No Child Left Behind waivers going to Wash., Wis.

The U.S. Department of Education is announcing that Washington and Wisconsin have won their bid to be relieved of some requirements of the federal “No Child Left Behind” law, the Associated Press reports. The two states are joining 24 other states that have earned waivers from the federal education law. Washington state education officials confirmed their state’s waiver. The Wisconsin waiver was reported by The New York Times. The department’s formal announcement was expected Friday. The 10-year-old federal No Child Left Behind law requires all students to achieve proficient math and reading scores by 2014, a goal that many educators say is impossible…

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China dabbles in liberal arts education, Western style

In a bold bid to experiment with western education methods, a Chinese college modeled after American liberal arts institutions receives its first class of students this fall, the New York Times reports. Xing Wei college, a privately run institution in Shanghai, is the first of its kind in China.

The college represents a divergence from traditional Chinese education, which is widely criticized for emphasizing rote memorization and stifling creating thinking. Weiming Chen, a Harvard-educated investor and founder of the college, said he wanted to cultivate a crop of students who could think in new ways.

“We want students who have the courage to pursue their desires, to know what they really want; that’s different from the traditional definition of top students,” he told the South China Morning Post.

In 2005, Chen bought the campus of a cash-strapped college located 20 minutes from Pudong International Airport. He and others spent 500 million RMB renovating the site into a campus, turning to American colleges like Yale and Amherst for inspiration…

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Seven iPad alternatives for schools

Besides the new Microsoft and Google devices, here are seven other iPad alternatives to consider—three of which were designed specifically for schools.

With their interactive touch screens, easy portability, and quick boot-up time, tablets are increasingly becoming schools’ classroom computers of choice. And while many schools have invested in Apple’s revolutionary iPad, which started the whole tablet computing craze, a number of other suitable options have emerged to give school leaders more choices.

Last month, for instance, both Microsoft and Google unveiled new tablet computers. Microsoft is positioning its 10.6-inch tablet, which attaches to a removable rubberized keyboard and runs on its latest operating system, Windows 8, as better than the iPad in terms of productivity. At $199, Google’s new 7-inch device, the Nexus 7, is more of a competitor to Amazon’s Kindle Fire than the $499, 9.7-inch iPad—but it will have a front-facing camera and will run on the latest version of Google’s Android OS.

With so many options at varying price points and with different educational capabilities, choosing the right tablet can be overwhelming. Besides the new Microsoft and Google devices, here are seven other iPad alternatives to consider—three of which were designed specifically for schools.

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‘Share My Lesson,’ a free online portal for teachers, will debut this summer with more than 100,000 user-generated lessons

Discussing education reform at Stanford University last year, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, asked of the audience: “You’re all technology people. Could you actually help us?” Weingarten said she received one call—from Louise Rogers, chief executive of TSL Education, a United Kingdom-based company that operates an online network that lets teachers around the globe access, review, and discuss lesson plans and other learning materials. The result of that call is Share My Lesson, an online portal that teachers will be able to access free of charge. It is expected to contain more than 100,000 user-generated materials when it launches in August. “We’ve been trying to find a way to have teachers be able to access information quickly, actively, and share with each other,” Weingarten said. “It felt to me almost too good to be true, that some private entity had created a platform for teachers to be able to share.” Share My Lesson is expected to be the largest online resource for teachers in the U.S., and it comes at a time when cuts to education budgets have led many districts to slash professional development. AFT and TSL have pledged $10 million to develop and maintain the site.

http://www.sharemylesson.com

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Colleges taking a team approach to eTextbooks

Six in 10 students said in a recent survey that they forgo buying required books because textbooks are too pricey.

Reining in exorbitant textbook costs is no longer a campus-by-campus venture: A unified approach, powered by EDUCAUSE and the Internet2 consortium’s NET+ cloud-based collaborative purchasing program, could make low-cost electronic textbooks available now, ed-tech leaders hope.

Colleges experimenting with digital textbooks can take months—sometimes years—to negotiate with publishers before their school’s modest eBook program is introduced to students now paying upwards of $1,100 a year for books.

This fall, campus technology leaders will closely track the results of an expansive eTextbook pilot program ranging across 28 campuses, creating what many in higher education believe could be a model for quickly bringing low-cost textbook options to students who, in some cases, have stopped buying required texts because they cannot afford the books.

The participating schools will receive deep discounts on textbook orders, because the colleges will ensure that every student uses the textbook’s free electronic version. Guaranteed participation in the digital textbook effort makes this program different from myriad others tried on campuses across the country.

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Delaware law to give students increased online privacy

Delaware has become the first state to pass a law banning public and private schools from requiring students to give administration access to social media accounts, Mashable reports. The bill forbids institutions from requesting students to provide passwords or account information, asking students to log onto a social media site in the presence of a government agent, requiring the installation of a monitoring device that gives the institution access, or requiring students to add an agent to their online contacts. The bill — which still needs the governor’s signature to be fully enacted — is a significant move in the long-standing fight for digital privacy, say its advocates.

“Since schools generally do not have a duty to monitor their students’ off campus activities in the real world, they shouldn’t have a duty to monitor their students’ off campus digital activities,” Bradley Shear — the attorney who helped draft the social media law…

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Joe Biden to teachers: Mitt Romney thinks you’re selfish

Vice President Joe Biden thinks that teachers face a “fullblown assault” thanks to people like Mitt Romney, the Huffington Post reports.

“I can’t think of a candidate for president who’s ever made such a direct assault on such an honorable profession,” Biden said at the National Education Association’s annual convention, in front of thousands of teachers in Washington, D.C. Tuesday morning.

Romney and Republicans, Biden asserted, want to increase the influence of private schools “and strip you of your voice because he doesn’t think you know much about education, and he characterizes you as not caring about the students but caring about yourselves.”

Biden made these points in a speech he called an “honest-to-God” conversation about the differences between Romney and President Barack Obama on education, but some teachers say those differences are less pronounced than Biden’s rhetoric would make it seem…

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Is ‘filling the pail’ any way to train teachers?

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I keep this quote on my desk, says Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York, for the Washington Post. No one knows who authored it — it is often misattributed to William Butler Yeats. Whoever created it was wise indeed for those whose vocation is educating students upon hearing it, recognize its truth. I reflect on that quote often these days. I worry that the pail fillers are determining the fate of our schools. The ‘filling of the pail’ is the philosophy of those who see students as vessels into which facts and knowledge are poured. The better the teacher, the more stuff in the pail. How do we measure what is in the pail? With a standardized test, of course. Not enough in the pail? No excuses. We must identify the teachers who best fill the pail, and dismiss the rest.  However, educational research as well as the wisdom that comes from instructional practice, tell us that learning happens in the mind of the learner. There is an engagement, a lighting of the fire, which must occur for deep learning to happen. As a young and somewhat naïve teacher, I once argued with Madeline Hunter that if my teaching were perfect, all students would perfectly learn. She smiled and told me that I was wrong…

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Photos: Abandoned Walmart turned into chic new library

For McAllen, Texas, one man’s abandoned Walmart is another’s public library, the Huffington Post reports. After inheriting the abandoned structure, architecture firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle (MS&R) was selected to handle the interior development, with the city mandating it be affordable to construct.  According to PSFK, the library is 124,500 square feet, making it the largest single-story location in the U.S. at a size about equal to 2.5 football fields. (See photos below.) The library’s construction could signal a positive change for libraries across the state. In late 2010, a Harris/Reader’s Digest Post showed that nearly 40 percent of American mayors said they planned to cut employees and make reductions to libraries, with some even cutting branches completely…

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Apple ‘preparing’ to launch smaller tablet

Apple is preparing to launch a smaller tablet computer in the coming months in a bid to maintain its edge in an increasingly crowded market, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The Journal cited unnamed sources as saying that component parts manufacturers had been ordered to gear up for mass production of the tablets in September, indicating the launch may be drawing near. It said the new tablet’s screen would likely be smaller than eight inches (20 centimeters), compared to the 9.7-inch (25-centimeter) screen on Apple’s market-leading iPad, launched in 2010…

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