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MOOCs require new skills from teachers and students

Andover (Mass.) Public Schools student can take MOOCs on biology, social justice, and Greek mythology.

K12 educators and administrators are beginning to experiment with the “massive open online courses”—better known as MOOCs—that have taken the higher education world by storm. In the name of academic experimentation and democratization, hundreds of colleges and universities are offering these courses free to anyone with an internet connection. Many of the courses attract thousands of participants.

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

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.”

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).

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.

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.

Only 16% of students feel “very prepared” to conduct research, according to a survey of over 1,500 students by Credo, an information skills solutions provider.