March 2009 Archives

My colleague Sean Cavanagh's story about nanotechnology is a fascinating read and a great example of the way that teaching cutting-edge technology can capture students' interest. Nanotechnology—or the study of materials or particles at the molecular or atomic level—is a field of research that's rapidly expanding. It is being used to figure out how to make materials stronger, more stain-resistant, and also how to make computer chips more intricate and sophisticated. It's normally taught at the university level, but students in "Tech Valley," near Albany, N.Y., are getting lessons in the newly emerging field, as well. Part ...


I don't know if we needed a study to confirm this, but the Council on Research Excellence released survey results this week showing that the youngest of the baby boomers are the biggest consumers of the video media among people age 45 or older. Those boomers ages 45 to 54 appear to be the biggest media consumers among all adults in the survey, spending more than 9 1/2 hours daily with blackberries, computers, televisions, and other video-capable devices. The $3.5 million Video Mapping Study, conducted by the Ball State University Center for Media Design, found that despite the ...


I've been getting up to speed on Twitter little by little, learning the lingo and mastering the 140-character format. That's been the hardest part for a journalist who likes to go in depth and who often surpasses my allotted space for print stories, just ask my editor. Twitter, texting, and other communication tools may be a bit uncomfortable for us veterans, as far as written venues go. But I tend to think of today's students as being able to pick up on them more instinctively. So I thought this article was interesting. I found it thanks to the Ed Tech ...


Over at Curriculum Matters, my colleague Sean Cavanagh writes about an online site featuring virtual manipulatives for math and science classes. David Wetzel offers a variety of interactive math resources at his Teachscienceandmath blog, here, including math games and Google Earth math applications. As Sean writes, manipulatives are boxes, shapes, figures and games that students can handle in class to make connections to math concepts. I've heard a lot of experts caution about putting traditional curriculum materials on the Web without adapting them appropriately to the digital format. This is an interesting example of how a standard classroom tool can ...


Ed Week's annual report on educational technology, Technology Counts 2009, was published today. The full report and individual state reports are available for download. This year's report focuses on issues and trends in online learning and grades the states on educational technology use and capacity. As the world of online education continues to evolve, brick-and-mortar schools are incorporating digital curricula and virtual teachers into their classrooms in ways that have surprised even the advocates of the online education movement, according to the 12th annual report. Once mostly catering to advanced students who educators believed had the motivation to pursue education ...


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 ...


I wasn't able to make it to the CoSN conference in Austin this week, but Andrew Trotter, a blogger and former Ed Week reporter was there. He's been posting his observations on his new blog. He has this report from yesterday: There's been "near-constant discussion at CoSN about Twitter, Facebook, blogging, podcasting, Wikipedia, open content, curriculum wikis, online video games, and smartphones–and how those Web 2.0 tools fit together with the traditional school staples of assessment, curriculum, student privacy, and safety, budgets, and so on," Andrew writes. "The international symposium on March 10, here in Austin, made clear ...


Hat tip to Remote Access for turning me on to a new publication put out by MIT press called the International Journal of Learning and Media


As we ask ourselves questions about social networking, mobile technologies, online learning, and other emerging technological concerns, it's important to remember that not all school districts in this country are all that far along technologically. In fact, many schools, as well as businesses and homes, are still struggling to secure stable, high-speed broadband connections, as this report, released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, reminds us. The report calls for a renewed focus on getting all Americans hooked up to high-speed broadband Internet. The number of Americans connected to broadband has increased dramatically since the beginning of the decade, ...


Sean Cavanagh, my colleague over the Curriculum Matters blog, has this report from the National Assessment Governing Board meeting: There's a lot of debate these days about how to define "technology literacy," but in a couple years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress will take the unusual step of testing students in those skills. This week, the panel that oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress heard an early report on how it is attempting to forge a working definition, in preparation for judging students' tech literacy in 2012. The National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the NAEP, ...


Florida instituted new rules to prevent cyberbullying this school year, with clear procedures for reporting it, even anonymously, and detailed consequences for perpetrators, according to this article in the St. Petersburg Times. The article highlights the extra steps being taken in the Pinellas and Hillsborough districts to head off online bullies and stalkers. More and more districts are taking cyberbullying, and prevention of this type of harassment, seriously. A federal law passed in the fall, in fact, requires schools that receive E-rate funding to have an education campaign about such online behaviors. But most schools and districts are still trying ...


I'm currently digging up lots of research for a story I'm writing for Education Week about the role of games—like video games, computer games, and simulations—in the classroom. Last week, I came across two white papers, published by Education Arcade, a research initiative on gaming and school primarily by researchers from MIT. The first one, Moving Learning Games Forward, is one of the most comprehensive reports I've read about the challenges that schools face when introducing games into the classroom and the differences between games and formal education that make it challenging to integrate the two in a ...


I've joined LinkedIn and Facebook. I blog and Twitter. I've hosted Web chats, downloaded and posted video, and I've even fiddled a bit with wikis and podcasts. But I'm still wondering if all this has been an effective way to reach Ed Week and Digital Directions readers. According to McKinsey & Co., many companies are wondering the same thing. In the February edition of the McKinsey Quarterly, the business journal of the global management-consulting company, there are some tips for making Web 2.0 work for you. The second generation of Web usage is all about communication and collaboration, as well ...


In this Ed Week article I look at educational television and the latest efforts to study its impact on children's literacy development. Yesterday I came across this study, by the Children's Hospital of Boston and Harvard Medical School, that concludes "TV viewing before the age of 2 does not improve a child's language and visual motor skills." The longitudinal study of children from birth to age 3, published in the March issue of Pediatrics, didn't measure any detrimental affects of television viewing. But the researchers say there are other indications that children younger than 2 should not watch television, which ...


The Consortium for School Networking, the Washington-based association for school district technology leaders, has revamped its Web site to include more interactive tools and social networking features. Two new forums, for example, will launch this week to allow educators to discuss the impact of technology on K-12 classrooms, as well as new and innovative applications for educational technology. The organization also hosts blogs, social networks, and a resource library of ed tech materials, reports, and surveys. CoSN's is hosting its annual conference next week in Austin, and we will be blogging from there about the latest tech trends, concerns, and ...


A couple weeks back, Education Sector released a new report about the role of technology in assessment. The report, "Beyond the Bubble: Technology and the Future of Student Assessment," talked about how technology could be used to automate assessments to provide quicker feedback. But it also looked at how it could help transform assessment to provide meaningful data on students' test answers and, perhaps more importantly, how they got them. From today through Thursday, Education Sector is hosting a discussion about the report with its author, Bill Tucker, as well as education experts Charles Barone, Margaret Honey, and Scott Marion. ...


This video of the last day at the Rocky Mountain News, the latest newspaper to close up shop in the midst of a spiraling downturn in the news industry, was posted on Vimeo a few days ago by Matthew Roberts. Over at The Joy of Children's Literature blog Denise Johnson wonders if today's generation will remember how the news "used to be published." Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo. Of course this is a topic near and dear to me and my colleagues. It's not just the demise of the broadsheet that worries journalists, but the seeming growing indifference ...


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