$5 billion carrot for schools overhaul

Dangling the promise of $5 billion in grants, President Barack Obama on July 24 pressured states to embrace his ideas for overhauling the nation’s schools — ideas that include performance pay for teachers and more charter schools.

To get the money, state officials might have to do things they, or the teachers’ unions, dislike. But in a recession that is starving state budgets, the new "Race to the Top" fund is proving impossible for some states to resist.

Already, seven states–Tennessee, Rhode Island, Indiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Illinois–have lifted restrictions on charter schools so they can compete for the money.

"Not every state will win, and not every school district will be happy with the results," the president said. "But America’s children, America’s economy, America itself will be better for it."

Officials from nearly a dozen states, including Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, joined Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan July 24 at the Education Department (ED) headquarters to announce the rules for the competition.

Broadly speaking, the president wants states to do four things he considers to be reforms: toughen academic standards, find better ways to recruit and keep effective teachers, track student performance, and have a plan of action to turn around failing schools.

The nation cannot succeed in the 21st century unless it does a much better job of educating its children, Obama said.

"In a world where countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, the future belongs to the nation that best educates its people, period," Obama said. "We know this. But we also know that today, our education system is falling short."

There is broad agreement about Obama’s assessment. Only about one-third of U.S. students could read and do math at current grade levels on national tests in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available. And the high school dropout rate is dismal–1 in 4 kids.

Obama can’t really tell states and schools what to do, because education has been a state and local responsibility throughout the country’s history. But he has considerable leverage in his ability to reward states that follow his path and withhold money from those that don’t.

The $5 billion fund was part of the economic stimulus law passed earlier this year. It is a fraction of the $100 billion that was included for schools, but the fund is massive compared with the estimated $16 million in discretionary money Duncan’s predecessors got each year for their own priorities.

"None of them had the resources to encourage innovation that we have today," Duncan said.

Moreover, the $5 billion fund has taken on added importance because in many states, the bulk of the stimulus money is being used to fill increasingly larger budget holes, and not for the innovations Obama wants.

A report from the Government Accountability Office earlier this month said school districts are planning to use the money mostly to prevent teacher layoffs.

"Most [states] did not indicate they would use these funds to pursue educational reform," the report said. The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.

Already, the promise of an extra $5 billion has helped Duncan prod state legislatures to do the administration’s bidding.

For example, he warned Tennessee lawmakers they could lose out on the money if they kept blocking a bill to let more kids into charter schools; within weeks, the bill was enacted and signed into law.

"It’s amazing the amount of progress, literally, without us spending a dime," Duncan said.

Duncan envisions the grants going to perhaps 10 to 20 states that can serve as models for innovation.

A state will have to meet a series of conditions to earn points and boost its chances. Some of those conditions are controversial, especially among teachers’ unions, which make up an influential segment of Obama’s Democratic base.

For example, the administration says it will not award money to states that bar student performance data from being linked to teacher evaluations. Several states, including California and New York, have such a prohibition.

Obama supports performance pay, which links teacher bonuses to student achievement using measures that include test scores. Many teachers don’t want test scores to be used because tests can be deeply flawed, because kids aren’t tested in every subject, and because kids have more than one teacher.

But there are also elements the unions will embrace; states can earn points by submitting letters of support from state union leaders.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel were also on hand for the announcement.

ED will gather public comment on its rules for the $5 billion fund for the next 30 days; applications will be available in October and due in December, and the first round of money should be awarded in March.

Link:

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Stimulating Achievement resource center. Learn how to make wise spending decisions and keep track of school needs as stimulus funds become available. Go to: Stimulating Achievement

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Buffett, Bundchen on tap for kid-targeted ‘webisodes’

A new kids’ content company, A Squared Entertainment, has teamed with AOL on a slate of entertainment brands for children. The online episodes will feature personalities like Warren Buffett, Gisele Bundchen, Martha Stewart, and the late Carl Sagan and will teach kids about finance, the environment, creativity, and science, Reuters reports. Working in collaboration with AOL, A Squared will produce a season’s worth of three- to five-minute "webisodes" that will premiere on AOL. No financial details were made available. "Secret Millionaire’s Club," featuring Buffett, and "GiGi & the Green Team," featuring Bundchen, are scheduled to debut on AOL this fall; "Little Martha," featuring Stewart, and "Kosmos," inspired by Sagan and created by Cosmos co-author Ann Druyan, will launch in spring 2010. AOL also will work with A Squared to distribute the webisodes more broadly on the web, leveraging the power of social networking…

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Summer-school students leaving classrooms for the internet

Online summer-school courses are giving students the chance to juggle jobs, activities, and family getaways while they earned academic credit, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Online courses have quickly been gaining ground in Wisconsin, with several school districts playing host to their own virtual schools and many more giving students the opportunity to take fully computerized courses. But online summer school has been a little slower catching up. There are signs that might be changing, however. Wisconsin Virtual School has 153 students from 60 school districts enrolled in its courses this summer. That’s a 20-percent increase in the school’s third year of offering summer classes, said Dawn Nordine, who runs the school as director of instructional technology at Cooperative Educational Service Agency 9 in Tomahawk. "Lots of schools have offered summer programming, and they’re just starting to see that an online component can fill in other gaps for them," she said…

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San Diego Unified School District Selects Schoolwires Centricity Platform With Turnkey Suite of Solutions

State College, Pennsylvania, July 27, 2009 — San Diego Unified School District has selected the Schoolwires Centricity platform to further engage its large district community in support of student achievement, it was announced today by Schoolwires, one of the nation’s leading providers of strategic website and community management solutions for building stronger school communities, more effective schools and greater student success.

The district, which is the eighth largest urban district in the United States, will implement the Centricity strategic website and community management platform and its integrated Synergy digital file sharing and Assist service request management solutions in support of its 225 schools, 135,000 students, 23,724 employees and extended community.
 
“Our mission is to improve student achievement and to ensure that all students graduate with the skills they need to be successful,” said Darryl LeGace, Chief Information Technology Officer, San Diego Unified School District. “Centricity will provide us with a district-wide platform that will enable improved two-way communications with our school communities, which in turn will engage our constituents further in support of our mission. It will enhance communications with the general public, our staff, our parents and our students; and it is a cost-effective solution to accomplish this goal.”
 
Centricityis the first and only strategic solution for connecting K-12 communities — an all-in-one, user-centric solution that puts all district and school constituents on the same page. Unlike any other solution, Centricity is designed to enable collaboration, work hand-in-hand with digital file sharing, improve communications, enhance operational efficiency, and encourage broad adoption and participation by administrators, teachers, families and students. It is a hosted, on-demand solution designed to offer very high levels of security, performance and reliability.
 
The solution enables all authorized end users to easily design and populate online information, including teacher websites. Teachers and staff at the district will be able to regularly add and update content, including text, RSS feeds and images. The capability for decentralized web content management enables users to keep the content fresh and updated. At the same time, it gives more sophisticated users access to powerful capabilities like HTML source editing, JavaScript and Flash support, custom .asp programming integration, and continued use of familiar tools like Dreamweaver and Frontpage.
 
“The classroom-level tools will benefit our students and our parents by providing better avenues for communication about school and classroom activities and educational matters. At the same time, Centricity will provide a consistent look and theme that supports the district brand,” said Bernie Rhinerson, Chief District Relations Officer, San Diego Unified School District. “We interviewed several vendors and concluded that the Schoolwires solution offers the most value and the broad range of web applications that we need to improve our communications and our image with our internal and external stakeholders.”
 
“A district the size of San Diego Unified School District faces tremendous communication challenges,” said Edward S. Marflak, founder and CEO of Schoolwires. “Centricity will enable the district to provide consistent and easily accessible information and resources to its large community, and at very high levels of security, performance and reliability.”
 
About the San Diego Unified School District (www.sandi.net)
The San Diego Unified School District serves more than 135,000 students from pre-school through grade 12, and encompasses more than 200 square miles. It is the second largest district in California, and eighth largest urban district in the United States. The student population is extremely diverse, representing more than 15 ethnic groups and over 60 languages and dialects.

Since its founding on July 1, 1854, the district has grown from a small, rented school building with one teacher to its current state—more than 225 educational facilities with 14,500 full-time equivalent staff positions and more than 23,724 employees. The district’s educational facilities include 119 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, 30 high schools, 37 charter schools, and 15 atypical schools.

 
About Schoolwires, Inc.
Schoolwires Inc.
(www.schoolwires.com) is headquartered in Pennsylvania, USA.

Schoolwires provides strategic online communication, community-management and productivity solutions to the K-12 education market. The company’s core product is CentricityTM, which brings together robust and flexible website management, community management and web 2.0/social network capabilities in a single, user-centric solution. Schoolwires also delivers Schoolwires Synergy™, a digital file sharing solution, Schoolwires Assist™, a service request solution, and Schoolwires Share, an exclusive online client community and support center.

Schoolwires is recognized in the Inc. 500 List as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. The company’s on-demand solutions are deployed at nearly 5,000 schools serving nearly five million students, parents, teachers and administrators throughout North America.

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Yale College Recognizes Pearson Test of English Academic

NEW HAVEN, Conn., and NEW YORK – July 27, 2009 – Yale College, the undergraduate section of Yale University, announced today that it will recognize Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic), the company’s computer-based English language test that measures the English language proficiency of candidates for admission who are non-native English speakers. Yale students come from more than 100 countries around the globe.

 

“PTE Academic will give us a powerful tool for ensuring that the international students we admit are able to express themselves easily in spoken and written English, so that they can take full advantage of the world-class academic experience that Yale provides,” said Rebekah Westphal, Senior Assistant Director, Undergraduate Admissions.

 

Founded in 1701, Yale is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. The university has educated five U.S. presidents as well as many foreign heads of state. International students have made their way to Yale since the 1830s, when the first Latin-American student enrolled. The first Chinese citizen to earn a degree at a Western college or university came to Yale in 1850. Today, international students make up almost 10 percent of the undergraduate student body.

 

“Yale represents the best that academic institutions in the world have to offer, and we are proud to have colleges and universities of this caliber recognize PTE Academic,” said Mark Anderson, President, Pearson Language Tests. “In our increasingly global society, these institutions know that they must have a state- of-the-art tool for assessing the academic English language abilities of candidates for admission. Because PTE Academic was developed based on Pearson’s experience as the worldwide leader in education, assessment and education technology innovation, we are confident the test will be the new standard for measuring academic English language proficiency.”

 

PTE Academic is endorsed by the prestigious Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®), owner of the Graduate Management Admission Test® (GMAT®). PTE Academic launches internationally from October 2009.

 

Pearson combined the power of international test development, in-depth research and proven, proprietary automated scoring technologies to develop PTE Academic. The test will fill a critical need by providing a test that accurately measures the English language Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing abilities of non-native speakers.

 

PTE Academic will deliver real-life measures of test takers’ language proficiency to universities, higher education institutions, government departments and other organizations requiring academic-level English. The test is designed to predict more efficiently the ability of test takers to function in an English-oriented academic environment.

 

For more information, contact usreco@pearson.com or visit www.pearsonpte.com

 

About Pearson Language Tests

Pearson Language Tests (PLT) is part of Pearson plc. PLT is developing PTE Academic in collaboration with the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

 

About Pearson

Pearson (NYSE:PSO), the global leader in education and education technology, reaches and engages today’s digital natives with effective and personalized learning, as well as dedicated professional development for their teachers. This commitment is demonstrated in the company’s investment in innovative print and digital education materials for preK through college, student information systems and learning management systems, teacher professional development, career certification programs, and testing and assessment products that set the standard for the industry. The company’s respected brands include Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, Addison Wesley, Benjamin Cummings, PEMSolutions, Stanford 10, SuccessNet, MyLabs, PowerSchool, SuccessMaker and many others. Pearson’s comprehensive offerings help inform targeted instruction and intervention so that success is within reach of every student at every level of education. Pearson’s commitment to education for all is supported by the global philanthropic initiatives of the Pearson Foundation. Pearson’s other primary businesses include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group. For more information, visit www.pearson.com

 

For more information, press only:

Wendy Lienhart, L. Wolfe Communications, 630-920-0182, wlienhart@lwolfe.com

Rod Granger, Pearson, 212-641-6114, rod.granger@pearson.com

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Scholars try tuition-free online colleges

Online universities are charging little or no tuition for access to a wealth of college curriculum, and advocates say the free web-based classrooms may expand higher education to the developing world.

Classes at free online universities — known as open universities — include American students who could have difficulty convincing employers that their education is valid and equal to their peers who paid tens of thousands to attend public or private brick-and-mortar schools. Open universities aren’t accredited yet, although officials at these institutions said the colleges might pursue accreditation after a few years of proving their credibility.

“[Open universities] are part of exactly what the internet should be,” said Shai Reshef, founder and president of the University of the People, a free web-based institution that will welcome its first class in September, when 300 students — most of them from developing nations — will take quizzes, read lectures, and turn in research papers on the university’s web site. “That’s why [the internet] was invented — to enable information to flow everywhere. … It needs to be accessible to people who haven’t been able to access it before now.”

Web-based communities of students at University of the People will learn from an established group of professors — both retired and active — graduate students, and experts in a variety of fields. The school is gravitating toward an environment of constant online interaction instead of relegating students to watching lengthy recordings of lectures from universities — such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology — that distribute online curriculum with no charge.

University of the People will charge between $10 and $100 to process student exams taken at the end of each semester. The charge will depend on the student’s country of residence.

With more than 4 million American students enrolled in accredited online programs, according to a recent survey conducted by the Sloan Consortium, Reshaf said offering education for free could eventually be considered comparable to traditional schools. The university, he said, would increase student enrollment by 30 percent every semester, beginning next spring.

“We know it will take time before people will be able to evaluate us and see how good the university is,” said Reshaf, who worked in several areas of for-profit education over the past 20 years before tracking the proliferation of online study web sites where students shared material and advice. “People want to see it’s a worthwhile program.”

Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is another venture that has grabbed the attention of open-source advocates over the past year. Like University of the People, P2PU it is not accredited, but officials and advisers said they are researching ways to secure accreditation for students.

P2PU students are placed into groups of 8-14 people for six-week college courses hosted by what the university calls a “sense maker,” a class facilitator there to answer student questions, identify essential readings and assignments, and ask overarching questions. P2PU invites experts and graduate students to pitch ideas for new courses and how they should be taught to online students.

The school’s first 10 course options include music theory, data visualization, non-fiction writing, alternative energy, and open economics. Officials said they were unsure how many students attend classes at P2PU since the site began hosting students just this year.

“It’s an … approach where anyone can participate without fear of having to be tracked, providing information, or much of anything else, since the learning will occur by choice, not coercion,” said Ahrash N. Bissell, an adviser for Peer 2 Peer University and executive director of ccLearn, an organization charged with removing technological and legal barriers to online educational resources.

Observers of the open university trend said free or low-cost alternatives to the traditional college experience are ideal for students with a deep interest in certain topics, but capitalizing on that knowledge could take some convincing in the professional world.

Maya Frost, author of “The New Global Student:  Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education,” said in an interview with eCampus News that higher-education officials and parents still see online learning as “unregulated and risky” — a major hurdle for schools like P2PU and University of the People.

“For those who recognize the value of knowledge for its own sake and want to deepen their understanding of subject matter that is meaningful to them, an open university can be a great choice,” said Frost, who describes open-university students as “self-directed scholars.” “Not everyone will value their education the same way they themselves do, and their task upon graduation will be to prove themselves to those who doubt the validity of their path.”

“The good news is that those who are motivated enough to take advantage of the open university option tend to be good at getting relevant experience as well, and [that] is likely to be more compelling to employers than a resume from someone who has plodded along a prescribed path without showing evidence of curiosity, flexibility, and innovation,” she said.

Chris Lesinski, a blogger who tracks education technology trends, credited institutions like MIT and Stanford University for making lectures available online for anyone to download and watch, but said an entire college education via the internet and without cost could remain a foreign concept for traditionalists in campuses’ Ivory Towers.

“Universities aren’t exactly forward thinking all the time,” Lesinski said. “I think it’s the main thing that holds back open universities. … There’s a technophobia there. People who are still using AOL for their eMails are the ones running the universities.”

Links:

University of the People

P2P University

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The rise of digital textbooks

As schools shift to 21st century learning in a time of budget crunches, digital textbooks in classrooms are on the rise. To help educators and administrators efficiently implement digital texts, two diverse districts share their motivations, tactics, and goals for their textbook programs.

Recently, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state education leaders announced that they will be working together to compile a list of free, open digital textbooks that meet state-approved standards and will be available to high school math and science classes this fall. Gov. Schwarzenegger said that “as California’s budget crisis continues, we must find such innovative ways to save money and improve services.” (Read “California considers open digital textbooks.”)

“Most textbooks have electronic content and tools, and many supplemental and remediation products are technology-based. Students must be proficient with the skills and knowledge that are necessary to live a productive adult life, and there’s no debate that technology will be a big part of it. I think Gov. Schwarzenegger knows what he’s doing,” said Cynthia Saunders, principal of Lake Weir High School in Florida’s Marion County Public Schools.

Lake Weir has approximately 1,680 students; 35 percent of students come from rural areas and 15 percent from small towns. Sixty-five percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Saunders said that as the school tries to prepare its students for the 21st century, students must be proficient with technology–part of this means using digital textbooks.

“We no longer can teach as we were instructed and expect our students to learn in today’s world. By using laptops and having access to textbooks electronically, they will not need to tote books, and it will reduce costs as well,” explained Saunders.

The decision to use digital textbooks was part of Marion County’s three-year technology plan to provide wireless network access to all secondary schools. Once wireless was installed, students could use laptops for a variety of projects. Saunders’ nine-week pilot program officially began in March and allowed freshman students in Lake Weir’s English class to use laptops to access information and use digital texts.

The district used funds normally allocated for textbooks and instead purchased laptops with digital versions of the texts loaded on the hard drives. Students used the laptops every day in English class, were allowed to take them home to complete homework, and used them to complete group projects.

When choosing the laptops, Marion County school district has standardized on Dell computers since 2001, which Saunders says provides operational efficiency as it relates to purchasing new systems, refreshing equipment, updating software, and maintaining hardware through the self maintainer program of Dell Services.

Marion County uses Optiplex for Desktops, Latitudes for laptops, and 2100s for students. The pilot group consisted of 25 mini’s, 25 regular-sized laptops, and 25 Mac Computers.

“We were looking for a laptop that would reduce our costs by 50 percent, provide internet access, and leverage our campus-wide wireless system,” said Saunders.

Along with laptops, the school purchased computer carts to charge and safeguard computers. The cost of both student laptops and the carts totaled approximately $30,000.

Saunders said the school chose the freshman English class for its pilot because the subject is assessed in March for the FCAT (Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test). The data would also be easy to collect and track, and “it’s also very important to keep our ninth-graders engaged in learning so that they want to continue with classroom instruction and maintain a 2.0 GPA,” said Saunders. “This is the grade level that if we lose them, it is hard for them to make it to graduation.”

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Affiliate Marketing at a Glance: Helpful Hints for the Beginner

 

Regarded as one of the choice Internet marketing systems offered to small businesses, affiliate marketing has caught the attention of accomplished entrepreneurs across the globe. With virtually no risk involved in the affiliate marketing game, payment is made only after results are provided. That is one of the several reasons that this form of trade has such a high level of popularity. And with a considerable number of programs currently available online, it is critical to make yours shine brightly above all other professional affiliate marketing systems. http://www.workathomelover.com

 

 

Those with affiliate marketing expertise can easily secure an income of five figures per month. However, less than 5 percent of all individuals involved in these affiliate programs reach this milestone. A huge blunder that many affiliate potentials make is trying to merchandise too many products instead of concentrating on one particular market. In lieu of dispersing your endeavors, focus on your passion, advertise it, and sell it to the best of your abilities.

 

It is your responsibility to research the product or services that you are offering to the public. With the information you gather, you can produce a resource that builds your credibility with future customers and fellow affiliates. When you have the confidence of your peers, you are building trust in the world of affiliate marketing.

 

Once you have decided the affiliate market you are interested in, it is time to actively recruit partners. It is in your best interest to find individuals that have already developed traffic and would profit from your offer. You should provide your partners with promotional material, and make their affiliate marketing job as fun and easy as possible. Always keep in contact with your partners, and be sure to deliver updates or changes on products and services. It is also advisable to send tips on how to be successful in the marketing environment.

 

Promotion is a major component in any form of marketing. Several top affiliates use pay-per-click search engines. However, use these search engines with caution. If you don’t know what you are doing you may lose money. It is best if you discover how to obtain natural search results or employ a search engine marketing firm.

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Becoming a marketing guru is definitely not something that will happen overnight. Affiliate marketing takes research, motivation, and most of all, patience. But, as with all things, in the end it is all worth it.

 

To keep yourself motivated and to receive more helpful information about the nuts and bolts of starting and maintaining a profitable online business subscribe to one or more good e-zines and read every line of every issue.  There are also many e-books and e-courses full of step-by-step, how-to instructions to help you get started in this profitable business.

Copyright 2005 Burke Publications All Rights Reserved

 

 

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The Online Business Handbook– A Must-Read for Online Entrepreneurs

The cyber community is overpopulated with people offering advice on how to get rich overnight. There are innumerable business books claiming to provide expert guidance on being successful in the online business world, but readers of these books, when interviewed, feel that the information and the business tips given are actually not very helpful in the real online business scenario. Being a vehement protester when it comes to this kind of deception, an online business expert and an excellent e-author came out with ‘The Online Business Handbook’, one of the best business books the market has to offer.

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The author of The Online Business Handbook is a very successful online entrepreneur who wants to share his tried and tested approaches with online business enthusiasts. He does not claim to be Alladin and he doesn’t claim that his business book should be seen as Alladin’s lamp or as a path to money, name and fame overnight.

 

Inspired by Thomas Alva Edison’s statement ‘genius is 99 % perspiration and 1 % inspiration’, this online book on internet business does not make any false promises to quick money.  Just like Edison, the author opines that even if one fails 10,000 times, one should never give up and look upon every failure as a stepping-stone to success. He believes that success comes with applying intelligence in the proper way, at the proper time.  Being written by a follower of the genuine path to success, one can safely assume that The Online Business Handbook, unlike the other online books, is a treasure house of tried and tested ways of becoming successful as an online entrepreneur.

 

A bonus that one can expect with The Online Business Handbook is that, unlike many electronic books online that charge exorbitant prices, it comes absolutely free. One just needs to subscribe to Alan Johnson’s newsletter at The Rating Blog. The information in this book is complemented by The Rating Blog, which is amongst the best blogs offering online money making advice to the cyber community today. It is advised that after reading this business handbook, one should follow The Rating Blog for additional and up to date information. The Rating Blog is enriched with features that are of utmost importance to an online entrepreneur. One can subscribe to the RSS feed and then follow the author’s newsletter. http://www.onlinemoneylover.com

 

 

It has been observed that, compared to all of the free online books offering online business tips, The Online Business Handbook shows you how to attain success in a realistic and step-by-step manner. One needs to absorb the contents of this very useful business book online and follow it to the letter to attain success. People who have followed the instructions of this book are seen to be extremely successful in online business ventures. Unlike many of the authors of other free books online, the person behind The Rating Blog displays affiliate links and that, according to him, is a part of his common sense, down-to-earth and cards-on-the-table approach to making money online.

 

 

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Creating Wikis for the Classroom




RESTON, VA – Every day, more teachers discover that using technology can stimulate students’ thinking and help them grasp complicated subjects. One of the most flexible and capable tools is the wiki, a technology that makes it easy to create online multimedia collaborations among teachers and students. (The wiki best known to the general public is probably Wikipedia, the encyclopedia created by user input, but wikis are used for many other purposes.)

On July 28 and 30, a two-part online event will help teachers learn how to create and use wikis in their classrooms. The “Guided Wiki Walk” will be an interactive exploration of existing educational wikis, along with hands-on practice in making customized wikis for participants’ own classes. The Wiki Walk is the next in the OK2Ask series of professional development “snack sessions” provided at no cost to teachers by nonprofit TeachersFirst.com. See an FAQ for OK2Ask at http://www.teachersfirst.com/ok2ask.cfm.

The Wiki Walk will happen in two parts so teachers can use the intervening time to practice their wiki skills. Information on the Wiki Walk and other OK2Ask events is available—in a wiki, of course—at http://teachersfirst.wikispaces.com/OK2Ask. Because attendance at the “live” sessions is limited by technical considerations, teachers who do not participate live can view recorded versions of the sessions, available from the same web page shortly after the conclusion of each live event.

Innovative example 

A number of teachers are already taking advantage of wikis’ power and ease of use. One example: Louise Maine is a high school biology teacher who has made a novel wiki the hub for her classes. Like a standard web page, it contains administrative, scheduling, and resource information, but there’s much more. On http://mrsmaineswiki.wikispaces.com/Cells Ms. Maine has created “Cell-vivor,” a game based on the TV reality show. In the game, students advocate for one portion of a cell’s structure, each using a video recording to present reasons why his or her part is so important it shouldn’t be “voted off the island.” The result is an involving, intriguing way to learn the basics of cell biology. Ms. Maine will lend her experience to the OK2Ask session as co-moderator. 

It IS okay to ask

The OK2Ask series of professional development sessions comes from www.TeachersFirst.com, one of the web’s leading sites for teachers. At no charge, TeachersFirst provides thousands of professionally reviewed resources for K-12 use.

Candace Hackett Shively manages TeachersFirst and created the OK2Ask series. She said, “Wikis are a fabulous learning tool—students just dive in and collaborate, and it’s exciting for teachers to see them grasp concepts more fully than they would otherwise. They also take real ownership in making the best possible products. One of the purposes of TeachersFirst is to advance the thoughtful, practical application of technology in support of student-centered learning. That’s why we created OK2Ask: it’s an interactive, collaborative experience that allows teachers to share their knowledge with each other and make new discoveries together. I think the Guided Wiki Walk will be another lively demonstration of the power of collaborative learning.”

TeachersFirst is a service of The Source for Learning (www.sourceforlearning.org), a not-for-profit corporation providing enhanced learning through technology. The Source for Learning is also the creator of www.PreschoolFirst.com, www.TeachersAndFamilies.com, and the upcoming www.GrowUpLearning.com, slated to launch later in 2009.

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