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Superintendent Maureen Sabolinski went door to door to drum up voter support for a new high school in the Franklin (Mass.) Public Schools. Sabolinski visited local coffee shops to tell community members they also would get to use the new high school gym, walking track, theater and library.
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
It was a daunting project, seemingly impossible to fund with traditional municipal bonds, says Yonkers (N.Y.) Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio.
In 2010, a building condition study showed that his district needed $480 million for capital improvements to existing school buildings, while new schools needed to be built given an expected enrollment increase of 3,000 by 2020, for a total of $1.2 billion.
Record lows in student enrollment and staggering budget cuts have forced some of the nation’s largest districts to close schools, a disruption that has often interfered with classroom instruction.
“Many big urban districts have declining enrollment, as there is exodus to the suburbs and charter schools,” says Ron Zimmer, associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, an expert on these trends.
Over 50% of all parents, teachers, and administrators regularly update a social networking site, according to the first results of the national Speak Up 2012 survey from Project Tomorrow. And 37% of parents say they wish their child’s teacher or school would communicate with them via text message, though only 23% of teachers say this is a common practice. BYOD is also gaining popularity, with 36% of principals saying they were likely to implement this policy in the 2012-2013 school year.
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.”
While a 2013 survey of middle and secondary school teachers by the Pew Research Center confirmed that digital technologies have become central to their teaching and professionalism, the continuing development of the internet, mobile phones and social media technology brings new challenges to K12 districts, and the need for up-to-date professional development. Indeed, standing still with digital technology means you are falling behind, and your staff needs opportunities to evaluate and implement new options.
Updated July 1, 2013:
“Do a triangle pose,” a teacher says to her third-grade students during one of their bi-weekly yoga classes. “Good. Now a gorilla pose. Now you’re a mountain.”
This is yoga at Encinitas USD’s nine K6 schools. The poses’ names have been changed to be less religious. They are part of a complete physical education program designed to help students stay calm, focused and physically active throughout their day, says Encinitas USD Superintendent Timothy Baird.
St. Louis Public Schools, the largest district in Missouri, was struggling to stay afloat in 2007, with $40 million dollars of debt and low test scores. In March of that year, the state school board revoked the district’s accreditation for not meeting state standards and took control.
A human-like robot that can mimic emotions and play interactive games can help students with autism develop social skills.
Aldebaran Robotics’ “ASK NAO” robot, which is about two feet tall, mimics an emotion with gestures and sounds, and waits for children to recognize the emotion. It may then ask children the last time they experienced such an emotion. It also can teach autistic children time, taking turns, basic conversation, and other communication skills.
Many teachers will spend this summer learning classroom strategies to best align with upcoming Common Core standards.
Common Core is the topic teachers have requested most for summer professional development, says Karen Beerer, Discovery Education’s vice president of professional development for Common Core State Standards. “Contrary to popular belief, the standards are not one size fits all,” she says.
Native American students face a dropout rate of over 12 percent—more than double that of their white peers and higher than that for black and Asian students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
High teacher turnover rates and few native teachers in the classroom are part of the problem, says David Thomas, a U.S. Department of Education spokesperson. The Indian Education Professional Development Grant seeks to change that by providing Native Americans a chance to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree and become teachers or administrators.
Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will no longer face suspension for minor acts like not coming to class prepared or refusing to remove a hat.
The total unfunded liability of U.S. teacher pensions is currently anywhere from $390 billion to $1 trillion, according to recent estimates. In an effort to bolster depleting pension funds, some states are enacting laws that cut benefits and require more contributions from employees, according to a June report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “The Big Squeeze: Retirement Costs and School District Budgets.”
One significant impact of this year’s federal budget sequester is its toll on scientific research, with many organizations and research institutes facing the likelihood of huge cuts to their funding. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, for example, could have $8.6 billion taken from its budget, while the National Institutes of Health anticipates $1.5 billion in cuts. And the National Science Foundation, which faces $283 million in cuts, is under additional pressure from Congress to fund only “approved” scientific research.
Whether it’s lecturing in a large classroom, a play or concert in the auditorium, or a football game on the athletic field, the proper lighting and sound equipment throughout a school can make a difference. Having the right technology, such as speakers, microphones, and lights in these environments can make for clearer communication, increased engagement, and an overall enhanced learning experience for teachers, students, and the school community.