You are here


Curriculum Update

The latest developments in math, science, language arts and social studies

Stretching the Digital Canvas

Painter X from Corel makes it possible for art teachers to leave the traditional art room for the digital workspace that many professional artists use today. It comes with a free curriculum created by Stephanie Reese, an accredited high school art teacher and curriculum developer.

The curriculum is divided into three units, each covering five 45-minute classes. Educators interested in easily integrating digital software into a traditional high school art and photography environment can use the curriculum. Students can learn art history with samples by the Masters and practice their techniques. The software allows students not only to study Divine Proportions but also provides guidelines enabling them to digitally use and look for the technique in their own work.

The tools make it easy for beginners, as well as advanced students, to successfully customize their workspace. For teachers there is a Workspace Manager that can quickly create and install custom environments by class and study areas, such as watercolor painting or line drawing. Students can illustrate and paint in digital or traditional techniques, and the RealBristle Painting System gives the appearance of individual brushstrokes. The mixing and blending of colors is comparable to that of a traditional artist's palette.

Editing and reworking photos with the new photo toolbox creates professional results with just a few clicks.

"Educators are recognizing the benefits of teaching traditional art technique and theory in a digital environment. From watercolors to oils, pencils to palette knives, this software offers an incredible wealth of brushes, pencils, papers and paints that are out of reach for most schools' limited art supply budgets," says Rick Champagne, product manager for Corel Painter.

Handhelds in Hawaii

A pilot program funded by the Jacoby Group of Companies and supported by the Hawaii State Department of Education in 2005 supplied 1,000 students with Indigo Learning System wireless devices from LearningSoft. Teachers at Konawaena Elementary School use the miniature laptop look-alikes for state standard-based lessons and assessments. A teacher's classroom laptop or desktop computer manages the wireless communications and data transfer for an entire classroom. The project began with math only, where students keyed in their answers and teachers could immediately view results and adjust their teaching accordingly. The mini-wireless computer, with a 320x240 grayscale screen, runs on a rechargeable battery, has built-in speaker and audio jacks and uses a thumb keyboard. A 24-unit classroom stows away easily in its small recharging case. Claire Yoshida, principal at Konawaena Elementary School, says students are familiar with small gaming devices and can thumb information quickly. When asked what she needed for the next phase of the project, Yoshida suggested that a language arts component be added to take full advantage of the Indigo's word processing capabilities. This year the project was expanded to include an additional elementary school, and there are plans to offer the devices to middle school students in the future.

A Personalized Reading Coach

Remedial readers are able to increase accuracy, fluency, comprehension and confidence using a microphone headset, computer and Soliloquy Reading Assistant software by Soliloquy Learning. Stapleton Elementary School in Framingham, Mass. has been successfully using this software. Users read authentic text, and if they get stuck on a word, the software prompts the reader with the correct word and pronunciation. After reading a passage, students can play back their recorded voice for immediate feedback, using the "Play My Reading" feature. They can then answer questions based on their reading. Illustrations are offered in the primary version for early readers.

Teachers get comprehensive reports, which include student time on task, audio samples of the student's reading, and word count per minute. Because this has been such a success at Stapleton, a dedicated center has been established in the school library. The plan is to purchase additional workstations, because there are never enough machines or time slots to accommodate the number of students who want to use the program.

The software has Spanish translation for ELL (English Language Learners) and ESL (English as a Second Language) students and can be offered on stand-alone computers, self-hosted servers or by subscription from the Internet. At Fiske Elementary School in Wellesley, Mass., students use the network version of the Reading Assistant in classrooms and the library, and teachers share reports with parents.

ELL students at Skyline Elementary School in Cape Coral, Fla., began using the Soliloquy Reading Assistant this year. "The teachers of our second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders love the way the program delivered a patient, guided, oral reader for each student," says Judith Gault, Reading Coach at Skyline Elementary. "The children are getting the one-on-one support they need to strengthen their reading fluency skills.."

Cleveland's Universal Student Desktops

In December 2006, the Cleveland Municipal School District deployed AppStream software to simplify software application management. It allows the district to stream educational applications to 12,000 desktops in more than 100 buildings without physically loading the software onto each PC. "Once a program like Accelerated Reader is in AppStream it's available across the system-with appropriate licensing," explains CIO Thomas Bender.

Access has increased, since software is not tied to specific computers as in conventional systems where the computer is preloaded. "It's self-service. A student can use any PC in a building to access the program he needs," says Bender.

In addition, AppStream allows the district to measure time on task per application, per student. Time on task data combined with test scores helps the district determine the effectiveness of educational software.

The software also has provided the foundation for a universal student desktop. Next year CMSD plans to pilot student accounts and provide them with access to software based on course enrollment. For example, a seventh-grader could tap into the appropriate math, social studies and foreign language software on any building computer. Eventually, software could follow students from building to building or building to home, says Bender. Such flexibility could ease challenges that stem from a 30 percent student mobility rate, he concludes.