Technology keeps kids tethered to their parents longer than previous generations

Keeping close contact with parents might not be a good thing, experts say.

The big deadline for high school seniors to choose a college has passed, and parents’ thoughts are turning toward the joy of less laundry or the agony of how to pay the bills — and perhaps toward how much they’ll be in touch with their sons and daughters come September.

It was not so long ago that parents drove a teenager to campus, said a tearful goodbye and returned home to wait a week or so for a phone call from the dorm. Mom or Dad, in turn, might write letters — yes, with pens. On stationery.

But going to college these days means never having to say goodbye, thanks to near-saturation of cell phones, eMail, instant messaging, texting, Facebook, and Skype.

Researchers are looking at how new technology might be delaying the point at which college-bound students truly become independent from their parents, and how phenomena such as the introduction of unlimited calling plans have changed the nature of parent-child relationships—and not always for the better.

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Research: 3D content can help improve learning

In a survey of high school students involved in the pilot, 76 percent said they preferred learning in 3D over traditional methods.

In one of the first significant studies of the effects of three-dimensional content on K-12 instruction, Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) found that the use of 3D content helped increase student engagement and led to better achievement in some cases—with the lowest-performing students seeing the greatest benefits.

Through a pilot project called “BVS3D,” Boulder Valley teachers used stereoscopic 3D content in eight classrooms within four schools during the 2010-11 school year.

The test sites included fourth-grade science and math classes at Douglass Elementary School, middle school science at Casey Middle School, high school science (including Advanced Placement Biology) at Monarch High School, and middle school social studies, math, and science in a special-needs context at Halcyon Middle-High School, a day treatment and educational facility for students with behavioral problems. Content providers included DesignMate, JTM Concepts, Cyber Anatomy, and Amazing Interactives.

BVSD partnered with Regis University in Denver to evaluate the results of the pilot project, and a formal report is expected next month. Len Scrogan, director of instructional technology for the district, shared the district’s early observations during the InfoComm 2011 conference in Orlando last week.

For more news about 3D in education, see:

3D printers give engineering classes a boost

3D content for education on the rise

eSN Special Report: Learning in 3D

A few findings stood out across all test sites, Scrogan said:

Higher levels of student engagement. BVSD observed three phenomena that suggested students were more interested in the content, he said: increased attention to the subject matter (focus), longer sustained focus on difficult materials (attention span), and better student behavior, as defined by fewer disruptions per lesson (classroom discipline).

Favorable reaction by students. In a survey of high school students involved in the pilot, 76 percent said they preferred learning in 3D over traditional methods. Elementary, middle school, and special-education feedback was similarly positive, Scrogan said.

Greater student clarity in understanding abstract concepts. “It provided a better visualization than the textbook,” said one student, referring to 3D renderings of cellular structures in biology. Another student said, “It was easier for me to picture it and understand the structure,” while a third said: “These 3D videos do help me learn [the content] easier, especially because I’m a visual learner. Seeing what is going on is much more helpful than just talking about it. … Because it’s in 3D, it’s literally in front of you.”


Solving the challenges of mobile device management

The federal e-Rate program does not discount the cost of the data plan.

While the potential for mobile learning with smart phones or other portable devices is huge, many challenges remain before everywhere, all-the-time learning becomes a reality.

One such challenge is how to police the devices to make certain students are using them only for tasks that have to do with learning and are not accessing inappropriate content.

A simple way to do this is via identity management, says Phil Emer, director of technology planning and policy at The Friday Institute, which is housed within North Carolina State University.

Emer says it’s inevitable that students eventually will be allowed to bring their mobile devices into school, and identity management can help make this happen. Each child should have an account, and any time students use a wireless device, they should be required to log into the school’s wireless network, just as enterprise users do, where they can be monitored. “You can even put it all together on a website for parents,” he says. If a student is doing something inappropriate, either the parent or the school sees it and can put consequences into place.

“People over-interpret CIPA [the Child Internet Protection Act]. They do little or no monitoring, they just filter the whole internet,” Emer says. Instead, he suggests, schools should filter the “clearly unsavory stuff” and leave the rest flexible.

Still, students will always look for ways around security. “It’s almost like an ongoing arms race between students and administrators,” says Michael Flood, education solutions practice manager at AT&T. But there are solutions, such as “middleware” software that AT&T and other companies provide.

In a mobile device environment, “you can force all traffic from mobile devices to route back through the district, so you have some assurance that access is as good as it is on campus. You can also implement a filtering system through the mobile network, through the carrier,” he says. Mobile device management (MDM) software also can help solve the problem. “Some districts require that MDM be installed on any student- or faculty-owned device if they want to use it at school,” Flood says.

He adds that some school leaders look at the issue simply from an “acceptable use” perspective, addressing it purely from a policy standpoint and not a technological one.


ED highlights best practices in school labor-management collaboration

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released a report called “Local Labor-Management Relationships as a Vehicle to Advance Reform,” highlighting the work of the 12 school districts that presented at its first-ever Labor-Management Collaboration Conference in Denver earlier this year.

As presenters at the conference, the 12 districts were represented by board presidents, superintendents, and teacher leaders, who shared stories and strategies about how they have worked together to move beyond the usual labor-management rancor to develop bold, student-centered initiatives.

The report is an important contribution to a relatively new field, ED says, studying how successful districts are advancing student achievement through better labor-management collaboration. The report uses presentations made by district leaders, interviews, and document analyses to summarize what these 12 local partnerships have accomplished and, more importantly, how they have accomplished it.

“The stories shared by these 12 districts paint a clear picture that kids win when adults join forces to improve policies inside and outside the classroom,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Sharing challenges and success stories—learning what works and what doesn’t—is critical to achieving effective education reform.”

ED commissioned education scholar Jonathan Eckert, a professor at Wheaton University, and 12 current and former Teaching Ambassador Fellows to research and author the report. The initiative was undertaken in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National School Boards Association, American Association of School Administrators, Council of the Great City Schools, and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.


$5,000 for promoting awareness of the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Trust Mini Grant Program awards grants of up to $5,000 each to support activities at schools and nonprofit organizations in Maryland and the District of Columbia that help promote awareness of and participation in the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers and streams. The Mini Grant Program is supported by a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Bay Watershed Education and Training Program.


College entrance exam ACT’s validity questioned

A new study has found that two of the four main parts of the ACT–science and reading–have “little or no” ability to help colleges predict whether applicants will succeed, USA Today reports. The analysis also found that the other two parts–English and mathematics–are “highly predictive” of college success. But because most colleges rely on the composite ACT score, rather than individual subject scores, the value of the entire exam is questioned by the study…

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Florida’s teachers union sues state over pension reform, plans further action

Florida’s largest teachers union filed suit on Monday to stop the enactment of new pension reform laws, the first lawsuit of potentially many that seek to halt the Sunshine State’s education agenda, reports the Huffington Post.

“The state has taken an ax to the budget instead of a scalpel,” said Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association (FEA), in an interview with The Huffington Post. “They’re turning their backs on teachers, law enforcement, firefighters, nurses. It’s not the way to go.”

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