Techlearning News(2)

  • The Cobb County (GA) Board of Education has decided to abandon its plan to equip the county's students with laptop computers, following a State Circuit Court ruling that said it could not use special sales tax revenue, passed to "refresh obsolete work stations," to pay for the plan. Learn more about the controversy.
  • Teachers participating in the Computational Math, Science and Technology Institute at SUNY Brockport this summer are learning to use a variety of high tech tools that they hope will help to make math and science attractive to more middle and high school students Do you prefer hands-on training programs?
  • Seattle Public Schools is rolling out a home-grown communication tool that gives families secure, online access to their students' grades, attendance records, assignments and test performance. Does your school use a similar tool?
  • Teachers in the Los Alamos (NM) Schools will find a number of changes when they return to their classrooms this fall. But district officials are committed to taking it one step at a time, whether it’s helping teachers learn to use the new SIS or to better integrate computers into the curriculum.

Cobb County Gives Up Laptop Plans

The Cobb County (GA) Board of Education has decided to abandon its plan to equip the county's students with laptop computers. The laptop program, designed to eventually equip all students in grades six through 12 with laptops, has been very controversial. The district planned to use funds raised by a special sales tax, which voters approved in 2003, to pay for the initial phase of the project. At the time of the sales tax referendum, the district promised to provide all its teachers with a "computing device" and to "refresh obsolete [computer] work stations" for students. Following Board approval of the ambitious laptop program in April, former County Commissioner Butch Thompson sued to stop the district from carrying out the plan, calling it a "bait and switch" by the school system, one that went far beyond the promise of refreshing student workstations. Superior Court Judge S. Lark Ingram agreed, ruling that the district has to abide by what they promised in the special sales tax referendum. The judge made it clear that her ruling was not based on the merits of the program, but on the district’s failure to provide "fair notice" of how it planned to use the money when the referendum was held in 2003. She did allow the district to go ahead with its plan to provide laptops to teachers, since that was included in the informational materials distributed before the sales tax passed. The Board may decide to appeal the ruling, but for now will be developing new plans for the technology refresh, which are likely to include the purchase of fewer laptop computers and the use of mobile laptop carts which can be moved from classroom to classroom as needed.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Learning by Doing

Teachers participating in the month-long Computational Math, Science and Technology Institute at SUNY Brockport this summer aren’t spending much time listening to professors lecture. Instead, they are working with the same high tech tools that their instructors hope to see implemented in their students’ math and science classrooms this fall. Teachers are learning to use both graphing software and interactive whiteboards to bring the software to life in the classroom. They are learning to use design and animation software to support specific teaching goals in math and science. Teachers are both learning the technology and learning new ways to incorporate the technology into their classroom teaching. The hope is that the high tech gadgets will aid learning, make classroom instruction more engaging and help to make math and science more attractive to more middle and high school students. The institute was started in 2002, when SUNY Brockport received $3.4 million from the National Science Foundation for a five-year study on using technology as a way of boosting students' scores in math and science in the Rochester and Brighton school districts. Brockport has since received an additional $500,000 for the project. The effort is seemingly showing some results. Rochester School District students who were taught by teachers who had gone through the Brockport training averaged 4 to 8 percentage points higher than other students in school and state exams in math and science, according to SUNY Brockport.

Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Parents To Get Answers from The Source

In the never-ending quest to increase parent involvement, the Seattle Public Schools have turned to a home-grown solution. Dubbed “The Source,†the communication tool will be rolled out in six schools this fall. By October, all Seattle high schools will be part of the network. Middle schools will come on board by November. The new tool gives families secure, online access to their students' grades, attendance records, assignments and performance on tests. Teachers can use the same tool to see their students' entire class schedule, performance in other classes and concepts that students haven't yet mastered, based on test scores. Teachers who experimented with a prototype last year say that having such easy access to in-depth information really does help promote dialogue between parents and teachers. The rub will be access, since all families do not have ready online access. The district is exploring ways of providing access to families with no computer or Internet connection. The Seattle Public Library provides free, 15-minute Internet access at kiosks and patrons can reserve a terminal for up to one hour a day. Parents with e-mail accounts can receive district announcements and teacher messages. For parents who don't have an e-mail address, the district will create one for them that they can use to communicate with their child's teachers or principal.

Source: Seattle Times

Slow and Steady Pace Serves Technology

Like many districts nationwide, teachers in the Los Alamos (NM) Schools will find a number of changes when they return to their classrooms this fall. In Los Alamos, in addition to learning about upgraded software and new technology like interactive whiteboards, teachers will also have to learn the ropes of a new student information system. But district officials are committed to taking it one step at a time, helping teachers learn what they must know, but not expecting them to have total mastery before school starts. The new SIS will be implemented in phases and teachers will be trained on each phase as it becomes available. In terms of already familiar technology, the high school is adding more mounted projectors to make it easier for teachers to use technology tools with the whole class. Recent updates to the video programming and fine arts labs have resulted in increased demand and a skyrocketing enrollment of young women in computer-based classes. The middle school will be getting 30 new computers for its teaching lab and interactive whiteboards will be used in some classrooms. Three mobile labs, each with a networked printer and projector for classroom display, are also available. All the district elementary schools will receive some new computers, while existing computers are being upgraded with new software and memory. More digital cameras also are being purchased for classroom use, and mounted projectors and whiteboard technology is being installed in classrooms. The goal in all areas is to help teachers integrate more technology in the classroom more efficiently and effectively.

Source: The Los Alamos Monitor

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