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Week of: March 17, 2008 Birmingham's Laptop Program Moves Forward The Birmingham City Council has approved $3.5 million in funding for the purchase of laptop computers from the One Child Per Laptop Foundation for use in the city's schools. School Creates Its Own Televised Test
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Week of: March 17, 2008

  • Birmingham's Laptop Program Moves Forward
    The Birmingham City Council has approved $3.5 million in funding for the purchase of laptop computers from the One Child Per Laptop Foundation for use in the city's schools.
  • School Creates Its Own Televised Test Prep
    As the Maryland School Assessment test draws closer, students at William Wirt Middle School are tuning in to a TV show designed to prepare them for the test.
  • Math Panel Releases Report
    The National Mathematics Advisory Panel has delivered its Final Report, concluding that the delivery system in mathematics education is broken and must be fixed.
  • Waking Up the Brain
    Some British school children are spending 20 minutes each morning playing games on portable videogame machines in an effort to stimulate brain development.
  • Computer Science Degrees Rebounding
    New research indicates that interest in a degree in computer science at the college level is going up, reversing a nearly decade long decline.

Birmingham's Laptop Program Moves Forward

The Birmingham City Council has approved $3.5 million in funding for the purchase of laptop computers from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation for use in the city's schools. Earlier this year Mayor Larry Langford took the initiative and proposed equipping all Birmingham public school students in grades 1-8 with the XO laptop that OLPC developed largely for use in the developing world. The ongoing debate since that time has been around who will operate the program and how to insure continued funding to sustain the program. The $3.5 million the City Council approved for the program will cover the cost of the 15,000 laptops at roughly $200 each and includes roughly $500,000 that could help the school system absorb the cost of operating the program. The mayor had proposed that the nonprofit Birmingham Education Initiative program operate the program; the Initiative will now take on the responsibility of fundraising for the continued support of the laptop program. The Birmingham Board of Education will have to agree to take on the laptop program. Presently, district technology leaders are unsure about the direction they want to go with the laptops, noting that they will not work with the system's infrastructure without major modifications. The school system is scheduled to receive the first 1000 XO laptops on April 15. It is planning for a pilot program in a district elementary school.

Source:The Birmingham News

School Creates Its Own Televised Test Prep

As the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) draws closer, students at William Wirt Middle School are tuning in to a TV show designed to prepare them for the test. The MSA Jumpstart Jaguar program is created and produced by the school's teachers with the aim of improve students' reading and math scores on the state's high-stakes test. The MSA Jumpstart program runs for 10 weeks. Each week a teacher presents a prerecorded reading or math lesson, focusing on a particular test-taking strategy, that is broadcast to the entire school. Each lesson focuses on an area in which a significant number of students are struggling. The school wide broadcast allows all students to get the same instruction and the strategy can be reinforced school wide during the following week. Each lesson follows an "I do, we do, you do" model. During the "I do" segment, the television teacher shows how to complete a portion of the lesson. "We do" is practice time—the presenter, the students and the classroom teacher practice a few examples of the skill being taught. Students use the 10-minute "you do" segment to complete the lesson on their own. While just shifting to watching TV for an hour each weeks keeps the students engaged, teachers also strive to incorporate some fun into their televised lessons. One teacher put a math lesson into a rap format and students were quickly walking the halls rapping the math lesson.

Source:The Washington Post

Math Panel Releases Report

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel has delivered its Final Report, concluding that the delivery system in mathematics education is broken and must be fixed. The Panel reports finding no research that supports either traditional, back to basics instruction or a more exploratory approach focused on conceptual understanding. It concludes that computational and procedural fluency, conceptual understanding and problem solving skills are equally important and mutually reinforce each other. It suggests that schools and districts that have come down wholeheartedly on one side of the debate or the other rethink their decision and consider intertwining the two different methods of instruction to support student learning. The Panel recommends that PK-8 math instruction be streamlined and a well-defined set of the most important topics should be emphasized in the early grades. Any approach that revisits topics year after year without bringing them to closure should be avoided. Te report notes that proficiency with whole numbers, fractions, and certain aspects of geometry and measurement are the foundations for algebra and identifies knowledge of fractions as the most important foundational skill not developed among American students. The report sets out a set of benchmarks with respect to what children should study when – e.g., proficiency with the addition and subtraction of whole numbers by the end of third grade and with multiplication and division by the end of fifth. The report also notes that teachers well prepared to teach math are key to success and recommends that the preparation of elementary and middle school teachers in mathematics be strengthened. It also recommends that publishers should produce shorter, more focused and mathematically accurate mathematics textbooks. Finally, the report identifies a number of areas where further research is needed, including research on successful math teaching.

Source:U.S. Department of Education

Waking Up the Brain

Some British school children are spending 20 minutes each morning playing games on portable videogame machines in an effort to stimulate brain development. The experiment involves 900 primary-level children in 16 primary school in Scotland. The students have been given free game machines and are encouraged to use them to start off their school day. The games the students use involve reading, problem solving and memory puzzles which could help improve students' performance in math. Researchers are also looking for improved behavior and greater concentration. According to Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), the body responsible for the development of the curriculum, children who used the game devices showed a 10% average improvement on math tests administered before and after the trial. Gaming devices are already used in Japan to help students learn the more than 2,000 Kanji characters that make up the written language. Software has been developed for the game machines that tests students' ability to remember the Kanji characters and write them correctly on the device's lower screen. In Scotland, once the trial is over, LTS plans to use the game consoles for other educational projects over the next few years.

Source:Times Online

Computer Science Degrees Rebounding

New research indicates that interest in a degree in computer science at the college level is going up, reversing a nearly decade long decline. While computer science departments may be sighing in relief, it's too early to be sure that the trend has actually reversed. For one thing, the increase in newly declared undergraduate majors at doctoral-granting computer science departments is small. The number of students entering the field at this level is half of what it was in 2000. The survey reporting the increase was conducted by the Surveys Committee of the Computing Research Association and only covered institutions with doctoral-granting computer science departments. Non-doctoral departments also appear to be experiencing a rebound in enrollments. There appear to be several reasons behind the change. Job prospects have improved and the computer science curriculum has expanded well beyond a traditional emphasis on programming. Digital production, robotics and computer forensics are attracting new students and the institutions are beginning to put much more emphasis on the creative process and the roles computer science majors can go on to assume in their careers.

Source:Inside Higher Ed

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