Four “Kids-Only” Sites That Let Students Surf The Web Safely

Technology & Learning, November/December 1998, p. 10

An alternative to using filtering and blocking software to keep students from inappropriate material on the Web is to direct students to safe areas on the Internet designed specifically with kids in mind.

Jean Shields examined four of the most popular Web sites for kids and rated them on content and fun. She found that the sites fell into two categories: fun sites and work sites. The fun sites offer games, sounds, and other multimedia enhancements. The work sites are better organized and have links to material that could supplement curricular activities. Here are the pros and cons of the four sites the author evaluated:

Bonus.com: A fun play site that offers children ages 8-11 a place to play games, read up on entertaining news, and even color. Unfortunately, the navigation screen is embedded within the browser and results in a small viewing area. Also, the links to educational collateral materials are few and far between, and registration is required for the more fun features. (http://www.bonus.com)

KidsCom: Chat areas, quizzes, discussion lists, and multimedia games bring kids together on the site to form an online community that values creativity and communication. There is a lot of pressure, however, to submit personal information to the businesses who support the site. (www.kidscom.com)

Yahooligans!: Produced by Yahoo!, this site for children provides links to hundreds of online resources in categories that mimic traditional educational subject areas. The links on the site are selected by Yahooligans! editors who screen content for educational value and appropriateness for children. Thus, the site is a great place for kids to start surfing the Web. There are lots of links to current news and events. While Yahooligans! may not be as entertaining as some of the other sites, children will probably learn more. (www.yahooligans.com)

Kids Web: Another site that can help kids complement their classroom studies is Kids Web, and it has plenty of links to educational resources students will find useful. Produced by Syracuse University, Kids Web has a user-friendly interface, although it has even fewer fun things to do on it than Yahooligans. (www.npac.syr.edu/textbook/kidsweb)

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Three Keys To Successful Use Of The Web By Your Students

MultiMedia Schools, September/October 1998, p. 50

An Oregon middle school teacher has found that students face several difficulties when they try to use the Web for serious research and information gathering. Students are pretty good at clicking around through pages, but without guidance they will come away with nothing meaningful. The teacher recommends focusing on three areas of skill-acquisition when students go online:

  1. Navigation skills. Students first need to become effective surfers. Let them know that the slightest typo or misspelling in a Web address won’t work. Also, students need to learn how to recognize links and keep track of Internet resources they find.

  2. Evaluation skills. Students need to learn how to rate the credibility of a Web site. Just because something is in print or online doesn’t mean it’s automatically factual. Teach students to look for a page’s author and any hidden agendas the Web page may have.

  3. Comprehension skills. Once students find and evaluate the value of a site, they must understand and retain the information they find online. Develop worksheets that require students to fully understand a site and read all of the material it contains.
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Five Technology Programs That Use Community Involvement To Benefit Parents, Students, and Schools

Technology & Learning, November/December 1998, p. 18

Here are five innovative programs that bring students and their parents together to learn about technology:

  1. A Title I elementary school in El Monte, Calif., has found a way to reach out to the parents of immigrant children, who comprise a large number of the student population. A class called “Family Home Reading” was designed to help parents to encourage reading at home and used technology funds for computer lab equipment and training from a California technology grant. Parents now have a better sense of how technology can assist in the learning process for themselves and their children.

  2. A Greenville, S.C., elementary school has begun a program in which parents volunteer at evening computer learning sessions. The Parents and Children in Education (PACE) classes help parents acquire skills to become classroom volunteers and assist their children with technology in the home.

  3. Five schools in a consortium in Louisiana have used ED challenge grants to increase off-campus community access to technology. Each of the five schools provides an Internet connection at a technology center for student and public use, and encourages members of the community to engage the technology. Parents can see the effectiveness of technology in learning applications and can even work toward completing their GED. In the next year, the project will expand with additional funding from the Louisiana Systemic Initiatives Program.

  4. A California elementary school located in the heart of a technology business corridor is drawing from the resources and expertise of the parents who work at high-tech firms. The “Technology Scouts” program uses the professional experience of parents to enhance the instructional technology initiatives at the school. Parents answer technical questions that schools and teachers may have, review Internet sites slated for classroom instruction, recommend software and hardware, and arrange visits by guest speakers from top technology companies.

  5. A parent center in Buffalo, N.Y., uses Title I funds to incorporate technology into its adult education courses. More than 90 computers have been installed in two computer labs, where parents and their children can work together on different learning projects. The center also offers a program in which qualifying families can “check out” a portable computer for use in their home for up to six weeks.
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Seven Critical Steps For Building A Community-Based Technology Assessment Program

Technology & Learning, November/December 1998, p. 66

A community assessment program can provide valuable feedback and guidance for your school technology program. Here are seven key issues to address when forming one:

  1. Identify areas of assessment. Select an area of your technology program that could benefit from community-based assessment. Develop criteria by which projects are selected for judging.

  2. Determine assessment methods. Craft an evaluation and scoring system that is simple and easy to explain to community members. Decide the core levels at which projects should be judged, and incorporate these criteria into the ratings system.

  3. Select judges. Choose key stakeholders who can do the job well. A mix of educators and business people who support education technology initiatives is always a good place to start.

  4. Train judges. Since your community judges probably won’t have a lot of spare time to spend on training and orientation, keep things simple and straightforward. Instead of spreading out training sessions and judging over a couple of days, dedicate one full day for the entire program, starting with a continental breakfast and orientation in the morning.

  5. Map out presentation schedules. Determine how much time the panel will need to spend to evaluate each student group. This will depend on the nature of the presentations and projects.

  6. Channel results. Use scores for internal benchmarking and identification of trends. Give students general evaluations without scores, and include suggestions for areas of improvement on future projects.

  7. Prepare for critics. Have responses ready for people who question whether outside judges can assess student performance and whether such short training sessions can adequately prepare them. Also realize that this method is not overly scientific and is just one of many assessment methods available to you.
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Videoconferencing Program Spells Success For Limited-English Students

T.H.E. Journal, November 1998, p. 69

http://www.thejournal.com/magazine/98/nov/feat03.html

The Restructuring Educational Behaviors to Ultimately Improve Literacy in Dual-Languages (REBUILD) program has implemented videoconferencing as the primary tool to help limited English proficient students overcome obstacles to learning.

Through the use of videoconferencing, collaboration on lesson plans and teaching students at different campuses have improved test scores of students in the Gardena Complex of schools in the L.A. Unified School District.

Private technology companies have also been integral to the success of the program. Premio Computer, Lucent Technologies, and Zydacron all lent assistance, training, and support to the videoconferencing project.

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Initiative Would Bring Software And Internet Connections To Day-Care Centers

Education Week, October 21, 1998, p. 15

http://www.edweek.org/ew/vol-18/08ridge.h18

A controversial initiative in Pennsylvania would install Internet connections in more than 4,000 day-care centers at no cost to those licensed sites.

The program will cost $1.6 million and is the brainchild of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. Dubbed “Cyberstart,” the program’s main thrust would be to establish a “Creative Learning Institute,” which will be charged with the development of computer programs for pre-school children.

Critics are arguing that other developmental concerns need to be addressed in pre-school children and that technology can even be dangerous to young students by impairing their vision and motor skills development.

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Wisconsin School Technology Subsidy Under Attack For Funding Parochial Schools’ Internet Connections

Cybertimes, November 18, 1998

http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/98/11/cyber/education/18education.html

A state-funded school technology subsidy program in Wisconsin is under attack in a lawsuit filed by a group protesting the funding of Internet connections in parochial schools. The lawsuit, filed in early November by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., claims that state and federal laws mandating separation of church and state bar any such funding efforts by Wisconsin.

Educational Telecommunications Access, the Wisconsin program in question, is part of the state’s broader “Technology For Educational Achievement” (TEACH) initiative that was started last year and is similar to the federal E-rate program.

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Four-Step Guide To Help Your School Secure State Grant Dollars For Technology Initiatives

Converge, October 1998

http://www.convergemag.com/Publications/CNVGOct98/funding/funding.shtm

The Sacramento City Unified School District started from scratch with its search for funding for school technology, but they were not deterred from finding plenty of money:

The goal was to get 20 of the district’s 79 schools hooked up to the Internet in the first year. Here’s what they did:

  1. They applied for California’s Technology Literacy Challenge Grant. To do this successfully, they formed a team to write the grant proposal. This proposal included input from school officials on ways grant money could be used to meet the overall technology missions of the district, as well as feedback from technology vendors who offered assistance is setting up and maintaining the technology that would be purchased.

  2. The district then solicited help from business partners. These companies not only could provide funds for technology, but they also lent help with training, planning, and implementation. Moreover, establishing a relationship with local businesses meant increased chances that those businesses would hire the school’s technology-fluent graduates.

  3. The district applied for E-rate discount dollars to pay for network wiring and equipment.

  4. Additional funds can come from the California Digital High School Program to help finance the purchase of computer software and hardware.
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Five Ways To Win More Funding For Your Computer Training Programs

Converge, November 1998

http://www.convergemag.com/Publications/CNVGNov98/fundingtech/fundingtech.shtm

Nearly every major grant-giving education foundation has line items for training teachers to use technology in the classroom. Many organizations’ funding priorities especially emphasize funding programs that train pre-service and in-service educators.

To form technology training programs that will win support from these grants, schools must:

  1. Draft a restructuring plan that addresses minority teachers, multimedia-learning application development, lifelong learning programs, and cost-savings.

  2. Have teachers participate in newer technology-based teacher assessment and certification programs, which are often funded by these philanthropic organizations.

  3. Make sure instructional efforts at your school meet or exceed state and national standards in all subject areas.

  4. Steer teachers toward creating technology-based “portfolios” of students’ work for assessment purposes.

  5. Respond to the priorities of funding groups to emphasize minority training and inclusion.
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Technology Training Programs That Work For Low-Income Districts

T.H.E. Journal, October 1998, p. 70

http://www.thejournal.com/magazine/98/oct/feat2.html

The Camden School District in New Jersey uses a simple formula when designing its teacher training programs for technology: develop an external reward for teachers who participate, and secure commitment and support from the school board and administration.

With these two support mechanisms in place, the district began “Project T.E.A.C.H.” — a peer-based program designed to improve teacher’s abilities to teach using computers in the classroom. The external reward in this program was that teachers who participated would receive a computer in their classroom halfway through the training program. Teachers were selected on a competitive basis and had to commit to 100 hours of instruction to complete the program.

As a result of this training, schools were then able to open computer labs in every school in the 34-campus district — labs which would be staffed by graduates of the T.E.A.C.H. program.

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