- Virtual School's in for the Summer
Not everyone is in "schools out for the summer" mode. This summer, more than 600 students are taking one of the 12 online courses offered by the Mississippi Department of Education's Virtual School.
- A Computer Science Education Crisis?
A new report from the Computer Science Teachers Association argues that the U.S. is failing to prepare its students for a technology-driven world by failing to teach them the principles of computer science.
- Data Systems Making a Difference
School systems across the country are beginning to realize the benefits of new technology tools that provide detailed information about individual student performance.
- More Evidence for Multitasking
According to a new report, more than 80% of U.S. teens surveyed said they spent at least one hour a day of out of school time online, often simultaneously doing homework or talking on the phone.
- Robots Face Off in Soccer Championship
Teams of two-legged, four legged and wheeled robots from 40 countries will take to the soccer field in the 10th annual RoboCup, testing theories of AI and robotic design-principles.
Virtual School's in for the Summer
Not everyone is in "schools out for the summer" mode. Many students participate in summer school programs, hoping to catch up in class they may have failed or to get ahead with a new course. Increasingly that course work is being done online. In Mississippi, for example, more than 600 students are taking one of the 12 online courses offered by the Mississippi Department of Education's Virtual School. Last year, only 26 students participated in the program. Online summer school seems to be a win-win for everyone. Students get a broader choice of courses that they would in a more traditional program and, for schools, it's a more cost effective way to operate a summer program. Mississippi's Virtual School uses an online discussion forum to allow students to interact with one another. Students receive all their reading and writing assignments at once and are able to work at their own pace. Mississippi-certified teachers, who received special training, work with students through e-mail and online chats. Mississippi Virtual School is free, with the costs covered by a $2.5 million grant from the BellSouth Foundation and $1 million from the state. Most classes are filled to capacity and some students approved by their schools to attend were not able to find an open slot. Hinds County is offering its own online summer school, aimed at credit recovery. About 30 students who failed a course during the school year are catching up by working online from home or from a local public library. The district is charging $175 for a whole credit or $100 for a semester course, less than the typical cost of $225 to $424 for a semester course in a traditional summer school program.
A Computer Science Education Crisis?
According to a new report from the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), only one in four American high schools require students to take any computer science courses. One major reason is lack of time in students' schedules. But CSTA believes there is also a misperception at work, a belief that computers are for video games and surfing the Internet. The New Educational Imperative: Improving High School Computer Science, supported by the National Science Foundation, examines computer science education in the U.S. and compares it to programs used in Canada, England, Scotland and South Africa. CSTA points out that by 2012 there will be 1.5 million computer and information technology jobs available in the U.S. and a shortage of qualified workers to fill them. Students need to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities these jobs represent and CSTA believes that is accomplished by giving students the computer science knowledge base necessary for success in computing-intensive fields. To do this CSTA advocates implementing a national computer science curriculum for high schools. This curriculum must be principle-based, must address core content and key skills, and must incorporate appropriate strategies to reach and teach students. CSTA is quick to point out that computer science goes far beyond just learning to program. It encompasses hardware design, networks, graphics, and many other elements and is at heart about exposing students to a fundamental scientific domain whose principles are characteristic of systemic thinking.
Data Systems Making a Difference
School systems across the country are beginning to realize the benefits of new technology tools that provide detailed information about student performance. Schools have used computer technology to keep track of basic student information for a number of years â€“ data like attendance, grades and demographics. But new data warehousing and analysis tools now make it possible for schools to gather and analyze individual student performance data in great detail, some even going so far as to record each standardized-test question, the skill it measures and each student's answer. By matching student answers to the skills tested, the system can build detailed profiles of students' strengths and weaknesses, allowing teachers to target instruction to specific needs. Districts across Texas, like their counterparts nationwide, are expanding their use of data management systems. Such expansion represents a major investment. Basic systems cost roughly $2 per students, but the most sophisticated and powerful systems can cost 10 times that much. The Plano Independent School District will spend $340,000 to install a new system for its 53,000 students and $87,000 a year going forward. Mesquite ISD, with roughly 30,000 students, will pay $342,000 to set up its system and $150,000 per year going forward. If the systems are used well, however, the savings in terms of teacher time and improved instruction will be worth the cost.
Source:The Dallas Morning News
More Evidence for Multitasking
A new report from BurstMedia lends more support to the mounting evidence that today's youth live in a digital world, are "into" the Internet and prefer doing more than one thing at a time. More than 80% of the 13 to 17 years olds surveyed said they spent at least one hour a day of out of school time online. In fact, 37% say they spend three hours or more a day online. Nearly 30% say that not having online access outside of school would "ruin" their day and 40% say their day would be "not as good, but not ruined." Online teens are likely to be doing a number of other things while they surf, simultaneously doing homework, watching television or listening to music. Nearly half (49%) say they do homework, 34% watch television or movies, 21% listen to the radio, 20% send text messages on their cell phones, 19% talk on their cell phones and 16% talk on landline phones. Sixty percent of teens say they have visited a social networking website and of those 60% have created an online profile. Social networking sites are more popular with girls (68%) than boys (54%). Nearly half (49%) of U.S. teens play online games, 47% download music, 39% download video clips and 27% have created or maintain a web site or personal page.
Robots Face Off in Soccer Championship
Germany is hosting two soccer competitions this year — the World Cup and the RoboCup. RoboCup is an international joint project to promote AI, robotics, and related fields. The ultimate goal of the RoboCup project is by 2050 to develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can win against the human world champion team in soccer. In order for a robot team to actually perform a soccer game, various technologies must be incorporated. The robots have to move autonomously over the field — without remote control. They have to know as exactly as possible where they are at any time, have to follow the movements of other players and the ball, and react to these in an appropriate way, in real time. This 10th annual RoboCup brings together some 2,500 scientists from 36 nations. About 440 registered teams from 40 countries will be competing in different leagues for a place in the final. There are five "leagues" in the tournament, for small robots, medium-sized robots, four-legged robots (Sony AIBO robots), two-legged humanoid robots and a simulation league that features computer-generated players. Two Sony QRIO robots have been programmed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University to provide color commentary for games played by four-legged Sony AIBO robots. The Carnegie Mellon software provides the robots with the ability to track the orange soccer ball as competing AIBOs chase, catch, pass and shoot the ball toward respective goals.