South Carolina lawmakers restore state funding for arts, teachers

South Carolina lawmakers voted in a special session on Wednesday to override dozens of budget vetoes by the state’s governor that cut funding for teachers’ pay raises, an arts commission, and non-profit rape crisis centers, Reuters reports. Republican Governor Nikki Haley earlier this month vetoed $67.5 million of the state’s $6.7 billion spending plan for 2012-2013 in a effort to shut down state programs she said “don’t work.” But lawmakers in the Republican-led state legislature said Haley went too far and moved to restore some of the funds, including $10 million for teachers’ pay raises, $3.9 million for an arts commission and $450,000 for the state’s 15 private, non-profit rape crisis centers…

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New project aims to transform the ‘first five days’ of school

The First Five Days project aims to start an international conversation about how to make the start of the school year the best it can be.

While there is general agreement that the first five days of school are “absolutely essential” for establishing a culture of learning that will set the right tone for the rest of the year, there is very little research or discussion about how to make these first five days the most relevant and productive they can be, said ed-tech thought leader Alan November.

Kicking off his Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston July 18, November announced a new project to change that. Called “First Five Days,” the project aims to start an international conversation about how to make the start of the school year the best it can be, to foster the greatest chance for success.

November invited educators to share their ideas and experiences on the online professional development community created by his consulting firm, November Learning. To participate, go to, click on “Register,” then click on the “Five” tab.

There is also a new Twitter hashtag, #1st5Days, that educators can use to share their ideas via the popular micro-blogging service.

In announcing the project, November introduced Greg Whitby, executive director of schools for the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, Australia, who discussed why the project is important to him.

“What do we currently do in the first five days of school? It’s usually about control, organization, and administration,” Whitby said. “The first thing we do is set the ground rules: This is how you learn. But what if we flip this around?”

See also:

How TED-Ed is helping to amplify instruction

How Twitter can be used as a powerful educational tool

BLC ’12: Full coverage

Whitby said he knows a principal whose students look forward to the first day of school, because they realize it will be something special. This educator looks for an initiative with a big impact to challenge or inspire his students on the first day, Whitby said, such as inviting firefighters to come to the school—and fostering a culture of learning by inquiry.

Marco Torres, a teacher, filmmaker, and media coach, showed a film he made during the pre-conference workshops at BLC in which educators shared their best ideas for the first five days of school.

One educator talked about the importance of getting to know each student personally and making a connection that will help nurture deeper learning. Another said she aims to have student feel “fun, safe, and part of a community.” A principal from Australia said she has her students get to know their teacher and make a short, two-minute video about their teacher in the first week of school.

The First Five Days project is about “imagining a different way of doing things,” Whitby noted. If you don’t get those first few days of school right, “you’ve buggered the year.”


How TED-Ed is helping to amplify instruction

Anderson said TED-Ed offers teachers a “magic blackboard” that pairs them with animators to create a six-minute video of their best lesson.

Technology can extend a talented teacher’s reach to thousands or even millions of kids around the world, said Chris Anderson, curator of the nonprofit TED project—and during an education conference in Boston, he described how the newly created TED-Ed website is doing just that.

TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is a global set of conferences created to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.” Its open-access website,, publishes TED Talks in video format for anyone to watch.

TED has launched a version of the site for education, TED-Ed, that includes a number of useful tools designed to help educators incorporate the videos into their instruction.

At the opening general session of the 2012 Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference, hosted by ed-tech thought leader Alan November and his consulting firm, November Learning, attendees learned how TED-Ed is making an impact on education in just its first few months—and they also got a preview of what’s in store for the site.

Anderson said TED-Ed offers teachers a “magic blackboard” that pairs them with animators to create a six-minute video of their best lesson. Teachers submit their ideas to the site’s administrators, who then choose which lessons will be converted into animated videos.

“We live in a world where one teacher’s voice can spread out throughout the world,” Anderson said—and students worldwide can learn from the best teachers in each subject.

In a demonstration, Anderson showed a short snippet of a video created by teacher Aaron Reedy, who explained how the sex of a clownfish isn’t determined until later in its life. He then shared a tweet from Reedy that speaks to technology’s power to amplify instruction: “7 years as a teacher: I explain sex determination to 1,000 students. 3 days w/ TED-Ed: I have explained it to 13,000!” (As of press time, Reedy’s video reportedly has been viewed nearly 750,000 times in all.)

But technology doesn’t just amplify ideas, Anderson said: It also can boost instructional time.


Top campuses jump into the free online course game

Two universities gave millions to Coursera this week.

A dozen of the country’s top universities will make courses available for free on the open online class site Coursera by the beginning of 2013. The announcement was made on that same day that investors — including two campuses — invested millions in the web-based learning site.

By January, Coursera officials expect the site to offer 100 free courses in the arts, computer sciences, health, mathematics, history, literature, and other disciplines. All courses will be free for any individual with a computer and internet connection to enroll.

Coursera was founded in the fall of 2011 by Stanford Computer Science Professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, and in April 2012 announced that Princeton, University of Michigan, Stanford and Penn were entering into agreement with Coursera to bring course content online for free.

Coursera has seen more than 680,000 students from 190 countries and more than 1.6 million course enrollments across its 43 courses.

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How learning and mobility combine in the digital age

Students today routinely use personal, powerful portable information portals to access a rapidly expanding universe of information. This paper touches on how learning–and the spaces it occurs in–are affected by, can adapt to, and will support mobility in the digital age.
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Experts: UVa.’s Coursera partnership far from an embrace of online learning

More than 680,000 students have taken a Coursera class.

The University of Virginia will make four of its courses available for free online in 2013 after the campus’s governing board last month cited a lack of web-based courses in its controversial ouster of President Teresa Sullivan.

But advocates for online education said the university’s partnership with for-profit internet learning site Coursersa—which announced partnerships with 12 universities July 17—should be seen as a tepid embrace of nontraditional courses, not as a momentous shift toward a new learning model.

UVa. will post courses in physics, history, and philosophy to Coursera, part of the massive open online course (MOOC) movement that includes other free educational websites like edX, Udacity, and the Khan Academy.

The courses will be available to anyone with an internet connection. UVa. students will not earn credits upon completion of each Coursera class, whereas students at the University of Washington soon will be able to take Coursera classes for credit.

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Mobility & Learning In The Digital Age

We live in one of the most stimulating eras in history. Technology increasingly influences every human endeavor. One might say the integration of technology into our lives has reached, or perhaps passed, a “tipping point.” What seemed like science fiction a decade or two in the past, is now common place. People routinely use personal, powerful, portable, information portals to access a rapidly expanding universe of information and knowledge.
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Stimulus funds saved K-12 jobs, but states slow

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act showed promise to assist education, but some of its results have yet to be realized, the Huffington Post reports. While education stimulus funds largely saved or created jobs in public education, ongoing state budget deficits have slowed the implementation of reforms tied to federal stimulus money, according to a Wednesday report by the Center on Education Policy. Still, federal support blunted the recession’s effects on K-12 education.

“Although many districts still had to eliminate teaching and other key staff positions, our research indicates that the situation would have been worse without the stimulus funds,” CEP Executive Director Maria Ferguson said in a statement.

The ARRA, passed February 13, 2009, funneled more than $800 billion dollars into investments in infrastructure, health, energy and education, among others, to save and create jobs, cultivate economic activity and increase accountability in government spending…

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Standardized tests of tomorrow behind schedule, according to insider survey

When asked about the problems associated with standardized testing — cheating, overtesting, blunt measures of student achievement — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan often points to a duo of “next-generation assessments” funded by federal money, the Huffington Post reports. But a new survey, which consulting group Whiteboard Advisors plans to publish this week, suggests that “education insiders” aren’t so sure that the one of the new tests will resolve all of the issues with standardized testing. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed reported that they believe the Smarter, Balanced Assessment Coalition, one of the two state-based consortia developing the tests, is on the wrong track.

“Smarter Balanced seems to have started with a misdiagnosis of the testing program to begin with, and then gone from there,” one respondent wrote.

These new tests are funded by $330 million in stimulus money through the federal Race to the Top competition and are intended to measure critical thinking, particularly the critical skills emphasized by the Common Core State Standards, the set of educational standards most states have agreed to adopt…

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Does 5 weeks of training make a teacher ‘highly qualified?’ House panel to vote

Today a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee will consider legislation that would allow students still learning to be teachers to be considered highly qualified teachers under federal law, the Washington Post reports. The nonprofit organization Teach for America places college graduates into high needs schools after giving them five weeks of training in a summer institute. The TFA corps members, who are required to give only a two-year commitment to teaching, can continue a master’s degree in education with selected schools while teaching. Of course it doesn’t make any real sense that a new college graduate with five weeks of ed training or any student teacher should be considered highly qualified — because they aren’t. But federal officials inexplicably partial to Teach for America have bestowed millions of dollars on the organization, and TFA has, not surprisingly, lobbied Congress for this legislation. The reality is that teachers still in training are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color — the children who need the best teachers. This inequitable distribution disproportionately affects students with disabilities…

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