COMET • Vol. 11, No. 18 – 26 September 2010


(1) Student Hosts Sought for the CMC-South Conference in Palm Springs

Contact: Mark Ellis –

The California Mathematics Council (CMC)-South conference will be held at the Palm Springs Convention Center on November 5-6, 2010. University/college students who serve as Student Hosts for four hours will receive free conference registration and free membership in CMC. Please visit for more information, or contact Mark Ellis at


(2) “California Explores Digital Learning Content” by Tanya Roscorla

Source: Converge – 20 September 2010

One night, California Education Secretary Bonnie Reiss watched the “Minute to Win It” show with her 5- and 7-year-old nephews. The contestants obviously did their homework: They watched YouTube videos to learn the techniques they needed to pass 60-second challenges involving household items.

One day, Reiss heard middle schoolers talking about how to turn a downloaded song into a ring tone. One of the kids said, “It’s complicated, but go to YouTube– there’s a video that will show you how to do it”…

“They’re growing up this way,” [Reiss] said, “so it’s crazy for education leaders and education content providers and educators not to figure out how to use the best of that and take advantage of that to help our kids do better in school.”

California education leaders are determining how to use digital content to help students learn, both at the K-12 and the university level. In 32 courses this fall, five campuses in the California State University (CSU) system started a digital content licensing pilot that takes the place of textbooks. And in four school districts, a pilot program replaced the algebra textbooks of 400 eighth-graders with iPads containing Algebra I applications. [See last week’s issue of COMET: ]

CSU emphasizes affordable learning options

The digital licensing pilot makes up a piece of a larger Affordable Learning Solutions campaign that the CSU launched earlier this year [(see]. In response to rising textbook costs, the CSU has provided faculty members with a variety of multimedia educational resources they can use instead of print textbooks…

These digital resources will make a quality education more affordable and accessible for students… The multimedia resources will also help them gain skills they need to excel, said Gerry Hanley, senior director of the CSU Academic Technology Services and executive director of MERLOT [(see].

“Reading a book is a more passive learning activity,” he said. “It’s certainly engaging, but it’s about knowledge acquisition rather than skills development”…

Through the [CSU’s] digital licensing pilot, 4,000 students in more than 32 courses purchase licenses to digital content for a term. Those licenses come at a discount of 65 percent off the publishers’ recommended textbook list price.
They can download the content to their computers, laptops and other mobile devices.

The campuses involved in the pilot include Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, San Bernardino and San Francisco. In the spring, the CSU plans to expand the pilot…

Schools from Long Beach, Fresno, Riverside and San Francisco unified school districts are participating in the [iPad-based Algebra I course] pilot…

In the iPad app, students can drag a chart and drag little bars in the chart to change numbers, said Kurt Madden, chief technology officer for Fresno Unified School District. In the old days, students would use graph paper and a pencil to see what happened when they changed a number.

“Those days are kind of gone,” he said. “You can just go and interact right there and see the impact.”

The district is working on three different digital textbook layers with the state: a flat PDF document, an interactive book, and a smart book that keeps track of who the student is and ties into the learning management system. He’s more interested in the interactive and smart book level textbooks, which provide a media rich environment. The iPad app is close to the smart book level.

“Five years ago we would have been just happy to have a digital reader,” Madden said, “but now we’ve kind of moved past that and we’re really looking for companies that are producing interactive environments for students, including the videos.”

These students live in an interactive world. But current world reality is moving on a collision course with current public school reality, Education Secretary Reiss said. Instead of teaching kids in the way they learn best, educators turn off their digital access.

“Outside of the classroom the kids are totally engaged and have access to a globe of information digitally through the Internet,” Reiss said, “and then they come in the classroom, and we tell them in each classroom you have to power down, sit down and turn to page 20.”

The reality of the Internet must now enter the classroom, she said, and we must figure out how to do that. Statewide, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s free digital textbook initiative [(see and] has encouraged a move forward with digital textbooks.

Reiss is joining forces with a working group that includes four big textbook publishers; district leaders from Riverside, Los Angeles, Fresno and Long Beach unified school districts; foundations interested in supporting the movement, and technical experts such as Apple, Google and Microsoft. The working group focuses on how to improve education delivery.

“As a result of the working group,” Reiss said, “it’s become clear that if the right encouragement is given, the right leadership is given and some obstacles get removed, then California truly is poised to be the real leader in how the Digital Age can transform the very model of public education.”


Related Information:

CK-12 Foundation
URL (August 2010 Newsletter): 
URL (Free Math Flexbooks):



(1) TEACH Campaign Launches on Monday

Source: Peter McPherson, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) – 23 September 2010

Excerpt from a letter dated 23 September 2010 to university presidents and other campus leaders from the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Peter McPherson:

“…On Monday, September 27th at 2:00 p.m. EDT, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will introduce a new initiative, the TEACH campaign (, to encourage students to consider teaching as a profession, with some emphasis on science and mathematics and among underrepresented minorities.

“The Secretary’s announcement will be made at NBC’s Education Nation Summit (, an extraordinary 2 day-plus series of events that will be broadcast on MSNBC and streamed live on on September 27 and 28. NBC national correspondents will be visiting 4 [university] campuses nationwide… Following the Secretary’s address, there will be a question and answer session with the Secretary and future teachers…” [See below for more information.]


(2) “Education Nation” Summit Begins Today

URL (Participants):

NBC News’ “Education Nation” Summit, the September 27-28 centerpiece of the weeklong “Education Nation” initiative that begins today at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, will convene policymakers, elected officials, thought leaders, educators, members of the business community and engaged citizens in a national discussion about the challenges, potential solutions, and innovations spanning today’s education landscape.

The Summit’s panel sessions will present discussions on topics in education such as workforce readiness, developing outstanding teachers, technology and innovation, parental involvement, early education, higher education, and the politics of education (see The “Education Nation” sessions will be covered on MSNBC and streamed live on, as well as be available for on-demand viewing.

“The state of education in America is facing a number of complex challenges. Many students are falling behind, dropping out and leaving school unprepared for today’s jobs in alarming numbers–yet a sense of urgency seems to be lacking,” said Steve Capus, President NBC News. “In order to spark and elevate a national dialogue we have convened an impressive ‘Education Nation’ lineup representing a great diversity of interests and ideas.”

“The response we’ve received from leaders in education has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Lisa Gersh, President of Strategic Initiatives at NBC News. “The experts we have convened at ‘Education Nation’ will highlight some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in education in this country, jumpstarting a national conversation about one of the most pressing issues of our time.”

Confirmed speakers include a number of governors, mayors (including the mayor of Los Angeles), corporate presidents and CEOs, news anchors, and education leaders (e.g., Arne Duncan, Margaret Spellings, and Randi Weingarten), among others (see

NBC News’ “Education Nation” will launch today on “Meet the Press.” Additional news coverage and programming airing across all NBC News programs and platforms will extend beyond the two-day Summit. For the entire week of September 27, “Nightly News,” “Today,” “Your Business,” MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo, and will highlight educational success stories, uncover staggering truths and myths about education, and demonstrate how poor education cripples our economy and society.

In addition to the Summit, NBC News will turn Rockefeller Plaza into a “Learning Plaza,” which will include a series of galleries open to the public [on September 26-30] to explore the latest technologies and techniques used in award-winning classrooms nationwide. Also open to the public will be an interactive “Teaching Garden,” which teaches children about the importance of good nutrition and physical fitness through hands-on participation.

For more information, visit, or follow on twitter @EducationNation or find “Education Nation” on Facebook at


Note: On Monday, September 27, at 8 a.m. ET, President Obama will sit down with Matt Lauer for a live one-on-one interview about the state of education in America. If you would like to submit a question for the President, please fill out the form located on


(3) First USA Science and Engineering Festival Will be Held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and Across the Country in October

Contact: Larry Bock –, 760-846-6473
URL (Press Release): 
URL (Committee):

The Inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival–the country’s first national science festival–will descend on the Washington, D.C. area next month.

More than 550 science and engineering companies, professional associations, colleges and universities, 200 K-12 schools, and other organizations are participating in two weeks of events at the Festival, which begins on 10/10/10.

The USA Science & Engineering Festival’s grand finale is a two-day Expo on the National Mall, October 23-24, 2010, with over 1,500 interactive exhibits. More than 40 satellite events held in a wide variety of locations across the nation, including Tucson, AZ; Corning, NY; Columbia, SC; Austin, TX; Clifton, NJ; and Berkeley, CA.

Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers is a big reason for hosting a giant science party on America’s front lawn. A new report by the National Science Board says that in 2007 foreign students on temporary visas earned 50 percent or more of all doctoral degrees awarded in engineering, physics, mathematics, and the computer sciences. Global security company Lockheed Martin, which employs approximately 71,000 engineers, is the festival host and has a strategic purpose for its support.

“Lockheed Martin is deeply concerned about the shortage of American scientists and engineers in our country,” says Dr. Ray O. Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Lockheed Martin. “The U.S. needs to reinvigorate future generations to pursue careers in science and engineering. It is a national imperative that we as a nation must address.”

Another reason to get the nation’s families excited and engaged in science and engineering right now, is because that’s where many of today’s and tomorrow’s jobs will be. The U.S. science and engineering workforce is now at more than 5.5 million and averages a 3.2% growth rate, about double that of the American workforce as a whole, reports the National Science Board.

The Festival’s creator, life science and high technology entrepreneur Larry Bock, was the inspiration and organizer of the highly successful inaugural San Diego Science Festival. For a preview of the D.C. event, view a short video about what happened in San Diego at Also visit to read Larry Bock’s appeal for assistance in spreading the word about the Festival.

On September 9, over 22 senators and 64 Congressional representatives announced their support for improving U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM) by joining the USA Science & Engineering Festival Honorary Congressional Host Committee. Members of this bipartisan committee represent over 32 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territory of American Samoa.

The goal of the USA Science & Engineering Festival and the Honorary Congressional Host Committee is to recruit the next generation of scientists and engineers, in part by engaging K- 12 students in how science intersects with their daily lives. These fields have job growth, need more Americans with the education and experience to work in them, and are vitally important to the future of the nation.

To learn more, go to


(4) “‘Gathering Storm’ Back on the Radar” by Eugenie Samuel Reich and Adam Mann

Source: Nature – 23 September 2010
URL (Nature):

Efforts to increase US competitiveness by funding basic scientific research and education have failed to improve the country’s global outlook, says a report released on Thursday (September 23) by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. It comes at a time when two key bills for science funding are set to expire and several science programs have had their budgets frozen in the current versions of the appropriations bills in Congress.

“There is support for research but it is unstable, and these investments only make sense if they are sustained for the long haul,” says report coauthor Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering in Washington DC.

The new report is an update of the National Academy of Sciences’ 2005 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, which called for a ten per cent annual increase in government funding of basic scientific research for seven years. That report elicited rare bipartisan support in Congress for a bill called America COMPETES, which put several key science agencies on a path toward doubling their funding over ten years. Vest says the National Academies chose to update the 2005 report now because COMPETES is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year, as is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which financed the implementation of several of the report’s recommendations. “It was on the political table,” Vest says.

The updated report was authored by a 17-member committee chaired by Norman Augustine, a former CEO of Lockheed Martin corporation. It credits US lawmakers with implementing several of the 2005 recommendations, including the creation of Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), an organization to fund high-risk energy research within the US Department of Energy. But partly because of the economic downturn, and because other recommendations–including several on strengthening primary and high school education–were not implemented or not promptly financed, the competitiveness situation for the United States has worsened, the updated report says. It also states, “In spite of the efforts of both those in government and the private sector, the outlook for America to compete for quality jobs has further deteriorated over the past five years.”

Stormy weather

At a media briefing in Washington DC, Augustine told Nature that revisiting the 2005 situation revealed a troubling picture. “Many of us were concerned that the US might be losing ground, and indeed we are,” he says.

Toby Smith, vice president for policy at the Association of American Universities in Washington DC, says his organization is very pleased that the National Academies are pushing forward their recommendations once again. “This is something unique for a National Academies report, and it’s due to Norm Augustine’s passion and commitment to making the case for the report after it’s done,” he says.

[For other opinions on Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5, read To download the report, visit ]


Excerpt from pp. 47-48 of the report:

“It is not necessary–or even possible–to seek to match nations such as China and India, each with approximately four times the population of the United States, in over-all quantities of scientists and engineers. Further, the race for quantity has already been rather decisively lost. Jobs performing relatively routine functions of science and engineering have been lost to nations with lower cost structures and a well educated citizenry. What must be preserved in the United States, if the nation is to compete, is an adequate supply of scientists and engineers who can perform creative, imaginative, leading-edge work–that is, who can innovate. Albert Einstein wrote, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.'”


(5) Contributions Sought for Book Focusing on Teaching Mathematics to English Language Learners

Contact: Nora G. Ramirez –

A message from Nora Ramirez:

Sylvia Celedon-Pattichis and I are working on a book for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics that focuses on instructional practices related to teaching mathematics to English language learners (ELLs). The intended audience of the book is K-12 classroom teachers, coaches, professional developers, and administrators. We are in search of related stories, vignettes, and reflections from (a) the perspective of an ELL student or (b) a teacher of ELLs. In addition, we would like to include a CD that has instructional tools, videos, student work, etc.

If you have a personal experience(s) you would like to share, we would appreciate your contribution. If you know of someone who might have something to share, please forward this message to him or her. We developed some guidelines/questions* to focus your thoughts and writings.

We are on a tight timeline and would like to have your contributions by Oct. 31.

Thank you in advance. We know that this request will require some of your already busy schedule. Hopefully, there will be students who will benefit from your work to make that time spent worthwhile.


* If you are interested in contributing to this publication, please email Nora at for a copy of the guidelines.