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Articles: Technology

gaming, minecraft

Seven-year-old Chanse, a first grader in Kathleen Gerard’s classroom at PS 116 in New York City, is in a “World of Goo.” On an iPad, he’s using his index finger to pull little black animated “goo balls” around the screen and to connect them in an attempt to build what will end up being a flimsy but balanced bridge made of oily glop. He’s building across chasms and cliffs, avoiding windmills and spikes, trying to connect to a pipe that will suck up any goo that he didn’t use to score him big points.

One of the most popular games finding its way into classrooms now isn’t much of a game at all. Released originally in 2009, Minecraft is a “sandbox” 3D video game built in a Lego-like environment that allows “players” the creative freedom to build anything, from towering castles set high on ocean cliffs to complex roller coasters.

Fifteen schools in Maryland have been involved with a special project from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) to bring STEM education—science, technology, engineering and math—to middle- and high-school students, working in partnership with agencies like the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Keeping Up With Tech Innovation

In response to DA’s District CIO coverage the past several months, I’d like to say we can save money and time if we can get better at designing curriculum that spans content and allows us to do more in less time. The time can be used for better professional development in technology integration. 

In the near future, we will see fewer traditional school buildings. Taking their place will be affinity schools, organized around students’ interests, and more STEM labs strategically located to offer easy access. Blended learning will be the norm, with individual students needing their own device. Networks will deliver higher levels of broadband performance to accommodate the growth in online learning. Technology combined with global learning will change the ways schools look today.

Social media tools like Facebook, Myspace, Instagram, Google+ and Flickr are potentially exciting learning and teaching tools that can help teachers and students make connections to ideas, skills and concepts in a 21st-century learning environment. However, social media are getting a bad rap in education. Some students use the tools in ways that pit their First Amendment rights against their responsibilities as students in brick-and-mortar schools.

Apple reports that 1.5 million iPads are used in K12. Given that there are approximately 55 million students in K12, the iPad has penetrated K12 faster than any other computing technology. And the tech tsunami doesn’t seem to be slowing down. We have seen this type of excitement before with desktops and then again with laptops, although their rates of growth in K12 were slower. Each time the expectations for what the computing device would do for education were sky high, and each time there was disappointment.

With a vast number of new software and Web-based reading programs on the market, students of all ages and abilities can target specific reading skills, such as comprehension, fluency, phonemic awareness and vocabulary. In addition, access has changed greatly over the last couple of years. Students no longer need to be in a computer lab to use Web-based programs; they can use laptops or tablets as part of a one-to-one computing program or their own devices if their school has a bring-your-own-device policy.

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According to new research from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), U.S. schools will need broadband speeds of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students by the 2014-2015 school year to meet increasing demand for Web-based lessons and the growing number of mobile devices used in the classroom. –Source: SETDA (2012)

 

Abrams

Palm Beach County (Fla.) School District is the latest district to take its social media accounts to the next level. The district is launching its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, which will represent the district as a whole as opposed to individual teachers or administrators. The district’s public affairs department will run the operation, coinciding with a growing trend nationwide to emphasize social media.

1. Seek out ideas. Those who have already implemented virtual schooling can offer plenty of suggestions on how to get an online learning program off the ground and keep it flying.

2. Invest in design. Spend time and resources up front on instructional and Web design to make sure that online courses deliver their content effectively.

3. Get competent teachers. Find teachers who are adept in areas such as promoting collaborative learning, pacing long-range student projects, and working individually with students.

Virtual school programs—especially online high school courses—are gaining traction in school districts around the country. According to a report issued in November 2011 by the National Center for Education Statistics, 55 percent of the more than 2,000 school districts surveyed had students in distance education programs during the 2009-2010 school year.

Discovery Education

For Collier County (Fla.) Public Schools, an urban district of 51 schools equipped with document cameras, interactive whiteboards, projectors and fiber-optic Internet connections in all classrooms, adopting digital textbooks made perfect sense.

NAF Mobile apps

About 200 students attending National Academy Foundation (NAF) schools, which offer industry-focused curricula in urban public school districts, have been designing their own mobile applications during the spring semester thanks to a partnership between NAF and Lenovo and with cooperation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This partnership is teaching students the skills needed to flourish in the ever-expanding mobile app market after high school.

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