A powerful term in U.S. high schools: DBQ

You may not know what a DBQ is. For most of my life, neither did I. But in the high schools of this region and the rest of the country it has become an important and in some ways fearsome term, The Washington Post reports. It haunts the dreams of 400,000 teenagers who will take the Advanced Placement exam in U.S. history Wednesday. It is part of a massive reform of the AP exam system that controls the schedules of most of the nation’s high schools every May. DBQ is an acronym for “document-based question.” Multiple-choice questions make up 55 minutes of the 3-hour, 5-minute AP U.S. History exam, which has the second-largest number of AP test-takers, behind only the English Language and Composition exam…

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Geoconferencing: GPS, travel bugs, and learning–oh my!

A geocaching app makes it easy for those with mobile devices to participate in activities. (Image from geocaching.com)

Gone are the days of traditional school pen pals and classrooms mailing packages back and forth—today’s students and teachers are using ed-tech to have virtual conversations with classrooms across their states and throughout the nation using a phenomenon known as geoconferencing.

Geoconferencing marries two well-known concepts: video conferencing and geocaching—an outdoor scavenger hunt in which students use GPS devices and mobile devices to travel to specific coordinates in order to locate hidden items known as travel bugs. Travel bugs have unique codes that owners and participants can use to track a bug’s movement on geocaching.com.

The travel bugs are accompanied by log books to record who discovers their hidden locations. Students may find that a travel bug originating in California has made its way to Ohio. Travel bugs resemble military dog tags and are usually hidden in small waterproof containers. Sometimes, they are accompanied by small items that are up for grabs—but if an item is taken, another item of similar value must be left in its place.

(Next page: How can educators start and use geoconferencing activities?)

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Seeking college edge, Chinese pupils arrive in New York earlier

Weiling Zhang, a sophomore at the Léman Manhattan Preparatory School, yearned to communicate with more conviction and verve than her peers back home — the “American way,” she said, The New York Times reports. Yijia Shi, a freshman, wanted to increase her chances of an acceptance letter from Brown University. And Meng Yuan, a junior, was seeking Western-style independence, not to mention better shopping. When she is not heading to track practice or doing her homework, she is combing Bergdorf Goodman for Louis Vuitton limited edition handbags and relishing in the $295 tasting menu at the celebrated Columbus Circle restaurant Per Se…

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Bill Gates: Steve Jobs was better at design than I was

When the sense of personal competition has gone, when time has passed, the memories become more acute and more accurate, CNET reports. During Bill Gates’ interview Sunday night with Charlie Rose on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Microsoft’s chairman released some emotion when speaking of visiting Steve Jobs during the Apple CEO’s last days. He said they’re talked about what they’d learned and about families. He said the conversation wasn’t melancholy, but it clearly is an emotional memory for Gates…

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Switch to digital for ACT admissions exam is bumpy

The ACT college admissions exam is going digital in 2015, and its creators fully expect some bumps along the way, the Washington Times reports. Just as the company earlier this week announced its new 21st-century testing method, schools in Kentucky were reverting to the classic pencil-and-paper approach after ACT’s online assessment system crashed. The ordeal, while a headache for educators in Kentucky, provided a learning experience for exam developers, ACT’s education division President Jon L. Erickson said…

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Wis. budget gets $500M anticipated revenue boost

Wisconsin’s budget surplus grew by $500 million Thursday, leading to a bipartisan call by state lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker to put some of the money toward public schools two years after funding was cut by more than $1 billion, the Associated Press reports. Beyond schools, though, lawmakers and Walker disagreed on the best way to use the surplus reported by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Republicans said they were committed to cutting taxes, putting money in reserves, and reducing the amount of bonding used for roads projects. Democrats called for investing more in worker training, but didn’t endorse deeper tax cuts…

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Parents may devote more teaching time to girls than to boys

For some years now, teachers and parents have noted something about boys and girls. Starting in elementary school, young girls often score better on reading and math tests than young boys do, KQED reports. The differences are uneven on different tests and do not describe the experience of every child, but empirical studies do document a difference. Now, two economists are proposing a partial explanation for the disparity that might give some parents heartburn…

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YouTube launches pilot program for subscription-based paid channels

In a move that will surprise precisely no one who’s been paying attention to the state of streaming media, YouTube announced a pilot program that will herald a new age of subscription-based paid channels on the Google-owned video site, TechHive reports. The official word comes only a few days after a report in the Financial Times that YouTube was about to embark on such a plan…

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ISTE 2013: Mobile devices, flipped learning, gaming, and more

ISTE 2013 kicks off on June 23 in San Antonio, and this year’s conference promises informative and interactive sessions on mobile devices, digital learning tools and strategies, the future of learning, and more.

Three keynote speakers promise to engage attendees and spark discussion about ed-tech trends and learning successes.

Opening Keynote
June 23, 5:30 p.m.
Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal is today’s leading speaker on gamification—the application of game-design to real-life challenges. She has created games for the World Bank, Olympic Games, American Heart Association, New York Public Library and many others. Her book, Reality Is Broken: How Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, is the definitive modern work on gamification.

McGonigal is a specialist and designer in the field of alternate reality games. Players of the games she designs face various challenges, from surviving peak oil to establishing a local sustainable business. Through persistence, energy, collaboration, creativity, sense of purpose and hard work, gamification restores to contemporary life the kind of heroism and communal striving that most of us struggle so hard to find.

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