Tech tool could take the guessing out of college fundraising

Alumni giving fell .4 percent in 2010, according to a recent report.

College and university fundraising officials might not have to wonder how alums feel about their alma mater thanks to a computer program that can tell just how much a former student likes or dislikes the institution.

Oregon State University (OSU) on Feb. 17 launched the Building Community Initiative (BCI), a program designed to “assesses the affinity and connection” between alumni donors and their college or university.

OSU announced that it will make the tool available to other campuses.

The fundraising tool examines four factors to determine a potential donor’s feelings toward their college and assigns a score that could help campus decision makers decide who to target during fundraising campaigns.

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Labor protest draws tens of thousands in Wisconsin

A crowd estimated at more than 70,000 people on Saturday waved American flags, sang the national anthem, and called for the defeat of a Wisconsin plan to curb public sector unions that has galvanized opposition from the American labor movement, Reuters reports. In one of the biggest rallies at the state Capitol since the Vietnam War, union members and their supporters braved frigid temperatures and a light snowfall to show their displeasure. The mood was upbeat despite the setback their cause suffered earlier this week when the state Assembly approved the Republican-backed restrictions on union collective bargaining rights over fierce Democratic objections…

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Higher education, lower blood pressure: study

According to the AFP, the more advanced degrees a person has, the lower their blood pressure, a study published online has found. An analysis of some 4,000 patient records from the 30-year Framingham Offspring Study found that, controlling only for age, women with 17 years or more of education–a master’s degree or doctorate–had systolic blood pressure readings 3.26 millimeters of mercury lower than female high school drop-outs. Men who went to graduate school had systolic blood pressure readings that were 2.26 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) lower than their counterparts who did not finish high school, the study, published online in the open access journal BMC Public Health, says…

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California headed for cuts for for-profit students

California’s student aid commission said on Friday that aid funds going to students at for-profit schools should be slashed first when the state cuts its education budget, Reuters reports. The U.S. Education Department has criticized some for-profit schools, which range from universities offering PhD’s to trade schools offering car-repair training, for low graduation rates and high loan default rates. The California Student Aid Commission, which administers financial aid programs, voted unanimously on Friday to put Cal Grant aid to for-profit schools’ students at the bottom of its priority list when the state is forced to make budget cuts relating to education financing…

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Comcast, NBC deal opens door for online video

New internet video services from companies such as Netflix and Apple are offering a glimpse of a home entertainment future that doesn’t include a pricey monthly cable bill. To challenge the cable TV industry’s dominance in the living room, though, online video services need popular movies and TV shows to lure viewers, and access to high-speed internet networks to reach them. Yet they have had no rights to either–until now. To win government approval to take over NBC Universal last month, cable giant Comcast Corp. agreed to let online rivals license NBC programming, including hit shows such as “30 Rock” and “The Office,” the Associated Press reports. Comcast also agreed not to block its 17 million broadband subscribers from watching video online through Netflix, Apple’s iTunes and other rivals yet to come…

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British educators telling students: Go abroad

Caught between the rising cost of university tuition in England and the falling percentage of applicants offered places, one British school is giving its students some surprising advice, reports the New York Times. By any measure Hockerill Anglo-European College is one of the most successful schools in Britain. Named last month as one of the government’s flagship academies, its students regularly come at or near the top of exam results for the entire country, outperforming such famous names as Eton or Harrow. But unlike those private schools, where fees can exceed £28,000, or $45,000, a year, Hockerill, in the Hertfordshire town of Bishop’s Stortford, is a state comprehensive, which charges no tuition fees and is forbidden from selecting its students on the basis of academic ability. And while a third of Hockerill’s 830 students are boarders, they are chosen on the basis of need rather than ability to pay. So when Simon Dennis, the school’s principal, heard of government plans to triple university tuition fees in England to £9,000 a year, he decided to make use of the school’s international focus, urging his students to apply to universities abroad and hiring a counselor to help students apply to universities in countries whose fees are cheaper…

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Three successful mobile learning projects

The Katy Independent School District in Texas has about 60,000 students. During the 2009-10 school year, the district used bond funds and federal e-Rate funding to create a program that put the Incredible Droid from Verizon into the hands of all fifth grade students at a single elementary school.

The calling and paging features of the phones were turned off, and students were allowed to use the phones both within and outside of class. Students were encouraged to use Edmodo, a secure social learning network for teachers and students, to share ideas with peers, ask questions, and post answers. The phones were incorporated into the students’ everyday math and science classes.

“The kids use their mobile phones to do their homework. That’s been the most advantageous thing we’ve seen with the devices,” says Lenny Schad, Katy ISD’s chief information officer. “It’s more interactive, it taps into that creative side, much more so than pen and paper.”

The district took advantage of a number of Web 2.0 applications that run on Google’s Android mobile operating system. For example, one app allows students to point their phones up to the sky, take pictures of the stars, and have the constellations mapped for them, which they then shared in class. There are math wikis that help students with difficult concepts, and websites that allow students to create their homework online.

“It’s been so powerful. The kids are coming back to the teachers and saying, ‘Hey, look what I learned we can do on this phone,’ so they’re showing their teachers and peers how to do new things,” says Schad.

Already, the district has seen “huge, huge gains in math and science,” says Schad. Benchmark scores for math and science at the pilot school went up between 20 and 30 percentage points, he says. Attendance has gone up, and discipline issues reportedly have plummeted. Teachers in subjects other than math and science have begun using the phones as well, and scores are improving in those areas, too. Music teachers, for example, have had kids use a keyboarding app to study music.

The program was so successful that it was expanded to 10 more elementary schools this year, with 1,500 devices distributed. Katy ISD also allows students to bring in their own devices and use them for educational purposes in the classroom.

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Where are we going? A look at the future of mobile learning

The movement toward a one-to-one computing environment—that is, one device for every child—soon will be moot, says Phil Emer, director of technology planning and policy for The Friday Institute, which is housed within North Carolina State University. “The truth is, we’re going to blow through one-to-one. Right now, we might have four kids to one machine, but two years from now, we’ll have one-to-four. That is, one kid to four devices.”

That might not seem possible for schools to manage or support—but to remove some of the burden, schools should considering stopping the practice of doing certain things locally and do them online instead, Emer says.

“Why run your own eMail service now?” he says. “Have Microsoft or Google run it, [and] save a bunch of money. Get out of the business of running eMail servers and domain control servers and servers that run your finance systems. There are services available now that do that very well, very inexpensively—and big enterprises use them. So why don’t [schools] use them and free up time and money, and invest that money in devices?”

Another key shift is that telecommunications companies are no longer in the business of selling and managing wireline or even wireless telephone service. They’re in the business of wireless data networks. “We can talk about my iPhone being a phone, but it’s really an eMail device, a phone device, an internet device,” Emer says.

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Innovative learning content for mobile devices

Though many educators believe there needs to be more content developed specifically for mobile devices in order to take full advantage of mobile learning, some excellent sources of content already exist, with more on the way. Here are a few sources to get you started.

For Apple devices: 10 of the best apps for education

eSN readers: Here are our favorite apps for education

Opera Mobile: Smarter mobile browsing for phones

Android Manager Wi-Fi

Edmodo: A secure social learning network for students and teachers

Discovery Education

Algebra.com

Learning in Hand’s podcasting tool

iPod Touch Projects: The blog at this site contains helpful ideas

IEAR.org: A community effort to grade educational apps

Cellphones in Learning: A conversation about integrating cell phones into classroom curricula

Useful apps from Android Market

• Math Blitz game app
• Math Attack
• Dictionary.com
• Thinking Space
• ColorNote Notepad Notes
• StickDraw
• FX Camera
• Mind Map Memo
• Typing Zombie
• AnDrawing
• Wordoid

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