Watch: Teacher to run 155 miles through Sahara to buy laptops for students

Boston Public School teacher Liz Byron has had enough with the lack of resources holding her students back, the Huffington Post reports. She’s frustrated with the fact that in a digital era, her 42 sixth-grade students only have four laptops to share in school. So the 28-year-old Gardner Pilot Academy special education teacher is taking the matter into her own hands — by embarking on a 155-mile ultramarathon through the Sahara desert to raise $50,000 for 30 new laptops for her students, WBZ reports. The Marathon Des Sables is the equivalent of six regular marathons, and takes place over six days every year in Morocco. It’s considered the toughest foot race in the world in which runners endure 120-degree heat, sand storms and run between 26 and 50 miles daily. As of Friday morning, Byron is only $9,000 into her $50,000 fundraising goal, but her students have faith…

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Should state education chiefs be elected or appointed?

If it were up to Walter Dalton and Pat McCrory, they’d have a little less company on the ballot in North Carolina this year, Stateline reports. In particular, they wouldn’t be sharing space with candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Dalton and McCrory are opposing gubernatorial nominees, but they agree on one thing: The governor ought to be able to appoint the state’s top education official. It doesn’t appear that wish will be granted anytime soon — making the office appointive would require a constitutional amendment. But the proper role of the schools chief is central to the campaign of Democrat June Atkinson, who currently holds the position in North Carolina, and to some of her counterparts across the country. Some 13 states currently make their top education official subject to a popular vote. And in virtually every one of those states, there are critics who ask why such an office should be so deeply involved in politics…

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Anti-bullying program draws more participants despite boycott call

A record number of schools will participate in a national anti-bullying program, organizers said, despite a conservative Christian group’s push for a boycott of the event on the grounds it would “promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools,” Reuters reports. Nearly 3,000 schools nationwide – about 30 percent more than last year – will take part on Tuesday in “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” an annual event that encourages students to sit by someone in the cafeteria with whom they would not normally socialize. The initiative is organized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a rights group that defines Mix It Up Day as an opportunity to teach students tolerance. The center makes no reference to homosexuality in its program overview, listing it only as a sample topic among dozens of others that schools can chose to discuss…

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Everything you need to know about eReaders

Whether you’re buying, gifting, or expecting an eReader this holiday season, the market’s changed a lot from last year and the year before that. Here’s a complete buyer’s guide, starting with the basics and working through the latest trends, says Yahoo! News. Kindle, Nook, or … ? What exactly an “eReader” is, to you, might depend on where you first saw them. Barnes and Noble is pushing its Nook line pretty hard through its retail stores, while the Kindle takes over the front page of Amazon.com every time a new model comes out. There are other eReader devices, though. Kobo sells a line of basic but dependable black-and-white eReaders, which have tons of fans of their own, and a color version’s on its way. Other companies, like Sony, have their own lines; and there are eReader apps for PCs, smartphones, and tablets, which tie into your Kindle, Nook or Kobo device and can even save your place in a book…

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For Asians, school tests are vital steppingstones

Ting Shi said his first two years in the United States were wretched. He slept in a bunk bed in the same room with his grandparents and a cousin in Chinatown, while his parents lived on East 89th Street, near a laundromat where they endured 12-hour shifts, the New York Times reports. He saw them only on Sundays. Even after they found an apartment together, his father often talked about taking the family back to China. So, following the advice of friends and relatives from Fuzhou, where he is from, Ting spent more than two years poring over dog-eared test prep books, attending summer and after-school classes, even going over math formulas on the walk home from school. The afternoon his acceptance letter to Stuyvesant High School arrived in the mail, he and his parents gathered at the laundromat, the smell of detergent and the whirl of the washing machines filling the air. “Everyone was excited,” Ting recalled…

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How to make BYOD work for your schools

One of the largest challenges in a BYOD initiative is meeting the needs of students who don’t own a mobile device, or who don’t have internet access at home.

“Bring your own device” (BYOD) initiatives are relatively new in education, cropping up in the last few years as schools—under tight budget constraints—seek ways to leverage student-owned devices for learning.

Supporters of the BYOD movement say students are instantly more attentive and better behaved when they are encouraged to use their own mobile devices in the classroom, but educators face a number of challenges in making BYOD work in their schools.

For instance, what if some students don’t bring a smart phone, laptop, or tablet computer of their own? How can educators make sure that students use their mobile devices only for educational purposes, or that these devices won’t compromise the district’s network security? How can school leaders address the concerns of parents?

We’ve talked with ed-tech leaders in a number of districts with BYOD initiatives, and here’s how they’re meeting these challenges in their schools.

A ‘coalition of the willing’

Jill Hobson, instructional technology director for the Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, said her district’s BYOD initiative is a “coalition of the willing.”

Now in its fourth year, the initiative began with seven schools and 40 teachers who realized they didn’t have all the answers to questions that a BYOD initiative would raise, Hobson said.

See also:

Wireless experts: Time to move beyond the device

With mobile device management, schools can rest easier

“We would share ideas, but we expected that we would be learning from the teachers as they were going to be trying things in the classroom,” she said. “It was messy, and we were prepared for that.”

In the initiative’s second year, the district’s technology team told school principals that the infrastructure to support BYOD existed, but that district leaders did not mandate participation. Still, last year 100 percent of the district’s schools participated.

“I’m under no illusion—that doesn’t mean every classroom was doing it,” Hobson said. “We’re not mandating it. But certainly, the capacity is there to do it.”

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Teen takes educators to Twitter school

Fifteen-year-old Adora Svitak knows students nowadays “live, work and play” social media, Mashable reports.

“We’re used to the characteristics of social media: participation, connection, instant gratification,” she tells Mashable, “and when school doesn’t offer the same, it’s easy to tune out.”

To help more educators learn about the benefits of using social media in the classroom, Adora recently taught nearly 3,000 teachers, principals and administrators how to implement Twitter and Facebook into their lives.

“The speech was successful in that a lot of new people joined Twitter and learned how to start a Facebook page for a class or school group,” Adora said about her collaborative keynote presentation at the Advancing Improvement in Education Conference in Austin this month.

The first-time Twitter users learned how to sign up, tweet and weave in hashtags — pushing thankful messages to Adora during her demonstration…

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U.S. sues Mississippi officials over student arrests

The U.S. Justice Department sued Mississippi state and local officials on Wednesday over what it called a “school-to-prison pipeline” that violates the rights of children, especially black and disabled youths, Reuters reports. The suit alleges that police officers in Meridian, Mississippi, routinely arrested students who were suspended from school, even when they had no probable cause to believe the students had committed a crime.

“We found that children have been incarcerated for being suspended from school for things like dress code violations or talking back to teachers,” said Roy Austin, a senior civil rights official in the Justice Department.

The police department acted as little more than a “taxi service” between schools and a juvenile detention center 80 miles away, where students did not have access to lawyers or counselors, the suit says…

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Report: Defense department threatened by STEM worker shortfall

Citing a potential shortfall in quality STEM workers, a report from the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council urges the Department of Defense to overhaul its recruitment practices and reassess its requirement for security clearances for some science, technology, engineering and math positions, the Huffington Post reports.

“STEM assignments at the DOD that involve more procedure and bureaucracy than technical challenge and mission are unlikely to satisfy the high-quality STEM professionals the DOD needs to recruit,” C.D. Mote, professor of engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park said in a statement. “Making DOD employment an attractive career choice to the most qualified and motivated professionals will pay enormous dividends to the department and the nation.” Mote is also co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. Due to the hierarchical learning of mathematics, students must generally decide very early in their educational careers whether to retain the option of pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field

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