By Laurie Segall and Erica Fink, CNNMoney
New York (CNNMoney) - Kids lose their school IDs but they don't often lose their eyeballs.
That's one of the reasons why a growing number of schools are replacing traditional identification cards with iris scanners. By the fall, several schools - ranging from elementary schools to colleges - will be rolling out various iris scanning security methods.
Winthrop University in South Carolina is testing out iris scanning technology during freshman orientation this summer. Students had their eyes scanned as they received their ID cards in June.
"Iris scanning has a very high level of accuracy, and you don't have to touch anything, said James Hammond, head of Winthrop University's Information Technology department. "It can be hands free security."
The college will be deploying scanning technology from New Jersey-based security company Iris ID.
By Heather Kelly, CNN
(CNN) - Hey, young readers: Instead of another summer uttering the dreaded phrase "I'm bored," how about meeting a NASA astronaut or building a working potato cannon?
Maker Camp, which kicks off its second year on July 8, is different kind of summer camp for kids and teens. Instead of canoes and kickball, it has microcontrollers and robots. There are no bus rides or cabins; camp can take place anywhere there's a computer and an Internet connection.
Check out the new site, CNN.com/parenting!
The camp is a free, six-week online program inspired by the maker movement - the trend toward do-it-yourself culture - and run by Maker Media in collaboration with Google. Maker Media also publishes Make magazine and organizes the Maker Faires.
The virtual camp guides kids through daily DIY projects and connects campers to each other using the Google+ social network. Each week has a different theme, and kids are encouraged to share their creations and ask questions during daily video broadcasts.
The lifeblood of the camp are daily Google+ Hangouts where makers, counselors and other special guests lead young viewers through a project. The day's project and supply list is posted in the morning and the hangouts start at 11 a.m. PT (2 p.m. ET). Participants must be at least 13 to have a Google+ profile, but many parents of younger kids use their own log-ins and do the projects together. They can also be viewed on YouTube.
"It is like a camp. You go there, you choose an arts and crafts project or you choose archery and meet other people interested in the same things," said Maker Media founder and CEO Dale Dougherty.
Follow us on Twitter @CNNschools!
By Erica Fink and Laurie Segall, CNNMoney
(CNNMoney) - Your child's school knows just about everything about your kid. Now, many school districts are storing all that information in the cloud.
Non-profit inBloom offers an Internet database service that allows schools to store, track and analyze data on schoolchildren. If you think about it, that information is more than just test scores. It's whether kids receive free lunch - a telling indicator of the family's finances. It's the time a student got into a fight in the schoolyard. And it could be a child's prescription medication.
The upshot of storing all that data in one location is that it can be used to tailor specific curricula to each child. If Johnny's data suggests that he's a tactile learner and he's failing math, inBloom's analytic engine might suggest a particular teaching approach.
Teachers say that kind of insight can be helpful.
Jim Peterson, a teacher in Bloomington, Ill., says inBloom has helped break down the silos in his school system's data collection. His school district supports 50 separate data systems.
"This is all about building personalized learning environments for kids," he says.
Peterson also thinks having this kind of data will spur new innovation in education, encouraging entrepreneurs to build applications that can help teachers make use of their students' data.
But as more school districts team up with inBloom, including New York, parents are becoming increasingly vocal critics of the data collection.
Follow us on Twitter @CNNschools!
By Doug Gross, CNN
(CNN) - Saying Web access is essential for students to compete in a wired world, President Obama on Thursday will announce an initiative to bring high-speed Internet to almost all of the nation's schools by 2018.
At a speech in a high-tech middle school in Mooresville, North Carolina, Obama was scheduled to order federal agencies to earmark funds for providing broadband and wireless access to 99% of U.S. public schools in the next five years, according to senior administration officials. The president is tasking the Federal Communication Commission with spearheading the project, and is also asking the FCC to fund high-speed connections at libraries.
"We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology," said Obama in a statement released by the White House.
"So today, I'm issuing a new challenge for America - one that families, businesses, school districts and the federal government can rally around together - to connect virtually every student in America's classrooms to high-speed broadband internet within five years, and equip them with the tools to make the most of it."
The initiative, called ConnectED, also will ask private-sector industries for help in getting the most modern technology, educational software and apps into students' hands, and in providing tech training for teachers.
The effort does not require approval by Congress.
(CNN) - Haralson County, Georgia, school bus driver Johnny Cook couldn't get the story out of his head: A middle school student told him he hadn't eaten, and had been turned away from the lunch line because he owed 40 cents. Cook wrote about it on Facebook, and the story spread.
Haralson County Superintendent Brett Stanton says it didn't happen that way; the child would have been offered a bagged lunch, Stanton told CNN affiliate WGCL, but he didn't go through the lunch line.
Cook says he still believes the student; the bus driver was fired after he refused to remove the Facebook post and apologize. "I'm proud that I was able to take a stand where others might not have been able to, and that I can maybe, in some little way, cause a change," Cook told WGCL.
It's not the first time a student has reported going without a meal because of school lunch debt; in some cases, they've been told to dump the food they've selected and are given an alternative snack, such as cheese and juice. Middle school students in Attleboro, Massachusetts, were turned away from lunch earlier this year, and about 40 elementary students in Edgewood, Kentucky, went without regular lunch during state testing period because of overdrawn accounts, CNN affiliate WCPO reported.
How should schools handle kids whose lunch accounts are overdrawn? What's your school's policy? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments or on Twitter @CNNschools.
By Chris Boyette, CNN
(CNN) - An upstate New York student said he got a three-day suspension for creating a controversial Twitter hashtag encouraging discussion of the school district's failed budget.
Pat Brown, a senior at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, says he created #s**tCNSshouldcut to brainstorm ways his school could save money in response to voters on Tuesday rejecting a $144.7 million budget plan. The budget did not receive the 60% voter approval it needed.
Many students were concerned, Brown said, because the school board had warned that if a new budget was not eventually passed, they might have to eliminate athletic programs, other extra-curricular activities and introduce additional administrative cuts, including the elimination of some teacher positions.
The budget is up for a revote on June 18.
"Everyone on Twitter was talking about 'I can't believe the budget didn't pass' and so I created (the hashtag) as a joke, really," Brown told CNN on Friday.
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."