Helping kids cross the digital divide
Students at the Island School on Manhattan's Lower East Side go from being digital consumers to content creators at the middle school's tech café.
October 8th, 2012
06:22 PM ET

Helping kids cross the digital divide

By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

Editor's note: This story is part of the CNN series, "Our Mobile Society," about how smartphones and tablets have changed the way we live. Listen to the complete story in the audio player above.

(CNN) – Middle school students at the tech café inside the Island School on New York’s Lower East Side have their laptops open.

They’re working on their next blog posts about current social issues under the guidance of their teacher, Lou Lahana.

He’s on a mission to help these kids go from being consumers of digital products to being content creators – to end ‘digital inequality.’

Read the full story and hear the podcast on CNN Radio Soundwaves.
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Sandra Day O’Connor champions civics education
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor meets with students at an iCivics event in Washington, D.C.
September 17th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Sandra Day O’Connor champions civics education

by Donna Krache, CNN

Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Schools of Thought on July 19th, 2012. We're bringing it back for Constitution Day.

(CNN) - The retired Supreme Court justice is all business as she walks into our meeting room.

But inside, she’s got the heart of an educator.

Of course, Sandra Day O’Connor will always be associated with her historic “first,” as the first woman justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Prior to that appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she also served as a judge and a state senator.

Since her retirement from the high court in 2006, she has found a new passion – civics education.

How did she decide to become a champion of that cause?  O’Connor says that in her last year on the bench, she was “very much aware of the major issues and debates” being brought before the high court.  There were lots of complaints about the decisions, she says, and many were directed at the judicial branch – with some blaming the justices for certain outcomes.

“As you analyzed it, it appeared to show in many cases that the concerns were misdirected:  There was a tendency to blame the courts for things that were really not a judicial matter,” she told CNN.

The solution to that misunderstanding, she believes, is civics education – a subject she notes has changed through the years.  She remembers her own schooling in El Paso, Texas, and how she learned about Texas government.  Civics knowledge was helpful to her later in life, O’Connor says, and she’s disappointed that today, many schools have stopped teaching the subject.

But she believes young people do have a desire to learn civics because they want to participate in their government, to change things and better their lives. “There is an increasing appreciation that we do need to know how our government works:  national, state and local,” says O’Connor. “And that this is part and parcel of the things that every young person wants to know because they want to have an effect.”
FULL POST

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Filed under: Civics education • Practice • Sandra Day O'Connor • Technology
August 10th, 2012
03:52 PM ET

The school where learning is a game

(CNN) – At one New York City school, students learn by gaming. But how does it work? CNN takes you inside Quest to Learn.

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Filed under: Curriculum • Practice • Technology • video
July 26th, 2012
04:10 PM ET

App gives kids with autism a voice

How are apps allowing kids with autism to communicate?  (From Newsroom.)

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Filed under: Autism • Practice • Technology • video
My View:  Don’t ban social media from schools
July 26th, 2012
10:32 AM ET

My View: Don’t ban social media from schools

Courtesy Ruth DavisBy Steve Nicholls, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Steve Nicholls is the author of Social Media in Business. He is a social media strategist hired by business executives to teach them how to implement a winning social media strategy into their organization.

The New York Education Department recently stated that in the first 11 months of 2011 there were 69 cases where teachers were accused of inappropriate conduct with students on Facebook. Some were fired as a result, and there is a growing trend by schools across the country to put a ban on social media.

This raises a question: Is prohibiting social media in schools the right way to protect children?

In my view, if the answer is yes then that would mean that as technology grows, schools are forbidden to grow with it, and that would somewhat be of a contradiction to what a school is supposed to be in the first place.

I believe it is critical that social media is allowed in schools as it presents a world of opportunities that far outweigh the risks if it is implemented safely and properly. Social media has become far too integrated into daily life on a global basis; failing to incorporate it into schools would do our children a disservice.

Think of how far the space has grown in just a few years (remember Myspace?) and imagine where it will be by the time your child is out of college. Trying to ban social media will simply not work. Just ask certain autocratic countries that have tried in vain. The question at the core of the issue is: Why ban it?

Concerned parents may point to the potential dangers and risks. What about inappropriate interaction with teachers? Or scams from online predators? Even adults fall prey to human emotion and post things they would love to have back. Why put my 10-year-old in that position?

My answer is to first acknowledge that these concerns are warranted and the threats are real. That being said, while the risks of social media are very serious, the biggest risk of all is not to embrace it. Bad people exist in all walks of life, and while we must protect against them, we must not let them hinder progress. For example, if a pedophile is found near a school playground, would you homeschool your child? I think in most instances the answer would be no.
FULL POST

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Sandra Day O’Connor champions civics education
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor meets with students at an iCivics event in Washington, D.C.
July 19th, 2012
06:18 AM ET

Sandra Day O’Connor champions civics education

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - The retired Supreme Court justice is all business as she walks into our meeting room.

But inside, she’s got the heart of an educator.

Of course, Sandra Day O’Connor will always be associated with her historic “first,” as the first woman justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Prior to that appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she also served as a judge and a state senator.

Since her retirement from the high court in 2006, she has found a new passion – civics education.

How did she decide to become a champion of that cause?  O’Connor says that in her last year on the bench, she was “very much aware of the major issues and debates” being brought before the high court.  There were lots of complaints about the decisions, she says, and many were directed at the judicial branch – with some blaming the justices for certain outcomes.

“As you analyzed it, it appeared to show in many cases that the concerns were misdirected:  There was a tendency to blame the courts for things that were really not a judicial matter,” she told CNN.

The solution to that misunderstanding, she believes, is civics education – a subject she notes has changed through the years.  She remembers her own schooling in El Paso, Texas, and how she learned about Texas government.  Civics knowledge was helpful to her later in life, O’Connor says, and she’s disappointed that today, many schools have stopped teaching the subject.

But she believes young people do have a desire to learn civics because they want to participate in their government, to change things and better their lives. “There is an increasing appreciation that we do need to know how our government works:  national, state and local,” says O’Connor. “And that this is part and parcel of the things that every young person wants to know because they want to have an effect.”
FULL POST

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Filed under: Civics education • Practice • Sandra Day O'Connor • Technology
July 9th, 2012
06:15 AM ET

Big fun with littleBits

Ayah Bdeir has invented littleBits – an open-source kit of circuit boards that you build creative projects. She hopes they will inspire young and old to innovate. (from The Next List)

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Filed under: At Home • Technology • video
July 2nd, 2012
06:20 AM ET

Transforming education: Simon Hauger

(CNN) Simon Hauger is transforming education in Philadelphia. He uses project-based learning to promote academic outcomes for kids who face real challenges. His students designed a car that gets 65 MPG. (From The Next List)

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The evolving classroom: Lessons go virtual
Former teachers Eric Westendorf and Alix Guerrier, co-founders of LearnZillion, say the TeachFest event is a way for award-winning teachers to spread their knowledge beyond their classrooms.
June 27th, 2012
06:08 AM ET

The evolving classroom: Lessons go virtual

by Rick Bastien, CNN

(CNN) On any given Sunday night, your child’s teacher might face this problem: How do you come up with a lesson plan for 20 or more students for an entire week when all your students are learning at a different pace?

Mike is great at reading but needs help in math. Katie excels in science but struggles with writing. They both need to pass the same state tests. And with states picking up new high standards for education, there isn’t always a precedent of how to teach. Even with textbooks and years of experience, the best teachers can struggle to find new ways of teaching complex subjects, especially when each student learns differently.

This is a problem that Eric Westendorf and Alix Guerrier are determined to solve. The two former teachers co-founded LearnZillion.com, a social venture that provides free lessons for students, all in organized YouTube-style videos.

The formula is simple: Videos have to be about five minutes long, illustrated by hand and voiced by a real teacher. The product simulates a real-classroom effect —it’s like your favorite teacher drawing the math lesson on the chalkboard, except that you can play it over and over if you don’t quite understand it. At the end, you take a brief quiz. But as it turns out, this resource is mostly utilized by teachers looking for new ways to teach the topics with which their students are struggling .

In other words, teachers need help from other teachers. Jonathan Krasnov, Learnzillion’s publicist notes, “Even great teachers don’t teach everything great.”

Westendorf was the principal of E.L. Haynes, a charter school in Washington, D.C., when he came up with the idea.

He told CNN, “We started using it because we came across the Khan Academy site.  We liked this idea of instruction being captured and delivered to students. Then we said, ‘What if it could be based on the Common Core Standards,  [which mostU.S.states have now adopted] , so that it is aligned with what students need? … It was out of these ‘what ifs’ that I came up with a prototype.”

Westendorf plans for LearnZillion to eventually make profit by selling services to school districts, such as lessons tailored to the needs of the school. But he says that the lessons posted online will always be free.
FULL POST

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June 21st, 2012
06:00 AM ET

High school students develop app to fight bullying

Students at a Connecticut high school developed an app they hope will curb bullying, CNN affiliate WTIC reported. Users can use the app to report bullying they've experienced, even as a witness. The information is anonymous, but goes to administrators, who can look for common threads and patterns in what's reported. The app was designed by students at Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven, Connecticut, who said they saw it as a way for kids to help other kids.

Share in the comments: Do you think an anonymous app is a good way to report bullying? Would you want your kids or their school administrators to use it?

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Filed under: Bullying • Issues • Technology
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