Gay-friendly online high school sees nationwide interest

A Minnesota-based online high school catering to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students has received strong interest from students across the country, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Called the GLBTQ Online High School, it is based in Maplewood, Minn., and believed to be the first such school of its kind. Other online schools exist, as do bricks-and-mortar schools that serve gay students. But the Minnesota program is the first to combine the two features, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. The school is the brainchild of David Glick, the first online learning coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education, who says he has received applications from students across the country and from faculty around the world. The school’s online nature allows it to reach young people wherever they have internet access, especially in rural areas, whose smaller populations makes a physical version of his school impossible, Glick said. It also removes gay students from potentially hostile school environments and places them in what he touts as a "safe and welcoming educational community." But some fear this arrangement would further alienate teenagers already at risk…

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‘Obama Effect’ continues: Black parents volunteer, expect more

A new survey suggests that President Obama’s victory last November had a positive effect not just on the academic expectations of black Americans; it might have raised parents’ interests in volunteerism as well, USA Today reports. The "Obama Effect," documented last winter, showed that Obama’s rise during the 2008 presidential election helped improve African Americans’ performance on skills tests, which helped narrow a black-white achievement gap. In the new findings, African-American parents of children in K-12 schools say they’re much more likely to volunteer in a classroom this fall, in effect narrowing a volunteering gap. The survey, being released Aug. 6 by GreatSchools, a San Francisco nonprofit that promotes parental involvement, finds a jump of 37 percentage points in the portion of African-American parents who say they’ll volunteer in their child’s school–now 60 percent, vs. 23 percent a year ago. GreatSchools CEO Bill Jackson notes that in several speeches, Obama has urged parents to turn off the TV, read to their children, and attend parent-teacher conferences. "That jump that we’re seeing … is clearly a response to that," he says…

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USB2U Introduce their watermarking feature

Irrespective of the quality of the printing process on a USB Branded Memory Stick, overtime it will succumb to wear and tear. So how can you ensure that the brand is always upmost in the user’s mind?

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Students help program science computer game

Middle and high school students spent a little more than four weeks this summer at McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C., developing the programming and modeling for a prototype of an educational computer game called Immune Attack 3.0.

Last year the students used the free educational game to learn, by aiming to make science fun and engaging for students. This year, they’re putting their programming and modeling skills to the test to help the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) update the game.

“Lots of schools are using games to teach their students,” said Rick Kelsey, director of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at McKinley. “But this year we’re taking it a step further. The new version of the game will be played by students all over the country.”

The program was set up more like a summer job than summer school, said Chris Johnson, a modeling instructor at McKinley’s summer youth program.

“The programming department had to work with the modeling department and make sure that everything was making sense and would work together. So they’re getting real-world skills,” he said.

Mitchell Holmes, a McKinley student who will be entering the 10th grade this year, said he knew he wanted to be part of the program, because he hopes to enter a career in graphic design when he finishes his schooling. This was his first year working with the “Be the Game” program headed by Kelsey, a summer program that is funded by the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program.

“Immune Attack” is a three-dimensional game that provides scientifically accurate simulations of the immune system, with imagery designed by medical illustrators. Players navigate a nanobot through 3-D blood vessels and connective tissue in an attempt to save an ailing patient by retraining her non-functional immune cells.

McKinley students worked with Melanie Stegman, program manager of learning technologies with FAS, who met with the instructors and students to determine the design of the game. She said she hoped that Immune Attack 3.0 got the students interested in concepts such as what chemotherapy looks like and how mitochondria move.


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CMU software streamlines 3D programming

Carnegie Mellon University is getting set to release an updated version of its popular animation-based software program "Alice," developed by the late "last lecture" professor Randy Pausch to teach computer programming.

Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon computer science professor and pioneer of virtual reality research, was involved with the Alice software project. He died at age 47 of pancreatic cancer last July, 10 months after giving his "last lecture" about facing death that became an internet sensation and spawned his best-selling book, The Last Lecture.

Alice 3–expected to debut later this week, according to university officials–is designed to teach programming using a "drag and drop" interface to create 3D animations. The latest version, which will be available free of charge at, also lets advanced users create programs in the Java programming language.

Users can select hundreds of character objects and scenes from the popular video game "The Sims" to make and control virtual worlds.

Hundreds of colleges and numerous middle and high schools use Alice software to teach programming, according to Carnegie Mellon. The program is designed to serve as an introductory programming course for school-aged children, and the web site,, has instructor’s materials that supplement the Alice 3 textbook.

Alice "dispels the impression that computer programming is all about arcane notations and requires years of training before it becomes possible to create interesting results," Randal Bryant, dean of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, said in a statement.

Pausch saw an early version of Alice 3 shortly before his death.

"To the extent that you can live on in something, I will live on in Alice," he said during his final lecture.

Educators who encounter debugging or troubleshooting problems with the new Alice 3 program can visit and read tips on common issues. The site shows the minimum hardware and software specifications needed to use Alice 3 on classroom computers, what to do when Alice characters’ colors won’t change, and how to play audio files in the program.

In a July 7 blog post by the Alice 3 development team, a programmer wrote, "The Alice team recognized the need for great support materials for teachers, which led to the development of []."

"And actually, it turns out that once some basic, almost minimal guidance is provided, students can go a long way," the blog post said.

The blog warns visitors that the new Alice program is "not for the faint of heart," and that support and supplemental advice will be critical in helping students use the 3D interface.

"If I had to guess, the people who are most likely to adopt Alice 3 right away will be those who are drawn by the smoother transition to Java," the blog read. "Even in its infancy, Alice 3 really has a leg up on Alice 2 in this regard."

Alice 3 workshops have been held throughout the summer as educators prepare to integrate the program into everyday lessons. Workshops were held at Texas A&M University and Duke University in June, among other campuses nationwide.


Alice blog

Alice home page

Learning to Program with Alice


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