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Interesting education articles we saw this week

One of the most difficult parts to putting together our weekly internal newsletter is narrowing down what to include.  We see so many interesting items.  But we want to keep the newsletter to a manageable length.  So sometimes we have to be really selective.  These are the articles that made the cut this week.  And check out our fun site at the bottom of the post.

The Obama administration is proposing an increase of $1.3 billion in education spending.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that ed-tech funding will be cut by 63% (Obama proposes $1.3B increase in ed funding – eSchool News Online).

Classrooms benefit directly from donors is an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.  It looks at DonorsChoose.org, an online philanthropy site that allows people to choose where their donated money will go.  “’The trend over time is that donors want to be able to direct their giving. They don't want to give it to an intermediary and then have the intermediary decide where it goes,’ said James Ferris, director of the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.”  Over 130,000 donors have used the site.

The Denver Post reported on Rap boosting kids’ academics.  Rap to Roots is a program that uses rap to help kids learn everything from Shakespeare to math.  It’s been successfully used in Chicago and Cleveland and the article described its debut in the Denver school system.  Does it work?  According to Michael Schenkelberg, the developer of the program, “Organizers tracked students' progress over four years and discovered those in the program "’did significantly better in standardized testing, attention spans in the classroom, and some improved their writing skills.’”

What’s big in science education?  Forensics, according to A Hit in school, maggots and all (New York Times).  Teachers are finding that kids are excited by the classes being offered and are learning science, sometimes without even realizing it, including biology, chemistry and physics.  “Forensic science also emphasizes what scientists complain is too often lacking in standard science education: hands-on lab work.”

Last week we finished with computer equipment playing Bohemian Rhapsody.  This week we end with an organist’s rendition of the Overture to Star Wars.  It’s kind of boring to actually watch.  But close your eyes and it sounds just like the movies.  Thanks to Nick in Trade marketing for sending this to us.  Enjoy. 

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Interesting education articles this week

As we review many web sites, newspapers and magazines, we often select web sites or articles for the newsletter that we think may be relevant to Scholastic's businesses.  These are the ones we chose for this week.

In the U.K., the Telegraph reports Revealed: new teaching methods that are producing

dramatic results.  New techniques such as “spaced learning” are showing signs of real

success.  The school day consists of “short sharp lessons … interspersed with an entirely

different activity and repeated at regular intervals.” 

The Newark Star-Ledger had an interesting story online, In recession, more parents ‘slowly’

spend quality time with their kids.  “Slow parenting,” a movement that began about five

years ago aims to slow “the pace of family life and scal[e] back on material items.”  A lot

more parents are adopting this concept even though many of them have never heard of it.

Christopher Dawson writes an interesting blog for ZDNet.   He

recently posted Summer reading…the data don’t lie.  Dawson, a teacher in Massachusetts, looked

at the numbers and saw that many students suffered from the “summer slide.” “Summer

break…can be disastrous without reading exposure, especially for the younger kids.” He

offers a couple of suggestions for alleviating the problem.

For some students, raising self-esteem can mean increases in achievement, according to Task

to aid self-esteem lifts grades for some (New York Times).  “Some seventh graders who were

struggling in class did significantly better after performing a series of brief

confidence-building writing exercises, and the improvements continued through eighth grade,”

according to a study from Columbia and Yale Universities.

At the same time, and possibly connected in some way, “More challenging middle-school math

classes and increased access to advanced courses in predominantly black urban high schools

may be the key to closing the racial academic achievement gap,” according to a study from

the University of Illinois (Middle-school math classes are key to closing racial academic

achievement gap – Science Daily).  “Being in a classroom where the expectations are higher,

the course work is more rigorous, and the climate is more academic has huge effects on

student effort.”

And just for fun -- there are several very cool short videos with slow motion images on Vimeo.  The link we’ve provided is to our favorite.   After the dart hitting the dartboard and the pom pom hitting the ground, there’s a spectacular video of a cube of jello.  It’s like a jellyfish.  And you can see every move because the picture is so clear.  Enjoy!  

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Education News

Every week we review hundreds of articles that come in through online newsletters.  We select those that we think are either most relevant to our business or would have some interest for Scholastic staff.  It's often a difficult decision as there are so many relevant and interesting articles in newspapers, magazines and on the blogs.

Ed Week recently ran a story as part of its special issue, Technology Counts 2009, Research shows evolving picture of e-education.  “Research shows that virtual schooling can be as good as, or better than, classes taught in person in brick-and-mortar schools,” according to the article.  But virtual schooling also has specific issues to deal with, one of which is that “the courses tend to draw students at the extremes of the academic spectrum—advanced, highly motivated students looking for academic acceleration, and students who are struggling in regular classrooms.”

A new study out of the University of Pennsylvania has found that Visual learners convert words to pictures in the brain and vice versa (Science Daily).  The authors of the study believe these results may help in tailoring reading instruction for students.

A survey of teachers in Britain found that three quarters of teachers believed children should be at least five before starting school.  (Call to start school at age six – BBC)  The teachers had several other thoughts as well, including a lack of playtime and too much emphasis on testing.

Publishers Weekly profiled Gary Shapiro, a teacher in Salinas, CA, who uses comic books to teach reading (Superman, super teacher: using comics to teach reading).  As a kid, Shapiro had trouble learning to read and found comics helped him.  He applies his experience to his students. 

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Weekly Web Finds -- March 12, 2009

Education & the Economy

As the states get ready for the infusion of funds for the stimulus, the federal government is sending a message, U.S. to nation’s schools: spend fast, keep receipts   (New York Times).   “’Spend funds quickly to save and create jobs,’ a five-page guidance document sent to the education officials said. It also urged educators to use the money in the stimulus package, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, in ways that ‘improve school achievement through school improvement and reform.’ It also warned them to keep records of expenditures.”

And Ed Week included more detail on the guidelines in Ed. Dept. outlines conditions for stimulus use.  “States won’t get all of their stabilization money at once. Instead, 67 percent—or about $32 billion—will go out within two weeks of a state’s submission of its application.”

The Education Department posted a press release with specific information on the guidelines.  “ARRA funds must be used to improve student achievement. To receive the first round of state stabilization funds, states must commit to meet ARRA requirements, including making progress on four key education reforms, sharing required baseline data, and meeting record-keeping and transparency requirements. To receive the second round of funding, they must provide evidence and plans for progress on these assurances.” 

USA Today looks at how the stimulus can impact schools environmentally.  Schools could turn green from stimulus money reports on Arkansas and other states and their plans to use the stimulus money for green renovations.  “’It just makes sense that, if you're going to renovate a building, you might as well renovate it in a way that will save you money in the long run,’ said Dale Ellis, a spokesman for the Arkansas Board of Higher Education.”

The Washington Times looks at whether the stimulus is too little, too late for some districts.  School budget cuts threaten gains reports that many schools will still face severe cuts despite the stimulus aid and that this will impact any positive achievement gains made.


Science Stuff

The National Science Foundation has created Classroom Resources, a resource for teachers, parents and students in the sciences, mathematics and engineering areas.  Much of the material comes from the National Science Digital Library and is created by universities, museums and professional organizations.  It allows browsing by subject area and includes links to useful sites.  Each subject area contains an overview from the National Science Foundation which can be found at the bottom of each subject area’s page. 

The Dynamic Earth is a cool interactive site from the Museum of Natural History.  It’s split into four areas: gems and minerals, plate tectonics and volcanoes, the solar system, and rocks and mining. 

As part of its Digital Gallery, the New York Public Library has posted Pictures of Science: 700 Years of Scientific and Medical Illustration.  “Hundreds of images from the thirteenth through the early twentieth century, in the fields of astronomy, chemistry, geology, mathematics, medicine, and physics, as represented by manuscript illuminations, engravings, lithographs, and photographs.”  Remember, you may need to check for copyright before using any of these images.


This Week’s Reports

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success is a brief from the Education Public Interest Center.  It contends that school success and reducing the achievement gap may not be possible if certain outside forces are not addressed.  These include:  (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics.”

The Department of Education has issued Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2006-07 (Fiscal Year 2007).  It contains “basic revenue and expenditure data, by state, for public elementary and secondary education for school year 2006-07. It contains state-level data on revenues by source and expenditures by function, including expenditures per pupil.”


Newsworthy

Montana is working on legislation to offer online learning to all the state’s students, according to House backs K-12 distance learning (Billings Gazette).  Supporters claim “with many children in the state living in areas where districts can afford to offer only limited class choices, distance learning could be the only way to ensure all Montana kids have access to a quality education.”  Opponents however criticized creating a new program during tough economic times.

Proof of Anaheim math teacher’s skill is in students’ test scores is a story in the Los Angeles Times.  Sam Calavitta teaches an Advanced Placement calculus class at Fairmount Preparatory Academy.  His unusual teaching methods have paid off big time.  “All 81 of his students aced the college-level test, earning an average score of 4.79 out of 5. Sixty-nine of the students earned a perfect 5.”

A less hopeful story appeared on MSNBC.com.  ‘Tidal wave’ of homeless students hits schools describes the difficulties schools around the country are facing due to the rising number of homeless children in their classrooms.  “Research shows that the turmoil of homelessness often hinders children’s ability to socialize and learn. Many are plagued by hunger, exhaustion, abuse and insecurity. They have a hard time performing at grade level and are about 50 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers.”

Food, Glorious Food

The Food Timeline follows the development of edibles from the very beginnings of mankind.  Each item listed on the timeline is linked to a greater explanation of the foodstuff and its importance over time.  Of course, by the time you get to deep fried Coke-a-Cola and Kool Aid Pickles, you may start to wonder.  But the list is quite complete and includes such favorites as Eskimo Pies (1920), Mallomars (1913), and A1 Steak Sauce (1824).  There are also many links to recipes for some of the items profiled. 


Middle School Literacy

Kids who are struggling with reading need all the help we can give them.  Teacher’s Domain has created a web site to do just that.  Inspiring Middle School Literacy is designed to engage kids in grades 5-8.  The activities are self-paced and focus on science and history.  “Each activity addresses a range of specific literacy strategies. All 15 activities promote monitoring comprehension, synthesizing, asking questions, developing vocabulary, connecting prior knowledge to new learning, and developing a topic in writing.” 


St. Patrick’s Day Fun

Next Tuesday, March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day.  So to begin warming up for this important event, check out this Irish dancer, with a twist.  And we had to get animals in here somewhere; so enjoy these photos of pets wearing the Green.   YouTube alert, twice!  Enjoy.  

Weekly Web Finds -- March 5, 2009

Education & the Economy

According to the Idaho Statesman, Stimulus may not keep Idaho school budget intact.  The

state’s schools superintendent has indicated that he plans to use some of the stimulus money

to replenish the schools’ “rainy day fund”.  This would mean that some cuts still would need

to be made.  But they might not be quite as severe as initially thought.  In Arkansas,

education officials are looking at the recently jobless as potential teachers.  State seeks

teachers among newly jobless (Arkansas Democrat Gazette) reports that “staff members are

working to tap into the pool of displaced workers who have degrees and experience in

engineering, computer programming, graphic design and other fields to fill teaching jobs -

particularly teaching jobs in the high-demand subjects of mathematics, life sciences,

physical sciences, foreign languages, speech, art and music.”

The Education Department has created a page on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

It provides a fact sheet, state allocation info and more specifics on where the money from

the stimulus package will go. 

History Stuff

1989 was a pivotal year.  It was the year the Berlin Wall came down, signaling the end of the

Communist era.  The Center for History and New Media has posted Making the History of 1989

Dozens of primary sources, including documents, images and videos are available.  There are

interviews with scholars, suggested lesson plans and case studies.

And while we’re talking about the Center for History and New Media, we also want to point out

another site they have called World History Matters.  It’s a portal to all kinds of sources

on world history designed for the high school student.  Again, you’ll find a wealth of

information including primary source materials.


This Week’s Reports

The Census has issued the most recent School Enrollment tables.  Data is current to October

2007.  There are eight tables in all, breaking enrollment down in a variety of ways.  Tables

are available in Excel and CSV formats.  The Census has also released the tables for the 2006

A Child’s Day: Selected Indicators of Child Well-Being.  Tables include fun time, reading

time, mealtime, television rules, and other indicators of a child’s life.  Again, tables are

available in Excel and CSV formats.

Achievement Effects of Four Early Elementary School Math Curricula: Findings from First

Graders in 39 Schools is a new report from the Department of Education’s Institute of

Education Sciences.  “The four curricula are Investigations in Number, Data, and Space; Math

Expressions; Saxon Math; and Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics. First-grade math

achievement was significantly higher in schools randomly assigned to Math Expressions or

Saxon Math than in those schools assigned to Investigations in Number, Data, and Space or to

Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics.”   Education Week reported on the findings in

Study finds edge for certain early-math programs.  Subscription may be required to access the fulltext.


Newsworthy

Study says most 1st grade classes not high quality, a story in Ed Week, reports on the

findings of the education school at the University of Virginia.  Schools were judged on

multiple criteria including instruction and social and emotional climate.  “Only 23 percent

of classrooms could be judged to be of “high quality” in both their instructional practices

and social and emotional climate,” researchers found.  The study, written up in the

Elementary School Journal, is available online for $10.00.

The Graphic Novel Reporter conducted a roundtable on the subject of Graphic Novels in Today’s

Libraries.  When asked about how graphic novels are perceived, one librarian responded, “Kids

who had previously only used the library as a drop-in babysitting/computer service are now

relaxing on the couches reading. Girls are devouring manga that is age-appropriate and

mothers are discovering that comics actually improve reading skills.”

The results of another study were discussed in Hand gestures help math skills, study

concludes (School Library Journal).  This study, from the University of Chicago, found that

“we may be able to lay the foundation for new knowledge just by telling learners how to move

their hands.”

There has been a lot of discussion of 21st-century skills in the press and even here in the

Weekly Web Finds.  Now “a group of researchers, historians, and policymakers from across the

political spectrum are raising a red flag about the agenda as embodied by the Tucson,

Ariz.-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills, or P21, the leading advocacy group for

21st-century skills,” according to Backers of 21st-century skills take flak from Education

Week.  It’s an interesting read.  USA Today also covered this story in What to learn: core knowledge or

21st century skills?


Tech Stuff

The West Virginia Gazette reported on the use of handheld devices in math classes (Count on

it: handheld device ‘inspires’ math students at Hoover).  Teachers are using “the Nspire,

which looks like a thick calculator, [but] is more like a computer. It easily bests

calculators, or graphing calculators for that matter.”


Friendly Baby

No animals this week.  Just a cute baby singing about friendship.  YouTube alert!  Enjoy! 



Weekly Web Finds -- Feb. 26, 2009

Education & the Economy

A representative article about the stimulus aid for education is Stimulus: $1.1B to Minnesota schools from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  Although the states will need the infusion of funds, many people are warning about the money is for a short period of time and can’t be counted on in the long run.

In California, where the legislature just completed a difficult and painful budget deal, the San Francisco Chronicle reports Budget takes $8.2 billion from K-12 classes.  Even with the infusion of money from the stimulus, “budgets for dozens of programs - from standardized testing to classes for English learners - will be slashed by more than 15 percent this year, and by nearly 20 percent next year.”

Rush to pump out stimulus cash highlights disparities in funding is an article in Ed Week.  Because existing formulas were used to determine funding, some contend, “some states and districts are likely to benefit disproportionately from the two-year flood of new federal money.”

Education Week has created the Schools & Stimulus page.  You’ll find complete coverage of the impact of the stimulus package on education, including news, videos and articles from other papers.  A subscription may be necessary to view some of the content on this page.


Square Root Day

Ron Gordon is a teacher in California.  He’s a math teacher.  He thought it would be cool to celebrate certain dates that had mathematical implications.  So he created Square Root Day.  This day doesn’t come around all that often.  The most recent one was 02/02/04.  And the next one is 03/03/09.  So get ready to party.  He celebrates Odd Day, too.  And one’s coming up in May.  Read more about Ron in In honor of all things odd.


Tech Stuff

A study in the U.K. has concluded that texting “could be having a positive impact on reading development,” according to Texting ‘improves language skill’ from the BBC.  It “found no evidence of a detrimental effect of text speak on conventional spelling.”

The first Mobile Learning Conference was held in Washington, D.C., last week.  Presenters believe that the use of mobile devices like smartphones can help raise student achievement.  Conference explores benefits of mobile learning from eSchool News Online reports on several pilot projects going on around the country as well as future possible uses of cellphones, pdas, laptops and netbook computers.

Two stories this week are Google related.  The first, from the New York Times, is Exploring a ‘deep web’ that Google can’t grasp.  Search engines like Google can only search down into a site so far.  Research is being conducted to retrieve more of the hidden stuff on the Web.  This will have huge implications for searchers, search engines and business.

And Forbes.com explored the dilemma Google faces as a search engine and as an advertising medium in Goggle gives and takes away.  “Since Google is both the cause and solution to the problem of spammy Web data, users have little choice but to hope it continues to have the resources and inclination to stay one step ahead of that which it set in motion.”


This Week’s Reports

The new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Past, Present and Future has just been released.  This 25th anniversary edition looks at teachers’ outlooks and perspectives on the profession.  Generally, teachers are more optimistic now than they were 25 years ago.  But “Despite the generally positive trajectory of teachers’ responses over the years, however, MetLife’s data does also underscore persistent disparities among schools and mounting challenges facing the country’s public education system,” particularly for teachers in urban and secondary schools.  Read more about the results in Report: teachers see progress over past 25 years (Ed Week).

Our next site is report related.  It’s the Bunkum Awards from the Education and Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  This group has recognized certain reports with Bunkum Awards because it deemed the reports seriously flawed or poorly researched.  Some of the reports earning this dubious distinction are reports we’ve featured in the InfoUpdate.  This year’s awards included the Charles Murray Prize for Identifying who Shouldn’t Be Educated, the Rose Colored Blinders Award, and the Maybe It’ll Be True if We Say It One More Time Award.

The Department of Education has released Second Evaluation of the Improving Literacy through School Libraries Program.  The program’s purpose is to improve literacy skills through better access to current materials, technology and experienced staff.  The findings showed that although school libraries involved in the program expanded services and showed increased student usage, “No definitive statement can be made based on these data as to whether LSL was associated with improved test scores.”


Newsworthy

Microsoft explores educational link to video games, a story from the Associated Press on Yahoo! News, looks at “whether video games — and not just software specifically designed to be educational — can draw students into math, science and technology-based programs.”  It has established the Games for Learning Institute to study the situation.

And in the same vein, Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada, “is hoping that cutting-edge video game technology can be used to sink students deep into what they're learning,” according to Alberta university takes academic cue from video games (The Globe and Mail).  The school is developing courses using gaming technology and plans to expand its offerings.

The New York Times Health section this week carried an article called The 3 R’s? A fourth is crucial, too: recess.  A new study, published in Pediatrics, shows that children who have recess of more than 15 minutes a day were better behaved.  But over 30% of students have little or no recess at all according to the study.


History Stuff

March is Women’s History Month.  And the Census Bureau has released its Facts for Features for the observance.  Some interesting demographic information available here.

Swallowing goldfish, cramming into a phone booth (yes, there used to be actual phone booths) and other weird fads can be found at Crazyfads.  For each decade, there’s a list of the fads of the era.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much more information.  A shame, really.  It would be great if there were more information for some of these fads, like what does a quiff hairdo look like. 


Baby Animals

Sick of cute animals?  You have no heart.  Here are more from ZooBorns.  From aardvarks to zebras, there are pictures of baby animals from zoos around the world.  Even the armadillos are cute.  Enjoy!  And thanks to Cindy in Corporate Marketing for passing this along to us. 

Weekly Web Finds -- Feb. 19, 2009

Education & the Economy

We’re going to move away from the Bad News/Good News format for this section.  Going forward,

we’ll continue to identify some interesting articles about the impact of the economy on

education and we’ll also look closely at the implementation of the American Recovery and

Reinvestment Act.

The On Education blog from U.S. News & World Report discusses How to spend $100 billion on

education.  “Several education observers have warned about the dangers of getting so much

money out to schools in a hurry. Duncan and Obama have promised to distribute the money in a

timely and transparent fashion.”  And Ed Week explored the difficulties of managing the funds

in Stimulus aid to schools a management challenge.  But this challenge isn’t just for the

states, but also for Ed chief, Arne Duncan.  And Duncan wants stimulus to transform schools

(eSchool News Online) looks at how he plans to do that.  “’It's also an opportunity to

redefine the federal role in education, something we're thinking a whole lot about,’ Duncan

said recently. ‘How can we move from being [about] compliance with bureaucracy to really the

engine of innovation and change?’"

The Education Commission of the States has a nice summary of the American Recovery and

Reinvestment Act as it pertains to education spending.  Early Care & Education Provisions of the

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from Zero to Three provides some good detail on

funding and possible uses of the funding for early childhood education.  There’s a very nice

table of how the funding breaks out and its availability.  The Center for Law & Public Policy

has posted Child Care and Development Block Grant Funding data.  The numbers are broken down

by state.   And if you’re really ambitious, you can read the entire conference report and

text of the Act

And the Obama administration has set up a web site, Recovery.gov, that citizens can search to

find out where the money is going.  The Wall Street Journal created a really nice, single

page breakdown of the entire stimulus package.


The Value of the Library

We almost never see a negative story about libraries, unless they’re being closed because of

budget cuts.  We do frequently see articles about how great libraries are.  Case in point is

In web age, library job gets update.  This is a wonderful look at the evolving world of “a

growing cadre of 21st-century multimedia specialists who help guide students through the

digital ocean of information that confronts them on a daily basis. These new librarians

believe that literacy includes, but also exceeds, books.”   


Kids Stuff

Zero to Three, a national nonprofit organization devoted to improving the lives of children,

has posted its Infant-Toddler Policy Agenda.  “Ensuring that babies have good health, strong

families, and positive early learning experiences will lay the foundation for success

throughout their lives.”  Policy priorities include child chare, developmental screening,

early head start, and physical health. 

Programs for Educators is a new site from Common Sense Media.  It’s designed to help schools

help parents.  There are videos, advice, and resources to help parents manage their kids’

exposure to media.  Teachers can register their schools and special kits are available.

5 Things you should know about kids & the Internet (HispanicAd.com) is a story about a survey

conducted by Mediamark Research & Intelligence.  The survey found, “For American kids ages

6-11, the Internet is much more of an entertainment platform than it is a venue for

communicating, with most of the entertainment occurring within the home.”


This Week’s Reports

The Department of Education released State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left

Behind Act, Volume VI – Targeting and Uses of Federal Education Funds.  “This report

describes how well federal funds are targeted to economically disadvantaged students, how

Title I targeting has changed over the past seven years, how districts have spent federal

funds, and the base of state and local resources to which federal funds are added.”

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has just released The Accountability Illusion, a report that

looks at “whether schools [that] make AYP is as much a product of inconsistent and arcane

rules set by state education officials as of actual pupil achievement.”  The site provides

access to the parts of the report, including state reports and press materials.  For a

summary of the report’s findings, check out School success under “No Child Left Behind”

depends on location.


Newsworthy

Virtual field trips open doors for multimedia lessons, from Ed Week, looks at the growing

number of online excursions teachers and students can take.  Ball State University in Indiana

has created over 60 such field trips.   And each trip averages about 20,000 students.

The New York Times reports Industry makes pitch that Smartphones belong in classroom.  The CTIA, a

wireless industry trade group believes that Smartphones can be used in the classroom to enhance math

education.  Needless to say, there are many who dispute that idea.  And Ed Week reports Students turn

their cellphones on for classroom lessons.  “A growing number of teachers, carefully navigating district

policies and addressing their own concerns, are having students use their personal cellphones to make

podcasts, take field notes, and organize their schedules and homework.”


The Cat and the Printer

Cats don’t like technology.  Watch as this cat battles his own personal windmill, with as

little luck as Don Quixote.

Weekly Web Finds -- Feb. 5, 2009


Education & the Economy

Bad news – On one of the Wall Street Journal’s blogs, author Sara Murray posted

For many schools, education stimulus already too late.  “To be sure, the stimulus could prove

effective over the long term and may prevent, or at least lessen, future cuts. But as for the

present, there’s no question that education will be on the chopping block with or without it.

In fact, it already is,” she writes.  The Florence, AL, Times Daily carried this sobering

story, Economy casts dark shadow over Legislature.   The upshot is stark, “Thousands of

teachers and staff members will lose their jobs in Alabama public schools. Classroom sizes

will increase and there will be fewer course offerings.”


Good news – In Indianapolis, Bill gives schools $180 million more in ‘10.  The Indiana

legislature looked for a different way to ensure education funding.  Issues still need to be

worked out, of course, before this is finalized.  (Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette)

The New America Foundation has posted a side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate

stimulus bills in relation to education spending as of January 30.  Obviously, things will

change.



Google Stuff

We had our Wikipedia Alert last week.  This week we look at an outage at Google, Google error

sends warning worldwide (New York Times).  An internal glitch that sent error messages in

response to search queries.  A similar outage took place earlier this week.  Remember that

there are many other decent search engines out there.  As good as Google is, there are others

that are just as able to help you find what you are looking for.  A couple to consider are: 

Yahoo! (of course), Exalead and Hakia.  

Some fear Google’s power in digital books, also from the New York Times, looks at the

concerns many are raising about Google’s attempt to digitize all the books in major libraries

(with or without worrying about copyright).  The issue, according to critics, isn’t just

copyright.  It’s about monopoly, “’a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of

access to information,” Mr. Darnton [head of the Harvard library system in the latest issue

of The New York Review of Books] writes. ‘Google has no serious competitors.’”  Others

believe that Google’s actions will be a boon to researchers and libraries alike.


Tracking Legislation

The National Conference of State Legislatures has updated its Early Care and Education

Legislative Action page.   The current year is searchable.  And earlier years are also

available. 


This Week’s Reports

K-12 Online Learning is a report from the Sloan Consortium.  This is a follow-up report to

the survey of school administrators done in 2007.  Some of their conclusions include:  “Three

quarters of the responding public school districts are offering online or blended courses:

75% had one or more students enrolled in a fully online or blended course; 70% had one or

more students enrolled in a fully online course; 41% had one or more students enrolled in a

blended course; these percentages represent an increase of approximately 10% since

2005-2006.”  Read the Executive Summary.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop has issued Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile

Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning.  The report “includes an inventory of more than

25 projects in which hand-held devices are being used for learning or are the subject of

research in the United States and other nations.”  (Mobile devices seen as key to

21st-century learning, EdWeek)



Newsworthy

Houston is beginning an innovative project to get kids, especially boys, to read.  Wanted:

real men to inspire reading describes “Real Men Read,” based on a project developed in

Chicago.  “Volunteers will read to and lead book discussions with second-, fifth- and

seventh-grade students in 31 schools.”

Internet generation leaves parents behind comes from the U.K., the Manchester Guardian to be

exact.  It looks like some problems are universal, like how much time kids are spending

online, not doing homework, but socializing with friends or playing games.

Technology empowers differentiated instruction, a story in eSchool News Online, looks at a

webinar presented by the International Society for Technology in Education.  The hosts of the

webinar, Grace Smith and Stephanie Throne, “cited research that shows students are more

successful in school and find it more satisfying when they are taught in ways that are

responsive to their readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles.”  And they identified

strategies for teachers on making this work.

Another story from the U.K. reports on Frank Cottrell Boyce’s fear that British Schools

becoming ‘anti-reading’ zones (The Telegraph).  Boyce’s contention is that books and

libraries are being replaced by technology to the detriment of students.



Library Stuff

The American Library Association has created Add It Up, a site designed to “make the case for

libraries at every stage of youth development and education.”  The site provides statements

of fact on the benefits of library usage by children of all ages with citations to the

relevant sources.  There’s a list of resources and quick facts are available.  It’s a useful

tool to make the case for the value of the school/public library.

Unfortunately, the new ALA site may have come too late for some libraries, according to the

USA Today story, U.S. libraries on borrowed time?  It is a sad listing of libraries around

the country facing serious cutbacks or even closure despite the increase in use by their

communities.

But in the meantime, and in the hopes that money can be found to support this valuable

community service, enjoy these pictures of lovely library spaces from Slate.com.


Darwin & Lincoln

February 12 is the 200th anniversary of two of the most important figures in modern human

history, Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln.  Learn more about Darwin at AboutDarwin.com and

Lincoln at Lincoln: 200 Years, from C-Span.  And then read the article How Lincoln and Darwin

shaped the modern world in the current issue of Smithsonian.  


Cool Inaugural Photo

David Bergman took this very cool photo of the Inauguration of Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009.

 You’ll need to scroll down to see the photo.  You can move around the photo, up and down and

zoom in to all parts.  It’s very cool.   Don’t forget to click on the full screen link to see

the immensity of the image.  Thanks to Kathy in Classroom Magazines for sending it our way.  

Weekly Web Finds -- Jan. 29, 2009

Education & the Economy

Bad newsPasco schools say virtual ed’s a real budget breaker is an article in the St.

Petersburg Times.  Florida law is requiring schools to provide full-time virtual schools by

August.  But school administrators say they don’t have the money.  “Although over time it

would be expected to become self-sufficient, the school's initial price tag looks too steep

when the district can't even afford employee raises.”  Weak economy threatens rural schools,

from the Los Angeles Times, looks at the particular problems rural schools are facing during

the economic downturn.

Good news – (sort of) Districts scrounge for low-pain budget cuts is from Ed Week

(registration may be required).  “In an effort to avoid, or mitigate, teacher layoffs and drastic cuts to

politically sensitive programs, districts are aggressively raising money from private sources, upping their

fees, and squeezing savings from existing budgets.”  Some of the ideas are very clever.  The New

York Times looked at the stimulus package working its way through Congress and reported

Stimulus plan would provide flood of aid to education.  “The proposed emergency expenditures

on nearly every realm of education, including school renovation, special education, Head

Start and grants to needy college students, would amount to the largest increase in federal

aid since Washington began to spend significantly on education after World War II.”

The Congressional Research Service has released a report called Proposed Funding for

Education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  It’s a “brief overview of

the key provisions related to education programs that are or would be administered by ED.”



Wikipedia Alert!

Okay, people say we’re obsessed with Wikipedia.  Well, maybe we are.  But something happened

last week that simply reinforces all of our doubts about this online encyclopedia.  CNet

reported that Wikipedia considers limiting user edits.  Why?  Because after Senator Ted

Kennedy’s collapse at the Inaugural luncheon, someone posted on Wikipedia that both he and

Senator Robert Byrd had died.  The posting wasn’t up for very long.  And Wikipedia founder

Jimmy Wales insists there will be a fix.  But we don’t care.  


Terra Cotta Warriors

The actual exhibit doesn’t open until November.  But National Geographic has already posted

an online companion for its Terra Cotta Warriors exhibition.  “Nearly 2,000 years ago,

thousands of life-size clay figures were buried in massive underground pits to accompany

China's first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, into the afterlife. Their discovery outside the city

of Xi'an in 1974 is one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.”   There

are teacher guides, videos, and articles about these extraordinary objects.  And there’s

info, too, if you want to start planning your trip. 


This Week’s Reports

The Wallace Foundation has released The Cost of Quality Out-of-School-Time Programs.  “The

report finds that costs vary widely depending on a range of factors from program goals to

times of operation and the ages of the children served. The report is also distinctive

because it looks at the full costs of programming, including non-cash contributions OST

operators often depend on such as free-of-charge space for programming.” 

The Census Bureau has released, as part of its Current Population Reports, Educational

Attainment in the United States: 2007.  84% of adults over 25 have at least a high school

diploma or its equivalent.  More foreign-born adults hold advanced degrees than native born

adults.  And on average, a bachelor’s degree means an extra $20,000 per year compared to a

high school diploma.

Generations Online in 2009 is from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.  Apparently

Generation Y isn’t the dominant presence online.  “Generation X is the most likely group to

bank, shop, and look for health information online.”  Even boomers are ahead of Gen Y for

some online services.


Newsworthy

We have two interesting stories from Ed Week to report.   First up is High schools try out

RTI.  Although Response to Intervention is widely used in primary schools, most secondary

schools have not yet adopted it.  The article looks at some schools in Colorado instituting

it and how they are adapting it to fit their needs. 

The second article from Ed Week is ‘Scientifically based’ giving way to ‘development,’

‘innovation’.  “Tension has long existed in education, as in other fields, between promoting

experimental studies aimed at finding out whether something works and recycling knowledge

into new applications that might—or might not—work.”  With the new administration in

Washington, a greater focus on innovation may trump research.

A bold approach to learning was made at the Florida Education Technology Conference last

week.  Jim Brazell, president of ventureRAMP.com, in his keynote address, declared that “You

can get more data in a video game than in any other education area.”  He believes that video

games can be the future of learning tools if approached properly.  (Gaming is the future of

classroom instruction, eSchool News Online)


Education Stuff

Postsecondary Connection is “new online toolkit to help higher-education leaders effectively

engage with the K-12 community to ensure that high school graduates enter college ready for

success.”  Developed by Achieve, “the site features tools, data, and strategies that

postsecondary leaders can use to sell the link between high school and postsecondary

achievement, as well as information on policy efforts that can help smooth students’

transition from high school to college.”  (New web site connects K-12, higher education

communities – eSchool News Online.)  


Getting Kids to Read

James Patterson is an author.  It doesn’t really matter if you like his stuff or not.  He’s

also a father and he was dismayed when his son showed very little interest in reading.  So he

created a web site, ReadKiddoRead.com.  The site is for every parent who’s ever been

frustrated in trying to get his or her kids to read.  Recommended books are broken down by

age group and by general genre.  Each book is reviewed and similar titles are provided.  And

you can read more about the site in Publishers Weekly’s article, James Patterson launches

ReadKiddoRead.


Silly Walks Generator

For some of us older folks, Monty Python was the be all and end all of crazy comedy.  One of

their most enduring skits was the “Silly Walks Department.”  And now you can create your own

in Monty Python’s Silly Walks Generator.  Create your own, watch silly walks you or others

have created.  There’s also music and you can save or send your creation to friends and

family.  

Weekly Web Finds -- Jan. 22, 2009

Education & the Economy

Bad news –- Slump tests schools’ ability to help kids (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) reports

on the growing number of schools providing non-school related services, like groceries and

clothing.  More children and their families are homeless and schools are trying to help.  So

we guess, that’s sort of good news, too.  As is another story from the Atlanta

Journal-Constitution, Teachers asked to ‘donate’ their raises.  It’s bad news that the

Fayette County school system is struggling with its education budget and needs teachers to

give back.  But it’s good news that they’re being creative and looking for ways to get

through the economic slump without serious cutbacks, right?  We saw this next story and

thought we’d add it to show that this economic slump is worldwide.  Banking ‘threat’ to new

schools from the BBC looks at how renovation plans for schools are being undermined because

banks are refusing to lend. 

Good news -- We take good news wherever we can find it.  Milford schools budget climbs 3.49%

according to the New Haven Register.  It’s a small increase compared to previous years and

some initiatives were cut.  USA Today reports that Stimulus gives schools $142 billion – with

strings.  The money proposed in the “stimulus could bring school advocates closer than ever

to a long-sought dream: full funding of the No Child Left Behind law and other huge federal

programs.” 

The Education Commission of the States has posted a PowerPoint presentation as part of its

Leadership Forum that looks at “the national and state economic situation; How past economic

downturns have impacted education spending; and How education budgets will be impacted.”


Searching Social History

Fighting child labor, women’s rights, the Depression; these and other social movements are

part of American Social History, a fine collection of collections from the Digital Library

Federation.  You can browse by topic or search the collections.  Primary documents and images

are digitized for a host of events and movements.  Collections’ links take you to the hosting

site.  


This Week’s Reports

eSchool News Online has posted a special report, Project-Based Learning.  “Project-based

learning engages students and garners results, its proponents say.”  One project-based

learning curriculum, according to the report, has been adopted in 26 states.

Preschool Curriculum: What’s in It for Children and Teachers is a report from the Albert

Shanker Institute.  It provides research and guidance on preschool curriculum including:

“effective instructional practices; key components of a strong curriculum; suggestions for

working with English language learners,” among other topics.

UNICEF has released The State of the World’s Children 2009.  This year’s report looks at

maternal and newborn health.  Some interesting demographics are offered.

 
Newsworthy

Tutoring effort failing in Michigan, nation is a story in the Detroit Free Press about the

free tutoring requirements under NCLB.  “The tutoring sounds good in theory but is failing in

practice... There are no educational requirements for tutors beyond a high school diploma,

and nothing to guarantee students are tutored in the areas they need the most help.”

Tech giants Microsoft, Intel and Cisco are teaming up to create a 21st century skills

assessment framework according to eSchool News Online (Tech giants vow to change global

assessments).  The “companies unveiled plans to underwrite a multi-sector research project to

develop new approaches, methods, and technologies for measuring the success of 21st-century

teaching and learning efforts in classrooms around the world.”

Teacher wants to expel Huck Finn according to the Los Angeles Times.  John Foley, a teacher

near Portland, OR, “wonders whether 'Huck Finn' ought to be sent back down the river. Why not

replace it with a more modern, less discomfiting novel documenting the epic journey of

discovery?”  He also thinks the same for To Kill a Mockingbird.  Hmmm, another editorial

opportunity.


Science Stuff

SiemensScienceDay is a joint partnership between Siemens and Discovery Education designed to

engage young science learners.  The site “provides standards-based videos and hands-on

activities for earth, life, and physical science that can help educators turn fourth through

sixth graders into aspiring scientists.”  It’s colorful and has activities for teachers and

parents that use everyday things (like candy, fruit and rubber balls) to get kids interested

in science.  


Google = Art?

First, Google wants to digitize every book ever published.  Now Google is moving into the

world of art.  Google makes famous artwork more accessible, from eSchool News Online, looks

at a new project undertaken by Google Earth and the Prado Museum in Madrid.  The project

“allows people to view the gallery's main works of art from their computers--and even zoom in

on details not immediately discernible to the human eye.”  You’ll need to download the Google

Earth software to be able to view the images. 


Typical Cat Behavior

We are rather partial to cats as evidenced by the number of end pieces featuring felines we

include.  So here’s another one.  This cat, real not animated, is having a great time.  Who

needs those expensive cat toys?  Enjoy!  [URLs: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPzNl6NKAG0]

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