Advent of the talking pen

The Talking Pen – Multimedia Print Reader has arrived in India. Aadarsh Private Limited, a leading publishing house, introduced this unique education technology to revolutionize the current traditional education pattern and learning process in India, Express Computer Online reports. The Talking Pen was launched at the World Book Fair in New Delhi, recently. Ashish Rajoria and Manish Rajoria, co-founders of Aadarsh Private Limited, Pradeep Kishen, author of Trees of Delhi and film-maker and Naresh Khanna, Editor and Publisher, Indian Printer and Publisher were present as special guests at the occasion.  The Multimedia Print Reader is a giant leap in the educational technology, which uses listening skills along with traditional reading. It is a unique concept where the pen recites the written text. The technology has been developed to elevate the learning experience of students by focusing on the enormous benefits of listening.  This education tool will also cater to the special needs of the visually challenged population and people suffering from various levels of dyslexia. It will also help in empowering volunteers responsible for public service education or vocational training with technological proficiency. As per the recent UNICEF report our education system is plagued by shortages—teachers, resources, schools and classrooms…

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UCF awards $1M for 7 education projects

The University of Central Florida has awarded nearly $1 million to fund seven projects in disciplines from accounting to digital media aimed at enhancing undergraduate education. President John Hitt and Provost Terry Hickey approved the programs, which were recommended by a review committee from 36 proposals submitted, according to a UCF release. In December, UCF asked the campus community to develop new and sustainable initiatives that would have a significant positive impact on the quality of undergraduate education. Projects will be funded beginning July 1, the start of the 2010-11 fiscal year. Projects are subject to an annual review and may be funded for up to three years. Based upon the success of these initial projects, the university may seek additional proposals next year…

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TCEA keynote: Educators must show determination, drive

Christopher Gardner's speech inspired an audience of ed-tech supporters.

Christopher Gardner's speech inspired an audience of ed-tech supporters.

Christopher Gardner, the man whose life experiences inspired The Pursuit of Happyness, his best-selling autobiography which later developed into a movie, welcomed attendees on the first day of the 30th annual Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference with two words of wisdom: “Life happens.”

Gardner detailed his ambition to create a meaningful life despite the obstacles thrown his way, and several themes emerged during his talk—themes that educators most certainly have in common with Gardner: determination, drive, and positive thinking.

“We have seen the creation of a whole new class of homeless people,” Gardner said. He calls that group “white collar homeless” and said that every day, countless professionals who have lost their homes as a result of the nation’s economic struggles go to work and do all they can to remain on their feet.

It’s estimated, he said, that 12 percent of all homeless people in the U.S. have jobs and go to work. Those figures are two years old and were collected before the economic downturn.

“We all know what’s happened since then,” he said.

Much like Gardner, who went to work each day with his toddler son in a stroller, duffel bags and diapers hanging from his arms, educators do the best they can with what little they might have in the classroom, hoping that their students will be able to thrive in an increasingly competitive global economy that pits students from Kansas against students from Japan and India.

Gardner said he was “homeless, but not hopeless.” Education technology advocates often have to fight for each penny in a school or district’s technology budget, he said, but ever dollar won is a victory.

And with stimulus funding nearing an end and the Enhancing Education Through Technology program facing an uncertain future as it is folded into a larger federal program, educators must focus more than ever on achieving a shared goal for adequate technology funding that gives students the opportunity to truly develop and nurture critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills.

Jennifer Bergland, chief technology officer with Bryan Independent School District (Texas) and TCEA advocacy chair, echoed Gardner’s sentiments in an afternoon session that focused on ed-tech funding advocacy.

Bergland encouraged session attendees to become familiar with the process whereby a proposed bill becomes a state law. While her session focused on Texas-specific resources, her advice is applicable to educators across the nation.

“You need to have a fundamental understanding of how [the bill process] works to interact with the system,” she said.

Educators and education technology advocates should make an effort to meet and develop relationships with their state representatives and senators. Going online to a state government web site should yield Frequently Asked Question pages and other resources that detail state processes on bills, amendments, bill tracking, and committee members.

Bergland said the more involved educators become, the more state lawmakers and their staff will realize how important educational issues are. Regularly voicing support, through written letters, eMails, or phone calls, establishes a relationship between educators and lawmakers’ staff members.

Signing up for RSS feeds and eMail notifications about certain bills’ statuses also is helpful, she said.

But educators should obtain their superintendent’s permission before speaking on behalf of a school district or using a school eMail address to communicate with lawmakers.




Google to build ultra-fast web networks

The U.S. ranks 28th in broadband internet access, according to a report released last summer.

The U.S. ranks 28th in broadband internet access, according to a report released last summer.

Google Inc. plans to build a handful of experimental, ultra-fast internet networks around the country to ensure that tomorrow’s systems can keep up with online video and other advanced applications that the company will want to deliver. The internet search giant’s plans could help rural schools and colleges hoping to expand broadband web access to students and faculty.

The Google project, announced Feb. 10, is also intended to provide a platform for outside developers to create and try out all sorts of cutting-edge applications that will require far more bandwidth than today’s networks offer.

The company said its fiber-optic broadband networks will deliver speeds of 1 gigabit per second to as many as 500,000 Americans.

The systems will be many times faster than the existing DSL, cable, and fiber-optic networks that connect most U.S. consumers to the internet today at speeds typically ranging from 3 megabits to 20 megabits per second.

Google envisions systems that will let consumers download a high-definition, full-length feature film in less than five minutes, allow rural health clinics to send 3-D medical images over the web, and let students collaborate with classmates around the world while watching live 3-D video of a university lecture.

“Our goal is to trial new technologies and figure out what kinds of applications you can send over these big pipes,” said Richard Whitt, Google’s Washington-based counsel for telecommunications and media. “There may be next-generation applications that are being held back right now.”

A recent report titled “3-D TV: Where Are We Now and Where Are Consumers” explores how 3-D video might be used in K-12 schools and college campuses some day. 3-D projectors are available already, and technology experts say they soon could be commonplace in classrooms. (See “eSN Special Report: Learning in 3-D.”)

“As educators, we all too often are required out of necessity to make students take three-dimensional concepts and try to learn them in a two-dimensional perspective,” said Stan Silverman, professor at the New York Institute of Technology’s School of Education. “This disconnect creates a gap in learning between those who naturally can map back to three dimensions and those who can’t.”

Whitt said Google isn’t looking to compete head-to-head with the phone and cable companies that dominate the U.S. broadband business.

Rather, he said, Google hopes its project will help advance new broadband applications and network technology and help identify ways to bring fiber-optic connections to more Americans at a lower cost.

The announcement came as welcome news to public-interest groups that have warned that broadband connections in the U.S. are far slower and more expensive than those available in many industrialized countries in Europe and Asia.

Although there are other ultra-fast networks in the United States—such as Internet2, which is run by a consortium of universities, corporations, government agencies, and laboratories—those are not available to general consumers.


Free videos explore the science behind the Olympics

skierTeachers looking for ways to incorporate the Olympic Winter Games into their instruction have a new resource they can use: NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, has teamed up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce a 16-part video series focusing on the science behind the games. How does angular momentum help figure skater Rachael Flatt achieve the perfect triple toe loop? How does elastic collision allow three-time Olympic hockey player Julie Chu to convert a game-winning slapshot? How do Newton’s Three Laws of Motion propel short track speed skater J.R. Celski to the finish line?  These are just a few of the scientific principles explored in the new video series, called “The Science of the Olympic Winter Games.” (NBC is broadcasting the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver Feb. 12-28.) The videos capitalize on students’ interest in the Vancouver Olympics to make science more accessible to them by illustrating how scientific principles apply to competitive sports. Narrated by NBC News anchor Lester Holt, the series is available to educators free of charge on the NBC Learn web site as a timely way to incorporate the Olympics into their classroom teaching. In each video segment, an NSF-supported scientist explains a particular scientific principle, while Olympic athletes describe how these principles apply to their respective sports. The science is explained by capturing the athletes’ movements with a state-of-the-art, high-speed camera called the Phantom Cam, which has the ability to capture movement at rates of up to 1,500 frames per second. This allows frame-by-frame illustrations of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum, friction, drag, speed, velocity, and other scientific concepts.


Education secretary pushes to revise student loan practices

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday urged the Senate to overhaul student lending, asserting that the banking industry has had “a free ride from taxpayers for too long” and that executives with lending giant Sallie Mae have enriched themselves as borrowers rack up college debt, reports the Washington Post.

“Working Americans pay while bankers get rich,” Duncan said in a prepared statement. “Sallie Mae executives have paid themselves hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade while teachers, nurses, and scientists — the backbone of the new economy — face crushing debt because of runaway college tuition costs.”

Duncan’s unusually pointed critique marked an escalation in the student loan debate as the Obama administration seeks to end a program that uses private lenders as middlemen for federally backed loans. The tone of the comments echoed President Obama’s recent populist rhetoric about the need to expand regulation of Wall Street…

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Google’s eMail gets social in Facebook face-off

Google Inc. opened a new social hub in its e-mail service on Tuesday, leaving little doubt that the Internet search leader is girding for a face-off with Facebook, reports the Associated Press. The new Gmail channel, called Google Buzz, includes many of the features that have turned Facebook into the Web’s top spot for fraternizing with friends and family. It comes less than a week after Facebook made changes of its own. Among other things, Facebook now shows a list of friends available for chatting on the left side of the page, similar to where Gmail now displays its chat feature. The Google Buzz features won’t reach all of Gmail’s estimated 176 million users worldwide for several more days. A link to the service will appear on the top left of the page, in a prominent position just under Gmail’s inbox tab…

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Publishers win a bout in eBook Price Fight

With the impending arrival of digital books on the Apple iPad and feverish negotiations with over e-book prices, publishers have managed to take some control–at least temporarily–of how much consumers pay for their content, reports the New York Times. Now, as publishers enter discussions with the Web giant Google about its plan to sell digital versions of new books direct to consumers, they have a little more leverage than just a few weeks ago–at least when it comes to determining how Google will pay publishers for those e-books and how much consumers will pay for them.

Google has been talking about entering the direct eBook market, through a program it calls Google Editions, for nearly a year. But in early discussions with publishers, Google had proposed giving them a 63 percent cut of the suggested retail price, and allowing consumers to print copies of the digital books and cut and paste segments. After Apple unveiled the iPad last month, publishers indicated that Apple would give them 70 percent of the consumer price, which publishers would set.

According to several publishers who have been talking to Google, the book companies had balked at what they saw as Google’s less generous terms, and basically viewed printing and cut-and-paste as deal breakers…

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Kentucky to be first to endorse national education standards

Kentucky schoolchildren in grades K-12 will see new standards for math and English next year, as part of a collaborative effort among 48 states to more clearly specify what knowledge and skills students need to succeed in college and in the workforce, reports the Courier-Journal. On Wednesday, the state will become the first in the nation to endorse the so-called “Common Core State Standards Initiative,” during a meeting of officials from the state Department of Education; the Council on Postsecondary Education, which coordinates the state’s higher education system; and the state’s Education Professional Standards Board, which certifies that state’s teachers and school administrators.

The idea is to align coursework and materials in every state, and to establish clear, consistent expectations of what students have to learn at each grade level in preparation for college and the workforce. As part of the effort, new tests will be developed, based on the common standards, which will eventually allow state-by-state comparisons…

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Gibbons calls for changes to public education

In a speech to the state Monday, Gov. Jim Gibbons demanded that lawmakers consider major changes to public education in the special session tentatively set for Feb. 23, reports the Nevada Appeal. Pointing out that education consumes 54 percent of the state’s general fund budget, Gibbons said, “We can’t solve a $1 billion hole in a $6 billion budget if half of that budget is off the table.” He said 142 of Nevada’s 613 public schools qualify as “the worst schools in the nation,” and that more money won’t help fix those schools.
His solution, he said, is to “quit throwing money at programs that haven’t worked and don’t work for our children.” The prime examples he cited in his speech are class size reduction and full-day kindergarten. Gibbons said he won’t eliminate those programs, just remove the mandates imposing them on districts…

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