As a follow-up to my co-blogger Kathleen's post about the story I recently wrote for Education Week about the cost of virtual education, I thought I might take a few minutes to talk about some of the challenges of writing this article as well as some of the information I found that didn't quite make it in. The first thing I found when I started reporting on this story was that there is no easy answer to the question of how cost-effective virtual education is. It's hard to say, "Yes, online education is cheaper," or "No, it is not." Instead, ...


In the midst of tremendous growth in online learning opportunities there's an ongoing debate about how cost-effective it is for districts and states to provide virtual courses versus traditional classroom offerings. Katie Ash focuses on this issue in her Ed Week piece this week. There are competing views and data about the cost benefits of online programming. Many education leaders are interested in starting or expanding virtual schools so they give students' alternatives, as well as more opportunities to take courses that might not be widely available where they are. A couple of days ago I met with a San ...


In Tuesday's post about using Google Earth to teach about Ancient Rome, I asked readers how they fit such tech lessons into their instruction. Over at the Teach Paperless blog, Shelly Blake-Plock takes me to task over the notion that teachers need to "fit in" technology. He makes a great point: if you are struggling to fit it in, you are likely not using technology meaningfully. It should be a natural tool for your classroom. "If you feel like you have to 'fit tech in' to your classroom practice, then you're quickly going to find yourself frustrated," he writes. "You ...


When we envision 21st century learning environments, a lot of us probably picture classrooms loaded with the latest technology and maybe some new skill sets being taught. But at the upcoming Architecture 4 Education symposium taking place this weekend in Pasadena, California, school architects and researchers will converge to talk about what the physical structures of a 21st century learning environment might look like, including how emerging technologies will influence how schools are built. A copy of the symposium's agenda, as well as a list of the speakers that will be presenting, are available from the organization's Web site. And ...


According to this AP story, Maine is in the process of expanding its laptop program, which aims to provide a computer for every 7th-12th grader in the state. School officials are now in negotiations with Apple to provide 100,000 Apple MacBooks, says the article. This is somewhat surprising news considering the divided opinions about the efficacy of 1-to-1 laptop programs, as well as obvious financial challenges because of the economy. But Governor John Baldacci has reassured tax payers that it is being done with existing resources and will not require additional taxpayer money. Looking back through Education Week's coverage ...


There are a lot of teachers out there who are successfully using technology to bring the curriculum to life for their students. Yesterday, Google recognized eight teachers for their creativity in using the 3D Google Earth application to create lessons about ancient Rome. Google Earth takes users on a geographic and historic tour of the globe with maps and satellite images of land and sea. The winning teachers have taken their standards-based lessons and adapted them to interactive models of ancient and modern-day Rome. Here's a sample on YouTube: At Acalanes Union High School District, for example, 6th and 7th ...


One thing I often here from educators about using the Web to find useful resources and tools is that weeding through all that's on the Internet is overwhelming and time-consuming. Digital Directions, Ed Week's magazine and Web site devoted to covering educational technology, has been working to find the kinds of Web sites that could help teachers and principals work more effectively. My colleague, Tim Ebner, a freelance writer, is doing the searching and providing an overview of those sites that offer content or services for educators. Find his summaries at the Go-to-Sites feature. He'll be updating his list regularly, ...


Here's an article, written by my colleague Debra Viadero, about whether or not reading and math software programs lead to learning gains. The study didn't find many differences between the control groups, who did not use the software programs, and the ones that did, but critics of the study say that the experimental research methods used for the study were flawed. It does seem to be one of those studies that anyone can look at and see what they want. "If you already have the hardware in the classroom and you want one of these products, this would not dissuade ...


It's only Friday, so there's still time to read an electronic text to commemorate "Read an e-Book Week," which runs through tomorrow. Some experts predict there will be huge growth in this area; not exactly a prophetic statement given the proliferation of mobile devices that can accommodate e-books and the growing popularity of e-reader gadgets. There are a lot of proponents, and commercial providers, who would like to see e-textbooks gain ground in districts across the country. Some, like Sony, have donated millions of e-books to schools in the hopes that the trend will catch on. And now the Internet ...


At Edweek.org, my colleague Michele McNeil has a piece with the details on the $250 million in stimulus cash for education data systems. The topic was featured in President Obama's March 10 education address, Michele reports. “Far too few states have data systems like the one in Florida that keep track of a student’s education from childhood through college. And far too few districts are emulating the example of Houston and Long Beach, and using data to track how much progress a student is making and where that student is struggling,” Mr. Obama said in his speech to ...


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