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Articles: Virtual

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Johnson (top row, center) with students in a welding certification intensive at Kodiak High School.

People hear “rural” and think endless woods and farmland connected by interstates and picturesque windy roads. But in parts of Alaska, rural can mean having to hop on a ferry or a small plane to get from place to place. Eight of the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s 14 schools are on small islands. Only 156 students attend these eight schools; the rest of the district’s students attend schools on Kodiak Island proper. The 21 teachers in these rural schools are required by the district to teach all subjects, making them akin to the teachers in one-room schoolhouses years ago.

President Barack Obama, education technology funding, 2013 budget

Federal technology funding for K12 school districts has been integrated into various other funding streams. According to Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology for the Education Department, the technology marketplace will subsequently be more efficient in addressing various school and student needs in the coming school year.

EverNote

Keep notes and much more on a variety of synced devices, including tablets,

www.evernote.com

GoodReader

This application by Good.iWare Ltd. allows you to annotate PDF files.

itunes.apple.com/us/app/goodreader-for-ipad/id363448914?mt=8

Google Docs

This set of productivity tools is hosted in the cloud by Google.

www.google.com

iAnnotate

PresenceLearning

There is a shortage across the nation of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in schools, which has caused some districts to choose virtual speech therapy, which, according to current research from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a professional association for SLPs, can be as effective as traditional speech therapy.

Like most districts, the Camdenton (Mo.) R-III School District has filtering software to block content deemed inappropriate for students. Until recently, however, Camdenton was blocking Web sites geared toward supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. On Feb. 15, a federal district court ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a lawsuit filed in August 2011 on behalf of a Camdenton student.

First-ever national Digital Learning Day on Feb. 1 attracted participation from 39 states, 15,000 teachers and 1.7 million students . – Alliance for Excellent Education (2012)

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