Virginia using iPads to teach social studies


Pearson's new Social Studies app for Virginia schools.

Pearson's new social studies app for Virginia schools


In a huge step forward for K-12 education’s move toward an all-digital curriculum, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), in collaboration with education publishing giant Pearson, is implementing a pilot program that puts fourth, seventh, and ninth grade social studies curriculum on an iPad.

Supporters say this revolutionary education technology program will test whether students can better acquire knowledge of a subject if instruction caters to different learning styles.

The idea for Pearson to provide an entire social studies curriculum via the iPad was part of the VDOE’s “Beyond Textbooks” initiative, which is designed to “explore the potential of wireless technology and digital textbooks to enhance teaching and learning.” The initiative is supported by a grant from the governor’s Productivity Investment Fund, along with products and services donated by multiple private-sector partners, including textbook publishers and software developers.

The VDOE says it analyzed the commonwealth’s history/social science standards of learning (SOL) assessment data to identify elementary, middle, and high school history content with corresponding achievement levels that suggest a need for additional instructional resources and tools. School divisions were chosen to take part in the program based on their ability to provide the necessary infrastructure and support, as well as their existing relationships with participating textbook publishers.

Besides measuring simple student engagement, Beyond Textbooks also includes a research component to measure the impact of the initiative on classroom instruction. Researchers from Radford University will interview teachers, administrators, and students in the participating schools about how the use of digital textbooks affects teaching and learning.

“The experiences of students and teachers will be evaluated, and the knowledge gained will help policy makers, educators, and our private-sector partners better understand the potential instructional uses of interactive digital media and wireless technology,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright as she announced the Beyond Textbooks initiative during a news conference at Rich Acres Elementary School in Virginia’s Henry County. “We will learn what works in the classroom and build on that as our schools move beyond traditional textbooks.”


$1 million for STEM studies

To raise enthusiasm for STEM studies and to address the technology gap in classrooms, Samsung is asking 6th-12th grade teachers and their students to produce creative videos that explore the question: “How can science or math help improve the environment in your community?” Teachers can submit a short application for a chance to participate in the video contest.  Fifty selected classrooms will receive a Samsung camcorder and laptop, along with Adobe Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements software to create videos responding to the question.


$10,000 college scholarship for high school seniors

The DemandTec Retail Challenge is a math and science scholarship competition that lets high school seniors across the United States compete to win a monetary scholarship toward the college of their choice. Contestants also vie for the opportunity to ring the NASDAQ OMX Stock Market closing bell on January 10, 2011 in New York City. The competition is conducted through an online business simulation where students are presented with the sales, pricing, merchandising, and inventory history of a hypothetical assortment of retail products for a fictional retailer. The teams are responsible for maximizing profits by making daily pricing and inventory decisions. Using a modified version of DemandTec retail analytic software, students use historical data to create statistical models of consumer behavior and then make decisions each day as they are given additional information. Each Regional winning team will be invited to compete in the Semi-finals round, consisting of a three-hour contest, after which the top ten teams with the highest profits will advance to the Grand Championship round at NASDAQ in New York City for a chance to win a $10,000 college scholarship, sponsored by Netezza.


Awards for high school essays

The narrator of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” wants us to know that he is not “mad,” but can we believe him? In fact, how about the speaker in “The Raven”? He seems a little bit on edge, too, doesn’t he? We want you to decide, based on what you read in the poem and the story, whether these men are crazy or not. But we don’t just want a snap judgment – this is serious business. Go over these works like a detective, and give us hard evidence. We want you to point to specific moments in the story, and use them to tell us whether these two guys are nuts. Or maybe one of them is and not the other? Or neither of them? If they aren’t crazy, what’s going on here?


Software and other prizes for tech-savvy districts

This award honors districts for excellence in promoting informed practices, productive collaborations, sustained improvement, and an evolving awareness of their responsibilities to ensure safe, equitable, and ethical uses of technology.


Travel expenses for tech-minded educators

CoSN members are invited to nominate an ed tech leader in U.S. K-12 school district or educational service agency who has been a true technology champion. (The nominee does not have to be a member.)


Awards of $40,000 for foreign language research

The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship Program provides opportunities to doctoral candidates to engage in full-time dissertation research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies.  The program is designed to contribute to the development and improvement of the study of modern foreign languages and area studies in the United States.


$100K total for STEM video games

The Youth Prize aims to engage middle school students (grades 5 through 8) in STEM learning by challenging them to design original video games.  The Challenge will be open to students from any U.S. school with a special emphasis on reaching students in underserved urban and rural communities. The total prize pool will be $50,000.  The winners will receive AMD-based laptops, game design books, and other tools to support their skill development. Cash prizes and educational software will also be awarded to the winning students’ sponsoring organization with additional prize money for underserved communities.
The Developer Prize challenges emerging and experienced game developers to design original games for young children (grades pre-K through 4) that teach key STEM concepts and foster an interest in STEM subject areas.  The Challenge will feature a special prize for developers actively enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in the U.S. Special emphasis will be placed on technologies that have high potential to reach underserved communities, such as games built for basic mobile phones that address urgent educational needs among at-risk youth. Developers will be competing for a grand prize of $50,000.  Two prizes of $25,000 each will be awarded to the top entry submitted on the collegiate level, as well as the top entry for reaching underserved communities.


$5,000 for environmentally-friendly schools

The contest is designed to educate and create awareness about the positive impact trees have on the environment. One school or community will be awarded five unique, historical trees from AMERICAN FORESTS’ Historic Tree Program along with $5,000 for new school or community supplies. Participants can enter by submitting a creative video that is 90 seconds or less, or an online submission stating why they think their school or community deserves to win.


21st century library valued at $20K

Recorded Books K-12 and three-time Teacher of the Year award winner Alan Sitomer are challenging middle and high-school teachers to collaborate with their students and create a book report using modern technology. Videos should be a creative showcase of the students’ comprehension of the book and demonstrate how teachers can connect core standards with technology to breathe new life into the time-honored book report. Each entry must be a collaboration between the teacher and the entire class, a small group of students, or a single student. Teachers may enter multiple times with different groups of students. Twenty-five entrants will also win prizes for their achievement in certain categories such as best song, best use of the BookJam logo, and best involvement of teacher or principal.