Incentives for advanced work let pupils and teachers cash in

Joe Nystrom, who teaches math at a low-income high school here, used to think that only a tiny group of students—the “smart kids”—were capable of advanced coursework, reports the New York Times. But two years ago, spurred by a national program that offered cash incentives and other support for students and teachers, Mr. Nystrom’s school, South High Community School, adopted a come one, come all policy for Advanced Placement courses. Today Mr. Nystrom teaches A.P. statistics to eight times as many students as he used to, and this year 70 percent of them scored high enough to qualify for college credit, compared with 50 percent before. One in four earned the top score possible, far outpacing their counterparts worldwide…

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Wisconsin school unions: Hundreds seek recertification following contentious rights law

More than 200 school unions in Wisconsin met Friday’s deadline to seek recertification, but it’s unclear how many others let it pass and gave up the little bargaining powers they had left under Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious union rights law, the Associated Press reports. The law stripped public unions of their ability to negotiate anything except wage increases. It also requires unions without existing contracts to hold so-called recertification elections to determine if they can formally represent their members in salary negotiations…

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Online textbooks moving into schools

Electronic books, having changed the way many people read for pleasure, are now seeping into schools, the Washington Post reports. Starting this fall, almost all Fairfax middle and high school students began using online books in social studies, jettisoning the tomes that have weighed down backpacks for decades. It is the Washington area’s most extensive foray into online textbooks, putting Fairfax at the leading edge of a digital movement that publishers and educators say inevitably will sweep schools nationwide…

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How to use 3D in the classroom effectively

The AOA says there is no evidence that viewing or attempting to view 3D images will harm a child’s eyes.

Although some people report headaches or other problems from viewing 3D images, that’s not a reason for educators to shy away from using 3D in the classroom, optometrists say. In fact, the use of 3D images in school can help diagnose vision problems among students at an earlier age and can enhance teaching and learning.

That’s the conclusion of a new report on 3D use in K-12 schools, which says headaches that occur while or just after watching 3D video are one of the most common reasons why people opt not to experience 3D. This problem could indicate vision failure, optometrists say—something that 3D use in schools could help identify in children.

The report, titled “3D in the Classroom: See Well, Learn Well Public Health Report,” published by the American Optometric Association (AOA), describes a series of recommendations that can help schools use 3D technology in a way that enables students to “thrive and learn more efficiently in [many] subjects; better preparing them for life and advancing career challenges ahead.”

“3D approaches to learning can serve as a fulcrum for enhanced teaching and improved assurance of school readiness,” says AOA President Dori Carlson.

Carlson says using 3D video or images in the classroom can help in two ways: First, children often learn faster and retain more information in a 3D environment; and second, the ability to perceive depth in a 3D presentation turns out to be a highly sensitive assessment tool, able to assess a range of vision health indicators with much higher sensitivity than the standard eye chart that has been in use for the last 150 years.

“The good news is that for the estimated one in four children who have underlying issues with overall vision, 3D viewing can unmask previously undiagnosed deficiencies and help identify and even treat these problems,” says Carlson. “This is because 3D viewing requires that both eyes function in a coordinated manner as they converge, focus, and track the 3D image.”

According to the report, one of the most common indicators of underlying vision problems is an adverse reaction to watching 3D, such as headaches, eyestrain, dizziness, or nausea. Excessive fidgeting, playing with 3D glasses, or covering one eye also can indicate problems in the 3D presentation environment, the report notes.

While viewing 3D images can alert experts to children’s eye problems, the AOA says there is no evidence that viewing or attempting to view 3D images will harm a child’s eyes.

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Will Amazon’s $200 tablet spark interest among schools?

The Kindle Fire only has 8 MB of storage space, but Amazon is offering users free web-based storage for any digital content they buy from the company.

Amazon’s unveiling of the Kindle Fire, a tablet computer that costs a few hundred dollars less than Apple’s iPad, sends a bright-hot message: The online retailer is ready to rival Apple in an effort to be the world’s top provider of digital content.

It might sound odd coming from a company that pioneered online sales of physical books in 1995. But since it first entered the digital market in 2006 with its video download store, Amazon has bet consumers will pay for high-quality digital content.

Besides the millions of physical items it sells, Amazon’s trove of digital content now includes more than 1 million eBooks, 100,000 movies and TV shows, and 17 million songs. This is about 1 million fewer songs than iPad maker Apple Inc. sells, but more than twice as many eBooks and many thousands more TV shows and movies.

Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos is confident that its content is what will help the Kindle Fire do better than others who have trotted out tablets.

“The reason they haven’t been successful is because they made tablets. They didn’t make services,” Bezos said in an interview after his company unveiled the tablet at a New York media event Sept. 28.

The price will probably help, too: When it goes on sale Nov. 15, it will cost $199, which is less than half of the $499 you’ll pay for Apple’s cheapest iPad and $50 less than book seller Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook Color eReader. This leaves buyers with plenty of money left over to spend on content.

“It’s important to remember at the end of the day that Amazon’s core business is retailing, and this is a way to sell more digital media on a sort of 7-inch vending machine,” NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin said.

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