Diocese letter pushed principals to promote vouchers

Just how involved did the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh get in the effort to promote vouchers? Very, the Washington Post reports. This is clear in an Oct. 20 letter that Dr. Ronald R. Bowes, assistant superintendent for policy and development in the diocese, wrote in October to Catholic school principals. It calls for them to be “relentless” in promoting school choice, in part by telling parents who had received financial aid that they had to call their state legislators and push for school choice legislation to receive more financial aid the next year. Other diocese officials disavowed the letter a few weeks later, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Another letter was sent out Nov. 16 saying that Bowes had misstated policy about financial aid…

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Google exec: Online piracy bills in Congress wrong

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said Wednesday that it would be a mistake for Congress to approve Hollywood-backed legislation meant to combat online piracy because it would be ineffective and could fundamentally alter the way the internet works, the Associated Press reports. Companion bills before the House and Senate would allow copyright holders to go to court to compel credit card companies and online advertising companies, including Google, to cut off websites dedicated to distributing pirated material. Prosecutors would be able to get court orders forcing search engines to drop the sites. The House’s Stop Online Piracy Act the Senate’s Protect IP Act are backed by the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which estimates the cost of online piracy at $135 million a year. Internet giants Google, Yahoo, Facebook have come out against the legislation…

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When computers become classrooms

As school districts nationwide cut back on essentials, three quarters of them plan to expand their digital offerings over the next three years, according to a new survey reported by the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal Education Department’s research arm, the Huffington Post reports. The new data released Tuesday looks specifically at “distance education courses” in public schools: full-credit courses that are taught remotely through technology. The national survey, conducted in fall and winter of the 2010-2011 school year, found that 55 percent of 2,310 school districts had students enrolled in these courses, ninety-six percent of which were given at the high school level…

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Watch: Scientists optimize 3D printer to create new bones

We won’t be surprised if the time comes when we can print just about anything, says Yahoo! News. Even today 3D printing is advanced enough to create toys, a fully-operational car, and even teeth and blood vessels. Now, researchers from the Washington State University have come up with a technique to make new bones using a commercially-available 3D printer they optimized for the study. The repurposed printer sprays a plastic binder over a bed of bone-like calcium phosphate powder with silicon and zinc additives that double the strength of the man-made bone. This results in a sheet half a hair thin, so the process is repeated over and over again, building up layers of the ultra-thin sheet to create the structure. These artificial bones don’t actually replace real ones—they act as a temporary scaffold on which new bone cells grow, eventually dissolving inside the body with no side effects…

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Georgia’s largest district launches all-digital learning platform

Gwinnett County hopes to make learning "more real and relevant to a student population that has never known a world without technology," said the district.

Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) has taken a huge step forward in its move to an all-digital education for its students: The district has partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) to implement a single sign-on platform for delivering curriculum, assessment, analytics, professional development, parent information, and more.

The platform, called Pinpoint, is an “integrated education suite” that can be tailored to meet a school or district’s unique needs and goals. GCPS officials say it will allow the district to go textbook-free, saving money and allowing for more personalized student learning.

HMH says that while other providers offer “discrete tools” for assessment, analytics, or tracking and reporting on student information, Pinpoint is a “truly cohesive, integrated solution designed from the ground up to connect all critical components of our education ecosystem.”

The suite includes tools for curriculum, assessment, teacher gradebooks, student information, scheduling, analytics, professional development (delivered directly from the platform), online tutoring for students, and access for parents. Because it’s a fully integrated solution, teachers and students don’t have to log in and out of various applications all day; they can log in once for all of their educational needs. (Watch a video describing Pinpoint’s features here.)

Highlights include the ability for teachers to access a student’s full academic history, as well as the ability to access core curriculum lesson plans and video resources for their classrooms. These curriculum resources are correlated with the Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by 45 states.

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