Designing Your Newsletter For Readability by Bret Ridgway

When you're laying out a newsletter one of your key considerations must be the concept of designing for readability. Whether you're working with an outside graphics person or doing the layout yourself, there are things you need to avoid in your layout in order to improve the readability of your newsletter.

One of the first things you want to make sure of is the way the fonts look for people. Typically, the main font types used are Serif and San Serif. The Serif fonts are fonts with little feet like Times New Roman, and Garamond. San Serif fonts are straight without feet such as Helvetica, Arial and other fonts like that.

Knowing how to use these properly is very important.

When doing headlines for your newsletter the best type font to use are San Serif. They're bold, bigger types that are much easier to read for small amounts of text.

However, when it comes to the body of copy it's actually easier to read a Serif font such as Times, because those feet actually allow the readers eye to flow from one letter and one word to another naturally and without them even realizing it. Therefore, you should be using a San Serif font for your headlines, sub-heads and other text that you want to stand out. Then use Serif fonts for body text, which simply helps to keep it readable.

Another thing you want to do is break up the newsletter with graphics, and callouts, some people call them pull quotes. These help to break up the readers eye and gives them something graphically appealing that will keep them interested in the stories you're sharing and also provide visual queues to enhance what they're reading.

However, it's important to not over use color and graphics to the point where it distracts people as they're reading. One thing, especially when it comes to readability, is that you don't want to use too much color in your text. It's important to keep the text readable so it's recommended any body text remain black so it's crisp and clear to a reader's eye.

When it comes to headlines, sub-heads and other things like that, you may want to pull the color in for your text. Just don't over do it and make it difficult for people to read.

With pictures, make sure your resolution for a print newsletter is at least 300 dpi. Less then that is acceptable for web usage, but try and use lower than 300 dpi in print and you'll really be disappointed with how it looks.

That means you can't go grab your logo from your website and just slap it into your newsletter and expect it to look good because it won't when you print it out.

Readability is critical to the success of your newsletter. If your newsletter is perceived as too difficult to read it doesn't matter how great your content might be. People will be put off and you run the risk of them unsubscribing from your newsletter sooner rather than later.

So be cognizant of this concept of readability whenever you're laying out your newsletter.

Bret Ridgway is co-founder of the Newsletter Formula along with Heather Seitz. For your copy of their free report "7 Ways to Make Money with Newsletters and Continuity Programs" visit

Americans called to log time spent reading with kids to raise awareness for children's literacy

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation's oldest and largest children and families' literacy nonprofit organization, is proud to take part in United We Serve's Education Week (July 27-August 2) -- a week-long focus on the countless Americans who strengthen communities by rolling up their sleeves to have a positive impact on children through education-based volunteer activities.

"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. "RIF is honored to work with tens of thousands of committed volunteers across the country to raise literacy levels in their communities."

To further raise awareness about the importance of literacy and its long-term impact on the economy, RIF is challenging all Americans to collectively log 3 million minutes of reading with children by September 11, 2009, on the Read for Change website: At the end of the challenge, RIF will select five participants to receive a children's multicultural book collection as well as the opportunity to select a school in their community to receive a book collection.

Each day of Education Week, RIF will also showcase inspiring stories of its volunteers on RIF's President and CEO blog, "We invite Americans to join the movement to increase literacy across the country by picking up a book and reading to a child in their life or by spreading the joy of reading through volunteering," adds Rasco. Statistics show that nearly two-thirds of low-income families own no books for their children. RIF has provided families access to books and reading materials since 1966, by providing volunteers with the resources to distribute 16 million free books to 4.5 million children each year.

For more information about United We Serve and other volunteer opportunities in your community, visit

cholastic Launches Nationwide Mentoring and Literacy Program

Scholastic has launched Scholastic R.E.A.L.: Read. Excel. Achieve. Lead.(TM), a nationwide mentoring program that provides students with reading mentors from their communities. The program was launched at an education Town Hall with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as part of the 23rd annual 100 Black Men of America conference in New York City.

A recent Child Trends research brief found that young people who participate in mentoring programs have better attendance, are more likely to pursue higher education, and have more positive attitudes toward school than those without mentors. Building on this research, school districts participating in Scholastic R.E.A.L. recruit members of their community to commit one hour a month to visiting and reading aloud to second, fifth or seventh grade classrooms.

Mentors read and connect with students who have limited access to positive role models. Students receive books to build their home libraries and the powerful experience of meeting strong, successful members of their community.

"I know first hand the powerful impact that mentoring can have on both mentor and student. As a R.E.A.L. mentor, I am humbled to be a part of a program that shows students the world of reading, and encourages them to pursue their dreams," said Greg Worrell, President of the Scholastic Classroom and Library Group. "Scholastic is thrilled to have an opportunity to bring the R.E.A.L. program to districts nationwide, and eager to ensure that positive role models are in classrooms all across the country every day."

Mentors participating in the Scholastic R.E.A.L. program come from all areas of the community: business, medicine, law, sports, politics and the nonprofit sector. The program is designed to combat the staggering literacy and dropout rates of young men of color in America: only 20% of Latino boys and 16% of Black boys are reading at grade level by the fourth grade; 45% of black boys and 42% of Latino boys will drop out of high school.

"Strong mentoring relationships are critical to the future of our children... and to the future of our nation, particularly among boys of color who are not achieving at the level of their peers, and are therefore at greater risk of dropping out of school," said Albert E. Dotson, Jr., Chairman of the Board of 100 Black Men of America, Inc. "100 Black Men of America is proud to join the Scholastic R.E.A.L. program in bringing positive role models into the lives of students across America."

Visit for more information about Scholastic R.E.A.L.

Student Newspapers, Young Writers Win National Publishing Contest

Guess what? Print is alive and well in U.S. schools. In June, Weekly Reader will honor the lively writing, exciting design, and outstanding community coverage of three student-created newspapers--the winners of the 2009 Student Publishing Contest.

These prize-winning publications, chosen by the editors of Weekly Reader magazines, were selected in three categories. The Blake Beat of James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, was named the top high school publication. Two schools in St. Petersburg, Florida, won in the middle and elementary school categories: J.Hop Times of John Hopkins Middle School and Manatee Messenger of Melrose Elementary School.

"These publications offer vivid snapshots of their communities, report on tough stories, and inspire students to action," said Ira Wolfman, Senior Vice President of Editorial for Weekly Reader. "While all three publish good content for the Web, they are superb examples of the ongoing power of print."

The Weekly Reader Student Publishing Contest also cited three students in the individual writing category. Elementary school winner Julianne Hensel of Westminster, Colorado, won for her up-close report titled "Fourth Grader Prepares for Black Belt Testing." In "One Fast Moment," Felice Luu, the middle school winner, gives a gripping first-person account of a car accident. And in "Nova," high school student Maggie Millner movingly weaves together a tribute to her elderly grandmother with a revelation she experienced during a visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

All winners will be honored at Weekly Reader's student publishing awards ceremony on June 11, 2009, at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C. The event, part of the Association of Educational Publishers' annual Summit, will feature a keynote address by Candy Crowley, CNN's Senior Political Correspondent. Ms. Crowley will also participate in the presentation of the awards.

Winners receive round-trip transportation to the banquet courtesy of the contest's exclusive airline sponsor, Continental Airlines. Each winner also receives a $500 check (payable to the school or individual) and a plaque. In addition, schools are offered a visit during the following school year by a Weekly Reader editor.

For more information on Weekly Reader's Student Publishing Contest or details about the luncheon, please visit

Five High School Science Teachers Embark on Unforgettable Science Adventure

Five stellar high school biology teachers are about to embark on an unforgettable science adventure. In July, the winners of the Tropical Biology Scholarships 2009 are off on the trip of a lifetime - a two-week field study course at one of the world's most fascinating and important scientific and educational institutions: the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) in Costa Rica.

Sponsored by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, authors of the world's top-selling high school biology program, the 2009 Tropical Biology Scholarships for teachers are awarded to:

Amy Braverman, Alexander High School, Albany, Ohio
William Hodges, Holt High School, Holt, Mich.
Martin Perlaky, Springfield High School, Holland, Ohio
Lisa Stefanucci, Northwestern High School, Albion, Pa.
Kelly Tripp, West Brunswick High School, Shallotte, N.C.

The winners wrote a compelling essay on how participation in this course at OTS would change the way they teach biology.

The course is co-led by biologist-author Levine and Barbara Bentley, Ph.D., a prominent tropical plant ecologist and master teacher. Together, course participants will explore rainforest and cloudforest ecosystems, investigate the active Arenal volcano and study tropical plants and animals in their native habitats. While visiting these fascinating ecosystems, course participants will design and conduct open-ended field research projects and learn how to teach research with lesson plans based on true inquiry. They will return to their classrooms with pictures, stories and real-life experiences in research and exploration to share with students and colleagues. While in Costa Rica (and when they have Internet access), scholarship winners will "tweet" about their adventures at

Lynda Cloud, senior vice president for science at Pearson, the publisher of Miller and Levine's award-winning biology program, said, "For hundreds of thousands of students and teachers around the world, Ken Miller and Joe Levine's biology programs are the gold standard for science instruction. We look forward to being a part of this great adventure that will make these exemplary teachers even more effective in bringing the world of biology to life for their students."

Joe Levine said, "We were amazed by the passion for teaching biology that was expressed in this year's scholarship essays. Ken and I are thrilled at this confirmation by teachers that biology is indeed a living science."

He continued, "As we prepare for our trip, I share the winners' excitement. Although I've been studying and working at places like OTS for many years, every time I lead a hands-on field science course, I learn more about the natural world and return home with new and creative ways of integrating what I've learned into teaching biology. I know that this course will expand and enhance our scholarship winners' teaching and help them bring tropical ecosystems, and a real understanding of the nature and process of science, to life for their students. Previous winners - all of whom were skilled and knowledgeable teachers to begin with - have been thrilled at the way our course offered, not only specific information about tropical organisms and ecosystems, but also first-hand experience in the way field research is done."

Originally, this year's scholarship program planned to name two winners, but because of the overwhelming number of top-flight essays submitted by biology teachers around the country, Pearson supported three additional awards. To read the winning essays, go to

The five winners all exemplify Ken and Joe's commitment to real biology education, as demonstrated in the new and innovative edition of their high school biology program, "Miller & Levine Biology." This new program takes a bold approach to science instruction, combining a proven foundation of academic success with the power of new technology.

Through the program's new digital center,, students meet their partners in the adventure of learning about biology - a team of "ecogeeks" who have created lively and engaging videos that infuse curriculum topics with new relevance for students. Described by Levine as "science reality TV," "Untamed Science" offers the perfect blend of energy, enthusiasm and solid scientific knowledge.

To learn more about authors Ken Miller and Joe Levine, "Untamed Science" and the way that "Miller & Levine Biology" is transforming science education, visit To view a video about "Miller & Levine Biology" visit

Teachers to Scholastic: Don’t Use Us to Market Toys, Make-up, and Brands to Children in School

"Stop enlisting teachers to sell toys, make-up, and brands to students through book clubs."

That's what more than 1,200 teachers said in a letter the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent to Scholastic, Inc., the world's largest educational publishing company. CCFC sent the letter, signed exclusively by teachers, after a review of Scholastic's 2008 elementary and middle school Book Club flyers found that one-third of the items for sale were either not books, like the M&M Kart Racing Wii videogame, or were books packaged with other products, such as lip gloss and jewelry.

"Anything that teachers hand out in the classroom carries their implicit endorsement," said Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC's Director. "Scholastic should not be exploiting teachers' influence with students to sell toys and trinkets or to promote media properties, like Hannah Montana and SpongeBob SquarePants, to children in schools." Signatures were collected online and at state and local meetings of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Last February, CCFC forwarded over 5,000 complaints from parents to Judy Newman, President of Scholastic Book Clubs. In response, she told The New York Times that the company works with teachers "to make sure that items are O.K. to put out in their classrooms." That over 1200 teachers signed on to CCFC's letter shows that many believe the proliferation of branded and non-book items marketed in the Book Clubs are not, in fact, "O.K." A number of teachers felt strongly enough to include personal comments highlighting their dissatisfaction with the commercialization of Scholastic's offerings.

CCFC plans to continue to track Scholastic Book club offerings. One of the more egregious recent findings was the Dairy Queen video game, DQ Tycoon, which appears in Scholastic's June 2009 Arrow flyer.

Walmart Encourages Teachers, Parents and Students to Submit Stories of Supply Needs

In February, a letter from a 14-year-old girl to her congressman resulted in recognition from President Obama and a beautifully re-supplied classroom for eighth-grader Ty'Sheoma Bethea and her classmates. Walmart was watching. Today, the retailer is inviting teachers, parents and students to write their own letters for the opportunity to have their classrooms re-supplied this coming school year. Eager to deliver help to other classrooms, Bethea will participate as a judge for the program along with a panel of educators.

The "Write to Change the Classroom" program will award 20 teachers with $4,000 in classroom school supplies to help make a difference in students' lives and further a cause that began with one courageous letter.

The "Write to Change the Classroom" program is a natural extension of the efforts expressed by Ty'Sheoma Bethea of J.V. Martin Junior High School in South Carolina. With a carefully crafted letter and a lot of determination, her voice was heard as she detailed the dilapidated state of her school's current learning conditions. As a result, a movement began, a student's life was changed and a community was united.

"We were inspired by the impact of Miss Bethea's letter to Congress and wanted to do something that showed our support and appreciation for all the great work teachers are already doing," said Janet Bareis, Walmart vice president of marketing. "Walmart has long supported teachers and schools. Our goal with this program is to equip students with the necessary tools and resources to help them learn."

Entrants can submit their 500-words-or-less letter at outlining their school supply needs (e.g. basic educational materials, classroom furniture, technology, etc.) and explaining how these materials will be used throughout the school year. Supply needs might include everything from new computers, to replacing aging, broken or depleted classroom supplies. All entrants must be at least 18 years of age. Any state-accredited elementary (K-6), junior high (7-8) and senior high (9-12) and traditional school is eligible to receive the supplies. The call for entries period will run from July 14 through July 24, 2009.

Selected finalists will receive $4,000-worth of school supplies to their designated classroom and an additional $4,000 toward supplies for their entire school. Essays will be judged on level of need, creativity and the positive impact these supplies will have on the school.

For more information regarding the Walmart "Write to Change the Classroom" program, please visit

$500 Scholarship Program For Business Students

The National Institute of Small Business Grants (NISBG) is a virtual organization that compiles and publishes information and resources pertaining to business grants. They are essentially a global network of researchers and contributors.

In August, they are giving away $500 to a student who is majoring in any field of business - including marketing, advertising, public relations, accounting, communications, human resources, etc.

To be eligible for the scholarship award, applicants must live in the United States, and attend or plan to attend a school in the United States. The institution attended can be any trade school, college, or university. In addition, the applicant must submit a 500 word essay addressing the following topic: "What are business grants and why are they important for America's small businesses?" The deadline to apply is August 31, 2009 and a winner will be selected by September 30, 2009.

The scholarship is designed to help a motivated business student by partially reimbursing them for tuition and books. NISBG also seeks to encourage more students to pursue business-related careers, and to encourage entrepreneurship amongst students at the high school and college levels.

For more details, visit and click on "Scholarship".

Reading keeps Summer from turning Kids' Minds into Jello

As another long summer away from school approaches, many parents are wondering how to keep their children busy doing something constructive. While certain T.V. shows and video games can be educational, nothing seems to beat good old fashioned reading. Or for very young children, being read to. Summer reading programs are a great way to provide children regular opportunities to read books, play writing games, and listen to stories. While children might be more focused on the fun and prizes involved, educators know that these sorts of programs help little kids get ready to read and big kids raise scores.

A study conducted by Jimmy Kim at Harvard's Center for Evaluation found that reading four or five books over the summer months had an impact on fall reading achievement comparable to attending summer school. (Kim) Another study concluded that, "children who read more than a half an hour per day during the summer had significantly higher reading comprehension gains by the fall compared with children who did not." In addition, the study showed that "children whose parents read to them at least twice a week over the summer also improved comprehension skills more than children whose parents did not." (Phillips and Chin)

Public libraries all over the country are busily gearing up for the 2009 summer reading program "Be Creative at your Library." The program is sponsored by the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), which is a grassroots consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer reading program materials for children at the lowest cost possible for their public libraries. The CSLP began in 1987 in the state of Minnesota and has since grown to include libraries from virtually every state in the country.

"Be Creative at your Library" is not only a wonderful free program that promotes parent/child involvement, but also gives kids an opportunity to have fun while learning valuable skills. Program coordinators often incorporate puppet shows, crafts, skits, and other fun activities to help children interact with the characters they read about and make various subjects come alive for them in a meaningful way. There's even a theme song for "Be Creative at your Library", sung by the children's cartoon character Billy Gorilly. The song was produced by Flying Kitten Music whose unique songs, stories, and educational materials are prime examples of the creative learning tools parents and kids can discover through the library.

To find out the details about dates, times, and registration for this summer's program, call or visit your local library. And to learn more about effective and engaging children's educational materials visit these websites:

Summer Reading List for Kids - Time to "Go Green!"

By Asst. Prof. Jennifer Turner
College of Education
University of Maryland

I have known about "going green" for some time, but I didn't really understand its importance until my 6-year old son, Elijah, came home from school one day and started saying, "Be green." He would remind us to turn off the lights, saying with a sweet smile, "Mommy we need to be green." He'd unplug appliances that were not in use, turn off the water when he brushed his teeth, and constantly ask me to get a recycling bin for our plastics and glass.

Curious to know where he had learned this phrase, I emailed his kindergarten teacher to ask what books she had read. She told me that she had read several books within a popular curriculum series on recycling and going green for Earth Day. She had also read How Do Plants Get Food?, by Meish Goldish (1989), a wonderful book that has interesting science facts presented in a kid-friendly manner. Reading books and talking about the Earth was a very enjoyable activity for Elijah, and this started his quest to greener living.

Going green has also become popular through children's television channels like Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon is doing a great job of helping kids "be green" through their programming and through their website. On their website, they have an entire page filled with ideas about living, learning, and playing in environmentally-responsible ways. Their initiative empowers kids to make a difference by making environmentally-friendly changes in their everyday lives.

So this year, I have decided to share books and web resources that help kids and parents to "be green." Enjoy the summer reading books and checking out websites that help keep our Earth clean AND maximize our fun!!

Prof. Turner is interested in issues of culture and cultural diversity as they relate to classroom reading instruction, and is particularly concerned with the improvement of reading achievement for African American students in public elementary schools.

Books for Kids Aged 3-8

* Why Should I Save Energy? (Why Should I?) (Jen Green, 2005, Barron's Education Series)

Author Jen Green has written an amazing, four-part series of books which demonstrate the importance of protecting nature. The other titles include WHY SHOULD I Protect Nature?, WHY SHOULD I Recycle?, WHY SHOULD I Save Energy?, and WHY SHOULD I Save Water? This series answers these questions through stories and illustrations in a fun, light-hearted way. What is especially great about this series are the notes in the back of the books, which provide suggestions for ways to use this book for parents and teachers.

* The Giving Tree, ( Shel Silverstein, 2005, HarperCollins)

This poignant book centers on a tree "who loved a boy," and follows the relationship that the tree develops with the boy throughout his life. Through this story, we learn about the different kinds of relationships that humans can have with nature. Some relationships between humans and nature are very harmonious, however there are other times when humans may take advantage of nature by using it solely for personal benefit. Because there are many eco-friendly messages in this book (e.g. don't take away from trees without giving something back, be thankful for trees, trees are important to us and we should not take them for granted), this book is great for reading aloud and talking with children about the importance of giving.

* Recycle: A Handbook for kids (Gail Gibbons, 1992, Little Brown Young Publishers)

Gail Gibbons is a phenomenal writer whose informational books help kids learn new and interesting facts. And she doesn't disappoint with her book on recycling. This book is very readable and well-organized, and helps children really get a sense of what landfills are and why we need fewer of them. Gibbons does thorough research in order to write her books, so when she describes how to recycle, why it's necessary, and its benefits, you know the information is accurate. The book ends with some interesting information about the ozone layer and the limited potential for recycling polystyrene, followed by 14 facts about garbage.

*Earth Day Hooray!!! (Stuart Murphy, 2004, HarperCollins Publishers)

In this book, children can learn about going green AND doing math! The story focuses on Ryan, Luke, and Carly, who are good friends with a plan for celebrating Earth Day. They want to buy some flowers for Gilroy Park, but they don't have enough money. So, they decide to collect and recycle 5,000 aluminum cans to earn the money. As the three friends collect cans, they discover that keeping track of the daily totals is somewhat of a challenge, until they begin to sort using bags of 10, 100, and so on. With this book, kids will have fun learning about place value, as well as celebrating the joy of working together to accomplish a green goal.

Books for Kids Aged 9-12

* Earth Book for Kids: Activities to Help Heal the Environment (Linda Schwartz, 1990, Learning Works Publishers)

This cool activity book shows children how to care for the Earth. The book is divided into four sections: (1) Energy, resources, and recycling; (2) Air, Land, & Water; (3) Plant & Animal Habitat; and (4) More Ways to Make Every Day Earth Day. The simple format makes the book really easy to read, and the information is presented in a very kid-friendly way which makes the main terms and ideas easy to understand.

The hands-on activities are really fun, and could be used for at-home science projects or to take away the rainy day blues. For example, the book describes acid rain, then gives instructions for a project to measure the amount of acid in your own rainfall. At the end of the book, there is a section called Where to Write & Glossary which provides a page on how to request information and also provides many different resources/organizations that children and parents can use.

* Brainiac's Go Green Activity Book (Mara Conlon, 2008, Peter Pauper Press)

Brainiac's Go Green! Activity Book is a cool activity book with an eco-friendly theme. The book presents fascinating scientific information about the Earth as well as important concepts and ideas for being environmentally-conscious. Kids will love doing the word finds, crosswords, connect the dots, mazes, and countless other activities within the book. And parents will love the green tips that are in the book, all designed to help families live their lives a little greener.

*Garbage and Recycling (Rosie Harlow, 2002, Kingfish Publishers)

This book is filled with interesting facts and information about recycling. The easy-to-use table of contents helps readers find ideas and information quickly, and helps organize the "big ideas" in the book in an accessible way (e.g., chapters include Waste not, want not; Garbage that won't rot; cans count; recycle your rags). One of the best features in this book are the "How Can I Help?" Boxes, which give helpful suggestions for children who want to recycle at home.

Books for Kids Aged 13-17

* The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen's Guide to Saving the Planet
(Jenn Savedge, 2009, New Society Publishers)

We all know that teenagers are a tough crowd to please. So how will they ever get interested in going green if the books are too boring, too babyish, or too dense? The Green Teen is a handy, go-to guide that will help teens learn to make environmentally responsible choices without being too preachy. Each section follows the same simple format: (1) How to Green something, (2) Top 5 Ways to start, (3) Why Bother doing it, (4) G2G Green Tips, (5) Planning stage with ideas and tips on how to go about it, (6) How to Get your Parents Involved and (7) Surfing Sites! What is awesome about this book is that it includes interviews with real teens who have made an impact with their projects, which will inspire other teens to make green choices in their daily lives.

* Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life (by Linda Sivertsen, 2008, Simon Pulse Publishers)

Generation Green is a very interesting book that helps us to understand that using technology more than just something that is "cool"--- it's actually "green!!" The book describes how texting friends, chatting online, and downloading emails and music are all examples of green activities that teens naturally enjoy and do on a daily basis. In fact, the concept of green living is the theme of the book, and many chapters provide tips on how to shop, dress, eat, and travel the green way. Now some teens (or even adults!) may not truly believe that they can live life in a greener way, but this book shows that anyone can do it. There are a number of interviews with teens who are involved with eco-friendly projects, and they talk about what living green means to them and how easy and natural it can be. The most powerful message in this book is that any green changes we make, even those that may seem small, have a huge impact on our Earth, our family and friends, our community, and our future.

How The Internet Has Changed K-12 Education

Don Tapscott, a leading authority on business strategy and author of Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, discusses how the Internet has changed K-12 education on the latest edition of This is the only national podcast Web site created expressly for district leaders and other educational leaders.

In this interview with Arthur Griffin, Jr., senior vice president of McGraw-Hill Education's Urban Advisory Resource, Tapscott discusses the world of digital natives and how the explosion of the Internet into mainstream society has necessarily and completely changed education.

"Growing up interacting with this technology actually changes the way these students are, the way they think, and the way they process information," Tapscott said. "The old model of learning based on lecturing is so encoded in our culture. Teaching needs to be about creating a context where students can discover. We need people who can think, solve problems, and communicate in the knowledge economy. Technology has transformed their lives in a positive way to facilitate the new style of learning."

An expert on how information technology changes business, government and society and education, Tapscott is chairman of nGenera Insight. He served as founder and chairman of the international think tank New Paradigm before its acquisition by nGenera. He is an internationally sought writer, consultant and speaker for many of the world's largest corporations and government leaders from many countries. The Washington Technology Report called him one of the most influential media authorities since Marshall McLuhan. He also is Adjunct Professor of Management, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

Good Teaching can be Enhanced with New Technology

Providing further evidence of the tremendous opportunity to use technology to improve teaching and learning, the U.S. Department of Education today released an analysis of controlled studies comparing online and face-to-face instruction.

A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified over 1,000 empirical studies of online learning. Of these, 46 met the high bar for quality that was required for the studies to be included in the analysis. The meta analysis showed that "blended" instruction – combining elements of online and face-to-face instruction – had a larger advantage relative to purely face to face instruction or instruction conducted wholly online. The analysis also showed that the instruction conducted wholly on line was more effective in improving student achievement than the purely face to face instruction. In addition, the report noted that the blended conditions often included additional learning time and instructional elements not received by students in control conditions.

"This new report reinforces that effective teachers need to incorporate digital content into everyday classes and consider open-source learning management systems, which have proven cost effective in school districts and colleges nationwide," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "We must take advantage of this historic opportunity to use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to bring broadband access and online learning to more communities.

"To avoid being caught short when stimulus money runs out, school officials should use the short-term federal funding to make immediate upgrades to technology to enhance classroom instruction and to improve the tracking of student data," Duncan added. "Technology presents a huge opportunity that can be leveraged in rural communities and inner-city urban settings, particularly in subjects where there is a shortage of highly qualified teachers. At the same time, good teachers can utilize new technology to accelerate learning and provide extended learning opportunities for students."

Few rigorous research studies have been published on the effectiveness of online learning for K-12 students. The systematic search found just five experimental or controlled quasi-experimental studies comparing the learning effects of online versus face-to-face instruction for K-12 students. For this reason, caution is required in generalizing the study’s findings to the K-12 population because the results are for the most part based on studies in other settings, such as in medical, career, military training, and higher education.

"Studies of earlier generations of distance and online learning courses have concluded that they are usually as effective as classroom-based instruction," said Marshall "Mike" Smith, a Senior Counselor to the secretary. "The studies of more recent online instruction included in this meta-analysis found that, on average, online learning, at the post-secondary level, is not just as good as but more effective than conventional face-to-face instruction.."

The study was conducted by the Center for Technology and Learning, SRI International under contract to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Policy and Program Studies Service, which commissioned the study.

The full report can be found at

Freedom Writers Foundation Teachers Equipped With Collaboration Tools

Although teachers collaborate on lesson plans and projects across schools and districts every day, the Freedom Writers Foundation has proven that the power of technology enables this across time zones and even various levels of technology familiarity. The Foundation brought together 150 teachers from across the United States and Canada to jointly compose their new book Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writers Teachers, (Broadway Books, August 2009) with the help of donated tools and support from HP and Microsoft Corp. Today, in her keynote presentation at the National Educational Computing Conference, Erin Gruwell, founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation, will share the supporting, yet critical role, that technology played in easing the teacher/author collaboration, relationship building and ultimately impacting change.

Collaborating with technology

The Freedom Writers Teachers came together last summer as part of the Foundation's teacher-training program, spurred on by the success of Paramount Pictures' "Freedom Writers," starring Hilary Swank, based on the book The Freedom Writers Diary, by Gruwell and her students. The teachers, representing fresh approaches to "teaching hope" from all school settings and geographies, received the donated tools and training as they commenced writing their personal classroom stories featured in the new book.

Staying connected with the HP Mini and Microsoft Office OneNote 2007, allowed the teachers to access information, collaborate in real time, and communicate via e-mail, IM, and blogging with the integrated wireless technologies. Office OneNote 2007 ( is a "digital notebook" that provides people one place to gather notes, audio and visual information, powerful search to find what they are looking for quickly, and easy-to-use shared notebooks to manage information and work together more effectively.

"Given the immense inequity in skills and access to technology going into writing this book, we were worried true collaboration would be next to impossible," said Zachary Chase, a Freedom Writers Teacher. "Our new tools leveled the field for technophobic and technophilic teachers alike. We were able to work together across a common platform. I hope this unified and connected spirit comes through for everyone who reads Teaching Hope."

Applying technology lessons learned in the classroom

Beyond the book, some of the Freedom Writers Teachers are also using this technology in their classrooms and to share with colleagues across their districts. This next school term, Christine Neuner, a Freedom Writers Teacher, plans to use Office OneNote 2007 to give students a chance to send drafts of their works for peer-editing.

"I think it is imperative for the students to use such technology at the high school level because they will be using similar technology in post-secondary schools and training," said Neuner. "They will have to be technologically prepared for the workplace as well. Using OneNote is just another way for me to help prepare them for the future."

The HP Mini can change how K-12 children learn today and is the practical answer to one-to-one computing. Students can learn collaboration, problem solving and creative skills, which will prepare them for life after school. With the right technology, students learn to communicate effectively with multimedia and think critically as they decide how to present knowledge effectively - giving them a bigger voice in the world.

Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writers Teachers will be available for sale on August 18, 2009 wherever books are sold. Teaching Hope unites the voices of these Freedom Writer teachers, who share uplifting, devastating, and poignant stories from their classrooms, stories that provide insight into the struggles and triumphs of education in all of its forms. Mirroring an academic year, these dispatches from the front lines of education take us from the anticipation of the first day to the disillusionment, challenges, and triumphs of the school year. These are the voices of teachers who persevere in the face of intolerance, rigid administration, and countless other challenges, and continue to reach out and teach those who are deemed unteachable. Their stories inspire everyone to make a difference in the world around them.

About The Freedom Writers Foundation

The Freedom Writers Foundation provides educators with transformative methods to engage, enlighten and empower vulnerable, at-risk students to reach their full potential. For more information, please visit

Economic Boost Expected From Teaching Creativity

"Maybe we could jump-start our economy" by infusing business know-how into art and design, a college president here suggests.

Dr. Larry R. Thompson, who heads Ringling College of Art and Design, notes that "every man-made object, from your coffee cup, to the chair you are sitting in, to the watch on your wrist, was created by an artist or designer. Product design, advertising design, interior design affect every single thing we do."

Writing in a college publication called "Creativity@Work," Dr. Thompson notes that his institution has created the nation's first four-year program to teach business to creative types. It's called The Business of Art and Design. Its lead faculty member, Dr. Wanda Chaves, says, "We're convinced this revolutionary new academic program will produce the business leaders of the future. It integrates the study of business and the study of studio art and design -- marrying the right and left brains into one practice."

She adds, "The art and design degree is in some ways the quintessential business degree. It's not just about creative businesses. It's about making any business more creative."

Ringling College is located at 2700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL 34234. Web

Walden University and Tacoma Public Schools Announce Results of Linking Teacher Learning to Student Success

As school districts and states across the country seek practical and meaningful ways to measure teacher performance in the classroom, new findings from a previous study confirm the connection between graduates of Walden University's M.S. in Education program with a specialization in Elementary Reading and Literacy and student outcomes in reading fluency.

Linking Teacher Learning to Student Success, a study conducted by Arroyo Research Services in conjunction with Tacoma Public Schools, compared the reading fluency of students taught by Walden-master's educated teachers with those students taught by non-Walden-master's educated teachers. The study, sponsored by Walden University, evaluated three years of data, including test scores involving 35 teachers and 712 students.

"Our district was very interested in supporting the researchers at Walden University who contracted with Arroyo Research Services to study the link between Walden-master's educated reading teachers and the effects on increasing student performance," said Pat Cummings, director of Research and Planning with Tacoma Public Schools. "The study yielded a number of positive findings in early literacy performance of students being taught by Walden graduates. The research appears to help shed light on the link between good teaching and student learning, especially in the area of acquiring skills in early reading."

Key findings in the study showed:

* Students of Walden teachers had gains in reading fluency that were on average 4.8 words per minute, or 14% greater, than students of non-Walden-master's educated teachers.

* Gains were largest in first grade, where students of Walden teachers averaged 5.4 more words per minute than students of the non-Walden-master's educated teachers.

The positive impact Walden teachers had on student reading fluency translated into more efficient use of instructional time. The findings suggest the cumulative effect of having a Walden teacher in Grades 1 to 5 would show a combined gain in reading fluency of 11.6 words per minute. When translated into weeks of instruction, this gain is equivalent to a total of 10.6 weeks, or one-third of an entire school year.

"Student success is the ultimate demonstration of effective teaching, and the ultimate goal of Walden's education programs is fostering effective teachers. We believe studies such as this one illustrate the difference a Walden master's degree can make and the impact that Walden-educated teachers have in the classroom," said Victoria Reid, vice president of The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University, which was named in honor of Richard W. Riley, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and a longtime advocate for teaching excellence.

Details of Linking Teacher Learning to Student Success are at