Friday, February 25, 2011

Quick Hits

New nonprofit seeks to harness technology for education innovation, social change: Biz Stone, a co-founder of Twitter, has joined forces with advocacy group TechNet to create ConvergeUS, a coalition of business leaders, educators and technology innovators determined to effect social change through meaningful engagement with technology. ConvergeUS will partner with two groups on two campaigns to improve education -- one focused on improving literacy and the other on improving math and science learning. (PC World)

Unions are facing unprecedented challenges: Public-service unions are clashing with lawmakers about pay, benefits and collective-bargaining rights across the Midwest as they fight the biggest challenge to their power since President Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers in 1981. Republicans are aiming to limit the bargaining and dues-collecting power of unions for autoworkers and carpenters in states such as Michigan, where they have proposed making it a right-to-work state. (The Wall Street Journal)

iPad is part of the school-supply list at Tennessee private school: A private school in Tennessee is requiring that all students in grades 4-12 buy or lease an iPad for the 2011-12 school year. "The device comes with an easy price, is simple to use and support, and handles the vast majority of what our teachers need it to do in the classroom," the school's technology director said. The devices will be used to store digital textbooks, conduct classroom research and create interactive lessons, among other things. (T.H.E. Journal)

Survey shows many students are coming to class hungry: About two-thirds of public-school teachers who participated in a recent nationwide survey say many students are coming to school hungry. Of those surveyed, 61% said they purchase food for students and spend about $25 a month to do so. One instructional coach said that when she was a classroom teacher, she noticed that hungry students could not focus. "All they could think about was wanting food," she said. "They would ask, 'What time is lunch? Is it lunchtime yet?'" (USA TODAY) (The Sun)

New ideas surface in Wake County, N.C., school-assignment debate: The Wake County, N.C., school board has put a controversial debate over school assignments in the hands of the district's new superintendent, Anthony J. Tata. The move is expected to diffuse some of the yearlong tension that began when the board voted to end a student-assignment policy, which was based on socioeconomic diversity, in favor of neighborhood schools. Among the ideas Tata and a committee are expected to consider is one proposed by local business leaders that would aim for diversity but would restore some school choice. (Education Week)

Think Before You Tweet (or Blog or Update a Status): Earlier this week, Miriam Posner, Stewart Varner, and Brian Croxall wrote “Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics.” They had some terrific recommendations about how to establish an online presence and how to keep that presence active and positive. (ProfHacker at the Chronicle)

Report finds many schools are not effectively using technology: Many schools that use technology in the classroom are not maximizing its potential to improve student achievement or cut costs, according to a new report by Project RED and the One-to-One Institute. The report advocates that schools use more technology in intervention classes, encourage students and teachers to use technology for collaboration and integrate technology into the core curriculum on a weekly basis. The report also makes the case that technology, when properly used, can lower operational costs for schools. (Education Week)

Supreme Court will not hear Connecticut challenge to NCLB: The U.S. Supreme Court ended a six-year lawsuit over the cost of implementing the No Child Left Behind law in Connecticut, ruling that it would not hear the state's challenge. The state was the first to object to the law's testing rules, which mandated yearly exams at a cost of millions of dollars to the state. (The Boston Globe)

Understanding the formative-assessment process: The formative-assessment process can greatly improve student learning if teachers clearly understand it, writes the author of an upcoming ASCD book on the subject. W. James Popham explains in this article that testing is only one part of the process, which also should include decisions on how and what to test and whether adjustments to the curriculum should be made based on the findings. By misconstruing formative assessments as a particular type of test, teachers may diminish the potential impact of the process, he writes. (Education Week)

Protests continue in Wis., as fight spreads to Ohio and Indiana: Weeklong protests against a budget bill that would reduce the rights and benefits of state workers in Wisconsin are continuing in local communities statewide, as many teachers who returned to work Tuesday staged rallies after school. New protests also are under way in Ohio, where legislators are considering a bill that would drastically weaken collective-bargaining rights for state workers, while Democratic legislators in Indiana attempted to run down the clock on a bill that would reduce workers' rights. (The New York Times) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) (State EdWatch)

How will Blackboard's new products affect schools?: E-learning company Blackboard has succeeded in helping spread the use of learning-management systems in post-secondary schools, and is now turning its focus to new products in data analytics, mobile learning and synchronous communication. Experts say the move could be a boon to schools that use Blackboard Learn, which stand to benefit from continuity and potential flexibility in pricing if they choose to purchase the new Blackboard applications. (InsideHigherEd)

Obama: Investing in education, technology good for the economy: President Barack Obama, during a visit to Intel Corp. facilities Friday, promoted his education and economic agendas and praised the company for its efforts to interest more students in science and technology. Intel has trained 7,000 teachers in Oregon over the past 10 years in how to incorporate technology into classroom learning, and the company sponsors numerous other education initiatives. "You are a company that understands that investing in education is a good business model," Obama said. (American City Business Journal) (The Associated Press)

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