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Zoom In Museums



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My name is Ulli. I am legally blind and love museums.

I became legally blind about 20 years ago. For many years, visiting a museum on my own seemed impossible. I feared that I would not be able to get around by myself or see well enough to make a visit worthwhile.

Moving to New York from Graz, Austria, I found out that all major museums in N.Y.C have special programs for blind and visually impaired people (VIP). These programs are free and take place once a month on a regular basis, offering live verbal descriptions and touch tours of the prevailing exhibitions.

Thus encouraged and motivated, I started to visit museums on my own again. I also visit museums throughout the U.S, Europe, and other places. In short, wherever my trips take me.

For a VIP there are many obstacles to be encountered when you visit a museum on your own. In my years of exploration by myself, I have found many ways, tricks and tips to overcome these challenges.

When I visit museums now, I view them with other VIPs in mind. I describe my very personal museum experiences in terms of museum accessibility, large print material and audio guide accessibility, map availability and the ease of navigating the museum. I hope that my blog Zoom In Museums will facilitate and inspire others to venture out to museums on their own.

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DREAM Scholar, This Year's Salutatorian, is Among Graduates


Rick Stengel, Recent Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Former Managing Editor at Time Magazine to Deliver Commencement Address


More than 1,500 students will receive their degrees at the Hunter College Winter Commencement, led by President Jennifer J. Raab, on Thursday, January 19, 2017, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Hunter College North Assembly Hall, 695 Park Avenue, between 68th and 69th Streets, Manhattan.  


Graduates include salutatorian Pablo Aranela, a Math and Spanish Literature double major. He is originally from Mendoza, Argentina and was raised in Brooklyn. Thanks to his DREAM Scholarship, he will be the first in his family to graduate college, and will do so debt free.


Other graduates in the limelight will be 74-year-old Cynthia Williams, who was previously homeless and beat her addiction to drugs 24 years ago, will receive a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the School of Education. She plans to become a counselor for people suffering with substance abuse. Gus Chalkias began losing his vision due to a degenerative eye disease while working as an accountant more than 10 years ago. He has since developed a graduate level class on assistive technology for blindness for NYU, created to inform the designs and practices of engineers, software developers, and occupational therapists. He is graduating from the Master's Program in Rehabilitation Counseling.


Rick Stengel, who served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs until December, and previously was the managing editor at Time Magazine, will deliver the commencement address and receive the President's Medal. His will celebrate the diversity of the Hunter College graduates, and discuss how each new generation of graduates reinvents the American Dream.

The Teachers Who Change Our Lives


by David McCullough


Growing up in Pittsburgh, I went to a wonderful public school where the arts were given as much attention as standard subjects like math and history. We had art and music every day. We were taken to museums and steel mills. I had excellent teachers, both in grade school and high school. Most of us are lucky if we have two or three teachers who change our lives and I had several, especially Vincent Scully, who taught art and architecture at Yale. He taught us to see, to think about spaces, to pay attention to what the buildings were saying, and to think about what the alternatives were, what might have been built that wasn't. And few men I've known have such a great understanding of America. I also took Daily Themes at Yale, Robert Penn Warren's writing course. Every morning at eight-thirty you had to slide a sheet of original prose under the professor's door, and if you didn't, you got a zero. There was no kidding about it. It taught us discipline, to produce.

David McCullough is the award-winning author of many books, including The Wright Brothers.

Members of the CUNY Community:

We begin a new academic term with much news, some very troubling and some heartening.

CUNY is a university of immigrants in a city of immigrants. That is a source of pride and strength. So I know you share my concern over the new administration's order limiting the free movement of students, immigrants and refugees from certain countries. As I wrote you earlier today, I believe this policy is contrary to the fundamental values of openness and inclusion that have made CUNY--and our country--so successful for generations. And I reiterated CUNY's commitment to do everything it can within the law to support and protect our students, no matter their status.

While that difficult news necessarily had our attention over the weekend and continues to be a matter of urgent focus, there has been some extremely positive news recently about CUNY and its direction, which I want to share. I hope you saw the recent article in The New York Times about a path-breaking study that demonstrates the enormous impact of CUNY as a leading engine of mobility in this country. It was extremely gratifying to see such persuasive evidence for what we have long known - not just how effective our university is at opening the door to middle class careers for lower-income New Yorkers--but the remarkable scale of this achievement. The article reaffirmed the importance of our mission and helped make more opinion leaders, public officials and the public aware of CUNY's vital role.

This attention is timely. The university is launching a new strategic framework, cuny.edu/connected, which is focused on the goals and strategies that will further advance CUNY's historic mission in the knowledge economy. This plan is the result of broad consultation and considerable work, but we envision it as a living document and fully expect it can be improved. Your comments and suggestions are welcome and can be submitted on the website.

No institution has done more to provide opportunity to those who have the desire and talent to succeed, no matter where they begin in life, than The City University of New York. But there is much more that must be done. We must expand affordable access to more New Yorkers who would benefit from college, implement programs that promote timely completion and, in addition to our high quality instruction, provide experiential learning opportunities that lead to the best careers for our graduates. That's the essence of CUNY's new strategic framework: we seek to significantly increase opportunity for all New Yorkers.

How will we accomplish these ambitious plans? Certainly, in part, by making investments in faculty and student support. This will be possible only with increased public and private support as well as more cost-effective administration. Also, importantly, the strategic framework is called "Connected CUNY," because our success in the future depends on how well we collaborate across the university and with our many partners, including government, the public schools, other leading universities, philanthropies and the private sector.

I hope you share my excitement over this renewed vision for CUNY and join me in advancing our historic mission that continues to serve New York so well.


James B. Milliken

Landmark College Summer Institute


Not just a conference. 

A professional learning experience - combining hands-on, multi-day training workshops; world-class research presentations; a student panel; networking opportunities; and 30+ years of Landmark College expertise.  

Landmark College Summer Institute: June 25-28, 2017

For 27 years, the Summer Institute at Landmark College has been an annual opportunity for educators and professionals to reboot their learning and refresh their enthusiasm for supporting students who learn differently. Watch a short video of LCIRT Director Dr. Manju Banerjee describing the unique aspects of the Summer Institute.

Check out highlights from past Summer Institutes.

Keynote and Plenary Presentations by Nadine Gaab, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Boston Children's Hospital & Harvard Medical School
Department of Medicine/Division of Developmental Medicine
Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience
Twitter: Nadine Gaab (@GaabLab)

Sunday Keynote:
"Hope or Hype? The Use and Misuse of Neuroscience in Education"

June 25, 7:30 p.m.


Monday Plenary Presentation:
"The Typical and Atypical Reading Brain:  How Neuroscience Can Inform Educational Practice"

June 26, 9:00 a.m.

Workshops and Single Sessions

Three-day intensive, hands-on workshops (or "strands") form a core component of the Landmark College Summer Institute experience.

by Karen Kraskow

He is a design researcher for a global IT company.  He is charged with understanding the customers' needs and designing/planning the systems that make the businesses (of its clients) work.  Customers never see the systems he designs, but they make (e.g.) the ticket gates process work without hitch.  He is deaf.  Christopher and I met through a program of the NYPL called Visible Lives:  Oral Histories of the Disability Experience.  I was an Interviewer and Christopher Taylor Edwards was a Storyteller.  He told his story not only because it strengthens him, but because documentation of the lives of people with disabilities validates "our experiences both at the individual level and the civic-social level." 

For design builds social relationships.  As a design student at Parsons (graduated June 2015, at 41 years of age) he was part of a coalition that engaged homebuilders and remodelers in Detroit in uncovering and solving like problems, such as "How do you repair windows?  How to get a permit for a dumpster? etc."  These stakeholders, initially isolated in their efforts, were remodeling dilapidated properties, or building from the ground up on affordable, but depressed properties.  In a partnership with the Knight Foundation and IDEO, Christopher and his colleagues - including businessmen and women, historic preservationists, journalists, peace corps veterans, graphic and industrial designers - invited the remodelers to gather in a storytelling event where they mapped and tested their ideas; they also  developed skills classes, created a contractor directory and organized neighborhood tours, all in support of building a community to undergird the arduous work of homebuilding. Brick + Beam, a social impact organization who led the work, upheld the principle:  when you are constructing a building you are constructing a community.    

Christopher has applied his transdisciplinary (Transdisciplinary Design was his major) skills to the deaf community as well. He, himself, grew up hearing and only began losing his hearing when he was a sophomore in high school, something that continued to deteriorate, until complete loss in his 30's.  His speech was not affected.  He notes:  today there are fewer deaf schools, deaf students are largely mainstreamed.  Those individuals whose condition allows (Christopher's does not) use cochlear implants, which restore hearing almost completely. The result being that many more careers are open to individuals who deal with deafness.  However, Christopher observes, career services offices at schools are not as yet prepared to assist these students in preparing for the workplace.  To rectify this Christopher has published a toolkit to help deaf employees navigate the social space of their place of employment - from watercooler conversation to meetings. "Crafting Access:  A Toolkit for Communications Access in the Office and in Your Career" (available from christopher@nonedesign.net) helps the reader prepare to explain what works best for them in their communication with the hearing environment.  Through a series of tasks, users prepare to talk with an employer and also to engage in social conversation at the workplace. This effort also helped these individuals feel less isolated and gave all - who may have done this in the groups Christopher led at Parsons, an opportunity to explore how others handled similar situations.  They became empowered to negotiate their own inclusion.  And the hearing community learned from their efforts how best to work as a team together with them. This was yet another attempt to bring together for self-awareness and community awareness individuals dealing with the same issue. 

He has some tips for interacting with a person who is deaf, but ultimately it's up to the person themselves to discover with the listener the best way to work with them.  Some common themes are:  don't repeat and enunciate what was not understood - rather, rephrase it. (Enunciating distorts the mouth as it makes the sound, making it difficult to speech read. )  Slow down, and always face the person you are speaking to.  Some people who are deaf find it hard to know how loud they should speak and have to use cues from the environment (if there's a large crowd, people are probably speaking loudly; if people are in a library, probably not) one can help by giving gentle cues to help them modulate their voice to fit in with the sound surrounding.

To Christopher, communicating in a hearing environment is a 'design challenge.'  Can you beat that attitude?

Capitalizing on Summer


by Harold S. Koplewicz, MD



When my sons were young, no sooner were they back to school after winter break than the conversation turned to summer plans. I remember being flabbergasted. There truly is no rest for the parent -- or the thoroughly scheduled school-age child.

There's a reason for this preparation -- summer is a time for great changes in children. Some kids have transformative experiences at camp or traveling. And some kids, particularly those who must contend with
ADHD or anxiety or a learning disorder, struggle to attain those experiences, or fit in with summer friends.

Luckily, summer presents a great opportunity for all kids to test their limits and grow. We have articles on childmind.org about
holidays, managing breaks from school and using summer effectively to maintain progress for children, whether they are working to overcome a learning challenge or a behavioral issue.

At the Child Mind Institute, for instance, our new Summer Program is an example of using summer to give children with ADHD and behavioral, learning and social issues a leg up while having a great time.
Programs like these are a model for what mental health professionals can do when they bring together clinical research, top-notch training and compassionate care. And for how to make the most out of summer break while giving kids the gift of a transformative experience.

Warmest regards,

Harold S. Koplewicz, MD
Child Mind Institute

By Rose Spaziani

Pasteurized human breast milk can save the most vulnerable lives. Premature and sick infants are especially in need, notes the New York Milk Bank (NYMB). ColumbiaDoctors Midtown is one of two depot sites in Manhattan that safely collect and route donated human breast milk to NYMB, which opened its doors in September 2016 in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., and distributes the milk to mothers and their infants throughout New York State.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 10 infants was born prematurely in the United States in 2015. Research has shown that pasteurized breast milk provides the best nutrition and helps to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal infection that is common in premature infants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving pasteurized donor breast milk to premature infants when a mother's breast milk is unavailable. To meet this need, NYMB estimates that 200,000 ounces of pasteurized donor human milk are needed per year to feed premature infants in the state.

Following Thanksgiving 2016, ColumbiaDoctors Midtown received its first donation--an 800-ounce supply--and promptly sent it to NYMB. Lauren Levine, MD, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics, oversees milk bank donations at ColumbiaDoctors Midtown, which is located near Rockefeller Center, at 51 West 51st Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues). The project is especially important to Dr. Levine because she saw firsthand the devastating effects of necrotizing enterocolitis on small babies after completing her pediatric residency and working as a house physician in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. Premature infants continue to hold a special place in her heart.

All breast milk collected at ColumbiaDoctors Midtown is thoroughly screened in accordance with standards from the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Donors complete verbal and written questionnaires and blood tests for HIV and other infectious diseases. In addition, donors and their babies must receive medical clearance from their health care providers. Next, the milk is pasteurized to destroy bacteria and viruses, and tested to ensure safety.

For more information about the New York Milk Bank, visit nymilkbank.org. To learn about all ColumbiaDoctors Children's Health services, visit ColumbiaChildrensHealth.org. If you're interested in donating breast milk to ColumbiaDoctors Midtown, contact NYMB at 212-956-MILK.


At age 74, I have already experienced many of the indignities of aging and before very long will also confront the inevitability of death. Although neither prospect is particularly pleasant, I strongly believe in the normality and necessity of both. Claims that science will soon prevent aging and dramatically prolong life strike me as irresponsible hype and false hope. I am all for efforts to expand our healthspan, but see little value in prolonging our lifespan, and little possibility that we will soon discover a fountain of youth.

My grandson, home from college for Christmas break, disagrees with what he regards as my sentimental and regressive attachment to the status quo. Tyler is participating in stem cell and genetics research and believes that it is feasible and desirable to double the human lifespan and make aging just another curable disease. Tyler has no qualms about this research and regards my doubts as technically naive and ethically unnecessary.

Here is a very brief point by point summary of our ongoing debate.

Me: Evolution requires aging and death to make room for each new generation and also favors a fairly rapid succession of generations. Both are necessary to provide raw material for the variability and beneficial mutations essential to natural selection. 

Tyler: Evolution has little interest in aging and death. Natural selection focuses its selective pressure on producing optimal reproductive fitness in the mating members of any species. Once the period of reproduction and weaning have passed, natural selection applies much less pressure on how the rest of the lifespan plays out. There is thus no inherent evolutionary reason to prohibit research that would prevent aging and prolong life. And there are excellent reasons to pursue it- although evolution does a remarkable job when given enough time, it works far too slowly and imperfectly to help us solve our current problems. Whenever, in the past, it has served our interests, humans have always felt free to speed up natural selection. We would still be hunters and gatherers were it not for the artificial selection of domesticated plants and animals that constituted the agricultural and pastoral revolutions. If we have the genetic tools to promote human health, longevity, and happiness, why not use them.

Me: But the world is already terribly over-populated and is rapidly becoming even more over-populated. Extending the lifespan will mean more crowding, more mouths to feed, more environmental degradation, and more resource depletion. Malthusian dynamics ensure that providing a longer life for some must be purchased at the high cost of a more brutal life for the many- a life threatened by even more wars, migrations, famines, and epidemics.

Tyler: Overpopulation is best solved by reducing birthrates. This has already been done with great success almost everywhere in the world except Africa and the Middle East. It will be a better, more mature, and healthier world if people live longer and have fewer diseases and fewer children. A longer lifespan will make people wiser, more future oriented, and less willing to take foolish risks in the present. This could lead to more rational decisions on how best to preserve our planet as a decent place to live. Me: Only the rich will be able to afford new products that prevent aging and promote longevity. The resulting caste system based on lifespan will be even more unfair than our current divisions based on wealth and power.

Tyler: The distribution of benefits that will accrue from aging research is a political, economic, and ethical question, not a scientific one. Given human nature and existing institutional structures, the benefits will almost certainly be enjoyed in a markedly unequal and unfair fashion- greatly favoring the rich and powerful, with only a very slow trickle down to the population at large. This inequity has accompanied every previous technological advance in the long march of human progress and is not specifically disqualifying to progress in slowing aging and death.

Me: Every scientific advance can, and usually does, have harmful, unintended consequences (medical, social, political, economic) that cannot possibly be predicted in advance. Scientists always have intellectual and financial conflicts of interest that bias them to exaggerate the potential benefits to be derived from their discoveries and to minimize the potential risks.

Tyler: Surely, aging research will have its hype, blind alleys, and unexpected complications- these are an unavoidable risk in all scientific advances. But the risks and difficulties should not paralyze efforts to make the advance or call into question whether it should be made; instead, they should increase caution and vigilance in how it is done. And we must remember the context. Our world is already going to hell in a handbasket- the risks of advancing science are real, but the potential benefits may be all that stand between us and disaster. Science is necessarily disruptive, but may offer our only road to salvation. To quote Mark Watney in the movie 'The Martian': "In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option, I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this."

Me: There is something arrogant and unseemly about tampering with anything so fundamental to life as aging and death. Their inevitability has always been an essential element governing the ebb and flow of all the species and all the individual organisms that have ever lived on our planet. Why assume that we have the right, or the need, to tamper with such a basic aspect of nature?

Tyler: Scientific progress has always challenged conservative values based on a sentimental attachment to the past. My grandfather would probably have worked hard to convince the first agriculturalists that they were breaking some sacred and natural code when they chose to settle down in one place rather than continue following the hunt. There is no inevitable, inexorable, over-riding, and natural law defining and governing one correct path of human destiny.



By Dr. Blake Spahn, Vice Chancellor of Dwight School

DwightSchoolViceChancellorBlakeSpahn.jpgThe philosophical underpinnings of the International Baccalaureate trace back to Kurt Hahn, a British educator of German origin who worked for a negotiated peace after World War I. He believed that implementing an international curriculum around the world could abolish national and racial prejudices, thereby wiping out the main cause of war. His thinking influenced Alec Peterson, Director of the University of Oxford's Department of Educational Studies, who aimed to broaden the British A level curriculum, enabling children to develop to their fullest potential. His work to reform the A levels ultimately took shape in the late 1960s as the universal IB curriculum, independent of any government and national biases and systems.

I took an initial interest in the IB when my own high school, Dwight School, adopted the curriculum. I saw first-hand how the IB impacted our school and its culture, and was struck by the transformation in such a short period of time. I later delved deeper while pursuing my DPhil in comparative international education at Oxford. My doctoral thesis focused on the development of the IB in the U.S., through the lens of four case-study schools. My goal was to answer the following questions through extensive research:

  • Why would an American school adopt the IB? The primary reasons were the curriculum's high academic standards across a wide array of integrated subjects and a school's desire to raise its academic standards. Additionally, the IB enhanced the school's ability to attract foreign students and to increase diversity within its community.
  • How is the IB implemented in a U.S. school? It was clear that prior to implementation, a school must understand its own core values to ensure compatibility and that successful implementation relied on the leadership of a senior faculty member, such as an IB coordinator or principal, to help smooth the way. Implementation also required that the school gain consensus among senior faculty by making them part of the decision-making process. Once on board, everyone needed to steer clear of creating a division between IB and non-IB students. 
  • What is the effect of the IB on the institution? The predominant impact was improved academic standards and increased pride in the school both for its enhanced reputation and for being part of a larger global group.

I published these research findings in greater detail in America and the International Baccalaureate: Implementing the International Baccalaureate in the United States in 2001. Since that time, the IB has grown exponentially nationwide for many of the same reasons and with even more enthusiasm in today's globalized world ─ an ever-evolving world in which employers seek internationally minded, multi-lingual, culturally sensitive and agile employees. The IB provides the best academic preparation available anywhere for graduates to enter this global marketplace equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge to succeed ─ and, in the spirit of Kurt Hahn, to build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.  

Dr. Blake Spahn is Vice Chancellor of Dwight School, the first school in the Americas to offer all four IB programs for students from preschool through grade 12. Founded in 1872, Dwight School is dedicated to igniting the spark of genius in every child.

About Me

Homeroom is the place to go for quick news on what is happening in education around the world. Remember how you had to check in to homeroom for attendance and daily schedule changes in intermediate school as well as high school? Education Update has created this section...Read More

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