/anywhere software training resource. Atomic Learning now serves more than 4,000 school districts and universities in all 50 states and over 30 foreign countries, as well as individuals and organizations in a variety of other industries. For more information, visit www.AtomicLearning.com.

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Discovery Educator Network Selects 140 Educators to Take Part in its National Institutes

Silver Spring, Md. (May 17, 2007)–The Discovery Educator Network (DEN), a global community of innovative educators passionate about teaching with digital media, sharing resources and collaborating with one another, has selected 140 educators from across the country to participate in its second annual DEN National Institutes. The DEN National Institutes are exclusive professional development opportunities open only to STAR Discovery Educators–DEN members who have been recognized for their outstanding efforts–to share their insight and expertise with their peers through activities such as facilitating trainings, workshops or presentations and demonstrating how to integrate Discovery Education products and services in the classroom.

Each national institute accepted STAR Discovery Educators based on responses they provided on their applications regarding their use of technology in the classroom and their efforts to promote the use of digital media in education. During their time at one of the three national institutes, educators hear from special guest speakers, participate in workshops, collaborate with educators from across the country on a variety of educational technology projects, network with their peers and share ideas. The DEN National Institutes will be held this summer on the following dates and locations:

– June 18-22, Discovery Communications´ Global Headquarters, Silver Spring, Md.

– July 14-19, Bahamas Cruise, departing from Port Canaveral, Fla.

– August 6-10, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif.

"We are really excited about this year´s DEN National Institutes because they offer a unique opportunity for these passionate and dynamic teachers to undergo professional development in a fun, collaborative environment," said Scott Kinney, Director, Discovery Educator Network. "Our hope is that these teachers will leave the event feeling inspired and energized, and integrate the innovative ideas they have learned into their classrooms."

Debbie Bohanan, a technology coach from Reedy Creek Elementary School in Kissimmee, Fla., said of her experience participating in the institutes: "Last summer´s DEN National Institute was the most engaging, up to date, technology training I have ever experienced! We were on the cutting-edge learning about Wiki´s, podcasting and other wonderful tools while collaborating with teachers from all over the United States. The wealth of knowledge in the room and the willingness of everyone to share their expertise was amazing."

To learn more about the DEN National Institutes and the Discovery Educator Network, go to www.DENcommunity.com.

About Discovery Education

Discovery Education is a division of Discovery Communications, the leading global real-world and knowledge-based media company. The leader in digital video-based learning, Discovery Education produces and distributes high-quality digital video content in easy-to-use formats, in all core-curricular subject areas. Discovery Education is committed to creating scientifically proven, standards-based digital resources for teachers, students, and parents that make a positive impact on student learning. Through strategic partnerships with public television stations across the country, its public service initiatives, products, and joint business ventures, Discovery Education helps educators around the world harness the power of broadband and media to connect their students to a world of learning. For more information, visit www.discoveryeducation.com.

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