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.
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.
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.
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.
Smithsonian Experts Explore the Science, History and Art of Earth’s Critical Natural Resource with Free “Water Matters” Webinars
Interdisciplinary Webinar Series Sponsored by Microsoft’s Partners in Learning
The 2012 Shout environmental exploration program is offering students and educators new ways to demonstrate achievement with its digital Smithsonian Badges program and live sessions from a Panama field research center in March. Shout is a joint project of the Smithsonian, Microsoft’s Partners in Learning and TakingITGlobal.
Students can earn Quest Badges (by demonstrating knowledge of environmental topics and displaying 21st-century skills) or Community Badges (by making contributions to the Shout badging community). They can then include these digital badges in social networking profiles or resumes, demonstrating accomplishments that might lead to community recognition and even to educational and job opportunities.
The badges are comparable to scouting merit badges (though in digital form) and similar to achievement awards in the world of gaming. To earn a badge, the student passes through levels of complexity. Each level aligns to one or more national or state standards, so educators can easily integrate the program into their curriculum. The focus is on three key benchmarks: systems, human impact and civic responsibility. Educators also can earn badges based on their involvement.
Smithsonian Badges is part of the larger Shout program, which includes free online webinars led by Smithsonian experts. This year’s series, “Water Matters,” began Feb. 7–8 with live sessions by Smithsonian experts ranging from a marine biologist to a music archivist. More than 1,200 people—mostly educators and students—participated globally. Topics included the impact of rising nitrogen levels on water quality, the disappearance of amphibians around the world and innovative housing designs in post-Katrina New Orleans. Archived sessions can be accessed at www.smithsonianconference.org/shout/schedule.
Many teachers and their students will be completing projects to more fully explore environmental issues. “We’re integrating the Shout content into a yearlong environmental project focusing on the global water crisis. These webinars are highlighting the reality that this issue is not just science-related—it is a global concern that affects multiple areas of study,” said Layne Zimmers, a sixth-grade history and language arts teacher at Lincoln Magnet School in Springfield, Ill. “Through the webinars, my students are learning what compelling speakers sound like, and how they integrate facts and research into reports. They’re using those resources for their own presentations.”
In addition to these student resources, Shout offers Teacher Preview Sessions, which highlight online tools to use in the classroom and a forum to share curriculum ideas among educators before the conference sessions. The next Teacher Preview Session will take place online March 21. Teacher Technology Sessions are also available for educators looking to implement the Shout themes with interactive technology in their classroom. For a list of teacher technology sessions, please visit http://shoutlearning.org/techtools.html.
The next webinar in the series, scheduled for March 26-27, will include live sessions from the Smithsonian’s field research center in Panama, where scientists are studying tropical ecology. Other sessions will explore water-related inventions, the role of water in cultures around the world and representations of water in American art. Anyone interested can register for one or more of the 50-minute sessions at http://www.smithsonianconference.org/shout/program-2012/. Information about the digital-badging program can be found at www.smithsonianconference.org/shout/badges.
About Smithsonian Institution
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. There are 6,000 Smithsonian employees and 6,500 volunteers. Approximately 28.6 million people from around the world visited the Smithsonian in 2011. The total number of objects, works of art and specimens at the Smithsonian is estimated at 137 million.
About Partners in Learning
Partners in Learning is a 10-year, nearly $500 million commitment by Microsoft to help education systems around the world. Since its inception in 2003, the Partners in Learning program has reached more than 196 million teachers and students in 114 countries. Supporting the program is the online Partners in Learning Network, one of the world’s largest global professional networks for educators, connecting millions of teachers and school leaders around the world in a community of professional development.
TakingITGlobal provides innovative global education programs that empower youth to understand and act on the world’s greatest challenges. Often described as a “social network for social good,” the award-winning www.tigweb.org is available in 13 languages and offers a diverse set of educational resources and action tools intended to inspire, inform and involve. Since being founded as a charity by two young Canadians in 2000, 40 million people have accessed the website to learn, grow and realize their potential.
• Michelle Smith, Smithsonian, 202-633-5236 firstname.lastname@example.org
• Anne Smith, C. Blohm & Associates, 608-216-7300 x22, email@example.com
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.
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…
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…
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…
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…