- ISD #294 in Houston, MN, began experimenting with online education to better serve students in its alternative learning center and found a way to fuel enrollment growth. Today, the districtâ€™s Minnesota Virtual Academy (K-8) and Minnesota Center of Online Learning (9-12) serve more than 700 students statewide.
- Teachers are the first audience to gain access to Arizonaâ€™s new Integrated Data to Enhance Arizona's Learning (IDEAL) portal. By next school year the state expects to have 50,000 state teachers, 1 million students and their families linked through IDEAL creating one virtual statewide campus.
- According to a new report from Wayne State University, if Michigan hopes to retain its competitive edge in the 21st Century knowledge economy, it needs to cast off the â€œanchors of attitude, archaic laws and public policies and beliefsâ€ that bind it to 20th-Century education models. Read more.
- Nicholas Negroponte detailed the specs for an under $100 laptop, including a windup crank attached to the side of the machines that will provide power. Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa are interested in obtaining the PCs for their nationsâ€™ children, as is Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
- Assistive technology — devices that aid people with visual, hearing, learning and other physical disabilities — is becoming a big business. For some individuals, the right assistive technology spells independence and an improved quality of life. Learn about the newest developments.
Online Education Expands District Rolls
Several years ago, ISD #294 in Houston, MN began experimenting with online education to better serve students in its alternative learning center. Today, the districtâ€™s distance learning programs — the Minnesota Virtual Academy (K-8) and Minnesota Center of Online Learning (9-12) — serve more than 700 students statewide. The online courses have helped the district grow at a time when many rural districts are in decline. ISD #294 grew from 480 students, 60 employees and a budget of $3.2 million in 2000 to todayâ€™s 1, 134 students, 125 employees and $7.8 million budget. The money that flows into the district from its online students has an impact far beyond just those classes. It provides greater economic stability for the district and helps support improved professional development and advanced technology use. The Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA) opened in November of 2002. Its students are provided with a lot of hands-on learning materials to supplement their computer-based lessons, engage in regular dialogue with their teachers via e-mail and get together on a regular basis with teachers and classmates in their local area. Parents are expected to be regularly engaged in supervising studentsâ€™ learning activities. Based on the initial success of MNVA, the high school program — Minnesota Center of Online Learning (MCoOL) — was launched in 2004. Prospective students take a survey that helps gauge if they are good candidates for online education. Students can work at their own pace and schedule, following the established curriculum. Teachers are required to respond to student questions with 24 hours and many students are in frequent contact with their teachers. MCoOL is the only school in Minnesota that offers a complete high school program online and students will be able to earn their diplomas.
Source:The Caledonia Argus
AZ Launches Statewide Resource Portal
Teachers are the first group to gain access to Arizonaâ€™s new Integrated Data to Enhance Arizona's Learning (IDEAL) portal. Portals are intended to provide a customized desktop based on login access. When teachers enter their passwords, they will enter a personalized, customizable web environment with immediate and continuous access to an array of online resources. The first phase includes access to online professional development, a 4,000 plus streaming video library and other resources that support student learning. Teachers and students will also be able to continue to access AIMS practice tests for multiple grade levels. Eventually the portal will include additional assessment resources such as standards-aligned benchmarks and formative links; a bank of test items; school improvement guidelines and standards; and student demographics and achievement data. There is some concern among educators that districts that need the resources most donâ€™t have the infrastructure in place to be able to use IDEAL easily and effectively. Arizona State University, who partnered with the Arizona Department of Education to develop IDEAL, says that it was aware of existing access and bandwidth limitations and developed the system with extension and expansion into the community in mind. Plans call for students to get IDEAL passwords beginning in January of 2006. Students will have access to grade-level study aids, customized homework set up by their teachers, and advanced high school and honor courses. If all goes as planned, by the end of the school year every student from third through 12th grade and his or her parents will be able to sign on to IDEAL from any computer. Parents will be able to use the site to communicate with teachers, to access adult English language classes or course work leading to a high school equivalency degree and eventually to track their childâ€™s progress and achievement.
Source:The Arizona Republic
E-Learning Key to Michiganâ€™s Future
A new report from Wayne State University, commissioned by the Michigan Virtual University, draws a clear relationship between the stateâ€™s education system and its economic outlook. And it makes very clear that technology is central to education. E-learning is a tool that will help create new employees prepared for high-tech jobs. The report raises concerns that Michigan is losing its leadership role in e-learning because of state and federal budget cuts and a lack of political commitment. Written by Tom Watkins, Michigan's former state schools superintendent, the report examines the Internet and the potential for e-learning. It makes 29 recommendations including that every student be required to successfully take at least one course online before high school graduation. It also recommends that before teachers can be licensed in Michigan, they should pass a test proving they have skills to integrate technology into the classroom. The recommendations were compiled after meetings with hundreds of school superintendents and administrators, technical leaders, teachers, business leaders and students. The Michigan Education Association, the stateâ€™s largest teachers union, says it has no objections to adding questions to the certification exam to assess teachersâ€™ technology competencies. Watkins placed no price tag on his recommendations, but proposes raising teacher certification fees and teacher permit fees to raise some $700,000 that could be used for helping teachers use e-learning to improve student academic achievement. He also seeks a pool of $5 million from unspecified federal, state and philanthropic funds to be used by state universities and intermediate school districts to develop an e-learning curriculum.
Source:Detroit Free Press
Under $100 Laptop Moves Closer to Reality
One Laptop per Child, the non-profit group led by MITâ€™s Nicholas Negroponte, is in discussion with five countries — Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa — to distribute up to 15 million laptops to children. Negroponte detailed the specifications for the much-discussed under $100 laptop first proposed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January. The proposed design calls for a 500MHz processor, 1GB of memory and an innovative dual-mode display that can be used in full-color mode, or in a black-and-white sunlight-readable mode. One display design being considered is a flat, flexible printed display developed at MIT's Media Lab. Negroponte said the technology can be used to produce displays that cost roughly 10 cents per square inch. Power will be provided through either conventional electric current, batteries or by a windup crank attached to the side of the notebooks. The systems will be Wi-Fi- and cell phone-enabled, and will include four USB ports, along with built-in "mesh networking," a peer-to-peer concept that allows machines to share a single Internet connection. The laptops will run a version of the Linux operating system and will also include other applications, some developed by MIT researchers, as well as country-specific software. Negroponte says the laptops would be sold to governments, who would handle the distribution. One Laptop per Child might consider selling commercial production rights to a third party, using the license fee to support its free laptop program. MIT is also in discussion with Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who has proposed spending $54 million to buy one of Negroponte's laptops for every student. The first three grades would get computers during fiscal year 2007, while students in the other three grades would get them the following year.
Source:The Boston Globe
Technology Helps Disabled Cope
Assistive technology — devices that aid people with visual, hearing, learning and other physical disabilities — is becoming a big business. The Smithsonian Institution sizes the industry at $5.4 billion, nearly double market estimates six years ago. The market is being fed by an aging population in industrialized countries combined with efforts to meet the needs of more special needs groups. The World Health Organization estimates that between 750 million and 1 billion of the world's 6 billion people deal with some form of speech, vision, mobility, hearing or cognitive impairment. For some individuals, the right assistive technology spells independence and an improved quality of life. Among the more common assistive technologies are Braille-based handheld devices with text-to-speech technology, tactile keyboards with oversize characters, and pointing devices that control PCs with a movement of an eyebrow. A number of the larger tech companies are working on assistive technology. Apple Computer, Adobe and IBM have been working on speech recognition and screen enlargement software for their various applications. Smaller companies are also developing products, producing innovations such as a global positioning system-based portable product offering digital maps for the visually impaired. The device keeps pace with the user, announcing street names, intersections, addresses, stores, restaurants and area attractions as they approach. Another handheld system tracks GPS-equipped buses, alerts the passenger when the correct bus approaches, helps the passenger on board through audio and visual cues, and reminds the passenger when the bus reaches the right stop. Once desktop-sized voice synthesizers have been shrunk to palmtops. These portable communication devices help people who are unable to speak. A user can touch letters, words, phrases or even picture symbols on a handheld touch screen, which are then converted into loud, clear speech.