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October 13, 2009

Table of Contents

Cool Links: Wolfram|Alpha Officially Announces New Web Site for Educators and Students
Partnership for 21st Century Skills Gains Signatories to National Action Agenda
Turning Technologies Launches QuestionPoint 2.0
Blackboard Adds Multimedia Content from NBC News to Blackboard Learn Platform
Free Resources: Turning Foundation Classroom Improvement Technology Grant
Free Resources: PBS' Digital Media Resources from Ken Burns's Documentary Series 'The National Parks'
SirsiDynix Announces General Availability of SchoolRooms 3.0
Disney Publishing Worldwide Launches Disney Digital Books
New ISTE Book Shows Educators How to Harness the Power of Podcasting

Cool Links: Wolfram|Alpha Officially Announces New Web Site for Educators and Students

We ran an ITI Crosslink last May in this space to an Information Today, Inc. NewsBreak on Wolfram|Alpha: ITI Crosslinks: Wolfram Alpha--Semantic Search Is Born.


There's been a lot happening with Wolfram|Alpha since then. Most recently, we noted—and are herewith passing on to you—an excellent posting at ResourceShelf on moves at Wolfram|Alpha on behalf of educators and students, including plans for a Homework Day Webcast. From the October 5, 2009, ResourceShelf posting:


Last Friday we posted an item saying to expect an announcement (soon) from Wolfram|Alpha announcing a new web site for students and teachers. We also said that plans were in the works for a webcast aimed at that audience.


Well, that was fast. Today, the news is officially out. Here are some of the details …


And the details, plus interesting commentary, pour forth from the ResourceShelf writers, including the fact that:


On Wednesday, October 21, 2009 (the start time is TBA), Wolfram|Alpha founder Steven Wolfram, will lead a multi-hour webcast for students, parents, and teachers. The event will not only feature Wolfram but also scholars, subject experts, and members of the Wolfram Alpha team.


Click HERE to link to the full ResourceShelf posting, "Wolfram|Alpha Officially Announces New Web Site for Educators and Students," then explore Wolfram|Alpha's website for educators and learn more about the October 21 Homework Day webcast.

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Partnership for 21st Century Skills Gains Signatories to National Action Agenda

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has announced that over 200 schools, districts, state departments of education, and national and regional organizations and businesses from 40 states have signed its National Action Agenda – eight principles that policy-makers and stakeholders are embracing to build an education system that prepares children to succeed in today’s world.


Issued by the Partnership, the principles intend to clearly define and advance knowledge, 21st century skills, and education in the United States.


In signing on to the action agenda, the 237 signatories – including the National School Boards Association, Upper Arlington City (Ohio) School District, Community Unit School District #200 (Ill.), National Staff Development Council, Catalina Foothills (Ariz.) Unified School District #16, National Association of State Boards of Education, Norfolk (Va.) Public School District and many others – committed to an education agenda that equips the next generation of students with the skills and knowledge required to take advantage of the opportunities and challenges they will face.


The principles state:

* U.S. economic and civic viability depend on our ability to prepare today’s students for the realities of this century. Access to the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in today’s world is the right of every child, and ensuring this must be a national priority.


* It is not sufficient to simply respond to these needs rhetorically. All of our public policy initiatives in education must be put to the test of whether they promote access to 21st century skills for all of our students.


* The U.S. comprehensively must address both of its educational achievement gaps – the gap between traditionally underserved communities and their more affluent peers – as well as the overall achievement gap between U.S. students and many of their international peers. We cannot do this in steps, both gaps must be bridged, and all of our students must be able to compete successfully with their peers around the world.


* Wide scale integration of 21st century skills and knowledge into the teaching and learning process cannot be accomplished via isolated programs or minor tweaking of existing programs. We must entwine them in our education, labor, economic, and technology/telecommunications policies. Governments at the local, state, and national level must align their education, economic, labor, technology, and commerce functions to support 21st century education from early childhood through higher education and employee retraining programs.


* Twenty-first century skills and knowledge are not limited to any particular grade or age level, and should be incorporated into pre-K through higher education, workforce development, and career re-training.


* We must invest in our educational infrastructure so all communities have educational systems which provide students 21st century learning environments. Twenty first century skills are the threshold to full participation in today’s world, so we must be vigilant in ensuring all communities have equal access to a 21st century education.


* Educational employees must have consistent access to the tools and support systems necessary to transition to a 21st century learning environment. Both in-service professional development and pre-service education must reflect the realities of quality teaching in this century.


* The corporate, public policy, and education sectors should collaborate at all levels to ensure schools provide high quality education that equips students for this century. The future viability of all these sectors rests in the success of this mission.


Organizations interested in joining the Partnership may contact


Source: The Partnership for 21st Century Skills,

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Turning Technologies Launches QuestionPoint 2.0

Turning Technologies LLC has announced the latest release of QuestionPoint, Turning’s K-12 item bank of standards-based questions. The new web-based application allows educators to develop assessments aligned to state standards for use with Turning’s various student response applications including TurningPoint and TurningPoint AnyWhere.


QuestionPoint 2.0, integrated within TurningTalk, Turning’s recently launched social learning community, allows educators to browse questions by state, grade, subject, and standard. Selected assessment items are automatically combined and downloaded as either a PDF or an importable file into Turning’s interactive student polling applications. QuestionPoint was created using a rigorous item development process and is a complimentary resource to Turning Technologies customers.


Source: Turning Technologies, LLC,

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Blackboard Adds Multimedia Content from NBC News to Blackboard Learn Platform

Blackboard Inc. has announced that multimedia content from NBC News covering decades of historic and current events is now accessible to educators and students through the Blackboard Learn platform. Through a partnership with NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, K-12 and postsecondary institutions in North America now have access to NBC News Archives on Demand.


With this resource, educators can search for instructionally relevant content about real-world events – including audio, text, and short-form video files – that can be embedded directly into courses on the Blackboard system for a wide variety of subject areas.


As a result, educators can complement courses and lectures with historical and current video clips and other content on topics ranging from politics, the economy, and climate change to health issues related to pandemic preparedness including the H1N1 influenza. Students can participate in a more engaging course experience and use the content and resources to support their own research, project work, and presentations.


In addition to regularly updated audio and video files of news events throughout history, NBC’s digital content includes primary source documents, photos, articles, transcripts, analysis, and mini-documentaries that can be used to support instruction in a wide range of subject areas.


NBC News Archives on Demand is available as a free Blackboard Building Block from the Blackboard Extensions catalog. For more information about the Blackboard Content Network, visit For more information about Blackboard Learn, visit

Source: Blackboard Inc.,

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Free Resources: Turning Foundation Classroom Improvement Technology Grant

The Turning Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization established by Turning Technologies, LLC, has announced in partnership with Study Island and Performance Matters their 2009 Classroom Improvement Technology Grant. The goal of this joint effort is to help educators develop 21st Century classrooms and improve achievement by providing technology and professional development tools from multiple industry leading companies.


Grant applications will be accepted from teachers in grades 3-8 currently teaching in an accredited, non-profit, public school building in the United States. Fifteen classroom awards estimated at $5,000 each will be distributed and include student response technology, a web-based standards mastery program, as well as data management tools.


Selected applicants will receive the following:


* Turning Technologies will provide one 32-seat radio frequency student response system that includes TurningPoint and TurningPoint Anywhere polling software, ResponseCard RF keypads, USB-based response RF receiver, QuestionPoint 2 - state-aligned question bank, customized carrying case and technical support.

* Study Island, a provider of online, standards-based assessment, instruction, practice, and test preparation programs for the U.S. K-12 educational market, will include a one-year license of the specific classroom subject for up to 30 students as well as access to their customer and technical support. Study Island enables students to choose their style of learning and work at their own pace. They can work using a standard test format or choose from a wide range of interactive games.

* Performance Matters has developed a web-based data management system that is an enterprise platform for data driven decision making geared toward both small and large school districts across the country. Performance Matters will provide one year of access to their solution for each awarded teacher as well as technical and professional development support.


Grant applications will be available online starting September 22, 2009, and will close October 25, 2009. Awards will be announced October 30, 2009. For more information, please visit


Source: Turning Technologies, LLC,

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Free Resources: PBS' Digital Media Resources from Ken Burns's Documentary Series 'The National Parks'

PBS has announced that digital media resources from Ken Burns's documentary series, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," including on-demand video, lessons plans, student activities, and historical archives, are now available through PBS Teachers ( PBS Teachers is the web portal to PBS' preK-12 educational services and a searchable library of more than 9,000 local and national standards-based instructional resources. PBS Teachers and Classroom 2.0 are hosting a webinar on Oct. 7 to demonstrate ways to integrate the "National Parks" educational media and other free technologies into classroom instruction.

Through the "National Parks" resources, educators can create a tour of the nation's historic and natural treasures while teaching students core curriculum lessons and 21st century skills. During the PBS Teachers LIVE! webinar, "Teaching About Place With Ken Burns's 'National Parks: America's Best Idea'" on Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. ET, educational experts will discuss digital storytelling, including geographic and historical projects, and model classroom activities. Educators will learn how to use "National Parks" and ArcGIS, a free, downloadable, 2D/3D geo-exploration and presentation tool, in teaching about national parks and curricular topics. (PBS Teachers webinars are archived and can be played after the initial broadcast date from the PBS Teachers website.) The webinar is sponsored by ABC-CLIO, publisher of reference titles in the field of history and social studies. In partnership with PBS Teachers, ABC-CLIO offers The Making of National Parks, a free collection of resources, including park profiles, biographies, maps, and images, to spark student interest in the creation of national parks, preservation and the dilemmas that come with it.


The "National Parks" educational resources are designed for middle and high school grade levels and cover art, language arts, science, and several social studies disciplines, such as history, geography, economics, and civics. Among the resources to help educators infuse technology into instruction are the place-based digital storytelling modules. Several video screencasts along with printable quick-start guides provide educators with step-by-step instructions on using the latest technologies to create digital storytelling projects, addressing basic to advanced level technology skills. The modules illustrate the processes of geotagging, video editing and special effects, uploading stories to the "National Parks" site to a part of a public collection, and more.


Additionally, the "National Parks" project offers 10 standards-based lesson plans, nine day-trip activities and five Untold Stories discussion guides.


With resources as vast as Yosemite, the "National Parks" also provides a first source of information for student research projects. An extensive collection of images, video, historical archives, biographies of historical figures, and park profiles from the film, as well as links to resources from around the Web are available on the "National Parks" website (


For more information, or to register for the "National Parks" webinar, go to Registration entitles educators to free membership in PBS Teachers. Members receive discounts to PBS Educational Media and access to the PBS Teachers online community, where preK-12 educators can collaborate with peers and save digital media resources.


Source: PBS,

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SirsiDynix Announces General Availability of SchoolRooms 3.0

SirsiDynix has announced the release of SchoolRooms 3.0. Designed to meet both state and federal education standards, SchoolRooms gives students access from a single interface to library resources, online databases, and approved web content alongside new and past curriculum specifically created for SchoolRooms users. Version 3.0 features new administration tools that allow teachers and librarians to customize and adapt the product to meet the needs of students and parents.


Organized by subject, SchoolRooms offers an alternative to expensive supplements and remediation materials. Content is presented in virtual rooms to help students discover information, provide educators with access to materials, and enable parents to find resources for improving their children’s education.


This release includes the addition of three new rooms. The Health Room provides teachers and parents with tools to meet the changing physical needs of today’s students. The new World Languages Room includes tools for students learning to communicate in today's global education environment. And the ELL Educator Room provides a tool students can use to learn English for the classroom and social environment, step by step.


Students who enter keywords in a simple search box will now experience a single, relevance-ordered list of results for all sources. Capitalizing on fuzzy logic search technology, SchoolRooms delivers faceted search capabilities, accurate results despite misspellings, simplified search interfaces, guided discovery, mobile browsing, optional social networking, and many more features.


Libraries can define custom search limits for use within specific profiles. These limits allow students and parents to focus searches on records or documents that match an enormous range of possible attributes including content source, location, language, reading level, and format.


SchoolRooms can have a footprint as small as a search box widget, or it can serve as a full library web presence and content management system. With enhanced administration tools, multiple languages, and configurable themes, teachers and librarians can customize and adapt the product to tailor the experience for individual user needs.


Because all of this is configurable through an administrative user interface, there is no need to edit files on the server or worry about whether customizations will be preserved through upgrades, according to the announcement. Library administrators have the ability to configure all of the following according to local needs:


* Content Management. Libraries that use the content management features can select which content is available to specific profiles and use both a WYSIWYG interface for editing and creating content or a built-in HTML editor.

* Look and feel: Libraries can upload their own headers, footers, and navigation panels. They can also upload their own cascading style sheets to control fonts, colors, backgrounds, and layout.

* Authentication: Libraries can decide whether or not authentication is required for a given profile and whether to use LDAP or the ILS user repository.

* Available content: In consortia, not all members have the same content subscriptions. Profiles allow configuration for individual members.

* Reporting: With built-in Google Analytics, libraries will have unprecedented visibility into the usage trends of their SchoolRooms 3.0 discovery tool.

* Search Displays: Libraries can select which fields appear in search results and detail displays as well as the arrangement and behavior of those fields.


Source: SirsiDynix,

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Disney Publishing Worldwide Launches Disney Digital Books

Disney Publishing Worldwide has announced the launch of Disney Digital Books, a fully interactive online experience featuring:


* More than 500 books at launch, offering children of all ages, reading levels, and interests a broad selection of books

* Look and Listen titles that allow children to hear the story read aloud

* A Story-Builder feature so kids can create and share their own memorable stories

* A "My Place" area that children can personalize

* An age-appropriate dictionary that lets children click on any word to hear it read aloud, select unfamiliar words, and read simple definitions

* Reading certificates to encourage budding readers


Children will find favorites from popular Disney franchises such as Mickey Mouse, Toy Story, Disney Princess, Cars, and Hannah Montana, along with many other classic Disney stories.  New books and features, including some exclusive to Disney Digital Books subscribers, will be added on an ongoing basis.


Disney Digital Books aggregates books into three separate reading levels: Level One for beginning readers and shared reading with parents and other care-givers; Level Two for children who are ready to read independently; and Level Three for children ready for chapter books.


Disney Digital Books is available for an annual subscription of $79.95, or a monthly subscription of $8.95. Each subscription covers up to three children in the same household. Gift subscriptions are available online and at select retailers. The browser-based service is PC- and Mac-compatible and does not require a download.  A free trial of the service is accessible starting September 29, at

Source: Disney Publishing Worldwide,

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New ISTE Book Shows Educators How to Harness the Power of Podcasting

A new book from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), "Student-Powered Podcasting: Teaching for 21st-Century Literacy," shows educators that teaching students to podcast can also be a vehicle for teaching powerful ideas. Podcasting has become a powerful tool for those interested in broadcasting their messages over the internet, and it can be particularly valuable for teachers looking to provide their students with the 21st century skills they need to be successful, the ISTE announcement notes.


In addition to focusing on teaching students technology skills they can apply throughout their lives, author Christopher Shamburg shows how creating podcasts ignites their interest in new subjects and connects and applies their learning to the world around them. "Student-Powered Podcasting: Teaching for 21st-Century Literacy" defines what podcasts are and explains why they are important to students. The book leads Mac and PC users through tutorials on the audio editing programs GarageBand and Audacity, taking them through an entire project from start to finish. In addition to explaining the technical aspects of podcasting, the book explores the complex issues surrounding copyright and fair use laws, so teachers can guide their students in how to ethically collect and use materials to create their own news programs, audio tours and other original productions.


The book features assessment rubrics, 17 adaptable units, and links to examples. It is available for $23.05 for ISTE members or $32.95 for nonmembers.


More information about the book and a sample chapter are available at To hear an interview with Shamburg, check out the ISTE Casts podcast series at


Source: The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE),

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