- Schools Struggle to Keep PCs Up to Date
Schools across Massachusetts deal daily with the challenges associated with an installed base of computers many of which are well past their prime.
- Online Classes Grow in Popularity
The number of Palm Beach County students enrolled in the Florida Virtual School (FVS) has grown from about 800 to 9,000 over the past four years.
- PA's Classrooms for the Future Coming Online
Pennsylvania's $200 million Classrooms for the Future program, designed to put laptop computers into the hands of all the state's high school students in English, math, science and social studies classrooms, has entered its implementation phase.
- MVU To Offer Mandarin Online
Next year, thanks to the Confucius Institute and Michigan Virtual University, every Michigan high school will receive one "free seat" in an online Chinese language and culture class.
- Wikipedia Rival Goes Live
Citizendium, a new, free, user-created online encyclopedia, is designed to avoid some of the pitfalls that have bedeviled Wikipedia.
Schools Struggle to Keep PCs Up to Date
Schools across Massachusetts deal daily with the challenges associated with an installed base of computers many of which are well past their prime. Faced with aging PCs that are unreliable and often cannot run the latest software, some students and teachers are bringing in their own laptops to school. But that creates another set of problems as district IT personnel worry about the possibility of these machines introducing viruses to the district network. Part of the problem is a lack of funding. It's been a decade since schools engaged in a big push to get computers into their classrooms and not all have been able to come up with continuing funding to ensure that the equipment was maintained and updated as needed. The state Department of Education reports that 80 of the state's 320 plus school districts are not meeting the state's recommended goal of providing one high-capacity computer (one capable of running most software) for every five students. Some districts have as many as 17 students sharing each high-capacity machine. And the more central technology is to the instructional program, the bigger the problem. Boston, which currently meets the states recommendations for access, is hoping to maintain that position by phasing in a five-year plan that would eliminate the yearly budget battles over upgrading equipment, software, and maintenance and ultimately have Boston leasing three-quarters of its 16,000 computers. Currently only about 40% of districts have a computer replacement policy.
Source:The Boston Globe
Online Classes Grow in Popularity
The number of Palm Beach County students enrolled in the Florida Virtual School (FVS) has grown from about 800 to 9,000 over the past four years. Other Florida school systems have experienced similar growth. FVS's online teaching program, now in its 10th year, offers more than 90 courses for middle and high school students. It strives to offer students an educational experience much like that of the regular classroom, despite its virtual nature. FVS teachers, who are required to be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., stay in close contact with students and parents. Roughly 40% of FVS's students are taking online classes to get ahead, earning extra credits, while another 40% are making up for failed classes. Palm Beach County also operates the Palm Beach Virtual Community School, a district program offering high school credits and GED courses completely online. Many of the Virtual Community School students are making up for failed courses. The district teachers who teach in the program use e-mail, instant messaging and phone calls to stay in touch with and support their online students. Some schedule group conference calls to encourage the exchange of information and ideas. While today's students may be very comfortable with the technology and conventions of online experience, they still need to be disciplined to succeed in the online learning world. Courses tend to be fairly unstructured and students need to pace themselves and be responsible for their own learning.
Source: The Palm Beach Post
PA's Classrooms for the Future Coming Online
A number of large school districts have launched one-to-one laptop programs over the last few years, many modeled on Maine program that puts a laptop computer in the hands of every 7th and 8th grader statewide. Pennsylvania has devised its own one-to-one model, whose goal is to put laptops into the hands of all public high school students over the next three years. The states $200 million Classrooms for the Future is designed to ensure there are laptops in public high school English, math, science and social studies classrooms across Pennsylvania. The implementation in the Greenville Area School District helps explain how the program will operate. Ultimately Greenville will receive 850 computers for student use. But first classrooms need to be prepared and teachers trained to use the equipment. During the first year of the program, Greenville is using its $49,000 grant to buy laptops for high school English and math teachers, equip their classrooms as "smart classrooms," and train them in the use of the equipment and how to integrate it into the curriculum. Smart classrooms include interactive whiteboards, classroom projectors, video and document cameras, imaging software and Internet access. The district also received a $40,000 grant to support a full-time technology coach who will guide technical needs assessments and develop strategic recommendations, identify appropriate instructional technologies and deliver hands-on, relevant professional development, working directly with teachers in their classrooms. Next year, the program will be expanded to include the district's social studies and science teachers and their classroom. All students in grades 9 through 12 will get their laptops next year. During the third year of the program, 7th and 8th graders will receive their laptops. Teachers will participate in a minimum of 30 hours per year of additional professional development on mandated content through the "21st Century Teaching and Learning" Series Courses.
MVU To Offer Mandarin Online
Next year, thanks to the Confucius Institute and Michigan Virtual University, every Michigan high school will receive one "free seat" in an online Chinese language and culture class, up to a total of 750 students. Schools will be able to enroll additional students at $275 a semester. The sponsors see this as a way of improving students' future prospects and positioning the state to attract new businesses and tourists. The Confucius Institute, housed at Michigan State University, is partially funded by the Chinese government as a way to promote China's business interests. Michigan Virtual University (MVU) was established by the state in 1998 to provide online education and training. The online language course was piloted last year with about 30 students. Some 200 students from 34 high schools statewide took the Mandarin language course this school year. Students take the one-hour online class four days a week and once a week participate in an online teleconference where they practice their language skills under the guidance of native Mandarin speakers from MSU. MVU currently offers two years of Chinese and hopes to eventually add an Advanced Placement course. According to the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language, 5,000 U.S. students were studying Mandarin in 2000. That number has grown to an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 today.
Wikipedia Rival Goes Live
Citizendium, a new, free, user-created online encyclopedia, is designed to avoid some of the pitfalls that have bedeviled Wikipedia. While anyone can read and edit Citizendium, they will have to use a real name to do so. Larry Sanger, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia, believes that anonymity contributes to some of Wikipedia's more publicized faults. The volunteer contributors to Citizendium are expected to provide their real names, have that identify confirmed and submit a short biography. And their contributions will be reviewed for accuracy by experts in given fields. Sanger originally conceived of Citizendium as a fork of Wikipedia. A fork copies everything in a given product and then goes off in its own direction. But he decided that it made more sense to start from scratch than to first mine the Wikipedia content for any potential "gold." Given the increased barriers to participation, it's likely to be some time, if ever, before Citizendium, approaches Wikipedia's three million member accounts. Citizendium currently has about 900 authors and 200 editors. Of its 1,100 articles, only 11 display the green check that indicates that it has been "approved" by editors.