- Congress Says Bah Humbug to Schools
Congress finished its work on the FY 2006 education budget, and thereâ€™s good news and bad news. While tech funding was cut by $221 million, at least the program survived.
- Serious Game Gets Players
Using 3-D graphics and action video sequences, Food Force, a free online game from the United Nations World Food Program, helps players learn about world hunger. Learn more about serious games.
- MI Considers Requiring Online Courses
Michigan is about to become the only state that requires students to have completed an online learning experience in order to graduate.
- Wikipedia Rival Planned
A new information service, Digital Universe, will launch early in 2006, with a free open source encyclopedia that has two tiers — articles written by the general public that are not certified by experts as accurate, and those that are.
- Spoken Books for Free
LibriVox contains a small, but growing, collection of audiobooks that are available for free. A cadre of volunteer readers recorded the works.
Congress Says Bah Humbug to Schools
Congress has finally finished its work on the FY 2006 education budget. On December 21 the Senate passed the appropriations bill that funds labor, health and human services, and education. The bill had passed in the House on Dec 14 and now awaits the Presidentâ€™s signature. Overall, the Department of Education is funded at $56.5 billion, down roughly $59 million from FY 2005. Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT), the main federal funding vehicle for educational technology, is budgeted to receive $275 million, a $221 million cut from the previous year. While technology advocates were disappointed by their inability to convince Congress to be more generous, there is some consolation in the fact that the President had proposed eliminating the EETT program entirely. The Presidentâ€™s proposed high school intervention program was eliminated by Congress and requested increases for Title I and other literacy programs were not funded. While funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, an after-school initiative focused on improving student achievement, was held level at $991 million, the much smaller Community Technology Centers program, was eliminated. An additional across the board cut of 1% will be applied to all programs in an attempt to control FY 2006 spending. Source: U.S. Department of Education
Serious Game Has Players
As any parent can attest, kids get deeply involved in videogames. A group of policy makers and gamers are hoping to turn gamesâ€™ ability to involve to non-entertainment ends, developing â€œserious games.â€ The Serious Games Initiative, founded by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, is focused on using games to explore the management and leadership challenges facing public sector organizations; projects involve the use of games in education, training, health and public policy. A current example is â€œFood Force,â€ a free online game from the United Nations World Food Program, thatâ€™s been downloaded more than 2.5 million times. Designed for 8- to 13-year olds, the games challenges users to ease famine by participating in six realistic missions. The game starts with a short movie that describes a crisis in an imaginary country. Players are challenged to complete a series of mission to help the population, guided by a team of world Food Program experts. Missions range from dropping food parcel from a helicopter to a Sim City-type game where players use food aid to rebuild the countryâ€™s economy. Children can compare their scores with other players across the world on the Food Force web site. The focus in on learning by doing, which some experts claim is a way of building deeper understanding. Source:Christian Science Monitor
MI Considers Requiring Online Courses
The Michigan State Board of Education has approved a new set of high school graduation requirements, including the completion of an online learning experience. The new requirements still need to be approved by the state legislature and the governor before going into effect. While students would be permitted to count noncredit online courses toward the requirement, the state superintendent of public instruction indicates that he wants to encourage students to take the online courses for credit â€“ especially elective classes linked to "21st Century Skills" such as economics and technology. The requirement is designed to make sure that students are prepared for college or the world of work, where technology skills are a significant factor in success. Michigan has a strong commitment to online education, launching the Michigan Virtual University (MVU) in 1998 to deliver online education and training opportunities to the citizens of Michigan. MVU is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual High School, which was started in 2000. As the second largest virtual K-12 school in the United States, MVHS provided nearly 8,000 courses and thousands of test reviews in 2003-04. MVU now dedicates its resources to serving the K-12 education community exclusively, so resources are readily available to allow students to meet the new graduation requirement. Source: Chronicle of Higher Education
Wikipedia Rival Planned
A new, free open source information service, dubbed Digital Universe, is set to launch early in 2006. Like Wikipedia, much of Digital Universeâ€™s content will be created by the general public. But the resemblance stops there, since Digital Universe plans to have contributions reviewed by experts located at hundreds of institutions throughout the world. The information will be organized into separate content portals, one for each major subject area, such as education, or the solar system. Each portal will contain many different kinds of resources, some created by experts and others created by the general public under the management of experts. The encyclopedia layer will consist of two distinct tiers â€“ articles written by the general public that are not certified by the experts as accurate, and those that are. This will allow readers to judge the worth of the article and its accuracy on their own. The portals will contain many types of resources in addition to the encyclopedia articles, including public-domain books, participatory journalism and forums of various kinds. The trick will be finding a business model that makes it possible to offer such resources without relying on selling advertising. Initial funding will come from $10 million raised over the last three years from investors. Moving forward, the creators of Digital Universe plan to partner with various nonprofit organizations such NASA and the American Museum of Natural History to sell Digital Universe-branded Internet service to their members. Their ultimate goal is to produce a â€œdirect conduit of objective information from scientists and educators to decision makers and civil society at large.â€ Source: CNET
Spoken Books for Free
If you like being read to or reading aloud, you might want to check out LibriVox. The site contains a small, but growing, collection of audiobooks that are available for free. The works have been recorded by a cadre of volunteer readers. While they may not have the performance-level quality that is associated with audiobooks recorded by professional actors, observers says that the experience is much more personal. The readers clearly love books and the listener is free to concentrate on the words and the story and not the performance. In mid-December the site offered almost two dozen complete works, including Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Jack London's The Call of the Wild and other classic novels and poems. Founder Hugh McGuire says that at the current rate of production there should be 30 works available by the end of the year. LibriVox wants all books in the public domain to be available, for free, in audio format, on the internet. All volunteer readers need is a computer, some free recording software, and their own voice. Once a chapter is recorded, LibriVox catalogs the files, and podcasts the books. A LibriVox volunteer has decided to create her own podcasts of free audio books for children at kayray.org. The files are also being shared with LibriVox and include the Road to Oz and the Little Princess. Most of the reading material, which must be out of copyright, comes from Project Gutenberg. Source:LibriVox