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 Wayne Drash, CNN
Editor's note: This is an edited excerpt from Wayne Drash's upcoming book "On These Courts," which documents former NBA all-star Penny Hardaway's return to his Memphis roots to help a friend with cancer coach at-risk youth. The book, which is released Tuesday by Simon and Schuster, started as a story on CNN.com.
(CNN) - The boys of Lester Middle dripped with sweat. They raced up and down the court, doing layup drills. The orange glow of the fluorescent gym lights flashed off the hardwoods. Coach Desmond Merriweather barked out signals.
"Y'all ain't hustling enough," said Merriweather, who was in the throes of battling stage IV colon cancer.
At the far end of the court, former NBA all-star Penny Hardaway peeked his head in the door. None of the kids noticed. He and Desmond decided that Penny would show up and surprise the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
As the players continued to run the court, Penny kept peeping his head in and out of the black metal doors until finally breaking into their practice.
Some of the boys instantly recognized him from a charity game two nights before and sprinted toward him.
But the two best players, Reggie Green and Robert Washington, trailed behind. They weren't sure who the 6-foot-7 guy with the trimmed goatee was.
(CNN) - It was an exciting moment when Torrean Johnson heard from his teacher that he'd won a major scholarship through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program administered by the United Negro College Fund.
The excitement was short-lived, though.
Johnson, a student at Southwest High School in Fort Worth, Texas, received notification he hadn't won. The teacher was one of hundreds who received erroneous letters saying their students would receive full-ride scholarships, CNN affiliate WFAA reported.
A statement on the Gates Millennium Scholar website said: "UNCF deeply regrets that an error by a staff member resulted in a miscommunication to some nominators and/or recommenders for students who were not selected to receive scholarships under the 2013 Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program....we recognize the incorrect update sent to their nominators and/or recommenders created stress and disappointment for everyone involved."
By Schams Elwazer, for CNN
(CNN) - Saudi Arabian girls will be officially allowed to practice sports in private schools for the first time, according to an education ministry announcement reported in the nation's official press agency.
The new regulations for physical education, announced Saturday, require that girls "dress modestly" and have appropriate equipment and facilities, and that female Saudi teachers have priority to supervise these activities.
"(This decision) stems from the teachings of our religion, which allows women to practice such activities in accordance with sharia," Education Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Dakhini told SPA.
This is the first official government sanction of women's sports in schools, but some Saudis say it is not as momentous a decision as it may seem.
"This is not a big deal," said blogger Eman al-Nafjan, who writes about Saudi women's issues. "Private schools already have a physical education program, and the government knows about them. My daughter and niece both go to separate well-known private schools, and they both have sports programs."
Al-Nafjan says that although the announcement will not change anything for private school students, the decision itself could be a barometer for the introduction of sports into public girls' schools that do not have physical education programs.
By Rita F. Pierson, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Rita F. Pierson, has been an educator for more than 40 years, serving as a teacher in elementary school, junior high and special education and has been a counselor and administrator. She has led development workshops for thousands of teachers. She spoke in May in New York at a TED Talks Education event that will be the basis for a show premiering Tuesday, May 7, on PBS stations. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading" which it makes available through talks published on its website.
(CNN) - I have been a professional educator for 40 years. I have worked at every level of the public school spectrum—elementary through high school. Having been in education for such a long time, I have witnessed many changes, all aimed at school improvement. Needless to say, not all the suggestions have been sensible.
What may appear to be a good idea on paper, or when sitting around a table in discussion of it, does not always make for good reality, especially at the schoolhouse.
It is important to note that most of the dictates for schools are proposed by people who have never taught. Regardless of the studies and research aimed at school improvement, I believe good educators have always known what makes schools work more efficiently. However, we get bogged down in rhetoric and what is "hot" at the moment. I believe that sustained school improvement will take guts (good old fashioned courage), focus and stamina. Here are a few tenets that make sense to me:
If a child is not present at school, he or she cannot possibly learn. Schools that consistently report high student achievement consistently have students with great attendance. Yet one of our greatest school problems is student attendance. Why do we have to beg parents to get their children to school, to convince them that we need their children present and as stress free as possible? A parent asked me once why her child needed to come to school every day. She was actually upset that the school district had a policy that addressed absent and tardy children. She said it was not the school's business to tell her how to raise her children.
New York (CNNMoney) - From paying for a designer dress to renting a fancy limo, teens (and their parents) are shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars this prom season.
On average, families expect to spend $1,139 on prom this year - up roughly 40% from 2011's $807 average and a slight increase from last year, according to a Visa survey.
Families in the Northeast expect to pay the most, an average of $1,528, while Midwestern families were the most frugal, at an average of $722, according to the survey of more than 1,000 parents of prom-aged teens.
With traditions like debutante balls falling out of fashion and young people getting married later in life, prom has grown in importance and people are willing to spend more on the big night, said Kit Yarrow, a consumer research psychologist.
"Prom is the new wedding," Yarrow said. "I think that every society has to have a rite of passage into adulthood for young people, and prom has become that."
The increase in prom spending is also being driven by the popularity of photo-oriented sites like Facebook and Instagram, she said. Prom is "a post-able moment" which has heightened the pressure around appearances.
While parents still foot a majority of the bill, teens pay for about 41% of the costs, Visa's survey found.
By Laura Ly, CNN
(CNN) - Dartmouth College canceled classes Wednesday after a student protest sparked a threatening backlash on a campus online forum, according to a college spokesman.
On Friday, current Dartmouth students interrupted a welcome show for recently admitted students by chanting about aspects of student life they found troubling, such as issues around homophobia and sexual assault on campus. The welcome show was designed to highlight why the prospective students should attend Dartmouth, college spokesman Justin Anderson said.
The decision to cancel classes was prompted by a series of threatening and abusive online posts that targeted the students who protested at the welcome show, a letter sent to Dartmouth students and faculty said.
The online postings appeared on BoredAtBaker.com, a Dartmouth-exclusive forum where students post about happenings on campus, according to student Dani Valdes, 22. The website has since been shut down.
Comments on the website included derogatory, homophobic, racist, and sexist remarks directed at the student protesters. Threats of violence and sexual assault also appeared. Although student protesters expected campus-wide reaction, they say were not anticipating the level of hostility they experienced.
(CNN) - Pam Mathers was a half-mile away from the Boston Marathon finish line when bombs exploded Monday. The Michigan resident wasn't injured, but she didn't finish the race. Students back at Hamilton Elementary School in Troy, Michigan, where Mathers is principal, didn't want her months of training to end without celebration. They created a symbolic finish line so they could cheer her on, CNN affiliate WDIV reported.
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
Editor's note: Elizabeth Landau is a writer and producer for CNN.com. She is a 2006 graduate of Princeton University.
(CNN) - When I told my mother that my senior thesis proposal had been accepted, that I would travel overseas to study the legacy of medieval Judaism in Spain, her main question was: “Where is this all going?”
For a 21-year-old, it’s often not clear where anything is going. I wasn’t entirely sure myself. In today’s tough job market, it may be hard for students - or parents - to rationalize working on an extensive academic research project over the course of the senior year of college, especially in the liberal arts.
But this is the season when some students are deciding whether to pursue one, and the seniors are submitting them. So, parents, listen up: A senior thesis is something that you should motivate your college student to do, even if the subject doesn’t lead to an obvious career path.
Outside of graduate studies or academia, most people will never again choose a topic that they want to research deeply for months, and write about what they discovered. As long as there’s an academic supervisor, reading and writing involved, the process can help with job and life skills.
By Julia Duin, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Julia Duin teaches journalism at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She worked in newspapers for 25 years, including stints at the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Times, and for the past two years, as a contributing writer for the Washington Post Sunday magazine. Her website is juliaduin.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliaduin.
(CNN) - Remember those late summer days, just before the start of school, when you knew you were free as a bird until Labor Day?
I used to enjoy them, too. And then I moved to West Tennessee.
The Volunteer State is one of 10 states - all in the South except for Utah and Arizona - where a majority of schools begin classes before August 15. I’m willing to bet the school start dates here are the earliest in the country. Nashville public schools will begin their classes next summer on August 1. In Chattanooga, it will be August 8. Memphis will start August 5. Things are a little saner in Knoxville, where schools will begin August 21 this year.
But recently, my local school board in Madison County voted to begin school on August 2.
Yes, August 2. I’m the parent of a first-grader in one of the elementary schools in Jackson, a city of 65,211 an hour east of Memphis. It is best known as the place where legendary railroad engineer Casey Jones grew up. It is a center for cotton, soybeans, a Pringles Potato Chips plant - and early schools.
Before moving here, I lived in Maryland, a state that Education Week recently anointed as having the country’s best schools. We started school around the third week in August and ended in early June. Most of the country cannot comprehend starting school August 2.
I like to spend summers near family in the Pacific Northwest, where summer doesn't even kick in until July and August and September are the best months to be there. All around the country, there are reunions, sporting events, fairs, festivals and zillions of outdoor events in August. All my college friends from Oregon are having our once-every-five-years reunion the second weekend of August. In 2008, I went. This year, I will be stuck in Tennessee.