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Articles: Technology

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.

Falcon Virtual Academy gives teachers 1,000 Macbooks.

Do school district leaders receive even close to a full return on investment for 21st-century technologies like online learning, videoconferencing and interactive whiteboards? Technology vendors and their most engaged, enthusiastic customers say that many educators leave significant potential untapped because they are unable to see how technology could be more transformative or are unwilling to make the bold moves necessary to align curriculum with technology rather than the other way around.

Debbie Karcher has worked in IT with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 27 years. After seventeen years with the district, she worked in the private sector for Amadeus and Motorola, returning in 2001 as CIO. She manages 500 people; 250 technicians are assigned to schools to support students and staff, and the rest are in development, training and security. District Administration often references M-DCPS, one of the nation’s largest districts. We felt it was time to talk with the CIO.

In a school with a large population of special needs and non-native English speaking students, frustration and surrender are major challenges for the staff. Turns out an animated penguin can make life easier for everyone involved.

Matthew Peterson is a co-founder of MIND Research Institute.

Special Education and a New Normal in Math 

By Matthew Peterson

In fifth grade, I was allowed to enroll into a normal class with normal students. I even started to feel “normal” until I had to ask the teacher how to spell the word “girl”. I could never remember if it was spelled G-R-I-L or G-I-R-L. I made a wild guess and penciled the word “gril.”

“That would be pronounced grill,” he explained. “In girl, the i sound comes before the r. Can’t you hear that?”

Teachers need training, professional development, curriculum ideas, and avenues to brainstorm with peers—all at the right time to make an impact in their classroom. This DA Web seminar, originally presented on May 16, 2012, demonstrated how schools are using Blackboard Collaborate to set up synchronous PD sessions where teachers can learn and connect throughout the school year, without having to leave the classroom. The event featured case studies from Georgia’s Cobb County School District and the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School.

A new type of laptop computer from Google, Chromebooks offer thousands of apps, integrate seamlessly with Google Apps, include built-in virus protection, automatically update and back up data in the cloud, and boot up in just eight seconds.

Administrators in the Richland School District Two in Columbia, S.C., made the decision to pursue a 1:1 computing environment in 2011. But with a target of over 19,000 district students in grades 3-12, and a wide variety of devices on the market to choose from, putting a computing device in the hands of every student was no easy task.

Zak Project

Students at The Emery/Weiner School in Houston are taking part in an unusual project. Ben Stern, a technology integration specialist and history teacher at the school created The Zak Project. The project’s purpose is to help students review for their final exam in a way that also commemorates a former student, Zak Rosen. Before he could graduate, he passed away of Familial Dysautonomia (FD), also known as Riley-Day Syndrome, which largely affects Ashkenazi Jews. According to Stern, Zak was a sweet, funny and driven young man who overcame the symptoms of the disease to lead a rich life.

Bullies to Buddies’ Victim Proof Your School, www.bullies2buddies.com

Channing Bete Company’s Prevention and Intervention for School Staff www.channing-bete.com

e2Campus Bully Buster mobile app www.e2campus.com

ePals’ In2Books bullying books www.in2books.com

First Student’s film “The Bully Project” www.thebullyproject.com

Vallas

Veteran Superintendent Paul Vallas is onto the next big thing.

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.

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