Week of: November 26, 2007
- Keeping Pace 2007
According to the 4th Annual Keeping Pace report, 42 states have significant supplemental online learning programs or significant full-time programs or both, up from 38 state in 2006.
- Are Virtual Labs Good Enough?
According to the College Board, AP science courses that provide only virtual lab experience, by definition, are not meeting the requirement of offering college-level curriculum experiences.
- VA Plans for Career and Technical Academies
Virginia is planning to open six Governor's Career and Technical Academies next fall, designed to prepare students to start work in technical fields directly after graduation.
- D.C. Classrooms Get Computers
Every classroom in the Washington, D.C. school system will be equipped with a new desktop computer by February of 2008.
- Researchers Create Virtual Teacher
Researchers in New Zealand have created a virtual teacher who can respond to a distant student's emotional states.
Keeping Pace 2007
According to the 4th Annual Keeping Pace report, 42 states have significant supplemental online learning programs or significant full-time programs or both, up from 38 state in 2006. In addition, the majority of existing online programs show considerable growth in the number of students served. Most students participate in supplemental programs, taking one or two online courses. A smaller number of students take all or most of their coursework online. Thirty states offer state-led programs or initiatives, including states with programs in development stages. These include programs such as the Florida Virtual School, Michigan Virtual School, and Illinois Virtual High School. Florida Virtual School, the largest online program in the country in terms of number of unique students, had more than 100,000 course registrations, more than 90,000 course completions, and more than 50,000 students in 2006-2007. In 2006, Michigan passed legislation that requires all students to have an "online learning experience" before graduating. Missouri launched a state-led program in Fall 2007 and the Wyoming legislature created a distance education task force that is expected to make recommendations about a statewide distance learning program shortly. Keeping Pace reports that data that would facilitate the evaluation of online programs against face-to-face education are lacking. The same is true for efforts to compare online programs to one another since programs lack common measures for calculating and reporting student achievement.
Are Virtual Labs Good Enough?
According to the College Board, AP science courses that provide only virtual lab experience, by definition, are not meeting the requirement of offering college-level curriculum experiences. The College Board has indicated some willingness to be flexible in its evaluations, but so far the majority of AP courses that use virtual labs have only received provisional permission to continue using the AP label. Online AP course providers say that they've been subject to a double standard. While teachers in traditional classes only had to indicate which labs they were planning to use, College Board auditors actually ran through the simulated labs for virtual-school classes. Some online providers will look at adding more hands-on lab experience, but that solution will not work for everyone. Many students are taking AP courses online because their own schools cannot provide that level of advanced science instruction. Those same schools may not be able to offer adequate lab facilities or a qualified teacher to monitor AP required labs. Some experience science teachers contend that students learn as much from computer-based lab simulations as from typical high school labs. Others say there is no substitute for hands on experience.
Source:Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
VA Plans for Career and Technical Academies
Virginia is planning to open six Governor's Career and Technical Academies next fall, designed to prepare students to start work in technical fields directly after graduation. Virginia's "governor's schools" offer curriculum that is more challenging than that of standard schools. The Career and Technical Academies will focus their curriculum on science, technology, engineering and math. The academies will be partnerships between school districts, colleges and local businesses. Funding will come, in part, from a $500,000 grant from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. Governor Kaine decided to devote that money to the academies following discussions with the state's business leaders, who advocated for a more skilled workforce. Overall, 13 school systems, seven community colleges, and two regional career and technical centers have submitted proposals for the six academy programs. Grantees will receive up to $120,00 in seed money and need to detail how they will sustain the program in the future. The Henrico County school system academy proposal - a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University, memory-chip maker Qimonda and the Department of Labor and Industry — would unite the existing High Tech Academy and the school system's engineering specialty center, expanding the existing two-year program that allows students to earn up to 28 credits with Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Engineering downward and introducing younger students to careers in science, math, engineering and technology.
D.C. Classrooms Get Computers
Every classroom in the Washington, D.C. school system will be equipped with a new desktop computer by February of 2008. The $4 million technology initiative is the first step in plans to increase the school systems access to and us of technology. The money will purchase over 6,300 computers and pay for infrastructure improvements like network cabling and access points. Much of the District's current computer inventory is outdated. The new classroom computers will allow teachers to keep grades and other records electronically. It's also a big morale boost for a school district that until recently has had difficulty delivering textbooks on time for the opening of school. The teacher's union, which had negotiated for access to better technology, is pleased with the action. The computers, which cost $628 apiece, are being purchased with funds from the school system's capital budget, under a financing program designated for equipment that has a useful lifespan of five to seven years.
Source:The Washington Post
Researchers Create Virtual Teacher
Researchers in New Zealand have created a virtual teacher who can respond to a distant student's emotional states. Dubbed Eve, the human-like animated teacher is the embodiment of the computer science concept of an intelligent or affective tutoring system. Eve is designed to teach math to 8-year olds in one-on-one sessions. To program the system's responses, researchers watched real-life interactions between teachers and students, capturing thousands of images of facial expression, gestures and body movements. The virtual tutor uses this baseline information to interpret the child's reactions - frustration, anger, confusion - and adapt the lesson accordingly. The system uses a network of computer systems, mainly embedded devices, to detect student emotion and other significant bio-signals, recognizing facial expression, body movement, and, via a mouse, heart rate and skin resistance. The research team, based at the Auckland Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences, believes that a computer program with the ability to detect and adapt to human emotions may become a critical teaching tool in the ongoing evolution of distance learning and online tutoring.
Source:New Zealand Herald