Win a FREE Tour of the Grad School of Your Dreams

 

 Contact:
Harriet Brand
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Win a FREE Tour of the Grad School of Your Dreams
Courtesy of The Princeton Review®
 
New York, NY, Aug. 24, 2009 – 
 
From August 16 through October 16, 2009, students can enter The Princeton Review’s Dream School Tour Giveaway and win the grand prize—a trip to their top-choice medical, law, business or graduate school. Additionally, two first prize winners will receive a free classroom or online MCAT, LSAT, GMAT or GRE course. Students can register to win online at www.PrincetonReview.com/DreamTour or by calling 800-2Review (800-273-8439).
 
 “Choosing which graduate school to attend is not a decision to be made lightly,” says Rob Franek, a nationally recognized expert on higher education admissions and author of the test preparation company’s best-selling guidebook Best 371 Colleges. “Whether your intent is to learn more about the ‘feel’ of the school, speak with current students, or discuss your qualifications with program administrators, a school visit aids your admissions process immeasurably.”
 
No purchase is necessary to enter the Dream School Tour Giveaway. It is open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. and D.C., Puerto Rico and Canada (void in Quebec) who are 18 and older and enrolled in an undergraduate program in an accredited college/university in the 50 U.S., D.C., Puerto Rico or Canada (excluding Quebec) as of September 2010. Void in Quebec and where prohibited. The Princeton Review Dream School Tour Giveaway starts 8/16/09 and ends 10/16/09. Sponsored by The Princeton Review, Inc. For Official Rules, visit www.PrincetonReview.com/DreamTour.

 

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New school week could have technology twist

Minnesota’s Kingsland Public Schools is considering an alternative school schedule in which students would spend four days in a traditional classroom setting with the fifth day of instruction delivered via technology and computer, reports the Post-Bulletin of Rochester, Minn. District officials say the proposal remains at the discussion stage, but it could be implemented as early the second semester of this academic year. The plan, called i4Knights, was introduced to the school board last month. If Kingsland were to adopt i4Knights, it would likely make the district the only one in the state to have such a hybrid schedule. Officials say the proposal should not be viewed as a four-day school week, because the fifth day — or digital day — would be a school day also. Only in this case, the instruction would be delivered at a remote location, such as at home, the library, or the computer lab at school. The district rejected the idea of a four-day school week to save on costs, because it did little more than lengthen the remaining days. Kingsland Superintendent Darrin Strosahl says i4Knights could have other benefits besides saving money. "If you try a different approach, you could engage some that are not engaged right now," Strosahl said…

Click here for the full story

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Web startup offers an easy way to donate unwanted gift cards to schools

Plastic Jungle, an online marketplace for unused gift cards, now allows people to donate the full value of unwanted cards to classroom projects through DonorsChoose.org, reports the New York Times. On average, each household in the United States has around $400 worth of gift cards lying around, according to Plastic Jungle, a start-up that sells, purchases, and exchanges unused gift cards. Owners of idle gift cards typically use Plastic Jungle to exchange cards for cash or a credit with Amazon.com, though they lose some of the face value in the transaction. But the Mountain View, Calif., company recently added the option of donating the full face value of the cards to needy schools through DonorsChoose.org. Plastic Jungle is hoping the initiative will strike a chord with strapped consumers who still want to donate to charitable causes, said Kristin Cunningham, director of marketing and business development for the company. "This is a new way to fund a charity, which is particularly relevant during a time when it might be hard for some people to make the same-sized gifts as usual, although they still want to donate," Cunningham said…

Click here for the full story

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Tech director helps bring women into IT

A German literature major never anticipates a career in information technology, but Deborah Keyek-Franssen’s unconventional career path isn’t so uncommon among female IT officials on college campuses, she says.

Keyek-Franssen, the University of Colorado’s director of academic technology since 2007, said women often enter the IT field at an advanced age, because they didn’t major in computer science like their male counterparts who enter the field after college and have better chances for promotion after years in the profession.

That’s why Keyek-Franssen is co-director of the Colorado Coalition for Gender & IT, an organization that tracks the presence of women in technology and encourages girls and women to focus on computer science during their high school and college careers.

Keyek-Franssen’s education also includes degrees in women’s studies and higher education administration, giving her a background that allows for easier communication with University of Colorado faculty and staff members who don’t speak IT office jargon.

"I have an outsider status as someone who is not quite IT," said Keyek-Franssen, who worked as a campus IT analyst for nine years before becoming director of academic technology. "But I’ve always been one to push for technology in teaching."

Keyek-Franssen said the University of Colorado’s IT team works closely with professors in exploring a plethora of technology solutions to their challenges. For example, faculty members trying to establish a private online area that allows researchers, professors, and students to share documents and exchange ideas will get several ideas from IT workers, such as Facebook, Google Docs, or Ning.

"We want to help faculty find that sweet spot," she said.

Too often, female IT employees get computer training in non-technology-related fields such as human resources, Keyek-Franssen said. That training pays dividends, she said, but an academic focus on computers would give women a better chance to reach the ranks of campus chief technology officer.

"Women who are in IT don’t often come to it by being interested in computers in high school and then studying it for four years [in college]," she said. "They acquire it informally by working in other jobs and getting IT training here and there."

Research supports Keyek-Franssen’s assertion. A study conducted by the Colorado-based National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) during the 2005-06 school year suggested that just 11 percent of women in the IT field earned computer engineering college degrees. More than 35,000 men earned computer science degrees in 2006, compared with fewer than 10,000 women, according to the research. The gender  gulf in IT peaked in 2005, when more than 40,000 men graduated in computer science, compared with about 8,000 women.

The IT gap translates to the professional world, where, among Fortune 500 companies, only 15 percent of CIOs are women, according to the NCWIT research. And from 1980 to 2005, just 4.7 percent of U.S.-invented IT patents were credited to women.

After 11 years in the academic IT field, Keyek-Franssen said she’s accustomed to frequently being one of the only women in the room–a trend confirmed during IT meetings.

"I count the number of [men and women] in the room … and do the percentages in my head," said Keyek-Franssen, 46. "You just kind of say, ‘It is what it is, and I’m just going to work to make it better.’"

Links:

NCWIT research

University of Colorado

Colorado Coalition for Gender & IT

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Panelists to FCC: Raise e-Rate funding cap

The e-Rate can play a significant role in the national broadband plan being developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), panelists said during an Aug. 20 hearing–but for this to happen, commissioners must raise the program’s funding cap.

"When the e-Rate began, our connectivity consisted of a few dial-up connections in our school libraries," said Sheryl Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, La. "Today, this has all changed. We now have over 20,000 computers connected to our network, and–at any given moment–over 12,000 of them are accessing the network. Each day, our students, teachers, and administrators make more than 5 million web page or network object requests, send or receive over 35,000 eMail messages, and transmit 18.5 gigabytes of data."

Yet, as successful as the program has been in connecting schools and libraries to the internet, demand for the e-Rate still far exceeds what is available for disbursement, Abshire testified.

"Since the program’s second year, the [FCC] has not raised the e-Rate’s annual cap above its current $2.25 billion funding level, not even providing it an inflation adjustment," she said. "On average, annual demand for e-Rate support outstrips the annual cap by $1.75 billion, with this year’s $3.99 billion demand mirroring the average shortfall."

Abshire’s testimony came during a hearing convened by the FCC to discuss the implications of its national broadband plan for education. The hearing was one of several the agency is holding as it works to create a national strategy for ensuring that all citizens have affordable access to high-speed internet service.

Abshire, who is responsible for her district’s e-Rate applications and audits, described how the program has provided more than $5 million in telecommunications discounts to her district to significantly upgrade its network infrastructure; support phone, cellular, and voice-over-IP services; and enable IP video services.

Abshire said the e-Rate provides many benefits, but she recommended several reforms that should be made to enhance the program’s effectiveness, including raising the annual funding cap to at least $4 billion.

Growing demand for e-Rate discounts "is pushing the e-Rate to the brink of being unable to satisfy the internal connections requests from our nation’s poorest of the poor: those schools and libraries that are eligible for 90-percent discounts," Abshire said. "As it is, the program has been unable to satisfy all internal connections requests since its second year … and hasn’t been able to provide internal connections funding to applicants eligible for less than 80-percent discounts in the past five funding years."

Calcasieu Parish, like many other districts, has suffered from the shortfall in e-Rate funding, Abshire said.

"The only year in recent memory that we received funding for internal connections was in 2006-07, and it took Hurricane Rita … and a special exemption from the Commission for that to occur," she said. "Other than that, we have not received any substantial internal connections dollars since the program’s inception–and we don’t expect this year to be any different, because of our low to mid 70-percent discount eligibility."

The lack of available funding for internal connections "is crippling my district educationally," Abshire said. Currently, Calcasieu Parish has a single 100 Mbps connection to the internet.

"With the expansive use of online learning and the growing digital content needs in each of our schools, this level of service is grossly inadequate," she said. "Last year, in fact, we were forced … to institute bandwidth caps across the district. This has led to major issues. For example, even though each classroom has approximately five computers, our district can only guarantee two wired network connections per classroom. Imagine having five phones, but only two can dial out or get calls. Imagine having five cars, but only two of them have wheels. Now imagine having five computers, but only two can access all the information out on the internet. What do you tell the other three students? Which computer would you want to use?"

Tom Greaves, chairman of education consulting firm The Greaves Group, provided information to support Abshire’s case. Greaves said data from a study his firm conducted in 2008 show the average student has just six kilobits per second of bandwidth while at school–yet many students have hundreds of times more than that when they get home.

"It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize there’s a problem," he said.

Greaves’ study also showed that 40 percent of districts believe the e-Rate isn’t meeting their current needs–and 60 percent say they’re throttling back their internet use to save on bandwidth. He recommended that the FCC increase the program’s annual cap to $6 billion, indexed for inflation, and add support for wireless broadband on students’ mobile devices (with appropriate usage caps).

Greaves also urged the FCC to allow schools to apply for licenses to set up their own networks using unused spectrum in the 2.5 GHz frequency, particularly if they’re located in an area of the country without broadband coverage. In addition, he asked the agency to fund research on conservation techniques for education broadband.

Abshire recommended that the e-Rate’s rules be changed to "allow community members to use e-Rate supported services for continuing education and similar purposes during non-school hours." She said this change would allow schools to provide technology classes for underprivileged families, and let families use technology labs after hours.

"The e-Rate has already proven to be of major significance in providing broadband to schools and libraries nationwide, and I am confident that it can play an even larger role in future broadband dissemination and usage if its annual cap is raised and its after-school use rules are relaxed," she concluded.

Link:

National Broadband Plan: Education

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Building a Cost-Effective Digital Classroom resource center. If today’s students are to compete in an increasingly global economy, schools will need much more than textbooks and traditional pencil-and-paper approaches to succeed. Students need the benefit of technology-rich classrooms to give them marketable skills that they will use throughout their professional lives. Go to: Building a Cost-Effective Digital Classroom

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Virtual 3-D lab aims to stimulate learning

Students at a Baltimore County high school this fall will explore the area surrounding Mount St. Helens in a vehicle that can morph from an aircraft to a car to a boat to learn about how the environment has changed since the volcano’s 1980 eruption.

But they’ll do it all without ever leaving their Chesapeake High School classroom–they will be using a three-dimensional Virtual Learning Environment developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) with the university’s Center for Technology Education.

A coalition that also included Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and the University of Baltimore is deploying the environment, which was modeled after a state-of-the-art, 3-D visualization facility at APL that was used for projects by the Department of Defense and NASA. The Virtual Learning Environment is the first of its kind in the nation, said Baltimore County Superintendent Joe Hairston.

David Peloff, program director of emerging technologies at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Technology in Education, said the Virtual Learning Environment grew out of a recently completed federal grant that allowed researchers to look at the ways gaming and simulation technology could be used to help children learn.

"There’s not a lot of research that says this directly improves student achievement. We have a hunch that it does," he said. "But we do know that it improves student involvement. And it [improves] teacher involvement, as well."

Rising 11th-grader Reese Glidden, who worked with the Virtual Learning Environment over the summer, noted that when students have interest in something, they are more willing and able to learn–and gaming is something that students are interested in.

"People can learn anything, but they have to be interested in it. There are people who can [recite] sports statistics for the past 10 years, because it’s something that they’re interested in," he said.

Hairston stressed that students need to be taught in ways they are able to understand and relate to.

"I’ve been saying for the past six years or so, if you want to know about the future and technology, there are two places you should go: the military or Toys ‘R’ Us," he said. "We need to teach our children where they are, and not where we were."

Peloff said the area around Mount St. Helens was chosen because the ecosystem has changed dramatically over the past 30 years and is a great place to begin integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts into the virtual environment.

"But we will work to develop other environments, and [we] hope that eventually students will be able to create their own environment," he said. "This year, we’re developing a moon environment."

The Virtual Learning Environment includes 10 high-definition, 72-inch TV monitors, arranged in two five-screen semicircles that allow students to interact with what they see on screen using a custom-designed digital switch and touch-panel controller. In an adjoining lab, 30 workstations, each outfitted with three interconnected monitors, will display the same environments, allowing lessons to be translated and understood on a team or a student basis.

Students using the Virtual Learning Environment will visit and explore a geographically accurate terrain model of the region surrounding Mount St. Helens. They will encounter learning challenges that involve virtual characters, animals, and other 3-D objects–such as determining why fish in a lake are dying. Two-dimensional resources such as documents, photographs, and videos also can be integrated into the learning modules.

All Chesapeake High School students will have the opportunity to use the Virtual Learning Environment. The classroom and lab will be incorporated into the school’s environmental science and geometry curricula this school year, with plans to extend to social studies and English next year.

"This year is a planning and learning year for us. Then we will determine how [the Virtual Learning Environment] can be replicated at other schools," said Kara E.B. Calder, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County Public Schools.

Links:

Baltimore County Public Schools

JHU Applied Physics Laboratory

JHU Center for Technology in Education

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Schools, families clash over autism service dogs

Like seeing-eye dogs for the blind, trained dogs are now being used to help autistic children deal with their disabilities. But some schools want to keep the animals out–and families are fighting back.

Two autistic elementary school students recently won court orders in Illinois allowing their dogs to accompany them to school. Their lawsuits follow others in California and Pennsylvania over schools’ refusal to allow dogs that parents say calm their children, ease transitions, and even keep the kids from running into traffic.

At issue is whether the dogs are true “service dogs”–essential to managing a disability–or simply companions that provide comfort.

School districts say they are not discriminating, just drawing the line to protect the safety and health of other students who might be allergic or scared of dogs.

“The school district has 650 students, not just one. So we have to balance,” said Brandon Wright, attorney for the Villa Grove district in central Illinois, which objected to 6-year-old Kaleb Drew’s plan to bring his yellow Labrador retriever, Chewey, to school.

Kaleb’s family won a judge’s order in July allowing the dog to come to class until a trial, set to start Nov. 10. So when Kaleb started his first full day of first grade last month, Chewey was by his side.

Service dogs have long been used by the blind, but training them to help those with autism is relatively new. While there’s little research on how these animals affect autistic children, families like Kaleb’s say they have seen marked improvement. And the support group Autism Speaks includes a list of dog-training groups among resources on its web site.

Autism is a developmental disorder that involves behaviors such as poor eye contact, trouble communicating, and repetitive movements such as rocking or hand-flapping. Those with the disorder are prone to outbursts and might have trouble with changes in their environment.

The dogs are trained to be a calming influence, providing a constant between home, school, and other new places. Sometimes, as in Kaleb’s case, the dogs are tethered to children to prevent them from running off in dangerous situations.

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Friendship ‘boot camp’ helps autistic teens cope

A new 14-week “boot camp” is helping autistic teens recognize the social cues most of us take for granted every day, enabling them to make new friends and socialize at a reasonably functional level.

Thirteen-year-old Andrea Levy ticked off a mental list of rules to follow when her guest arrived: Greet her at the door. Introduce her to the family. Offer a cold drink.

Above all, make her feel welcome by letting her choose what to do.

“Do you want to make pizza now, or do you want to make it later?” the lanky, raven-haired teen rehearsed in the kitchen, as her mother spread out dough and toppings.

This was a pivotal moment for Andrea, a girl who invited just one acquaintance to her bat mitzvah.

Andrea has autism, and socializing doesn’t come naturally. For the past several weeks, she’s gone to classes that teach the delicate ins and outs of making friends–the Emily Post rules of etiquette for autistic teens.

For Andrea, this pizza date is the ultimate test.

The bell rings. The door opens. Can she remember what she needs to do?
More important, will she make a friend?

Even for socially adept kids, the teen years, full of angst and peer pressure, can be a challenge. It’s an especially difficult time for kids with autism spectrum disorders, a catchall term for a range of poorly understood brain conditions–from the milder Asperger’s syndrome to more severe autism marked by lack of eye contact, poor communication, and repetitive behavior such as head-banging.

An estimated 1 in 150 American children has some form of autism. There’s no known cure. Some research suggests autistic kids who get help early can overcome some of their deficits. But the social skills they learn as a toddler might not be so useful to a teen.

“A lot of our kids need a tune-up. They need new skills to help them survive in their new social world,” said clinical psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson of the University of California, Los Angeles, who runs a three-and-a-half-month friendship program for high-functioning autistic teens like Andrea.

Growing up, Andrea hardly had friends at all. They either moved away or grew tired by her inability to emotionally connect.

When she was 18 months old, her parents noticed something was amiss. Instead of babbling, she would cry or scream to get attention. She had no desire to play, even with her older brother.

Some doctors said not to worry; others thought she had a speech impairment.

None of the answers made sense to Andrea’s parents until two medical experts, including a pediatrician who specialized in developmental disorders, diagnosed her as autistic.

The family soon enrolled Andrea in special play therapy.

“We try and help her make friends, but she’s always a step behind her peers,” said her mother, Gina Levy.

In some respects, Andrea is a typical teenage girl who is crazed about celebrity gossip magazines, romance novels, drama, and chorus. But she can be withdrawn and doesn’t always get the subtleties of body language and other nonverbal signs.

Whenever she gets stuck in a conversation, she tends to stare, making people around her uncomfortable. She doesn’t mean to be impolite–it’s just her way of watching and learning.

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12th Annual Beloit College Mindset List Announced Via Webcast

MADISON, Wis. — August 18, 2009 — Beloit College today announced its 12th annual Mindset List via webcast using Mediasite Sonic Foundry, Inc. (NASDAQ: SOFO), the recognized market leader for rich media webcasting and knowledge management, giving the world a peek at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of this year’s incoming college freshmen.

 
The webcast is now available at www.beloit.edu/mindsetwebcast.
 
The Beloit College Mindset List is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Emeritus Public Affairs Director Ron Nief. The List is used on campuses and around the world as a reminder of the rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation. The Mindset List website at www.beloit.edu receives more than 300,000 hits annually.
 
“Webcasting is just in its infancy and yet will be the one technology that allows the class of 2013 and beyond to go to lectures without having to go there. It’s a tremendous realm by which you can be transported to informational regimes that before you actually had to travel to access,” said McBride. “Webcasting is another aspect of computers that is just beginning to have a revolutionary impact.”
 
“The themes that show up on the 75 items in this year’s Mindset List are that it has always been a very different world for these students. The best examples being there’s never been a Soviet Union but there’s always been a European Union,” said Nief. “There are certain things that have been occurring all their lives that once again are in the headlines today. For example, someone has always been asking if Iraq is worth a war.”
 
Highlights from the 12th Annual Beloit College Mindset List include the author’s top ten picks:
1.       The European Union has always existed.
2.       McDonald’s has always been serving Happy Meals in China.
3.       Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive. 
4.       Babies have always had social security numbers.
5.       Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.
6.       Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.
7.       The American health care system has always been in critical condition. 
8.       They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.
9.       Vice presidents of the United States have always had real power.
10.   There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.
 
“The Beloit College Mindset List exemplifies the innovation and modernity expected by today’s college students,” said Rimas Buinevicius, chairman and CEO of Sonic Foundry. “Partnering with Beloit College to webcast these cultural touchstones is rewarding for Sonic Foundry because our customers leverage our webcasting technology as one way to cross not only time and space, but also the generational divide.”
 
Since its introduction in 2003, Sonic Foundry’s Mediasite has set the standard as a transformational communication medium for delivering critical information and sharing knowledge. Trusted by more than 600 colleges and universities, the patented Mediasite webcasting and content management system quickly and cost-effectively automates the capture, management, delivery and search of rich media presentations that combine audio, video and accompanying graphics for live or on-demand viewing.
 
About Sonic Foundry®, Inc.
Sonic Foundry (NASDAQ: SOFO, www.sonicfoundry.com) is the global leader for rich media webcasting and knowledge management, providing enterprise communication solutions for more than 1,500 customers in education, business and government. Powered by Mediasite, the patented webcasting platform which automates the capture, management, delivery and search of lectures, online training and briefings, Sonic Foundry empowers people to transform the way they communicate. Through the Mediasite platform and its Events Services group, the company helps customers connect a dynamic, evolving world of shared knowledge and envisions a future where learners and workers around the globe use webcasting to bridge time and distance, accelerate research and improve performance.
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