- Learning Chinese Online
Looking towards a global future, North Carolina is using a $300,000 federal grant to create a pioneering online Chinese-language instruction program.
- Getting Computer Literate by Doing
Since Bryan Osborne's goal for his middle-school computer literacy class is to make the use of technology transparent to getting a job done, his year-long class project has students using technology to find the best place to plant milkweed to attract monarch butterflies.
TechGYRLS, a new club sponsored by the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, aims high — helping girls from low income families to develop technical skills and encouraging them to consider careers in computer technology.
- Inequities in Tech Resources Persist
As is true in many states, wealthy school districts in New Jersey purchase state-of-the art technology resources on an annual basis, while poor schools often must decide between adding new equipment or upgrading the existing inventory.
- Temple Captures Classroom Lectures
The Fox School of Business at Temple University has created what it calls the nation's first large-scale, automated "academic capture system" that records classroom lectures and posts them online.
Learning Chinese Online
Looking towards a global future, North Carolina is using a $300,000 federal grant to create a pioneering online Chinese-language instruction program. Currently, only a few high schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district offer Chinese language instruction. Bu moving online, state education officials hope to be able to extend Chinese language instruction statewide. The program could also become a model for other states. Chinese is one of the most difficult languages for an English speaker to master; students need to learn the entirely new symbols that represent Chinese and adjust their ears for a language that is tonal in nature. Learning Chinese online will be a real challenge, but for many small or rural high schools that cannot find native-Chinese speakers to provide face-to-face instruction, it is the only option. Although the course is still under development, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has already received inquiries from 30 school districts. Course developers know that a key to success will be providing opportunities for students to engage in conversation. To that end the online course will include weekly session with "conversation coaches," native Chinese speakers with whom students will be able to practice the language. Since many questions remain to be resolved, the online classes will start small. This fall's Chinese I class will enroll 20 to 25 students. If all goes well, Chinese II will be added the following year along with additional basic classes.
Source:The News & Observer
Getting Computer Literate by Doing
Students in Peterson Middle School's computer literacy class who start out expecting to learn how to use a spreadsheet or word processing program may find their first assignment — finding the best place to plant milkweed to attract monarch butterflies — a bit of a surprise. But it makes perfect sense to their teacher, Bryan Osborne, whose goal for the class is to make the use of technology transparent to getting a job done. Osborne, a former high school biology teachers, believes that mixing science with technology is a good way to engage middle school students and get them thinking about the broader uses of technology. Students are tasked with selecting a species of milkweed native to California and finding out where that species will grow best. In the course of their year long project students use the Internet to research their species and its requirements. They use data loggers located in the school's nature reserve to monitor and record the available environmental parameters. They use a spreadsheet to analyze the data and create graphs. At the end of the project, they create individual web sites to present their milkweed project. Osborne uses two-way videoconferencing to link students to a monarch butterfly expert at the University of Kansas. By the end of the year, Osborne is sure that his students are ready to use technology to investigate any type of environmental problem, and by extension, any complex problems they may face.
Source:The San Francisco Chronicle
TechGYRLS, a new club sponsored by the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, aims high — helping girls from low income families to develop technical skills and encouraging them to consider careers in computer technology. For many of the 4th through 6th grade girls who participate, the club is their first opportunity to explore the wider world of resources that access to technology makes available. TechGYRLS is a national YWCA initiative whose goal is to increase the number of women in computer science and information technology careers and to narrow the digital divide that persists between communities that have access to information technology and those that do not, To keeps girls who may be new to technology engaged, the TechGYRLS curriculum is designed to help students see the immediate relevance of technology to their lives. In one project, the girls designed their dream bedrooms, searching online sites for furniture and other design elements. The girls learned more than just how to shop online, however. They used a computer program to design their bedrooms, kept track of their budget with a spreadsheet, downloaded photos of furniture they liked, and used drawing programs to design their own furniture. Other projects include animating five-day weather forecasts and using animation, fixed images and sound to create autobiographies. At the end of the 14-week session, the girls present their projects, practicing public speaking skills and developing self-confidence. The club is limited to 12 girls who each work at her own computer. In Chicago, two clubs are in session, meeting twice a week for two-hours. In addition, one day is devoted to an optional open lab period that allows the girls more time to work on their projects.
Inequities in Tech Resources Persist
As is true in many states, wealthy school districts in New Jersey purchase state-of-the art technology resources on an annual basis, while poor schools often must decide between adding new equipment or upgrading the existing inventory. As a result, students attending these poorer schools, many of whom do not have ready access to technology outside of school, also struggle with limited access at school. Schools in affluent areas such as Montvale are approaching a one computer per student ratio, while there are six students to every computer at Lodi High School and 11.4 students to every computer at North Bergen High. Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest and Old Tappan budgets $250,000 a year for technology, purchasing at least 100 new laptops a year. In contrast, Lodi High School manages to purchases just a few laptops each year, concentrating on equipping its classrooms with basic computers and upgrading its inventory. Experts do not agree on the importance of computer technology, with some arguing that it is more important to fund improvements to basic instruction. There are few studies that prove that technology access improves student achievement. But there is little question that students will be expected to be familiar with technology as they move on to college or work. This realization has led a number of parent associations in richer districts to raise money for technology. Some poorer districts that do not have such supportive parent groups have leveraged grants and state aid to improve their access to technology. Wallington used a one-year grant and funding from a recent referendum to buy laptop computers and computer labs, improving its student-to-computer ratio by 20% in the last three years. Wallington now provides better access than the state average.
Temple Captures Classroom Lectures
The Fox School of Business at Temple University has created what it calls the nation's first large-scale, automated "academic capture system." The TUCAPTURE system automatically records every minute of audio, visuals, even handwriting from every meeting of selected courses, for immediate webcast and podcast. The capture system works unobtrusively: Once a professor agrees to participate, lecture contents all semester long are automatically recorded by classroom equipment based on a timer that contains the class start and end times each day. Within five minutes of the class ending, the captured content is available online. Since July 2004, TUCAPTURE has spread across disciplines, colleges and campuses, giving thousands of users 24/7 access to class captures via Internet, iPods and more. Today, TUCAPTURE hosts more than 300,000 minutes of classroom recordings, with 4,000 fresh minutes captured weekly from a growing number of TU classrooms, courses, seminars and events. Surveys of TUCAPTURE users show high satisfaction, and suggest benefits to teaching and learning. Specifically, 80% of professors and students say that TUCAPTURE improved student learning, 73% say TUCAPTURE improved classroom teaching, and 63% say it helped with exam preparation. More faculty sign up to use the system every year and 96% of users return to use it again. Ninety-five percent of students say they would choose a class with TUCAPTURE over a class without it. Fears that such easy access to lectures will cause students to cut class seem unfounded; 85% of students sat that their attendance is the same or better than before TUCAPTURE was implemented.