SEN Teacher promotes free resources for special needs students

SiteofWeek033110 SEN Teacher is a web site that provides free teaching and learning resources for students with special needs and learning disabilities. Resources for K-12 and college-level students are available, as well as at-home activities and free downloads. The site’s Printables Page has customizable handouts and teaching aids. SEN Teacher links to other web sites that are carefully chosen and that provide additional free resources and helpful links. The Files Page lists free educational software, and custom Google search engines make it easier to locate resources for special needs students.


Pa. university to give all students iPads

It hasn’t even launched yet, and already Apple’s iPad is catching the eye of colleges, CNET reports: Pennsylvania-based Seton Hill University, which has an enrollment of about 2,100, announced March 30 that starting this fall all full-time students will receive an iPad tablet device in an effort to boost learning ability and technical know-how. “The iPad initiative kicks off the university’s Griffin Technology Advantage Program,” the school wrote on its iPad page. “This new program provides students with the best in technology and collaborative learning tools, ensuring that Seton Hill students will be uniquely suited to whatever careers they choose—even those that have not yet been created.” Through the program, each student will receive the iPad, as well as a 13-inch MacBook. Students can use the devices in class and for personal use. The university even plans to replace the laptop with a new one every two years. Students will own the devices, meaning they can take them after graduation. Seton Hill believes that, with the help of technology, it can create a “just-in-time learning environment” that enhances student learning and helps them learn “technological skills [they will] need in the 21st century workforce…”

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Technology coalition seeks stronger privacy laws

A broad coalition of technology companies, including AT&T, Google, and Microsoft, and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum said March 30 that it would push Congress to strengthen online privacy laws to protect private digital information from government access, reports the New York Times. The group, calling itself the Digital Due Process coalition, said it wanted to ensure that as millions of people moved private documents from their filing cabinets and personal computers to the web, those documents remain protected from easy access by law enforcement and other government authorities. The coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Center for Democracy and Technology, wants law-enforcement agencies to use a search warrant approved by a judge or a magistrate, rather than rely on a simple subpoena from a prosecutor to obtain a citizen’s online data. The group also said it wants to safeguard location-based information collected by cell-phone companies and applications providers. Members of the group said they would lobby Congress for an update to the current law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was written in 1986—nearly a decade before internet use became mainstream. They acknowledged that some proposals were likely to face resistance from law-enforcement agencies and the Obama administration. This year, Justice Department lawyers argued in court that cell-phone users had given up the expectation of privacy about their location by voluntarily giving that information to carriers…

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Social media is changing the peer-review process

The rising popularity of uncontrolled peer-to-peer networking is having an effect on the classic role of peer review for research validation, one of the core functions of academic publishing, reports the New York Times. But if some researchers are worried by the potential loss of rigor in the assessment process, others see it as liberating. “Having a paper peer-reviewed is not necessarily an indication that the paper is right,” said Subodh Patil, a post-doctoral physicist at the École Polytechnique in Paris. “We all peer-review, but it is no longer as significant as it was before.”, which emerged in 1991 from Cornell University, was one of the earliest applications of academic social networking. An open-source internet platform, designed to be used by researchers as a communication tool, it revolutionized the way scientists shared findings before official publication in journals., updated daily, allows free worldwide access and response to almost 600,000 online research papers in physics, mathematics, computer science, and more, increasingly sidelining the role of traditional print journals. “Scientists used to mail each other ‘pre-prints’ of journals—which would rarely happen between a scientist from MIT and say, New Delhi,” said Patil. He added: “The scientific literature was always six months behind the current research. … [Journal articles now] are almost irrelevant, and many teachers don’t even bother writing them anymore.” In contrast to journal publication, which is the outcome of a lengthy assessment process, social media postings provide “a real-time snapshot of the front of the state of the art at that particular moment,” he said…

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New 3-D imaging system could touch more students

A program at Richmond County Schools in North Carolina that uses military technology from nearby Fort Bragg has catapulted a member of Richmond’s senior class into a summer internship at the military installation, and observers say the technology could engage students in learning core curriculum content, reports the Richmond County Daily Journal. Senior Miles Pattan was one of the first to take a course in interactive three-dimensional (I 3-D) digital imaging design at the school this semester, and he announced March 30 that he was just accepted into an on-base summer internship. On hand was U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, who represents the district. “This is from a kid [who] didn’t even particularly like school,” Miles’ mother, Tammy Pattan, told the congressman in making the announcement. “But when he started doing this, it very quickly turned from a hobby into a career path.” Kissell was on hand to see the I 3-D classroom the high school has assembled using equipment from Fort Bragg’s Base Realignment and Closure Regional Task Force. A former civics teacher, he, noted the potential of using images that resemble something from an iMax theater to engage students in a lesson plan. “Right away, I can see the applications in civics and teaching about ancient Egypt,” Kissell said. “You could have the Nile River flowing, and the Pyramids, and the way the people dressed.”

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Citing concerns, Yale delays switch to Gmail

The changeover to Google as Yale’s eMail provider has been put on hold as campus officials examine the implications of such a move, reports the Yale Daily News. The school’s Information Technology Services department has decided to postpone its move from the Horde Webmail service to Google Apps for Education, a suite of communication and collaboration tools for universities, pending a campus-wide review process to seek input from faculty and students. “There were enough concerns expressed by faculty that we felt more consultation and input from the community was necessary,” Deputy Provost for Science and Technology Steven Girvin said. Google stores every piece of data in three centers randomly chosen from the many it operates worldwide in order to guard the company’s ability to recover lost information—but that also makes the data subject to the vagaries of foreign laws and governments, Fischer said. And even if all data were kept on American soil, Google’s size and visibility as a company makes it more susceptible to attack, Fischer said. Under the proposed switch, Yale might lose control over its data or could seem to endorse Google corporate policy and the large carbon footprint left by the company’s massive data centers. In addition, Fischer said, Google has a “one size fits all” customer service policy for its Google Apps clients, and the creation of a Google “monoculture” among eMail users could cause severe problems when the company’s servers experience downtime or crashes…

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A look at the technology culture divide

Today's students live in a technology-rich world.

Today's students live in a technology-rich world.

The arrival and rapid dissemination of digital technology in the last decades of the 20th century fundamentally changed our students.  Today’s students represent the first generation to grow up with this new technology.  These adolescents have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cameras, text messaging, and cell phones.

Today’s students use technology such as Instant Messenger, Facebook, Flickr, and Skype to be constantly connected to friends, family, information and entertainment.  As a result, 21st century students think and process information differently. While educators may see students every day, they do not necessarily understand their students’ habits, expectations, or learning preferences–this has resulted in a technology cultural divide.

The technology cultural divide

The Net Generation has arrived.   Don Tapscott in 1998 found that this new demographic group of digital mastery created a social transformation.  The Net Generation is a demographic wave of youth that is the heart of the new digital media culture.  The Net Generation learns, works, plays, communicates, shops, and creates communities very differently than their parents.

Today’s schools are taught and managed by individuals who did not grow up with technology–Digital Immigrants.  Many educators today still teach with the premise of being all-knowing.  Technology-illiterate educators may teach under the premise of, “Come into my classroom, sit in rows, remain quiet, listen to me, and I will pour all the knowledge I have into your brain.”

Students are very comfortable with technology and generally become frustrated when policy, rules, and restrictions prevent them from using technology.  Students become frustrated when administrative restrictions, older equipment, and filtering software inhibits them from in-school technology use.

Traditional schools, generally staffed primarily with Digital Immigrants, often provide very little technology interaction compared to the digital world in which students are actually living.  Digital Natives can pay attention in class, but they choose not to pay attention, because in reality, they are bored with instructional methods that Digital Immigrants use.

Digital Immigrants are often confused, and sometimes upset, by the strange worlds in which children are spending large chunks of time. Educators need to think more deeply about the growing gap between the lives that children and youth lead outside school and the ones that are available to them within its walls. When educators do this, they will have to acknowledge the simple fact that technology has been in schools for more than 20 years, even though they persistently think of it as new.

Today’s Digital Native students have developed new attitudes and aptitudes as a result of their technology environment.  Although these characteristics provide great advantages in areas such as the students’ abilities to use information technology and to work collaboratively, they have created an imbalance between students’ learning environment expectations and Digital Immigrants’ teaching strategies and policies, which students find in schools today.

Solving the technology cultural divide

Some researchers believe that if our schools are going to prepare Digital Native kids for the future, Digital Immigrant educators need to update the curriculum.  For students to be successful in a technology-oriented global economy, educators must recalibrate their focus.  Educators must reframe what they teach so that students understand the significance of what they learn.  When educators make these changes to the curriculum, both students and teachers are invigorated by adding rigor and relevance to the old reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Today, educators must revisit established policies that prohibit students from using technology within the confines of the school building.  Educators must relinquish the idea of being all-knowing and replace that concept with an attitude of being a facilitator, knowing that the world of information is just a “click” away.  Teacher training programs in the area of technology will be paramount in the success of the Digital Native.

Educators today must address the technology cultural divide created by educators who are Digital Immigrants and students who are Digital Natives.  Twenty-first century educators must begin to answer these questions: Do the educational resources provided fit the needs and preferences of today’s learners?  Will linear content give way to simulations, games, and collaboration?  Do students’ desires for group learning and activities imply rethinking the configuration and use of space in classrooms and libraries?  What is the material basis of digital literacy? What is different in a digital age?  What are kids doing already and what could they be doing better, and more responsibly, if we learned how to teach them differently?

Addressing these questions will contribute toward bridging the gap of the technology cultural divide and result in schools where all students have greater potential to achieve academically.

Randall Hoyer is the superintendent of the Lampasas Independent School District in Lampasas, Texas.


Students’ latest ‘crush’: New matchmaking web site

GoodCrush has attracted 14,000 students since its launch in February.

GoodCrush has attracted 14,000 students since its launch in February.

There’s a Yale student looking for a girl who took a “glorious fall” in the rain and looked “cute” doing it. The incident is spelled out on a new social networking site that offers an anonymous forum for college students to find the people they have crushes on., a site that launched in February and is now available to students on more than 20 college and university campuses, features a “Missed Connections” page for visitors who don’t know their crush’s name, but hope they’ll peruse the GoodCrush message board.

The anonymous matchmaking site also lets students who sign up enter the eMail addresses of up to five students they have a crush on. Those students will get an eMail saying someone on GoodCrush wants to connect. If they register, create a GoodCrush account, and enter the eMail address of the person who invited them, then both parties are messaged and their names are revealed.

“We’re trying to bring people closer together in a way that isn’t currently done on college campuses,” said Josh Weinstein, who founded GoodCrush in 2007, when he was a sophomore at Princeton University. Nearly a third of the student body registered on the site within 24 hours of its launch.

Read the full story on eCampus News


From proposed plan to implemented program

Collaboration is essential in making the ed-tech plan a success.

Collaboration is essential in making the ed-tech plan a success.

The partnership between public and private stakeholders has never been more important to American education. That’s especially true now, as we consider the recommendations set forth by the Office of Educational Technology’s draft National Education Technology Plan. To make the plan a reality, collaboration among the public and private sectors should be focused in three key areas: continuing to support innovation through research and development, providing teacher support and tools, and setting standards for teaching and learning platforms that make the development of new applications more efficient.

21st century skills expertise

The plan’s success is critical. Only one in four employers today think two-year and four-year colleges are doing a good job preparing students for the challenges of the global economy, according to a recent survey conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. That number is alarmingly low and it highlights the beliefs of many employers: Our students are inadequately prepared to meet the expectations set by the companies that hire them. This is no doubt linked to student preparation and progress made from kindergarten all the way through graduate school.

The lack of preparation and engagement could be dramatically changed by leveraging the power of technology to provide personalized learning for all. As noted by Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education, technology is a “force multiplier” for teachers.

Integrating technology into the curriculum helps build the skills students need while at the same time making it easier for teachers to assess the development of these skills over time. A plan built on this foundation of personalized interaction between student and teacher, as well as content and assessment and their delivery mode, will help education follow the lead of many other industries, which have embraced technological innovations.

McGraw-Hill Education fully supports the proposed National Ed Tech Plan, as it addresses and aligns with the needs of 21st century teachers and students. The creative and effective use of technology will build collaborative, creative, and effective learning environments, and transform education and training in the same way technology has helped to transform the private sector. Technology will help convert highly skilled learners into highly skilled workers who are well equipped to excel in today’s global knowledge economy.

As noted in the plan, technology will increase student engagement and provide greater opportunities to monitor and assess students’ achievement throughout their learning careers. We fully support accelerating the use of technology in classrooms to enable the delivery of digital learning content and to give instructors and educators uniform, real-time, and transparent methods of assessing, tracking, and improving student outcomes.

The real question now is: What comes next? How do we convert the plan into action? Among other things, we need funding, infrastructure, broadband, and a standard for platforms. We support the administration’s initiatives in these areas and hope our industry will join in support.

Private support

Companies like McGraw-Hill Education can help to advance the plan by creating or more widely implementing innovative tools and resources. Alongside our peers, we anticipate leading this charge. With 100 percent of our K-12 content available digitally and 95 percent of our higher education content following suit, we hope to help all stakeholders in U.S. education embrace and adopt digital delivery.

It is essential that any new technology incorporate the best of adaptive learning and smart software in order to overcome any barriers to learning. These new tools also must contribute to enhanced classroom learning, consistency of learning opportunities across regions, and reduced operational costs.

We must develop products and services that support this plan and President Obama’s ambitious 2020 goal that all students graduate high school and become college and career ready. In addition, these products and services must support future changes in the education system brought about by new technologies, different economic conditions, shifting workforce trends, and other factors. We need to build an infrastructure that can handle such change gracefully and efficiently so our teachers and students can benefit from ongoing innovation.


Critics say administration’s blueprint is too similar to NCLB

Critics say the blueprint does not go far enough in changing NCLB.

Critics say the administration's blueprint for rewriting the nation's education law does not go far enough in changing NCLB.

As the Obama administration seeks support for its plan to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), many education policy analysts worry that the new blueprint’s guidelines are too reminiscent of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)—most notably by continuing to place too much focus on high-stakes testing.

In the proposed dismantling of NCLB, education officials would move away from punishing schools that don’t meet benchmarks and focus on rewarding schools for progress, particularly with poor and minority students. (See “Obama offers blueprint for rewriting NCLB.”)

The proposed changes call for states to adopt standards that ensure students are ready for college or a career, rather than grade-level proficiency—the focus of the current law.

The blueprint also would allow states to use subjects other than reading and mathematics as part of their measurements for meeting federal goals, a move that could please some NCLB critics who have said the current law encourages schools to narrow the curriculum as they prepare students for high-stakes tests.

And, for the first time in 45 years, the White House is proposing a $4 billion increase in federal education spending, most of which would increase the competition among states for grant money—moving away from formula-based funding.

But despite the blueprint’s call for testing and core subject changes, critics say the U.S. Department of Education (ED) still has a long way to go in improving the nation’s education system.

“The Obama administration, although it promised change when it came to office, in effect has picked up precisely the same themes as the George W. Bush administration, which are testing and choice—and I think we’re on the wrong track,” Diane Ravitch, an education historian and research professor of education at New York University, said in a February interview with eSchool News.

In a follow-up eMail message sent in response to the just-released blueprint, Ravitch said the administration’s formal plan to dismantle NCLB had not changed her mind.

“It is a positive sign that the blueprint mentions the importance of subjects other than reading and math,” Ravitch wrote March 18. “These subjects, however, will still be tested annually and will still be the basis for determining which level a school falls into. These scores will determine which schools drop into the dreaded 5 [percent], where they will suffer draconian penalties. The federal government generously acknowledges that other subjects should be taught and tested, but good educators will want to teach history, literature, geography, civics, literature, the arts, and other studies even if they are not tested.”

In another reaction to the blueprint, Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and former education columnist for the New York Times, published “A blueprint that needs more work,” which closely examines the blueprint’s proposals.

While the blueprint has many positives—for example, it recognizes that college is essential, yet more and more expensive; broadens the curriculum focus; and notes that a typical school day is not enough to support students who need stimulating academic enrichment during off-school hours—those “positive steps seem somewhat inconsistent with other aspects of the blueprint and associated budget recommendations,” Rothstein wrote.

The blueprint proposes awarding formula-based grants for states to redesign their assessments in reading and math to make sure they align with college and career-ready standards. ED also would offer grants to help states develop tests in other subjects, such as science and social studies—although these grants would be awarded on a competitive basis instead of by formula.

That’s troubling, Rothstein wrote, because of current economic strains.