The NanoTechnology Group Inc

"Congratulations and Kudos to Dr. Anita Goel"

Winner of the Nokia Sensing XChallenge Award for Gene Radar

Take the opportunity to meet her in this video

Nanobiosym Health RADAR Brings Point-of-Diagnosis Technology Directly to Consumers

Team Takes Top Honors at Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE Awards With Technology Poised to Launch an Era of Personalized Nanomedicine and Mobile Health Care

Santa Clara, Calif. (October 2, 2013) –Nanobiosym Health RADAR, a Boston-based research incubator institute led by Dr. Anita Goel, was awarded the $525,000 Grand Prize in the first competition of the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE for their Gene-RADAR®sensing technology that will transform the way health care

is delivered by enabling personalized diagnostic testing.

The Gene-RADAR platform analyzes a drop of blood, saliva or other body fluid placed on a nanochip and inserted into a mobile device, which then detects the presence or absence of a disease’s pathogen in less than an hour, with the same accuracy available only in a diagnostic lab. The technology was developed to be easy-to-use and does not require overhead infrastructure, such as electricity or running water, whichcan lead to widespread adoption by developing countries.

Nanobiosym has already demonstrated custom applications for E. coli and HIV/AIDS with potential applications across the entire spectrum of health care including diagnosis, monitoring, drug development, companion diagnostics, and personalized nanomedicine.

“We’re thrilled that the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE helped provide a platform for Nanobiosym and the other competing teams to demonstrate their exciting technologies ” said Robert K. Weiss, vice chairman and president, XPRIZE. “The future of digital medical technology illuminated by Nanobiosym exemplifies the goal of the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE –to advance innovative sensing technologies that will help

transform health care into a 'smart', highly personalized and instantly accessible system.”

Nanobiosym was selected from a pool of 26 competing teams from seven countries. The 12 finalist teams demonstrated the sensing capabilities of their technologies to a judging panel comprised of thought leaders and industry experts who have cross-functional and relevant expertise in sensing and mobile health technologies. A percentage of the final score was crowdsourced via an attendee voting mechanism

at the Health 2.0 Fall Conference in Silicon Valley, Calif.

“Congratulations to Nanobiosym and all of the teams who competed in the first competition of the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE,” said Henry Tirri, chief technology officer and executive vice president, Nokia. “The technologies demonstrated by the teams show the potential for sensors to bring greater efficiency, reliability and affordability to the health care system. We are taking a significant step towards

creating an ecosystem of innovative technologies that will radically change the way people understand their state of health.”

Teams were evaluated for their distinction in the areas of accuracy and consistency, demonstration quality, technical innovation, human factors, market opportunity, originality, and user experience. In addition to the Grand Prize, five Distinguished Prizes, each valued at $120,000, were awarded to Owlstone, InSilixa, Silcon BioDevices, Elfi-Tech and MoboSens for additional achievements in final round


The Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE consists of two separate and consecutive competitions to advance innovative sensing technologies that capture meaningful data about a consumer’s health and surrounding environment. Registration for the second competition will close on February 12, 2014, with more information available at:


XPRIZE is the leading organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing largescale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions in five Prize Groups: Learning; Exploration; Energy & Environment; Global Development; and Life Sciences. Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, the $2.25 million Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE and

the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE. For more information, go to

About Nokia

Nokia is a global leader in mobile communications whose products have become an integral part of the lives of people around the world. Every day, more than 1.3 billion people use their Nokia to capture and share experiences, access information, find their way or simply to speak to one another. Nokia's technological and design innovations have made its brand one of the most recognized in the world. For more information, visit

Nanobiosym’s Gene-RADAR

Gene-RADAR® is Nanobiosym’s transformational solution for disease diagnosis. From a single drop of blood or saliva, this mobile, chip-based, next-generation nanotechnology device can recognize any disease that has a genetic footprint without the need for a lab, electricity, water or trained technicians. Replacing expensive, bulky and often backlogged centralized lab testing equipment, this nanomachine-based approach can provide real-time “gold standard” diagnosis at a fraction of the cost and time requirements of traditional methods. As the company continues to miniaturize its mobile device, it also has designs to create wearable monitoring systems, and eventually, ingestible and injectable diagnostic monitors that will allow each of us to personalize our own healthcare. For more information visit:

Dr. Anita Goel, M.D. Ph.D

A Harvard-MIT-trained Physicist-Physician, Dr. Anita Goel is the Chairman and Scientific Director of Nanobiosym® and Chairman and CEO Nanobiosym Diagnostics She is focused on delivering new game-changing technologies to address the greatest unmet needs in global health, energy and water. Dr. Goel’s work ranges from elucidating the fundamental nanophysics of living systems to developing next-generation nanotechnology platforms for mobile disease detection. She established Nanobiosym® Diagnostics to commercialize the Gene-RADAR® technology platform to empower people worldwide with portable, rapid and accurate information about their own health. Gene-RADAR® is a mobile device with chip-based diagnostic apps that can recognize any disease with a genetic fingerprint from a single drop of blood or saliva without the need for lab infrastructure, trained health care personnel, electricity or running water. 

Named as one of the world’s “Top 35 Science and Technology Innovators” by MIT Technology Review, her contributions to nanobiophysics have been globally recognized, including multiple awards from DARPA, DOD, DOE, AFOSR and DTRA. Dr. Goel was invited by Senator John Kerry to give expert testimony before the U.S. Senate for the reauthorization of the $1.5 billion U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative. She serves on the National Board of the Museum of Science and Industry, the International Advisory Board of the Victoria Institute of Science and Technology, and on the Nanotechnology Advisory Board of the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Swiss Councellor of State Ivo Bischofberger: "Young people should get in touch with Nanotechnology."

In the editorial of the recent TA-Swiss newsletter the Councellor of State Dr. Ivo Bischofberger claims under the title "Understanding - not ignoring nanotechnology" that already young people and children should be familiarized with nanotechnology at an early stage. "Swiss Nano-Cube", the national knowledge and information platform for secondardy schools and professional education, facilitated the introduction of nanotechnology topics in schools. Bischofberger stated that it was of utmost importance to perfom an open dialogue with young people and to discuss critical questions on a matter-of-fact basis and unadornedly.

Editorial: Understanding - Not ignoring nanotechnology!

The emperor  William II (1849-1941) is quoted: "I believe in horses. The automobiles are of a temporary nature only." This quote reminded me sometimes of the debate about emgerging technologies, which have a great potential, especially nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology is supposed to be a key technology of the 21st. century for science and economy, which will influence many areas such as medicine, biology, material- and engineering sciences in the near future. As an important emerging technology it will play an important role for Switzerland as a leading science- and technology country and will offer great opportunities and many benefits for the society. From this point of view it seems of utmost importance that nanotechnology is discussed in an open dialogue and also critical questions are discussed on a matter-of-fact basis and unadornedly. The opportunities and risks should be managed on a professional basis in order to avoid emotional or ideologically motivated aversions of the public as we have seen in the GMO debate.

Therefore I`m convinced to teach the young generation about nanotechnology. In Switzerland the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology there has inititated the "Swiss Nano-Cube" platform which has been realised by the Innovation Society, St.Gallen. This is the Swiss national knowledge and information platform on micro- and nanotechnology for secondary schools and professional education. It aims to provide teaching materials for nanotechnology in classrooms. This is in very much in the sense of Victor Hugo: "Nothing seems more powerful than an idea, whose time has come."

Unlikely partners create innovative product for college biology

Wiley to align OpenStax College's free biology textbook content with

interactive media and assessment in a low-priced, high-value product for students

HOUSTON -- (March 2013) -- In a sign of continuing evolution in the college textbook market, an unlikely partnership was announced today between Wiley, an industry leader (NYSE:JWa, JWb), and Rice University-based OpenStax College, a newcomer from the "open education resources" (OER) movement. The partnership calls for Wiley to deliver content from OpenStax College's two new biology textbooks via WileyPLUS with its online learning,  practice and assessment resources that are proven to improve learning outcomes. Pilot tests are slated to begin this fall.

"OpenStax College and Wiley are breaking new ground by working together to broaden access and add value to high-quality OER content," said Joe Heider, senior vice president of Wiley Global Education. "By integrating OpenStax content with WileyPLUS' practice and assessment resources, this partnership gives students the option of paying a reduced price for a personalized experience that is proven to improve learning outcomes."

OpenStax College uses philanthropic support to produce high-quality textbooks through a rigorous development and review process. All OpenStax textbooks are available free online. Its first two books, introductory texts for physics and sociology, were adopted by educators at more than 100 schools and downloaded more than 30,000 times in their first six months.

"Producing free, high-quality learning materials is just the first step toward our goal of making college more affordable," said Richard Baraniuk, founder of OpenStax College and professor of engineering at Rice. "By partnering with an industry-leading educational service provider like Wiley, we will be able to give millions more students access to our books."

David Harris, editor in chief of OpenStax College, said, "The WileyPLUS learning tools add value to our new biology textbooks, which were developed for course areas in which Wiley doesn't already publish. This is an ideal pairing to reduce costs, personalize education and improve learning outcomes."  

WileyPLUS, a research-based online learning environment, is proven to enhance student success. WileyPLUS is already offered with more than 300 Wiley titles and is used in more than 20 countries.

Heider said the new partnership represents Wiley's continuing evolution as a knowledge company. "Partnerships, like this one with OpenStax College, help us to fulfill our mission of broadening access to education through flexibile and affordable solutions for students."

OpenStax College's two new introductory biology textbooks -- for majors and nonmajors -- are scheduled to be available for classes in fall 2013, and chapters are available online for preview. Wiley and OpenStax College said they will work with colleges and instructors to set up pilot tests of the new textbooks and WileyPLUS resources this fall. This community effort will enhance the effectiveness and usability of the final product. Heider said prices have not been set, but inclusion of the free books will significantly reduce costs to students.

"'Either/or' thinking closes the door on innovation," Harris said. "Through this partnership, OpenStax College and Wiley are proving that collaboration -- even among unlikely partners -- can yield solutions that benefit students." 

Source: Rice University

A Cheap, Accurate Cancer Sensor, Created By A 15-Year-Old

Andraka (center) with the other winners.

This new test is better than old tests for pancreatic cancer by astronomical margins. And it was invented by someone who’s still worried about passing his driving test.


Every year, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair wows us with the ingenuity of high school students. This year’s first place winner is particularly impressive. Jack Andraka, a 15-year-old student from Maryland, came up with a paper sensor that detects pancreatic cancer 168 times faster than current tests . It’s also 90% accurate, 400 times more sensitive, and 26,000 times less expensive than today’s methods. In short: It’s a lot better.

Andraka was inspired to focus on pancreatic cancer because a friend’s brother was killed by the disease. "I became interested in early detection, did a ton of research, and came up with this idea," he says.

Andraka’s dip-stick sensor can test urine or blood for a certain protein (mesothelin) that indicates the existence of the specific cancer. The paper strip changes conductivity based on how much of the protein is in the blood. It can, according to Andraka, detect the cancer even before it becomes invasive.

This isn’t Andraka’s first science fair. "I really love science and science fairs because you get to meet these people that you would never meet before," he says. "Before this I was into the environment. A few years ago I was detecting bioavailable water pollution with glowing bacteria."

All of Andraka’s $75,000 in winnings will go to his college education. He plans on studying to become a pathologist. In the meantime, the high school student plans to start clinical trials with the sensor, meet with Quest Diagnostics, and get the product on the market within 10 years. What were you doing in high school?

Author Ariel Schwartz Senior Editor at Co.Exist.


Beyond Traditional Borders wins Science magazine's IBI Prize

Rice University's hands-on approach for global health engineering chosen as model for nation


Left: Exceptional BTB students travel to the developing world to implement their designs -- like this Lab-in-a-Backpack -- in partnership with health-care professionals.

CREDIT: Casey Nesbit/Rice 360°

Right:A nurse monitors an infant that is breathing with assistance from a BTB-created bubble CPAP device.

CREDIT: Jocelyn Brown/Rice 360°

HOUSTON -- (April 26, 2012) -- Science magazine has awarded a Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction (IBI) to Rice University's hands-on engineering education program Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) as a model for other schools. In the program's first six years, more than 10 percent of Rice undergraduates have participated in BTB and produced 58 low-cost health technologies, including two that have already been broadly distributed at a national level.

As an IBI prize winner, the BTB program is highlighted in Science this week in an essay aimed at spreading the word about BTB and showing other educators how to replicate the program on their campuses.

"The essence of the BTB approach to learning is captured in the Haitian saying, 'You don't learn to swim in the library; you learn to swim in the river,'" said BTB founder Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Rice's Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering.

BTB, which was launched in 2006 with a $2.2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) through its Undergraduate Science Education Program, challenges students to come up with practical solutions to real-world health care problems in the developing world. It uses the engineering design method to teach students from all disciplines to meet global health challenges.

BTB has captured the imagination of Rice's students in a remarkably short time. More than 10 percent of Rice undergraduates -- including many nonengineering majors -- have taken a BTB course. Thanks to HHMI funding, which was renewed in 2010, approximately 12 Rice students travel abroad each summer to implement their designs in partnership with physicians in local clinics in Africa and Latin America.

"Today students really want to make a difference and have impact, and BTB provides the possibility for incredible experiences for the students that decide to take on real-world challenges," said Ned Thomas, dean of Rice's George R. Brown School of Engineering. "Professor Richards-Kortum and her team find critically important global health problems, and the students solve them and bring working prototypes to the field, refine their designs and in some cases go on to deploy thousands of actual medical devices."

Notable BTB technologies include:

•    A hand-powered centrifuge for laboratory blood testing constructed for $35 using a salad spinner and found to be as accurate as a commercially available model costing 10 times more.

•    LED-based phototherapy lights to treat neonatal jaundice made for less than $100. A clinical study in Guatemala found the low-cost lights were as effective in treating neonatal hyperbilirubinemia as conventional phototherapy lights that cost thousands of dollars.

•    A portable, battery-operated fluorescence microscope made for $240. In a side-by-side comparison with a laboratory-grade instrument, the low-cost microscope proved as effective at detecting tuberculosis-infected sputum samples in more than 98 percent of samples.

•    The Lab-in-a-Backpack, an ultraportable backpack containing a microscope, centrifuge, pulse oximeter, otoscope and other clinical tools. Lab-in-a-Backpack was deployed countrywide by Ecuador's Ministry of Health.

•    "DoseRight" syringe clips, which fit into the barrel of an oral syringe to ensure accurate dosing of HIV/AIDS medication. Swaziland health officials oversaw the countrywide distribution last year of approximately 214,000 DoseRight syringe clips.

•    A low-cost, student-designed "continuous positive airway pressure," or bubble CPAP device, which assists babies in respiratory distress. This technology was refined with support from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the U.S. Agency for International Development. A clinical trial is under way in Malawi.

The essay highlighting the BTB program in this week's issue of Science was written by Richards-Kortum, Maria Oden, professor in the practice of engineering and director of Rice's Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, and Lauren Vestewig Gray, executive director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies.

"We have discovered that giving students the opportunity to solve real global health problems not only creates leaders for tomorrow's global health technology workforce, but also produces technologies with the potential to revolutionize health care delivery in poor settings," they wrote.

BTB has already been replicated in a number of high school classrooms. The curriculum has been adapted for high school students, and the Texas Education Agency has approved the curriculum to count toward the state's graduation requirement in science. Since 2007, more than 2,000 Houston-area high school students have participated in courses based on this curriculum.

BTB-related VIDEOs are available at:

•    Rice 360º students develop dosing clips to curb HIV in Africa

•    A low-cost solution for neonatal apnea in the developing world

•    Rice's Baby Bubbler

•    Rice students' Sally Centrifuge could help diagnose anemia globally

Related materials:

The essay by Richards-Kortum, Oden and Gray is available online from Science at:

For more information about BTB, visit:

For more information about Science's IBI Prize, visit:

High school course materials are freely available online at:

India’s Nano Mission – Towards Global Knowledge Hub

Kalpana Palkhiwala

Nano Technology is acknowledge-intensive and ‘enabling technology’ which will influence a wide range of products and processes. It will have far-reaching implications for national economy and development. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) launched many initiatives over the period of time and Nano was one of them. DST launched a modest programme called Nano Science and Technology Initiative (NIST) in 2001 in Nano Sciences. The Nano Mission is successor of this programme. The Government approved this as Nano Mission in 2007 with an allocation of Rs 1000 crore for 5 years. The Nano Mission has been structured in a manner to achieve synergy between the national research efforts of various agencies in this field and launch new programmes in a concerted fashion. Today India has emerged 6th worldwide in terms of scientific publications. An active research community of about 1000 researchers has emerged. Besides, some interesting applications have already come out of the country.

Capacity building of the research is of utmost importance for Nano Mission so that India can emerge as a global knowledge hub. Large number of man power is getting prime attention in research and fundamental aspects of Nano science and training. Nano Mission is also striving for developments of products and processes for national development, especially in the area of national relevance like safe drinking water, materials development, sensors development, drug delivery etc. The objectives of Nano Mission include basic research promotion, infrastructure development, Nano applications and technology development, human resources development and international collaboration.

Basic Research Promotion

Basic research being carried out by individual scientist and /or groups of scientists will be funded. The Centers of excellence pursuing studies leading to fundamental understanding of matter that enables control and manipulation at the Nano scale will be created.

Infrastructure For Research

A chain of shared facility of expensive and sophisticated equipments required for various activities will be established across the country. Investigation on Nano scale require optical tweezer, Nano Indentor, Transmission Electron Microscope, Atomic Force Microscope, Scanning Tunneling Microscope, Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer, Microarray Spotter and Scanner etc.

Nano Applications and Technology Development Programme

To catalyze Nano Application and Technology Development programme leading to products and devices, the Mission proposes to promote application-oriented R&D projects, establish Nano Applications and Technology Development Centers, Nano-Technology Business Incubators etc. The industrial sector is being involved directly or through Public Private Partnership ventures into this Mission.

Human Resources Development

The Mission will focus on providing effective education and training to researchers and professionals in diversified fields so that a genuine interdisciplinary culture for nanoscale science, engineering and technology can emerge. M. A. and M. Sc. programmes will be benefited. National and Overseas post-doctoral fellowships, chairs in universities are other aspects.

International Collaboration

Academia-industry partnership at the international level is one of the aspect under international collaboration. Besides, exploratory visits of scientists, organization of joint workshop, conferences and research projects, access to sophisticated research facilities abroad etc., are being achieved.

Structure and Activities

Nano Mission is steered by Nano Mission Council. The technical programmes are being guided by two advisory groups namely Nano Science Advisory Group (NSAG) and the Nano Applications and Technology Advisory Group (NATAG). Department of Science & Technology has supported a number of activities in Nano Science and Technology.

Individual scientists have been supported for R & D projects. Detailed technologies have been developed for the medical purposes. Membrane scaffolds for wound healing using chitin/chitosan gels containing nanoparticles and nanoparticles for ophthalmic drug delivery have been developed by Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad and USV, Mumbai respectively. Around 130 projects have been supported for individual scientists mainly working on fundamental scientific aspects of nanoscale system. Extensive studies on semiconductor nanocrystals have been undertaken in several projects. As semiconductor particles exhibit size-dependent properties like scaling of the energy gap and corresponding change in the optical properties, they are considered as technologically important materials. Several projects have looked into synthesis of important nano materials like CdSe, ZnO etc. Size tunable, organic soluble industrially important CdS, AIN, GaN and InN nanocrystals have been  prepared by employing novel solvo thermal techniques and some soft chemical routes.

The other discovery of flow of various liquids and gases over a mat of single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) bundles generate electrical signals. This has several important technological implications. Development of micro fluidic devices will have several applications in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceutical industry, drug delivery, intelligent pneumatic systems, information technology etc.

DST has established an array of sophisticated equipments to enable researchers to work with nanoscale system. Eleven Units/Core Groups on Nano Science  have been sanctioned across the country. They house some of the more sophisticated facility for sharing with other scientists in the region and would help in promoting scientific research on nanoscale system in a decentralized manner. Seven centres for Nano Technology focusing on development of specific applications and a centre for excellence on Computational Materials has also been established. Joint R & D activities are taking place with several countries. DST has also promoted Joint Institution-Industry Linked Projects and some other Public Private Partnership activities for human resource development.

*The author is a Freelance Writer.

World’s Largest Student Science/Technology Competition Announces its 20th Anniversary National Winners

Eight Winning 1st and 2nd Place Teams in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Program Envision Inventions and Technologies That Could Make the World a Better Place.

The young inventors and scientists of tomorrow, now in Kindergarten through 12th grade, look forward to a time when kids will be smarter – because the building where they learn will literally be a “S.M.A.R.T. School!” That is just one of the winning student projects announced today by the 20th anniversary Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Competition. The program’s eight National Winners for 2012, including four First Place and four Second Place student teams, proposed new inventions and technologies that could make the future more environmentally-conscious, healthier and safer – like a new treatment for hearing loss using microscopic nano-technology, a new type of eco-friendly water collection system – even shoulder pads with a built-in cooling system to help keep football players from overheating on the gridiron!

The Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Program, sponsored by Toshiba and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), ExploraVision is the world’s largest K –12 science and technology competition, challenging students to work in teams and design innovative technologies that could exist in 20 years. The program reached a major milestone this year, celebrating its 20th anniversary of encouraging students to participate in science, look at problems critically and imagine solutions. Since its inception, more than 300,000 students have participated. This 4,809 team projects represented the participation of 14,606 students from across the U.S. and Canada. With its multi-level, imaginative and fun approach to learning, ExploraVision encourages education in vital STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Water Water Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink!

Students in ExploraVision are encouraged to look at the world around them, identify pressing issues and problems, and come up with ideas for technologies that could potentially solve them. Often, projects reflect concern for the environment, including several top winners this year, who tackled the growing problem of the global shortage of drinkable water. A team of 7-9th grade students from The Alternative School for Math and Science in Corning, NY, for instance, won Second Place for their proposal Radiclear, a System to Filter High Levels of Radium from Water. The technology would help ensure healthy drinking water around the world by combining magnesium oxide with carbon nanotubes to separate dangerous radium from water. A team of 10-12th grade students from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, NC, tackled the problem of scarce drinking water around the world, winning First Place for their idea, Amphipathic Films for Water Collection, a technology that would extract water vapor from the air and condense it for clean drinking water.

A Healthier World Thanks to Innovative New Medical Technologies

Important health issues are often top-of-mind among ExploraVision entrants. A team of 4-6th grade students from Fairmont Private School in Anaheim, CA, won First Place for an idea that could benefit people suffering from hearing loss caused by nerve damage, appropriately called Hearing the World's Silent Side. The treatment would attach microscopic nanofibers to the auditory nerve, allowing sound to reach the brain by passing over the nerve rather than through the damaged portion. A team of 10-12th grade students from Westwood High School in Austin, TX won Second Place for imagining a new treatment for pancreatic cancer called LANAPT (Ligand Attached Nanoshells Assisting Photothermal Therapy) that would use gold nanoshells and “biomolecules” to recognize and destroy only cancerous cells, leaving healthy ones alone. A team of 7-9th grade students from David Thompson Secondary School in Vancouver, BC, envisioned Thermoresponsive Hydrogel Injection, a minimally invasive operation used to treat trigeminal neuralgia. The procedure, combining microvascular decompression and percutaneous procedures, would provide a better alternative to current treatment options, helping patients who don’t want to take the risk of undergoing the surgeries that exist today.

Better Education? Let’s Start by Making Schools Better!

This year, three top winning teams looked at the world of education around them and came up with ideas for enhancing the school experience. A team of 4-6th grade students from the Countryside Montessori Charter in Land O’ Lakes, FL, won second place for The S.M.A.R.T. School, an entire building constructed using piezoelectric materials that would allow it to harness the human energy students and teachers expend during the day to power the lights, create heat and even sharpen pencils! A team of K-3rd grade students from the LD Batchelder School in North Reading, MA, took First Place for suggesting that their idea – the SMARTdesk – could someday replace conventional school desks. The new desk would feature wireless computer technologies and a touchscreen – it will even save teachers time by grading papers and exchanging information with students quickly. Finally, a team of K-3rd grade students from Flippen Elementary School in McDonough, GA, looked “outside the school” – on the athletic fields and won Second Place for COOL PADS: Shoulder Pads that Keep Players from Overheating, a welcome refresher for football players, providing a cooling system with built-in temperature sensors to keep players from getting overheated on the gridiron.

Noted Mr. Yoshihide Fujii, Chairman and CEO of Toshiba America, Inc.: “Toshiba has always valued innovation, technology and education above all else, and we are very proud that ExploraVision has been such a major part of our Corporate Social Responsibility initiative in North America for the past 20 years. By immersing students in important STEM education and helping to spark appreciation for science at a young age, we believe we are helping motivate young people to excel, and most importantly, help them understand the value of scientific research and critical thinking. We are extremely gratified that after two decades, ExploraVision has been embraced by so many teachers and has become such a unique and valuable educational tool. This year is a momentous one for ExploraVision, as we celebrate 20 years of helping inspire students in STEM fields.”

“As we celebrate the 20th year of ExploraVision, we are reminded of all the amazing projects that students have created over the years. It’s truly inspiring to see students, immersed in real-world science, developing unique and innovative technologies while learning the necessary life skills of team work and cooperation, and we commend Toshiba’s leadership in supporting K-12 science education so vigorously for the past 20 years,” said NSTA Executive Director Gerry Wheeler. “We are extremely proud of all the winners, current and from years past, and congratulate all the teachers and mentors for their dedication, enthusiasm and encouragement of their students to explore science.”

ExploraVision Prize Rewards

Students on the four first-place ExploraVision national winner teams will each receive a $5,000 US Series EE Savings Bond (valued $10,000 at maturity). Students on second-place teams will each receive a $2,500 Savings Bond (valued $5,000 at maturity). (Canadian winners receive Canada Bonds purchased for the equivalent issue price in Canadian dollars.) The eight teams will also receive an expenses-paid trip with their families, mentor, and coach to Washington, D.C. for a gala awards weekend in June 2012. Activities will include a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress, a Science Showcase during which the students will display and demonstrate their winning ideas, an appearance at the National Press Club, and sightseeing around the nation’s capital. Each of the regional winning teams receives a Toshiba laptop for the school and each member of the regional winning teams will receive a Toshiba HD Camcorder.

First-Ever 20th Anniversary Award Winners

This year, to celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary, the teacher who submitted the most eligible student projects in each grade category received the ExploraVision “20th Anniversary Award,” a Toshiba ThriveTM tablet. The winning teachers are: Laura Haddad (K-3rd grade category) from The Dalton School in New York City, Debbie O’Brien (4-6th grade category), from Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Brian Knoop (7-9th grade category) from St. Henry Catholic School in Nashville, TN, and Barsoum Kasparian (10-12th grade category) from Chaminade College Prep in West Hills, CA. In addition to the individual teacher awards, Chaminade College Prep has also received a Toshiba Classroom package consisting of a TV/DVD combo LED TV, a “kid-friendly” PC, 10 LED light bulbs, a ThriveTM Tablet and an award for being the school with the most overall submissions in 2012.

For more information or an application for 2013, visit or e-mail Follow ExploraVision on Twitter at @ToshibaInnovate or join Toshiba Innovation’s Facebook Page at to hear more about ExploraVision.

Swiss Nano-Cube Project Wins "Best of 2012" Award

of the IT Innovation Prize

The initiative of mid-sized enterprises "Initiative Mittelstand" recently has granted the Innovation Prize IT 2012 at the CeBIT exposition. The platform "Swiss Nano-Cube" was awarded a "Best of 2012" certificate in the category "e-learning". The project has particularly convinced the jury and thus belongs to the top among 2´500 participating projects. The Innovation Prize IT award was under the auspices of the Commissioner of the German Federal Government for Information Technology and IBM Germany, Ltd.

"Best of 2012" Award for a European Pioneer Project in E-Learning

The web platform "Swiss Nano-Cube" ( is an interactive knowledge and education gateway for micro and nanotechnology for the application in vocational and grammar school. The Innovation Society, St.Gallen with the support of several Swiss Federal Offices (OPET, FOEN, FOAG) has launched the project in 2009 together with the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) and partners from industry.

The goal of Swiss Nano-Cube is to awaken interest for technological and natural scientific topics among youth, thus imparting knowledge about practice-relevant knowledge of nanotechnology for apprentices. Although being a key technology with a huge potential and diverse application opportunities, teaching material and education and formation offers for nanotechnology are scarce. Many teachers have not dealt with nanotechnology in their education. Here, Swiss Nano-Cube as European pioneer project bridges a gap and creates great benefits for education and formation.

Nano-Knowledge: Exciting, Playful and Fascinating

Swiss Nano-Cube addresses to youth and young professionals. The layout of the gateway as well as the constituent elements are especially designed for a young audience. This is complemented by exciting learning arrangements, like for example the interactive game “Nanorama Loft”. In a virtual loft diverse nano products from everyday life have to be found and the player has to answer quiz questions. The “NanoTeachBox” contains didactical teaching and learning materials, ready-to-use, as well as videos, presentations and much more information to be used in school  lessons. Teaching and learning material e. g. for nano chemistry, occupational health and nanosilver is available and can be directly applied to lessons. Furthermore, “Swiss Nano-Cube” offers diversified background information on several aspects of nanotechnology drawing a bow from basic effects in the nano world, over economic, social and technological issues to practice-relevant information for work routine. All materials can be downloaded and used for free. Concomitantly, “Swiss Nano-Cube” periodically offers “TeachNano” upgrade training courses for teachers.

Combining "Virtual" and "Real" Communication Tools

The "Best-of-2012" award is an important milestone for the Swiss Nano-Cube project and all the involved partners. At the same time the award is also a stimulus for further developments and the combination of new communication tools. The Innovation Society has recently developed the “SimplyNano 1” nanotechnology experiment kit for secondary school level for the SimplyScience foundation. It contains some exciting experiments from the world of nanotechnology. The "physical" kit can be combined with the "virtual" e-learning-platform, in order to address the target-audience. Thus, making use of digital media to teach "hard-fact-science" in a new way sparking enthusiasm for science and technology.

Lure of the Labyrinth Math Challenge

The Education Arcade at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is pleased to announce the Lure of the Labyrinth Challenge, a free online math challenge for grades 6 through 8. While playing Lure of the Labyrinth, students use mathematical thinking skills to progress through a compelling graphic-novel story. 

Funded by a Next Generation Learning Challenges Grant, the challenge invites groups of four to six students to collaborate in a safe, teacher-moderated environment to strategize and problem solve with others. Students and educators have many chances to win regional prizes such as Lenovo ThinkPad tablets, books, and technology tools like subscriptions to BrainPop. 

There is no cost involved to participate in the challenge, which runs from April 1 through June 15. Since the game is web-based, students can play at home or at school, in the classroom, computer lab, library, or after-school program. Teachers have the option of integrating corresponding lessons into their classroom activities, but it is not required. Students can play as little or as much as they want, and best of all, they will have continued access to the game during the summer to help avoid that inevitable "brain drain."

Sign up today at:

Webinar Registration

Wednesday, March 28th, 4:30PM ET

Play Seriously: The MIT Education Arcade

Computer games in class?  You bet!  Scot Osterweil, Creative Director of the MIT Education Arcade, hosts this webinar on the role of gaming in classroom instruction.  Discover how you can use our newest math games – a Lure of the Labyrinth trio - to enhance your lessons and excite students.

Click this link to join the webinar:

View all the games for education developed by the MIT Education Arcade at:

Why Open Education Matters Video Contest

Creative Commons, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Open Society Institute announce the launch of the  Why Open Education Matters Video Competition. The competition will award cash prizes for the best short videos that explain the use and promise of free, high-quality Open Educational Resources (OER) and describe the benefits and opportunities these materials create for teachers, students, and schools.

Video submissions will be accepted until June 5, 2012 and winners will be announced July 18, 2012. Cash prizes, provided by the Open Society Institute, include $25,000 (first), $5,000 (second), and $1,000 (Public Choice Award). Judges include prominent artists and education experts, including Davis Guggenheim, Nina Paley, James Franco, and many others. The competition website features an introductory video by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. All entries must be shared under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

For more inforamtion:

Indian district plans to adopt 50,000 I-slate tablets

US, Singapore developers optimize tech-brain interface in low-cost educational device

HOUSTON -- (March 19, 2012) -- The U.S.- and Singapore-based creators of the I-slate educational tablet and local government officials in India's Mahabubnagar District plan to adopt 50,000 of the low-cost electronic educational slates into middle and high school classrooms throughout the district over the next three years. The plans were announced today in Hyderabad, India, by district officials, the Indian non-profit Villages for Development and Learning Foundation (ViDAL), Rice University and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore.

The I-slate, a low-cost learning tool designed for classrooms with no electricity and too few teachers, is under joint development by the I-slate Consortium, which includes hardware and software experts at Rice and NTU, social outreach partners from ViDAL and a Los Angeles-based design team.

The district of Mahabubnagar in the Indian state Andhra Pradesh has about 500,000 students in government schools. Consortium leaders and Mahabubnagar officials said they hope to supply I-slates to at least 10 percent of the students over the next three years.

"The I-slate project is about empowering local communities with education and knowledge," said Rajeswari Pingali, ViDAL founding chairwoman. "Based on two years of lab-to-school testing rounds, today we have a fully functional I-slate which will be adapted by the district education department for expanding the footprint of technology and bringing learning opportunities backed by the latest in modern communication technology for the benefit of rural communities."

About 30 fourth-generation I-slates were delivered this month to a class of 10- to 13-year-olds at the Mohamed Hussainpalli Village School, which is located in Mahabubnagar District, about 70 miles from Hyderabad. The new I-slates are the first to feature a new "sense-optimized" user interface designed to improve educational outcomes in rural India.

"Sense optimization is a systematic way of improving the user experience by taking advantage of our knowledge of how the human brain processes the information so we can invest the minimum amount of resources for the effectiveness level we're trying to reach," said I-slate creator Krishna Palem, a professor at both Rice and NTU. "The I-slate is not a tablet computer. It is a device designed for a single purpose -- education in a low-resource environment."

Mahabubnagar is primarily rural and has a population of around 4 million. District officials plan to use the I-slate in middle and high school classrooms. With sufficient volume, the unit cost for the I-slate will be around $45 (56 Singapore dollars), Palem said.

Palem, Rice's Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor of Computing, initially conceived the I-slate in 2008. He thought power consumption would be the biggest hurdle, because many rural schools in India lack electricity, and a solar-powered I-slate would need to run on no more than three watts of power. However, as soon as students in Mohamed Hussainpalli Village began testing early prototypes, it became obvious that usability and effectiveness would also be a challenge.

The I-slate's Los Angeles-based design team, which includes Marc Mertens, CEO of the Seso Media Group, and project leader Henrik Andersson, volunteered their time to work with ViDAL, NTU specialists in human-computer interaction and Rice student interns. The designers evaluated feedback from children at Mohamed Hussainpalli Village School and spent thousands of hours scrutinizing the placement and flow of features and the way children interacted with the I-slate both visually and by touch.

The designers incorporated elements from video games and social networking to draw students in and hold their interest. For example, a colorful cartoon creature in the corner of the I-slate screen watches the student and changes expression based upon the child's actions. The more the student studies and the better her grades, the happier the creature appears. (EDITOR'S NOTE: to see the user interface in action, watch the video linked at the end of this release.)

The I-slate is a joint project of the Rice-NTU Institute for Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID). Palem, who directs ISAID, is a Nanyang Visiting Professor at NTU.

"It is very exciting to see the early work on the I-slate expand to a larger user base," said ISAID affiliate Vincent Mooney, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech, who worked on the I-slate as a visiting faculty member at NTU.

The hardware and graphic content for the I-slate are being developed in tandem because they will ultimately use a revolutionary low-power computer chip -- another of Palem's inventions. The new chip, which could be ready for use in the I-slate by 2013, will cut power requirements in half and allow the device to run on solar power from small panels similar to those used on handheld calculators.

Source: Rice University

Digital Learning Day draws nearly 2 million students

Online town hall features educational technology success stories from schools across the country

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor,

Schools and stakeholders across the nation advocated for more access to educational technology during Digital Learning Day.

Thirty-nine states, 15,000 teachers, and 1.7 million students participated in the first-ever Digital Learning Day on Feb. 1, which aimed to demonstrate how technology is improving teaching and learning across the nation.

Headed by the Alliance for Excellent Education, Digital Learning Day kicked off with web sessions focusing on leadership and innovation, instruction, and professional learning and teacher effectiveness before attendees viewed a national town hall webcast featuring Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, and video conferences with teachers and students from exemplary schools across the nation.

“We have to do everything we can to foster education and to help us move from print to digital as fast as we can,” Duncan said, noting that while technology has transformed businesses and governments around the world, it has only slightly changed the way most U.S. schools operate.

“We have to move from being a laggard to being a leader,” he said, challenging schools to move from print to digital textbooks within five years.

In March, Duncan and Genachowski will convene a meeting with policy makers and stakeholders to develop real action plans that will help the U.S. move forward and remain competitive with foreign education systems, Genachowski said.  Read more at:

Feds’ challenge to schools: Embrace digital textbooks

From staff and wire reports

Read more by staff and wire services reports

The Obama administration has challenged schools and companies to get digital textbooks in students' hands within five years.

Are hardbound textbooks going the way of slide rules and typewriters in schools?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Feb. 1 challenged schools and companies to get digital textbooks in students’ hands within five years. The Obama administration’s push comes two weeks after Apple Inc. announced it would start to sell electronic versions of a few standard high-school books for use on its iPad tablet.

Digital books are viewed as a way to provide interactive learning, potentially save money, and get updated material faster to students.

Digital learning environments have been embraced in Florida, Idaho, Utah, and California, as well as Joplin, Mo., where laptops replaced textbooks destroyed in a tornado. But many schools lack the broadband capacity or the computers or tablets to adopt the technology, and finding the money to go completely digital is difficult for many schools in tough economic times.

Tied to the Feb. 1 announcement at a digital town hall was the government’s release of a 67-page “playbook” to schools that promotes the use of digital textbooks and offers guidance. The administration hopes that dollars spent on traditional textbooks can instead go toward making digital learning more feasible.

Going digital improves the learning process, and it’s being rolled out at a faster pace in other countries such as South Korea, Genachowski said in an interview. Genachowski said he’s hopeful it can be cost-effective in the long run, especially as the price of digital tablets drops.

How the Finnish school system outshines U.S. education

Educational philosophy in Finland is strikingly different than in the United States, but the students there outperform U.S. learners.

The Finnish school system might sound like a restless American schoolchild's daydream: school hours cut in half, little homework, no standardized tests, 50-minute recess and free lunch. But the Finns' unconventional approach to education has vaulted Finland to the upper echelon of countries in overall academic performance, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Finnish students have ranked at or near the top of the Program for International Student Assessment ever since testing started in 2000. In the most recent assessment in 2009, they ranked sixth in math, second in science and third in reading. By comparison, U.S. students ranked 30th, 23rd and 17th, respectively, of the 65 tested countries/economies.

But Finland's system hasn't always been successful.

"Finland had been traditionally thought of as the lowest achieving country in Scandinavia, and one of the lower achieving ones in Europe for a very long time. It was not a highly developed education system," said Linda Darling-Hammond, the co-director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, in a lecture delivered Tuesday afternoon about the Finnish educational success story. She introduced the main speaker, Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish education expert and the director of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation in Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture.

From worst to first

"We came from behind from everybody else," Sahlberg said. "At some point in the last 40 years we've been able to pass the others."

In the last decades, U.S. and Finnish education policies have appeared to be moving in opposite directions. While U.S. public schools moved to standardized testing, Finnish schools eschewed nationwide tests to evaluate teachers, students or schools, instead relying on sample-based testing and school principals to identify potential problems, Sahlberg said.

While U.S. public schools are locally funded, usually from property taxes, and rewarded based on high performance through programs such as the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top grants, Finnish schools are nationally funded based on the number of students. Schools are provided additional funding if they have a higher proportion of immigrants or students whose parents are uneducated or unemployed, he said.

Darling-Hammond, who wrote about the Finnish educational system in her book The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future, also contrasted America's test-based teaching to Finland's more flexible system.

"The [Finnish] curricula are very much focused on critical thinking and problem solving, project-based learning, and learning to learn," she said. "There is a lot of collaboration in the classroom."

In his lecture, Sahlberg discussed three key areas: equality in education, time management and perception of teachers as professionals, topics also covered in his recent book, "Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?"

Lower cost, better results

"We are spending less money than average for developed countries, much less than the United States. We spend less time, but the learning achievements are high," Sahlberg said. "You put more money and more time there, but the outcome, the achievements are less.

"When we compare teachers to other professions in society, we compare them to lawyers or doctors or architects," he said. "Not as here [in the United States], where they are compared to nurses or therapists, or something like that, that require lower academic training."

Teachers in Finland are required to obtain a three-year master's degree, state-funded, before teaching. These education positions are highly coveted, Sahlberg said. For example, only one in 10 primary-school teacher applicants are accepted.

"It's harder to get into primary school education than a medical program," he said.

But Sahlberg identified the biggest obstacle in the U.S. system as the same policy intended to revolutionize education. "If I could change one thing in policy, I would seriously rethink the role of standardized testing," he said in an interview with the Stanford News Service. "No high-performing nation in the world has been successful using the policies that the United States is using."

Sahlberg said that he doesn't think standardized testing is inherently bad, but "the way it's done here is simply leading to so many negative consequences, in the form of narrowing curricula and reshaping the way teachers and schools are working."

Sahlberg is quick to point out that solutions won't be as easy as transplanting Finland's policies across the Atlantic.

"I'm not trying to convince people that if they follow what Finland is doing, things will be good. All the education issues and reforms are done specifically to the culture and should be done locally," he said. "I'm very much aware that America is very different culturally. I'm trying to tell what we've been doing and use Finland as real-world evidence."

Ironically, inspiration for many of Finland's changes came from research in the United States, which contributes 80 percent of the world's education research, by Sahlberg's estimation. "We've built this excellent, high-performing, equitable system that everyone is praising today, based on American innovations," he said.

Provided by Stanford University

Science in Texas schools given a ‘C'

By Gary Scharrer

Updated 01:00 a.m., Tuesday, January 31, 2012

AUSTIN — Texas public school science courses “pay lip service” to critical content and largely ignore evolution in the middle grades, according to a national education foundation study that gives the state an overall “C” for science education.

The average grade for Texas science curriculum standards by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in a national report card today represents a step up from the “F” issued two years ago by the National Center for Science Education.

Texas standards are “just too vague,” said Kathleen Porter-Magee, a senior director at the Fordham Institute. “They cover a lot of the essential content, but they don't do it in a way that can actually guide curriculum or guide instruction in the classroom or can guide assessment development.”

The report offers a mixed review on how Texas teaches evolution. The evolution portion of the new Texas science curriculum standards provoked considerable controversy before the State Board of Education adopted them in 2009.

“In spite of the Texas Board of Education's erratic approach to evolution, the state's current high school biology standards handle the subject straightforwardly,” the report says

But the authors lament students' ability “to handle this course, given the insufficient foundations offered prior to high school.”

Texas middle school students are never exposed to the word “evolution” in the science standards, and the term “natural selection” is never explained, the authors said in the report.

Some State Board of Education members who tried to dilute the evolution portion of the science curriculum standards emphasized the positive portions of the report.

“As a science teacher, I am pleased that our standards received a score of 5 out of 7 for content and rigor,” said board chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands. “We look forward to continuing to work with Texas teachers to bring the best instruction to the classroom with our excellent science standards.”

Former board member Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, lost his chairmanship partially because Senate Democrats believed that he injected his strong religious beliefs in curriculum development, and they blocked his nomination three years ago.

McLeroy said he was pleased that the report described the high school evolution teaching as “exemplary.”

“The report confirms what I have always insisted: that the creationists inserted real scientific rigor into the teaching of evolution,” McLeroy said.

The Texas Freedom Network and many scientists tangled with the board's social conservative members over the evolution-related standards.

“I'm sure most parents want more than a C-grade education for their kids because they know that competing in a 21st-century economy will require much better than that,” Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said. “But the weak score here isn't surprising, given that board members replaced so many recommendations from teachers and scholars with revisions that simply lined up with their own personal beliefs instead.”

Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education, credited the Fordham Institute study for giving Texas high marks for its high school earth and space science standards.

But Texas didn't have enough money for new science textbooks, so the standards show up in supplemental material, and not all students have access to those lessons.

“The fact that there's not an approved textbook has to be holding back on the teaching of the course that Fordham is praising most of all,” Rosenau said.

Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, wondered if “the Fordham folks have an agenda against elected officials in Texas who question the premise that evolution is not a fact and should be properly treated as a debatable theory.”

“In Texas, we require students to analyze and discuss all theories,” Bradley said.

The Fordham Institute is a conservative-leaning think tank that supports school choice.

The 50-state report concluded that science curriculum standards across the country are “woefully inadequate” and place America's scientific leadership “in grave jeopardy.”

California, Indiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Virginia are the only states to score higher than a “B” in the study.

The study gives a “D” or an “F” to 27 of the 50 states

Read more:

Climate change skepticism seeps into science classrooms

Some states have introduced education standards requiring teachers to defend the denial of man-made global warming. A national watchdog group says it will start monitoring classrooms.

By Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau

January 16, 2012

Reporting from Washington— A flash point has emerged in American science education that echoes the battle over evolution, as scientists and educators report mounting resistance to the study of man-made climate change in middle and high schools.

Although scientific evidence increasingly shows that fossil fuel consumption has caused the climate to change rapidly, the issue has grown so politicized that skepticism of the broad scientific consensus has seeped into classrooms.

Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change. Tennessee and Oklahoma also have introduced legislation to give climate change skeptics a place in the classroom.

In May, a school board in Los Alamitos, Calif., passed a measure, later rescinded, identifying climate science as a controversial topic that required special instructional oversight.

"Any time we have a meeting of 100 teachers, if you ask whether they're running into pushback on teaching climate change, 50 will raise their hands," said Frank Niepold, climate education coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who meets with hundreds of teachers annually. "We ask questions about how sizable it is, and they tell us it is [sizable] and pretty persistent, from many places: your administration, parents, students, even your own family."

Read entire article at:,0,2808837.story

Did you know: Even Shakespeare got banned from Tucson School District (TUSD) with Mexican American Studies (MAS) ruling?

Big Brother Huppenthal has taken his TEA Party vows to take back Arizona… take it back a few centuries with official book bans that include Shakespeare!

As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today. According to district spokesperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”

Facing a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds, the governing board of Tucson’s largest school district officially ended the 13-year-old program on Tuesday in an attempt to come into compliance with the controversial state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies.

The list of removed books includes the 20-year-old textbook “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years,” which features an essay by Tucson author Leslie Silko. Recipient of a Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Silko has been an outspoken supporter of the ethnic studies program.

“By ordering teachers to remove ‘Rethinking Columbus,’ the Tucson school district has shown tremendous disrespect for teachers and students,” said the book’s editor Bill Bigelow. “This is a book that has sold over 300,000 copies and is used in school districts from Anchorage to Atlanta, and from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. It offers teaching strategies and readings that teachers can use to help students think about the perspectives that are too often silenced in the traditional curriculum.”

Another notable text removed from Tucson’s classrooms is Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.” In a meeting this week, administrators informed Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any units where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes,” including the teaching of Shakespeare’s classic in Mexican-American literature courses.

via Who’s afraid of “The Tempest”? – Books –

Once you start banning books and censoring knowledge, the boundaries of where to stop always go against the American theme of liberty and freedom.

Tucsonan Leslie Marmon Silko, winner of the “genius award” is banned, and so is Shakespeare. Thanks to Stegeman-Sugiyama-Cuevas-Hicks, who voted to not appeal this decision, Tucson even finds 16-17th century English literature by one of the greatest authors of all time, William Shakespeare, in need of being censored and removed from TUSD.

Welcome to Arizona 2012… taken back to Alabama 1960s… now back to England when the Pilgrims where starting to come over.

Next stop, the Dark Ages!

VIDEO: TUSD makes MAS teachers box banned books in front of students

by DA Morales on Jan. 16, 2012, under Ethnic Studies, Headline news

Bill Moyer: Winner Take All Politics

Inside the GOP's Dark-Money-Moving Machine

Guest post by Andy Kroll.

Created in December 2009 and shut down shortly after the election, RGA Michigan 2010 came out of nowhere that year to spend nearly $8.4 million—54 percent more than any other PAC had poured into any election in Michigan history. Ninety-six percent of the group's donors lived outside the state, and its top three funders included Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, Koch Industries' David Koch, and New York City hedge fund CEO Paul Singer. On the other side of the ledger, RGA Michigan 2010 had given $5.2 million to the Michigan Republican Party—no surprise there—but, mysteriously, it had also funneled $3 million into the campaign coffers of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Rich Robinson, the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, began to connect the dots: [READ MORE]

Gaze Into the Exploding Universe of Dark Money

We've charted the red giants and blue dwarfs spending millions to influence the 2012 elections

If Citizens United was the Big Bang of a new era of money in politics, here's the parallel universe it formed: rapidly expanding super-PACs and nebulous 501(c) groups exerting their gravitational pull on federal elections. A group's size in the chart below is based upon all known fundraising or spending since 2010…so keep an eye out for dark matter. Come back for regular updates.

No Child Left Behind: A Decade of Failure

The No Child Left Behind Act was meant to compel states to adopt high standards and rapidly improve K-12 education in public schools. It is now clear that NCLB has been a failure and has set the stage for even greater federal control over curriculum. The solution, contrary to what many advocates claim, is to get the federal government out of America's classrooms. Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, comments on NCLB's decade of failure.

Video produced by Caleb O. Brown and Austin Bragg.

Don't know much about charter schools

January 12th, 2012 - Some two decades into the grand national experiment with charter schools, how much do we really know about them? Not all that much. And not nearly as much as we easily could, say researchers from the University of California, San Diego Division of Social Sciences.

Writing in the journal Science, UC San Diego educational economist JuIian Betts and Richard Atkinson, president emeritus of the University of California and former director of the National Science Foundation, find that most studies of charter schools "use unsophisticated methods that tell us little about causal effects."

The Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, as well as many members of the general public (not to mention the makers of the popular 2010 education documentary "Waiting for Superman") have all embraced charter schools as the saviors of a broken educational system. But does going to a charter school improve student outcomes? We don't really know, argue Atkinson and Betts. Which charter schools, or even types of charter schools, are more effective than others? We don't really know.

Ideally, charter schools – which are funded publicly but are granted charters by school districts or other authorizing bodies to operate outside many of the strictures of regular neighborhood schools – would be hotbeds of innovation. They could try out different curricula, different teaching methods, different training or reward systems for the teachers. The best and most effective schools would inspire imitation. The worst would have their charters revoked and would go away.

"But most policymakers don't have sufficient data on charter schools to decide whether they're successes to be replicated or disasters to be shut down," said Betts, who, in addition to being an economics professor at UC San Diego, is also executive director of The San Diego Education Research Alliance at the university, a Bren Fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Most studies take a simple snapshot of achievement at a charter school, reading and math scores in the spring, say, and compare these to scores at a nearby traditional public school. A study of this sort, Betts said, is "naïve and essentially meaningless."

Self-selection is the problem. A snapshot study might give you a picture of the students who selected a particular charter but says little about that school's effectiveness. In a recent meta-analysis of the available literature on charter schools, coauthored by Betts (with UC San Diego economist Emily Tang) and published by the University of Washington's National Charter School Research Project, 75 percent of studies were discarded because they failed to account for differences in the backgrounds and academic histories of traditional public-school students and those who chose to go to a charter.

Some of the best, most rigorous studies are based on analyses of charter-school lottery winners and losers, write Betts and Atkinson. Charter schools that are popular enough to be oversubscribed are usually compelled by law to hold lotteries. As dramatized by the documentary "Waiting for Superman," lottery winners differ from losers only by the luck of the draw. That is to say, students who lose a lottery are an ideal control group, and comparing outcomes for lottery winners and losers is the closest we can get to a randomized controlled experiment.

Lottery-based studies suggest that charters do as well as or better than traditional public schools. But, write Betts and Atkinson, these studies have, to date, only examined about 90 charter schools – or just 2 percent of charter schools nationally.

As good as lottery-based studies are, they contain some major impediments. One is that most charter schools don't hold lotteries. They're not oversubscribed. A recent and major nationwide U.S. Department of Education study of charter middle schools found that only 130 out of 492 held lotteries. (And of these, only 77 agreed to share their lottery data so researchers could study them.)

It also very likely, Betts said, according to evidence from Texas and elsewhere, that the oversubscribed, lottery-holding schools are better than average to begin with. Put another way, parents are smart and there's a reason some charter schools are popular.

The lottery-based studies, Betts and Atkinson conclude, are not very representative.

So how to study all the other charter schools, the majority, that don't hold lotteries? Atkinson and Betts propose that "value-added" research – research that follows individual students' trajectories, comparing how they test before/after entering or leaving a charter – is a close second-best to lottery-based research. For that, though, researchers need access to individual student test-score data over time. This access is not easy to come by and is often fiercely contested.

Betts and Atkinson add that for the fullest account of educational impacts it would also be important to look at and supplement testing data with measures of higher-order learning and behavior as well as such longer-term outcomes as graduation rates and college attendance.

The way forward is clear, Betts said, but whether there's political will is another matter: "We need more lottery-based studies and we need to be able to do longitudinal work," he said.

Researchers need routine access to individual student data. And charter laws should be overhauled so that charters schools have to share their lottery data with authorizing bodies and with state departments of education. (To do good research, researchers would also need to know how wait lists are administered.) This last wouldn't be costly, Betts said, and could be accomplished by simple fiat.

It might be a tall order for all 51 states to implement the suggested reforms at once, the researchers write, but federal initiatives like the No Child Left Behind Act and the Race to the Top fund could make financial support to schools contingent on these requirements.

"Taking these steps," Betts said, "would improve research, not only on charter schools but on all public education."

Provided by University of California - San Diego

Education Week provides a chart of State Report Cards that you can check how your state is performing. 

All Over the Map

Comparing States’ Expectations for Student Performance in Science

If you’re a parent in Virginia, and the state tells you your 8th-grade daughter is “proficient” in science, you would likely think she’s on track to succeed in high school and beyond, no matter where she goes to school. Think again. Your “proficient” daughter might be performing in the bottom quartile of all 8th graders nationwide. Moreover, had she taken Louisiana’s state science test, she may not have been “proficient” by a long shot.

How is it possible that the performance of one 8th-grade girl could be described in such dramatically different ways? 

The first-ever analysis of states’ 8th-grade science tests finds that states have radically different targets for what their 8th graders should know and be able to do. At a time when the demand for robust skills and knowledge in science has gone global, “proficiency” may have more to do with where you live than what you have learned. This hodgepodge undercuts a major reason why we have tests in the first place: to provide reliable information on how well we’re preparing students for the challenges of the global economy.

Download the report: State_Science_Assessments_12_11.pdf 


View the Discovery News slide show of this years winners of the NanoART 2011.

 NanoArt is a glimpse into an unbelievably tiny world that only a small number of scientists have viewed. For the average person, the realm of nanotechnology -- that is, structures smaller than a billionth of a meter -- is as remote and inaccessible as the moon.

But nanoartist Cris Orfrescu wanted to change that. He created the NanoArt Exhibition to share the beauty of the nano-world with those of us living in the macro-world.

Using electron microscopes, scientists capture images of nano-sized landscapes and then colorize them with digital photography software in order to create pieces of art.

The following images are winners from the 2011 competition. Although you may be interested in learning what the image is, Orfrescu wants the public to s

TOP 10 artists at the 5th edition

of the NanoArt International Online Competition:

Siddhartha Pathak

Elena Lucia Constantinescu

Bjoern Daempfling

Carol Flaitz

Daniela Caceta

Rorivaldo de Camargo

Simona Barison

Teja Krasek

Jack Mason

Joel Kahn

A multimedia presentation of the Top 10 artists has been released on As a reminder, all artworks are published on the exhibition site of NanoArt21 organization at

Rayovac Marks National Teacher Appreciation Week with Teachers Bring Science to Life Contest

Nominate a Teacher to Win a Trip to Steve Spangler’s Science in the Rockies

MADISON, Wisconsin, April 27, 2011 – Do you know a teacher that brings learning to life and inspires kids to want to learn? In celebration of National Teacher Appreciation week, May 2 – 6, Rayovac is recognizing inspiring teachers by hosting the Teachers Bring Science to Life Contest.  Students, parents, administrators and teachers have the opportunity to nominate an amazing K-6 educator for a chance to win one of three all-expense paid trips to Steve Spangler’s Science in the Rockies – an intensive three-day, hands-on science training held in Denver, Colorado. The experience offers creative science integration strategies for teachers who are focused on making science more meaningful and fun for their students.

“There are so many amazing educators that bring inspiration, guidance, encouragement and fun to the classroom," said Kent Klagos, Division Vice President, Rayovac.  "Through the Teachers Bring Science to Life Contest, we hope to recognize a few of the many outstanding teachers as well as give them an amazing science experience they can bring back and share with their students."

Rayovac will accept teacher nominations at beginning on Monday, May 2, 2011 through 11:59 p.m. (CST) on May 16, 2011.  Those that would like to recognize an extraordinary teacher can fill out the online entry form and submit an essay up to 300 words explaining how the teacher inspires students and brings learning to life.  Teachers can even nominate themselves for this unique, hands-on professional development workshop where they’ll learn great classroom techniques and engaging experiments sure to inspire and captivate their students.  From the submissions, three inspiring teachers will be selected by Rayovac to win an all-expense paid trip to attend Science in the Rockies 2011.  Additionally, the individuals with the winning essays nominating the three winning teachers will also receive one of three $100 gift cards from a major retailer.  More information, the official contest rules and the entry form can be found at

When it comes to inspiring and motivating teachers to perform at their peak level, Steve Spangler is top on the list. That’s why Rayovac – a leading manufacturer of batteries and pioneer in advancing battery technology - is teaming up with Steve Spangler Science and his team of award-winning teachers to send three teachers to Spangler’s hands-on science institute called Science in the Rockies, July 6-8, 2011.

"Our goal is to give teachers the necessary training and tools to inspire students to use the scientific method as they wonder, discover, explore and ask their own questions,” says Spangler, who parlayed his experiences as a classroom teacher and professional development coach into this unique training for teachers. “Teachers need more than cute ideas or clever tricks… they need real science activities that engage and teach kids how to think critically and to solve problems if they’re going to be competitive in the future workforce.”

Rayovac, Dedicated to Science

As a company with products backed by science, Rayovac is dedicated to science and technology education.  The Rayovac Headquarters in Madison, Wis., is home to a state-of-the-art, on-campus science and technology lab where scientists and technology experts collaborate to bring the latest innovations to customers.  This summer, the brand is bringing this experience to life with the launch of the Rayovac Science and Technology Institute (RSTI).  The online resource center at will offer students, parents and educators a plethora of activities designed to bring science to life in a fun and memorable way.  RSTI visitors will be able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the science of Rayovac, interact with Rayovac scientists, engage in educational games as well as view and explore fun science experiments they can recreate at home.  Visit for more information.

"Competency-based Curriculums" Necessary to Build a 21st Century Manufacturing Workforce, According to New Report

Manufacturers face a growing talent deficit due to an outdated education system based on 19th and 20th century principles, according to the Roadmap to Education Reform for Manufacturing. The report, coauthored by the Manufacturing institute and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), is a compilation of books and research related to education reform and manufacturing topics available on NAM's website: Two broad recommendations are outlined that may address systemic educational deficits and reduce long-term education costs while developing a skilled workforce able to handle the increasing complexities of 21st century advanced manufacturing. The recommendations include the adoption of competency-based curriculums and increasing industry's role in developing and refining learning standards and assessments.

The authors contend that one of the major issues facing the current educational model is being based almost exclusively on time (e.g., K-12 grades are a single school year). This system based upon time creates a compounding problem of students either failing or falling behind. Students are forced to learn at an arbitrary pace set by the current curriculums and the school calendar. Due to the established time restraints, students that fail or fall behind have a tendency to fall even further behind because of the increasing complexity and interdependence of subjects — especially in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) areas. Overtime, this causes students to become disinterested in those subjects or fall so far behind they are unable to catch up. This fixation with time plays a major role in a national high school dropout rate of over 31 percent (approximately 1.3 million students a year), according to the authors.

To resolve our educational systems fixation with time, the authors propose a system based upon competency-based curriculums. The system allows individual students to progress once they have achieved a mastery of the subject's curriculum. Utilizing new technologies, educators and students would greatly benefit from the system including continual assessments of student progress and the ability to develop personalized lesson plans that are more in-line with the individual student's natural learning pace. Second, competency-based curriculums also could reduce the long-term costs to individual schools. According to the authors, a competency-based curriculum would lead to the compression of secondary-postsecondary learning via increases in the viability of dual enrollment programs, internship programs and early college model programs. These programs would help to alleviate the common program of 11th and 12th grade being "lost years" focused on elective classes that have little impact on the development of skilled laborers.

The educational system also faces a drastic disconnect between skills and knowledge that companies in advanced manufacturing need and those being taught at secondary and post-secondary levels. According to the report, "84 percent of manufacturers stated that the K-12 school system was doing an inadequate job of preparing students for the workplace." This lack of talent caused 32 percent manufactures to report that they had jobs going unfilled because they could not find workers with adequate skills. Manufacturers also contend that over the next 10 years almost 2.7 million manufacturing jobs, due to individuals 55 and older leaving the labor force, will be difficult to fill because of the increasing talent deficit.

To address this issue, the authors proposed more involvement of industry in the development and refining of student learning standards and assessments. The U.S. should focus on developing public-private-educational partnerships that work towards creating a skilled workforce that can address the needs of industry. However, this cannot occur only on regional and state levels, but also must occur on the national level. To achieve this national partnership, the authors propose a national "manufacturing skills certification system" that would assure employers that a student or entry-level worker has achieved several core competencies. This certification would assure that both secondary institutions and post-secondary institutions were producing similarly skilled workers that can fulfill the needs of the 14 advanced manufacturing industries.

View and download the Roadmap to Education Reform for Manufacturing here

Nanotechnology Education in the US


Written by Mark Tuominen, Director National Nanomanufacturing Network

February 24, 2011

There is a concerted effort underway to bolster education and training in nanotechnology in the US as an essential component of National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). To achieve substantial and lasting impact this activity necessarily reaches across all audience levels: K12, two-year college, four-year college, graduate degree level, professional, and public. Education and training is critically important to the National Nanomanufacturing Network (NNN) since a trained workforce is the key ingredient of a nation that leads through innovation and manufacturing.

The direct link between education and a thriving national enterprise cannot be over emphasized. The recently passed reauthorization of the America Competes Act (H.R. 5116) underscores the importance of education programs in manufacturing, innovation, and entrepreneurship, as a complement to the vital science technology education and mathematics (STEM) educational activities. To be thoroughly effective, impacting both jobs and the economy, these programs need to be guided with a close partnership between educational institutions, industry, and government. Alongside the Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET) that has guided the NNI for the last ten years, the new Interagency Working Group on Manufacturing Research and Development coordinated by National Science and Technology Council of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House can play an important leadership role.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) currently funds numerous educational efforts in nanotechnology. One notable nano-education initiative that has emerged recently focuses on two-year, community-college education. These programs are relevant to recently students directly out of high school, as well as to individuals already in careers seeking professional development. Industry has an ongoing need for personnel trained at this two-year level to work in manufacturing, as well as corporate research and development. The Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge (NACK) Center, run by Penn State College of Engineering, provides hands-on laboratory education for incumbent workers for the micro- and nanotechnology industry and offers professional development programs for secondary and postsecondary educators. The NACK center provides national coordination of micro- and nanofabrication workforce development programs and activities through its website. Many other two-year programs focused on nanotechnology exist in the US, including the Nano-Link network of technical community colleges in the midwest. Dakota County Technical College, which coordinates the Nano-Link network, was the first college in the US to offer a two-year multi-disciplinary AAS Degree in NanoScience Technology.

For a longer period of time, universities and colleges across the nation have implemented an array of nanotechnology education programs and curricula for students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Much of this has been seeded through funding from the NSF, either as education activities associated with nanotechnology research centers and networks, or as stand-alone educational programs. Each of the 18 NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers (NSECs) provide nano-specific courses and research training for both undergrad and grad students. During the last decade, these centers have built up a strong portfolio of nanoscale science and engineering curricula. A considerable amount of undergraduate training takes place through summer Research Education for Undergraduate (REU) activities and other activities throughout the year. Graduate research education is an integral part of an NSF center’s mission. The unique laboratory facilities for making and characterizing nanoscale materials and devices at the NSECs are a foundation upon which professional careers are launched. Frequent interactions with industrial scientists, engineers and executives provide students a pathway for collaboration and jobs. Similarly the university-industry interactions through workshops and training sessions provide a means for industry scientists to learn of recent developments in university research and emerging techniques in nanotechnology. Similarly, the NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs) are substantial centers providing education and training. Many of these MRSECs have important components in nanotechnology research, as nanomaterials are integrated through much of materials science today. A number of Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) programs exist that a focus specifically on nanotechnology education. These programs provide graduate training that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries and requires teamwork so that students can become leaders in science and engineering.

Several nanotechnology networks have emerged over the last decade, each of which provide education, training, professional development and industry-university partnership opportunities. The Network for Computational Nanotechnology created NanoHUB, which besides being a leading NSF cyberinfrastructure project focused on simulation, also provides a wealth of nanoscience educational resources including lectures, courses, and simulation tools. The NanoEd portal, hosted at Northwestern University, similarly provides curricula for formal nanoscience education. The National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), which operates major research user facilities at 14 universities across the nation, also provides important training and education opportunities. The NNIN Education Portal is a place to find information about facilities training for graduate students, undergradate students, professionals and others. The NNIN organizes seminars and international workshops that provide training in new nanotech research and nanofabrication techniques. The National Nanomanufacturing Network (NNN) provides many workshops geared specifically toward the advancement of nanomanufacturing and cooperation between universities, companies, and government labs. Centers affiliated with the NNN provide seminars, courses and training sessions with a focus on commercially-scalable nanomanufacturing processes and related techniques. The NNN’s informatics project, InterNano, serves as an information resource on nanomanufacturing to students and professionals alike.

The NSECs and other centers also provide educational outreach to K12 students and teachers. For example, the Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst provides an annual Summer Institute that provides hands-on nanoscience curricula for K12 science teachers, and the Center for Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale at the University of Wisconsin Madison provides numerous teacher training opportunities. A major project in informal nanoscience education is NISEnet – a network representing partnerships between science museums and universities across the U.S. NISEnet provides many avenues and opportunities for nanoscience education to students and the general public. One major event is NanoDays -- an annual nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering. This spring event, which occurs at over 200 locations across the country from Puerto Rico to Hawaii, introduces the public to the basic tenets of nanotechnology and its potential impact on the future.

Since many equipment items for fabrication and characterization of nanoscale materials and devices are quite expensive, some companies have started to develop lower-cost equipment that would be suitable for academic teaching laboratories. NanoProfessor is a product line from the Northwestern University spin-off company NanoInk that provides atomic force microscopy (AFM), dip-pen lithography, and other capabilities at a cost that is substantially lower than that of full scale research instrumentation. The availability of USB optical microscopes and other emerging equipment opens of new avenues of nanoeducation curricula for K12, two-year colleges, science museums, colleges and universities.

Although there are many more educational activities, funded through various federal and state programs, that could be discussed, one can see that there is an important critical mass of nanoscale science and engineering education programs taking place in the U.S. It is important that a new wave of education and training in best practices to translate this knowledge into products complement it, specifically education in 21st century innovation, entrepreneurship and manufacturing.

Oracle Academy Introduction to Computer Science

Designed for high schools, technical schools, colleges and universities, this option provides faculty with a highly structured, rigorous training program that prepares them to teach introductory technology and business curricula.  Participating students develop technical, analytical, and business skills that support the pursuit of professional

careers and advanced study.

The Oracle Academy supports over 850,000 students in 91 countries

Pathway to higher education Students learn and apply higher-order thinking skills that mirror the level of coursework in post-secondary degree programs, preparing them for advanced study in computer science, engineering and business. Preparation for the workplace Students gain early exposure to the business, technology and professional skills that apply to a broad range of technology and business careers, including software development, systems analysis, database administration, and management consulting.

Students who elect to participate in the Global Data Modeling competition apply their knowledge to a real business problem, providing them with the opportunity to utilize skills required in today’s global marketplace. Opportunities for industry certification.

Through discounts on select certification exams and certification preparation products, advanced students have the opportunity to pursue Oracle certification – a distinction that provides an additional competitive edge in the job market.

Premier professional development for faculty: Participating faculty are led by Oracle experts through nine weeks of on-line training and six days of in-class training to prepare to teach the curriculum to their students. Throughout the year, faculty members receive instructional support from Oracle mentor instructors. Hosted curriculum and database environment. Both the curriculum and database environment are accessed via a web browser, so there is no technical setup or maintenance for participating institutions.

Please visit <>

Connexions e-books available on iTunes U

Popular textbooks from Rice University's Connexions available free on iTunes U

HOUSTON -- (Oct. 29, 2010) -- Rice University's open education initiative, Connexions (, has made 18 of the most popular titles in its library of free textbooks and open education materials available as free downloads on iTunes U, a dedicated area within the iTunes Store (

"The demand for free, high-quality educational texts and teaching materials is greater than ever, and people increasingly want to access that material on mobile devices," said Joel Thierstein, executive director of Connexions.

Based at Rice, Connexions is one of the world's leading providers of free, open educational materials. With more than 2 million visits per month, its repository is also one of the world's most-used open education resources. The repository contains more than 17,000 educational modules that are grouped into more than 1,000 collections. Many of Connexions' collections were compiled by university faculty and are already used as textbooks, either by students who access them online for free or print them at low cost.

Connexions made its entire catalog available in the popular EPUB file format in August. EPUB is the standard e-book format for most smart phones and e-readers.

The titles made available by Connexions today include:

  • Advanced Algebra II, by Raleigh, N.C., school teacher Kenny Felder, one of the most highly rated digital textbooks in the 2009 inaugural launch of California's Digital Textbook Initiative.

  • Collaborative Statistics, by De Anza Community College mathematicians Barbara Illowsky and Susan Dean, is a comprehensive textbook for introductory statistics, one of the most-attended transfer-level community college courses in the nation.

  • Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering I, by Rice University Professor Don Johnson, whose elegant work covers the introduction to electrical engineering. 

  • Understanding Basic Music Theory, by Illinois music teacher Catherine Schmidt-Jones, whose Connexions lessons have been accessed by millions worldwide.

  • Programming Fundamentals -- A Modular Structured Approach using C++, a comprehensive introductory text for computer programming by Houston Community College Professor Ken Busbee.

In Connexions, anyone can contribute, remix and reuse or learn. Visit Connexions at

White House Announces Launch of New Nonprofit

to Strengthen STEM Education

By Molly Galvin

September 16, 2010 - The Obama administration announced today the launch of "Change the Equation," a new nonprofit corporation led by CEOs in an effort to improve education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). According to the White House, the initiative is a response to the president's speech at the National Academy of Sciences in April 2009 in which he urged Americans to elevate STEM education as a national priority. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Research Council have a long history of efforts to improve STEM education, including the influential 2005 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, which urged improvements in K-12 STEM education to keep the U.S. economically competitive.

Publishing giant makes $400M commitment to ed tech


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt says it’s time to invest in new ideas for K-12 public education


Educational publishing giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is making a $400 million investment to back up the company’s increasing emphasis on putting more technology into classrooms. The reason, HMH says, is because it no longer accepts the status quo in public education.

”We are living in challenging times—but the challenge of fixing public education is one challenge we simply have to meet,“ said company CEO Barry O’Callaghan in an interview with eSchool News. ”We need to bear down on what works in the classroom and provide schools and teachers with the tools and resources they need to be effective. Then we need to assess progress, measure results, and do what works best for each child.“

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Intel awards $1 million to schools


Six math/science 'schools of distinction' honored for innovation


By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor

Things are looking up for six U.S. schools dedicated to providing innovative and effective STEM education, thanks to Intel Education’s donation of more than $1 million as part of the company’s Schools of Distinction Awards (SODA).

This annual award is in its seventh year as part of the company’s ”quest to prepare tomorrow’s innovators,“ and the six schools honored do just that in the areas of innovative math and/or science programs.

”The critical knowledge base provided by math and science education is the foundation for innovation,“ said Shelly Esque, vice president of Intel’s Corporate Affairs Group. ”These schools imbue a deep passion for math and science in the next generation, a critical requirement for America to remain competitive in the global economy.“

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U.S. ramps up efforts to improve STEM education


New organization, consisting of executives from leading U.S. companies,

plans to spend millions for high-need schools

A grant program that challenges students to design their own video games is one of several new initiatives announced by President Obama Sept. 16 as part of a broad expansion of his ”Educate to Innovate“ campaign, which aims to spur students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The day before, Obama announced the launch of Change the Equation, a CEO-led effort to dramatically improve STEM education in the United States.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge competition, the first in a series of planned annual events, will be led by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media in partnership with sponsors Microsoft Corp., the AMD Foundation, and the Entertainment Software Association.

The video-game challenge features two competitions:

• The Youth Prize aims to engage middle school students (grades five through eight) in STEM by challenging them to design original video games. The program will be open to students from any U.S. school, with a special emphasis on reaching students in underserved urban and rural communities. The total prize pool will be $50,000. The winners will receive AMD-based laptops, game design books, and other tools to support their skill development. Cash prizes and educational software also will be awarded to the winning students’ sponsoring organization, with additional prize money for underserved communities.

• The Developer Prize challenges emerging and experienced game developers to design original games for young children (grades pre-K through four) that teach key STEM concepts and foster an interest in STEM subject areas. The program will feature a special prize for developers actively enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in the United States. Special emphasis will be placed on technologies that have high potential to reach underserved communities, such as games built for basic mobile phones that address urgent educational needs among at-risk youth. Developers will be competing for a grand prize of $50,000. Prizes of $25,000 also will be awarded to the top entry submitted at the collegiate level, as well as the top entry for reaching underserved communities.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge will accept entries from Oct. 12, 2010, through Jan. 5, 2011. Complete guidelines and details on how to enter are available at and at

Read entire article at: 

States collaborate on new national exams

Two large coalitions of states are competing for federal “Race to the Top” dollars to create a series of new national academic tests to replace the current patchwork system. Read More at:

International Nanoeducation Training Conference Held in Russia

Designated as an educational conference to train teachers to use NanoEducator equipment

On May 18-20th the nanotech manufacturer in Russia NT-MDT Co. and one of the main Russian scientific nanocenters the Kurchatov Institute held an international conference "Nanoeducation: the main approaches and perspectives".

The meeting had a unique format - the first educational international conference with trainings on working with nanoeducational equipment for teachers. 185 participants took part in the event, including representatives from Russia, the USA, Europe and CIS. The conference has become an essential part of Russian Government Federal Program.

The main goal of the conference was to overcome the gap between impetuous development of the modern nanoscience and the conservative system of education, especially in schools, where the teachers suffer serious problems in working with new equipment. The special workshops for teachers were organized in terms of the conference.

The main topics of the conference included such controversial areas as contemporary approaches to nanoeducation, educational process organizing and leading, the newest educational technologies, international university cooperation all over the world concerning personnel trainings for teachers and professors and etc. The discussion has touched all the educational levels at schools as well as in universities.

About 185 participants visited the conference including 35 school teachers from different Russian regions. During the conference they got a unique opportunity to train their skills of working with NANOEDUCATOR - special educational equipment for pupils and students. This training will help them to avoid problems during learning pupils. Moreover teachers got acquainted with many university professors, who shared their experience and knowledge. Many interesting contracts and projects between teachers and university representatives were planed and signed during this meeting.

NANOEDUCATOR is a scientific training complex with a set of learning aids, accessories for introducing students to nanotechnology and giving them a basic understanding of how work with objects at nanoscale level. It's a student oriented SPM developed for work by even first-time microscope users. NANOEDUCATORs are installed in Russian schools and universities by NT-MDT Co. in terms of the governmental contract. NT-MDT Co. has already equipped about 70 university centers and more then 40 high schools in Russia.

Installations of NANOEDUCATORs as well as the conference are essential parts of Government Federal Program aimed to develop highly qualified scientists in Russia. It was the personal idea of the Minister of education and science Andrey Fursenko who after visiting an international nanoexhibition had come to the decision to get Russian pupils and students acquainted with nanoworld in practice. Due to this program young investigators got an opportunity to feel and understand the nanoscale by their own hands and eyes.

NT-MDT is a global company producing and providing innovative nanotechnological tools and complexes for scientific and research organizations all over the world. The key branch offices of the company are situated in Holland, Ireland, USA and China. In the past five years, the installed base of the company has grown to over 2000 instruments, promoting growth of both lab and research programs world-wide.

CANEUS Europe Creates MNT Training Centers and Summer School Program for Aerospace Professionals


The Hands on training Centres and Summer School will provide professionals

with latest in MNT products and systems


Rome, Italy— Dr. Coumar Oudea, President of CANEUS Europe and Milind Pimprikar, Chairman of CANEUS International today announced the creation of the CANEUS Europe Micro-Nanotechnology Centers for Excellence and Summer Schools focusing on Aeronautics, Space and Defence Applications, that will integrate MNT research, education, and aerospace applications through partnerships with universities, governments and industries from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands and France.

Dr. Francesco Svelto, of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) hosted the CANEUS Europe Strategic Meeting at the ASI headquarters in Rome to plan focused CANEUS activities in Europe during 2010 –till 2020 period.

Key CANEUS colleagues representing the 9 European countries (Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany) met to formulate CANEUS workshops /hands-on training and Summer School programs in their respective countries. The meeting was convened by CANEUS Chairman Milind Pimprikar as part of the CANEUS Europe and CANEUS Asia strategic plan for 2010-2020 periods.

In addition to International MNT for Space Week CANEUS is Co-Hosting with the ESA (European Space Agency), on September 13-17, 2010, the CANEUS activities in Europe will embrace ”Focused CANEUS Consortia Workshops“, ”CANEUS Hands-on Training Programs“, ”CANEUS MNT for Aerospace Summer Schools“, and the CANEUS Biannual Conferences.


Barcelona – Spain: novel MNT Devices and ”System on Chip (SOC) and System in Package (SIP)“

Headed by Dr. Carles Ferrer the hands-on MNT Centre for Excellence for Aerospace Professionals, and Program Managers will focus on creating novel MNT Devices and ”System on Chip (SOC) and System in Package (SIP)“ that could, for example, cover one week of theory and the second week for hands-on training for aerospace and defence applications. Additionally, it will also build on the European MNT biomedical activities, enable high capacity energy and information storage devices, and produce sensors and components for aircraft and marine, as well as other important applications. The first training sessions are planned for April 2011 and September 2011 period and will be limited to 20 industrial participants. Additionally, Barcelona will also host the MNT for Aerospace and Defence Summer School in 2011/2012 period.


Capua (Naples) – Italy: Nano-Materials for Thermal Protection

Headed by ASI (Italian Space Agency), the CANEUS hands-on Training Centre for Excellence will focus on Nano-material concepts for hypersonic – space and defence applications. Again, the two weeks theory and hands-on program will be limited to 20 participants with the first session planned for 2011/2012 period.

Frascati (Rome) Italy: Nano-Sensors and Materials for ICT, aerospace, biomedicine

Dr. Stefano Bellucci, of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics will head the CANEUS hands-on training centre on Nanotechnology (Nano-materials and sensors) and Summer School for aerospace and biomedical applications. The training and Summer School program, limited to 20 professionals will build on the EU project CATHERINE on nanointerconnections as well ”Innovative Methodologies for the risk assessment from occupational exposure to nanomaterials".


Greece: CANEUS Workshop on FBW (Fly-By-Wireless):

Headed by Dr. Constantin Papadas, Greece will host CANEUS Workshop on FBW for Aerospace applications planned towards early 2011.


UCL- Belgium: CANEUS Workshop on HE (Harsh Environment) Sensors

Headed by Microsystems Chair Prof. Laurent Francis, UCL, Belgium, will host CANEUS Workshop on MNT Harsh Environment Sensors for Aerospace and Defence Applications planned towards 2010 end or early 2011 period. The 2-3 days workshop limited to 100 participants will help advance the concepts presented at the CANEUS-ESA International MNT for Space Week and also formulate funding proposals to EU framework programme.

CANEUS International and International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) agree on Joint Projects and Activities

Spotlight on Europe and Asia

IAA Secretary General Jean-Michel Constant (left) and CANEUS International Chairman Milind Pimprikar (right) met in Vienna, Austria to formalize the details of specific programs the two organizations will undertake in the next two years period.

The International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the CANEUS International has agreed to undertake joint programs focusing on CANEUS Consortia Model based on Open Innovation to provide the space industry with access to the emerging Micro-Nano-Technologies worldwide.

The IAA is an honorary society with an action agenda. The Academy has a strong scientific program this year with about 16 standalone conferences around the world. The International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) is an independent organization of distinguished individuals elected by their peers for their outstanding contributions to astronautics and the exploration of space.

The IAA has both its independent studies (35 in preparation and 4 published since January) and conferences and collaborates with others partner societies. Although the IAA has many connections to other similar organizations, it is distinctive as the only international academy of elected members in broad area of astronautics and space.

CANEUS International, a non-profit organization, proposes a rapid and cost-effective method of technology transition via the creation of international collaborative sector consortia. These international public/private partnerships between industry, university, and government stakeholders pool membership's resources to define and execute high-risk, high-cost projects and initiatives. Sector Consortia thus constitute smoothly functioning development ”pipelines“ for emerging micro-nano-technology concepts.

Each CANEUS Sector Consortium is chartered with facilitating the transition of aerospace relevant technologies such as Advanced Materials, Next Generation Devices and Systems, Reliability & Testing Technologies, Fly-by-Wireless Technologies and Small Satellite Systems.


Joint CANEUS-IAA Workshop in India

The joint CANEUS-IAA Workshops will focus on producing deliverables in the selected Sector Consortia topics. The ultimate deliverables would include key projects to be pursued in order to realize the Consortia vision.

The joint CANEUS-IAA workshop is expected to be the first in series of projects / initiatives the two organizations will pursue together in coming years.  

For more information on workshop dates:

Texas Conservatives Seek Deeper Stamp on Texts


Published: March 10, 2010

AUSTIN, Tex. — Even as a panel of educators laid out a vision Wednesday for national standards for public schools, the Texas school board was going in a different direction, holding hearings on changes to its social studies curriculum that would portray conservatives in a more positive light, emphasize the role of Christianity in American history and include Republican political philosophies in textbooks.

The hearings are the latest round in a long-running cultural battle on the 15-member State Board of Education, a battle that could have profound consequences for the rest of the country, since Texas is one of the largest buyers of textbooks.

The board is expected to take a preliminary vote this week on a raft of changes to the state’s social studies curriculum proposed by the seven conservative Republicans on the board. A final vote will come in May. more...

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Panel Proposes Single Standard for All Schools


Published: March 10, 2010

A panel of educators convened by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents proposed a uniform set of academic standards on Wednesday, laying out their vision for what all the nation’s public school children should learn in math and English, year by year, from kindergarten to high school graduation.

The new proposals could transform American education, replacing the patchwork of standards ranging from mediocre to world-class that have been written by local educators in every state.

Under the proposed standards for English, for example, fifth graders would be expected to explain the differences between drama and prose, and to identify elements of drama like characters, dialogue and stage directions. Seventh graders would study, among other math concepts, proportional relationships, operations with rational numbers and solutions for linear equations.

The new standards are likely to touch off a vast effort to rewrite textbooks, train teachers and produce appropriate tests, if a critical mass of states adopts them in coming months, as seems likely. But there could be opposition in some states, like Massachusetts, which already has high standards that advocates may want to keep.

“I’d say this is one of the most important events of the last several years in American education,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., a former assistant secretary of education who has been an advocate for national standards for nearly two decades. “Now we have the possibility that for the first time, states could come together around new standards and high school graduation requirements that are ambitious and coherent. This is a big deal.”

In recent years, many states moved in the opposite direction, lowering standards to make it easier for students to pass tests and for schools to avoid penalties under the 2002 federal No Child Left Behind law.

After educators, business executives and others criticized the corrosive impact of a race to the bottom, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers set the common-standards initiative in motion last year. They convened panels of English and math experts from the College Board and A.C.T., and from Achieve Inc., a group with years of experience working to upgrade graduation standards.

Alaska and Texas are the only states that declined to participate in the standards-writing effort. In keeping his state out, Gov. Rick Perry argued that only Texans should decide what children there learn. more...

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Texas' influence on textbooks could wane

Budget woes, technology advances make battles over book content less important

By Kate Alexander


Published: 10:44 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, 2010

As a giant in the textbook market, Texas and its education officials have left fingerprints on the classroom readers used far beyond the Red River.

The long reach of the State Board of Education has attracted outsized national attention for years as board members engaged in pitched battles over textbook content from evolution to the Founding Fathers.

That debate will resume today on the social studies curriculum standards that will serve as the framework for future history, government and economics textbooks and lessons.

But changes in Texas' purchasing practices, a looming budget shortfall and legislators' efforts to wean schools off hardbound textbooks could mean that Texas — and the State Board of Education — will no longer be the arbiter of content it has been in the past.

The textbooks being purchased now for language arts classes will probably mark "the end of the high-level of Texas influence as we knew it in the '70s, '80s and '90s," said David Anderson , a former director of curriculum at the Texas Education Agency and now a lobbyist whose clients include a major textbook publisher.

Textbook publishers who are relying on the upcoming science and social studies purchases do so at their own risk, Anderson said.

"It is really too murky to see what is ahead," Anderson said. "I think there is more change coming."

Bob Cassel, publisher of EMC Publishing Co., whose literature texts have been approved by the board, said publishers have tailored textbooks to Texas in the past because the state has been an enormous customer with a reliable source of textbook funding from the $22 billion Permanent School Fund.  more....

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Rice among top 50 for computer game design

Princeton Review, GamePro pick best undergraduate game programs

HOUSTON -- (March 2, 2010) -- Rice University is one of the 50 best undergraduate institutions in the U.S. and Canada at which to study computer game design, according to a new survey released today by The Princeton Review.

The Princeton Review developed the "Top 50 Undergraduate Game Design Programs" list in partnership with GamePro magazine. The list appears at in GamePro’s April issue and at

"Rice's program is small but growing," said Joe Warren, chair of computer science at Rice, who teaches two game-design courses each year. "We have plans for more course offerings in digital media, and we have strong industry partners. Perhaps the best measure of our success is the fact that several of our graduates are working in the industry, both with local and national companies."

In developing the top 50 list, The Princeton Review and GamePro surveyed roughly 500 programs where students can study game design in the U.S. and Canada. Programs were selected based on a survey of administrators at institutions offering game design coursework and/or degrees. The comprehensive survey, which was conducted in 2009-10, included more than 50 questions and covered areas from academics and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and career achievements. Criteria included the quality of the curriculum, faculty, facilities and infrastructure. The Princeton Review also looked at data on scholarships, financial aid and career opportunities. The Princeton Review and GamePro ranked the top eight programs and listed the rest of the top 50 alphabetically.

Warren teaches the flagship course in Rice's program, a senior-level design course that teams students from computer science and the visual arts. Teams present and demonstrate their game designs for a jury of industry professionals several times during the yearlong course.

"It's a hands-on experience, and the students walk away with a greater understanding that game design is more than just writing code," Warren said. "You have to think about the business, artistic and technical elements at every step in the process."

For more information on Rice's program in computer game creation, visit 

How Christian Were the Founders? 


Conservative activists on the Texas Board of Education say that the authors of the Constitution intended the United States to be a Christian nation. And they want America’s history textbooks to say so.

Even if you live in another state, your textbooks will be affected by decisions made in Texas.  The following paragraph makes the point on why Texas has this is always about the money.  (Editors Note)

"Public education has always been a battleground between cultural forces; one reason that Texas’ school-board members find themselves at the very center of the battlefield is, not surprisingly, money. The state’s $22 billion education fund is among the largest educational endowments in the country. Texas uses some of that money to buy or distribute a staggering 48 million textbooks annually — which rather strongly inclines educational publishers to tailor their products to fit the standards dictated by the Lone Star State. California is the largest textbook market, but besides being bankrupt, it tends to be so specific about what kinds of information its students should learn that few other states follow its lead. Texas, on the other hand, was one of the first states to adopt statewide curriculum guidelines, back in 1998, and the guidelines it came up with (which are referred to as TEKS — pronounced “teaks” — for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) were clear, broad and inclusive enough that many other states used them as a model in devising their own. And while technology is changing things, textbooks — printed or online —are still the backbone of education."

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What Do Students Know?

February 12th, 2010

This chart plots the mean score of students (blue dots) and their teachers (black triangles) to sets of questions in the science categories labeled, and grouped by Grade. 1.00 means all correct answers, and 0.00 means all wrong answers. Red circles are the teachers estimate of how their students would do - they are uniformly too optimistic. A score of .8 was defined as signaling "proficiency" - no student groups were found to be proficient in any subject; in a few cases even teachers were not proficient. Credit: P. Sadler, et al, 2010

Black holes, frozen worlds, the "big bang," supernovae -- when it comes to telling strange and compelling stories, astronomy and space science educators can draw upon these and other denizens of a celestial zoo more outlandish than the animals in any earthly zoo. There is more to astronomy, however, than incredible objects and extreme theories. The underlying concepts on which astronomy is based are the traditional elements of physics, chemistry, and earth science. Interest in astronomy can thus provide the motivation for learning these fundamentals.

The National Research Council and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have for years been working to determine what students know about science and how they learn it, and to find better ways to teach them. States have adopted their guidelines and standards to establish their own science education goals. Astronomy education is an important part of the overall picture.

Students have many disturbing misconceptions about the universe, and a team of researchers at SAO have been studying what they are and quantifying their effects. Phil Sadler, Harold Coyle, Jaime Miller, Nancy Cook-Smith, Mary Dussault, and Roy Gould have just published their findings and recommendations in the Astronomical Education Review. They analyzed hundreds of different K-12 tests, multiple choice and otherwise, that were administered to both students and their teachers.

The SAO group has long been expert in the study of popular misconceptions that are hard to shake, and that color a person's basic understanding of the underlying science; thinking that the earth experiences summer when it is closer to the sun is one example.

Here are some other common and disturbing misconceptions reported by the team: for high school students, that telescopes are put into space to get closer to astronomical objects, that the universe is getting hotter, and that astronauts have traveled beyond the moon; for grades 5-8, that there is no gravity in space, that the sun is not a star, and that other stars are closer to us than is Pluto.

There are lots of other examples; occasionally some teachers share the misconceptions. The SAO group has over the years authored textbooks and other tools that are particularly attentive to explaining and preventing science misconceptions.

The SAO researchers studied how these apparently seductive misconceptions could distract students away from choosing the correct answer in multiple-choice tests. They argue that such "distractors" should be included in evaluation tests but note that most often are not, and therefore that results from tests designed to measure student understanding are misleading, and that evaluation of the pedagogy is therefore inadequate. The team also found that teachers across the board overestimate their students' understanding of basic ideas, in part because of emphasizing detailed memorization over basic conceptual understanding as probed by misconceptions.

One result of their work, besides a new appreciation of the importance of identifying and addressing misconceptions, is a set of new assessment tools for K-12 astronomy and space science that can be used to determine the strengths and weaknesses of students, and help schools plan for teachers' professional development.

Provided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

White House Pushes Science and Math Education


November 23, 2009-To improve science and mathematics education for American children, the White House is recruiting Elmo and Big Bird, video game programmers and thousands of scientists.

President Obama will announce a campaign Monday to enlist companies and nonprofit groups to spend money, time and volunteer effort to encourage students, especially in middle and high school, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, officials say.

The campaign, called Educate to Innovate, will focus mainly on activities outside the classroom. For example, Discovery Communications has promised to use two hours of the afternoon schedule on its Science Channel cable network for commercial-free programming geared toward middle school students.

Science and engineering societies are promising to provide volunteers to work with students in the classroom, culminating in a National Lab Day in May.

The MacArthur Foundation and technology industry organizations are giving out prizes in a contest to develop video games that teach science and math.

“The different sectors are responding to the president’s call for all hands on deck,” John P. Holdren, the White House science adviser, said in an interview.

The other parts of the campaign include a two-year focus on science on “Sesame Street,” the venerable public television children’s show, and a Web site,, set up by Time Warner Cable, that provides a searchable directory of local science activities. The cable system will contribute television time and advertising to promote the site.

The White House has also recruited Sally K. Ride, the first American woman in space, and corporate executives like Craig R. Barrett, a former chairman of Intel, and Ursula M. Burns, chief executive of Xerox, to champion the cause of science and math education to corporations and philanthropists.

Dr. Ride said their role would be identifying successful programs and then connecting financing sources to spread the successes nationally. “The need is funding,” she said. “There is a lot of corporate interest and foundation interest in this issue.”

Administration officials say that the breadth of participation in Educate to Innovate is wider than in previous efforts, which have failed to produce a perceptible rise in test scores or in most students’ perceptions of math and science. In international comparison exams, American students have long lagged behind those in much of Asia and Europe.

But some education experts said the initiatives did little to address some core issues: improving the quality of teachers and the curriculum.

“I think a lot of this is good, but it is missing more than half of what needs to be done,” said Mark S. Schneider, a vice president at the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit research organization in Washington. “It has nothing to do with the day-to-day teaching,” said Dr. Schneider, who was the commissioner of education statistics at the Department of Education from 2005 to 2008.

Dr. Holdren said the initiatives, which are financed almost entirely by the participating companies and foundations and not the government, complement the Race to the Top program of the Department of Education, which will dispense $4.35 billion in stimulus financing to states for innovative education programs. The Race to the Top rules give extra points to applications that emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM subjects.

“The president has made it very clear it is a big priority,” Dr. Holdren said.

In April, Mr. Obama, speaking at the National Academy of Sciences, promised a “renewed commitment” that would move the United States “from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math over the next decade.”

To achieve this goal, Mr. Obama talked of “forging partnerships.” Monday’s announcement contains the first wave of such partnerships, officials said.

David M. Zaslav, the president and chief executive of Discovery, said Mr. Obama’s words about science education inspired Discovery to come up with the idea of two hours of programming, a mix of old and new content, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays on the Science Channel. The idea is that students coming home from school will have a ready means to learn more science.

“We took that to the administration,” Mr. Zaslav said. “They loved it.”

The lack of commercials is “a big statement by us that it’s not about the money,” he said. “It’s about reinforcing the importance of science to kids and inspiring them.”

The programming is to begin next year; the date has not been set yet.

The foundation of Jack D. Hidary, an entrepreneur who earned his fortune in finance and technology, worked with the National Science Teachers Association, the MacArthur Foundation and the American Chemical Society to create a Web site,, that matches scientists willing to volunteer their time and teachers describing what projects they hope to incorporate into their classes.

For example, Mr. Hidary said, a project could involve students’ recording of birdsongs and comparing them with others from elsewhere. “That’s actually scientifically useful,” he said. “Kids can actually perform useful science.”

The projects are to culminate in National Lab Day, which schools will hold the first week of May, but the projects will typically spread over several months. Mr. Hidary said students learn better with hands-on inquiries.

“We are not about one-offs,” he said. “We’re not looking for bringing in a scientist for a day.”

After the chemical society joined the effort, other scientific organizations also signed on, Mr. Hidary said, adding, “Each one is coming, upping the ante.”

For the video game challenge, the idea is to piggyback on the interest children already have in playing the games. “That’s where they are,” said Michael D. Gallagher, chief executive of the Entertainment Software Association, a trade group and one of the sponsors. “This initiative is a recognition of that.”

Sony is expected to donate 1,000 PlayStation 3 game consoles and copies of the game LittleBigPlanet to libraries and community organizations in low-income areas. Part of the competition will consist of children creating new levels in LittleBigPlanet that incorporate science and math. The other part will offer a total of $300,000 in prize money to game designers for science and math games that will be distributed free.

“We’re finding extraordinary engagement with games,” said Connie Yowell, director of education for MacArthur. If the engagement is combined with a science curriculum, she said, “then I think we have a very powerful approach.”

Some of the initiatives were already in the works and would have been rolled out regardless of the administration’s campaign. “Sesame Street” already planned to incorporate nature into this year’s season, but has now decided to add discussions of the scientific method in next year’s episodes.

“We’ve really never kind of approached it that way before,” said Gary E. Knell, president and chief executive of the Sesame Workshop.

Time Warner Cable had already decided to devote 80 percent of its philanthropy efforts to science and math education before Mr. Obama’s speech in April. But the company adjusted its project to fit in with the others.

“Being part of a bigger effort,” said Glenn A. Britt, the chief executive, “increases the chances that the effort will be successful.” 

nanoICT School on Nanophotonics and Modelling Issues for ICT Celebrated in San Sebastian, Spain

Madrid (Spain): November, 18, 2009

In order for the field of emerging nanoelectronics to continue growing exponentially worldwide and therefore lead to new commercial applications and to change the micro and nanoelectronics paradigm, it is necessary to educate new researchers who can work across traditional disciplines. The EU funded nanoICT project establishes a broad array of specialised training activities to provide mainly students with interdisciplinary competences in Nanotechnology and more specifically “nano-scale ICT devices & systems” (Emerging Nanoelectronics).

The main training activity within nanoICT was a post-graduate winter school on “ICT nanoscale devices” research domains that took place at CIC nanoGUNE Research Center, in San Sebastian (Spain): October 26-30, 2009 - organised by the Phantoms Foundation, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC),Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC) and CIC nanoGUNE and in collaboration with the nanoICT Coordination Action.

Two schools of 2 days duration were organized on NanoOptics-NanoPhotonics (35 participants) and NanoModeling (26 participants). Student presented their contribution to this school during the poster sessions.

Such an initiative will generate a new generation of high-skilled interdisciplinary scientists, indispensable to the sustainability of European excellence in the topic considered, but also educate the current working force.

During this school, an open symposium also took place (66 participants). The symposium programme was composed of international representative’s presentations and invited talks on scientific research highlights of NanoICT topics.

Conference material is online available for download:


Full abstracts book:

More info:

NanoICT Coordination Action

NanoICT School 2009:

Contact Information:

-Questions regarding the nanoICT project please contact:

Dr. Antonio Correia (Project Coordinator): antonio(at)

About Phantoms Foundation: This Non-Profit organisation was established on November 26, 2002 (Madrid, Spain) in order to provide high level Management profile to scientific projects. This association plays an important role in the 7th Framework Programme as a platform for European funded projects (nanoICT, nanomagma, nanoCODE) to spread excellence amongst a wider audience, and to help in forming new networks.

This Association is now a key actor in structuring and fostering European Excellence in “Nanoscience and Nanotechnology”, having a world leading position in organising conferences, training and dissemination activities in this field.

WEB site: 

-Questions regarding the NanoICT EU-FET proactive program please contact:

Dr. David Guedj (Project officer): david.guedj(at)

ICT Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) – NanoICT Proactive Initiative

European Commission

DG Information Society and Media, Office BU-25 5/38, B-1049 Brussels

WEB site:

IES Education News

The Institute of Education Sciences is announcing the latest on research initiatives from John Easton, recently sworn-in as IES director and news from the four centers of IES. Other items in Education Research News include an update on the 2010 research conference, a link to the new financial aid calculator, and new staff introductions.

To read the newsletter, click:

By visiting Newsflash you may also sign up to receive information from IES and its four Centers NCES, NCER, NCEE, & NCSER to stay abreast of all activities within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

To obtain hard copy of many IES products as well as hard copy and electronic versions of hundreds of other U.S. Department of Education products please visit or call 1-877-433-7827 (877-4-EDPUBS).

Clicks vs. Bricks - NECC 2009

Experts debate the relevancy of brick-and-mortar schools in an internet-connected world at the 2009 National Educational Computing Conference in Washington, D.C.  Watch the video:

High school teacher's algebra book aces California test

Book from Rice University's Connexions used in historic K-12 initiative

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- (Aug. 11, 2009) -- As California prepares to become the first state in the nation to offer free, open-source digital textbooks for high school students this fall, state officials today gave an A-plus to a North Carolina high school teacher's algebra II textbook, one of the first open-source texts submitted for the program.

Advanced Algebra II <> by Raleigh, N.C., math teacher Kenny Felder was submitted to California officials by Connexions, an open-education initiative at Rice University in Houston that publishes the open-copyright book.

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's initiative, together with President Obama’s proposal to invest $500 million in open-education over the next decade, are two of the most significant steps forward in open-education to date," said Joel Thierstein, Connexions executive director. "Open education is the biggest advance in education since Horace Mann’s push for mandatory free public education in the U.S."

California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas today unveiled his department's review of the first 16 digital texts submitted by publishers in response to Schwarzenegger's May 6 call for free open-source digital textbooks for high school students. Textbook choices are made at the local level in California, and Thomas' reviews are designed to help local officials choose digital books that best meet their needs. The reviews assessed how well each book complied with California's state textbook standards, and Connexions' algebra text scored a 96, meeting 26 of the 27 standards tested.

Felder, who teaches algebra and calculus at Raleigh Charter High School, said he was delighted to learn that his book scored so well on California's test. He said the book was created from the lessons he created and refined during 10 years of algebra II classes.

"My book presents math as an exploration of ideas -- not a collection of facts and techniques," Felder said. "Students often tell me they are realizing, for the first time, that math makes sense. And that's what I hope they remember from my class; there are reasons for everything in math, and you should ask 'Why?' and keep asking, particularly if someone says, 'That's just the way it is.'"

Thierstein said Felder's story isn't unlike those of many authors who've submitted materials to Connexions.

"One of the beauties of open-education in general, and Connexions in particular, is that anyone who wants to take the time to create content can do it, and anyone who wants to update content and keep it current or improve it can do that too," Thierstein said. "A book is never static in Connexions because everything is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Only copyright license. Any teacher can modify the book to make it culturally relevant for their students."

The reviews of Felder's book and the other submissions for California's K-12 open-source textbook initiative were presented at a symposium in Orange County this morning that was organized by the California Educational Technology Professionals Association. The event attracted hundreds of officials who are tasked with choosing curriculum in a year with extremely tight budgets. Thierstein, an invited panelist, answered questions and explained how open-source texts like Felder's book could both improve classroom instruction and save money.

"Everyone is looking to cut costs over the next couple of years, but the real beauty of open-educational resources like Kenny Felder's book is that they provide the foundation for a step-change in the quality of education in the United States," Thierstein said.

With more than a million visitors a month and one of the world's largest repositories of open-education resources, Connexions is a leading global provider of open-copyright licensed, free educational materials. Connexions is available free for anyone to contribute to or learn from at <>.

Joint effort by governors and state chiefs groups seeks to define reading and math standards for 44 participating states

By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor, eSchool News

As the idea of common educational standards gains traction across the United States, the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) has released the first draft of its proposed national reading and math standards.

The initiative, created by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), aims to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college and the 21st century workforce by creating a common core of standards for all states.

It's been a long-held tradition in American public education that decisions about standards and curriculum are best left to state and local school systems, and that belief has derailed past efforts to push for a national set of standards. But NGA and CCSSO say this effort is different, because it's driven by collective state action and because states will voluntarily adopt the standards based on their own timelines and context.

Every state except Alaska, South Carolina, Missouri, and Texas has signed on to the effort so far. But getting the states to adopt whatever emerges will be politically difficult.

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Online Learning: Changing the nature of schooling

Read this FREE special report and you'll:

Discover how online learning is cost-effective

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Discover how online learning has gained more respect over that past ten years

Find out what laws states are passing to make online learning more accessible

Hear input from students who are enrolled in virtual schools


Read this special now at:

Ask people ten years ago and they'd say that they considered online learning to be less respectable than traditional learning in brick and mortar buildings. Now, it is a viable option for many students providing them with the flexibility to learn on their own terms. Susan Patrick, president and chief executive of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) says that the acceptance has grown. "More and more parents and students are aware that we live in the internet age, and they want access to educational opportunities, whether they're offered over the internet or not."

Many people think of online learning and they quickly disregard it since their children won't have interaction with their peers. However, they're mistaken. Students interact with teachers and their peers on a daily basis. They participate in group work and collaboration. Advocates of online education say that the biggest benefit is that it prepares students for a world where life is not structured in class periods and adults increasingly communicate electronically, work remotely, and meet virtually.

Once more parents realize that online learning isn't just a fad, more virtual schooling programs will emerge across the U.S. ultimately offering students a different and broader environment to learn in.

Thanks to support from K12 Inc., this special report is available now to all educators at eSchool News Online

Find out more about online learning today. Visit our special report available for FREE now at:

Check out our free online learning resources for K-12 nano science 

Online tutorials help elementary school teachers make sense of science

June 18th, 2009

Interactive Web-based science tutorials can be effective tools for helping elementary school teachers construct powerful explanatory models of difficult scientific concepts, and research shows the interactive tutorials are just as effective online as they are in face-to-face settings, says a University of Illinois expert in science education.

David Brown, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education, said that elementary school teachers need high-quality, research-based resources to help them build a meaningful scientific knowledge base.

"Refining one's scientific knowledge base through online interactive resources can help teachers develop a deeper conceptual understanding of scientific phenomena, making them better prepared to engage students in science-based activities," Brown said.

In any curriculum, there is teacher background literature or other forms of digested information that teachers can study to refresh their memories or get the broad stroke outlines of what they're going to teach.

The trouble with those teaching aids, according to Brown, is that the information they contain is "usually fairly terse" and isn't interactive or research-based.

If teachers lack confidence in their scientific knowledge base, they're probably going to avoid situations where they might be caught flat-footed by a student's question, because they don't want to be asked a question they don't know how to answer, Brown said.

So they'll fall back on more traditional lesson plans that emphasize the rote memorization of scientific terms over inquiry-based forms of learning, such as hands-on activities and discussions of those activities.

But an emphasis on routinized learning doesn't help students grasp the foundational science behind what they're learning, Brown said.

"If online tutorials focus on explaining the underlying scientific concepts behind the phenomena rather than on the rote memorization of facts, that can help teachers form a more meaningful conceptual understanding of what they're going to teach," he said. "A teacher who has a firm scientific knowledge base can then help students understand the fundamental scientific ideas and concepts behind what they're learning better."

To test his hypothesis, Brown developed "Making Sense of Science," an online multimedia tutorial that tested subjects' pre- and post-test knowledge of the scientific concept of buoyancy.

In the first 10 interviews, the average post-test score increased by 16 percent; in the second group of 10, by 28 percent; and for a group of 68 online users, by 33 percent. Similarly, Brown discovered that the average post-test confidence scores nearly doubled after the respondents interacted with the tutorials, and the written explanations of their ideas went from "somewhat incoherent" to "coherent explanations that made use of relevant ideas," he said.

"We found that our resources were effective, and they were as effective online as they were face-to-face," Brown said.

The tutorials were also crafted to address the perceived deficiencies that Brown thought other teacher background information and online resources suffered from.

"The resources are designed to help teachers develop their ideas," Brown said. "They're not designed for teachers to use directly with the students, but rather as background information for the teachers to develop their ideas so they'll be in a better position to engage students in activities."

Those positive results make Brown guardedly optimistic that online resources for teachers can be developed that will be helpful in advancing reform in elementary science education.

"The focus in both national and state standards is involving students in inquiry-oriented activities," he said. "This is just trying to provide a resource for teachers for what they're already being asked to do at the national and state levels."

Brown believes having better prepared elementary school science teachers will ultimately lead to more students interested in science.

"There's a world of difference between a drill-and-kill lesson versus an inquiry-oriented one in terms of student engagement and retention," he said. "There's a wealth of potential there that we're not tapping into."

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (news : web)

eSchool News Online Education Resource Center:

Learn how online instruction is transforming education

Go to eSN Online today and discover how: 

Discover how online learning is cost-effective

Garner information as to how virtual schooling prepares students for the real world

Read feedback from students who are enrolled in virtual schools

Find out what laws states are passing to make online learning more accessible

Online learning is no longer regarded with the skepticism it was a decade ago—and now thousands of K-12 schools nationwide are turning to online-learning providers for help with credit recovery, enrichment opportunities for gifted students, and even for providing core curriculum classes in areas where there isn't enough demand to justify keeping a teacher on staff.

Visit This ERC Now Online 

Many people think of online learning and they quickly disregard it since their children won't have interaction with their peers. However, they're mistaken. Students interact with teachers and their peers on a daily basis. They participate in group work and collaboration. Advocates of online education say that the biggest benefit is that it prepares students for a world where life is not structured in class periods and adults increasingly communicate electronically, work remotely, and meet virtually.

Browse our K-12 Nano Science Education Outreach Online Resources at: 

New standards to facilitate eLearning  

'Common Cartridge' reportedly will allow any digital content to work with any standards-based software

By Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor

A consortium of educators and technology executives has developed a common set of standards that will allow any kind of digital learning content--such as an electronic text, an online exam, or even a social-networking application--to be used with any type of learning management system (LMS) or student information system (SIS), or web portal. 

In theory, implementing this set of free, open standards, called Common Cartridge, would give K-12 and college educators the flexibility to use any combination of materials in a collaborative, content-rich digital learning environment, without worrying about compatibility issues.  Read More...

Video: $12 Computers?

While it's hard to imagine life without a computer, it's a sad reality for many people in third world countries. A UCSD grad student is hoping to change all that with a $12 computer.

To view this video segment:

For more info on the project, visit

Tech giants vow to change global assessments

Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco say global, 21st-century assessments

are key to student success and economic prosperity

By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor, eschool news

Companies say they hope these assessments will spur systemic changes

Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco--three technology giants that last year vowed to increase their efforts aimed at global education reform--have banded together to develop the next generation of assessments: tests that measure 21st-century skills and provide a global framework for excellence.

At the Learning and Technology Forum in London earlier this month, the three 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.

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Texas School Standards: Age of the Universe Erased

Texas school standards next attack: Removing references to the age of the universe.

( -- The fight over the new education and curriculum standards for the public schools in Texas has been long and publicized. Most of the publicity, though, focuses on the school board's focus on "intelligent design" as it relates to the biological question of evolution. Because evolution has long been contested in public schools, it is no real surprise that this has gotten the most play from the media. But one thing that hasn't been mentioned as much is the fact that the Texas school standards also remove mention of the age of the universe. Long-standing ideas of cosmology are being challenged as well.

Originally in the Texas school standards was this phrase: "concept of an expanding universe that originated about 14 billion years ago." However, board member Barbara Cargill thought this wasn't good enough. It was too definite. The standards now read, "current theories of the evolution of the universe including estimates for the age of the universe." You can bet that the age of the earth is not listed in the Texas curriculum as about 4.5 billion years old -- in spite of the fact that most of the people my age and older have known (or rather, estimated) this for years.

There certainly are many different theories about the formation of the universe. Whether it was a big bang or a big bounce are two of them. Cosmologists and astronomers wonder about the rate of expansion in the early universe, and they debate the effects of gravity (not to mention its nature) as well as consider questions about the composition of the universe and the kinds of particles that exist. However, despite the questions that do exist about the origination of the universe, there is very little debate about its age.

Right now, the latest estimate is that the universe is 13.73 billion years old, plus or minus 120 million years. This information is the latest from results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe (WMAP). While the age of the universe is likely to be fine tuned in coming years, it is extremely likely that it will remain in the neighborhood of 14 billion years. And few scientists see the age of the earth being cast in doubt as well. But it appears that cosmology could now be thrown into the fray of science v. religion.

Until now, matters of space have been very little addressed in terms of religion. After all, couldn't God have created the universe well before putting humans on Earth? But it appears that by working from Earth outward, some are becoming concerned. If God created humans on Earth just a few millennia ago, then Earth can't be 4.5 billion years old. And if Earth isn't as old as all that, surely the universe isn't, either. It's an interesting train of logic. And one that could result in all we know about space science being brought under attack.

© 2009

Future of school textbooks written in cyberspace

January 14th, 2009

Northwest Missouri State University students started spring semester classes Monday, but many aren't lugging thick textbooks around campus.

Instead, most students are carrying a lightweight electronic device that can fit in a coat pocket and hold the textbook material for all their classes. Some students will download their text information onto their laptops.

At Northwest, textbooks - at least the bound kind - are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Besides taking a load off students' backs, going textbook-free can save them a lot of money.

The pilot electronic textbook program began in the fall with four classes and about 200 students. This spring, roughly 4,000 of the school's 6,500 students will use electronic textbooks.

"I think that it's the way the world is going," said Dean L. Hubbard, Northwest's president, who is retiring in July after 25 years at the Maryville, Mo., university.

Textbook publishers say many colleges are moving toward using some electronic textbooks, but Northwest's plan to eventually eliminate all bound textbooks makes it a leader in the movement.

"Right now, digital products account for a small percent of our higher education business, but it is growing at a rate that is breathtaking," said Jeffrey Ho, a product manager for McGraw-Hill Education.

But Northwest can only move toward a bookless campus as fast as the availability of e-books allows, Hubbard said.

"Publishers don't have all textbooks online yet," he said. "But I would think as a realistic measure we could be totally out of the printed textbook business in three years."

That idea pleases sophomore Mike Jenkins.

"I think the whole concept is pretty cool," said Jenkins, 19, of Lee's Summit, Mo. Jenkins used e-books in his history class during the fall semester.

"I would like it if we didn't have textbooks at all anymore," he said. "You wouldn't have the hassle of messing with books. The e-book is so convenient, and you don't have to carry all those books around."

Plus, unlike printed textbooks, e-books have pop-up interactive quizzes and the ability to search the full text within seconds for key words. New electronic reader technology also will allow students to take notes in on-screen posted notes.

Jenkins found a few "minor" problems with the e-reader gadget that he and his classmates used.

"You can't look at a whole page on one screen, and it doesn't have a backlight to light up the screen, so you have to be somewhere that is well lit," he said.

Not all students were as comfortable with the electronic textbooks.

"I always worried that something would happen, like it would crash on the night I had to study for a test," said Jennifer Martin, a 22-year-old Northwest senior from Liberty, Mo.

"It's a good concept, but I didn't like it that much. I would rather flip pages back and forth in the textbook when I'm studying. Maybe it would be better to start this with freshmen who haven't yet gotten used to studying using a regular textbook."

Students who want a traditional textbook could still get one.

But the cost savings are hard to ignore, even at Northwest, a school that already is unique because of its textbook rental system and its history of giving every student a laptop.

A textbook-free campus would save the university about $400,000 a year. Currently the university spends about $800,000 a year to keep an inventory of about 50,000 to 80,000 textbooks that are rented out to students. Northwest students pay about $80 to $90 a semester on books, a fraction of what students at other schools pay.

Northwest will continue to charge students just a rental fee. But once the e-book program goes campuswide, Hubbard said, Northwest students' book fee will be cut in half.

E-books are less expensive than bound books, which are updated every few years and then have to be repurchased by the school. E-books can be updated at no cost.

Even at schools without a rental system, students would pay far less for texts on e-books than they would for bound books.

Nationally, the cost of textbooks has soared in the last decade. The average college student spends nearly $1,000 a year on textbooks, according to the National Association of College Stores.

Northwest will purchase the electronic readers and then load them with the e-books each student needs. The student would pick up their loaded e-reader at the university bookstore or have their electronic textbooks loaded on their laptop.

The e-book plan is being phased in, with more faculty members signing up each year to teach classes using electronic textbooks.

"We think that students who are coming to Northwest today are more comfortable with learning from electronic text because they are used to reading from a computer screen," said Paul Klute, assistant to the president at Northwest.

"It's nothing for a student to read for two or three hours on a computer screen."

University faculty members are getting used to the idea of Northwest doing away with bound textbooks, but they hope students can choose to read the e-books on laptops, e-readers or iPods.

"We are going to have to have multiple modes of delivery," said Rod Barr, an agriculture instructor who used the e-reader gadget in one of his fall classes. "Not all students are the same and not all classes use textbooks in the same way."

Barr said the e-reader used by his students had limited use for class discussions requiring students to jump around from chapter to chapter.

"It's a good device for straight front-to-back novel reading, though," he said.

He said the more technologically savvy students in his class used the device the most, "but they also had the greatest expectations."


© 2009, The Kansas City Star.

Visit The Star Web edition on the World Wide Web at 

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

SSoS Spotlight: Substantial School Improvement in Virginia

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2:00 — 3:00 p.m. Eastern

How can state departments of education provide meaningful, effective support to school districts that have schools in danger of, or already in, restructuring? How might state departments of education work more efficiently and effectively to help their school districts avoid becoming overwhelmed by increasing numbers of schools in need of improvement? The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) answered this difficult question with an ongoing series of targeted trainings for local education agencies on research-based indicators of substantial school improvement.

Tune in to "Substantial School Improvement," one in a series of webinars sponsored by the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center (ARCC) and the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center (MACC) that explores how states are leveraging their statewide systems of support to encourage district and school improvement.


Dr. Kathleen Smith, Director of the Office of School Improvement, VDOE

Dr. Keith Smith, Virginia Liaison, ARCC

This event is facilitated by:

Dr. John Ross, Director of Technology, ARCC

Visit to register.

800.624.9120 | |

Post Office Box 1348, Charleston, West Virginia 25325-1348

Governor's Budget Continues Washington's Efforts in STEM Education

Many of Washington's programs aimed at enhancing the skills of educators in science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) fields will continue to receive state support in the coming biennium under Gov. Christine Gregoire's budget proposal - while other TBED initiatives did not fare as well.

The governor's fiscal year 2009-11 budget recommends a total of $17.5 million from the general fund and the Education Legacy Trust Fund to support the state's "foundational math and science effort," which includes school district math and science coaches, math and science standards and curriculum development, after-school math assistance and support for the LASER science program. Specific recommendations include:

$7.5 million to provide grants for instructional coaches in math and science for middle and high schools;

$3.1 million each fiscal year for the LASER program, a statewide program designed to implement an inquiry-based K-8 science education program;

$1.85 million for specialized professional development for one math teacher and one science teacher in each middle and high school;

$1.4 million for three additional professional development days for middle and high school math and science teachers;

$244,000 each fiscal year for conditional stipends for certified teachers to receive training in mathematics or science fields; and

$139,000 each fiscal year for the office of the superintendent of public instruction to coordinate and promote efforts to develop integrated STEM programs across the state.

To help address a projected $5.7 billion shortfall, the governor recommends cutting 13 percent across-the-board for the state's research and regional institutions and 6 percent for community and technical colleges.  Budget documents note that the lower rate of reduction to community and technical colleges is in recognition of their mission in job training and skills essential to the development of the state's economic recovery.

Gov. Gregoire's budget requests $2 million each fiscal year for the Washington Technology Center, down from $2.8 million each fiscal year approved last biennium by lawmakers, and $246,000 for the Manufacturing Innovation and Modernization Account to help small- and mid-size manufacturers access innovation and modernization technical assistance. Legislators approved $306,000 in FY09 for the initiative.

The FY09-11 budget includes another installment of $63.3 million transferred to the Life Sciences Discovery Fund from the Tobacco Settlement Account. The $350 million fund was created by the legislature in 2005 to invest in life science companies using tobacco settlement funds and is expected to reach $1 billion over ten years (see the May 16, 2005 issue of the Digest). In December, the fourth round of awards distributed more than $18 million.

The governor's budget for Natural Resources includes $24.8 million across general funds, other funds, transportation funds and the capital budget to support a variety of climate change initiatives. This includes creating green-collar jobs and investments in renewable energy.

Gov. Christine Gregoire's FY 2009-11 budget proposal is available at:

Virginia Names Physics "Flexbook" Core Team Members

Team members to develop content for VA open-source physics "flexbook"

RICHMOND – Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra and Secretary of Education Tom Morris today announced the selection of thirteen individuals to form a core team to pilot the development and release of an open-source physics "flexbook" for Virginia. This electronic material will focus on high school physics and contain contemporary and emerging 21st century physics and modern laboratory experiments.

The Virginia Physics "Flexbook" project is a collaborative effort of the Secretaries of Education and Technology and the Department of Education that seeks to elevate the quality of physics instruction across the Commonwealth by allowing educators to create and compile supplemental materials relating to 21st century physics in an open-source format that can be used to strengthen physics content. The Commonwealth is partnering with the Palo Alto, California-based non-profit, CK-12 on this initiative as they will provide the free, open-source technology platform to facilitate the publication of the newly developed content as a "flexbook" – defined simply as an adaptive, web-based set of instructional materials.

"We need transformational ideas to ensure all Virginians are educated to compete in an increasingly competitive global economy," said Secretary Chopra. "This pilot initiative is a step in the right direction to introduce our students to contemporary physics topics and lab materials at no additional cost to the taxpayers or students," added Secretary Morris.

The need for this type of material was made clear in recommendations from a panel of practicing physicists that met in the summer of 2007 under the auspices of Virginia's Secretary of Education to review the current Virginia physics content standards of learning (SOL). The panel found that while well-written and clear, the current physics SOL fall short of what our children will need to participate in the 21st century global economy. In particular, the panel recommended that dated material be supplemented by contemporary physics of the most recent 50 years and provide laboratories that engage students with industry state-of-the-practice equipment. Furthermore, the panel recommended that teachers have access to an open-source software capability in order to develop curriculum content in a more timely fashion.

This pilot is also aimed at evaluating the potential cost savings associated with moving to the use of more electronic texts as well as to analyze the value add for teachers when offered the capability to customize a text to their needs for any given year or for any set of students through simple editing.

The core team was selected based on the evaluation of responses to a request for collaboration released on September 9, 2008. The team plans to complete and release the initial content by February 2009. The members of the core team and their affiliations are:

Mike Fetsko, Henrico County Public Schools

David Slykhuis, James Madison University

Mark Mattson, James Madison University

Tom O'Neil, Shenandoah Valley Governor's School

Bruce Davidson,  Newport News Public Schools (retired)

Angela Cutshaw, Newport News Public Schools

Mark Clemente, VA Beach Public Schools/National Institute of Aerospace

Andy Jackson, Harrisonburg Public Schools

David Stern, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center (retired)

John Ochab, J. Sargent Reynolds Community College

Tapas Kar, Utah State University

Tony Wayne, Albemarle County Public Schools

Pranav Gokhale, Montgomery County, MD Schools (student)

Jim Batterson will lead this effort for the Commonwealth and Professor David Armstrong of the College of William and Mary physics department will serve as technical advisor.

This announcement also seeks additional affiliate members from throughout the Commonwealth to follow the development of v 1.0 to be released on February 27, 2009 and to participate in subsequent releases.

Office of the Governor Timothy M. Kaine

© Commonwealth of Virginia 2009

E-learning can have positive effect on classroom learning,

scholar says  

Traditional classroom teaching in higher education could learn a thing or two from online teaching, otherwise known as e-learning, according to a University of Illinois professor who studies computer-mediated communication, information exchange and the Internet.

Caroline Haythornthwaite, a professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, says that the value of e-learning has been underrated at the college level, and that some of its methods and techniques can augment traditional classroom learning.

"Compared to the more traditional educational paradigm – the broadcast model, where knowledge is delivered from professor to student from on-high – e-learning turns teaching and learning into a shared endeavor," she said.

E-learning is defined as technology-based learning. Lectures, homework, quizzes and exams are delivered almost entirely or completely online. In some instances, no in-person interaction takes place over the length of the course.

A global economy hungry for customized, portable and on-demand educational platforms coupled with the Internet's rise to dominance as the ubiquitous medium of information delivery means that e-learning is increasingly gaining respect as an innovative and viable pedagogical tool, especially for subjects that require multimedia, collaboration tools (wikis, blogs and course-management systems, for example), and other bandwidth-hungry applications prevalent today.

At Illinois, Haythornthwaite teaches in classrooms real and virtual in the college's 13-year-old LEEP program, a distance-education program that enables graduate students to complete a master of science in library and information science, a certificate of advanced study or a K-12 library and information science certificate online.

For the current crop of more than 700 students seeking a master's degree through GSLIS at Illinois, a little more than half are online students.

Haythornthwaite said she enjoys the robust interaction with her online students.

"With the online classes," she said, "I interact with my students more frequently, dropping into asynchronous discussion daily for a half-hour or an hour. With my traditional classes, I might see them once a week for three hours. If there's a news article I want my online students to read, I can post it and discussion can begin right away. With my classroom students, if I e-mail them an article on Tuesday and we meet for class on Friday, that's one of many things we might discuss. The impact isn't quite as immediate."

Compared with the traditional, face-to-face classroom learning that centers on instructors dictating content and pedagogy, e-learning is a more learner-friendly alternative, also allowing the role of a teacher to be quite different in an e-learning environment, Haythornthwaite said.

"Since there's an emphasis on more learner-centric activities than traditional lecture-based classroom learning, the teacher is more of a facilitator in an online classroom," she said. "Not only does that enhance the collaborative nature of online learning, it also motivates students to be much more engaged and to take more responsibility for what they're learning."

However much e-learning may reshape education, Haythornthwaite noted that it's not necessarily meant to supplant classroom learning, but is more of a supplement to it. She cited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's example of putting all of its classroom materials online for non-commercial use in 2001 as an example of how "blended learning" can be created from a mixture of e-learning and classroom interaction.

"No one stopped going to class when all that material was posted," she said. "It simply changed the delivery method and broadened the scope of knowledge available."

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Should textbooks or technology be Texas' spending priority?


Some legislators say more education money should go toward digital media.

By Kate Alexander


A 19th-century concept of learning is holding back Texas from bringing school technology into the present, some legislators say.

Back in 1854, legislators guaranteed Texas schoolchildren access to free textbooks by establishing an educational endowment known as the Permanent School Fund .

And though textbooks are now in many situations giving way to digital media in the classroom, state spending on school technology, such as computers and Internet connectivity, has been dwarfed by the resources put toward textbooks.

State Rep. Dan Branch , R-Dallas, said he is concerned that the state is wasting its resources on "old vehicles" because some people believe a textbook is necessary for conveying knowledge to students.

"A textbook is a vehicle for content," Branch said. "That vehicle is quickly becoming a horse and buggy."

Since 1992, the state has allocated each year $30 per student for technology, which totals about $134 million in the current budget.

The bill for textbooks in the 2008-2009 budget was $496 million and will reach $913 million in the upcoming budget. Almost all of the $1.15 billion from the Permanent School Fund in the 2010-11 budget will be needed to pay for textbooks.

Branch, a member of the House Public Education Committee , would like to use some money from the textbook fund to pay for technology hardware so that more students can access lessons electronically.

But the Texas attorney general said in a 2006 opinion that textbook funds must be used for "conveying information" and cannot be used for purchasing hardware.

Branch argues that computer hardware is no different than the paper, cardboard and glue that make up a textbook, for which the school fund has always paid.

And the technology will improve the delivery of those lessons because students will see it as more relevant and dynamic, Branch said.

Although online curriculum is commonplace, access to needed technology hardware has been a limiting factor for schools to use that resource, said Anita Givens , acting associate commissioner for standards and programs at the Texas Education Agency.

Fewer than 7 percent of school campuses statewide have reached the target of providing a computer for every student and having all classrooms fully equipped and wired for the Internet, according to a state survey published this fall. On about 57 percent of the campuses, there are four students per computer, and three-quarters of the classrooms and library have Internet connectivity.

State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, offered a recommendation at a recent hearing that money be moved from textbooks to technology in order to speed access to online learning.

The State Board of Education, which has authority over the Permanent School Fund, has long objected to such a move, though the final decision belongs to the Legislature.

Chairman Don McLeroy said the board does not want to see the school fund money wasted on technology that could quickly become obsolete.

But McLeroy is warming to the idea as technology prices come down and more research shows of the value of technology in learning, he said.; 445-3618

Find this article at: 

Why some students prefer virtual schooling

At a NACOL symposium, virtual-school students discuss why they left their regular schools in favor of online instruction

By Laura Devaney, Senior Editor

eSchoolNews Friday, December 5, 2008

Virutal-school students say they enjoy the flexibility online classes provide.What motivates a growing number of virtual-school students to forgo the traditional school structure and take their classes entirely online?

At the Virtual School Symposium hosted in mid-October in Phoenix by the North American Council for Online Learning, virtual-school students explained they like being able to progress at their own pace--and some said they appreciate being able to take classes not offered by their traditional, bricks-and-mortar school.

Roger Sanchez said he left his conventional California school because he wanted to study at his own pace while holding a job outside of school and focusing his attention on out-of-school topics that related to his college interests.

"I was looking for something different to fit my schedule, and the traditional system wasn't making the cut," said Sanchez, who is taking multiple Advanced Placement courses and plans to study computer science or graphic design in college.

"You can create your own schedule. ... It's not the same routine I'd have in the traditional system, and I can get more of what I want to do done," he said.

Sanchez said an online school also lets him choose courses that a traditional school might not offer, such as courses that focus more on computer science and graphics.

"I'm really drawn by technology--that's one of the main reasons I joined the school," he said. "In the traditional system, [the] main problem is that classes [move] only as fast as the slowest student ... so it doesn't adapt to your own learning style and learning environment. It really slows you down if you want to get ahead."

Sanchez is a senior at Insight School of California-Los Angeles, one of a national network of full-time, diploma-granting, public online high schools. The network is run by Insight Schools Inc., a subsidiary of Apollo Group Inc., which also operates the all-online University of Phoenix.

Insight Schools is part of a rapidly expanding market for online education that also includes companies such as Connections Academy, K12 Inc., EdisonLearning (formerly Edison Schools Inc.), and others. A study released during the Virtual School Symposium confirms that the total number of full-time virtual-school students in the United States is on the rise, "along with a continued increase in the number of new full-time programs." (See "Report assesses K-12 online learning.")

Education leaders would be wise to listen to what students such as Sanchez had to say, and consider ways they can build opportunities for self-paced learning and more freedom of choice into their own school offerings--or else risk losing a growing number of students to online schools that operate outside their domain.

Enrolling in a virtual school not only frees up time for students to pursue other interests, it also teaches them valuable time-management skills, said Geoffrey Wall, a Tempe, Ariz., senior who has been enrolled in Arizona Connections Academy for five years.

Five years ago, Wall was a competitive figure skater who found himself waking up at 4 a.m. each day to train for his sport and make it to school on time.

"It was becoming something of a problem," he said. Wall's mother looked into home-schooling her son but found few resources to help her. The family's local school district offered no help or advice, either, he said, and finally Wall's mother stumbled across a local newspaper article about Connections Academy.

Wall is no longer involved in competitive figure skating, but he found he enjoyed his classes with Connections Academy and reasoned that switching not only schools, but also learning styles, in the middle of his high school experience would not have been beneficial.

Now, Wall begins his mornings by logging onto Connections Academy and choosing a handful of lessons to complete.

"Depending on the day, I might have more or I might have less, and once I finish them, I'm free to do whatever I want," he said. "If I have to take a day off, I might get on and do an extra day of work or fit in an extra lesson."

Working so independently encourages the same type of time-management skills that college students need to be successful, he said. Managing classes, assignments, and social activities can be daunting, but Wall has a firm grasp on his routine.

"With a normal high school, everything is always scheduled for you," he said. "With [online learning], you have to keep on top of things."

Some people might wonder if Wall feels deprived of the typical social aspects of a bricks-and-mortar high school, but he says he does not.

"I've got friends from when I was attending traditional school, and friends through karate and [who] I meet from other activities, like camps," he said.

Wall has even met his virtual classmates through organized field trips. He is able to collaborate with his classmates virtually through his computer, as well as chat with both teachers and peers on a regular basis.

Connections Academy students have access to guidance counselors to help them navigate the college application process. Adding a high school component to the company's virtual offerings made it necessary to provide a robust guidance-counselor support staff, a company representative said.

Even virtual-school teachers at the symposium said they liked many of the freedoms that come with teaching in an online environment.

Not just students, but teachers, too, can become frustrated in a traditional school setting, because much of their time is devoted to tasks such as asking students for late passes or collecting various assignments, said Mishele Newkirk-Smith, a former classroom teacher in Washington state who is now a science teacher with Insight School of Washington.

"I'm not a disciplinarian now; I'm an educator," she said, adding: "Online, there is more one-on-one education."

"I have always looked for ... alternative ways for students to learn. All students do not learn the same way--they are totally different," said Deloris Brown, a former school principal who is currently principal of Insight School of South Carolina.

In a traditional classroom, educators can "try to think outside of the box, but you're still faced with the one-size-fits-all model," she said. "If we know that all students are different, then we have to do something different. This is going to be one of the major reform efforts that education will see."


Virtual School Symposium 

Insight Schools 

Connections Academy 

Eighth-grade ISAT standards not aligned with high school demands, college readiness 

The study, From High School to the Future: The Pathway to 20, was inspired by a new goal in Chicago Public Schools to have their juniors reach a goal of 20 or above on the ACT. It was based on a longitudinal analysis of more than 40,000 students from three junior classes (2005, 2006 and 2007) in Chicago Public Schools.

Students who just meet Illinois testing standards in eighth grade have virtually no chance of scoring a 20 or above on the ACT, according to a study released Friday by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.

This finding points to a "major misalignment" between the standards set by the state ISAT tests in elementary school and the college-readiness standards expected of all juniors in Illinois high schools as measured by the ACT, which is part of the state's PSAE exams. It takes a score into the Exceeds Standards category on the eighth-grade ISAT to have a relatively good shot at scoring well on the ACT in eleventh grade.

The study, From High School to the Future: The Pathway to 20, was inspired by a new goal in Chicago Public Schools to have their juniors reach a goal of 20 or above on the ACT. It was based on a longitudinal analysis of more than 40,000 students from three junior classes (2005, 2006 and 2007) in Chicago Public Schools. An ACT score of 20 is actually lower than the state average and college-readiness benchmarks set by ACT, but was seen as a realistic goal for Chicago students because graduates with this score or better have a good chance of being accepted into Illinois state universities.

"Having such low academic standards in eighth grade serves no one well, least of all the students who eke through and then are surprised to find themselves unprepared to do well in high school, let alone college," wrote John Easton, executive director at the Consortium and the study's lead author. "Perhaps we are sending students and schools the wrong message about the adequacy of elementary students academic preparation, especially for the vast majority of students who have their eyes on college in the future."

To understand the pathway to 20, researchers also tracked back from the ACT to see students' progress on prior tests. In addition to the ACT, all CPS high school students also take two other tests developed by ACT. These tests, the EXPLORE and PLAN, along with the ACT, make up EPAS—the Education Planning and Assessment System. The EPAS system is now used widely in other Illinois high schools.

The key findings include:

-- An ISAT math score of 267—the median score for Illinois eighth-graders in 2006--results in about a 26 percent chance of reaching a 20 on the ACT three years later, based on this analysis. For those students just barely meeting standards (a math score of 246), only 3 percent scored a 20 or above on the ACT. (The analysis focused on ISAT math scores because math is a slightly stronger predictor of the ACT composite than ISAT reading scores, but the relationship holds equally well with reading scores).

-- For those students who just inch their way into the Exceeds Standards category with a score of 288, the probability of reaching 20 is about 62 percent.

-- The average ACT score for students who "meet standards" is 17.5 (very close to the CPS average), and a very small portion of them reach 20. Only students in the "exceeds" category have an average ACT score above 20 (average is 23.3), and most of them reach 20.

-- Students' ninth-grade EXPLORE composite scores also strongly predict whether they will reach a 20 or better on the ACT. Virtually no students with very low scores (15 and below) on EXPLORE make it to 20 on ACT. About 30 percent of students who scored 16 on ninth grade EXPLORE (the national average) reached 20 on the ACT. Virtually all students with high EXPLORE scores (18 and above) make it to 20 on the ACT.

While previous achievement test scores predict ACT scores, they do not determine them. There are many students who start in the same place but end up different from each other, the study found. It is students' school experiences that play such a strong role in determining academic achievement.

To understand those school experiences, the report also builds on key findings revealed in recent Consortium research that has delved deeply into other factors that influence students' success in high school and their college readiness:

-- In What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public High Schools, the authors show how the academic culture of high schools affect freshman attendance rates, freshman failure rates, and freshman grade point averages. Indicators of positive student and teacher relation­ships have strong positive impacts on all three student outcomes. In schools where there are strong reports from students on student-teacher trust, freshmen have 2.30 fewer days absent per semester, 0.78 fewer failures per semester, and their grade point averages are 0.23 points higher than students with similar background characteristics (including prior test scores) who attend similar schools.

-- Students who attend high schools with a strong academic climate and earn better grades gained more than twice as much on the EPAS test as their peers in the weaker schools and with lower grades. When analyzing all students who started with a 17 on the EXPLORE test, those in the first group improved 3.7 points on their ACT, while the second group only gained 1.4 points. "Strong high schools" are those in which relationships between teachers and students are stronger, there is greater academic press on students, students learn that doing well in high school matters for the future, and their teachers encourage and support their interest in going to college and help them get there.

"Simply raising standards for students in CPS or state-wide is not a solution," Easton writes. "We see very strong students who do not reach even 20 on the ACT. This is a less an indictment of the standards than an indication that there are strong students who are being ill served by their high schools. We should have high expectations for our schools as well as for students. And our expectations for strong performance by all students need to start early in the elementary grades, if not in preschool."


Provided by University of Chicago


Personalised learning puts students in a class of their own 

A new learning platform is giving the traditional classroom a radical makeover. Using innovative ICT technology, iClass is putting pupils at the centre of the learning experience and providing them with more control over what they learn.

Every parent believes their child is unique. And they are right. Every pupil has their own individual strengths and weaknesses, and their own particular way of learning. However, putting this commonsense observation into practice is no mean feat, and our schools have generally not been very successful at personalising the learning experience.

In fact, the image of classrooms as ‘knowledge factories’ has not changed much since the Industrial Revolution, despite the major advances in teaching methods that have occurred. This model holds that teachers input information, pupils process it, and out comes the learning in neat little packages.

“A school is not a factory,” bemoaned British novelist JL Carr in his acclaimed novel, The Harpole Report, which tells the story of a primary school headmaster. “Its raison d’être is to provide opportunity for experience.”

In recent decades, learning theories have shifted to a ‘student-centred’ focus, and moved attention away from the teacher, as the imparter of all knowledge and wisdom, towards the pupil or student, while the educator’s role has become more that of a mentor and facilitator. However, the standardisation of demanding school curricula and the often-large sizes of classrooms make the transition to this more personalised form of learning difficult.

ICTs present an opportunity to place the learner at the centre of the learning experience. Traditionally, computers and other information technologies have been treated as subjects in curricula, as word processors or, with the advent of the internet, as powerful research tools for assignments. But ICTs are gradually evolving to become an integral component of the learning experience in general.

Learning gets personal

The EU-funded iClass project has been working to develop an innovative learning platform based on the concept of self-regulated personalised learning (SRPL) which is designed to empower pupils aged 14 to 18 to take more control of the learning process. Led by Siemens IT Solutions and Services, the project brings together 17 partners from the EU, Turkey and Israel to develop an intelligent cognitive-based open learning system and environment.

“We aim to make education more effective, worthwhile and, above all, enjoyable,” explains Eric Meyvis, the project’s coordinator. “Pupils are becoming increasingly unmotivated. We are using ICTs, the internet and an attractive interface to make learning more fun.”

SRPL boosts a pupil’s motivation to learn by personalising the learning process, placing an emphasis on self-direction and self-reliance, and trusting the learner to make mindful and meaningful choices. The model follows three distinct stages: planning, learning and reflecting.

In practice, this means that a teacher creates a learning plan based on a goal to be achieved, suggesting some sub-goals and activities, while some activities can be left ‘open’ for the student to shape. Students then click on the ‘Learn’ button to start the assignment. During this process, a system called ‘tips and alerts’ provides the pupil with some optional guidance. A personal journal encourages the learner to reflect on their choices and what they have learnt.

The path to lifelong learning

Teenagers spend 15% of their time in a school setting, while adults spend a meagre 3% in formal education. The upshot of this is the increasing recognition of informal, as well as lifelong, learning as an important aspect of education. The web-based iClass platform is well placed to link seamlessly the formal and informal learning environment.

It has been designed to provide pupils with ubiquitous access to encourage them to exploit formal and informal learning environments to the maximum.

In addition, by promoting greater self-reliance and a passion for inquiry among pupils, iClass helps equip them with crucial attitudes for the emerging knowledge-based economy, which requires people to update and upgrade their skills and knowledge constantly throughout their lives.

Nothing like a real teacher

At first, the iClass project set itself the ambitious and unrealistic aim of creating an electronic substitute for the teacher.

“We were convinced that the platform could replace teachers, but we soon discovered that this was too technology oriented. We refocused the project to strike more of a balance between technology and pedagogy,” recalls Meyvis.

Instead, the platform has evolved to aid the teacher in empowering his or her charges. It also promotes a more open approach to education. However, this departure places new demands on teachers.

“It is a big challenge for schools to switch from traditional learning to iClass methodology, and that is why we have developed a teacher training package. We piloted the training material and teachers were generally enthusiastic about it and the platform,” notes Meyvis.

The platform also recognises that the school curriculum in different countries places different demands on teachers, and so has built-in flexibility to allow the system to be customised.

“We have created a versatile infrastructure and it will be up to developers to take the next step and customise the platform for individual countries,” says Meyvis.

A leading German publisher is already developing content for the German market and opportunities abound for developers in other countries to tailor the system to other national markets.

iClass was funded by the ICT strand of the Union’s Sixth Framework Programme for research.

Provided by ICT Results

Digital Disconnect' divides kids, educators

Most principals think their schools prepare students for 21st-century careers -- but students disagree

By Maya T. Prabhu, Assistant Editor -eschool news

Students say limited use of technology in school leaves them less prepared for 21st century jobs

Students and educators disagree on whether their schools are preparing graduates adequately for the jobs of the 21st century, a speaker at an Oct. 15 webcast said.

Two-thirds of principals in a recent survey said they believe their school is preparing students to be competitive in the global workforce. But most tech-savvy students didn't share that view, said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow (formerly known as NetDay).

Read article at:

Lynch, FIRST aim for all high schools


New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER – Dean Kamen's celebrated competition of remote-controlled robots could be wheeled and whirled out to every public high school in New Hampshire by 2010.

Gov. John Lynch announced the goal at a news conference yesterday. Members of the state's business community, technology industry and university system accepted the challenge.

Twenty-eight of 87 high schools now participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition.

"It's a smart investment in New Hampshire's future," Lynch said before watching students from Londonderry, Manchester and Merrimack demonstrate robotic vehicles at FIRST headquarters in Manchester.

But Kamen, speaking by video link from a technology conference in Las Vegas, underscored the need to recruit enough professional mentors to preserve the quality of the program he founded in 1989.

"The magic of FIRST is all about the mentors," he said. "If we scale up the number of teams without equally scaling up the mentors, we suffer a huge risk."

The inventor and entrepreneur, whose love of science led him to create live-improving devices and the Segway Human Transporter, said FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) can be a life-changing experience for a lot of young people.

An estimated 53,000 mentors will work with 194,000 students in 41 regional competitions for the 2008-09 season. They rely on another 33,000 event volunteers.

Hundreds of employees at BAE Systems, the sponsor of the Granite State regional, have helped FIRST students in the past. The company's New Hampshire headquarters would step up its support, said Clark Dumont, vice president of communications for the Electronics & Integrated Solutions operating group of Britain-based BAE Systems. The E&amp;amp;IS group is based in Nashua.

"We accept your challenge," Dumont said.

In a statement, the Nashua BAE unit's CEO Walt Havenstein said FIRST would help create future engineers and scientists to keep America competitive in a global environment. "This is the only competition where every participant on every team can turn pro," said Havenstein.

New Hampshire High Technology Council President Fred Kocher and New Hampshire Education Commissioner Lyonel B. Tracy also endorsed the challenge.

Tracy said the state Department of Education is also dedicated to finding a way to give students credit for participation in the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Edward Dupont, chairman of the University System of New Hampshire board of trustees, described it as an economic imperative because companies are desperately seeking engineering and computer science graduates.

"We're going to get in the game and help," Dupont said.

FIRST Robotics competitions challenge teams of high school students and professional mentors to solve a common problem using a standard parts kit and a common set of rules. Teams are rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, and their ability to overcome obstacles.

After a Manchester Central High School team showed Lynch how its robot operated yesterday, sophomores Steven Kroh, Riley Larkins and Michael Lazos said FIRST keeps the competitors on their toes. It involves critical thinking, innovation and teamwork.

The biggest challenge? "Time," said a smiling Lazos. "We only get six weeks."

All three students said FIRST is just the start of their learning and a life in science and technology.

As Kamen said, FIRST is more than nuts and bolts and a remote-controlled vehicle.

"They're not building robots," he said yesterday. "They're building self confidence. They're building an understanding of what the world is like for people that are properly prepared."

Free textbook for one of most-taught community college courses

Rice's Connexions publishes introductory statistics book online

HOUSTON -- Aug 13, 2008 -- Rice University's Connexions, one of the most-visited online sites for open-educational resources, today announced it is making a popular textbook available free this fall for one of the country's most-attended transfer-level community college courses -- elementary statistics. The book, "Collaborative Statistics," has been used for more than a decade in California community college courses accepted for transfer credit by one of the nation's premier public university systems, the University of California. The online version of the book has already been chosen as the primary text for fall classes enrolling more than 700 students.

"'Collaborative Statistics' helps reduce the cost of education for students while providing them with the highest-quality educational content," said Connexions' Executive Director Joel Thierstein. "The release of the book in Connexions makes it possible for students all over the world to study this subject for free."

Rice acquired the rights to the book through the generosity of the Maxfield Foundation, which was founded by Rice alumnus and trustee Robert Maxfield to support scientific research and education.

More than 90,000 U.S. students take a statistics course at a community college each year and many pay $100 or more for a traditional statistics textbook. According to the nonprofit, the average U.S. college student spends about $900 per year on textbooks, and textbook prices are increasing faster than inflation. The problem has attracted increasing attention from policymakers since the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported on it in 2005, and legislation aimed at curbing textbook costs has been introduced in at least nine states and the U.S. House.

"Collaborative Statistics" is already available online at One of the book's co-authors, Barbara Illowsky, professor of mathematics and statistics at De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif., said about a dozen instructors at community college campuses in California have already selected the book for their courses this fall.

Illowsky and her co-author, recently retired De Anza mathematics professor Susan Dean, had noticed that more and more students were struggling to pay for textbooks, and sometimes dropped out because they could not afford books. The two were drawn to the idea of making "Collaborative Statistics" freely available online as an open textbook, both to cut college costs for students and provide more instructional options for teachers.

"Open textbooks reduce the cost of education so students can stay in school," Illowsky said. "They also allow faculty to customize text to address the needs of their students. It's a win-win situation."

Connexions worked closely with the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) in publishing the online version of "Collaborative Statistics." The CCCOER was established by California’s Foothill-De Anza Community College District and is made up of more than 70 community colleges in California, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Washington and Ontario, Canada.

"In Connexions, the content is completely adaptable and thus can meet the needs of the particular state or instructor," Thierstein said. "In Connexions, instructors, schools and/or states can rearrange the lessons, reorder the chapters, add their own materials and modify lessons, and thus every instructor at every school in every state can have their own version of this book."

The book is available online for free. Students can print their own PDF versions of all or parts of the book from their own printers. If they prefer to have a bound copy, they can order one online through Connexions and have it shipped to their home or office. Bound copies cost just $31.95. The printed books are produced by Mill Valley, Calif.-based print-on-demand vendor QOOP Inc., which signed a print agreement with Connexions in 2006.

Lesson plans and videotaped lectures that comprise Illowsky’s statistics course, as well as suggested homework, quizzes and exams, will also be available for free online in Connexions in the months to come.

"There is a tremendous need for high-quality open textbooks created specifically for use in community colleges," said Martha Kanter, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, which is leading a feasibility study of different textbook models through the Community College Open Textbook Project. "The tools to publish free books and courses are available, and obtaining the rights to existing texts, as Rice and Connexions have done, is one way to quickly make more textbooks for high-demand courses available for free."

About Connexions

Founded in 1999 as one of the first online open-educational resources (OER), Connexions has long pioneered digital education. Connexions is a platform and repository for OER that lets people create, share, modify and vet open educational materials that are accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime for free via the Web. Connexions' modular interactive information is in use by universities, community colleges, primary and secondary schools and lifelong learners worldwide. The number of people using Connexions has grown by 40 percent over the past year. With peak traffic of up to 850,000 visitors per month, it is one of the world's most popular OER sites.

GUEST OPINION: Improving schools: Just Do It!

By Anthony Berkley

The Herald News

Posted Aug 08, 2008 @ 02:30 PM

Look at an iPod or the award-winning new running shoe, the Free. Simple, cool, and there’s a lot of science and engineering here.

Innovative corporations like Nike and Apple know how to reach their school-age customers with products and services that expand minds and build bodies. They have a deep understanding of the needs and interests of young people — and a keen eye for design.

The business magazines are figuring out the lesson: Good innovation and design balances scientific analysis with artistic creativity. It’s this combination that leads to success in the global market.Can you imagine a lengthy public shouting match over the next nano or swoosh color? Probably not, because they … Just Do It.

How do these lessons translate into schools and the debates about how to improve education in the United States?

With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, education leaders in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida and elsewhere are discovering new solutions to perennial school challenges by using a method called “human-centered design.”

Human-centered design starts from the premise that those closest to the problem — parents, teachers and students — may have good ideas for solving it. And since they’ll have to implement any solution, it’s best to involve them early in the process.This is revolutionary for the education field as outside experts rule the day in typical school reform efforts. Parents, teachers and students are rarely even consulted.

Our work took a different approach.

From parents, we learned that schools are intimidating and hard to communicate with. Teachers feel overwhelmed and don’t always reach out like they want to. Students want to be engaged in ways that involve creative right brain activities as much as analytic left brain ones.

The first sets of designs have been published as “Tangible Steps Toward Tomorrow” and are freely available at One surprise is how much these potential designs focus on connecting — connecting parents more meaningfully with teachers; students with one another; and classrooms to community resources.

Consider Massachusetts 2020, a Boston-area nonprofit that works with public schools to add an extra few hours to the school day. This simple, concrete innovation — a longer school day — opens up a wealth of new opportunities to connect and enrich. It gives teachers the time they need to really teach core subjects well and explore student interests as well as their own passions. Modern dance, poetry, neighborhood history and other creative subjects round out the school’s curriculum. The result: Students do better on tests and everyone feels more satisfied and engaged.

We know the United States spends more on education than any other country. We also know that our students lag well behind many industrialized countries in terms of academic achievement. Yet, when we discuss education, the focus narrows to the traditional issues: teacher qualifications, state standards and achievement gaps.

It is not hard to imagine how forward-thinking companies like Nike or Apple would react to this situation. Such corporations are well-known for staying on the cutting edge through their commitment to design. Famously, their products balance research and engineering with great look and feel. And from Helsinki to Singapore consumers know what these brands stand for and are willing to pay a premium.

In an increasingly global economy, we need a new vision for public education in America. Our young people may be carrying iPods and walking on Nikes, but what they really need is a well-designed education featuring the most competitive skills — and the coolest brand.

Anthony Berkley is the deputy director of Education and Learning at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. 

Governors Challenge Youth to Solve Real-world Industry Problem

Armed with professional advice from mentors in scientific fields and free access to sophisticated design and engineering software, teachers and students from Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont and Virginia will participate in a national competition to solve a real-world engineering challenge defined by the aviation industry.

The idea behind the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Real World Design Challenge is to create a pipeline of highly qualified workers by preparing high school students for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields based on issues facing high-tech and defense industries.

Ralph Coppola, director of Worldwide Education for Parametric Technology Corporation, said many aerospace and defense companies that work as contractors to national security agencies are concerned the U.S. is not producing enough qualified workers who must be able to work on both the defense and commercial side. A survey conducted with these companies in the Northeast found 54 percent of the workforce is 45 years or older and one-third are eligible for retirement today. At the same time, engineering degrees make up only 5 percent of the total baccalaureate population in the U.S., Coppola said.

U.S. Continues to Trail Behind in STEM Graduates

A coalition of 16 leading business organizations echoed this concern with the release of a report last month assessing three years’ progress in working toward a goal of doubling the number of students earning bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields by 2015. The report by Tapping America’s Potential indicates growing support for the group’s agenda to advance U.S. competitiveness in STEM, but shows little progress toward the goal. In fact, the number of degrees in STEM fields awarded to undergraduate students has only grown by 24,000 since 2005 – a small increase that is not on track to reach the goal of 400,000 over the next seven years, the report finds.

The Real World Design Challenge hopes to reverse this trend by providing high school students with the background and framework for competing more effectively in the global economy. In designing the program, aerospace and defense companies voiced a need for employees having seven to 10 years of experience and the necessary education and skills. Recognizing that this requirement would add another decade to the pipeline, program administrators suggested integrating the real-world experience at the K-12 and undergraduate level. 

Engaging Youth in Real-world Situations

Ten states with significant aerospace industry presence were invited to participate in the challenge during the pilot year. So far, six states have confirmed their participation, beginning with an announcement last month from Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. Next year, the challenge will be open to all U.S. states and territories. Once a school has signed on, the teachers are trained to use software and other tools to apply in teaching design and global engineering. Teachers will then lead teams of 3-7 students who will work on the same design challenge defined by Cessna engineers – an issue currently being addressed in the aviation industry.

Each participating teacher will receive nearly $1 million in engineering software to be used in the challenge. Teachers and students are given access to DOE energy laboratories and may consult with industry experts from the Federal Aviation Administration. Teams will submit their solutions to a review board consisting of experts in government, K-12 education, higher education and industry. The governors of each participating state will announce a winning team within their state in early spring who will then go on to compete in a national challenge in Washington, D.C., which consists of a written submission and oral presentation on a newly defined challenge.

A major goal of the challenge is to teach students to become better innovators, Coppola said. The student teams are built around real industry roles, including a project manager, scientist, engineer, and community relations and marketing specialist. The national presentation will be much like submitting and defending a proposal for a contract or a thesis in which students are challenged and must defend their position, Coppola said.

More information on the Real World Design Challenge, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration, Parametric Technology Corporation, Hewlett-Packard Corporation and Flometrics Inc., is available at:

U.Va.'s John Bean Wins IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award


Professor John C. Bean


July 23, 2008 — John C. Bean, the J.M. Money Professor of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia, is the 2009 winner of the IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award from the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology.

Bean was given the award "for providing opportunities to both undergraduate and pre-college students for discovery through both laboratory projects and virtual experiments on the World Wide Web."

A member of the U.Va.  faculty since 1997, Bean received his B.S. from the California Institute of Technology in 1972, followed by M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University in 1974 and 1976, respectively. His degrees were all in applied physics.

Upon graduation Bean took a position in the Solid State Electronics Research Laboratory of Bell Labs, Murray Hill, N.J. and became Distinguished Member of Technical Staff in 1985 and head of the Materials Science Research Department in 1986.

At Bell Labs he synthesized the first practical silicon-germanium strained layer films and explored their physical properties and device application. That work led to his being named an IEEE fellow in 1991 and to his inclusion on Science Citation Index’s list of "Most Highly Cited Researchers" in Materials Science.

After joining U.Va., Bean developed a particular interest in bringing micro and nano technology to undergraduates and members of the general public. To accomplish this with minimal use of math and jargon, he developed online tutorials based on 3D animations in 1999 under National Science Foundation (NSF) funding. These grew into the "UVA Virtual Lab," a public science education Web site ( (See New Resources)

By the summer of 2008, visitors from more than 2,000 different educational institutions had viewed more than 4 million Web pages of micro and nano technology content on the site. Under a second NSF initiative, Bean has now added full online teaching materials for a prototype "Hands-on Introduction to Nanoscience" class that targets freshmen of all majors.

Bean holds 14 U.S. patents and has published 300 technical papers. These include invited reviews in The Proceedings of the IEEE, Physics Today and Science magazines. In 2004, he received a U.Va.  All University Teaching Award

Through its global membership, IEEE is a leading authority on areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics among others. IEEE has more than 375,000 members, including nearly 80,000 student members, in more than 160 countries

Source: UVA

Professor John C. Bean-Biography: 

Giving learning a personal touch 

A learning system that adapts to the abilities and needs of students opens the way to a more personalised approach in delivering education electronically.


The use of the web as a teaching medium has not had the success that many had hoped it would. Universities around the world have placed much of their teaching online, accessible from their websites. Many open and distance learning institutions are relying heavily on the web as a means of distributing teaching material to students working at home.

Yet somehow reading a computer screen and interacting with software is not the same as studying in a classroom or a laboratory and e-learning has had a mixed reception.

“The problem is that such an approach is technology driven,” says Pierluigi Ritrovato of the Research Centre in Pure and Applied Mathematics (CRMPA) near Salerno, Italy. “The web is a wonderful tool for delivering content so people imagine that this technology is suitable for e-learning. So all the efforts have been going into producing some content and then finding technological solutions for delivering it.”

A second, subtler problem is that the teaching content itself contains assumptions about the kind of person the student is and what kind of teaching approach is appropriate. The student or distance teacher is not able to adapt easily the contents to the needs of the student.

What e-learning software has overlooked until now is that no two students are the same. They have different backgrounds, different learning styles and different approaches to learning. A technological medium that ‘delivers’ the same material in the same way to every student is bound to fail.

Models of learning

European researchers in the EU-funded project ELeGI (European Learning Grid Infrastructure) decided to take a new approach to e-learning. They designed key network software designed around models of how people learn.

Ritrovato, who is one of the project’s scientific coordinators, cites the example of people who want to learn a programming language.

“I might like to work with experiments while others are more interested in reading and understanding, or doing exercises or perhaps by a ‘learning by doing’ approach,” he says. “The learning model is general enough to take all these aspects into account in a comprehensive way.”

The consortium of universities and research centres involved in the project pursued two research lines. On one hand, researchers focused on formal learning such as in educational institutions. On the other, they researched methods of informal learning through collaboration and conversational approaches.

The learning platform developed by the ELeGI team can automatically be tailored to the different needs of students, and can also adapt rapidly in the way it can access teaching resources through a ‘grid’ of networked computers.

If a teacher decides that the students would benefit by collaborative working, the ELeGI platform can find suitable software, perhaps a wiki, locate a machine to run it on, set it up for the group of students and set them to work in an automatic and transparent way.

The ELeGI software can group students who share similar learning styles. It can also recognise when a student is having difficulty and can offer a ‘mini-course’ of remedial work, generated according to the student’s profile and preferences.

Intelligent web teacher

A number of pilot studies and demonstrators have shown how the ELeGI platform could work in practice. The studies include a series of ‘virtual scientific experiments’, mainly in physics. In the studies, students learn from a simulated experiment.

The researchers also designed several demonstrations related to collaborative working and designed a system to automate assessments of students’ work. As part of the programme, the researchers also launched EnCOrE, a net-based encylopaedia of organic chemistry.

“In terms of outcome we have the model for creating adaptive and personalised learning experience, the ELeGI software infrastructure, that is based on grid technology,” says Ritrovato. “It can be considered the first example of a service-oriented infrastructure for learning.”

Insights gained through ELeGI, particularly in formal learning, have been incorporated into Intelligent Web Teacher (IWT), a software platform for distance learning that has been developed over many years with support from several other EU-funded projects.

IWT is marketed by MoMA, a spin-off from the Pole of Excellence in Learning and Knowledge, a virtual research organisation based at Salerno University and which includes several ELeGI partners.

The project demonstrated that it is possible to create a highly personalised learning experience in a dynamic way taking into account the user’s reaction, preferences and the pedagogical aspects,” Ritrovato says

“It is now clear in the community that the existing learning management systems are out of date,” he adds. “They have to change their approach to learning and to be much more user-driven instead of content-driven. This is one of the key features that IWT and ELeGI have been developing. The teacher should be a guide, a support for the student in their learning process.”

The project, which lasted for 41 months and received funding from the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research, came to an end in June 2007.

Provided by ICT Results

IES Research Funding Opportunities Webinars

The Institute of Education Sciences will host a series of webinars related to research funding opportunities at the National Center for Special Education Research and the National Center for Education Research.

For more information regarding webinar topics, dates, and registration process, please browse here.

To view slides from previous webinar sessions discussing research funding opportunities at the National Center for Special Education Research and the National Center for Education Research, browse here.

Please register for the IES Newsflash for information about future webinars and upcoming funding opportunities.

Submitting Grant Applications to IES via

Beginning in 2007, grant applications to Institute of Education Sciences (IES) competitions must be submitted via the government-wide portal that allows potential applicants to find grant opportunities and apply for grants. Individuals planning to submit an application on behalf of their organization must ensure that (1) their institution/organization is registered with, and (2) they register themselves as Authorized Organizational Representatives (AORs) well before the competition deadline. The registration process can take several weeks. registration information can be found at: Please direct your questions about submitting applications through to the Help Desk at 800-518-4726 or by email to

Letters of Intent

The receipt deadline for Letters of Intent for the October 2, 2008 application deadline dates has been extended from July 10, 2008 to August 4, 2008. This is applicable to the National Center for Education Research's Research, Training, Research and Development Center, and Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies competitions (CFDA Numbers 84.305A, 84.305B, 84.305C, 84.305E), and the National Center for Special Education Research's Research and Training competitions (CFDA Numbers 84.324A, 84.324B).

Summit: Save STEM or watch America fail

Two years after a report called "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" warned that the United States is falling behind in math and science education, endangering America's competitiveness in the global economy, education leaders, lawmakers, and cabinet members met for a national summit in Washington, D.C., to discuss what progress--if any--has been made in closing the gap. Their verdict: The U.S. needs to make a greater investment in critical math, science, and research programs for these efforts to succeed. | Read More;_hbguid=8063c0d6-2405-465f-8e47-53f07b253979 

Get a video recap of all the month’s top news with eschool news “TechWatch”.

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Gaming helps students hone 21st-century skills

Environments such as Second Life can both stimulate and educate, experts say

By Laura Devaney, Senior Editor, eSchool News

Virtual worlds and games can help students develop necessary skills.Online gaming can help students develop many of the skills they'll be required to use upon leaving school, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity, agreed educators who spoke during an April 16 webinar on gaming in education.


Sharnell Jackson, the chief eLearning officer for Chicago Public Schools and the webinar's moderator, noted that gaming and simulations are highly interactive, allow for instant feedback, immerse students in collaborative environments, and allow for rapid decision-making.  The webinar was sponsored by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). Read full article at:;_hbguid=937dd4fd-2413-42f6-981a-2511115010f6 

The new shape of music: Music has its own geometry, researchers find 

The figure shows how geometrical music theory represents four-note chord-types -- the collections of notes form a tetrahedron, with the colors indicating the spacing between the individual notes in a sequence. In the blue spheres, the notes are clustered, in the warmer colors, they are farther apart. The red ball at the top of the pyramid is the diminished seventh chord, a popular 19th-century chord. Near it are all the most familiar chords of Western music. Credit: Dmitri Tymoczko, Princeton University

The connection between music and mathematics has fascinated scholars for centuries. More than 200 years ago Pythagoras reportedly discovered that pleasing musical intervals could be described using simple ratios.

And the so-called musica universalis or "music of the spheres" emerged in the Middle Ages as the philosophical idea that the proportions in the movements of the celestial bodies -- the sun, moon and planets -- could be viewed as a form of music, inaudible but perfectly harmonious.

Now, three music professors – Clifton Callender at Florida State University, Ian Quinn at Yale University and Dmitri Tymoczko at Princeton University -- have devised a new way of analyzing and categorizing music that takes advantage of the deep, complex mathematics they see enmeshed in its very fabric.

Writing in the April 18 issue of Science, the trio has outlined a method called "geometrical music theory" that translates the language of musical theory into that of contemporary geometry. They take sequences of notes, like chords, rhythms and scales, and categorize them so they can be grouped into "families." They have found a way to assign mathematical structure to these families, so they can then be represented by points in complex geometrical spaces, much the way "x" and "y" coordinates, in the simpler system of high school algebra, correspond to points on a two-dimensional plane.

Different types of categorization produce different geometrical spaces, and reflect the different ways in which musicians over the centuries have understood music. This achievement, they expect, will allow researchers to analyze and understand music in much deeper and more satisfying ways.

The work represents a significant departure from other attempts to quantify music, according to Rachel Wells Hall of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. In an accompanying essay, she writes that their effort, "stands out both for the breadth of its musical implications and the depth of its mathematical content."

The method, according to its authors, allows them to analyze and compare many kinds of Western (and perhaps some non-Western) music. (The method focuses on Western-style music because concepts like "chord" are not universal in all styles.) It also incorporates many past schemes by music theorists to render music into mathematical form.

"The music of the spheres isn't really a metaphor -- some musical spaces really are spheres," said Tymoczko, an assistant professor of music at Princeton. "The whole point of making these geometric spaces is that, at the end of the day, it helps you understand music better. Having a powerful set of tools for conceptualizing music allows you to do all sorts of things you hadn't done before."

Like what?

"You could create new kinds of musical instruments or new kinds of toys," he said. "You could create new kinds of visualization tools -- imagine going to a classical music concert where the music was being translated visually. We could change the way we educate musicians. There are lots of practical consequences that could follow from these ideas."

"But to me," Tymoczko added, "the most satisfying aspect of this research is that we can now see that there is a logical structure linking many, many different musical concepts. To some extent, we can represent the history of music as a long process of exploring different symmetries and different geometries."

Understanding music, the authors write, is a process of discarding information. For instance, suppose a musician plays middle "C" on a piano, followed by the note "E" above that and the note "G" above that. Musicians have many different terms to describe this sequence of events, such as "an ascending C major arpeggio," "a C major chord," or "a major chord." The authors provide a unified mathematical framework for relating these different descriptions of the same musical event.

The trio describes five different ways of categorizing collections of notes that are similar, but not identical. They refer to these musical resemblances as the "OPTIC symmetries," with each letter of the word "OPTIC" representing a different way of ignoring musical information -- for instance, what octave the notes are in, their order, or how many times each note is repeated. The authors show that five symmetries can be combined with each other to produce a cornucopia of different musical concepts, some of which are familiar and some of which are novel.

In this way, the musicians are able to reduce musical works to their mathematical essence.

Once notes are translated into numbers and then translated again into the language of geometry the result is a rich menagerie of geometrical spaces, each inhabited by a different species of geometrical object. After all the mathematics is done, three-note chords end up on a triangular donut while chord types perch on the surface of a cone.

The broad effort follows upon earlier work by Tymoczko in which he developed geometric models for selected musical objects.

The method could help answer whether there are new scales and chords that exist but have yet to be discovered.

"Have Western composers already discovered the essential and most important musical objects?" Tymoczko asked. "If so, then Western music is more than just an arbitrary set of conventions. It may be that the basic objects of Western music are fantastically special, in which case it would be quite difficult to find alternatives to broadly traditional methods of musical organization."

The tools for analysis also offer the exciting possibility of investigating the differences between musical styles.

"Our methods are not so great at distinguishing Aerosmith from the Rolling Stones," Tymoczko said. "But they might allow you to visualize some of the differences between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. And they certainly help you understand more deeply how classical music relates to rock or is different from atonal music."

Source: Princeton University

Low-cost handheld targets elementary students

Chicago nonprofit calls its $50 'teachermate' an affordable way to give every kid a computer

From eSchool News staff reports

The teachermate features a 2.5-inch screen, 512 MB of memory, and costs only $50.

Elementary schools in at least seven cities are piloting an innovative handheld computer that costs only $50 and can be used to help teach reading and math. The nonprofit organization that developed the device, Chicago-based Innovations for Learning, bills it as “the world’s most affordable solution” for giving a computer to every student.

The “teachermate” handheld computer, as the device is called, features a 2.5-inch color screen, 512 megabytes of internal memory, an SD slot for expandability, a built-in microphone and speaker, and a battery life of four hours. An innovative case that holds 30 of the devices can charge them all at the same time using one AC outlet and synch all of the student performance data to a teacher’s personal computer using a single USB cable.

The teachermate includes reading and math software programs also developed by Innovations for Learning, which says it created the software first but was looking for an affordable, scalable way to deliver the software to every student.

“Our organization has been stymied over the years by the same roadblock faced by all educational software makers—the inadequacy of personal computers in K-2 classrooms,” said Seth Weinberger, executive director of the nonprofit. “There are too few computers in the classroom, too many of them are broken, and too many of them are hand-me-downs. Public schools do not have the funds to provide sufficient computer resources to the young students who need them most.”

The problem inspired the group to develop an inexpensive solution that would be intuitive for young students to use.

The teachermate is lightweight and portable, yet the images on its screen are highly visible. All you have to do is switch on the power button and it’s ready to go. A row of three colored buttons on the top, a circle of arrows to the right, and a big blue “enter” button on the left make up all the controls. The software’s learning games are simple and have fun noises and actions for kids to look at. There’s also a dog character named Max who dances and plays instruments for students when they complete a game successfully. The device comes with lightweight earphones and has places for a USB cable and an AC cord.

Innovations for Learning is rolling out its “teachermate” handheld computers to all 500 Chicago elementary schools over a two-year period. With the help of funding from JP Morgan Chase, the nonprofit will provide teachermates for every student within one classroom in each of the city’s elementary schools; schools will be able to purchase handhelds for additional classrooms at cost. Software for the handhelds includes a complete K-2 reading and math program that aligns with the Chicago Public Schools’ reading and math initiatives.

“The teachermate handheld computer is one of the most promising new educational tools I have seen. Not only is the cost of each unit low enough to be affordable for every student in a classroom, but the device is easy to use, easy to train, and easy to maintain. This is a big step forward in providing a high-quality education to an increasingly technological generation,” said Sharnell Jackson, chief eLearning officer for the Chicago Public Schools.

In addition to the rollout in Chicago, schools in New York City, Detroit, New Orleans, San Antonio, Phoenix, and the Denver area are piloting the device.

Innovations for Learning’s software has been proven effective by independent research funded by the Spencer Foundation. The Spencer Foundation is currently funding research by the University of Illinois at Chicago on the effectiveness of the teachermate handheld computers.

All of the programs are in Spanish as well as English, and teachers can select how much Spanish support to provide for each student.

“The teachermate system definitely enhances students’ reading skills,” said Martha Arriaga, a first grade teacher at Jungman Elementary School in Chicago. “If the students could use these devices all day long, they would. It gets them focused on what they should be learning, but they think they are just playing games.”

“The teachermate is really a bridge from the digital world to a first grader,” Weinberger concluded. “Teachers see the kids laugh, learn, and do their own voice recordings when using the reading software. It really gets them going—it energizes them in their teaching.”


Innovations for Learning 

Chicago Public Schools 


7920 Norfolk Ave, Suite 900, Bethesda Maryland, 20814

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Visual technology enables brain to learn in new ways 

New technology at Tufts University's Center for Scientific Visualization is enabling researchers to translate the most abstract, complex scientific concepts into clearer, more precise 3-dimensional images than conventional visualization systems can create. 

Funded by a $350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Tufts' new 14-foot by 8-foot visualization display offers a combination of advanced features found nowhere else in New England and in only a few other installations in the country. Its application will further Tufts' research and educational programs in diverse disciplines, from mathematics and physics to human factors engineering, and even drama and dance.

Brain's Untapped Capacity for Visuals

"Users will be able to manipulate, simulate, touch and literally immerse themselves in data in a way they never have been able to before," said Amelia Tynan, vice president and chief information officer and co-principal investigator on the grant.

Visualization is built on the age-old premise -- borne out by modern cognitive science -- that pictures say as much as, or even more than, words.

The human brain has a powerful, often underutilized capacity to process visuals, noted Robert Jacob, computer science professor and co-principal investigator on the project. A large portion of the brain processes visuals, and visualization technology puts that ability to work. "The brain absorbs a lot more information when it's presented in pictures rather than in stacks of data from a computer," Jacob said. This, he says, enables researchers and students to recognize things more quickly and also develop insights about what's going on with the data.

Unusual Combination of Technologies

While visualization is widely used in science, Tufts' "VisWall" offers unusually robust capabilities by combining advanced features not typically found together.

Housed at Tufts' School of Engineering but available to the entire university, the seamless wall features a high resolution display system that uses rear projection in order to enhance the amount of detail that is visible. Most visualization systems use several projectors at once or multiple, tiled screens to display images. Tufts' uses just a single screen with close to 9 megapixels resolution (4,096 x 2,169 pixels) and two projectors (with overlapping fields of projection) to create high- resolution images and animation.

By using a single screen and two projectors, Tufts is able to produce ultra-high resolution images -- including 3-D images -- that appear smoother and without seams. Images projected at a higher resolution reveal fine, minute details that would be imperceptible on a screen with fewer pixels or tiled images. The VisWall's projectors are equipped with Infitec filters to minimize ghosting, in which an image appears to include elements of another image. Ghosting is a common drawback with conventional polarized filters.

In addition, the Tufts system can combine the sense of touch with that of sight through haptic devices that convey varying levels of resistance to the user when he or she touches graphical objects on the display wall. This also allows Tufts researchers to create virtual environments, such as the human body for surgical simulations that can be physically manipulated and transformed.

Order in Chaos

Tufts faculty have already discovered applications of the new technology. Mathematics Professor Boris Hasselblatt made a surprising find while viewing a mathematical model of butterfly populations as they fluctuated through successive generations. The model, used for research in dynamical systems theory, is based on a simple formula and is well-known to anyone familiar with chaos theory.

Visualizing the large population dataset with the 14-foot-wide, high-resolution graphical display enabled Hasselblatt to detect anomalies impossible to perceive with conventional displays: subtle traces of curving lines that he said indicated irregularities in variations in the population. The lines extended over different areas of the model and then converged at one distinct point.

Hasselblatt has looked at smaller images of this classic model many times during the last 20 years but had never recognized this convergence. He has not yet determined the implications of this discovery, but he said the pattern reflects order in what mathematicians have always thought to be a progression of chaotic cycles. "The pattern is so subtle that it's imperceptible but in this rendition the resolution is fine enough that I can easily see it," he said.

Bruce Boghosian, chairman of the mathematics department at Tufts and principal investigator on the NSF grant, said that the VisWall will benefit his study of fluid dynamics. Visualization capabilities can help him and his fellow researchers better understand fluid flow.

"You can go right up to streamlines in a fluid or dig into a reservoir and see which way it's flowing," said Boghosian. "That's the direction we would like to move in. You can imagine all kinds of other uses for something like that."

Virtual Surgery

The VisWall will also aid Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Caroline Cao. Her goal is to develop more robust laparoscopic surgical training systems in which 3-D computer simulations enable surgeons in training to feel as well as see.

She and her team, including senior Kyle Maxwell, have already developed software that enables users to remove a "tumor" during a simulated procedure. With the haptic device, these virtual surgeons receive force feedback when touching a hard surface, such as a tumor or bone, and a soft, deformable surface, such as tissue. The reaction is determined by the parameters provided by the model, which is based on real material properties.

Cao, who is director of the human factors program in the School of Engineering, said she wants to develop more anatomical features in the models. She also hopes to develop software that will simulate more complicated virtual procedures like heart surgery and colonoscopy. The VisWall's size, resolution and 3-D capability will greatly help in her work.

"Imagine the difference between simulating a virtual environment on a computer screen and one on a visualization wall -- the difference is tremendous," she said. "That's what large-scale visualization gives us, a capacity to create a richer immersion experience."

From Particle Physics to the "Lord of the Rings"

Similar benefits could be gained by physicist Austin Napier. His work in high energy physics relies on the ability to process huge streams of data from organizations like Switzerland's CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory. Tufts' VisWall will enable him to visualize on a single display what would otherwise require multiple computers.

Tynan said she expects the VisWall to become a resource for the broad range of academic disciplines at Tufts. She envisions scientists and engineers collaborating with faculty from the arts or humanities.

Boghosian brings up the example of the character Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings." Actor Andy Serkis' movements were tracked and translated to the digital rendering of the creature in the film. Similar technology is now available through the VisWall, which goes beyond traditional 3-D rendering to create a true virtual reality environment.

"Imagine taking the ability to do something like that and applying it to drama and dance," Boghosian mused. "Imagine taking the ability to do something like that and trying to use it for facial recognition or occupational therapy or many other fields. We haven't really even begun to explore those kinds of things yet."

Source: Tufts University