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Articles: Technology

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At the Chino Valley (Calif.) USD, Ruben S. Ayala Senior High School’s concert percussion ensemble uses digital displays from ViewSonic to enhance their performances. The vivid colors and crisp images that the displays project help make Ayala Senior High consistently one of the top teams in competitions. The ensemble can hang the signage with a crane 13 feet in the air, or use them as a stage and perform on top of them.

Schools are using digital signs more widely to convey information to students, faculty, and visitors. From emergency alerts to event schedules to touch screens to more creative uses—like backdrops for marching bands—digital signs are replacing posters that can clutter up a school, and are making communication more attractive, interactive, and efficient.

The evolution of digital signage

Dealing with a bully? Text a school official.

Bullies may use texts to harass their classmates. But many school districts now have anonymous texting systems that let students alert administrators to the bullies themselves.

Over 50% of all parents, teachers, and administrators regularly update a social networking site, according to the first results of the national Speak Up 2012 survey from Project Tomorrow. And 37% of parents say they wish their child’s teacher or school would communicate with them via text message, though only 23% of teachers say this is a common practice. BYOD is also gaining popularity, with 36% of principals saying they were likely to implement this policy in the 2012-2013 school year.

Open content, electronic textbooks, personalized learning, cloud technology and learning analytics are emerging technologies that K12 administrators will integrate into schools over the next few years, according to the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report on tech trends.

In addition, the report, which was released in June, predicts that within five years schools will be using even more far-out technology, including virtual labs, wearable technology, 3D printers and “augmented reality.”

In today’s blended learning environment, an increasing number of students and teachers have access to technology that extends the educational process well beyond the classroom walls. As part of this trend, school districts across the U.S. are implementing practices and policies that transform learning environments into one of participatory learning, for the purpose of improving student outcomes.

Participatory learning is a collaborative student-centered environment in which students learn from both their peers and teachers using digital media resources and other tools.

Saikaly and his team make their way up Mount Everest.

Adventure filmmaker Elia Saikaly was approaching the top of Mount Everest Friday when he took some time out of the climb to speak to a high school classroom in Canada about his journey.

Students talked via Skype to Saikaly at his base at the mountain’s Camp 2, about 22,500 feet above sea level. They asked him about adjusting to the cold climate, his diet (lots of eggs, meat and potatoes), how to train for such a feat (plenty of exercise and hiking trips), and what keeps him motivated (hot showers, strawberries, and his family).

The latest technology has made learning a little easier for unique students at any grade level with a physical or learning disability. Whether it’s software that adapts to their reading level, a tablet application to provide mobility, or having various resources at their fingertips, there’s something for all students to help them learn and communicate more effectively.  

School Fuel
Mobile Learning Platform

A student at the Beech Hill School in the Otis (Maine) School Department learns chemistry in a hands-on science lab over Skype.

Four students in Maine had the unique chance to study organisms on their shoreline this past year to help contribute research to a new chemical bond discovery that Vanderbilt University researchers made three years ago.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis observes students and educators participating in the Open Campus PA program.

This past school year has been a little less hectic for busy juniors and seniors at Hempfield High School, thanks to a new, unique online course-sharing initiative.

The Hempfield School District is in a suburban-rural community outside Lancaster, Pa., and is one of three local districts that have implemented Open Campus PA, a program that unites its high school with the nearby Penn Manor and Manheim Township districts’ high schools. The goal is to share teachers and selected online courses, allowing participating students to take online classes on their own time.

With so many cloud options, district CIOs should push vendors for details about their security and privacy services. “With the cloud, you have to ask big questions,” says Taiye Lambo, founder of CloudeAssurance. He suggests that CIOs assess three major security areas: confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Cloud computing is taking K12 by storm with fully 90 percent of K12 institutions relying on or implementing cloud technology in 2012, according to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). District CIOs are under increased pressure to cut costs and keep up with the latest technological trends, and implementing the cloud is an easy fix.

According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 91 percent of adult internet users in the United States rely on search engines to find information, and 78 percent get news online. Similarly, among teenagers, where smartphone adoption increased substantially and mobile access to the internet is pervasive, one in four is a “cell-mostly” user who accesses the web through a cell phone. Online resources continue to shape every aspect of our lives, and are enriching, extending, and transforming schools.

More than 50% of parents of children age 3 to 18 believe that schools should make more use of mobile devices in education, and 32% say schools should require them in the classroom, according to a new nationally representative survey. The survey from the research and consulting firm Grunwald Associates and the Learning First Alliance also found that 45% of parents say they have already bought or plan to buy a mobile device to support their child’s learning, and 71% believe mobile devices open up learning opportunities.