- Cobb County Teachers All Get Laptops
The Cobb County School District has begun the distribution of 7,100 laptop computers to all its teachers.
- Distance Learning Helps Bridge ELL Barrier
Two districts in South Texas will be experimenting with a distance learning program this fall that Spanish-speaking students will take math and science courses in Spanish, while learning English and social studies at the Texas schools they attend.
- Tucson Turns to RFID Tags
The Tucson Unified School District is testing the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) to keep track of its elementary school students.
- PA Cyber School Goes National
A new organization, the National Network of Digital Schools (NNDS), is poised to take the programs developed at Midland's Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School into the world of national or even international online education.
- E-Books Revisited
One of the products demoed at D4 was a new electronic book reader that the digerati though had some promise. Others say it will take more than a new device to make e-books a real market.
Cobb County Teachers All Get Laptops
The Cobb County School District has begun the distribution of 7,100 laptop computers to all its teachers. Just a year earlier, am ambitious plan to distribute laptops to 63,000 students as well as all teachers was quashed by an unhappy public and a court ruling that said the plan differed substantially from what had been promised in the 2003 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum. Teachers are required to participate in a two-hour training session, provided by the technology vendor under the $10 million contract. Each training session is limited to 25 teachers, to allow teachers the time to get fully acquainted with their new laptops. Training centers on getting teachers comfortable with using their computers in a classroom setting and covers topics such as network connections, connecting printers and peripherals, and software installation. To accommodate teachers' schedules the training is being offered on 16 different dates at 12 different school sites. Additional training sessions will be offered in August to accommodate teachers new to the system. The district believes that access to up-to-date technology and communication tools will enhance teachers' ability to deliver curriculum effectively. The laptop computer program is being funded with the revenues derived from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), which earmarked $11,250,000 for providing Cobb teachers with individual computers.
Source:Cobb County School District
Distance Learning Helps Bridge ELL Barrier
Two districts in South Texas will be experimenting with a distance learning program this fall. Instead of Students learning Spanish from an expert teacher via distance learning, in this model Spanish-speaking students will take math and science courses in Spanish, while learning English and social studies at the Texas schools they attend. Students will be able to use the Spanish-language offerings to supplement courses they are taking in English or even to complete a course, although they must take the final exam in English to receive Texas credit. The idea is to relieve the frustration many students experience as they fail content courses offered in English that students are not yet up to handling. The new program is the result of a collaboration between the University of Texas UT) and Mexican federal education agencies. Mexico's Colegio de Bachilleres, a high school program offering online courses, will provide the instruction. Underpinning the agreement is a careful alignment of the Texas and Mexican math and science curriculum, allowing students to work with online resources from Mexico, as well as Mexican teachers who will help the students in computer labs. A key feature of the agreement will help Texas educators place older students in the proper grade by considering their transcripts from Mexico. Older ELL students are routinely placed in ninth grade although they may have enough credits to merit a higher grade placement. The participating districts — Donna and Edcouch-Elsa — each received a $500,000 federal grant to buy computers, pay for the online programs and train teachers. Edcouch-Elsa plans to use 40 desktop computers that will be located in labs at several schools and will be hiring four Mexican teachers to help students with the online course work. The Donna ISD purchased laptop computers so students can study at home or while they are traveling with their families doing farm work.
Tucson Turns to RFID Tags
The Tucson Unified School District is using radio-frequency identification (RFID) to keep track of some of its elementary school students. If approved, the program will be rolled out to all of the districts' 12,000 elementary school bus-riders. Parents would have to enroll their children in the program and would pay a $20 fee for the equipment. The technology, embedded in a plastic watchband, a small black box hooked to a belt loop or a key fob, uses a program that is similar to that used by global positioning systems. It informs school administrators, teachers and parents about when students get on a bus, when they get off, where they are at noon and when they're dropped off. Each RFID devices has a unique serial number embedded in a microchip. Radio waves send that number to a reader and notify schools that the child connected to the number has boarded the bus and will be arriving at school. The only thing transmitted over public airwaves is the serial number. Only the school has the list that links the serial numbers to the individual child. The program's total cost would depend on the number of children who enroll, but it would cost roughly $100,00 to equip the district's 300 buses with radio trackers. The technology would allow the district to know exactly who is on each bus, facilitate early attendance taking, and keep parents informed about just where the bus with their child aboard is located. In the future the system could expand to classroom use, allowing teachers to track their student sexist location on computerized maps.
Source:Arizona Daily Star
PA Cyber School Goes National
While Pennsylvania's Midland School District has an enrollment of 450 students, the district's thriving cyber school serves 4,400 students from more than 400 school districts statewide. A new organization, the National Network of Digital Schools (NNDS), is poised to take the cyber school into the world of national or even international online education. By law, Pennsylvania charter schools can only serve students within the state. NNDS was founded to get around that barrier and take the programs developed at Midland's Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School outside the state's borders. It already has clients in Ohio and New Mexico and is in discussion with potential clients in West Virginia and Louisiana. Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School has eight buildings in Midland and additional space in Beaver; Cranberry, Butler County; and Springfield, a suburb of Philadelphia. This fall it will begin using space in the newly constructed Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center. The Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center was paid for by paid for with a $7.5 million state grant and three 20-year prepaid leases: $10 million from the cyber school, $3 million from the Midland district and $3 million from Beaver County Community College. In addition to a theatre and the expected music and dance studios, the Center includes a recording studio, a TV studio, classrooms and office space. The Center's opening allows Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School to offer live and online arts instruction as well as hands-on outreach programs for cyber students in other locations through the center's Henry Mancini Arts Academy program, which has partnerships with about dozen Beaver County school districts. Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School is paying $100 per semester per student for the arts programs.
One of the products demoed at the recent D4 Conference was a new electronic book reader that the digerati though had some promise. Very thin, lighter than a book, and sporting a backlight-free high-contrast display, text was really easy to see and read on this device. But at $300+ each, it's unlikely that consumers will flock to this latest incarnation. And without volume sales, price points are likely to stay high. This is just one of the problems that has plagued the e-book market. Content has also been a problem. E-books can be downloaded to PCs or to a special reading device. Best sellers are typically not available and those that are cost the same as the paper and ink versions, dampening the market. Microsoft and Barnes & Noble created an e-book store in 2000, but Barnes & Noble withdrew in 2003, citing lackluster sales. There are markets where e-books are performing well including academia and public libraries. Ebrary, a supplier of e-books to academic institutions and public and corporate libraries, has about 6 million users currently, up 100% from the year before. To attract consumers, developers are experimenting with interactivity and mixed-media capabilities that would allow readers to choose their own ending or allow characters to come to life on the screen. Experts say that the market is unlikely to see much growth until e-books allow you to do what you already can do with a paper and ink book — trade them, pass them on to friends, resell them — as well as do new and compelling things like things like creating multiple story paths or view moving illustrations.