Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lots of interesting stories about technology in education

I have not fallen off the face of the Earth just yet--- I fell behind in reading and posting to the blog! I've been keeping up with pertinent news, by opening more and more tabs across my browser's window. Finally today I'm going through the articles and finding some pretty interesting stuff....

For instance-- for those in my local area-- I did not see this in the local news papers, but I did catch it on ASCD's SmartBrief (2/3 of the way down Successful Charter School...)-- KIPP's Harbor Academy in Annapolis will shut down next year. Not because they haven't been successful, but because they can't find space. This considering that Annapolis Middle School is half empty, but won't share space with the successful KIPP program.... very interesting. Honestly, I'm sad to see one of the 2 county charter schools close. It's definitely very, very difficult to be a charter school in AA County and in Maryland. With hopes of one day opening a school of some type, it's sad to see a successful model close its doors.

As for the rest of these links.... I'm closing out the browser windows and linking to articles that catch my attention!

  • Another cool quote from an interesting article about SMART boards and Promethean boards (seems the term SMART dominates even when referring to other company's products!): "It is this integration of technology into classrooms that is "really changing the classroom culture and helping us to become better educators," Cleveland Stewart, superintendent of the Gateway School District, told a group of district board members and elected officials last Friday." Check that out again--- technology integration is changing classroom culture and making teachers better. It's SO true. Even better--- those words came from a Superintendent! A little further down, another good quote, "Much of what we have incorporated into the classrooms is nothing new to many of our students. They already use much of what we're now just bringing into the classroom," Ms. Teaters said."
  • Educators aren't the only ones trying to tap into our students' technology tendencies.... Doctors are now using technology to reach / teach kids also!

    "Physicians and nurses at Cook Children's Medical Center are urging youngsters to try a shoot-'em-up computer game called Re-Mission that teaches them about their disease and pushes them to keep up with treatments.

    Re-Mission is just one example of an emerging spate of so-called "serious games" that blend technology, entertainment and education to reach the so-called Xbox generation."

    The article discusses other potential uses for these 'serious' video games, including awareness games related to healthy living and childhood obesity.

  • Another fascinating article about San Diego rolling out a 1-to-1 initiative using custom laptops running Linux.
    It starts with a great goal: "Always-On is split into three phases, and SDUSD is in the middle of the first phase, which began in March. The project's goal is to give students access to laptop computers with software tools and resources to help prepare them to learn, live, and work in the 21st century."
Here's how it's working now: Phase I of the pilot, which began in March, used $300,000 to fund machines in nine elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. Each teacher has his or her own set of laptops; some have the same students all day long, and others rotate students, so the students who go to that specific teacher's classroom have access to the laptops."
  • Now if this article summary doesn't grab you, I'm not sure what will!
    East Chicago, Michigan City, Switzerland County, and Tell City share more than a common Hoosier heritage: They--along with more than 70 other Indiana high schools--are using inexpensive computers and open-source software to reinvigorate teachers, engage learners, and ensure that Indiana's students are prepared for the world of tomorrow.
    Great quote about kids today: "When asked if the Linux operating system and open-source software had hampered his productivity in any way, one student said, "It's mostly the same--the web is the same, the word processor is better than what I have used before, and Moodle is great. I have a Windows computer at home, and my friend has a Mac. I use Nintendos, Xboxes, and PlayStations, and I also use my cell phone, my sister's cell, and my friend's. They are all just a little different, but it is no big deal. It's just nice having access to computers in my classrooms." It's clear that today's students are routinely involved with multiple operating systems and software as a regular part of their lives.
    The results?? It's working!

    "I have never seen this degree of collaboration and excitement among teachers in all my years as a superintendent. The students are excited, too. It works," says John Williams, superintendent of the Rush County Schools.

    "These are not computer labs. The technology is in my classroom. Every student has access [to a computer] every period of the day. The computers are available on demand," says Carla Beard, English department chair at Connersville High School. "Not only do we use a variety of software packages, we also have full access to the internet and all of its resources. inACCESS is making a positive difference in learning. Students are engaged and feel more comfortable with rigorous research on more complex topics. This is what they are used to and how they have learned to work."

    I think that just about sums it up! If only we could get all schools and students to that point. Access to technology is critical. It's exciting to see progress in that direction and to read positive reports about successful programs!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Data, data, data

(If you skim this post, make sure to catch the site links!)

I'm sitting in an intense presentation about using data to make instructional decisions. Today's full day session is an overview of the importance of data and an exploration of several methods of examining data. This is in preparation for our follow up training using our new technology tool that will give teachers/principals/the district access to incredible amounts of data that can be organized in a variety of ways. (I must admit that this tool seems to pack a whole lot of power.)

Tapping into my love for math and numbers and my past experiences in diving into data as a math department chairperson, this presentation is right up my alley. It's bringing back lots of memories--- not only the late nights of sorting through data and creating visual representations that made the data easy to understand quickly-- but also my passion for using data to improve student achievement.

We're focusing on 100% Stacked Graphs and Scatter Plots--- boy does this ever answer our students' questions of when will I ever use this math lesson. It's amazing to see the power of adding a line on these graphs and comparing student performance from year to year. I know I can't capture this in words...but trust me, it's amazing to look at one graph and end up with 4 conclusions --1) meeting standard and improved over last year, 2) meeting standard and decreased performance compared to last year, 3) not meeting standard, but showed improvement over last year, and finally 4) not meeting standard, and decreased performance compared to last year. While it's very exciting data to have access to, I can also remember the anxiety.... I'm not sure I would have handled knowing that I had students in category 2 or 4. That's harsh to feel like I've failed students. I know there are always other factors that come into play, but none the less.... No matter what, access to this data will have powerful implications.

This software will work with previous years' data as well as current formative and summative assessments. Another very cool feature of this software is the ability to click a button and get a matrix that will split your students into groups for re-teaching, enriching, etc... So cool! What a time saving feature.

Two websites have been mentioned that no one in the room was familiar with....
  • -- go ahead, find a school you care about-- you'll see the basic info. Now take it to the next level.... do an opportunity gap analysis. This will compare your school to other schools that teach a similar population and provides an opportunity gap. This site is doing extensive research to identify the factors that make successful schools function-- check out the research section.
  • --provides more data and analysis features (I didn't explore this one as much so I'm not too familiar about the features!)

Understanding the power of these sites should compel all of us to dive into the data a little more so we are informed when the public starts asking questions.

My questions---
  • As this develops it's obvious that the next step will be using this data to compare/rank teachers (and even being able to factor in the varying levels of difficulty represented by each child).... how will this impact our teachers?
  • How long will it take to train teachers and school-based staff to use this data effectively so that it is integrated into all decision making?