Teacher wants to change education using 40 iPads

Matt Wilson, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Garfield Middle School in Hamilton, Ohio, is asking for some help to outfit his classroom with a set of iPads, reports the Hamilton Journal News. For the month of July, Wilson’s proposal for a grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project is one of around 1,000 proposals that are part of an online election to see who gets a $50,000 award. Titled “Let’s Change Education,” Wilson’s proposal would allow the purchase of 40 iPads and an iMac computer to help maintain and synchronize them, along with programs and accessories. “We wouldn’t need textbooks,” Wilson said. “It would essentially turn the classroom interactive. If I ask a question, then everyone could respond on the iPad and their answers would appear immediately on my desktop. It would make sure it wasn’t just the smart kids that are answering questions in class, but also those who are shy or just not engaged.” He added: “This grant would allow us to use the technology that the students actually use, the kind of stuff we take away from them when they walk in the door. When we do that, it dumbs them down, takes away their creativity.” The Pepsi Refresh Project will award more than $20 million this year, up to $1.3 million monthly in grants to the ideas with the most votes, according to the corporate web site…

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How video will likely create, rather than kill, the classroom “star”

First it was music. Then it was theater. Now it’s … education? Technology has enabled inexpensive reproduction of a wide variety of media, which has in turn radically transformed the structures of a number of industries—and education could be next, writes economist Jodi Beggs for the Huffington Post. Whereas we used to have only concert halls and live theater, we now have CDs, MP3s, DVDs, and movie theaters, and industries that used to consist of a large number of moderate-scale performers are now mainly served by the Brad Pitts and the Lady Gagas of the world. Economists refer to these sorts of industries as “winner-take-all” markets, since their key feature is that a few “superstars” serve a large portion of the market (and often receive astronomical payouts for doing so) while a long tail of similar, somewhat less-qualified or less-talented individuals see comparatively minuscule levels of success. Just like in music and movies, technology makes it possible for a large number of students to be served by what are likely to become “superstar” instructors. Virtual instruction has the potential not only to give a large number of students access to top instructors at lower cost but also to provide the incentives to attract and retain top teaching talent in the first place. Teaching is a very labor-intensive and often thankless profession, and people who are good teachers frequently have skills and talents that help them excel in more lucrative careers as well. The potential to become a “superstar” instructor could give talented teachers a reason to stick around in the education sector and hone their craft…

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Teachers’ union shuns Obama aides at convention

For two years as a presidential candidate, Barack Obama addressed educators gathered for the summer conventions of the two national teachers’ unions, and last year both groups rolled out the welcome mat for Education Secretary Arne Duncan. But in a sign of the Obama administration’s strained relations with two of its most powerful political allies, no federal official was scheduled to speak at either convention this month, partly because union officials feared that administration speakers would face heckling, reports the New York Times. The National Education Association meeting opened in New Orleans July 3 to a drumbeat of heated rhetoric, with several speakers calling for Duncan’s resignation, hooting delegates voting for a resolution criticizing federal programs for “undermining public education,” and the union’s president summing up 18 months of Obama education policies by saying, “This is not the change I hoped for.” “Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,” Dennis Van Roekel, president of the union, told thousands of members gathered at the convention center. Obama and Duncan have supported historic increases in school financing to stave off teacher layoffs, but they’ve also sought to shake up public education with support for charter schools, the dismissal of ineffective teachers as a way of turning around failing schools, and other policies. That agenda has spurred fast-paced changes, including adoption of new teacher evaluation systems in many states and school districts, often with the collaboration of teachers’ unions. But it has also angered many teachers, who say they are being blamed for all the problems in public schools…

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Senior-student mentoring can be a win-win

Effectively pairing senior volunteers with students is one of the big win-win opportunities in virtually every community in the country, says U.S. News and World Report. There is great need in the schools, and it’s gotten more acute during the recession. Enter a growing stream of retired folks who’ve enjoyed stable and successful careers, are loaded with skills and experience, and are eager to give back to their local communities. But in talking with one of the country’s most successful senior tutoring and mentoring programs — Experience Corps — it’s clear that a lot of work needs to go into successful partnerships. Experience Corps doesn’t claim its approach is the only or even best way to engage seniors with kids. But it does claim that it works, and has the research to prove it. The Washington-based nonprofit has programs in 22 cities, with a total of about 2,000 senior volunteers and 20,000 students. The program works with younger students — kindergarten through third grade — and focuses its efforts on at-risk children in lower-income areas. In the cities with Experience Corps programs, that support doesn’t come cheap, averaging between $1,000 and $2,000 a year per student. More than half of the money flows right back out to participating volunteers, and finding the right volunteers, training them, and successfully matching them with students also requires staff and money. But the benefit of this approach is reflected in volunteers who stay committed to the program and their students, and go well beyond the minimums in providing support. Research has shown that a student needs to have at least 35 one-on-one sessions a year with a volunteer to make sustained progress in reading and verbal skills…

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Pew study: The web is redefining our relationships, reputations

Most people agree that the internet has and will continue to be positive for social relations. But according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, it’s also presented many more challenges, and perhaps opportunities, for how reputations are made, tarnished, and remade, reports the Washington Post. In its annual future of social relations survey, the Pew Internet & American Life Project asked 895 experts how eMail, social networking sites, and video conferencing, among other applications, are redefining the way we think of relationships. “As information shrinks our world, it will become easier for one’s misdeeds to return to them or for outbursts of regrettable behavior to be reported and shared,” said Stuart Schechter, a researcher for Microsoft and former staff member of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. “For better or worse, technology makes the citizenry its own Big Brother. Some will welcome this as transparency; others will feel oppressed.” Privacy and security experts say users need to be as concerned about how their reputations online are being translated to peers and employers…

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‘Nautilus Live’ lets students follow deep-sea exploration in real time as discoveries are made

SiteofWeek070710Robert Ballard, the explorer best known for the discovery of the Titanic and other wrecks, has not only made deep-sea exploration more accessible for K-12 and college students, but he’ll feed them updates through two of their favorite web sites: Facebook and Twitter. Ballard visited the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration in Connecticut on June 23 to introduce his new Nautilus Live Theater, along with a new web site where people can watch his expeditions live. Visitors to the aquarium will be able to watch Ballard’s latest expeditions in real time on a huge, high-definition screen. They’ll also be able to talk to the scientists and engineers aboard the Okeanos Explorer and Nautilus, the two ships Ballard will be using in the Black and Aegean seas and the Pacific Ocean this summer to explore, among other things, ancient wrecks that could contain the mummified remains of 2,000-year-old sailors and a massive underwater volcano where marine life lives in boiling water. The initiative has an even greater reach: Ballard has launched Nautilus Live, a web site that allows people to follow the expeditions live and listen to the scientists in the control rooms as the discoveries are made. With the help of 20 cameras aboard the ships and on their remotely operated vehicles, those logging on will see and hear exactly what the scientists are seeing and hearing, 24 hours a day. And just to make sure people don’t miss anything, Facebook and Twitter will send out alerts if it appears the teams are closing in on an important discovery. This will allow followers to get to their computers and be there when it happens. “We’ll never have a dull moment,” Ballard said. “We’ll always be doing something. The idea is to constantly go with the action.” http://www.nautiluslive.org

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Judge orders school newspaper to delete stories

Newspapers increasingly are getting requests from private citizens asking for archived stories to be deleted out of fear.

Newspapers increasingly are getting requests from private citizens asking for archived stories to be deleted out of fear.

Update—Should school newspapers, or any newspapers for that matter, be forced to delete archived stories in order to clear a person’s record online? That was the issue before a state judge in Pennsylvania in a case that touches on the potential for media censorship in the digital era.

The Centre Daily Times and the Daily Collegian student newspaper at Penn State were ordered to expunge records of information about two defendants, an unusual provision inserted by a defense lawyer into otherwise standard orders signed by Centre County Judge Thomas King Kistler. Kistler signed new expungement orders in the cases on July 7 and called the initial orders “an inadvertence.”

Such orders typically direct public agencies to clear a person’s record in cases where charges are dismissed, withdrawn, or aren’t applicable for someone who’s a first-time offender who completes a rehabilitation program.

Attorney Joseph Amendola told the Daily Times he included the newspapers in orders for five defendants, including the two before Kistler, because he was concerned the media’s First Amendment rights to free speech were trumping his clients’ rights to have cleared records. It’s common for attorneys to draw up legal documents for judges to consider.

Centre County Judge Bradley Lunsford, who handled the three other cases, cited free-speech concerns July 6 in signing new expungement orders, submitted by a newspaper lawyer, that rescinded an order he issued July 2. The new order did not require the newspapers to expunge information about the defendants, including news stories.

“Oh, my, yes. There’s definitely a First Amendment issue,” Lunsford told the Associated Press on July 6 in a phone interview before he signed the new order.

Kistler, who received similar proposed revised orders from a newspaper lawyer, initially said he wanted to schedule a meeting this week with county President Judge David Grine and Amendola before taking further action.

Instead, Kistler signed new expungement orders on July 7 that did not ask the newspapers to delete archived versions of stories.

“The judges check certain things, but we don’t check the language of the orders,” Kistler said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. He compared it in part to people not having time to read the fine print when signing for an insurance policy, but added: “This is now something that everybody will be checking on.”

Newspapers increasingly are getting requests from private citizens asking for archived stories to be deleted out of fear, for instance, that a potential employer might find damaging information on the internet.

One of the Pennsylvania cases involved a man who had charges—including sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault—withdrawn in a plea deal in which he admitted two counts of indecent assault. The other involved a woman who finished a probationary program on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Newspapers ultimately are under no legal obligation to change archives that are factually correct, and an expungement of court records doesn’t mean the events never occurred, said Melissa Bevan Melewsky, a media law attorney for the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.

“It’s accurate when it was reported, and that means there’s nothing illegal about it,” she said. “It’s protected speech.”

Amendola did not immediately return phone messages from the AP seeking comment. He told the Daily Times this was a national issue bigger than the newspaper and judges.

“What’s the sense in having your record expunged if anyone can Google you and it comes up?” he was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “Ultimately, this is an issue that needs to be decided by the legislature.”

The Centre County judges usually sign 30 to 50 such orders at a time, once or twice a week. The orders are vetted by the probation department and the district attorney’s office before going to a judge for approval.

Lunsford said his new orders, first submitted for approval by Daily Times attorneys, also rescinded a mandate that a private web site that allows the public to search criminal records also expunge information.

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Ed-tech grant program aims to boost college readiness

The Educause-backed program will fund ed-tech projects designed to make high school graduates college ready.

The Educause-backed program will fund ed-tech projects designed to make high school graduates college ready.

Six months after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pumped $3.6 million into a national certification program for teachers of remedial college courses, a new initiative will dole out grants to education-technology projects aimed at improving college readiness, especially among low-income students.

The Next Gen Learning Challenges program, launched in late June and headed by nonprofit education technology supporter Educause, will aim to raise America’s high school graduation rate – which hovers around 50 percent among Hispanic, African American, and low-income students – and ensure that college freshmen are ready for higher education without having to take non-credit-bearing remedial classes.

Only half of Americans who enroll in a postsecondary school will earn a degree, according to national statistics, with as few as 25 percent of low-income students completing a degree program.

The program’s first set of goals includes combining online courses with traditional classroom curriculum, devising ways to measure students’ learning progress using algorithms in real time, and expanding access to free online educational tools, according to the Next Gen web site.

Next Gen’s first grants, which will focus on postsecondary education, will be announced this fall and will range from tens of thousands to more than $1 million per grant, according to the site. The second wave of grants will be directed toward high schools…

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To stop cheats, colleges learn their trickery

As the eternal temptation of students to cheat has gone high-tech, educators have responded with their own efforts to crack down, reports the New York Times. The frontier in the battle to defeat student cheating might be at the testing center of the University of Central Florida: No gum is allowed during an exam, because chewing could disguise a student’s speaking into a hands-free cell phone to an accomplice outside. The 228 computers that students use are recessed into desktops, so that anyone trying to photograph the screen to help a friend who will take the test later is easy to spot. Scratch paper is allowed, but it is stamped with the date and must be turned in later. When a proctor sees something suspicious, he records the student’s real-time work at the computer and directs an overhead camera to zoom in, and both sets of images are burned onto a CD for evidence. Taylor Ellis, the associate dean who runs the testing center within the business school at Central Florida, the nation’s third-largest campus by enrollment, said cheating had dropped significantly, to 14 suspected incidents out of 64,000 exams administered during the spring semester. “I will never stop it completely, but I’ll find out about it,” Ellis said. This summer, as incoming freshmen fill out forms to select roommates and courses, some colleges—Duke and Bowdoin among them—are also requiring them to complete online tutorials about plagiarism before they can enroll. And anti-plagiarism services requiring students to submit papers to be vetted for copying is a booming business: 55 percent of colleges and universities now use such a service, according to the Campus Computing Survey…

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Study: eBooks take longer to read than print

In a recent usability survey, Jakob Nielsen of product development consultancy Nielsen Norman Group discovered that it takes longer to read books on a Kindle or an iPad versus a printed book, CNN reports. The study found that reading speeds declined by 6.2 percent on the iPad and 10.7 percent on the Kindle when compared to print. However, Nielsen conceded that the differences in reading speed between the two devices were not “statistically significant, because of the data’s fairly high variability”—in other words, the study did not prove that the iPad allowed for faster reading than the Kindle. A total of 24 participants were given short stories by Ernest Hemingway to read in print and on iPads, Kindles, and desktop PCs. After reading, participants filled out a brief comprehension questionnaire to make sure no one had skimmed through a story. Users rated their satisfaction with each device; the iPad, Kindle, and printed book scored 5.8, 5.7, and 5.6 on a scale of 1 to 7, respectively, while the PC received an average score of 3.6—owing, in part, because reading on a PC reminded readers of work. Participants also complained about the weight of the iPad and the Kindle’s weak contrast…

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