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Bill Gillies - Editor

Textbook companies should make their material more accessible and affordable


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to save “hundreds of millions” of dollars by having schools switch to free digital textbooks won’t work, say education officials in the state.

Calif Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger

Calif Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger cited digital textbooks as just one many opportunities that the financially strapped state could seize upon to save money.

“It’s the right goal, but (a goal) to help the students utilize technology and learning,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “To do this for cost savings is a pipe dream.”

It’s not the first time the idea of free digital textbooks has been tried in California.  In 2002 the California Open Source Textbook Project tried to produce a digital K-12 history textbook under an open license in partnership with Wikibooks. The…

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36 Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

If colleges were paid per graduate, would they be more successful?


USA Today reports that a number of legislatures are considering policies that would link funding of public colleges to the number of students that graduate, rather than a system that pays colleges based on the number of students enrolled.

“We as legislatures have been giving higher education a pass on accountability,” says Julie Bell of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “With tuition going up … there’s a whole new thinking about productivity.”

The issue is increasing in profile.  Speaking to a joint session of Congress soon after being sworn in, President Barack Obama lamented that the United States has one of the highest college dropout rates in the industrialized world.  He said the country should aspire to have the highest rate of graduates by 2020.

According to the most recent statistics from National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, states are making little or no progress…

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16 Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

iPods tailor ESL training to each student’s needs


There is an excellent article in eSchoolNews about the benefits of using iPods to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) students.  During an International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) webinar titled “iPods as Teaching Tools for Language Learners,” Grace Poli, media specialist at Jose Marti Middle School in Union City, N.J., and an Apple distinguished educator, discussed how the iPod is transforming learning in her school. Poli said that 90 percent of the students do not speak English at home, many of the students are new to the United States, and 54 percent are either special-needs students or limited English-proficient students.

Poli said she started using iPods–which she calls a “global must-have”–as they became more and more prevalent in students’ lives.  Poli says the iPod is more than just a cool gadget, because it helps transform a classroom by:

* Stimulating and engaging students in…

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25 Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Men in Suits profiled on Global TV news


The well-known Toronto band Men in Suits will be profiled this evening on the Global TV 6:00 pm news.  Band members Don Tapscott, Gerry Throop, Jim Hardy, Vince Mazza and Stewart Borden have given charitable concerts for many years in Toronto, and have had a long relationship with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health with their annual popular “Rock for the Brain” concerts. The Centre is Canada’s leading addiction and mental health teaching hospital, and proceeds from this year’s Rock for the Brain event went to fund research in the area of Eating Disorders.

17 Comments | Tags: Family, World

Bill Gillies - Editor

Story of Stuff gets classrooms talking


The controversial Story of Stuff video received a big PR boost today with a front-page story in the New York Times. The short video argues that the United States consumes and wastes much of the world’s resources.

Teachers have seized on the video as a way of getting middle and high-school level students to examine whether constantly upgrading to the most recent iPod model or the most fashionable jeans can take a heavy toll on the environment.

“From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view,” explains the video’s Web site. “The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number…

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5 Comments | Tags: Brand

Bill Gillies - Editor

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day


Eight young performers living with mental health challenges from across the country joined Academy Award winner Goldie Hawn last night for a celebration of resilience.   The event was part of the federal government’s “HEAR ME NOW: A Celebration of Resiliency through the Performing Arts,” commemoration of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, which took place at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, DC.

Hawn received a Special Recognition Award for her work to increase public understanding of the role mental health plays in the total well-being of children and youth through her non-profit foundation, The Hawn Foundation.

Money spent to assist youth with mental health challenges generates a tremendous return on investment. Large economic gains occur, for example, simply through reductions in school dropout rates. Students who drop out of high school are 1.6 times more likely to be unemployed than high school graduates who are…

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18 Comments | Tags: Government, School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Kindle DX promises cost savings and convenience


As predicted by the deluge of media leaks in the past week, Amazon today unveiled the Kindle DX (for Deluxe), a larger version of the current Kindle, this time targeted to readers of newspapers and textbooks.  Most pre-release speculation focused on paperless newspapers, but by locating the news conference at Pace University, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wanted to underscore the benefits and savings the new reader could offer students.

Amazon said that leading textbook publishers Cengage Learning, Pearson, and Wiley, together representing more than 60 percent of the U.S. higher education textbook market, will begin offering textbooks through the Kindle Store beginning this summer.

Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College, and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia will launch trial programs to make Kindle DX devices available to students this fall. The schools will distribute hundreds of Kindle DX devices to students…

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12 Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Today’s more demanding definition of literacy


The ability to read and write is yesterday’s definition of literacy.  Here’s one that is more up to date:  “Literacy involves the development of a continuum of skills, knowledge and attitudes that prepare all of our learners for life in a changing world community. It begins with the fundamental acquisition of skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, representing and responding. It becomes the ability to understand, think, apply and communicate effectively in all subject and program areas in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes.”

This is the definition employed by the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association in its recently released discussion paperWhat if?  Technology in the 21st Century Classroom.  The paper asks how schools should use technology if they wish to remain relevant in today’s world, and how technology can be used to improve the quality of teaching and learning. “If literacy is…

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17 Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Cleaning up your online act


Today’s Toronto Star offers some practical advice for young job applicants that may have littered cyberspace with festive photos of their marathon kegger parties.

1) Delete what you can: Start with your old blogs, purge any for sale advertisements for the unwanted items of your past, any want ads, personal…

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10 Comments | Tags: Work

Bill Gillies - Editor

Norway tests laptop exam scheme


‘Trust but verify’ seems to be the approach of the Norwegian government as it considers issuing laptops to all secondary school students for use during coursework and also taking exams.  About 6,000 16-19 year-olds in Nord-Trondelag county in Norway have been trying out the laptop-based system.

The laptops are used for everyday schoolwork and come with standard software, such as word processors, spreadsheets and calculators installed, as well as subject specific applications for particular courses. School officials are keen to use the laptops during exams so that students are able to use the tools with which they are familiar.

However, the laptops are equipped with software to thwart cheating by monitoring and recording all activity on the computer during exams.  The software records keystrokes and takes and stores screenshots.  This is the only time the monitoring software is used, and ensures the students don’t have access to the Internet during exams and…

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14 Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Colleges turn to social media tools for recruitment and vetting of students


A new report on social media in college admission offices shows a large jump in the use of social networking tools to attract students and a slight drop in the use of social media to help vet student applications.

The report serves as a warning to college-bound students who readily use social networking applications such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter to communicate with friends. Fully 17 percent of colleges admitted to using using search engines and social networking sites to research prospective students who were candidates for scholarships or entry into high-demand programs.  This was down from the 21 percent reported in 2007.  Nora Ganim Barnes, author of the study, told the Los Angeles Times that some colleges turn to the social websites because “no school wants to give a prestigious scholarship to someone standing on a beer keg and wearing a lampshade.”

The use of social networking sites and…

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9 Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Students suffer as school IT support overworked and understaffed


A recent study shows that overworked and understaffed IT departments in school systems across the country spend most of their time fixing faulty machines or grappling with software questions from teachers and administrators. These staff shortages are keeping many schools from realizing technology’s full potential as a learning tool.

Only 28 percent of respondents said they have enough IT staff to integrate technology into their classrooms effectively.

Conducted by eSchool News and SchoolDude.com Inc. in partnership with the Consortium for School Networking, the 2nd annual School IT Survey polled more than 600 school district leaders and technology administrators in November and December 2008.

The burdens placed on school IT departments are taking a heavy toll on innovation, the survey suggests.

“Our IT staff members … need more training, and we need more time to explore new technologies. We spend all our time fixing the old [equipment],” said one respondent. “I want to get…

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9 Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Donated laptops help kids get back on track


Click here for an excellent story in PC World about San Francisco’s nonprofit group City Youth Now, which gives donated laptops to at-risk teenagers and young adults caught up in gang and drug-related activity. The laptops help these kids get their lives back on track and graduate from high school and college.

“In today’s age, a computer is kind of like a pencil if you’re going to college. You have to register online and submit essays online. Everything’s about the computer,” says Brittany Heinrich, executive director of CYN.

Laptops are handed out to foster-care residents between the ages of 17 and 22 and to juveniles between 16 and 19 who are on probation for committing crimes. The nonprofit has given out 72 computers since 2008 and plans to give 60 more starting in July. A beneficiary is chosen based on high-school grades and recommendation letters.

One teenager named Devin used the…

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43 Comments | Tags: Family, School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

New ad in BusinessWeek


McGraw Hill is running a new ad for Grown Up Digital in this week’s BusinessWeek featuring comments from high-profile business people and media outlets. We’re thinking of putting together another ad with comments from Net Generation readers, and we would like you to participate. Please send your one-sentence book review to me at gillies@gmail.com. Deadline: May 1st. One lucky contributor will receive a copy of the book autographed by Don. Good luck!

2 Comments | Tags: The Buzz

Bill Gillies - Editor

A Twitter designed for teachers and students


Take the simplicity of Twitter, add some features such as sending attachments, redesign the software to appeal to teachers and students, what you end up with is Edmondo.com, a young site that is rapidly gaining converts in the education community. It is a great example of using digital tools to organize a student’s day-to-day workflow.

Edmodo provides a way for teachers and students to share notes, links, and files. Teachers have the ability to send alerts, events, and assignments to students.

Privacy is the biggest drawback to using traditional web 2.0 tools in a k-12 classroom setting.  (Has Twitter been around long enough to be called traditional?) Edmondo promotes itself as “a private communication platform for teachers and students.”

I’m not a teacher, so I’ll defer to the views of someone who is. Mark Warner is a primary teacher in the U.K. who runs the successful www.TeachingIdeas.co.uk and…

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14 Comments | Tags: School/College

   
 
 
   

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