New assistive technology is changing education for blind students

Assistive technology has come a long way in the last decade, but there are still many obstacles students face in a society that’s currently saturated with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But revolutionary new games, software, and teaching programs are helping students tackle their achievement potential.

One of the technologies receiving the most hype is a new game designed to catch childhood vision problems.

(Next page: Visual screening game)

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20 people who changed tech: The internet pioneers

My father wasn’t much for gardening, InformationWeek reports. Our house had a lawn of about 12 feet by 10 feet. He didn’t like to mow it and neither did I, so every year he cemented over a little more of it, saying: “A fool and his lawnmower are soon united.” But he was voted Man of The Year by the American Concrete Institute. I bring up this tangential point only because if you asked me what the Most Outstanding Development in Technology has been over the past 200 years, I would have to say the internet and the world wide web. President Obama has the original patent application and telegraph key from Samuel Morse in the Oval Office, and he tells visitors that “the internet started here,” and of course he’s right. But the internet really was a cumulative and collaborative effort…

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Why public libraries should follow Chicago’s lead and build maker labs

Gigaom.com reports that Square co-founder Jim McKelvey built the first prototypes for his little white credit card swiper at the TechShop workshop in Menlo Park, Calif. MakerBot’s first 3D printer, the CupCake CNC, grew out of collaborations that began at the NYC Resistor hackerspace in New York City. Square and MakerBot are just the famous examples. TechShop members have also produced a tiny quadcopter and a DIY underwater robot that both easily hit their goals on Kickstarter. At the Noisebridge hackerspace in San Francisco, members once launched a balloon to the edge of space to take photos and video…

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Look at what STEM girls can do with mobile apps

Almost 20 years ago, when I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Buffalo, very few women were in the program, reports WomensENews.com. Alarmingly, things haven’t changed much. Women only account for 20 percent of bachelor degrees and only 25 percent of jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. This is partly because girls’ interest in these subjects peaks in middle school, only to be squashed later, according to a U.S. Department of Education study. But we have a major opportunity to reverse this trend through the use of mobile technology. Unlike my experience growing up in the South Bronx, N.Y., and attending school in Harlem, young girls today have an advantage I never had — access to mobile technology. Kids, regardless of socioeconomic status, use mobile devices every day and they embrace technology for learning…

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Why schools aren’t businesses: The blueberry story

Larry Cuban’s 2004 book “The Blackboard and the Bottom Line: Why Schools Can’t be Businesses,” is nearly a decade old but still highly relevant to the education reform debate. In the introduction, Cuban introduces readers to Jamie Vollmer, a former ice cream company executive who became an education advocate and author of the book ” Schools Cannot Do It Alone.” He quotes Vollmer about “an epiphany” he had in the 1980s…

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New video series explores the science behind superheroes

TED-Ed—the education arm of TED, whose mission is to amplify the voice of great teachers—has added a new six-video educational series called “Superhero Science,” which poses the question: “If superpowers were real…”

Each of the six free animated videos explores the scientific fallacies of a different superpower—speed, strength, invisibility, body mass, immortality, and flight—with voice-over work done by James Arnold Taylor, the voice of Fred Flintstone and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo, among other roles. Each lesson was written by Joy Lin, a high school science teacher from Austin, Texas.

For instance, did you know that if you were invisible, then you wouldn’t be able to see—because no light would reflect off your retina? Or that, if you had super strength and actually caught a falling damsel in distress, you’d do more damage to her body than the ground would?

The six “Superhero Science” videos join TED-Ed’s dozens of other educational videos, organized into series such as Inventions that Shape History, Math in Real Life, How Things Work, and Awesome Nature. Each video also includes a “flip this video” button that lets you turn the video into a customized lesson that can be assigned to students or shared more widely. You can add further context, questions, or follow-up suggestions.

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Leveraging emerging technologies to create virtual libraries

The right virtual library design can boost student engagement.

Though still a relatively new concept, flipped learning is making an impact in classrooms across the country–and now, forward-thinking librarians are examining whether flipped learning and emerging technologies can transform traditional school libraries into participatory centers of collaboration.

Virtual libraries that offer engaging portals and opportunities for students to interact with one another and to communicate with teachers and library media specialists, might be a step in the right direction.

“My vision–I’ll tell you what it’s NOT, and that’s a normal library website,” said David Loertscher, a professor in San Jose State’s School of Library and Information Science during a recent edWeb.com webinar on virtual libraries and emerging technologies.

“The basic question is how do we construct a participatory space rather than a static space?” he asked. Loertscher is working with a team of graduate students to build and hone the Virtual Learning Commons (VLC), a downloadable template that creates an interactive and engaging space for school library media specialists, administrators, teachers, and students to interact, conduct research, and exchange information.

(Next page: What’s in the VLC?)

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A trip to camp to break a tech addiction

There was a phantom buzzing in my shorts, The New York Times reports. I had carried my iPhone in my left front pocket for so many years that my jeans have permanent rectangular fade marks over my thigh. By now the phone is almost an extension of my nervous system; even without the thing on my person, I could still feel it tingle like a missing limb.  But my phone was stapled inside a Trader Joe’s bag along with my watch, credit card and ID. Any buzzing I felt was surely imagined. Then again, it could have been a mosquito…

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Pioneer math camp limps to 25th anniversary

A summer camp born in East San Jose 25 years ago has brought thousands of students from overwhelmed schools and poor neighborhoods up to speed in basic math and even to the heights of algebra and calculus. But on its silver anniversary, the much acclaimed Jose Valdes Math Institute finds itself struggling for survival, MercuryNews.com reports. “I never thought about getting to 25 years,” said Josie Gutierrez, an original supporter who has returned to help resurrect the math camp. “When we started we were just trying to get more kids into math as a way to get them into college.” Enrollment and funding have plunged. While newer summer programs in math and other subjects tapped into Silicon Valley’s deep pockets, the Valdes program’s steady funding stream dried up and the institute almost went under a few years ago. “We have to change our strategy from now on,” Gutierrez said, “that’s for sure.”

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New Tenn. teacher pay plan is hybrid of other states’ plans

With the recent adoption of a controversial teacher pay plan, Tennessee has moved closer to three states that have carved out reputations for dramatically overhauling their pay policies, The Tennessean reports. Florida, Indiana and Louisiana have implemented pay plans in recent years that give more weight to performance and less to the number of degrees racked up by teachers. Though Tennessee’s plan doesn’t go quite as far – some states have actually stopped tying pay to higher degrees altogether – districts here must now consider new factors other than experience and advanced degrees when they create pay scales for the 2014-15 school year. It’s now up to Tennessee’s 137 school districts to craft plans that match the new criteria…

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