By Heather Kelly, CNN
(CNN) - Forget tiny iPads – the classrooms of the future might turn entire tables into interactive touchscreens.
Given that many children can sit rapturously before a glowing touchscreen for hours, such gadgets seem like a natural for the classroom. But as with any new teaching technology, it's important to make sure it actually helps students learn and teachers teach before getting caught up in its "cool" factor.
A recent study by researchers at Newcastle University in the UK took touchscreen tables into the classroom for some hands-on tests and found the technology (and training) still have to improve before they are fully effective. The researchers say theirs is one of the first studies of this type of technology in actual classrooms, instead of lab situations.
The tables were used in real classrooms over the course of six weeks for lessons in geography, English and history. The five teachers involved in the study prepared the projects based on what the kids were currently learning in class. Each table was used by two to four students at a time, though the table's creators say it can hold up to six students. On the screen were a collaborative writing program and an app called Digital Mysteries, which were designed specifically for large tabletop PCs.
By Kim Clark, Money Magazine
(Money Magazine) - Two things about higher education have become clear. First, your children need it more than ever to stay competitive - and so might you, if you need to upgrade for a fast-changing job market. Second, the model colleges use to deliver that education is broken. Rising tuition, high student debt, and stingier funding for public colleges are making it more difficult for families to keep up.
So it's hard not to get excited about this: Right now, for the unbeatable price of $0, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Anant Agarwal is teaching a class on circuits and electronics to thousands of people online - no MIT application required. Harvard, Princeton, Michigan, and other top schools have also started open courses for everyone.
The academic world is buzzing with the notion that this could change, well, everything. "We are at a pivotal moment," says former Princeton president William Bowen. "Two forces are combining: extraordinary technological progress with economic need."
True, it's a long way (and many spinning "video loading" icons) from here to a day when students can put together respected degrees with Ivy simulations.
While logging in is free and easy, getting official credit for what you learn still isn't. Online courses have bugs, including raucous student discussion boards and clumsy grading systems, and for many they are an inferior substitute for real classrooms. Yet there's promise here for adults who want a new career skill, for traditional students looking for learning aids, and for anyone hoping to speed the path to a degree. More change is coming.
Here's what you and your kids should know to make the most of it.
You can really sit in on courses with MIT profs
Agarwal's course is known in education jargon as a MOOC, or massive open online course. Web courses and online degrees have been around for years. As the name implies, MOOCs are different for their size (with tens of thousands of students at a time), their free price tag, and, frankly, the cachet of the schools that started them.
By Wendy Kopp, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Wendy Kopp is CEO of Teach for All, a global network of independent organizations dedicated to expanding educational opportunity, and founder and board chairwoman of Teach for America, a national corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in high-needs schools.
(CNN) - Tech visionary Steve Jobs understood better than anyone the impulse to believe that technology can solve our most complex societal problems. "Unfortunately it just ain't so," he said. "We need to attack these things at the root, which is people and how much freedom we give people. ... I wish it was as simple as giving it over to the computer."
That's certainly true when it comes to education, particularly in impoverished communities.
As a founder of two organizations that recruit top college graduates to expand educational opportunity, I've spent a lot of time examining what's at work in successful classrooms and schools over the past two decades. In every classroom where students are excelling against the odds, there's a teacher who's empowered her students to work hard to realize their potential. Whenever I ask the leaders of successful schools their secret, the answer is almost always the same: people, people, people. They are obsessed with recruiting and developing the best teams.
Research confirms that great teachers change lives. Students with one highly effective elementary school teacher are more likely to go to college, less likely to become pregnant as teens and earn tens of thousands more over their lifetimes. Faced with the choice between giving every child in a school his or her own laptop or putting 30 of them in a classroom with one exceptional teacher, there's no question which is the better investment.
So it's disappointing to see more and more people herald technology as an educational panacea while dismissing the indispensable role of people.
West Palm Beach, Florida (CNN) - Working as a guidance counselor five years ago in Palm Beach County, Estella Pyfrom noticed that fewer students had access to a computer after school.
The sluggish economy forced many families to prioritize their money and use it for more pressing needs.
"They needed food. They needed to pay their mortgage or their rent," said Pyfrom, a former teacher. "Some of them lost their cars. So I knew it was a serious problem."
Without a computer at home, or reliable transportation to get to a computer, Pyfrom feared that many of these students would get left behind.
So she bought a bus, filled it with computers and brought technology to the kids.
Her mobile computer lab, Estella's Brilliant Bus, has provided free, computer-based tutoring for more than 2,000 students since 2011.
"If people don't have some knowledge of technology, they're going to be limited," said Pyfrom, who retired in 2009 and used money from her savings to buy the bus. "It's absolutely essential that they get involved technologically."
By Brandon Griggs, CNN
(CNN) - Hey kids! Forget trying to become a doctor or rapper or a football star, not to mention all the teasing you may get in school for being a nerd - computers are where it's at.
That's one message of a new video in which Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and other tech execs urge young people to learn computer programming.
"Learning how to program didn't start off with wanting to learn all of computer science or trying to master this discipline or anything like that," Zuckerberg says. "It started off because I wanted to do this one simple thing - I wanted to make something that was fun for myself and my sisters."
Gates says, "I was 13 when I first got access to a computer. I wrote a program to play tick-tack-toe."
The five-minute clip, called "What Most Schools Don't Teach," was posted online Tuesday by Code.org, a new nonprofit foundation that seeks to cultivate computer science in U.S. school curricula. The foundation argues there is a worldwide shortage of computer programmers but that only 1 in 10 schools in America teach kids how to code.
"Our policy (at Facebook) is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find," Zuckerberg says. "The whole limit in the system is that there aren't enough people who are trained and have these skills today."
By Sally Holland, CNN
Washington (CNN) - A new study from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found cell phones, tablets, Google and Wikipedia are at the center of how educators teach and how students learn - but they bring new challenges, too.
Almost three-quarters of teachers surveyed said cell phones are used in their classrooms to complete assignments, while 45% use e-readers and 43% use tablet computers.
Many teachers - 99% - themselves rely on online research, but they believe digital technologies make it harder for students to “find and use credible sources of information.”
The Pew study said 76% of teachers surveyed strongly agree that “search engines have conditioned students to expect to be able to find information quickly and easily,” and 83% agree that the amount of information is overwhelming.
The survey of about 2,400 middle school and high school teachers from across the United States asked how they use technology in their classrooms and at home. The teachers were all Advanced Placement teachers or from the National Writing Project, so all their students are considered academically advanced.
“Several teachers noted that if a student looks for a particular piece of information online for a few minutes and can’t find it, they will often not interpret that to mean they have to search differently or go to a different resource,” said Kristen Purcell, the main author of the report.
Students will assume “that information is not out there to be found," she said. "If it were, the search engine would find it quickly."
By Richard Galant, CNN
Long Beach, California (CNN) - What if everything you thought you knew about education was wrong?
What if students learn more quickly on their own, working in teams, than in a classroom with a teacher?
What if tests and discipline get in the way of the learning process rather than accelerate it?
Those are the questions Sugata Mitra has been asking since the late 1990s, and for which he was awarded the $1 million TED Prize on Tuesday, the first day of the TED2013 conference.
Newcastle University professor Sugata Mitra won the 2013 TED Prize for his experiments in self-organized learning.
Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, won the prize for his concept of "self organizing learning environments," an alternative to traditional schooling that relies on empowering students to work together on computers with broadband access to solve their own problems, with adults intervening to provide encouragement and admiration, rather than top-down instruction.
Mitra's work with students in India has gained wide attention and was the focus of a 2010 TED Talk on his "hole in the wall" experiment, showing the potential of computers to jump-start learning without any adult intervention.
Thinking about children living in slums in New Delhi, he said, "It can't be possible that our sons are geniuses and they are not." Mitra set up a publicly accessible computer along the lines of a bank ATM, behind a glass barrier, and told children they could use it, with no further guidance.
They soon learned to browse the Web in English, even though they lacked facility in the language. To prove the experiment would work in an isolated environment, he set up another "hole in the wall" computer in a village 300 miles away. After a while, "one of the kids was saying we need a faster processor and a better mouse."
When the head of the World Bank came to see the experiment, Mitra said he encouraged him to go to the New Delhi slum and see for himself.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - After President Barack Obama announced last week the release of a "College Scorecard," there was a small explosion on Twitter and perhaps in the minds of college applicants deep in the weeds of school selection.
Isn't there enough of this already?
Jeff Solnet (@jfsolnet) February 13, 2013
Is this going to do anything better?
scorecards and shopping sheets. Noble ideas but you have to ensure you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to pomegranates #edsotu—
Eric Nichols (@enichols679) February 13, 2013
Is this scorecard even a good idea?
Hopefully the new college scorecard will focus on quality and affordability. #sotu2013—
Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) February 13, 2013
Michael Harris (@MichaelS_Harris) February 13, 2013
President Obama just destroyed the liberal arts education that built him with his higher-Ed report card. Why pull the ladder up behind you?—
Gary Stager, Ph.D. (@garystager) February 13, 2013
The College Scorecard is not the same as U.S. News and World Report, Kiplingers, Fiske or most other college rankings and guides out there. It's not going to say if a school is among the 10 best anything, whether the students are cute or brilliant, if the dorms are swanky or if a school's mascot would win in a wrestling match - if you even believe rankings can reflect that.
During the State of the Union address, Obama said the College Scorecard would show "where you can get the most bang for your educational buck." It's a nod toward how tough it is to find a school and figure out how to pay for it. Its creators say it was built to reveal value, to show whether a school is worth the money - if you even believe numbers can reflect that.
It pulls together data already sprinkled around government reports and individual schools’ websites. It answers questions like, how much do students and their families pay? How much do students borrow? After all that, do students actually get degrees, and jobs?
Go to whitehouse.gov/scorecard, and type in the name of a school. Or scout one by location, area of interest or type of college, like distance education, campus setting or size. Click to choose one, and what comes back are graphics that depict the average net price: an estimate of the average amount it actually costs to attend, minus scholarships and grants.
Consider Occidental College in Los Angeles, the college young Obama attended after graduating high school in Hawaii. The College Scorecard says it costs $27,846 per year on average, which puts Oxy in the high-cost range. Families of its 2,125 students typically borrow $18,020 in federal loans for an undergrad to attend, and the loan payment would be about $207.37 per month over 10 years. The scorecard also says that about 83.5% of full-time Oxy students earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, and 12.8% transferred to another institution, like Obama, who went on to graduate from Columbia University in New York. There's a space on the scorecard to explain what types of jobs students get after graduation, but nothing is listed there. Sara Gast, a U.S. Department of Education press officer, said they expect to add the info within a year.
Any Oxy applicant is likely to notice the price. It's about $30,000 less than the price listed on Oxy’s website: $57,028 per year for tuition, room and board and fees. That "sticker price" could make potential students cross Oxy off the list immediately, even if they might qualify for tens of thousands in financial aid, even if the true, typical price is far lower. There's a sticker price, and then there's the price paid after deals are offered, negotiations attempted, loans approved and rewards claimed.
By Douglas Rushkoff, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Douglas Rushkoff writes a regular column for CNN.com. He is a media theorist and the author of "Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age" and "Life Inc.: How Corporatism Conquered the World, and How We Can Take It Back." He is also a digital literacy advocate for Codecademy.com. His forthcoming book is "Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now."
(CNN) - Education is under threat, but the Internet and the growth of Massive Open Online Courses are not to blame.
Like the arts and journalism, whose value may be difficult to measure in dollars, higher education has long been understood as a rather "soft" pursuit. And this has led people to ask fundamental questions about it:
What is learning, really? And why does it matter unless, of course, it provides a workplace skill or a license to practice? Is the whole notion of a liberal arts education obsolete or perhaps an overpriced invitation to unemployment?
The inability to answer these questions lies at the heart of universities' failure to compete with new online educational offerings - the rapidly proliferating MOOCs - as well as the failure of most Web-based schools to provide a valid alternative to the traditional four-year college.
Education is about more than acquiring skills.
When America and other industrialized nations created public schools, it was not to make better workers but happier ones. The ability to read, write and think was seen as a human right and a perquisite to good citizenship, or at least the surest way to guarantee compliant servitude from the workers of industrial society. If even the coal miner could spend some of his time off reading, he stood a chance of living a meaningful life. Moreover, his ability to read the newspaper allowed him to understand the issues of the day and to vote intelligently.
What we consider basic knowledge has grown to include science, history, the humanities and economics. So, too, has grown the time required to learn it all. While the modern college might have begun as a kind of finishing school, a way for the sons of the elite to become cultured and find one another before beginning their own careers, it eventually became an extension of public school's mandate. We go to college to become smarter and more critical thinkers while also gaining skills we might need for the work force.
Accordingly, we all wanted our sons and daughters to go to college until recently.