Plea deal in Mass. bullying case

One of six teens charged in the notorious Massachusetts bullying case of a 15-year-old Irish immigrant who committed suicide has struck a plea agreement with prosecutors, according to new court documents, the Associated Press reports. If accepted by a judge, 17-year-old Sharon Chanon Velazquez’s plea deal would be the first criminal case resolved in connection with South Hadley High School freshman Phoebe Prince’s suicide…

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Working women better educated than men: Census

A higher percentage of U.S. working women have college degrees than working men, the Census Bureau said on Tuesday in a report on American educational attainment, Reuters reports. The study shows that 37 percent of women in the work force age 25 and older had attained a bachelor’s degree or more as of 2010, whereas 35 percent of their male peers had reached the same level. For those in their late twenties, the gap is wider. Thirty-six percent of women had a bachelor’s degree or more, compared with 28 percent of men…

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Community college rankings inadequate, critics say

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program released a list of what it considers the 120 “best” community colleges in the country Monday, kicking off a multistep, data-driven process for identifying a single institution to receive its $1 million award for “community college excellence,” reports USA Today. And though prize officials say they are simply trying to spotlight institutions that are successful in helping students earn college credentials, to try to help others learn from their methods, critics argue that the selection process unfairly attempts to rank and compare community colleges using data systems that are inadequate to the task…

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Educators question RateMyProfessor annual college rankings

More than 1 million professors are rated on RateMyProfessor.

Can 10 million college students be wrong? The popular site RateMyProfessor released its 2010-11 rankings April 26 – naming the top university and professors – as many in higher education remain skeptical of the site and said students shouldn’t base their school choices on RateMyProfessor’s reviews.

Students on RateMyProfessor, which compiles anonymous student ratings and written reviews of more than 1 million professors and instructors on 6,500 campuses, named Brigham Young University (BYU) the nation’s top school.

Florida State University, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, the University of Michigan, the University of Georgia, and the University of California Berkeley rounded out the website’s top-five ranking for the 2010-11 academic year.

Fullerton College in Fullerton, Calif. was rated the country’s best junior college on RateMyProfessor, followed by Santa Rosa Junior College in California, and Valencia Community College in Florida.

David Mease, a business professor at San Jose University, was voted RateMyProfessor’s top professor. And in a category that names the “hottest” college educator of the year, George Washington University creative writing professor Daniel Gutstein took home the title.

Professors and instructors have long disparaged RateMyProfessor as nothing more than a sounding board for frustrated students publicly airing their grievances and grinding axes in the internet’s anonymous public square.

In interviews with eCampus News, educators said they would encourage prospective college students to avoid RateMyProfessor, or view the site’s annual college rankings with a skeptical eye.

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Sony unveils tablets to rival the iPad

The new tablets will operate on the Honeycomb operating system.

Sony is planning an Android-based tablet computer with a touch panel similar to Apple’s iPad, scheduled for release later this year, that the Japanese manufacturer promises will make the best of its gadgetry and entertainment strengths.

The product—code-named S1, and shown April 26 in Tokyo—will come with a 9.4-inch display for enjoying online content, such as movies, music, video games, and electronic books, and for online connections, including eMail and social networking.

It will be compatible with both 3G and 4G networks.

Sony, which boasts electronics as well as entertainment divisions, also showed the S2, a smaller mobile device with two 5.5-inch displays that can be folded like a book.

The company did not divulge prices. Sony Corp. Senior Vice President Kunimasa Suzuki said the products would go on sale worldwide around September. Both run Google’s Android 3.0 operating system, nicknamed “Honeycomb.”

The announcement of Sony’s key net-linking offerings comes as it tries to fix the outage of its PlayStation Network, which offers games and music online.

It is unclear when that network will start running again. Sony has blamed the problem on an “external intrusion” and has acknowledged it would have to rebuild its system to add security measures and strengthen its infrastructure.

Suzuki said both of the latest tablets feature Sony’s “saku saku,” or nifty, technology that allows for smooth and quick access to online content and for getting browsers working almost instantly after a touch.

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Barnes & Noble adds apps to Nook eReader

Barnes & Noble Inc. on Monday added an applications store and an eMail program to its Nook Color eReader, bringing the $249 device closer to working like a tablet computer in the vein of the iPad, the Associated Press reports. The Nook Color has a color touchscreen, which gives it capabilities beyond those of Amazon.com’s competing Kindle. The Kindle has a gray-scale screen that isn’t touch sensitive. The Nook Color runs Google Inc.’s Android software, which is used on phones and tablets, but the device doesn’t run standard Android applications. Instead, Barnes & Noble is encouraging developers to submit specially written applications to its Nook Apps store…

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Patients control computer using only their minds

A temporary surgical implant enabled patients to “talk” to a computer. Just by thinking the words aloud in their head they were able to control a cursor on a computer screen, Singularity Hub reports. The brain-computer interface (BCI) technology could one day be used to help people who are unable to talk or have other physical disabilities due to brain injury. The technology could one day be used to read a person’s mind. Published April 7 in the Journal of Neuroengineering, the study was carried out by scientists at the Center for Innovation in Neurosciences and Technology at Washington University in St. Louis…

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University of Colorado seeks $1.5 billion in private gifts

In a move president Bruce Benson called the most ambitious in the school’s history, the University of Colorado on Monday launched the public portion of a campaign to collect $1.5 billion in private donations, the Denver Post reports. A portion of the money raised by the “Creating Futures” campaign will boost the university’s $745.4 million total endowment, while much of it will help fund everything from scholarships and research to new construction, according to the university…

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How online education could stop the higher-ed bubble from bursting

There could be 25 million online college students by 2015, according to research.

Low-cost online courses could help higher education from becoming the next economic bubble that bursts and inflicts fiscal pain on institutions, investors, and students, said educational technology experts who want more inexpensive options for those seeking a college degree.

Economists and financial analysts first warned about the growing higher-education bubble in 2009. The bubble, they said, is fed by rising tuition, increasing enrollments, and crushing school debt that often can’t be paid by recent graduates who can’t find a good-paying job in a down economy.

And just as Americans were urged to invest in tech companies before the dot-com crash of 2000, or to buy property while housing prices skyrocketed in the mid-2000s, Americans are encouraged today – by everyone from family members to lawmakers – to sign up for college classes, even if it requires massive loans.

For-profit colleges’ expansion of online education has helped feed the sector’s massive growth, but it might be web-based education that prevents the disastrous effects of a burst economic bubble, educational technologists said.

Students could earn degrees for a fraction of the current costs if more than just a handful of colleges and universities embraced free open-source educational material and created web-based classes that didn’t include the technological bells and whistles that cost so much, said Shai Reshef, founder of University of the People, a free online school launched in 2009.

“Universities are conservative,” said Reshef, whose university has enrolled 900 students in 115 countries. “They’re not very open to new methods of delivery … and they too often feel they should have best-looking technology, filled with interactivity and multimedia options and other [features].”

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Journals: USA, others need to re-tool their science programs

According to USA Today, the system of awarding science Ph.D.s needs to be either reformed or shut down, a provocative series of pieces in one of the world’s pre-eminent scientific journals says this week. According to the multipart series in the journal Nature, the world is awash in Ph.D.s, most of them being awarded after years of study and tens of thousands of dollars to scholars who will never find work in academia, the traditional goal for Doctors of Philosophy.

“In some countries, including the United States and Japan, people who have trained at great length and expense to be researchers confront a dwindling number of academic jobs and an industrial sector unable to take up the slack,” the cover article says…

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