$500 for music education

The Music Is Revolution Foundation makes mini-grants for activities designed by teachers to implement, support, and/or improve their ability to provide quality music education for their students. Funds may be used for supplies, materials, equipment, transportation for a field trip, and/or to bring a performer or musical group to the school.

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$25,000 to eight community colleges

The Civic Ventures Community College Encore Career project will award $25,000 to eight community colleges developing innovative encore career programs in education, health care, nonprofit leadership, and the environment.

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Have an instructional unit or course published and get paid for it

Curriki is soliciting elementary and middle school content in ELA, math, science, and social studies. Projects must provide or develop comprehensive resources for substantial units of study, develop or post open source curriculum in an area of need, deliver all content resources as open source, use best practices in pedagogy and instructional design, and participate in a Curriki training. To apply, eMail projects to projects@curriki.org.

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$3,000 scholarship for high school seniors who are English language learners

High school seniors who have learned English as a second language are invited to apply for the Rosetta Stone $3,000 Communicate and Connect ESL Scholarship essay contest. Students, who are full-time high school students and hold citizenship status or a work or student visa, must submit an essay of no more than 500 words discussing out learning English as a second language impacted his or her life.

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Total of $550,000 in grants given to science teachers

Elementary, middle, and high school science teachers in the United States, U.S. territories, and Puerto Rico area sked to apply – individually or in teams, submitting project proposals that demonstrate creativity, involve risk-taking, possess a visionary quality, and model a novel way of presenting science. Proposed projects should promote exciting and innovative activities to motivate students in science.

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$10,000 to high school students who promote safe driving

State Farm and the National Youth Leadership Council are asking high school students to develop a campaign to address the issue of teen driver safety in their communities. The top 20 schools will receive $5,000 to help cover expenses to attend the National Service-Learning Conference, where they will showcase their work. The top winner will be presented with a $10,000 grant to continue their teen driver safety efforts.

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Premiere Assistive Technology software suite to winning school

Since 2002, Premier Assistive Technology Inc. has been offering its full suite of Accessibility Suite software products to educational and nonprofit organizations through its Breaking Down Barriers to Assistive Technology grant program, which has benefited more than 1,800 school districts nationwide. To help meet the reading and writing challenges of all students, including English Language Learners and those with learning disabilities, the program offers a range of software that reads digital text aloud, provides study efficiency tools, and converts hard copy text to digital format. The grant includes an unlimited institutional license to install all applications on all workstations/networks in a district. Grant applications take two to three weeks to process.

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Teacher faces disciplinary action for racy online photos

A U.K. teacher is facing disciplinary action after outraged parents spotted photographs of her posing in her underwear on the internet, reports the Daily Mail. Aspiring model Natasha Gray, 30, was reprimanded after a stunned parent wrote an anonymous letter complaining about the "provocative pictures." Gray, who is the head of PE and Dance at a school in Cambridge, is pictured wearing pink lingerie and stilettos on the web site iModel.com. In 2002, Gray was named Britain’s sexiest teacher after winning a phone-in competition, just two weeks before she started her current job. The angry letter from an unnamed parent said the "inappropriate" pictures were "common knowledge" among students as young as 11 at the school. Head teacher Ben Slade insisted the photos had nothing to do with the school but said Gray would be severely reprimanded and the photos removed…

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Colorado bill to help schools ‘go green’

Colorado lawmakers on March 29 unveiled a plan to offer school districts low-interest loans to install solar panels on rooftops, build wind turbines, or convert diesel-guzzling buses to battery power, reports the Denver Post. House sponsor Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, touted the potential savings on utility bills and said students can learn about alternative energy through the program. House Bill 1312’s architects couldn’t say how many schools might participate or the estimated size of loans. But they said the program would likely start with just a few schools at first, and windswept Eastern Plains school districts are likely candidates. The cash for the loans would come from the sale of vast swaths of land set aside to benefit school children in the 1800s. "This program is a win-win-win," said state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, predicting it will also help create jobs on top of saving on utility bills. Schools can "put that money back into the classroom, where it should be."

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New standards to facilitate eLearning

A consortium of educators and technology executives has developed a common set of standards that will allow any kind of digital learning content–such as an electronic text, an online exam, or even a social-networking application–to be used with any type of learning management system (LMS) or student information system (SIS), or web portal.

In theory, implementing this set of free, open standards, called Common Cartridge, would give K-12 and college educators the flexibility to use any combination of materials in a collaborative, content-rich digital learning environment, without worrying about compatibility issues.

Using Common Cartridge standards also would "require less custom integration work to deploy" LMS or SIS software, said Rob Abel, chief executive of the IMS Global Learning Consortium, which oversaw development of the standards.

Common Cartridge aims to solve two problems, according to the IMS web site. The first is to provide a standard way to represent digital course materials for use in online learning systems, so that content can be developed in a single format and used across a wide variety of systems. The second is to enable new publishing models for online course materials and digital books that are modular, interactive, customizable, and distributed online.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because many educators and content providers believed an earlier set of standards, called SCORM, would be able to do the same thing.

Developed by the Department of Defense, SCORM–short for Sharable Content Object Reference Model–also aims to make digital learning materials accessible, interoperable, and reusable in a variety of learning environments. (See "Gathering SCORM could transform eLearning.")

But SCORM is a much more limited set of standards, IMS says. While it works fine for stand-alone content objects–such as a video clip illustrating how cells divide, or a PowerPoint explication of a sonnet–it cannot be used to define the more collaborative, interactive learning experiences, such as an online assessment or a wiki, that are typical of today’s Web 2.0-enabled course environments.

"SCORM was developed to support [the] portability of self-paced, computer-based training content," IMS says. "This is a very different set of needs than those of digital course materials that are used to support an online course where there is a cohort of students and an instructor, teacher, or professor."

Common Cartridge is supported by a host of publishers, vendors, and LMS platforms, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Blackboard, and Sakai. Its supporters say it will allow greater flexibility for professors creating online or hybrid courses and could reduce the cost of deploying software solutions.

Annie Chechitelli, vice president of products at learning software company Wimba and a member of the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability Working Group, said Common Cartridge could be invaluable for professors who teach the same course on different campuses.

If a professor uses Desire2Learn to create a course platform, for instance, the standards will allow her to "reuse the learning content" if she is hired to teach the same course at another college that uses Blackboard, Chechitelli said. Without the standards, the professor could not import her course from one platform to another, meaning she would have to take hours to recreate the course online.

Abel said the standards also will make life easier for students. Teachers and their students will be able to log onto several web sites through the same account, he said, and there will be integration between each site–combining the best of every online educational resource.

"It becomes a much more seamless experience for the teacher or student," he said. "If you’re making [students’] life more complex, they’re probably not going to do well. We think it’s going to really improve [online learning] and open up the door for much more innovation for how digital learning can come together."

Chechitelli said campus IT administrators should ask their current or prospective vendors if they support (or are planning to support) Common Cartridge and its capabilities.

More than 35 organizations have contributed to the development of Common Cartridge. Formal ratification of version one (v1) of the standards was completed in December.

Developers of online courses or digital course materials can make these items Common Cartridge compatible by downloading one of many tools available to create common cartridges, such as the open-source eXe tool (http://exelearning.org).

You can also convert existing content to Common Cartridge format; IMS says the Open University converted 399 online courses to Common Cartridge by using the specification and a manual process.

With additional reporting from Managing Editor Dennis Pierce.

Links:

IMS Global Learning Consortium

Common Cartridge FAQs

Common Cartridge eLearning Product Directory

Common Cartidge specifications

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