T&L News(158)

Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway Interview; Put to the Test: T&L Rreviewer Test Drives Mimio Studio 6 software; Math Study Update; Whiteboards address individual student needs; School cell phone ban lifted in Des Moines
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Week of: December 8, 2008

  • Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway Interview
    Together Cathleen and Elliot have authored and published over 100 different research papers on a variety of different learning technologies through the professional organization the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). They are also founders, partners and collaborators of the handheld software company, GoKnow.
  • Put to the Test: T&L Rreviewer Test Drives Mimio Studio 6 software
    Retail Price: $944.80 sale price for bundle.
    Description: Interactive whiteboard software.
    How to use in the classroom: When paired with mimio Interactive and a projector, Studio 6 allows users to present lessons and access ready-to-use content. With mimio Ink Capture, Studio digitally captures dry-erase marker notes and drawings. On its own, Studio helps you create compelling, interactive lessons in mimio Notebook pages.
  • Math Study Update
    This past October in Kentucky marked the second year of a 2-year research study known as the Supported Math Accessibility Reading Tool (SMART) project. The project, a collaboration of the University of Kentucky with other partners, hopes to determine whether students with disabilities can benefit from a combination of technologies to learn math at higher-grade levels.
  • Whiteboards address individual student needs
    Studies have shown that the use of interactive whiteboards and other AV technology helps students of all ability levels achieve success. Promethean, known for their Activclassroom technology that includes the Activboard+2 with lesson development software and a complete sound system, shared the following examples of how AV tech can help students of all ability levels:
  • School cell phone ban lifted in Des Moines
    An article in the Des Moines Register on October 20 announced that the cell phone ban imposed upon schools in Iowa less than two years ago would be lifted. In the cities of Waukee, Marshalltown and Ackley, among others, students are now allowed to use cell phones during lunch and between classes in some schools.

Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway Interview

Interview conducted on October 23, 2008
By Scott Traylor

Listen to Interview

Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway are both pioneering educators who are defining the future of technology and learning.

Dr. Cathleen Norris, a former high school teacher for over 14 years, is currently a professor in the Department of Technology and Cognition at the University of North Texas. Cathleen is also the past president of ISTE and the past president of NECA, the organizing body for the country's leading technology and education conference, NECC.

Dr. Elliot Soloway is a faculty member at the University of Michigan. In addition to teaching at the university, Elliot is involved with a number of grant initiatives for the development of middle school science instruction through technology. His research also involves working with many different school districts to define technology-based curricula.

Together Cathleen and Elliot have authored and published over 100 different research papers on a variety of different learning technologies through the professional organization the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). They are also founders, partners and collaborators of the handheld software company, GoKnow.

Late in 2008, I had the opportunity to interview Cathleen and Elliot on their thoughts regarding mobile technologies and this platform's ability to deliver educational content to students.

Scott Traylor: Cathleen, Elliot, could you share with us how your university work and the work you are involved with at your company, GoKnow, have influenced your thinking regarding technology use in the classroom?

Elliot Soloway: Well, Cathie and I have worked together for about 15 years. A bunch of years ago we took on the task of trying to understand why is it that technology has not impacted K-12 education in the same way that it's impacted basically every other aspect of human endeavor. We conducted a survey called the "Snapshot Survey" ( ) and as we went into that survey we thought, "Oh it's going to be something about the teachers. There's something about the teachers that's problematic. If we can just figure out what that problem is, then we could address the issue of why computers and technology have not yet had an impact in the classrooms." What we found in the survey results was that the issue was about access and wasn't about teachers at all. It was about the fact that there was such a limited amount of access. 65% of the classrooms had one computer or less in their classroom. We found 60% of the kids were spending less than 15 minutes a week on a computer because there weren't enough computers or there weren't any computers. So why hasn't technology had an impact on K-12? It's because there hasn't been enough technology available, so the kids couldn't use it. And if they couldn't use it, they certainly weren't able to learn from it. That was a startling realization. The fact that it is about access was sort of a necessary condition.

Cathleen Norris: In the survey that Elliot was talking about, we surveyed more than 10,000 teachers across the country; from Santa Clara, California to Florida, to New York. We had a really good mixture of teachers. When we found out there was this access problem, we decided that if we were going stay on this path we're on, which was to provide laptops to all students as the solution to the access problem, then the technology solutions we were looking to achieve were simply not going to happen. The amount of laptops needed, and we were talking about 55 million children in the United States public schools at the time, was a solution that just didn't scale. Elliot and I didn't really believe that this was the right answer to the technology access problem.

So five years or so ago Elliot was in a meeting with Roy Pea, a leading professor on education at Stanford University. Shortly after this meeting, Elliot called me and said "We've got to start developing for the Palm computer." This was just after the Palm first came out. He said "Roy's convinced me this is a real computer." At that time we were working on an NSF grant. We decided to take what was left of that money and try to develop educational applications for the Palm. In other words, let's take this low cost, easy to use businessman's device and retrofit it so that it could be used in schools.

During that summer we had a group of very bright and enthusiastic undergraduate students working with us. We asked them to help define what Elliot called the "cool dozen apps." We talked to teachers about what kinds of things they did in the classroom and what kinds of ideas the students had for what they would want if they were students in those grades. We didn't quite come up with twelve apps but we did come up with and develop quite a few. Almost immediately we had more than a hundred thousand downloads of these apps once we offered them online for free. The only problem was that after Palm changed their operating system, our apps didn't work on the new Palm operating system. People started calling us saying we have to redo these apps so that they work on the new operating system. We said "Excuse me but free is free and we are professors. This is not what we do," but these calls continued to come in. We thought that maybe we could hire a programmer, one of the original people we worked with us on these apps, and maybe we can just fix this problem. Anyway, long story short, we ended up spinning a company out of the University of Michigan. We licensed the applications from the University and then started to maintain them. This was the very beginning for us in doing anything other than our professorial work. This was how we got into the software business.

ES : Traditionally NSF gives out all this money to researchers. Researchers publish papers, and that's really great, and they get their tenure and such, but really nothing happens. At the time, NSF was asking "How do we transition research into commercial ventures?" So basically what Cathie and I did was do what NSF wanted; to take the research and make it real. Now we were naïve in the sense that we could easily start a business. No big deal, right? The University of Michigan was very supportive and helpful as we started it. I was the CEO thinking "No problem!" We had absolutely no marketing. We thought people would simply call us up, we'd answer the phone, and we would send off the software. We really had no idea how to do this as a real business. After a while, people started helping us because they realized what we had was valuable and the Palm at that point was really in it's ascendancy.

We also realized that if people were going to use Palm computers with kids in schools, then they needed our software. For example Sketchy, which is a drawing animation tool we developed that allows students to create animations, is not just a paint program, but a tool that can be used as a sequencer. Kids could illustrate how to do long division with Sketchy. They could use this software to demonstrate long division. They would show the math and write English to explain it. Teachers have shared with us that they can teach long division in half the time when we use Sketchy. So we hit something, we hit a nerve that really made a difference with early adopters.

At the same time Cathie and I we were doing research in Detroit along with some other folks to look at the impact of handhelds on learning. We had three teachers, each of which had four classes. Two of those classes used Palm computers, the other two classes didn't use Palms. This was a controlled study, paid for again by NSF. At the end of the second year of the study, once the teachers finally understood how to take advantage of the technology, the children who were in the classes that had the handhelds showed a 13% advantage over the children who didn't use the handheld, using the same test and the same curriculum.

What this study did was confer an advantage in using these devices. It was a difficult study to do and it cost almost $600,000 by the time we were finished with the research. But in the end, we had a control study to support the anecdotal story, which is pretty cool. Today, Cathie and I continue to do research at the universities, publishing papers, writing, because that's what you do at a university, but also trying to figure out how to make this company into a viable force in K-12.

ST: What year was this when you started?

ES: We developed the applications in 2000 and then by 2002 we were a small little tiny company.

ST: So GoKnow, as a business entity, offers instructional content via the Palm or other handhelds for K-12 use?

CN: That was the way it started, but as of the last year handhelds have converged with telephony. While there are still some companies that make standalone handhelds, many of them are now cell phone computers as opposed to simply handheld computers. We are starting to see the implementation of cell phone computers into classrooms.

ES: Let's take one step back. What happened was Palm started to back away from the K-12 market and all of a sudden Dell came into the picture. They offered low cost pocket PCs. We ported our software over to the Windows mobile platform when there was an uptake on pocket PCs. But then, that too stopped because of this idea that no one would want to buy a non-telephone handheld device. Everything was going towards this converged device.

Parallel to this was the one-to-one laptop programs as Cathie mentioned earlier. The results from those programs were "They're not really working." Why weren't they working? One reason was there wasn't enough educational software available for these laptops. A second reason, teachers weren't receiving any professional development on how to use those laptops in the classrooms. They could show technically how to use the computer, but the bigger issue was how do you integrate the laptop into the classroom. And third, the costs were such that it was not sustainable. You couldn't keep buying and buying laptops, it just didn't work. So that laptop thing, it's still going, but the momentum has clearly died down.

ST: I know we had spoken about this before Elliot. That the business of how computers are sold on the consumer level, with upgrades and operating systems that are updated every 18 months or so, seems to work against trying to create really successful learning software because schools purchase equipment that outdates itself pretty quickly. Schools can't necessarily repurchase again to keep up with whatever the state of the art is in computing.

CN: That's exactly right. We had a school district that we talked to just this week that said they were ordering a device, a laptop, and the hardware was changed three times before they received the device.

ST: Well this leads in nicely to my next question. I think it's clear what the challenges are related to laptops and workstations in the classroom, that there are financial incentives to computer-based businesses that require OS and hardware upgrades. Computer obsolescence seems to occur faster than a school's ability to pay for upgrades. Do you see similar challenges with handhelds in the classroom?

ES: Well, again, let's take one step back because there is this new opportunity with these low cost, mini laptops that was started by Nicholas Negroponte and the One Laptop Per Child initiative. While GoKnow was going out and selling its handheld software, people would say to us "Why should we buy a handheld? We can spend a $100 and get a whole laptop computer." We used to say "Well if you can buy a laptop for a hundred bucks, go buy it." As you know the OLPC device came out around $200. What also happened was that Intel, Asus, and now Dell, all came out with a $300 - $500 mini laptop, and we're seeing schools moving pretty quickly to buy those laptops. They're not buying the $1,000 - $1,500 laptops, but the lower cost laptops are an exciting opportunity. Now they still run XP and you still have problems with these devices turning on or off instantly. There are still all kinds of headaches and the operating systems are still complex, but the price point is really low and that's very exciting. Handhelds are still in the $250 - $350 neighborhood. Double that and you can get a full laptop.

On the market today you have this mini laptop movement and then you have these converged devices that have a lot of functionality. Everybody has an offering in that space and the prices for those devices are not unreasonable. So now the question is how could K-12 take advantage of this opportunity. Remember, our study stated that access was the problem. Now it seems that access is no longer the problem. It is within the grasp of schools to give every kid a computer. It could be a cell phone computer, it could be a mini laptop computer. The conditions necessary for computing to have an impact could actually be achieved, and it's only been in the last 6 to 12 months that that vision has been recognized in the community. But now there's another problem that has raised it's head.

CN: The biggest single problem now, if children do indeed have access to technology, is the problem of how teachers integrate this technology into the classroom. Up until now, technology is either the focus of the instruction in that it's an instructional technology class (they're teaching children about Word and Excel and that sort of thing) or it's an add on to a lesson (here we're going to be doing a lesson on the Civil War, let's look at this website that deals with the Civil War,) but it's not an integral part of the lesson. We determined that it couldn't be an integral part of the lesson because there weren't tools available that easily allowed teachers to create lessons around the technology. There are products like Blackboard or WebCT or Moodle and I can understand why teachers aren't authoring their lessons everyday in these tools. It's like asking them to program in HTML. How good are they at that? I would say many of them don't even know what HTML is, especially when we see elementary education majors who are only required to take one three-hour course in technology. They don't know the difference between "Save" and "Save as" and we're going to ask them to create their lessons in something like Blackboard? Well we know that's not going to happen and so what we did was create what we call the Mobile Learning Environment. The mobile learning environment is a tool that runs on top of Windows Mobile, Windows CE or Windows XP. It allows teachers to easily take whatever applications they normally use, be it Inspiration, or a paint program, or some type of drill and practice program, and it allows them to build a cohesive lesson in a very short amount of time with very little training.

ES: What Cathie's explaining is that schools have existing curriculum that they have to teach. They bring that pencil and paper curriculum to the table and set it down next to a computer and say "How do I take this pencil and paper stuff and integrate it with the technology?" School districts across the country have specific things they have to teach. Some companies try to replace the curriculum through a new computer-based environment. These companies are saying "You adopt this technology, and with it, you also adopt this curriculum." We feel that this doesn't work. School districts have existing curriculum they teach with, you can't tell them to change the curriculum because of the technology. So then the question becomes how to integrate the technology with the school's existing curriculum.

ST: Let's say that technology and hardware, because it's coming down in price, is not the issue. The problem then becomes software that attempts not to undo lessons and materials teachers have been preparing in an analogue way for years. Software that tries not to tell teachers to chuck all that they know aside and start anew with whatever this latest and greatest software product tells you to teach. The issue is about providing tools that work in addition to and complement side by side with the teacher's instructional materials they've been using for years.

CN: Yes, that's very well put.

ES: If you go to a situation where the computers are one-to-one, where every child has a computer, be it a cell phone computer or a mini laptop computer, then all the learning activities, all the learning resources are on that device. It becomes the conduit then for the curriculum and for the artifacts the student creates. In some sense it does replace or certainly augments the paper and pencil materials. As Cathie pointed out earlier, the problem was that the computer was used as an add on. The major part of the lesson was still done on paper and there might be one activity that you did on the computer but that activity wasn't integrated with the rest of the pieces of paper. The computer wasn't playing an integral role to the lesson. But with one to one, it becomes possible for the computer to play an integral role.

CN: Which is the way it is in business. Most business people do the majority of their work on their computer. Pencil and paper tends to be an aside or an add on for notes. When we start talking about teaching children 21st Century Skills, teaching them how to use the computer for the bulk of what they do is certainly a 21st Century Skill.

ST: Certainly, so long as it's not just teaching the technical means to do a PowerPoint presentation or write a paper. It's about the critical thinking that goes on.

ES: Right.

ST: I'll come back to that point in just a moment. I've heard it expressed by business leaders involved in creating educational materials that handhelds present an opportunity to empower student learning in a way we've never before imagined possible, but it could come be at the expense of teacher control. Can student empowerment and teacher control coexist in the classroom?

ES: Absolutely.

CN: The teachers who are out of control when students have handhelds are the same teachers who are out of control when the students have pencils and paper. I was a classroom teacher for 15 years and back then the threat was that computers were going to come in and replace all teachers. All of the good teachers felt that any teacher who could be replaced by a computer should be. There is always room for and a place for good teachers. In this case the role of the teacher is different. It's not necessarily a role of handing out the information. You don't open up students' heads and dump in the information. Rather, teachers provide direction and contextualize things for students as they do their lessons. Students are not sitting there like little birds waiting to be fed. To create autonomous learners you must contextualize things for students as they find them or as they run into difficulties trying to fit pieces together because you've structured the lesson for them.

ST: You're singing my song. One of the things we often say at our organization is that a child is not a vessel to be filled, but a flame to be kindled. What you're speaking to is how do you create that spark and engage that 21st Century Learner.

CN: Exactly.

ES: We saw that spark and the leveling of the playing field when we were working in Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York City with handhelds four years ago. This was when pocket PCs were just beginning to be available to K-12. We would go into these classrooms where children are physically and sexually abused, they live in homeless shelters, it's 100% free and reduced lunch. This is a very intense school. You bring in these pocket PCs and they could do anything, they could do everything. If you looked at the work and said "Who produced this?" you wouldn't know that it was a child from Bedford-Stuyvesant. It could be a student from an upper class suburb. The work stood on it's own merits. The children there were not successful with the paper and pencil. They didn't like it. It didn't meet their needs. It wasn't part of who they were. But when you gave them this technology, it kindled that flame and they then had an opportunity to produce in the same way that the other kids had. It was astonishing to see.

ST: So it's your belief that 21st Century Learning Skills can be addressed properly with handhelds?

CN: Yes. The way we learn and what we learn is changing, and that is really the majority of the issue around 21st Century Skills. Children need to learn how instead of what. How do I find this information? How do I determine from this Internet what is valid information? How does this fit into everything else that I'm reading? How does this merge with my textbook? It's the how. Again, it's helping the child take the wealth of information that's out there, assimilate it, and determine what's a valid source, what's real information.

ES: The 21st Century Skills are about teamwork and the "soft skills" kids gain when working and collaborating together. If you watch classrooms with big desktop computers, the kids are sort of sitting hunched over looking up at the machines. They're not talking to each other. They're not sharing. They're just staring at the screens with headphones on. But when you put mobile computers, handheld computers, in a classroom the kids are looking at each other, talking to each other, putting the handhelds in front of each other's faces. They're working together. They're actively engaged in teamwork. It's a completely different flow in the classroom.

The smallness, the immediacy, the ease of use of these handheld devices is exactly what is needed to support the 21st Century Skills, where your dynamic workgroups change over the course of a day. If different children work with different kids on different problems, no problem! That's what happens with these handheld computers because you're not tethered.

CN: We have some excellent photos of that when we were in Singapore last month. We were working with researchers there at the university in Singapore. They're implementing a project where they will follow third and fourth graders who are using cell phone computers, pocket PCs, for learning activities in the classroom. We observed great diversity in the entry points into lessons, even on the part of second graders. One such lesson was on prepositions. Teachers gave them pocket PCs and sent them out into the school yard, over to the Koi pond, into the central office in groups of three to take pictures that were illustrations of the preposition "in". You know, the fish are in the pond, the basketball is in the basket, things like that. They gave them a series of prepositions they had to photograph and then they came back to the classroom and wrote sentences explaining their pictures. Then they shared their pictures and the sentences that went along with it. We saw eight different ways that students could complete a lesson. In the end, they all got the assignment done but they were all able to do it their own way, the way that suited them best.

ST: That really speaks to the empowerment for students. One of the things I wonder about for a greater acceptance of handhelds in the classroom; do you have any thoughts or insights into what professional development should be in place to help this succeed?

ES: When companies that really understand the role of technology in the schools work with the teachers, they realize it's not a one shot deal. You can't just go in and only show the teachers how to use the computers. That was the failure of those laptops programs, the lack of ongoing professional development with the integration issue. We stress this when we work with a school district. There are districts that say "Well we don't have the money and we really can't do professional development" and Cathie and I just sort of grimace because we know there's going to be trouble. The teachers and administrators are not going to understand how to use the technology. When the bumps happen, and there are always bumps, they're not going to know how to deal with those bumps. Professional development is not just having experts help the teachers, it's also having the teachers talk to each other and work together with children to get over those bumps.

ST: It's great that schools can invest in the technology, but just buying the equipment and any additional software to benefit the instruction is only half the solution.

CN: That's exactly right. It would be like buying a new car. It really helps if someone walks you through all of the features of the new car. Otherwise you're driving but you're not really taking advantage of all of the bells and whistles that a new car has. A lot of districts think that if their teachers know how to use a computer that this skill translates into knowing how to integrate it. In fact that's something that they don't teach in school. Most of the colleges of education don't have tools to be able to teach prospective teachers how to do that. Teachers who have been out there in the field certainly don't have that information.

ES: So if we could summarize. One of the first challenges we saw to getting technology to have an impact on the kids was the access problem. Today we feel that the access problem, while it's hasn't gone away, is certainly addressable in a scalable, sustainable way. The next problem is this issue of how do you integrate existing curriculum with the technology. That requires professional development, it requires software that helps the teachers in doing that integration so the technology scaffolds in some sense so teachers can create coherent, cohesive lessons. Professional development also scaffolds the teachers in creating coherent, cohesive lessons that integrate the technology. Now that we have access addressed, we have to deal with this integration problem, and it's integration with existing curriculum.

People say, and I'll be honest I'm guilty of it too, that we need to have a new curriculum. Technology enables us to do new things. That's easy to say but it doesn't address what schools have problems with today. The curriculum will change but everything is not going to change on day one. You have to start where the teachers are, with their existing curriculum, and help them understand how to integrate it using tools like what Cathie suggested along with professional development.

ST: If I could branch off of your comment there. Classrooms have the potential to see beneficial change as a result of technology. Today there are so many different ways of interfacing with these new technologies, be it classroom technologies like Tablet PCs or Smart Boards or consumer technologies like the Nintendo Wii or Apple iPhones. Are you seeing any technology trends that are important to watch in terms of learning?

ES: I think the smallness issue is really important. The cell phone computer is not simply just a smaller laptop computer. We've spent years learning how to design interfaces for laptop computers. You can't just use all those same techniques, scale it back a little bit, and apply then to cell phone computers. Designing for mobile machines with a small screen is different than designing for 15 - 17 inch screens. We have to think about what is the essence and what's really important. It will require a change in how we think about designing our software, how we design our web pages. Companies that simply take their 17 inch or 15 inch technology and just try and repackage it for the small screen will lose out. People will not buy that solution because it is not effective on a small screen.

ST: That seems to be a common occurrence with publishers, that is if they have a successful program in one media format they simply port it over to another. And that is not the best solution for addressing mobile computing or any other kind of platform for that matter.

CN: Exactly.

ES: It might make instant business success but they won't have business success with that simplistic model. We'll see. The proof's in the pudding. It's too early to say. That's our opinion, we'll see.

ST: Well that's true. One of the things that I worry about with Smart Boards is people are just porting all of their book based content into static PDFs to be displayed on Smart Boards. There's nothing engaging there about that solution.

CN: Right. Children are simply watching something bigger. We were in Mexico and we saw that Mexico had adopted the Smart Boards in all the classrooms. At one meeting we attended, they demonstrated how they were going to be using the Smart Boards in the classroom. A teacher had a book opened, displayed on the Smart Board, going through the lessons with the book on the Smart Board. It was just a bigger book, the children are still being passive learners. They simply watched her as opposed to engaging with a technology that fits them, moving up and around, it's a completely different learning environment.

ES: This was a very powerful learning experience for both of us. Here is a country trying to move into the 21st century. They were going to equip their classrooms with all these expensive, electronic whiteboards. All they were doing was the same thing that they had done with books in the past and that wasn't particularly interesting to the kids. Displaying the book a little bigger is not going have any impact whatsoever.

CN: We were laughing. We thought "Is this just telling you the same thing, but only louder?"

ST: Andy Warhol had a saying, "If you can't make it big, make it red." So maybe that's the next step.

CN: That's right.

ES: That's good.

CN: That's not to say that some people aren't doing innovative, imaginative things with Smart Boards, because they are.

ST: Very true. I don't mean to be down on Smart Boards. I'm excited by them but I get disheartened when I see its use in such a way that it's really not forward thinking to benefit the instruction with the great medium that's available to them.

ES: Historically, new technology mimics old technology until you figure out how to take advantage of the new. A classic example is when the movie camera came out people simply photographed the theater because that was the thinking of how you viewed theater. Then Hollywood came along and defined this experience as a new genre, a new medium, one that can tell a new kind of story. It wasn't immediate. It took a while to figure it out.

We work folks at SRI and they are doing some wonderful things with whiteboards, with the clickers, they're really trying to go beyond the obvious things that you could do with those devices and be much more engaged, much more imaginative.

ST: Let me ask both of you; whose work are you watching these days? Who do you think is doing neat work with technology and learning that would really benefit students everywhere?

ES: Outside the education world, I think the folks who are trying to develop apps for mobile computers, people who are grappling with how to use multi touch, how to display information, those are the folks that we're looking at. The range of location-based apps that people are coming out with now, with GPS built in, those are very, very provocative.

We're going to see new interface conventions generated. Phone companies have opened up access to lots and lots of applications, not just the three or four products that come with the phone when you buy it. You can download and install whatever applications you want. Cell phones are full blown computers. Cathie is intentional when she uses the term cell phone computers. Just like you have desktop computers and laptop computers, you have cell phone computers. The emphasis is on the computing part, that it can enable all kinds of applications. What do you build, how they work, ease of use; these devices have to be ready to go and intuitive from the moment someone picks them up. That's a real challenge.

ST: I sometimes wonder if the difficulty with technology in the classroom is in how it is defined, semantically. A cell phone in the entertainment industry is portable entertainment or portable gaming device. That terminology doesn't work in the classroom. I like how you're framing the conversation, that these are cell phone computers, they're not cell phones, they're not entertainment devices, they're devices made for learning.

CN: Yes. We had a discussion about this just yesterday, about what a cell phone computer should be or not be. In Singapore they're not enabling voice. They're only paying for data plans for the third and fourth graders. They will have 24/7 access to the Internet which really levels the playing field because it doesn't make any difference if you have an Internet capability at home or not. You can still have access to all of the information, no matter where you are because of your cellular capability. But someone in a parents group yesterday said "Do you really think it would make a difference, and what difference would it make, if you did indeed give them voice in addition to it?" We have moved away from the term acceptable use policy of devices to what we call responsible use. As educators, we believe that we need to make all of these users responsible for what they do with their technology. It's not that we're dictating what is acceptable and what isn't. It's about being responsible and maybe that means we do give them voice. We also encourage schools to let children put a few tunes on the mp3 player, or to let them download a game or two because we want the device to seem personal to the children as opposed to it just being another school device. If it's personal to the child, then they're going to take better care of it, they will make sure that it's charged, because is theirs. It's their personal device. What's important to you are those things that are personal to you.

ES: We see a trajectory with this issue of one-to-one computing. The entire notion of one-to-one is going to change. The term is inappropriate. It's a dominant term now because it comes out of the laptop world. It still focuses on the technology as opposed to what the kids are going to do with the technology. I think over the next few years, the notion of one-to-one as a term will disappear. What's going to happen is that it will be a given that all the children will have a computing device. It probably is going to happen faster than most people think. Right now, a large percentage of schools in the United States, ban cell phones. But once this dam breaks, when schools see that kids are already bringing computers to school and schools don't have to pay for those computers, the light bulb within administrators will light up. Administrators will begin to notice that one child brings a Motorola, another brings a Nokia, and yet another brings an iPhone. The solution? You just put a layer of software on top of the phone that makes all those non-homogeneous devices homogeneous with respect to the teacher and the learning activities. Just like a Dell and a Sony and a Gateway. They're different computers. You put a layer of software on top of them and now they're all the same. That's the same idea that will happen in the cell phone computer world. And when this happens, we think it's going to happen very quickly. Not in five years, more like two to three years.

ABOUT SCOTT TRAYLOR

Scott Traylor is the CEO and Founder of 360KID, a content and technology company developing learning products for toy companies, publishers, and broadcasters. 360KID specializes in the creation of animated, gaming, and social media products for clients such as LeapFrog, Disney, PBS, Sesame Workshop, Girl Scouts, National Geographic, Hasbro and many others. For more information about 360KID, visit www.360KID.com or for an archive of Scott Traylor's articles go to www.360KID.com/blog.

Put to the Test: T&L Rreviewer Test Drives Mimio Studio 6 software

www.touchboards.com/mimio/mimio.html

Retail Price: $944.80 sale price for bundle.

Description: Interactive whiteboard software.

How to use in the classroom: When paired with mimio Interactive and a projector, Studio 6 allows users to present lessons and access ready-to-use content. With mimio Ink Capture, Studio digitally captures dry-erase marker notes and drawings. On its own, Studio helps you create compelling, interactive lessons in mimio Notebook pages.

Pros: The Mimio Virtual Link does not require the school to install new boards in the classroom. The model tested had a wireless connection available, which cuts down on installation expenses and allows for greater teacher flexibility. The Mimio Studio 6 allows the teacher to create lessons with or without a data projector, which means she can prepare interactive lessons in advance and then have the student play them back at a later time. Another unique feature of the mimio software is that it will work with other interactive whiteboards. The software also includes a handwriting-to-text recognition program and includes screen recorder to recorder to record voice over any computer screen.

Cons: Since special markers are required, there is a good chance that a school will run out of the markers. Also, since the mimio is so portable, there is a chance some will get lost.

Overall Impression: While the mimio is about half the cost of an interactive whiteboard, it is about twice the cost of an interactive tablet, which offers many of the same presentation options. But, Studio 6 has some nice new features, such as the ability to import, or even drag-and drop, audio, video and Flash files into mimio Studio. The new Studio 6 gallery also features more content.

Math Study Update

This past October in Kentucky marked the second year of a 2-year research study known as the Supported Math Accessibility Reading Tool (SMART) project. The project, a collaboration of the University of Kentucky with other partners, hopes to determine whether students with disabilities can benefit from a combination of technologies to learn math at higher-grade levels.

Included in the study are products such as a digital math textbook, which "speaks" words and equations while the corresponding elements are highlighted on a computer screen. One example of the text-to-speech products featured is Texthelp System's Read&Write Gold. In conjunction with products that use Mathematical Markup Language (MathML), Read&Write Gold helps make higher middle and high school math levels accessible to students who use assistive technology products. In the past, similar products couldn't accurately read math past elementary school levels. Recently, digital math content has become more accessible due to publishers being able to submit electronic files of instructional materials through a MathML Modular Extension. Another product, Design Science's MathPlayer, enables Internet Explorer to display math notations in web pages and allows teachers to make their own MathML content that can be incorporated into assistive technology products. Findings from the 1st year of the study were very positive, and included the following results:

  • Students using text-to-speech for reading math equations and instructions improved their algebra and pre-algebra skills.
  • Students who used digital textbooks learned more math than students who used printed versions; as the math became more complex, the students who used digital textbooks performed better than those using print textbooks.
  • Students liked the speech and highlighting features, and said it gave them a feeling of independence since it eliminated the need for teachers to read the equations aloud.
  • Students found it was valuable to have a tool that speaks math formula aloud.

To read more about the study and follow along in its second year, visit the University of Kentucky's web site for more details.

Whiteboards address individual student needs

Studies have shown that the use of interactive whiteboards and other AV technology helps students of all ability levels achieve success. Promethean, known for their Activclassroom technology that includes the Activboard+2 with lesson development software and a complete sound system, shared the following examples of how AV tech can help students of all ability levels:

Children ages 6-13 in the UK's Lambeth Academy and China connected through Promethean's technology to participate in a live Mandarin and English lesson. Through the internet, the Mandarin students were able to see and hear the English students and help them improve their Mandarin language pronunciation, and vice-versa. Ennelyn Schmidt, Director of Specialism Modern Foreign Languages at Lambeth Academy, said it was interesting not only to see the two groups of students communicating, but also to see them using the same interactive whiteboard software and "writing simultaneously on the same page." To see footage from the event, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8cnzHVsDXY.

Brandon Miller, a 4th grader at Erieview Elementary School in Avon Lake, OH, uses the Activboard+2 to participate in his classes from his bed at the Cleveland Clinic. Brandon needs dialysis three school days a week due to 2 prior failed kidney transplants, and is able to connect to his classroom through a laptop, internet hookup and webcam. His teacher Laura Smith had heard about a similar case in England, where a student who couldn't attend class participated using the same technology. Smith set up the Activboard+2 whiteboard in her classroom, and connects it to Brandon's laptop through a weblink. To read more about this story, visit: http://www.wkyc.com/.

Celest McCaskey, a 4th grader with leukemia from Reno, NV, is able to connect with her classroom from home. Blood draws and chemotherapy take up much of her daily routine, and her weakened immune system prevents her from attending school. Her teacher at Agnes Risley Elementary School, Brian Crosby, was determined to include Celest in his classroom. Crosby is an Activclassroom instructor, and used the line along with the free videoconferencing product Skype to help Celest connect with her classmates. With the help of her community, Celest got a computer from Renown Medical Center, internet connection from the group Children in Transition and DSL, donated by AT&T. Celest says her ability to participate in class helps combat boredom, and her teacher adds that "this project is not only helping Celest," but the rest of his class as well. To view a short clip of her story, visit: http://www.sensiblecity.com/, or read the news story at: http://www.ktvn.com/.

To find out more about how Activboard+2 and the rest of the Activclassroom product line is being used in schools, please visit: http://www.prometheanworld.com/.

School cell phone ban lifted in Des Moines

An article in the Des Moines Register on October 20 announced that the cell phone ban imposed upon schools in Iowa less than two years ago would be lifted. In the cities of Waukee, Marshalltown and Ackley, among others, students are now allowed to use cell phones during lunch and between classes in some schools.

Previously, cell phones were prohibited from being seen or heard in effort to prevent students from sending text messages during class or cheating on tests. Waukee Superintendent Dave Wilkerson explained that the ban was lifted because it was creating a very different world from what students experience outside of school.

In a national survey conducted this fall by CTIA- The Wireless Association, it was reported that "four out of five teens carry cell phones or other wireless devices" and a study by the Nielsen Co. shows that almost half of all children get cell phones before reaching their teens. Schools in China already use cell phones as learning tools, and researchers predict the United States isn't far behind. As cell phone technology continues to improve, students could utilize cell phones' capacities for photography, Internet research and text messages as part of the classroom curriculum. Lifting the ban also resolves issues such as parents' complaints that they were unable to reach their children during the school day, and teachers growing tired of enforcing the ban outside of classroom hours. Waukee school officials still don't know how lifting the cell phone ban will impact student discipline, but they remain optimistic on cell phones' capacities as learning tools.

Sites We Like

HealthyKidsLearnmore.com
The Bluekids.org division of the Children's Health Education Center (CHEC) launched its new microsite, HealthyKidsLearnmore.com. The site explains how Bluekids.org's e-learning programs can help kids develop healthy habits through web-based learning. These programs were introduced in 2006 as a response to the increasing amount of health-related problems among children, such as obesity and diabetes. The programs offer interactive lessons on nutrition and bullying prevention, incorporating games and activities to help children be more engaged in these issues. On the HealthyKidsLearnmore site, visitors can find out more about the programs and engage in free trials. The site also offers video testimonials from teachers and medical experts on how the effectiveness of the e-learning programs and the importance of health education in schools. Currently, many school districts in Wisconsin and nearby states use the e-learning programs. CHEC aims to provide schools with useful health education programs that can be added to the existing classroom curriculum, and its e-learning programs focus on instilling lifelong healthy habits at a young age.

CollegeClickTV.com
In November, CollegeClickTV.com announced their plan to introduce the college experience to prospective students, in effort to help high school students and their parents become more informed before making their college decisions. The Web site has access to several hundred schools, and thousands of student, local merchant, faculty staff interviews as well as unscripted peer video reviews. CollegeClickTV's partnership with U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review and CliffsNotes will allow the Web site to add more content and attract more viewers. CollegeClickTV has the largest online video library of college reviews, with over 30,000 reviews from more than 200 American colleges and universities. The partnering companies already feature extensive resources for college-bound students, and CollegeClickTV will be an invaluable addition through its entertaining content and social networking opportunities. On the U.S. News & World Report site, students and parents can access the videos through the section "powered by CollegeClickTV.com." CliffsNotes and The Princeton Review will develop a section for videos on their websites to feature CollegeClickTV videos, and on the CollegeClickTV site, visitors can click the "Test Prep" button to be brought to the Princeton Review's website. The videos are a great resource for students and parents, giving them a "view" of college before even visiting.

A New Deal For America's Schools?

A major part of President-elect Obama's plan for America announced in his Youtube address on Saturday included his promise to "launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen."

"We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms. Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools," he said.
Watch the video in its entirety here:

E-Rate funds go unused

Recent analysis from the organization Funds for Learning claims that more than 25 percent of committed E-Rate funds are unutilized each year, which amounts to tens of millions of dollars that goes wasted. There are several factors contributing to the under-utilization of E-rate funding, according to the compliance firm, including the length of the application review, price reductions by service providers, overestimation of need by schools, and generally a lack of understanding of E-rate program rules and deadlines. To read the full report, click here or go to fundsforlearning.com.

What's New Online

Knowledge Community (www.intel.com/pressroom)
Price: Free
Knowledge Community creates a secure school online community for students, parents, teachers and administrators.

Spanish I A (http://www.amered.com)
This new courseware is designed to help students understand Spanish through study guides, practice activities, and interactive games.

iKnow! (http://www.iknow.co.jp)
iKnow! makes it possible to create learning modules in 188 languages for study within the community-powered suite of learning applications.

Typing Adventure (www.typingadventure.com)
Price: Free
Typing Adventure uses exciting interactive games and mind-challenging puzzles to help kids and adults improve their typing skills.

The Siemens Foundation and Discovery Education recently launched a new Web site that contains a variety of free, high-quality science tools and resources for 4th-6th grade students. Siemens Science Day provides standards-based videos, tools, and hands-on activities for earth, life, and physical science that educators need to turn into aspiring scientists. Each activity on the Web site includes complete how-to information, step-by-step directions for in-class use, materials lists, at-home extensions that promote learning beyond the classroom, and related video clips.

Educators visiting Siemens Science Day also are encouraged to enter the Ultimate Cool School Science Day Sweepstakes. The winning teacher will win a spellbinding assembly for his/her school that is not only fun and interactive, but also underscores the importance of science literacy and the need for science resources in schools. Discovery Networks will present the assembly, which will consist of videos, mind benders and interactive demonstrations. Entries will be accepted through March 2, 2009. The mentors of the first 100 teams to register and ultimately complete a project for the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge will receive an award-winning Planet Earth series DVD set. Submissions from middle school students will be accepted through March 15, 2009. The initiative will expand to elementary schools in 2009 and to high schools in 2010. Visit the Siemens Science Day Web site at www.siemensscienceday.com and the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge at www.wecanchange.com.

EdTech Business Forum Picks Most Innovative Successful Companies

from SIIA.net

Innovation and growth of new education technologies, particularly those represented during the acclaimed Innovation Incubator presentations, played a pivotal role in the 8th annual Ed Tech Business Forum, sponsored by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) last week in New York City.

SIIA's recently-selected 2008 Innovation Incubator participants represent pre-revenue companies, non-profit groups, R&D agencies, and academic institutions, and were introduced during the recent conference.

SIIA continued the celebration of the Innovation Incubator firms during a special awards ceremony held at the conclusion of the Ed Tech Business Forum:

The "Most Innovative Education Product or Service" award was given to GoWeb3D Experiences by VRWorkplace, Inc.

The "Most Likely to Succeed in the Education Market" award was given to You've Been Sentenced! by McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds, LLC.

Focusing on how critical innovation is to the future of the education industry, the SIIA Education Division narrowed the list of applicants to ten participants and two finalists:

  • Cognitive Tutor Authoring Tools by Carnegie Mellon University
  • GoWeb3D Experiences by VRWorkplace, Inc.
  • Inetoo by L Point Solutions, Inc.
  • Lexcycle Stanza by Lexcycle
  • Online Student Rewards and Recognition Program by uBoost
  • Physics Geeks Game by Columbia University/National Science Digital Library
  • PreView by Intagrade
  • Science-Technology Curriculum Teacher Training by U.S. Satellite Laboratory, Inc.
  • The HELP Program by Digital Directions International
  • You've Been Sentenced! By McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds, LLC
  • CAST Universal Design for Learning Solutions by CAST Research (Finalist)
  • gWhiz Mobile by gWhiz (Finalist)

For more information, go to www.siia.net.

U.S. students improve but still lag behind Asian peers in math

Students from Asian countries were top performers in math and science at both the fourth and eighth grade levels, according to the most recent reports of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released by the study's directors Michael O. Martin and Ina V.S. Mullis of Boston College.

According to the New York Times, American fourth- and eighth-grade students made solid achievement gains in math in recent years and in two states showed spectacular progress but science scores remained flat.

The full report is here: http://nces.ed.gov/timss/

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