Laptops for Every Student

In an effort to help close the digital divide, Google announced a major initiative aimed at getting laptops in the hands of school children:

At Google IO this week, Google announced a “new kind of computer” and a new program aimed at schools: Chromebooks for Education. These new devices look like laptops, but they run on Google’s new operating system Chrome OS and are truly Web-based and Web-centric. There is no local storage and there is no software. In other words, everything runs through the (Chrome) browser and everything is stored online.

Google’s new Chromebooks for Education program will offer these devices to schools for $20 per user per month.

That’s great news and we applaud Google’s efforts.  As more schools move toward individualized instruction and personal learning platforms, Google’s initiative helps shore up one of the central issues with a focus on learning platforms – the digital divide.  Many schools lack the funds to provide adequate technology to every student and many students – particularly low-income students – go home to technology free zones.  Google’s $20 device helps bridge that divide by making the web accessible to all students – allowing students and educators to take advantage of a whole host of personalized learning platforms, not to mention all of the instructional resources, tool and utilities that are now finally accessible. 

Kudos to Google.  This device promises to open up a whole new world of resources to students around the country.

Google Takes the ‘Science Fair’ Global

Google is expanding our traditional conceptions of the school science fair.  Student science fairs have typically been limited to local schools or districts, and budget cuts in recent years have meant that many schools no longer host local science fairs.  Google is changing all that.  Google is hosting the world’s first online, global science fair.  Students from around the world can participate via a browser and an Internet connection:

The Google Science Fair takes the traditional science fair and moves it to the Web. Participating students both build and submit their projects online – using Google Docs, Sites, and YouTube, for example – for all aspects of their research projects – from the data collection to the final presentation. Students from all over the world are encouraged to participate – from Paris, Texas to Paris, France, from Venice, Italy to Venice Beach.

And, of course, organizations well known for their commitment to innovation and scientific research are getting involved, giving students a chance for exposure to some of biggest scientific organizations from around the globe:

To run this science fair, Google is teaming up with some of the most well-known names in science, technology, and education: CERN, LEGO, National Geographic, and Scientific American. And the judges for the event are just as prestigious, including the founder of the FIRSTrobotics competition Dean Kamen, the leader of National Geographic’s Genographic ProjectSpencer Wells, Nobel prize winner Kary Mullis, and the “father of the Internet” Vint Cerf.

This type of open access and collaborative environment will do more than just provide an opportunity for students to present their work to a global audience; it also exposes students to the work and ideas of their peers by a sizable order of magnitude.  Google’s efforts will allow students to establish dialogue and interaction around science and technology issues in a way that regional science fairs are unable to match.

And, of course, the prizes are bigger, ranging from a trip to the Galapagos Islands to a trip to Switzerland to visit  CERN and the Large Hadron Collider, or even a chance to work with LEGO on the next robotics project.

To register click here.

Next Generation Search Engines

In Fortune magazine’s July 29th story entitled Google: The search party is over, author Michael V. Copeland with Seth Weintraub chronicles Google’s rise to dominance of the Internet and probes the options for an encore performance.  Said differently, what can Google do to feed the growth engine it created?

The article is full of possibilities but one struck home for me as I read it since it parallels something we are working on to help English language learners improve their reading ability.  The concept is elegantly simple; create a passive search engine that automatically collects all the news, images, videos, blog posts, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates in a single place for your convenience.  Flipboard for the iPad is a great example of this new paradigm.

Now, imagine you are a Chinese high school student learning English and preparing to attend a university in the United States.  Intuitively, you know that reading more results in reading better but where do you start?  Enter the passive search engine concept.  It delivers reading content targeted to your reading ability and your interests directly to your laptop or mobile device every day.  Content would include magazines, newspapers, blogs, websites and e-books.  Periodically, it would mine your reading experiences to determine how much you’ve improved.  Then, it would raise the difficulty of the content it sends so that you’re always perfectly targeted to achieve optimal growth.

Flipboard seems to be at the intersection of search engines and social networking.  However, applying this next generation search engine to education could result in personalized learning platforms similar to the one described above.  To learn more about this new service for English language learners, please see www.EngagingEnglish.com.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.