Friday, May 25, 2007

“Combining High Tech with High Touch”

Nationally Recognized EAST Program: Demonstrates How Students Can Provide Community Service Using Very Sophisticated Technology Tools

Far from the outdated, stereotypical picture of technology as cold and impersonal… take a look at how students are reaching out to their communities, with technology, and making a powerful contribution.

James Boardman, writer for eSchool News, describes how one high school program won the 2007 Founders Award:

May 1, 2007—Exciting things are happening in Star City, Arkansas. This small town of a little more than 2,000 people just learned that its high school Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program was named the 2007 recipient of the Timothy R. Stephenson Founder's Award by the EAST Initiative, an educational nonprofit that oversees EAST programs nationally.

How did a small, rural school stand out from the field of more than 170 programs nationally? The school merely motivated its students to outperform anyone's expectations in providing community service using very sophisticated technology tools.

All students, regardless of past experience or previous expectations, are encouraged, expected, and required to work in teams that tackle self-selected community service projects. In the context of these projects, EAST students often move beyond being "merely" volunteers and begin assuming roles of responsibility for solving local issues.

Students in this program have access to a wide variety of technologies to help them in their projects--from GIS/GPS applications, computer-aided drafting tools, and digital film tools, to high-end animation and web design tools, computer programming tools, virtual reality design tools, and so on. The EAST classroom is equipped with more than 65 different software applications in a student-maintained network of servers, workstations, and peripherals.

Read more about the EAST Project, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, National Technology in Education Plan. Find out how you could receive grant money for instituting this innovative program.

Then… Ask Yourself:

Could we do a better job of combining High Tech and High Touch?

EAST Initiative
Star City Schools

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Take that to the bank and smoke it!” Technology Offers Teachers the Ability to Give Students Instant Feedback to Correct Errors… Midstream

Have you ever “mixed your metaphors” or “confused your cliché” and wanted to instantly correct the error before someone heard the words come out of your mouth?

I was not able to stop silly phrases like, "It's not rocket science!” or "I'm looking for it like cats and dogs!" from escaping my lips, but using Texas Instruments new wireless calculator, teachers can now correct student errors midstream, even before the final calculation of a math problem.

The new Texas Instruments calculator sends wireless signals from pupils' handheld calculators to a desktop PC that lets teachers analyze and correct student errors before they can even complete the problem. According to the Texas Instruments Web site, the TI-Navigator system also lets instructors "get answers from every student, not just the vocal ones,"

USA Today interviewed TI Chief Executive Rich Templeton on May 15, 2007 at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.

“Texas Instruments, whose calculators helped make the company a household name, has found a way to help teachers quickly identify students who may be failing math”. "The teacher can understand who's not getting it" by assessing which functions students keyed into their calculators, Templeton said.

The so-called TI-Navigator sends wireless signals from pupils' handheld calculators to a personal-computer screen that lets instructors correct and analyze errors in real time.

“But calculators, a long time fixture in college mathematics and engineering classrooms, are more profitable than the semiconductors and cell phone chips we produce, and the company sees them as a core part of the business”, Templeton said.

With TI-Navigator, even shy students get a say in the classroom as teachers can review their calculations streamed wirelessly, and quietly, to the instructor's monitor, according to the company's website.

The system lets teachers "get answers from every student, not just the vocal ones," says TI's website. Instructors also can identify and correct common mistakes as they occur and, if necessary, adjust lessons as they go along.

Templeton was quick to note that the system, introduced about two years ago, is not designed to spy on students, but is meant to be used as a learning tool.

"It's about helping teachers understand the effectiveness of how they are teaching lessons and how their students are following along," Templeton said.

I don’t often comment about a specific product, but this reminds me of the individual student chalkboards we used (very effective, I might add) in the 1970’s. Students would hold up their boards for the teacher to see, and after four or five math problems we knew which students could continue with independent practice and which ones needed to “move to the round table” and receive different or additional instruction. I liked the idea then and I like it now that it has grown, through technology, to leverage teacher time and accommodate higher-level calculations.

Ask Yourself:
Do you believe wireless calculators can help teachers identify and help struggling math students more quickly?
Would you like to use them?
Do you have any really good Cliché “goof up” to share with us?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Keep Kids in School: Develop a “Don’t Give Up” Attitude

Do you know students who were silently labeled “hopeless” and eventually left school?

Based on calculations per school day (189 school days at seven hours each day), one high school student drops out every nine seconds. (National Dropout Prevention Center)

While certain factors may place students at an increased risk, overall students who dropout are by no means a homogeneous group. Low grades are only one reason; boredom, alienation, low personal expectations, schools’ propensity for suspension, full-time work, pregnancy, and marriage are all possible contributors.

It is imperative that schools have a good grasp on why their students are leaving.

  • Are they “stepping out” to pursue other alternatives? Do our own programs (such as work release) encourage this by making them feel as though they are no longer a part of our school community when they leave the building?

  • Are they being “pushed out” because we have given them few reasons to stay? It’s easy to continually suspend students for misbehaving, or let low achievers go prior to high stakes testing to keep scores high.

  • Or they “zone out” because they find little relevance in the curriculum or the activities available to them. Content must be engaging, and the context needs to reflect what is important in their social environment.

Some good news from Connecticut: Ordering children out of school is a longstanding and widely used form of punishment across the U.S., but that could change soon in Connecticut. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would permit out-of-school suspensions only for students deemed too dangerous or disruptive to be in school. Staff writers Robert Frahm and Matthew Kauffman of the The Courant, published by University of Phoenix, write about a new Bill that would put limits on schools ability to suspend students.

“A Punishing School Debate”, May 2, 2007,0,3979582.story?coll=hc-headlines-education

I believe kids want to succeed and feel valued. Always keep in mind, dropping out is usually the outcome of a long process of disengagement, and students who seem relatively stable can get suddenly shaky.

Take time to assess which students in your school are at risk of dropping out, stepping out, zoning out, or being pushed out before it happens. Be proactive in discussing strategies to keep them in school and learning.

Ask Yourself:

  • Do I believe out-of-school suspension is counter-productive?

  • Could I demonstrate a better “don’t give up” attitude for our students?

  • Could creative use of technology help us keep some kids in school?

  • Could we better utilize data (attendance, grades, suspension rates etc.) to identify and track possible student disengagement?

Let us hear your ideas!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Teachers’ Unions Finally Take a Unified Position on No Child Left Behind

After five years of following separate paths, the two national teachers’ unions are now taking a unified position on accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act, and are trying to influence it’s eminent reauthorization.

The National Education Association has been a staunch critic of the 5-year-old law, maintaining that it is an unfunded mandate with unattainable student-achievement goals. The American Federation of Teachers has argued that the law’s goals of raising achievement were sound, but that its policies need revising.

The two Education Week articles below have addressed this issue in recent weeks. From these authors we can reflect on the views of each union and how and why they are thinking more alike.

“Views of AFT, NEA on Reauthorization Getting Closer”
By: David J. Hoff

“Changing NCLB Is Top Topic at NEA Convention”
By: Vaishali Honawa

Ask Yourself:
What is the Unions' Role in Reauthorization of NCLB?

Do you believe the unification of efforts, by these two powerful unions, can help shape the direction of the reauthorization of NCLB?

If so, what impact could such changes have on teacher unions, and ultimately student learning, across the country?