Stanford study says MRI scans can predict outcome of math tutoring

Some children displayed massive gains in math.

When it comes to math, MRIs may be better than IQs — and even past math scores — at showing whether a tutor can help a child master everything from trapezoids to trigonometry.

A new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine says that the size and circuitry of certain parts of children’s brains are excellent predictors of how well they’ll respond to intensive math tutoring.

The researchers’ most surprising finding was that children’s IQ and math scores had no effect on tutoring outcomes, yet brain scan images “predicted how much a child would learn,” said Vinod Menon, a Stanford professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who was the study’s senior author.

The study was published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Menon’s research team took MRI scans of 24 third-graders just before they underwent eight weeks of rigorous math tutoring. A control group of children also had their brains scanned, but they didn’t get any tutoring.

The kids who were tutored showed across-the-board gains in their arithmetic skills, with the levels of their improvement varying wildly — from 8 percent improvement up to 198 percent. The children in the control group showed no signs of improvement.

The researchers found that the kids who responded the best to tutoring tended to have a larger and more active hippocampus. Named after the Greek word for “seahorse,” the spirally hippocampus is known to play an important role in learning and memory. But its role in mastering specific skills — like math — hadn’t been explored until now.

Even more than its size, the hippocampus’s ability to get along with other parts of the brain was the biggest predictor of math success.


How online education saves everyone money

Three times a week, 15 weeks a semester, you can expect to see Sandra DeSousa teaching a room of 150 to 250 students the math they should have learned in high school, National Journal reports. The adjunct professor at San Jose State University has another 100 students under her charge this spring, but she rarely sees them face-to-face. In January, the California university entered into a partnership with Udacity, a Palo Alto-based company that specializes in providing free online courses, to develop entry-level classes in mathematics. Any student, not only those enrolled at San Jose State, can take one of the courses for academic credit. The university has its own separate online offerings, but a three-unit course can cost $1,050. The programs developed with Udacity were priced at $150. … Education reformers see a remedy in Internet-based tools, which they say can help more students earn college degrees at a lower cost to themselves, their families, and the government. California legislators, hoping to hurry the process, are considering legislation that would require public colleges and universities to give credit for faculty-approved online courses. Those could include some of Uda-city’s free offerings.

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How MIT became the most important university in the world

Last November, with great fanfare, Harvard celebrated the opening of its sparkling new $20 million Innovation Lab, Boston Magazine reports. A soaring 30,000 square-foot testament to contemporary architecture built right into the heart of the Harvard Business School, the I-Lab represents something profoundly new for the university: a full-throttle effort to transform itself into a leader in the increasingly important world of tech entrepreneurship. The goal, both simple and ambitious, is to bring together the world’s best and brightest young entrepreneurs, to nurture them in a stimulating and collaborative environment, and to help them transform their ideas into real-world businesses. “Gathering great minds under a single roof” is how Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, described the mission of the I-Lab at the opening ceremony, “so that they can become great together.” …  Everybody’s suddenly sweet on MIT. This past July, speaking in Boston at the Global Business Travel Association, Bill Clinton described the university as having the “best technology-transfer program in the country,” tops at turning student ideas into blockbuster businesses. It’s hard to disagree.

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BU student dies in Allston fire

The BU student who died in an Allston fire early Sunday morning has been identified as Binland Lee (CAS’13), a senior who was studying marine science, BU Today reports. The blaze, which broke out at 6:30 a.m., destroyed a three-story house at 87 Linden Street and injured nine residents, including two other University students, and six firefighters. Lee, a former vice president of the BU Marine Science Association, was scheduled to graduate in September from BU’s Marine Program. She graduated in 2009 from Brooklyn Technical High School, a specialized high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., that accepts students who pass a tough admission exam. Lee was one of a group of students who completed a ten-day field course in Belize with John Finnerty, associate professor of biology. “I was struck by her intelligence, her determination, her vitality, and her infectious smile,” said Finnerty, describing Lee as “a source of optimism for the future.” A spokesperson for the Boston Fire Department says that 18 people appeared to have been living in the building.

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FSR’s FLEX-LT Delivers Ultimate Control For Harmony Elementary School


Monroe, GA – FSR, a manufacturer of connectivity solutions for the audio/video, education, hospitality, government and religious markets, is pleased to announce that Harmony Elementary School, a public education institution serving students from grades one through five, has installed 60 FSR Flex-LT200 control systems and 60 IT-AS411-S8 audio switchers/amplifiers in all of its classrooms, media center, conference room and cafeteria. The Flex-LT200 enables teachers and administrative staff at the school to control each room’s DVD player, projector, laptop integration, audio sources and other devices from a simple, easy-to-use touch LCD screen. The IT-AS411-S8 units deliver audio from these sources to each classroom’s speaker system.

In addition to traditional classroom instruction, Harmony Elementary employs DVD players, projection screens, computers and other electronic devices to teach its students. Prior to implementing the FSR Flex-LT200s, teachers and administrative staff operated each device with several handheld remote controls, often forcing them to spend valuable classroom time hunting for the correct remote, finding the correct audio source for a device or managing the operation of multiple devices at the same time. The Flex-LT200, which can sit on a desk or be mounted into a wall, allows them to control all these devices from its user-friendly touch LCD screen. This way, they can spend less time navigating multiple control systems or looking for misplaced remote controls and more time teaching. At the same time, the cost of this system is comparable to or less than other button-only panel solutions. For added convenience, users can control the Flex-LT200 from a wireless tablet.

“We turned to the FSR Flex-LT200 for the Harmony Elementary School installation because we knew it could deliver the kind of control the school needed in a cost-effective, simple-to-operate package, and had great customer support to back that up,” says Todd Maynard, partner, TechOptics, the systems integrator and distributor that performed the installation of the FSR units at the school. “Using the Flex-Able configuration utility, we were able to program each Flex-LT200 to control all the tasks the school needed to perform with its electronic devices. We created the room control design using the configuration utility and loaded it directly into each room’s Flex-LT200, so that it would appear on the devices’ touch panel. It was very easy; a simple drag-and-drop functionality that someone without any knowledge of programming could create. This way, school employees can access all the control buttons they need from one unit.”

FSR’s award-winning, American-made Flex-LT series of self-contained control systems provide fingertip room control at an attractive price point. A built-in scheduler automatically shuts off displays that are not in use—making it an energy-saving device—and can deliver an alert if there is an issue in the room, such as an elevated lamp life that needs attention. Additionally, the Flex controller has an optional motion sensor that controls system power if a room stays vacant for a period of time, contributing to further energy savings. Flex-LT presents even the most non-technical user with an easy-to-use and understand color touch screen that controls the source being displayed, volume, lights, shades or screen. The series has five models: The Flex-LT100, LT150, LT200, LT300 and the new T6-Flex, which has a Flex control system built into a very attractive table box.

FSR’s IT-AS411 Series are 4 x 1 audio switchers with a microphone/line-level input for a voice lift system or direct microphone input. All models in the series have four switched program audio inputs and an independently controlled microphone or line-level input that is mixed with the selected active program audio. All models also have balanced or unbalanced audio input and output capability. DIP switches are provided to set the voice input level to microphone or line, adjust microphone sensitivity, set phantom power and select mono or stereo operation. The IT-AS411-S8 also has a 25-Watt amplifier built into the unit for powering the speakers.

About FSR –
FSR, established in 1981, manufactures a wide variety of products for the audio / video, education, hospitality, government, and religious markets, including AV floor, wall, table, and ceiling connectivity boxes, as well as a full line of interfaces, distribution amplifiers, matrix switchers, seamless switchers and CAT-5 solutions. The Flex LT control systems and IT-AS411 Series Audio Switcher/Amplifiers are 100% made in the USA.

All FSR products are designed and manufactured in its Woodland Park, NJ facility. The company is an Energy Star Partner and complies with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to demonstrate its deep commitment to preserving the planet. FSR offers live 24/7 technical and sales support throughout the country from expertly trained technicians and sales representatives.

About TechOptics –
TechOptics was established in 1994. Our goal from the beginning was to provide a “one-stop” solution for our customers’ technological needs. Today, we accomplish that goal by providing our customers with solutions from the ground up, including: network infrastructure, business telephone systems, and security and monitoring solutions. We not only help customers identify solutions that are perfect for their needs, we also specialize in the design and implementation of those solutions. We have customers of every size ranging from small, local businesses to sprawling educational institutions and international corporations. Through our extensive work with both the public and private sectors, we have become acutely aware of the particular challenges and issues that our customers face on a day-to-day basis. More importantly, we have the experience and know-how to help our customers solve these issues.

# # #
FSR Contact: Jan Sandri
973-785-4347 •

Press Contact: Desert Moon Communications
Harriet Diener
845-512-8283 •


For a piano teacher on Skype, lessons in the key of see

Music lessons are among videoconferencing’s common educational uses.

Talc Tolchin ducks into the music studio he built behind his Marin County cottage, where the sun filters through a towering redwood tree and his daughter has dotted the flower beds with fairy houses. It’s time for his next piano lesson.

An hour’s drive northwest of San Francisco, this woodsy town tucked among rolling golden hills claims only 500 or so dispersed residents. But not all of Tolchin’s students are close by. When it’s time to greet his second student on a recent Friday, he reaches for the laptop perched on his upright piano and summons her — via Skype.

Madeline Sheron pops up, peering at Tolchin from under her dark bangs. They banter — about an app that offers piano, bass and drum accompaniment, adjusted for groove and tempo. Then they dive into “All of Me,” the song Sheron had chosen in hopes of mastering jazz improvisation.

Her computer camera is aimed over her shoulder and Tolchin watches her left hand as it bops from sevenths to thirds. Tolchin has two cameras — one mounted on the ceiling so students can watch his hands, the other trained on his face.

“Go, girl!” he exclaims, tapping his foot as she masters the first turnaround.

Sheron was 200 miles away, in the Sierra Nevada ski town of Truckee. But she could just as well have been across the globe.

This is a music lesson, 2013-style, with tailored software, a growing array of videoconferencing platforms and, for Tolchin, a powerful cable Internet connection that on this day allowed him and Sheron to play their pianos simultaneously — with no delay.

It’s not for everyone. The world of music instructors is filled with late technology adopters on such tight budgets that even basic equipment needed to conduct online lessons is a stretch, said Rachel Kramer, director of member development for the Cincinnati-based Music Teachers National Assn.

Then there’s tradition. “There will be always be teachers who feel it would never ever work,” she said.


Qatar university installs robotic receptionist

A Qatar university has installed a robotic receptionist, which talks in English and Arabic, and which will soon be able to read human facial expressions when new upgrades are installed, reports. The new roboceptionist, which is named HALA, has been installed at the reception of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. “We are in the process of designing a new body that will make her more portable. If and when we do so, we will be able to take her into the community,” Majd Sakr, Associate Teaching Professor of Computer Science at CMU-Q said.

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Opinion: Education demands tech upgrade

Technology has changed lives in a number of meaningful ways. It has unleashed a great transformation that has allowed access to information and services through a swipe or a click, Rep. George Miller and Bob Wise write in Politico. While the new technology has fueled innovation in the consumer sector, widespread and effective usage in our nation’s public schools lags dangerously. Families can order dinner with the click of a button on a smartphone or computer, but teachers are still wiping chalk off blackboards. Newspapers and magazines are delivered to tablets every morning, but students study from texts that become outdated as soon as they are released. Co-workers work in real time to complete complex tasks on opposite coasts, but classrooms often cannot effectively connect subject areas. Unfortunately, the U.S. education system is a decade late on entering the new century. It must catch up, and quickly, in order to ensure that all students — especially low-income students and students of color — graduate from high school ready for college and a career.

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Frank Luntz University Of Pennsylvania scholarship to end after leaked comments

Top Republican strategist and pollster Frank Luntz decided not to renew a University of Pennsylvania scholarship for students to travel to Washington, D.C. after a student secretly taped contentious comments he made during a meeting on campus and leaked them to Mother Jones, The Huffington Post reports. The Daily Pennsylvanian reported Friday that Luntz would not renew the scholarship, which is in his father’s name. Luntz told the Daily Pennsylvanian he would fulfill his promise to speak to on a panel at graduation weekend, but that he would never return to the school for another speaking engagement, and he would encourage others to stay away as well. … Luntz was secretly recording during a meeting with the school’s College Republicans that reportedly took place on April 22. In the tape, he can be heard criticizing conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, whom he called “problematic”…

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