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The Five Best Projects from the Gates Foundation's Education Technology Competition

Here are our five favorite projects from the Gates Foundation's education technology grant competition.

On Tuesday the Gates Foundation announced 19 winners of the second phase of its Next Generation Learning Challenges grant competition. The NGLC's priority is using technology to improve college readiness among low-income students, and what makes these new grantees noteworthy is that they're working on targeting the critical seventh- through ninth-grade years—well before students can either drop out or fall too far behind in higher level math and science. Each project is also aligned with the new Common Core Standards, which are all about developing higher-order thinking skills. While all 19 grantees are noteworthy, here are five that really stand out:

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“The Modern Educator Is Not a Teacher”: Updating Learning for the 21st Century

Classrooms operate almost the same way they did 100 years ago. A group of of middle schoolers from the Dallas-Fort Worth area want to change that.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGvl5dg3l2M

Why do classrooms and schools operate almost the same way they did 100 years ago? A group of middle schoolers from the Dallas-Fort Worth area began asking themselves this question during a class discussion of Orson Scott Card's science fiction novel Ender's Game. More importantly, they began to wonder, "Could children, using the internet, have a dramatic impact on the world around them? Could they influence public opinion, and make a mark on their world?" Thus began "Education Evolution," a class video project that brings a student perspective to what's going wrong in the modern classroom, and offers up ideas of how it can be fixed.

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Would a Laptop for Every Student Help? In Maine It Certainly Did

Since 2001, Maine's invested in laptops for every student. Now they're leading the world in tech education.


Back in 2001 when former Maine governor Angus King launched an initiative that funded the purchase of a laptop for every seventh grader in the state, he didn't promise higher test scores. Instead, King recognized that tech literacy is a must-have 21st century skill, and all students need it, regardless of economic background. Now 10 years later, every seventh- and eighth-grade student in the state, every secondary teacher, and 60 percent of high school students have their own laptop. The technology costs $18 million per year, but its an investment that's leveling the playing field and bringing in academic results.

Used properly, laptops make information incredibly accessible and can offer countless opportunities for skill and concept remediation. They also close the gap between students from low income backgrounds and their wealthier counterparts by equitably providing access to information. If a low-income student is assigned a research paper, without a laptop and internet access she has to rely on her school or local public library—which might not be stocked with the most up-to-date or relevant sources. Laptops circumvent those access issues.

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