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Articles: Technology

Classrooms, libraries, and labs used to be the only spaces where students spent their time. Wireless connections, laptops and project learning have changed that, and VMDO Architects has explored opportunities in buildings and in the landscape. Above, students at John Handley High School in Winchester (Va.) Public Schools gather in the newly renovated math/science wing.

Staying apace of rapidly evolving technologies and the innovative practices they enable remains a major challenge for school and district leaders concerned with keeping students on the upside of an expanding digital divide. As digital innovations emerge that require continuous upgrading of technological infrastructure, hardware and software, as well as training school personnel, district administrators are being called on to be more creative and strategic than ever.

In 2008, long before “bring your own device” was a buzz term, administrators at Marion County (Fla.) Public Schools (MCPS) were looking for an alternative to a one-to-one laptop program. Scott Hansen, chief information officer, says that one-to-one just wasn’t feasible for the 42,000-student district, so administrators considered other options.

SchoolSpeedTest.orgAs K12 education becomes more interconnected to videos, photos, software and Internet offerings for project-based learning and other lessons, there is a great need for schools not to only have access to broadband but also to have enough broadband to keep up with the array of new tools used in class.

Shravan RavishankarWithin a few months, each of Henrico County (Va.) Public Schools’ 13 magnet schools will have a fully automated application process, thanks to two high school interns who built the software program this past summer.

Banned Books LogoTo raise awareness of how school districts block web access for its students, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has designated Wednesday, Oct. 3 as Banned Websites Awareness Day (BWAD). As a part of the second annual Banned Books Week, the AASL is asking school librarians and educators to share how overly restrictive filtering web sites negatively affects student learning.

According to the Society for Information Display (SID), the key feature educators consider when purchasing new projectors is image quality. Manufacturers provide resolution, brightness and contrast figures to evaluate performance, but these specifications don’t address color quality. A new metric released by SID, color light output (CLO), will allow educators to evaluate color performance between competing projector models quickly and accurately. CLO or color brightness should be the same as the white brightness or white light output to ensure that images are vibrant.

School Specialty Path Driver for Reading School Specialty recently released Path Driver for Reading, an online screening and progress monitoring platform that predicts reading proficiency for students in grades K-10 using research-based assessments. Educators can schedule automatic oral fluency assessments, monitor progress, and view progress reports that include intervention history.
Socializing with classmates online gets homework done faster.

I recently asked a group of middle school students to name their favorite use of technology for learning. An eager eighth-grade girl said, “My work has gotten so much better since we started using Facebook to do homework at night in my math class. We’re all online together, so if I have questions, I get them answered while doing my homework, instead of the next day or even later. Sometimes my friends even explain the math better than the teacher, and we send each other links to stuff online.” Wanting to learn more, I asked her which teacher had set up the group.

Oh, What a Beautiful Oklahoma

In the curriculum feature story “Geography Ed for a Flat World” (June 2012), writers list several states that require geography and test it. Your article left out Oklahoma.

Oklahoma requires geography in the sixth and seventh grades. There is a statewide mandated test for seventh grade. That course and the testing have been in effect for well over 10 years. Most districts also offer full-year geography courses in high school; however, there is no mandated testing for geography at that level.

Education and medicine have seen significant increases in costs, but limited increases in benefits. Interestingly, computerization has been brought to the “back office” (record keeping, accounting, etc.) in both areas, but the front office, where doctors meet patients and where teachers meet students, has seen precious little computerization.

Students at Weller Elementary School use Avatar Kinect for learning.

Students at Steuart W. Weller Elementary School in Ashburn, Va., toss darts, play guitar, dance like rock stars, raft down rapids, and talk to youngsters in Romania. Yet there are no darts, no instruments, no DJs, no white water and no expensive international plane tickets involved. Instead, the students use their arms, legs and body movements to do the activities through a video game system, which also allows for live video chats around the world.

How successful are your Google searches when looking for instructional resources? If your results are subpar, you’re not alone. According to a survey that assessed how educators search for online materials, only 25 percent of educators described their searches as “usually successful.”

In May, the district rolled out a one-of-its-kind school bus that serves as a professional development site for teachers.

Professional development in the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Unified School District just got mobile—and we don’t mean tablets. In May, the district rolled out a one-of-its-kind school bus that serves as a professional development site for teachers to become acquainted with new technology before it’s introduced in the classroom. The purpose of the bus, which was dubbed eCoach, is to create an innovative environment for professional development and to deliver this technology seamlessly across all 31 schools in the district.

TED-Ed, an online content library associated with TED conferences, went live in April with the goal of enhancing classroom lessons and inspiring lifelong learning. It is similar to Khan Academy, but the videos are made by teachers from around the world rather than just one expert. They have received much praise in their first few months.

“The beauty of TED-Ed and the Khan Academy is that they are online libraries available to anyone with an Internet connection anytime and anywhere,” says Logan Smalley, director of TED-Ed.

Facing the twin specter of state and local budget cuts, Falcon School District 49 in Peyton, Colo., has done “some pretty radical things” with technology that have enabled the district to survive without drastic staff cuts, according to Kim McClelland, assistant superintendent and innovation leader for one of various regions in the district. The moves even allowed teachers to receive a 2 percent raise for the 2012-2013 school year.