$150K for schools and teachers

Designed to advance educational opportunities with technology across K-12 schools nationwide, the winning schools, individuals, and “Best Teacher in America” will receive more than $150,000 in money and prizes.


Chance to see STEM ideas come to life

Entrants are asked to dream up a cool invention idea that makes life more awesome and demonstrate how science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can make their ideas a reality. The grand prize winner(s) will have their idea developed by lead innovation firm Fahrenheit 212. The extent to which the idea will be developed will depend upon the nature of the idea.


$150K for education’s game-changers

The 2012 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education seeks to acknowledge current and emerging leaders who are developing new ideas to address the major challenges currently facing American education. These leaders will exhibit forward-thinking ideas and concepts, or, in the words of Harvard’s Clayton Christensen—“disruptive innovations,” which are poised to address current and future challenges in education. These individuals will have imagined future challenges and engineered a solution.


News Literacy Project helps students sort fact from fiction in the digital age

The News Literacy Project (NLP) is a national educational program that taps experienced journalists to help middle and high school students “sort fact from fiction in the digital age.”

According to its website, the project teaches students critical-thinking skills that will help them become smarter consumers and creators of information across all types of media. It shows students “how to distinguish verified information from spin, opinion, and misinformation—whether they are using search engines to find websites with information about specific topics, assessing a viral eMail, viewing a video on YouTube, watching television news, or reading a newspaper or a blog post.”

Working with educators, students, and journalists, NLP says it has developed original curriculum materials “based on engaging activities and student projects that build and reflect understanding of the program’s essential questions. The curriculum includes material on a variety of topics … that is presented through hands-on exercises, games, videos, and the journalists’ own compelling stories.”

NLP also is working with the American Library Association (ALA) on a brand-new news literacy campaign. The campaign, called “News Know-how,” is supported by the Open Society Foundations.

The two-year, $722,000 project seeks to teach students information literacy principles to help them develop critical thinking skills and analyze news coverage in all of its formats. As part of the project, high school students—with public libraries as their “newsroom”—will learn how to distinguish facts from opinions, check the source and validity of news and information, and identify propaganda and misinformation.

“In today’s mass media environment, it is critical that students are taught to analyze news coverage,” said Barbara Jones, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Libraries that will kick off the project include the Chicago Public Library; Oak Park, Ill., Public Library; Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore; and several Iowa rural and urban libraries working with the State Library.



Microsoft sees future in Windows 8 amid iPad’s rise

Microsoft is developing a version of Windows 8 that can run on the more tablet-friendly microprocessor technology licensed by ARM Holdings.

Microsoft is scrambling to preserve what’s left of its kingdom, and it’s pinning its hopes on a new version of Windows that could spawn a new breed of hybrid machines: part tablet computer, part laptop.

Since the company released its Windows operating system in 1985, most of the sequels have been variations on the same theme. Not that it mattered much. Regardless of the software’s quality, Microsoft managed to remain at the center of the personal computing universe.

The stakes are much different as Microsoft Corp. puts the finishing touches on Windows 8—perhaps the most important piece of software the Redmond, Wash., company has designed since co-founder Bill Gates won the contract to build the first operating system for IBM Corp.’s personal computer in the early 1980s.

A test, or “beta,” version of the revamped operating system will be unveiled Feb. 29 in Barcelona, nudging Windows 8 a step closer to its anticipated mass market release in September or October. The company will offer the most extensive look at Windows 8’s progress since it released an early version of the system to developers five months ago.

Microsoft designed Windows 8 to help it perform a difficult balancing act. The company hopes to keep milking revenue from a PC market that appears to be past its prime, while trying to gain a stronger foothold in the more fertile field of mobile devices. It’s a booming market that, so far, has been defined and dominated by Apple Inc.’s trend-setting iPhone and iPad and Google Inc.’s ubiquitous Android software.

“Microsoft’s future path is riding on Windows 8 and its success,” said Gartner Inc. analyst David Cearley. “This is a chance for Microsoft to re-establish itself in a market where it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant.”

If Windows 8 is a hit, it could also help lift the fortunes of struggling PC makers, including Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. Besides giving businesses and consumers a reason to consider new PC purchases, Windows 8 is expected to spawn a new breed of hybrid machines that will be part tablet computer, part laptop.


Survey: Wired world to be boon, bane for Generation Y

There is a good chance young people growing up in today’s always-wired world will eventually become bright, nimble decision makers-if they don’t wind up intellectual lightweights unable to concentrate long enough to chew over a good book, Reuters reports. So say 1,021 technology insiders, critics and students surveyed by the Pew Research Center who were fairly evenly split about how always-on technology will impact the teenagers and twenty-somethings of “Generation Y.” In the survey, released on Wednesday, 55 percent agreed with a statement that in 2020 the brains of young people would be “wired” differently from those over 35, with good results for finding answers quickly and without shortcomings in their mental processes. But 42 percent were pessimistic, agreeing with a second statement that in 2020 young technology users would be easily distracted, would lack deep thinking skills and would thirst only for instant gratification…

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Many students could skip remedial classes, studies find

Even as policymakers struggle to reform remedial-education requirements blamed for derailing the aspirations of countless community-college students, two new studies suggest that many of those students would do fine without them, says Jon Marcus from the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit based at Teachers College, Columbia University, for the Washington Post. The studies, both by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, found that as many as a third of students sidetracked into remedial classes because of their scores on standardized tests would have earned a B or better if they had simply proceeded directly to college-level courses. Three out of five of all entering community-college students are required to take remedial classes in math and other subjects, spending time and tuition money reviewing material they should have learned in high school, yet earning no credit from these classes toward their degrees. More than 75 percent never graduate—in many cases, the researchers say, because they drop out from boredom and frustration. Providing remedial education also costs community colleges an estimated $2.5 billion a year…

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Minn. Senate allows schools to fire teachers based on performance

The Minnesota Senate passed a bill Monday that would let schools lay off teachers based on their performance in the classroom rather than by seniority alone, the Huffington Post reports. The bill passed by a 36-26 vote would let schools make layoffs based on evaluations that consider how well a teacher’s students perform. The state currently requires school districts to consider only teacher seniority in deciding layoffs, unless individual districts negotiate their own arrangements to consider other factors. The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park, said the legislation would allow schools to keep the most effective teachers. Several Democrats opposed the bill. They said a statewide teacher evaluation system now in the works needs more time to develop before layoff policies are changed. The new system would base about one-third of a teacher evaluation on student test results…

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Opinion: Are virtual academies better than traditional public schools?

Are virtual or e-schools better than traditional brick and mortar public schools? In many ways the answer would be a resounding yes, says Tara Dodrill for Yahoo! News. More states are offering alternatives to the typical public education, according to PBS. Until recently learning from your kitchen table evoked stereotypical images of a home-school environment fueled by strictly religious beliefs. Modern parents are not intimidated by technology and most children by the age of 8 can type as quickly as an accomplished secretary. Virtual academies allow children to work at their own pace, an aspect which offers the above average student the chance to excel. Public school teachers must create lesson plans which can be readily accomplished by a classroom of diverse learners. Such a scenario inevitably hampers those who are forced to wait for their average and below-average peers to master the curriculum. High school students attending a public virtual academy also have far more opportunities to complete school early, earn dual credit, college credit and flexible credit. A student can participate in internships and workshops geared to a future career interest to earn elective credit or advanced credit in core subjects…

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Watch: Years later, teacher sends hundreds of birthday cards to former students

Lois Hayes, 66, may have retired from her career at an elementary school, but she hasn’t forgotten her former students, the Huffington Post reports. Every week the Lexington, Miss., resident rolls through an index of cards with past students’ names and birthdays. And every week, she sends out a handful of handwritten, personal birthday notes for the upcoming birthdays–about 400 each year, MSNBC’s The Daily Nightly reports. Hayes says the tradition began when she decided she wanted her students to know they were “special.” “It brings back memories to think of them, and what they were like when I taught them,” she says.

“When I retired, I really was afraid we would not be able to send cards anymore,” Hayes told the news source. “I buy the cards by the box and it has never been a problem, coming up with the postage or buying the cards. The Lord has provided for us, so it has been a joy to be able to do it.”

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