Teen’s social media use inspires others

Lake Zurich students use a Formspring page to share positive comments about their classmates.

Too often, we hear stories about students using online anonymity to bully their peers. But one Illinois high school student is using social media to improve campus morale.

A rising sophomore at Lake Zurich High School created a Formspring page where middle and high school students can leave anonymous compliments for each other. The site’s creator has chosen to remain anonymous herself, releasing only her grade and gender. She approves all comments before they are posted, often adding an emoticon or positive comment of her own.

Formed this past spring, “LZ Compliments” has received 3,164 postings as of press time. Students use the site to boost their classmates anonymously, posting such comments as “[student] is a babe and is cute with her braces,” or “[student] is so sincere and an awesome person.”

The creator of LZ Compliments says she made the site in response to the ugly negativity she usually saw on the internet.

“I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be,” she told Lake Zurich Patch. “I didn’t know how popular it would be.”

While initially the site received negative comments predicting its failure, the student moderator refused to post anything negative. Soon, positive sentiments came rolling in. She says she most likes posts that are well thought out and include more than just compliments on physical appearances.

The creation of LZ Compliments comes at a time when cyber bullying has led to a recent spate of highly publicized teen suicides, or “bullycides,” across the nation. Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook’s marketing director and sister of site co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, recently argued that putting an end to anonymity online could help curb bullying and harassment on the web.

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Bill Gates: Poverty not excuse for no education

Gates said shifting the emphasis to education helps in the battle against poverty

Microsoft founder Bill Gates told the National Urban League on July 28 that a child’s success should not depend on the race or income of parents and that poverty cannot be an excuse for a poor education.

Gates said shifting the emphasis to education helps in the battle against poverty.

“Let me acknowledge that I don’t understand in a personal way the challenges that poverty creates for families, and schools and teachers,” the billionaire said at the civil rights group’s annual convention. “I don’t ever want to minimize it. Poverty is a terrible obstacle. But we can’t let it be an excuse.”

Gates, who now runs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, cited his foundation’s work with charter schools as an example.

“We know you can have a good school in a poor neighborhood,” said Gates. “So let’s end the myth that we have to solve poverty before we improve education. I say it’s more the other way around: Improving education is the best way to solve poverty.”

After speaking, Gates joined Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, who Bill Gates playfully called his “cousin,” for a conversation on education. “He’s the Harvard professor,” said Bill Gates. “I’m the Harvard drop out.”

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Texas approves all-digital science program for statewide use

The Texas State Board of Education has voted to make McGraw-Hill Education’s CINCH Science program available statewide for use in grades 5-12, reports the Bradenton Herald. The decision comes as the state works to find affordable digital solutions that meet its newest educational standards and prepare students for new state assessments. While CINCH Science will be used in a supplemental role in Texas alongside the traditional print textbooks already in classrooms, the program and its companion, CINCH Math, are comprehensive, all-digital curricula. The programs launched at last month’s International Society for Technology in Education conference and will be available for use in Texas schools beginning next month. A cloud-based curriculum, CINCH Science is compatible with most tablets, computers, or mobile devices, allowing students to extend the learning experience by accessing content inside or outside the classroom. With educational games and social networking elements—such as the ability to highlight content and spark a discussion that appears like a Facebook comment thread—CINCH Science offers teachers a number of ways to engage students that go beyond what’s offered by a traditional textbook…

Read the full story here.

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Twitter to add parental controls to tweet links

Twitter has added a way to flag links within tweets as “possibly sensitive,” Mashable reports. The company announced July 28 that there is a new field in the Twitter streaming API that will show up whenever a tweet contains a link, giving Twitter users the option to be warned before they click links that might be too sensitive for the workplace, or for younger students. The new feature is not functional yet, but Twitter was informing developers that it was just added and is now in the testing phase. According to Twitter representative Taylor Singletary, “In the future, we’ll have a family of additional API methods & fields for handling end-user ‘media settings’ and possibly sensitive content…”

Read the full story here.

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Fees for students redefine ‘free’ public school

As cash-strapped public schools attempt to squeeze every possible dollar out of their budgets, an unpleasant reality awaits parents: They will most likely have to pay for programs and services that schools once provided for free, reports the Texas Tribune. Consider Keller Independent School District just north of Fort Worth, where students who ride the bus will now pay $185 each per semester. Rather than scrap busing altogether after voters rejected a property tax hike in June to make up for lost state revenue, the district opted to institute fares. The $4 billion cut in education financing at the state level for 2012-13 means these extra charges will become increasingly common. “We’re going to see districts charging fees for things that they have always been able to but just haven’t chosen to in the past,” said David Thompson, a former general counsel for the Texas Education Agency who now represents school districts. Across the country, such fees also threaten to draw lawsuits about what it means to provide a “free” public education under state constitutions…

Read the full story here.

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Five things students say they want from education

“Most often heard from students: ‘Why do I need to know this?’” says an eSN reader.

With so many education stakeholders debating the needs of today’s schools, student voices aren’t always heard when it comes to what they want from their education.

And while it’s important to note what businesses would like to see in their future employees, at the end of the day it really comes down to the students themselves.

We recently asked eSchool News readers: “What’s the one thing you hear most often from students about what they want in school?”

Though the responses were numerous, readers repeated these five things students want the most (responses edited for brevity). What do you think of this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

5. Interactive technology

“My fourth grade students want more interactive technology. I have four computers in my classroom, one provided by the school and three provided by me. My students use them for math, writing, researching, and interactive math and word games. They also want more time to reflect on what they learn. They especially want more hands-on science where they can experiment, discuss, and reflect on what they observed, and then redo the activity. Too often, because we have so much to cover in the curriculum, deeper understanding is lost in the milieu.” —Mike Larzelere

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Okla. virtual charter school hits snag with physical locations

"The idea behind these centers would be to expand access to these families that otherwise wouldn't have access," founder David Chaney said.

In an example of how virtual instruction can run afoul of state regulations, Oklahoma’s education department has ordered a virtual charter school to stop enrolling students at physical school sites planned to open in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman this September.

“Any on-site full-day prekindergarten or on-site kindergarten program would appear to be outside the boundaries of state law,” said Damon Gardenhire, spokesman for the department.

State law says that any charter school must be physically located in the school district that grants the charter, Gardenhire said.

In this case, Epic One on One Charter School is chartered through Graham Public Schools. Graham is a rural community in Okfuskee County, Okla., just northwest of Ardmore.

Charter schools are privately run but publicly funded and require the sponsorship of a school district, higher-education institution, or career technology center to operate. The schools are funded by the state based on student enrollment.

Epic is a virtual charter school in which students attend classes almost exclusively online, but they also meet with their virtual teachers in a face-to-face setting on occasion.

Students from anywhere in the state can transfer into Graham Public Schools and attend the school for free.

According to Epic’s website, the school’s leaders are opening three facilities.

David Chaney, founder and head of Epic One on One Charter Schools, said he has not received a letter from the state.

He also said the facilities are not actually schools. They are centers where students can access the virtual curriculum on computers and internet access provided by Epic.

“All of our students are virtual students,” Chaney said. “It’s no different from our other model. It’s a self-paced model, and anytime the facility is open, parents can drop them off or pick them up, and while they are there they will get to have access to their internet and curriculum.”

Epic One on One advertises a prekindergarten school at 11911 N Pennsylvania in Oklahoma City with 250 seats. An additional 250 prekindergarten seats are available at a site at 4343 N Flood in Norman.

The classes are led by certified teachers and include two hours of “innovative classroom instruction,” two hours of “computer based instruction,” and two hours of “structured play,” in addition to lunch, snack, and rest breaks.

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Moodlerooms Elects Lev Gonick as New Board Member

Baltimore, MD — Moodlerooms, Inc., Moodle partner and proven provider of enterprise e-Learning solutions, announced today that Lev Gonick was elected to the company’s Board of Directors. The appointment of Gonick is reflective of the company’s continuing effort to secure staff and governance with a proven track record of world class industry leadership in education technology innovation.

Lev is currently vice president for information technology services and CIO at Case Western Reserve University. He also serves on the Board of Monarch Teaching Technologies, an educational software developer for persons with autism, and is an active member of the Cisco Corporation Higher Education Executive Exchange. He is also the founder and now Board Chair Emeritus of OneCleveland (now known as OneCommunity), the award winning project to create a connected community throughout Northeast Ohio through ultra-broadband wired and wireless network connectivity.

In 2011 Government Technology awarded Lev one of their “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers in Public-Sector Innovation.” In 2010 Gonick and his colleagues at Case Western Reserve launched the nation’s first gigabit fiber to the home research program called the Case Connection Zone. In the same year, Lev also received recognition as “Visionary of the Year” from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. In 2007, he and Case Western Reserve were recognized with a ComputerWorld Laureate for leveraging technology to address community priorities. In 2006, Lev was recognized by ComputerWorld as a Premier 100 IT leader and honored in the same year by CIO magazine with a CIO 100 Award.

Previously, Lev has served as co-chair of the CIO Executive Council’s higher education committee, as president of the board of the New Media Consortium, and as board member for National LambdaRail (NLR), the nation’s next generation advanced networking research effort.

“We are very excited to welcome Lev to our team,” said Lou Pugliese, Moodlerooms’ CEO and Board Chairman. “He brings a long track record of success and extensive experience establishing, leading, and advising diverse technology efforts. Lev’s perspective and guidance is vital for Moodlerooms as we are beginning to scale the company rapidly into multiple markets throughout the US and across the world to better serve the global education community.”

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About Moodlerooms (www.moodlerooms.com):
Moodlerooms provides educators and learners across the globe with adaptable, reliable and affordable e-learning. With turnkey software-as-a-service solutions for Moodle, Moodlerooms’ customers receive the benefits of the most widely-used learning management system in the world with the comfort and assurance that come from enterprise-level enhancements, services, and value-added support. With an unwavering commitment to creating a more effective and engaging education community, Moodlerooms is the CHANGE you want e-learning to be. For more information, visit www.moodlerooms.com.

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Principal: Why I’m marching to ‘save our schools’

We are awash in market-based school reform, says Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School, NY, and the School Administrators Association of New York State’s 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator, for the Washington Post. From virtual schools and profit-generating charters to sort and select evaluation policies for teachers, so-called reformers gleefully push business solutions down onto our schools. The cheerleaders of market-based change believe that only the fierce competition of capitalism can create great teachers and smart kids. Test scores are the bottom line profits. Don’t fix a school; shut it down instead…

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This is your brain on summer

The American ideal of lazy summers filled with fun has an unintended consequence: If students are not engaged in learning over the summer, they lose skills in math and reading, says Jeff Smink, vice president for policy for the National Summer Learning Association, for the New York Times. Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools.  Decades of research confirm that summer learning loss is real. According to a report released last month by the RAND Corporation, the average summer learning loss in math and reading for American students amounts to one month per year…

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