Nerds? No way: UT program fosters engineering creativity in ninth-graders

Fifty drinking straws, one roll of masking tape, a pair of scissors and a ruler, Knox News reports. That’s all the rising high-school students participating in the Engineering Volunteers for Ninth Graders program at the University of Tennessee College of Engineering were given. In 45 minutes, groups of four were urged to construct a three-level tower with the strength to support six 200-gram weights while being shaken by earthquake-like tremors — oh, and the tower had to stay upright. This was just one of the many interactive projects the 32 participating students from throughout the Southeast will engage in during the week-long event…

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At retooled summer schools, creativity, not just catch-up

The New York Times reports that just a few years ago, school districts around the country were slashing summer classes as the economic downturn eviscerated their budgets. Now, despite continuing budgetary challenges, districts are re-envisioning summer school as something more than a compulsory exercise where students who need to make up lost credits fight to stay awake inside humid classrooms.  According to the National Summer Learning Association, a nonprofit group, 25 of the country’s largest school districts — including Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Oakland, Calif.; Pittsburgh; and Providence, R.I. — have developed summer school programs that move beyond the traditional remedial model…

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Watch: Teen girl designs flashlight that runs on heat of human body

A teenage girl’s innovative technique to power flashlights without the use of batteries has given her an edge over thousands of other contestants at the Google Science Fair and has been selected for the finals. Fifteen-year-old Ann Makosinski from St. Michaels University School, Canada, came up with an innovative design that she refers to as ‘hollow flashlight’. It uses the heat produced by the hands to produce energy, reports CBC News. The winners of the Google Science Fair will receive a grand prize of $50,000 scholarship from Google including a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Ann has been submitting her projects to science fairs since Grade 6, and developed a keen interest in harvesting energy from the surrounding environment. During her research on different forms of energy, she learnt about the device, Peltier tiles, which when warm on one side and cool on the other, generates electricity…

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Arne Duncan urged to intervene in Philadelphia school funding crisis

The Philadelphia public school funding crisis is real, reports The Washington Post. Thousands of people are being laid off, counselors, nurses, teachers, assistant principals, sports programs, arts classes and much more are being decimated. Here is a letter that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and historian/education activist Diane Ravitch just sent to Education Secretary Arne Duncan asking him to intervene in the crisis. I’ve written about it here and here, and the letter spells out the problem in detail. (Weingarten was in Philadelphia earlier this year protesting mass school closings and was arrested with other protesters.)

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Today’s schools lack creative teaching and learning, study says

Lack of creativity in schools puts students at a disadvantage, a report says.

A new survey reveals that creative teaching and innovative learning are stifled by an over-reliance on testing and assessment, forcing teachers to stay inside a restrictive curriculum that will limit students’ ability to excel in the future workforce.

The study, sponsored by Adobe, states that “transformative change” is needed to inject a creative boost into the current education system, and that despite a worldwide demand for creativity and creative thinking, today’s students are not prepared to enter a workplace that requires inventive thinking.

“Currently, as students move from K-5 to grades 6-12 and on to higher education, creativity is increasingly treated as a specialized skill,” said Tacy Trowbridge, worldwide manager of education programs at Adobe. ”Educators and parents see that the demand for creativity and creative thinking is growing – to solve complex problems and to drive future economies – yet students are less prepared to lead the innovation of tomorrow.”

(Next page: Statistics from parents and educators)

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Court: No class-action status in Google book case

Google Inc. got a friendly ruling from a federal appeals panel that stripped a group representing authors of class-action status as the search engine defends itself against claims that its plan to create the world’s largest digital library will violate copyrights, the Associated Press reports. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was too early for authors to be considered as a group in a lawsuit brought against the Mountain View, Calif.-based company by the Authors Guild. A three-judge panel of the Manhattan court said a judge presiding over the 8-year-old case must consider fair use issues before deciding whether to consider authors as a class…

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Buttercup the duck gets a 3-D printed foot

This duck is named Buttercup. He was born with a backwards left foot, CNN reports. Buttercup lives in Arlington, Tennessee at the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary, where owner Mike Garey decided not only to amputate Buttercup’s foot (Garey says it would be too painful and prone to infections), but also to design a replacement foot as well. Garey used Buttercup’s sister Minnie’s left foot as the basis for the design of Buttercup’s new foot, which he modeled using 3D software…

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The ripple effects of stricter privacy rules for kids

Tougher federal rules restricting advertisers and marketers from tracking and targeting children online take effect today, with positive and potentially negative results predicted, USA Today reports. It took the Federal Trade Commission four years to balance the input from a wide spectrum of child safety advocates calling for an update to the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, versus tech companies and large corporations who derive profits from online marketing to kids staunchly resisting any new regulations…

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New data, real progress

Most teachers and principals don’t have a lot of time to pour over the latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress long-term trend assessment, The Huffington Post reports. That’s too bad, because the results from this “gold standard” national examination provide overwhelming evidence that the blood, sweat, and tears that many have poured into helping their children achieve at higher levels has paid off spectacularly for their students. Despite the constant cry that American schools are in decline, these results suggest they have never been better. At the elementary and middle school levels, overall results are up substantially, and at all ages, they are up for every group of children: white, black, and Latino…

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How ‘Listening’ Is a Key to Common Core Success — and How to Teach This Important Skill

In the 21st century workforce, employees will be expected to reflect on what they have heard, ask for clarity if they don’t understand, summarize what they have been told, and make connections to what they are working on. This requires an approach to instruction that treats listening as a skill in itself, not just a behavior that enables learning to happen — and the Common Core standards reinforce the need for this type of approach. But if listening is as critical in the workplace as it is in the classroom, how — and when — is the act of listening taught in schools?

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