- The online format of the Virtual High School is not for everyone as Virginiaâ€™s Prince William County Schools discovered. Learn what makes a student a successful online learner.
- The Carrollton-Farmers Branch (TX) School District has launched a web-based Virtual Cafeteria that students can use to calculate the calories, fat grams, carbs, protein, vitamin A and vitamin C in their lunch choices. Try planning your own meal.
- De Soto (KS) USD 232 is now pursuing the goal of providing its students with on-demand access to technology resources. On demand access is more affordable than a one-to-one computer-to-student ratio, since it aims to provide only the number of computers that would be in use at any given time. Read about the change in direction.
- Educational institutions across the country are turning to online auctions to dispose of inventory they no longer need, earning some spare cash along the way. Learn about the Pembroke (MA) Public Schoolsâ€™ experience.
- An international team of scientists are preparing for an experiment that could shed light on the makeup of the universe. And to do it theyâ€™ve had to create one of the largest scientific tools ever built to measure particle too infinitesimal to imagine.
Matching Students to Virtual Schooling
When Superintendent Edward Kelly first brought the Virtual High School (VHS) to Virginiaâ€™s Prince William County Schools, he envisioned it as another option for students who were struggling to reach achievement goals in the regular classroom. For some students, such as those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the online format did make it easier for them to focus and avoid the distractions associated with the regular classroom. But it wasnâ€™t the answer for others, who needed more support than the self-directed program provided. But the program has really taken off among students who need to fit one more thing into already full schedules. Since Virtual High School courses compress a year-long class into the space of one semester, taking a required English class with VHS frees up space to take another course. The districtâ€™s VHS Director says the courses are at least as demanding as those offered in the classroom. All of the VHS teachers are certified, highly experienced teachers and classes are typically smaller than a regular high school class. Students communicate with their teachers using instant messages and e-mail and have set due dates for assignments. But otherwise, VHS allows students to work when they want to, placing a lot of responsibility on studentsâ€™ shoulders. Parental oversight is a big help in keeping students on track. The Prince William VHS has an average pass rate of 73 percent for all classes and an 81 percent pass rate for the state-mandated Standards of Learning tests.
Source:The Gainesviile Times
Virtual Help to Eating Better
The Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district has opened a new cafeteria to help its students learn more about nutrition and good eating habits. While students canâ€™t really eat at the districtâ€™s Virtual Cafeteria, they can calculate the calories, fat grams, carbs, protein, vitamin A and vitamin C in their lunch choices and even figure out how much lunch money they will need to purchase the meal. The web-based program lets children and their parents build meals based on actual menus from the school districtâ€™s cafeterias. As the user clicks on various menu choices, the virtual cafeteria worker comments on their nutritional content. A traffic signal in the background visually cues students about the food choice. Select a cookie and the red light goes on, warning it's a "Whoa" food - one that should be eaten less often than a "Go" (green light) or "Slow" (yellow light) food. The Texas Agriculture Commissioner implemented stricter nutrition guidelines last year for schools in the state, and as schools adopt those guidelines they turn to initiatives like the Virtual Cafeteria to help develop healthy eating habits among their students. The district expects that the web site will be used by parents, especially with younger students, and by teachers as a classroom tool.
Rethinking 1-to-1 Computing
De Soto USD 232 in De Soto, Kansas has decided to pursue the goal of providing its students with on-demand access to technology resources. On-demand access is more affordable than a one-to-one computer-to-student ratio, since it aims to provide only the number of computers that would be in use at any given time. The effort will be facilitated by the installation of building-wide wireless networks in all district schools. Several years ago, the district launched two pilots for its 1-to-1 program, providing all 400 students at Lexington Trails Middle School and all 350 fourth- and fifth-graders at Riverview Elementary School with their own laptop computers. Roughly two-thirds of those computers will now be distributed to other schools. The laptops will access software on the district's existing thin client network. Students and teachers need only establish log-in information to access the district-wide Internet-based network. The shift in emphasis doesnâ€™t reflect problems with the 1-to-1 pilots, but interest in a more efficient, scalable and equitable solution. The district has concluded that students donâ€™t need computers every minute of every day. They need to have on-demand access so that teachers can plan to use technology where and when it is likely to be most effective. The district spent $1.5 million implementing the original 1-to-1 program. Continued implementation depended on voter approval of a $91.5 million bond issue in May 2002. While that bond issue failed, voters approved a $76 million bond issue in November of the same year. A total of $11.9 million of the successful bond issue was pegged for technology. The districtâ€™s technology expenditures are within budget, and $7 million remains for projects under the current bond issue.
Source:The De Soto Explorer
Going, Going, Gone
Educational institutions across the country are turning to online auctions to dispose of inventory they no longer need, earning some spare cash along the way. To really make it happen, the schools may need to team up with experienced eBay traders, who can manage the process for them. Thatâ€™s what the Pembroke (MA) Public Schools did, selling an old printing press and some shop tools. Pembroke used eBay's ''trading assistants" program, which provides a directory of experienced eBay sellers who arrange online auctions for a fee. Pembrokeâ€™s chosen assistant photographed the items, typed up detailed descriptions, listed them for sale using his online ID, oversaw the auctions and answered bidders' questions. Pembroke agreed to pay its helper 20% of the proceeds. For Pembroke the auction was more profitable than salvage and easier to manage than a yard sale. The printing press netted the largest return, $2,005. eBay is the largest of the online auction sites, with more than 100 million registered users from around the world.
Source:The Boston Globe
Peering into the Big Bang
Scientists are planning for an experiment that could shed light on the makeup of the universe. An international team is preparing to run a large hadron collider experiment at CERN, the European nuclear research establishment in Geneva, in 2007. The experiment is designed to recreate conditions similar to those that scientists theorize were present when the universe was less than a second old. To do that they will use CERNâ€™s mammoth supercollider to accelerate protons up to 99.99999% of the speed of light and smash them into other protons coming the other way at the same speed. The collisions will release close to a billion fragments of matter that the scientists will search for bits of debris that have not bee seen since the Big Bang. The trick is actually sorting out the interesting elements and to do that scientists are developing ever more sophisticated particle detectors. British scientists have built the Atlas detector, a 7,000-ton device that will be tested all year before being lowered into the pit at CERN and fitted into the 17-mile long particle accelerator tunnel. At the heart of Atlas will be the semiconductor tracker, which contains 30 million channels of silicon strips set in drums of carbon fiber. Atlas may be the largest scientific tool ever built, engineered to precisions measured in microns (millionths of a meter), designed to measure particle too infinitesimal to imagine.