Stand-Up Desks Make History, Again

Stand-up desks seem to be falling under the old phrase of “everything old is new again.”

Stand Up Desks in History

You can also say that about newly developed designs for office cubicles that were initially invented over 80 years ago. But stand-up desks go back even further when you consider that everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Ernest Hemingway reportedly used a stand-up desk for more inspired work time.

Can it truly create a spark in productivity, or should there be a stand-up and sitting desk hybrid?

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Business and Education Leaders Revise Learning Goals

Worthington Direct has all the information technology furniture your school needs to train the future IT work force.  Find great deals on Flat Panel Workstations by Paragon or lead the class with the popular Sit-Stand Computer Workstation by Bretford.  Visit today and find the perfect platform on which to grow your technology education program.

Looking for support in revising your curriculum to reflect the needs of 21st-century learners? A new online resource could help: On Aug. 2, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), a national coalition of business and education leaders, issued a revised plan to help students and educators achieve 21st-century learning goals.

According to P21, the group’s revised framework “addresses key [concerns] by developing a clear vision for 21st-century student outcomes in the new global economy.” For the first time, the plan also “defines how school systems can best support these outcomes,” P21 says. This latest offering builds on the organization’s previous efforts to guide the integration of so-called “21st-century skills” into the curriculum. It’s essential, say coalition members, that students have a strong grasp of these skills for the United States to remain competitive in the 21st-century economy.

To help promote what P21 calls “real-world applications of content,” the coalition has added a new skills category, called “Learning and Innovation Skills,” to its framework. These skills distinguish “those students who can thrive in the complex life and work environments of the 21st century,” and they focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, as well as mastery of information, media, and technology skills–all of which are “essential for preparing students for the future,” according to Charles Fadel, a P21 board member and global education leader for Cisco Systems Inc. Fadel added: “We live and work in a technology- and media-driven environment, marked by access to an abundance of information, rapid changes in technology tools, and the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale.

To be effective in the 21st century, today’s students must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical-thinking skills related to information, media, and technology.” Other skills stressed in the new framework are what P21 calls “Life and Career Skills,” such as flexibility, accountability, innovation, self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, leadership, and responsibility.

According to P21, these are skills that many U.S. employers say are increasingly hard to find among prospective employees. Core subjects still included in the revised framework include language arts, world languages, arts, mathematics, economics, science, geography, history, and government and civics, as well as such 21st-century additions as global awareness; financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; and health literacy. continue reading

Schools Aim to Fill IT Job Demand

Worthington Direct has all the information technology furniture your school needs to train the future IT work force.  Find great deals on Flat Panel Workstations by Paragon or lead the class with the popular Sit-Stand Computer Workstation by Bretford.  Visit today and find the perfect platform on which to grow your technology education program.

Employers across the nation are finding it increasingly difficult to fill information technology (IT) positions, mainly because of a shortage of qualified entry-level and advanced employees, according to industry experts. Contrary to what many people believe–that available IT jobs are on the decline–businesses throughout the United States say the IT sector offers more job opportunities than ever, and they’re struggling to find employees to fill these many openings.

Industry insiders point to a few reasons for the shortage, including the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law and lingering perceptions from the dot-com bust that occurred earlier this decade. Now, experts are trying to change these perceptions–and they’re looking to schools for help.

Part of the reason many people think the IT field holds little promise is they don’t understand things have changed since 2000 and 2001, when the IT field took a hit, said Gene Longo, senior manager of U.S. field operations for Cisco Systems’ Networking Academy program. “In 2000 and 2001, when the dot-com bust happened, and then [immediately after] September 11, we saw lots of layoffs in the IT and tech industries,” Longo said, adding that many students and professionals shied away from the IT field when they saw jobs were scarce. But that was then.

Job opportunities in areas such as computer software engineering, computer support, and systems administration are expected to increase must faster than the average for all occupations, with computer software engineering projected to be one of the fastest-growing occupations through 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “2006-07 Occupational Outlook Handbook.”

According to the federal agency, computer systems analysts are expected to see a 31-percent increase in total employment from 2004 to 2014. Network systems and data communication analysts are expected to see a 55-percent increase in total employment during that time, and computer software engineers should see a 48-percent increase in employment.

Longo believes another reason for the lack of qualified IT employees in the United States can be traced to high school reform and NCLB, which puts the focus squarely on core skills such as reading, science, and math–and therefore might not give students the chance to explore IT courses or electives while in high school. continue reading

Student Programming Competitors Meet Bill Gates

Microsoft Corp. on June 26 hosted some of the finalists for its 2007 Imagine Cup, a software programming contest open to college students worldwide. The final judging will take place in August, and students are competing for a $25,000 grand prize. What’s notable among this year’s entries is how students have tackled some serious subjects, said Microsoft’s Craig Mundie–such as software that helps students with disabilities.

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The Works Desk by Smith SystemWhen Microsoft Corp.’s worldwide student software programming competition began four years ago, many projects that emerged were “fun,” according to Craig Mundie, the company’s chief research and strategy officer. There was no shortage of smiles as Mundie and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates visited June 26 with some of the finalists from this year’s Imagine Cup. But the problems the university students’ projects addressed–education gaps in rural China, or the way blind and deaf students are shut out of mainstream classrooms–were much more serious than the music-player programs Mundie remembers from the early days.

A team of students from Egypt presented a program that converts classroom tests into different formats to suit students with different disabilities, such as dyslexia or attention-deficit disorder. A French group worked on a joystick-style mouse and software that helps students with physical disabilities participate in some activities, such as practicing “handwriting” on a computer screen.

“They have moved gracefully from entertainment to serious” subjects, Mundie said in an interview with the Associated Press. Gates and Mundie spent a few minutes with each of the 10 teams that converged at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash. The teams came from as far away as Hokkaido, Japan, and as near as Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

In August, these teams will compete with 100 other groups of finalists in South Korea for prizes of as much as $25,000. In all, the competition awards more than $170,000. For many of the student programmers, meeting Gates was quite a rush. “The best part was seeing Bill’s face and realizing he was genuinely interested,” said James Alexander, a 22-year-old who just graduated from the University of Hull in England.

His team demonstrated a game that teaches young children to write computer code by asking them to control fish in an aquarium. Eike Falkenberg, a 30-year-old German graduate student, liked the way Gates picked up the device his team demonstrated and started playing with it. “He’s still like a little boy when he sees new technology,” he said. continue reading