- Web sites that compile public data are helping parents to compare statistics on several schools to draw their own conclusions about school performance.
- Hoping to get teachers more timely and detailed information about student achievement, South Carolina legislators are considering moving the stateâ€™s annual Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test to the computer and maybe even shifting to a computer adaptive format.
- Handheld technology is giving teachers another way to engage students in their own learning. Podcasts, handheld-enabled peer editing, and probe-based data collection and analysis keep students involved in hands-on learning and facilitate collaboration.
- How important is the web? How reliable? How accurate? Do kids and parents agree on how much time online is best or how much it affects schoolwork? A new report tells all.
- A Microsoft research project holds out hope for people who wade through hundreds of e-mail each day. SNARF or Social Network And Relationship Finder uses social analysis of e-mail to enable people to sort messages by whether the recipient knows the sender well.
Draw Your Own Conclusions
Parents trying to find just the right school for their children have a new set of tools to help them make that decision. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, school web sites now include large amounts of data on school test scores, school staffing levels and staff qualifications. But making sense of all that data is a daunting challenge as is drawing any comparisons between two or more schools. Enter a new class of web sites that do much of that work, creating school profiles and sorting data in ways that help parents compare various schoolsâ€™ performance and benefits. The sites are run by educators, public policy organizations and business groups. By moving what was once data that was accessed only by researchers and the media, largely because it existed only on paper in reams of reports that filled bookcases, a much wider audience can now draw their own conclusions about schools and their performance. But itâ€™s not just parents shopping for schools that find these sites useful. Educators are mining the data as well. Educators can search for better performing schools in their region that serve students much like their own and adapt the strategies those schools are using to improve their own performance.
Source:The Sacramento Bee
South Carolina Considers Computer-Based Testing
South Carolina legislators are considering the advantages of moving the stateâ€™s annual Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT) to a computer-based format. It currently takes months to get PACT results back to teachers, who complain not only about the lack of timeliness but also that the test doesnâ€™t provide enough detail about studentsâ€™ performance. If the state were to move to a computer-adaptive testing system, results would be almost instantaneous and would provide students, teachers and parents with greater detail about studentsâ€™ strengths and weaknesses. Computer-adaptive tests adjust the difficulty of each question based on previous responses, helping to pinpoint where a student is having difficulty. The stateâ€™s contract with the vendor of the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test expires in 2007. The proposed legislation will require the Budget and Control Board to seek proposals from testing providers for various testing systems. Meanwhile the state will need to determine whether schools have the technology infrastructure required and how much it would cost to get every school ready to move to computer-based testing. The state education department already has requested $33 million to move the PACT online. That money would cover the cost of converting the test to an online format and providing for adequate security. It does not include computers for students. According to Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, districts already have the necessary technology. The state education department is also in the process of moving high school end-of-course exams to the Internet.
Source:The Post and Courier
Putting New Technology to Classroom Use
Teachers are always looking for new ways to get a concept across or to involve students. So itâ€™s no surprise to find them adapting some of the newest technology into their lessons. Schools across the Philadelphia region are reporting active use of handheld computers, MP3 players and laptops. The Lower Merion School District is piloting a program that will involve 18 teachers and their students in podcasting. Each class will get a video iPod to work on podcasts ranging from physics experiments to grammar jingles. The completed projects will be posted on the district Web site where other teachers and students can download them for their own use. Lower Marion already uses podcasts for professional development. In the Washington Township district, students use handheld computers for writing assignments. After reading a book, they write summaries, with the help of a graphic organizer, and them beam their work to another student for editing. After making corrections, students synch their handhelds with a classroom PC, uploading their work to the districtâ€™s network so their teacher can review it. Teachers report that one of the advantages of using handhelds is that students help one another. Experts emphasize that while the technology has great potential, teachers need to be sure they are using the technology to make learning more meaningful.
Is the Web All It Should Be?
The fifth annual comprehensive study of the impact of online technology conducted by the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future found increases in the total number of Internet users in the United States, as well as growth in online access at home, at school, and at work; and total number of hours online each week. Children and adults express conflicting views about the importance of the Internet in schoolwork. Internet users 18 and under believe that the Internet plays a major role in their schoolwork. In 2005, 83% say that going online is very important or extremely important — a large jump over the 62% who reported the same response in the previous study. However, while students continue to say that going online is a vital part of their schoolwork, the Internet is still not perceived by large numbers of adults as having any effect — positive or negative — on school grades. In 2005, almost three-quarters of adults in the current study say that since their household acquired the Internet, the grades of children in their households have stayed the same. When adults are asked about the amount of time the children in their households spend going online, a small but growing number of respondents say the children are using the Internet too much. Most adults (72%) say that children in their households spend just the right amount of time online. In general, most adults also say that the children in their households spend about the same amount of time with friends since gaining home access to the Internet.
Source:USC Annenberg School
A Microsoft research project holds out hope for people who wade through hundreds of e-mail each day. SNARF or Social Network And Relationship Finder uses social analysis of e-mail to enable people to organize the messages in their in-boxes. Itâ€™s designed as an alternative to the typical method of sorting e-mail - the "ADD sort order" — in which the newest messages are presented first, regardless of who sent them. SNARF sorts messages by whether the recipient knows the sender well. The software looks at how often people correspond with particular content in the body of a message and how often they reply to one another's correspondence. SNARF can also sort messages based on whether they were sent directly to the recipient, whether the recipient was copied on the message or was part of a distribution list. The software is available for download for people who want to experiment with it and will work with Outlook 2003 and Windows XP Service Pack 2. The researchers are expanding their project by working on more customization, for example allowing users "tag" e-mails in various ways.