- CA Schools Suffer from Limited Technology Funding
Technology integration in California schools has been hindered by inconsistent funding that has hampered educators ability to use technology to prepare students for college and 21st Century jobs
- Life Planning Goes Online in Kentucky
Kentucky is launching a new web-based system that creates Individual Learning Plans for every middle and high school students in the state, allowing students to explore careers and colleges, create resumes and learn about financial-aid options.
- Small MN District Runs a Big Virtual Schools
Nearly twice as many students attend school virtually in Houston, MN as sit in its brick and mortar classrooms, bringing the small rural district more than $4 million in revenue.
- Games Help Sick Kids Cope
The Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides support to seriously ill children and their families, is using games to help educate children about their illnesses in a fun and entertaining way.
- Colleges Enrolling in Second Life
More than 60 schools and educational groups are currently exploring ways to use Second Life's 3-D virtual world to enhance the learning experience.
CA Schools Suffer from Limited Technology Funding
There are many bumps on the road to technology integration. In California, schools have been hindered by inconsistent funding that has caused technology adoption to move in fits and starts. Educators know that technology is not the silver bullet that solves all problems but they believe it is an essential tool in preparing students for college and 21st Century jobs. Barbara Thalacker, educational technology director at the California Department of Education, speaks for many educators when she says, "We're expecting our 21st-century students to function in 20th-century classrooms." California is still recovering from a budget crisis earlier in the decade that caused it to curt back on technology funding. Funding for the state's Digital High School program was totally eliminated, causing participating high schools, which had come to rely on the $30 per pupil annual stipend for tech support, to flounder. Some of those same schools are struggling to maintain an inventory of computers that are now more than nine years old. Other schools have turned to local resources — PTAs, fundraising drives, school improvement funds — to stay abreast of the technology curve. The funding cuts have also hampered ongoing professional development, which has made it easier for some teachers to resist technology integration. The result is a digital divide, both among districts and even within districts, depending on the amount of local resources that have been directed to a school's technology program. Some schools serving a high percentage of poor students will benefit from the state's recent antitrust settlement with Microsoft that will bring from $400 to $600 million into the state over the next six years. Schools will be able to spend their allotment to purchase hardware and software of their choice from any manufacturer, and for professional development and maintenance of computer equipment purchased through settlement.
Source:Contra Costa Times
Life Planning Goes Online in Kentucky
Kentucky is launching a new web-based system that creates Individual Learning Plans for every middle and high school student in the state. The system is designed to allow students as young as 6th grade to explore careers and colleges, create resumes and learn about financial-aid options. Test scores will also be automatically uploaded to individual students' information pages and students can save samples of their schoolwork, as well. The state believes that students empowered to plan their futures may be motivated to stay more engaged with school. Parents will receive passwords in the next several months to access their child's information, where they will be able to leave comments for their child or the school's guidance counselor. While schools will not be required to use the new web-based system, they are required to complete Individual Learning Plans for each student as part of the state's new graduation requirements. Students can complete an interest survey that matches them to 40 professions about which they can get information — including video interviews with people in the professions — and see the corresponding college majors, along with the colleges that offer them. Experts believe the new system can help level the playing field for first-generation college-goers, or who have parents who are not as experienced about applying to college. The state also plans to use the online system to survey students' feelings about their education and future, and try to figure out how schools can better serve them. The goal is to begin a dialogue about the importance of schooling and preparing for the future.
Small MN District Runs a Big Virtual Schools
Nearly twice as many students attend school virtually in Houston, MN as sit in its brick and mortar classrooms. Four years ago, the small rural district in southeastern Minnesota opened the Minnesota Virtual Academy, for grades K-8, and the Minnesota Center of Online Learning, for high-schoolers. Today, 850 students from across the state attend the two schools. And since funding follows the child in Minnesota, as it does in many other states, each student represents about $5,000 in income for the school district, more than $4 million a year in all. It's that influx of money that has helped keep the tiny school district open and independent. And while the students aren't physically present in a traditional school, they follow a state approved curriculum and take the same tests as traditional students. They are taught by certified teachers who are hired by the Houston school district. Students enroll in Houston's virtual schools for a variety of reasons. Parents of younger students are attracted by the relative independence the school offers, allowing children to move at their own pace and pursue individual interests. Older students may want to move through the curriculum more quickly or may be engaged in sports or artistic endeavors that require extensive travel and make regular classroom attendance difficult. Minnesota has 23 state-approved online learning programs, with about 2,900 students enrolled. Nationwide, about 83,500 students are online learners, according to the North American Council for Online Learning.
Source:The Star Tribune
Games Help Sick Kids Cope
It's no surprise that most kids really enjoy video games. But if that child is seriously ill, the right game can take on a whole new role. Not only do these games help distract children from some of the pain and fear they may be experiencing, they can also help the child focus on fighting the illness. The Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides support to seriously ill children and their families, is using games to help educate children about their illnesses in a fun and entertaining way. The digital games present "basic disease concepts, pain management and coping techniques and skills for communicating pain to adults." Games such as Starlight's The Sickle Cell Slime-O-Rama Game and Uncovering the Mysteries of Bone Marrow make it easy for children to understand their diseases. And Starlight is not alone in its approach. The Make-A-Wish Foundation offers Ben's Game, which helps children visualize fighting cancer through a game in which they destroy mutated cancer cells. At osmosisjones.warnerbrothers.com, Mystery of the Rash Outbreak takes players inside the human body in the role of a white blood cell detective on a mission to stop an infectious rash. Physicians caution that such games should be treated as just one of many tools to help children deal with serious illness. Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children's Technology Review, which provides product reviews for child-oriented interactive media, calls the Starlight games "a terrific poster child for how to use the Web to help children understand specific (health) conditions." According to the Children's Technology Review, almost 100 games aimed at educating kids about their health and wellness have moved onto the interactive virtual gaming scene since 1994, and many of them can be accessed free online.
Colleges Enrolling in Second Life
Young people have flocked to Second Life, a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Launched in 2003, Second Life today boasts nearly 1.5 million inhabitants. At least a few of those are college students, attending a class in the virtual world. More than 60 schools and educational organizations are exploring ways to use the virtual world to enhance the learning experience. Harvard Law School and Harvard Extension School are offering a class in Second Life. Offering a distance learning course in Second Life's virtual world creates a stronger sense of community. The Harvard instructor holds class discussions as well as office hours for extension students in Second Life. Some class-related events are also open to the public. Since Second Life supports real-time interaction, classes feel much like they would if taking place in a more traditional setting, with students actively engaged in the discussion via their online avatars. However novel, Second Life is largely a blank slate, with the final educational value coming from the structures that innovative teachers create to support their online classes.