Week of: October 15, 2007
- Data Driven Teaching
Careful analysis of test scores and other student data is helping teachers fine tune instruction to the specific needs of individual children.
- NY Teachers Turn to Whiteboards
A recent demonstration of interactive whiteboards at the Odessa-Montour Central School District had teachers clapping with excitement.
- Baltimore County To Test Online School
The Baltimore County (MD) Public Schools (BCPS) is launching a virtual school pilot program for grades K-11, targeted initially to students who are home schooled.
- Harnessing Social Networking for Language Learning
A startup web site combines online social networking and immersive language lessons to motivate and support language learners.
- Google Lunar X PRIZE
Google announced the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a challenge for private companies to land a robotic rover on the moon that will send at least a gigabyte of images back to Earth.
Data Driven Teaching
Careful analysis of test scores and other student data is helping teachers fine tune instruction to the specific needs of individual children. It's a big job, but software and data analysis tools are making it easier for teachers in Maryland classrooms to get the job done. This summer a number of teachers from the Carroll and Anne Arundel County school systems learned about the data available to them and how to use it to help their students. The standardized testing required under No Child Left Behind is generating a lot of information about student progress. Maryland school districts are creating data warehouses to gather the information in one place and turn it into meaningful information for classroom teachers. Though much of the data - test scores, attendance data, educational background, grades — has always been available to teachers, new computer tools makes it easier to access the information and drill down to get specifics that can help them shape their instructional plans. Knowing that a group of students scored poorly on the probability section of the state math test allows a teacher to tailor instruction to that group. The classroom goal is to differentiate instruction. Teachers are also finding that the data supports collaboration. They are able to learn from peers who excel in specific areas of instruction and seek advice about how to address specific needs.
NY Teachers Turn To Whiteboards
A recent demonstration of interactive whiteboards at the Odessa-Montour (NY) Central School District had teachers clapping with excitement. Even before they had the chance to experience the electronic whiteboard first hand, teachers could see that it was a tool that would add a real spark to their classroom lessons. This was borne out by some district teachers who had piloted whiteboard use the previous year and praised the boards for bringing new life to their classrooms. Students take more ownership of learning when they can come up to the board and demonstrate new concepts or show their mastery of a skill. Interactive whiteboards are connected to a computer and can display programs and activities that students can interact with using a pen-sized stylus or even their own finger. Teachers can also display web sites and capture information displayed on the board — like an annotated diagram — for posting to classroom web sites. District leaders believe that the increased student engagement is worth the expense of outfitting classrooms with the new technology tool. A complete system costs about $8,000. The Odessa-Montour Central School District has spent about $200,000 from grants and Excel Aid funding on whiteboard systems; equipping roughly one-in-four district classrooms. Superintendent James Frame hopes that additional grant money will allow the district to outfit every classroom within the year.
Baltimore County To Test Online School
The Baltimore County (MD) Public Schools (BCPS) is launching a virtual school pilot program for grades K-11, targeted initially to students who are home schooled. The school system will provide families with all curriculum materials, including textbooks and online lessons, free of charge. The Virtual Instruction Program (VIP) will also provide a professional, Maryland-certified teacher to work with the family via telephone, email, and web conferencing. Any child who enrolls in the VIP pilot program will be considered a BCPS student and will receive full public school credit for his/her work. The school system will count VIP students as part of the enrollment figures used to determine federal aid to the school system. Students will also be expected to participate in the Maryland State Assessments for their grade level (with help from the VIP program to prepare for these tests). The pilot will serve 200 families. At the end of the school year, BCPS will review parent interest in and satisfaction with the pilot program; furthermore, student performance will be evaluated to determine if the VIP program will continue for future years. The Maryland Home Education Association sees VIP as an effort to co-opt the home school movement and stem any further erosion of public school enrollment. If the program is continued, BCPS will expand VIP to serve students who are at home because of medical issues or otherwise need an alternative to a traditional school setting.
Harnessing Social Networking for Language Learning
A startup web site combines online social networking and immersive language lessons to motivate and support language learners. Live Mocha is focused on helping language students become competent conversationalists. To do this, it matchers learners with native speakers worldwide. Using tools made familiar on social networking sites, users are able to identify and contact native speakers of their target language. It's this kind of interaction that develops an understanding of a language in context - the use of colloquialisms and the nuances of how a given language is spoken in a specific location. Founder and CEO Shirish Nadkarni believe that as people form friendships with native speakers, they will be more motivated to learn. Gail Keech, a beta tester of the site, reports that it was such contact that motivated her to move beyond the German she set out to learn to begin to study Chinese. She was contacted by so many Chinese speakers who wanted to practice their English, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand her language environment and try Chinese. Keech likes being part of a network with something other than a pure social basis and says she enjoys the chance to practice a foreign language in a way that gives cultural perspective. Live Mocha is still in its testing phase. Nadkarni expects it to launch officially early in 2008. At that time plans call for the site to support 25 languages in addition to the English, Hindi, Chinese, Spanish, French, and German it currently offers.
Google Lunar X PRIZE
Google announced the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a challenge for private companies to land a robotic rover on the moon that will send at least a gigabyte of images back to Earth. There's a $20 million prize for the first company to meet the challenge before the end of 2012. If no one meets that deadline, the prize is reduced to $15 million until the end of 2014, when the offer expires. The X PRIZE Foundation will run the contest. The X PRIZE Foundation hosted the Ansari X Prize contest, which led to the first manned private spaceflight in 2004. The lunar challenge will not be easy. Contenders will have to build a lunar rover and fly it to the moon, either by building their own rockets or contracting with a rocket company. The rover will be required to travel at least 1,312 feet across the lunar surface and return a package of data including self-portraits, panoramic views and videos. The X PRIZE Foundation is also sponsoring the 2008 X PRIZE Lunar Rover Botball Design Challenge, an optional activity for robotics teams registered to compete in the Botball Educational Robotics Program. The competition challenges students to create a website about their conceptual mobile robot that will win the Google Lunar X PRIZE.
Source:The Washington Post