- New communications technology is allowing schools to make hundreds, or even thousands, of phone calls to parents almost instantaneously, improving the schoolsâ€™ ability to keep in touch and easing parentsâ€™ concerns about safety and security.
- Todayâ€™s students were raised on digital technologies that have shaped their notions of literacy, intelligence, friendship and learning. What does this mean for the future? Read this CNET report. What are the implications for teaching and learning?
- The Philadelphia school district has a new tool to improve efficiency and solve problems that police departments and city governments use. Learn how SchoolStat works.
- A Wisconsin school board will launch an internal blog focused on the districtâ€™s curriculum development efforts as a way of testing out blogs as a parent communication tool.
- Combine a picture snapped with a camera phone and a visual database and you have a new tool that can be used to search the Web, deliver personalized information and market new products.
This Is Your School Calling
Though schools have added e-mail and web sites to the mix, the telephone remains one of their most important communication tools. And new technology has made it possible to manage that communication with greater speed and efficiency, allowing schools to make hundreds, or even thousands, of phone calls to parents almost instantaneously. Additional features help keep contact lists up to date, since every time a call fails, a computer-generated report lets the school know that an updated number is needed. While the notification systems are sometimes sold as emergency management tools, schools find that they serve many needs. While notification systems can be an invaluable tool when the school is facing an emergency closing, such as a snow day, they can also be programmed to remind parents of PTA meetings or class field trips. School personnel record a message that the system then forwards to either the entire school community or a targeted subset of parents. Principals report that having the ability to reach out to the community on an instantaneous basis helps control rumors and eases parentsâ€™ anxiety when unusual things — like a bomb scare — occur. Schools that have turned to corporate sponsors to fund their notification systems can end their messages by acknowledging their supporters.
Source:The Boston Globe
Technology and the Millennial Generation
Five years ago Seymour Papert of MIT's Media Lab coined the term â€œgrasshopper mindâ€ to describe the tendency to hop quickly from one topic to another. Papert, father of the LOGO programming language, has been describing this tendency and its implications for teaching and learning since 1995. Debate continues about whether this rapid cycling and the accompanying tendency to multitask is good or bad, but few will argue that they are facts of life for the Millennial Generation. CNET has published a lengthy article that explores the way Millennials use technology. Children today are as comfortable with instant messaging, chat rooms, blogs and the emerging realm of social networks as an earlier generation was with the phone. The co-founder of MySpace social network says that some of the sites best-designed pages are those created by 14- and 15-year olds. Among the activities most popular with teens are chatting over instant messengers and mobile phones, playing games, blogging and socializing on networks like MySpace. Todayâ€™s students tend to rely on one another for information, shying away from more traditional sources like newspapers and even television. Some teachers are tapping into studentsâ€™ interest in learning from one another by introducing tools like wikis to let students collaborate on a subject more easily. Others are using tools that can consolidate e-mail messages into a thread that accessible to all, rather than a series of messages in an in-box.
CompStat Comes to School
A tool that the nationâ€™s police departments have used for several years to focus needed resources on â€œhot spotsâ€ of criminal activity is being adapted for school use. The Philadelphia school system has begun to gather school administrators together in small groups to brainstorm strategies for improving school performance. Like most school systems, Philadelphia gathers a lot of detailed information about whatâ€™s going in its schools. Now the district has begun an organized program — SchoolStat — of sharing that information with all the staff, from the district's regional officials to principals to teachers. After piloting SchoolStat for the last two years in 18 schools, the district found that focusing attention on given issues had powerful results. For example, student suspensions dropped 23%, largely because other disciplinary measures were instituted, and attendance improved by nearly 7%. Schools share strategies that are working for them with others that are having problems. Principals go back to their schools and share information with their staffs. Faced with evidence of a specific problem, people are challenged to come up with new solutions and the impact of those efforts can be demonstrated as new information is gathered and analyzed. SchoolStat has been expanded to all of the city's public schools. The Philadelphia School District will pay the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, which is overseeing the project, about $400,000 for the program this year.
Source:The Philadelphia Inquirer
School Board to Test the Blogosphere
While some classrooms are beginning to experiment with blogging, the West Bend (WI) School District is taking a more top-down approach. The School Board has decided to launch an internal blog focused on the districtâ€™s curriculum development efforts. According to the School Boardâ€™s Technology Committee, the blog is a trial. If it is successful, the district may consider using blogs as communication tools, helping to make Board decisions and deliberations more transparent to the community. The curriculum blog would likely be launched after a December meeting with curriculum directors. School Boards need to be careful about both public and private communication, since they are subject to open meeting laws. The West Bend internal blog will be considered a public record, much like any other internal district communication. When presenting the idea to the Board, district officials emphasized that the blog will be just one other way for the district to communicate with parents and the broader community. The district also hopes that they can get two-way communication going, using the blog to encourage feedback from both parents and students.
Source:Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Camera Phones Use Pictures for Visual Searching
Combine a picture snapped with a camera phone and a visual database and you have a new tool that can be used to search the Web, deliver personalized information and market new products. If youâ€™ve ever tried doing a traditional Google search by tapping out the search terms on your cell phone keypad, youâ€™ll recognize the utility of the new technology, dubbed "mobile visual search." In itâ€™s simplest form, users could take a picture of the text they wanted to search for and let the software do the rest. At the grocery store, you could snap a picture of a box of your favorite cereal and get more information. One of the first marketing campaigns, launched recently in Europe, ran ads asking consumers to take a picture of a Coke can and send it to an SMS service. People who did got back a java-based soccer game that they could play on the cell phone. According to industry experts, it should eventually be possible to use object recognition to connect travelers with information on local restaurants, stores, museums or parks. The technology is also being used for security applications. One company is developing a handheld device that can store as many as 200,000 images, with biographical information such as name, license number and crime history. Once a photo is taken with the device, its embedded software will launch a search for a match in its database.