Disability.gov Adds Social Media Tools, Disability Resources and a New Design

In conjunction with the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Department of Labor has re-named and re-launched its disability resources Web site to Disability.gov. Formerly called DisabilityInfo.gov, the site offers comprehensive information about programs, services and assistive technology to better serve more than 50 million Americans with disabilities, their family members, veterans, employers, educators, caregivers and anyone interested in disability-related information.

The new Web site (http://www.disability.gov) integrates content from 22 federal agencies and will be managed by the Labor Department. The former DisabilityInfo.gov site was revamped with social media tools to encourage interaction and feedback, and new ways to organize, share and receive information. Visitors can sign up for personalized news and updates, participate in online discussions and suggest resources for the site. New features include a Twitter feed, Really Simple Syndication feeds, a blog, social bookmarking and a user-friendly way to obtain answers to questions on such topics as finding employment and job accommodations. Additional tools will be added during the months ahead.

"Far more than just a directory of federal resources, Disability.gov is a meeting ground for Americans to learn, respond and communicate about a wealth of critically important disability-related topics," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The new site has been vastly enhanced to provide more information in as efficient and interactive setting as possible."

The site is organized into 10 subject areas: benefits, civil rights, community life, education, emergency preparedness, employment, health, housing, technology and transportation. By selecting a category, visitors are directed to useful information on federal and state government programs and services, news and events, grants and funding opportunities, disability services, assistive technology and more.

"The Department of Labor is pleased to be the managing partner of Disability.gov and to help advance the independence and full participation of people with disabilities in the workforce, the classroom and their communities," said Kathleen Martinez, assistant secretary for the Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

Disability.gov contains thousands of links to reliable disability resources and information from its federal agency partners, as well as educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and state and local governments -- as well as links to assistive technology.

ODEP is leading a 21st century federal response to the historic underemployment of people with disabilities. In collaboration with other government agencies, public and private employers, and additional stakeholders, ODEP facilitates the development and implementation of innovative policies and practices necessary to achieve a fully inclusive workplace. ODEP's work primarily falls into three categories: employers and the workplace; workforce systems; and employment-related supports, which include education and training, health care, reliable transportation, affordable housing and assistive technology. For more information, visit http://www.dol.gov/odep.

U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/compliance.

National Forum On Information Literacy Celebrates 20th Anniversary

On October 15 and 16, 2009, the National Forum on Information Literacy begins celebrating 20 years of promoting information literacy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Conference Center in Washington, D.C. Information literacy is a critical skill set essential today for academic achievement, workplace success, and engaged civic participation in our dynamically evolving information and communication technology universe. It provides the worldview template needed by all Americans for successful pursuits in areas of competitive advantage, personal responsibility, and lifelong learning in the 21st century.

The anniversary theme for the two day affair is Empowering Future Generations: Information Literacy. Arthur J. Rothkopf, Senior Vice President and Counselor to the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will keynote the dinner celebration on Thursday, October 15th. Friday's Annual Meeting will offer an interactive town hall format focusing on the theme and is open to the public. Seating is limited.

The Anniversary's honorary chair, Congressman Major R. Owens, Ret. has said, "Information literacy is needed to guarantee the survival of democratic institutions. All men are created equal but voters with information resources are in a position to make more intelligent decisions than citizens who are information illiterates. The application of information resources to the process of decision-making to fulfill civic responsibilities is a vital necessity."

The two day affair will celebrate the achievements of the National Forum including acknowledgement of the steadfast dedication and leadership of its first chair, Dr. Patricia Senn Breivik, currently Vice President of Nehemiah Communications in Columbia, South Carolina. The National Education Association is one of the event's key sponsors.

As we move further into the 21st century, it is quite clear that information literacy will become the standard-bearer for academic achievement, workforce productivity, and competitive advantage.

For more information on the 20th anniversary celebration, visit www.infolit.org

More Than 30 Percent Of Faculty Say They Tweet

Faculty Focus, a website for higher education professionals, today announced results of a survey on Twitter usage and trends among college faculty. The survey of approximately 2,000 higher education professionals found that nearly one-third (30.7 percent) of the 1,958 respondents say they use Twitter in some capacity. More than half, (56.4 percent) say they've never used Twitter.

The findings, available in the downloadable report Twitter in Higher Education: Usage Habits and Trends of Today's College Faculty, show relatively strong adoption rates among higher education professionals. On the other end of the spectrum, the results also reveal a large number of faculty question the value of using the micro-blogging service in an academic setting.

Key findings of Twitter in Higher Education: Usage Habits and Trends of Today's College Faculty include:

-- 21.9 percent of respondents say they are "familiar" or "very familiar"
with Twitter.

-- Of those who use Twitter, 21 percent say they "frequently" use it to
collaborate with colleagues; 15.6 percent do so "occasionally."

-- Of those who use Twitter, 7.2 percent "frequently" use it as a
learning tool in the classroom; 9.4 percent do so "occasionally."

-- 71.8 percent of current Twitterers expect their usage to increase this
school year.

-- 20.6 percent of current non-Twitter users say there is a "50/50
chance" they will use Twitter as a learning tool in the classroom in
the next two years.

-- 12.9 percent of respondents say they tried Twitter, but stopped using
it because it took too much time, they did not find it valuable, or a
combination of reasons.

Depending on how they answered the question "Do you use Twitter?" respondents were asked a unique set of follow-up questions. The 20-page report released today provides a breakdown of the survey results by question, including comments provided by survey respondents when available. The comments further explain how they are using Twitter, why they stopped, or why they have no interest in using it at all.

Although the majority of faculty do not currently use Twitter, their reasons are varied. Many questioned its educational relevance and expressed concerns that it creates poor writing skills. For others the reasons boiled down to the simple fact that they either don't know how to use Twitter, or don't have time to use it.

"One of the more interesting findings from the survey is the high percentage of faculty who use Twitter, even if they're still experimenting with the best ways to incorporate it into their courses," says Mary Bart, content manager for Faculty Focus. "What also became quite apparent was how strongly Twitterers and non-Twitterers feel about the technology."

The majority (55.9 percent) of people who took the survey are professors or instructors, with another 4.3 percent who designated themselves as online instructors specifically. Nearly one-fourth (23.6 percent) are academic leaders, such as department chairs and deans. Sixteen percent selected their role as "other" and this included individuals in faculty development, academic advisement, instructional design, marketing, admissions, assessment, and library services.

The survey was conducted in July and August 2009. An email invitation to participate in the online survey was distributed to Faculty Focus subscribers, as well as to select in-house lists of higher education faculty and administrators. Faculty Focus also notified its Twitter followers of the survey via http://twitter.com/facultyfocus.

To access the full report: Twitter in Higher Education: Usage Habits and Trends of Today's College Faculty visit http://bit.ly/4cjCh0 or http://www.facultyfocus.com/.

Stimulus Helps Schools, but Not as Much as Hoped

Federal stimulus funds for education are flowing to states and local school districts, but many of the dollars are simply backfilling budget holes, limiting the ability of districts to implement innovative reforms, according to a study released today by the American Association of School Administrators. "Schools and the Stimulus: How America’s Public School Districts Are Using ARRA Funds," is based on a survey of 160 school administrators from 37 states conducted in July and August 2009. The study finds that while school leaders appreciate the opportunity the federal stimulus funding represents, a lack of flexibility in the funding and a need to fill federal, state and local budget shortfalls are sizeable obstacles that many districts have been unable to overcome in their efforts to save jobs and effect change.

"AASA members have voiced both appreciation for and concerns with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," said AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech. "While they remain committed to their daily efforts to advance education reform and innovation, the current economic realities have severely limited their ability to use stimulus dollars for anything beyond filling budget holes."

Survey Highlights

A majority of districts have received or anticipate receiving soon their ARRA Title I, IDEA and State Fiscal Stabilization Fund dollars.

When asked how their districts are using ARRA funds to bring about education innovation and reform, more than two-thirds of respondents replied that the stimulus dollars are either filling funding gaps or represent only marginal growth in funding levels.

School districts are using the one-time funds to save teaching and staff positions. However, less than half of respondents reported being able to save core subject teaching positions with ARRA dollars.

The top five reported uses for ARRA Title I and IDEA monies are: professional development; saving personnel positions; classroom technology; classroom equipment/supplies; and software.
AASA members said a heightened level of bureaucracy and reporting tied to the stimulus funds limits their time and ability to implement education reform and innovation.

AASA President Mark Bielang, superintendent in Paw Paw, Mich., said: "The survey results echo a frustration my colleagues and I have long articulated: limited flexibility for the existing federal education funds cuts down on our ability to innovate, and the stimulus dollars come with limitations. In light of the tight economic situation at the federal, state and local levels, a little flexibility goes a long way toward supporting educator efforts to innovate and reform America’s public schools. AASA will continue to monitor ARRA and advocate for the greatest flexibility possible, so that school administrators across the country can maximize ARRA’s investment in America’s public schools."

Survey results: http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=5452.

Children’s Creativity with "Curious Corner," a New Interactive Web Site

The Art Institute of Chicago's Department of Museum Education has just launched Curious Corner, a vibrant children's interactive game that brings the museum's collection of art to life. Packed with lively animation and fun features, the dynamic program encourages young Web users and their families to explore more than 30 works of art from around the world through playful and creative activities.

Developed by the Art Institute in collaboration with Sandbox Studio, Inc., a design company dedicated to educational programs and technology, Curious Corner is now accessible on the Web as well as on dedicated computers inside the museum.

"Opening the new Ryan Education Center in the Modern Wing has really been a catalyst for us to bring the world of museum education into the twenty-first century," said Robert Eskridge, the Woman's Board Endowed Executive Director of the Department of Museum Education. "The education center is now fully equipped with state-of-the-art computer terminals, wireless laptops and interactive whiteboard technology, and, in the classrooms and studios, multimedia projection and display systems. With Curious Corner on the Web, we're now able to bring all the advances of the Ryan Education Center into the homes of families and visitors."

Curious Corner introduces families, children, and educators to the Art Institute's diverse collection, teaches basic visual skills, and promotes the museum in a stimulating, intuitive, and appealing way. The activities allow children to "learn by doing": children can interact with works of art through both words and pictures, experiment with visual elements and principles, and use different styles of design to create something new. The broad selection of artworks featured in the program include American and European paintings, African masks, Indian artifacts, and contemporary works-offering children of all ages ample opportunity to encounter and discover a diverse array of styles, media, and cultures.

On the homepage of Curious Corner, users can choose from three different activities: "Story Time," "Match Up," and "Play with Art." "Story Time" enables children to explore the background behind three different art objects with animated tales that allow web visitors to click on components throughout. "Match Up" teaches careful looking skills to children through the act of combining textures, shapes, and sounds with details in famous artworks. The third section, "Play with Art," encourages kids to create their own mask or Joseph Cornell box and match faces to famous portraits–all while teaching them about the art that inspired the game.

Curious Corner is one of many ongoing technology initiatives that the Art Institute's Museum Education department has developed in recent years for its audiences, both online and inside the museum. It continues the museum's award-winning tradition of innovation in education that can be found in previous interactive exhibitions such as Telling Images and Faces, Places, and Inner Spaces.

Curious Corner can be accessed through one of the computer terminals found in the Vitale Family Room of the Ryan Education Center in the Modern Wing or online at artic.edu/aic/education/CC. This program is one of many that support the Art Institute's goals to serve families and enhance the appreciation and enjoyment of art.

Arizona Science Center launches 'Young Science Correspondents' program

Arizona Science Center is exploring new opportunities for science learning and inspiration with the creation of a new and innovative program – Young Science Correspondents -- that is training eight Valley students to be science correspondents with the help of local journalists and science experts. These eight students, four from the Bioscience High School and four from Carl Hayden High School, are making the My Digital World Gallery and the azcentral.com CyberLab at Arizona Science Center their home this summer.

The Young Science Correspondents program introduces youth to science journalism through organized experiences and mentorship in science, journalism and media. Program goals are to inspire teenage youth – including the participating correspondents and those that they reach – and to introduce science into teen awareness throughout Arizona.

Supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Arizona Science Center’s Young Science Correspondents program begins with a month long summer program this July plus monthly 3-hour workshops during the 10-month school year. Students are learning and using multi-media journalism to report the sciences and are responsible for researching, interviewing and producing at least one project per week during the month of July.

An impressive interview schedule has been set for this program that includes individuals from Wired magazine, the Arizona Department of Health Services, and ASU Biodesign Institute just to name a few. The students will also be taking trips to some of the top media and science locations throughout the valley such as The Arizona Republic, Know99 TV and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Now more than ever, Arizona’s young people need opportunities in which they can become actively engaged in the science around them, explore new ways that scientific discovery affects their world and discover new career opportunities. To create interest in young people, they need non-school environments where they can have authentic experiences and see real-world applications.

Arizona Science Center developed the Young Science Correspondents program to address concerns of leaders in Arizona who are committed to preparing a strong workforce. It addresses the need for a new generation of scientifically literate residents by experimenting with a new kind of science learning environment for English- and Spanish-speaking adolescents and young adults in our community.

Other youth journalism projects targeting teens in Arizona do exist but the Young Science Correspondents project is the first journalism program for teens that focuses on science topics and is led by a science center. This pilot project will create an innovative pedagogical, collaborative approach utilizing scientists, journalists, and informal educators teaching together that may be replicated at other informal learning centers.

Students Seek Quality Higher Education in the Face of California Budget Cuts

As the effects of vast state budget cuts at California's public higher education institutions are felt, more students may rely on the stability of private schools like Academy of Art University for a quality education. Academy of Art University's student population has grown continuously in recent years, a trend that the school plans to support as public institutions face budget cuts that could significantly stall enrollment.

California State University (CSU) recently announced measures to address an unprecedented budget reduction of $584 million for 2009-10. CSU has stopped accepting student applications for the 2010 spring term. CSU has typically enrolled more than 35,000 freshmen, undergraduate transfer and graduate students during the spring term.

State budget cuts do not affect privately funded schools like Academy of Art University. "The Academy continues to offer a world-class educational experience in art and design. We welcome all students interested in pursuing a creative career," said Dr. Elisa Stephens, Academy of Art University president.

CSU has been working to finalize a plan to address the unprecedented budget cuts, which will include measures to reduce enrollment, employee furloughs, possible student fee increases, salary and hiring freezes, and restrictions on travel and purchases. Overall, CSU is looking to reduce its enrollment by 40,000 students system wide for 2010-2011.

While budget cuts force state-funded schools to consider cutting degree programs, Academy of Art University recently announced the addition of two new majors to meet the increasing demand for quality art school programs. The School of Game Design offers AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in a variety of specializations. Students can pursue their love for music for film, TV, and on the Web in the new School of Music for Visual Media.

In addition to limiting enrollment and cutting programs, state budget cuts could lead to a less qualified faculty and a diminished classroom experience for state-funded schools. Higher salaries will draw the best teachers to more competitive schools, and fewer instructors mean fuller classrooms.

The enrollment reductions and service cuts at state-funded schools are prompting many students to transfer to private schools like Academy of Art University. The Academy accepts transfer credits from many institutions and welcomes students seeking quality higher education.

With small class sizes and a high graduate job placement rate, Academy of Art University is committed to its exceptional standard of art school education. The Academy will continue to prepare the creative work force of California, the nation and beyond, regardless of state budget cuts.

Reading Is Fundamental Launches "Read for Change"

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) has launched Read for Change, a campaign to encourage all Americans to read with young children. This initiative is part of United We Serve, the national effort launched by President Obama on June 22 to engage more Americans in serving their communities this summer.

"One of the greatest services we can provide our communities is to ensure that all children obtain access to books and discover the joy and value of reading," said RIF President and CEO, Carol H. Rasco. "Today RIF is pleased to launch 'Read for Change' and we challenge Americans across the country to collectively log 3 million minutes of reading with children by September 11, 2009."

Participants can log their time at http://www.RIF.org/readforchange. At the end of the campaign, RIF will randomly select five participants to receive a children's multicultural book collection as well as the opportunity to select a school in their community to also receive a book collection.

This effort by RIF, the nation's oldest and largest children and families' literacy nonprofit organization, projects to raise awareness about the impact of children's literacy on the long-term economic health of the country.

In addition to raising awareness of the issue of literacy, RIF is partnering with the Verizon Foundation to encourage participants to supplement these reading activities by visiting Verizon's Thinkfinity.org web site (www.thinkfinity.org). The site contains thousands of free, educational resources for teachers, parents and students, including K-12 lesson plans, online educational activities, videos and other materials designed to strengthen literacy development, creativity and develop the critical thinking skills needed for success in the classroom and the workplace.

Reading to children becomes particularly important during the summer months, when children lose knowledge gained during the school year. The magnitude of this phenomenon, known as the "summer slide" or the "summer slump," is strongly affected by family income -- students from low-income families experience over two months summer learning loss in reading achievement, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Summer Learning.

To help meet growing social needs resulting from the economic downturn, the Summer Service Initiative, launched by the White House, aims to both engage new volunteers in expanding the impact of existing organizations and to encourage "do-it-yourself" projects. The focus of the initiative is economic recovery, with the support of education and literacy for all Americans as a main component. Within the literacy component there are three specific focus areas: reading with kids, book drives and distributions, and library card registration drives.

"RIF is pleased to join with our partners to participate in United We Serve, and thanks the President for making this call to service this summer and beyond," added Rasco.

To participate in Read for Change, people can log their minutes read with a child at http://www.RIF.org/readforchange. To learn more about this and other local volunteer opportunities in your community, visit www.Serve.gov.

TechForEducators.com Unveils World's Largest Public Library Advertisement

TechForEducators.com unveiled a new outdoor advertising campaign for public libraries. The campaign entitled "Free Education" aspires to create a greater intellectual life among Bay Area citizens and to help improve the performance of schools and teachers.

"Public libraries are an incredible resource. Yet, a great advertising campaign for public libraries has never been done before. Why not?" asked Matt Spergel, President of TechForEducators.com. "How many more great books will be read? And how many lives will change as a result?"

TechForEducators.com claims the billboard is the world's largest public library advertisement. The advertisement's headline exceeds 41 feet and the call to action spans the length of the billboard at 48 feet. "As far as we know, the world has never seen a public library advertisement of this size," Spergel said.

"Education cannot rest on the shoulders of teachers alone. Parents must also take more resposibility for the education of their children ... and bringing them to the library is an important first step," Spergel added.

The billboard is in Martinez, CA on I-680 south after the Benecia Bridge on the right-hand side.

Government of Canada Supports Project to Promote Adult Literacy in British Columbia

Adults with learning disabilities will benefit from a project funded by the Government of Canada designed to help improve their literacy skills. Ms. Dona Cadman, Member of Parliament for Surrey North, made the announcement on behalf of the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

"Our government works with partners across Canada to improve literacy and essential skills that will help Canadians get jobs and build better futures," said Ms. Cadman. "This project will build the ability of adult literacy practitioners to better understand and help adults with learning disabilities."

Under the project, Learning Disabilities and Adult Basic Education: A Whole Life Approach to Professional Development, Literacy BC will receive $389,263 to create professional development strategies for literacy practitioners to enable them to better understand and help adults with learning disabilities. In addition, 50 literacy practitioners from across the province will participate in provincial and regional workshops to prepare themselves to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities.

Improving Canadians' literacy and essential skills is a key part of the Government's commitment to making the Canadian workforce the best educated, most skilled and most flexible in the world. The Government underscored this commitment in Canada's Economic Action Plan. To help Canadian workers and families during the global economic downturn and to prepare for the country's long-term growth, the Government is investing an unprecedented $8.3 billion in the Canada Skills and Transition Strategy.

Literacy and essential skills are the foundation for lifelong learning and play a vital role in the development of healthy families, vibrant communities and a prosperous economy. Literacy and essential skills programs and activities across Canada are supported by the federal, provincial and territorial governments, and by a variety of businesses and voluntary organizations.

Website: http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/home.shtml

Dad's Early Connection With Child 'Writes Script' For Later School Involvement

When a dad changes diapers and makes pediatrician's appointments, he's more likely to stay interested and involved when his child makes the transition to school, said a new University of Illinois study that explores the role of parent involvement on student achievement.

"If we want fathers to be involved in school, we need to focus on men building close, loving relationships with their children in the preschool years. When fathers do this, they're writing a script that says they're involved in their child's life, and their expectation is that they'll go on being involved in that child's life," said Brent McBride, a U of I professor of human development.

McBride likes to use affection as an example of early parent involvement. "That can be as simple as a father winking at his three-year-old child," he said.

"If you, as a dad, develop an affectionate way of interacting with your preschooler, later when your child comes home and tells you what he's done in school that day, the warm, close relationship you've built will allow him to approach you with trust, and it will allow you to respond to your child's enthusiasm or frustration in a positive way," he said.

"If fathers wait to seek a closer relationship with their child until later in the child's life, the moment has passed," he said.

The study involved 390 children and their families from the Child Development Supplement data set of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics.

When the children were two to five years old, five early parenting behaviors—parent-child household-centered activities, parent-child child-centered activities (for example, reading to kids), parental limit setting, responsibility (such as making doctor's appointments), and demonstrating affection—were measured for both parents. Later the mothers' and fathers' involvement in school and the children's student achievement were assessed.

The study is unique in that it looks at mothers and fathers simultaneously, said the researcher. "No one person in a family system does anything without being influenced by every other person in that system. Having both parents in these analyses is a big advantage and a step above the previous research."
The study showed that the paths are different for mothers and fathers, and the researcher believes that parents and teachers should acknowledge that and build on these differences.

For example, although mother involvement in school-related activities was positively associated with student achievement, father involvement in such activities had a negative correlation with academic success.

"But this occurs because fathers who have established a pattern of being involved early in a child's life are more likely to step in at school (for example, in formal conferences and interaction with teachers) when their child is struggling in the school setting," he said.

McBride explained that parental roles aren't scripted for men as they are for women, and expectations aren't as clear-cut. "As long as a father is providing for his children, he's usually considered a good father," he said.

"And, although we're trying to encourage fathers to become more engaged in parenting than they have been, I don't believe the institutional mechanisms are in place to help that engagement along. Child-care providers and teachers aren't trained to approach fathers to help them become more involved as parents," he said.

He believes the best way to make these changes is to work with child-care providers and educators so they broaden their definition of parent to mean more than mothers.
"For example, if you're a day-care provider and a child is experiencing stress because of toileting issues, you would probably automatically reach out to the mother about these problems. Why shouldn't the father get that call?

"We need to train teachers so they're comfortable communicating with men as parents," he said.

The study, which appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Educational Psychology, was co-authored by W. Justin Dyer, Ying Liu, and Sungjin Hong of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Geoffrey L. Brown of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was funded in part by grants from the American Educational Research Association and the National Science Foundation.

Source: http://www.uiuc.edu/

10 Most Popular Websites for Kids

As there is a seemingly endless supply of child-appropriate websites on the Internet, kids' websites are facing the same challenges as other sites on the net, namely bringing traffic and capturing the users' attention.

In a quest to drive website traffic and increase site popularity, marketers and brands are all doing their best to stand out and attract users, and to convince them to visit their websites. This, however, is quite a complicated task, as young kids visiting sites depend totally on their parents to set up the sites for them.

But what happens when you put all the kids' websites into one place and create easy navigation for children to surf these sites? What happens when you let the kids decide for themselves what their favorites are from a big selection?

This is exactly what happens in KIDO'Z, and what this Kid's Web Environment does is it gives every kids' website a fair chance to make its mark, by letting the kids themselves decide what their most popular websites are, regardless of marketing spending and online efforts.

Websites are added to KIDO'Z by parents and educators from all over the world. The KIDO'Z smart content engine ensures that, in addition to personalizing the content for each kid, all content that has been recently added is getting exposure. This keeps the content fresh for the kids and gives the new content a chance to become popular.

The following lists represent the 10 most visited sites on KIDO'Z by kids from more than 80 countries. "Through KIDO'Z, young children have direct access to hundreds of kids' websites in more than 30 languages in a safe, central place." -- Gai Havkin, CEO.

These websites are identified by colorful eye-catching thumbnails and children simply need to click on the image of their choice to visit the site. Children can also easily add any website to their Favorites section for fast and easy return to the sites that they like the most."

You'll notice that even though some of the big brands are up there, there are also a couple of unique, smaller sites that are making their mark. For example, Fun Brain and Poisson Rouge are listed among the most popular English websites in KIDO'Z, and through KIDO'Z, they are given the opportunity to compete with some of the established big brands. These two sites fall under the educational website category and use learning games and activities to educate children. The popularity of these sites could be indicative of the demand by children for educational and interactive website content.

Below you can find the lists of the most popular sites by languages. These lists, including links to the websites, can be found at http://www.kidoz.net/blog.

Most popular kids' sites in English:

Fun Brain
Mickey Mouse
Hot Wheels
Poisson Rouge
Roary the Racing Car
Ben 10
PBS Kids

Most popular kids' sites in French:

Wumpa le Morse
Monsieur Madame
Petite Princesse
Petit Ours Brun
Chez Polo

Most popular kids' sites in Spanish:

Cartoon Network
Disney Playhouse Spain
Discovery Kids
Cuentos Interactivos
Mundo Nick

Most popular kids' sites in Italian:

La Casa di Topolino
Tigger & Pooh
Manny Tuttofare
Little Einsteins
Higglytown Heroes
Il Circo di Jojo
Rolie Polie Olie

Computers Can Boost Literacy

Computers do not spell the demise of literacy -- in fact, they may help to create one of the most literate and engaged generations the world has seen.

Carl Whithaus, associate professor of writing at UC Davis, will report preliminary results from a California Department of Education-funded project under way in fourth-grade classrooms at elementary schools in the Elk Grove School District in Elk Grove, Calif. The project uses technology to increase academic achievement.

During the first year of the two-year study, student achievement increased 27.5 percent, according to Whithaus, who is principal investigator of a study to evaluate the project's effectiveness.

"We're finding that traditional print-based literacy is important. At the same time, we're seeing that the new technologies are not just eye candy," says Carl Whithaus, an associate professor of writing at UC Davis and principal investigator of the evaluation arm of the study.

"Traditional print-based reading and writing is only part of a much larger set of skills that students need in the 21st century."

Whithaus is also the organizer of Computers & Writing 2009. The conference is the culmination of a yearlong series of conferences hosted by the University of California on technology and writing.

Source: http://www.ucdavis.edu/

Online Tutorials Help Elementary School Teachers Make Sense Of Science

Interactive Web-based science tutorials can be effective tools for helping elementary school teachers construct powerful explanatory models of difficult scientific concepts, and research shows the interactive tutorials are just as effective online as they are in face-to-face settings, says a University of Illinois expert in science education.

David Brown, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education, said that elementary school teachers need high-quality, research-based resources to help them build a meaningful scientific knowledge base.

"Refining one’s scientific knowledge base through online interactive resources can help teachers develop a deeper conceptual understanding of scientific phenomena, making them better prepared to engage students in science-based activities," Brown said.

In any curriculum, there is teacher background literature or other forms of digested information that teachers can study to refresh their memories or get the broad stroke outlines of what they’re going to teach.

The trouble with those teaching aids, according to Brown, is that the information they contain is "usually fairly terse" and isn’t interactive or research-based.

If teachers lack confidence in their scientific knowledge base, they’re probably going to avoid situations where they might be caught flat-footed by a student’s question, because they don’t want to be asked a question they don’t know how to answer, Brown said.

So they’ll fall back on more traditional lesson plans that emphasize the rote memorization of scientific terms over inquiry-based forms of learning, such as hands-on activities and discussions of those activities.

But an emphasis on routinized learning doesn’t help students grasp the foundational science behind what they’re learning, Brown said. "If online tutorials focus on explaining the underlying scientific concepts behind the phenomena rather than on the rote memorization of facts, that can help teachers form a more meaningful conceptual understanding of what they’re going to teach," he said. "A teacher who has a firm scientific knowledge base can then help students understand the fundamental scientific ideas and concepts behind what they’re learning better."

To test his hypothesis, Brown developed "Making Sense of Science," an online multimedia tutorial that tested subjects’ pre- and post-test knowledge of the scientific concept of buoyancy.

In the first 10 interviews, the average post-test score increased by 16 percent; in the second group of 10, by 28 percent; and for a group of 68 online users, by 33 percent. Similarly, Brown discovered that the average post-test confidence scores nearly doubled after the respondents interacted with the tutorials, and the written explanations of their ideas went from "somewhat incoherent" to "coherent explanations that made use of relevant ideas," he said.

"We found that our resources were effective, and they were as effective online as they were face-to-face," Brown said.

The tutorials were also crafted to address the perceived deficiencies that Brown thought other teacher background information and online resources suffered from.

"The resources are designed to help teachers develop their ideas," Brown said. "They’re not designed for teachers to use directly with the students, but rather as background information for the teachers to develop their ideas so they’ll be in a better position to engage students in activities."

Those positive results make Brown guardedly optimistic that online resources for teachers can be developed that will be helpful in advancing reform in elementary science education.

"The focus in both national and state standards is involving students in inquiry-oriented activities," he said. "This is just trying to provide a resource for teachers for what they’re already being asked to do at the national and state levels."

Brown believes having better prepared elementary school science teachers will ultimately lead to more students interested in science.

"There’s a world of difference between a drill-and-kill lesson versus an inquiry-oriented one in terms of student engagement and retention," he said. "There’s a wealth of potential there that we’re not tapping into."

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Free Booklet: Earth Science Literacy Principles

If you're clueless about petrology, paleobiology and plate tectonics, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Earth Science Literacy Initiative (ESLI) have just released a free pamphlet offering a concise primer on what all Americans should know about the Earth sciences.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and compiled over the last year by ESLI, the booklet represents an attempt to gather and codify the underlying understandings of Earth sciences into a succinct document that will have broad-reaching applications in both public and private arenas.

"The Earth Science Literacy framework document of Big Ideas and supporting concepts was a community effort representing the current state-of-the-art research in Earth sciences," said Michael E. Wysession, Ph.D., chair of ESLI and associate professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Earth Science Literacy Initiative explores 9 "Big Ideas" at core of current research

The new Earth Science Literacy Principles establish nine "Big Ideas"and 7-10 supporting concepts for each, which together cover the essential information that everyone should know about the Earth sciences. The resulting Earth Science Literacy framework will also become part of the foundation, along with similar documents from the ocean, atmosphere and climate communities, of a larger geoscience "Earth Systems Science" literacy effort.

The scope of the new ESLI Earth Science Literacy Principles spans a wide variety of research fields that are funded through the NSF-EAR program. These fields include geobiology and low-temperature geochemistry, geomorphology and land-use dynamics, geophysics, hydrologic sciences, petrology and geochemistry, sedimentary geology and paleobiology, and tectonics.

The project included a 2-week online workshop with over 350 participants and multiple revisions supervised by a dedicated organizing committee of a dozen Earth scientists and educators.

"It was written, evaluated, shaped, and revised by the top scientists working in Earth science," Wysession said. "Because of its validity, authority, and succinct format, the ESLI document will be influential in a wide variety of scientific, educational, and political domains. New textbooks and curricula are already being developed using it, and future governmental legislation will be guided by it."

More information on the EARTH SCIENCE LITERACY INITIATIVE and a downloadable version of the free booklet can be found at the web site http://www.earthscienceliteracy.org/.

Book Drive to Foster Youth Literacy

Tomorrow, Aug. 1, will mark the first day of a community-based book drive at more than 1,000 Borders(R) and Waldenbooks(R) stores throughout the nation. Borders and Waldenbooks' staff will encourage customers to purchase new children's books through the first week of September. All books will be directly donated to a local charity chosen by each store. In this difficult economy when charities nationwide have generally seen a decrease in contributions, Borders and Waldenbooks stores are pleased to coordinate book drives that will benefit hundreds of local non-profit organizations across the country.

"Borders' customers are extremely generous even in this challenging economy -- and they share our company's passion for fostering children's literacy. Every child should experience the joy of owning a book and we are pleased to team with our customers and hundreds of non-profit organizations throughout the country to help make that possible," said Anne Kubek, executive vice president of Merchandising and Marketing for Borders.

Whether searching for a beloved classic from their childhood or discovering a new author or illustrator, customers will enjoy browsing Borders and Waldenbooks stores' selection of thousands of titles. The retailer expects some of the most popular books donated to include "Horrid Henry," "Fancy Nancy: Pajama Day," "The Poky Little Puppy" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Customers can choose to donate these titles or they can donate their favorite age-appropriate children's book. If they choose, customers can even purchase a toy or game to donate.

Borders stores in Omaha, Neb. have selected Boys Town as the recipient of their book donations. "Reading is such an essential part of any child's educational development, and is key to their future success," said Father Steve Boes, Boys Town National Executive Director. "We want to thank Borders for making this important donation to our vital work."

Borders stores in Michigan have once again selected Reach Out and Read Michigan as the beneficiary of the books they collect. "Literacy is vitally important to the quality of life of Michigan's families. We are grateful to Borders stores for again helping us provide much needed books to children throughout our state," said Wendy Shepherd, Outreach Manager for Reach Out and Read Michigan.

Customers may contact their local Borders or Waldenbooks store to learn more about the book drive. To find a store, visit Borders.com and click on the store locator tab.