- Laptops Enrich Learning for Caseville Students
Using funding from Michigan's Freedom to Learn program, the Caseville Public School district is enriching teaching and learning by providing wireless laptops to every student in sixth through 12th grade.
- Is a Virtual Science Lab Good Enough?
The College Board is examining the quality of online labs and experiments to determine if high schools can apply the A.P. designation to online science courses that do not provide hands-on lab work.
- Blogs Motivate Student Writing
Teachers are finding that blogs can be a powerful tool for getting students to write, in large part because with a blog students become more aware of writing for an audience and benefit from the feedback they receive.
- TAF To Extend Its Model to Public Schools
The Technology Access Foundation's (TAF) helps prepare underserved students of color for success in a technology-driven world by providing skills for the 21st Century. It hopes to extend that mission by partnering with school districts to open five new public schools.
- Virtual Reality Upgrade at the University of Illinois
A new wireless virtual reality system has been installed in the Beckman Institute Cube at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an immersive, true 3-D visualization chamber.
Laptops Enrich Learning for Caseville Students
Ubiquitous access to laptop computers is helping the Caseville Public Schools enrich teaching and learning. Using funding from Michigan's Freedom to Learn program, the district is providing wireless laptops to every student in sixth through 12th grade. In 2005, the district received $30,000 from Michigan's Freedom to Learn (FTL) Project for sixth grade laptops. Earlier this year, the district received $90,000 from FTL for laptops for all high school students. The Caseville Public School Board of Education has committed a total of $94,000 to the school's Freedom to Learn program to ensure there would be a laptop for all middle and high school students. FTL also provided funding for professional development, field services and project evaluation services. Teachers can now post assignments and instructions for students to access and students send their finished assignments electronically to their teachers for grading. Teachers use the laptops for presentations of difficult concepts and students can follow up by using their laptops to do a variety of enrichment activities, using online supplemental materials and doing research to reinforce their understanding. Teachers report that students are more engaged and that they have fewer motivational problems. Teachers also say that the laptops have saved them time and helped them become more efficient. As they become comfortable with the technology, teachers are experimenting with new ways to use the laptops to support learning in all areas of the curriculum. They are most excited by the opportunity to individualize instruction, using the technology to support a variety of learning styles.
Source:Huron Daily Tribune
Is a Virtual Science Lab Good Enough?
The College Board is examining the quality of online labs and experiments used in many high school AP science courses, as part of a broader review of thousands of AP courses. Many schools have turned to virtual labs to allow students to work with experiments that would be too costly or too dangerous to do in high school labs. Now questions are surfacing about the extent to which virtual experiments can substitute for hand-on lab work. College professors are expressing concern over students whose AP coursework allows then to enter second-year college science classrooms, but who have never use a lab balance or a Bunsen burner. Skeptics believe that virtual experiments are a good supplement to actual lab work, but not a substitute for hands-on experience. Online proponents argue that virtual labs get better every year and that students who have taken online science courses using such labs earn high scores on the AP exams. Earlier this year, the College Board sent a letter to virtual school operators indicating that online science courses could only be labeled as AP courses if the online program was able to ensure "that students have a guided, hands-on (not virtual) laboratory experience." Following a strong outcry from online schools, the Board backed off that position. Now it has set up three five-member panels composed of biology, chemistry and physics professors and online educators to examine the quality of online laboratories used in Web-based A.P. science courses. Their decisions will determine if high schools can apply the A.P. designation to online science courses.
Source:The New York Times (registration required)
Blogs Motivate Student Writing
Teachers are finding that blogs can be a powerful tool for getting students to write, in large part because with a blog students become more aware of writing for an audience. That openness to the outside world can be a problem, but teachers are finding ways to harness the power of blogs while protecting their students' privacy and assuring online safety. By using blogging sites designed specifically for classroom use, teachers are able to take advantage of security features not found on commercial sites. And usage is growing. Edublog.org, which offers free teacher blogs, saw unique page views jump by 50% in a month, from 10,000 to 15,000 views a day. Teachers use blogs in a variety of ways. Some have created their own blog to facilitate communication with parents. Others encourage students to create their own blogs and use them in much the way they use journals. Since a student's blog can be read by anyone who has access to the private blog space, students can get feedback on their writing from a range of readers — classmates, parents and relatives, and students and teachers from around the world who have been invited to visit the classroom blog site. Young students get the practice they need to polish their writing and older students, especially those who might be reluctant to share their views in class, get the chance to participate in an ongoing discussion.
Source:The Seattle Times
TAF To Extend Its Model to Public Schools
In the ten years since its founding, the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) has grown from serving 32 students to today's enrollment of 300. TAF's mission is to prepare underserved students of color for success in a technology-driven world by providing skills for the 21st Century. TAF offers several after school programs that provide technical exposure and training to its target audience. TechStart is a program for 5-13 year olds who spend 2-3 hours per week using technology based activities and lessons to improve math, reading and critical-thinking skills. The Technical Teens Internship Program offers teens 6 hours of training per week in one of three tracks: web development, programming and network engineering. After receiving technical training and job prep students work in paid technical summer internships at local corporations. Students are awarded $1,000 for each year they successfully complete the training and internship. The Foundation now has plans to open five new public schools within the next seven years. The idea is to form partnerships with several school districts to open schools in neighborhoods like the ones where the foundation works now — low-income areas, where the majority of students are black, Asian and Latino. The schools would serve sixth through 12th grades, and focus on science, technology, engineering and math. The foundation wants to create schools that would provide more rigor for students. TAF hopes to raise enough money to pay for a computer for every two students, additional teachers to keep class sizes low and a longer school day. The district partners would provide the building and the teachers and an openness to trying something new. TAF has submitted a proposal to the Seattle Public Schools and is looking for other likely partners.
Source:The Seattle Times
Virtual Reality Upgrade at the University of Illinois
A new wireless virtual reality system has been installed in the Beckman Institute Cube at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Beckman Institute Cube is an immersive, true 3-D visualization chamber in which subjects benefit from a completely unwired visualization experience. The new system enables the Cube to render six channels of stereo images projected on its walls, providing the correct viewing perspective for the subject in real time. The system also provides a wireless, tracked wand input device enabling subjects to interact and control features of this immersive environment. The VR tracking system is currently being used for experiments by the university's Psychology Department, including testing focused on the nature of object memory, special memory across changes in viewpoint and mental processes used to divide objects into categories. The Beckman Institute Cube is operated by The Integrated Systems Laboratory at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, an interdisciplinary research institute devoted to basic research in the physical sciences, computation, engineering, biology, behavior and cognition.