Digital access, collaboration a must for students


Students are voicing their opinions about educational issues such as access to digital media tools and online learning.
Students are voicing their opinions about educational issues such as access to digital media tools and online learning.


In a national survey that reveals K-12 students’ use of technology at home and at school, students overwhelmingly agreed that access to digital media tools and the ability to collaborate with peers both inside and outside of school can greatly enhance education.…Read More

Adventure Learning: Authentic online learning

Students and teachers gain valuable real-world experiences online.
Students and teachers gain valuable real-world experiences online.

Adventure learning (AL) is a recent framework used for designing and developing online learning. This AL approach engages teachers and students using a blended approach in the delivery of authentic, adventure-based narratives.

The blended, online, and web-delivery approaches to online learning in K-12 classrooms are growing rapidly as teachers and students have increasing access to the internet and teachers are becoming well-versed in the use of web-based technologies. Online learning is here to stay and there is much concern about the quality of distance education design and delivery, with numerous studies offering models for effective technology implementation and integration.

Today, good design and pedagogy mixed with the latest technologies affords many opportunities for learners within and outside the classroom, including motivational approaches such as Adventure Learning.…Read More

Texas ed-tech conference charts new waters in education

The theme of TCEA 2010 was "Charting New Waters."
The theme of TCEA 2010 was "Charting New Waters."

How to offer a successful online-learning experience, and how to integrate technology in meaningful ways with even the youngest of learners, were two of the many education technology themes explored during the Texas Computer Education Association’s 30th annual conference last month.

With a theme of “Charting New Waters” in education, the conference—held Feb. 8-12 in Austin—also featured a rousing keynote speech from Christopher Gardner, the man whose life experiences inspired the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, and an exhibit hall with hundreds of ed-tech companies showcasing their latest products.

Here’s a roundup of our TCEA 2010 coverage.…Read More

As online classes boom, questions of rigor arise

A fast-growing number of K-12 students in Minnesota and across the nation are migrating from the classroom to online learning. But while some Minnesota online schools tout impressive test scores, many fall short of statewide performance levels in reading, science, and especially math, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Many educators say that’s because struggling students often turn to online options, but others question the rigor of some online programs. “We’ve seen several cases where students … earn a whole bunch of credits so fast that it’s inconceivable,” said Charlie Kyte, head of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. He said virtual learning can be valuable, but the quality varies widely. Minnesota has at least 24 certified public online K-12 programs. State test results from these online schools are all over the map. Some beat statewide performance; many fall far below. Only 3 percent of students were proficient in math last year at Insight School of Minnesota, and only 17 percent at Wolf Creek Distance Learning Center. “Eighty-five percent of our kids are at risk,” said Tracy Quarnstrom, Wolf Creek’s director. “We run about 20 percent teen parents, and we have students coming out of [drug treatment]. … Still, we need to prove that we can get kids to the point where they need to be.”

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TCEA sessions focus on tech for all ages, online learning

Online learning programs are most successful when they are well-structured.
Online learning programs are most successful when they are well-structured.

The second day of the Texas Computer Education Association’s 30th annual conference was filled with sessions focusing on STEM education, online learning, and iPods in classrooms, as well as a keynote speech from author and journalist David Kushner that focused on what makes today’s tech-savvy generation tick.

One session focused on how kindergarten through second-grade educators can incorporate technology into their classrooms and give young students a chance to experiment with technology. Alyssa Isam, Raschel Wagstaff, and Kristyn Marek, all teachers at Buda Elementary in Buda, Texas, led attendees through easy technology solutions for young children.

Some educators maintain blogs to keep parents updated on class progress, the presenters said. Special at-home activities are posted on the blogs so that students can print the activities from home or print them at school if at-home internet access is problematic. For completing and returning these activities to the teacher, students can choose a prize or special activity in the classroom.…Read More

Report reveals spike in online course enrollment

Three-fourths of public colleges believe online courses are "critical" for long-term success.
Three-fourths of public colleges believe online courses are "critical" for long-term success.

The 2009 Sloan-C report on online education confirmed what campus officials have seen during the country’s economic downturn: Americans are flocking to web-based college classes.

The seventh annual study, based on responses from more than 2,500 colleges and universities and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, reported a 17-percent increase in online course enrollment, with more than one-fourth of U.S. college students taking at least one web-based class during the fall 2008 semester.

Three-fourths of campuses with online programs said demand has increased over the past year, and two-thirds of colleges that don’t offer web courses said students had requested online learning.…Read More

FETC 2010: Online Learning Communities

2859_echalkeChalk, which sells online communication and collaboration tools to connect K-12 communities, unveiled its newest release, eChalk 10.0. The software features enhancements designed for more effective communication among school leaders, teachers, students, and parents, including a web site layout manager, free parent accounts, and redesigned web mail. Thanks to a partnership with PropellShops, the online platform also includes built-in “school stores”: fundraising sections in which school leaders can choose items for sale and set prices.

it’s learning, a global provider of learning management system (LMS) software that began selling to U.S. schools early last year, demonstrated its fully hosted online platform for delivering individualized instruction. What distinguishes it’s learning from other LMS providers, said Jon Bower, president of the company’s U.S. division, is its underlying technology that can take a “flat” course file that a teacher uploads and convert it automatically to a hierarchical file that can differentiate, or personalize, the delivery of course content to individual students or groups of students. (Teachers must tag the content appropriately for this to occur, Bower explained.) With it’s learning, each student receives an Individual Learning Plan, and the software monitors students’ progress, showing them how they are doing with their work. Reports also show administrators, teachers, and parents where further instruction or intervention is needed to help students master the content.

School systems now can use Skyward’s K-12 administrative software to facilitate one-to-one computing initiatives, the company said. Recent additions to Skyward’s software suite, such as Student Access—and its Online Assignment feature in particular—can complement a district’s laptop program well, said the company. Today’s students work with a variety of online applications, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, and the Skyward Student Access program harnesses that familiarity by incorporating features of the social media experience into the student’s educational environment. Students have the ability to review and complete assignments online, make course requests, read and respond to messages via a message center, use a custom personal calendar, eMail school personnel, respond to teacher surveys, and more.…Read More

New tools will make online courses more accessible

Florida Virtual School's latest innovations could help students with reading disabilities.
Florida Virtual School's latest innovations could help students with reading disabilities.

Florida Virtual School (FLVS), a pioneer in K-12 online learning, is adding to its reputation as a national innovator with the introduction of read-aloud functionality and other accessibility tools in its online courses.

The announcement, made in the school’s home state at the 2010 Florida Education Technology Conference (FETC) in mid-January, means students taking FLVS courses soon will be able to use a built-in text-to-speech reader and other tools designed to make online courses more accessible to students with a range of learning challenges.

Through a new partnership with technology provider Texthelp Systems, FLVS courses will be updated to include a toolbar with read-aloud functionality, as well as study skills tools, a dictionary, English to Spanish translation, and a research tool for conducting web searches on any selected word.…Read More

What Bill Gates is learning online

Bill Gates' new web site reveals his thoughts on open courseware, school reform, and more.
Bill Gates' new web site reveals his thoughts on open courseware, school reform, and more.

It’s no surprise, really, but it turns out Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates is a strong supporter of the open-courseware movement that has swept through higher education in the last few years.

On a new web site that Gates launched this past week, he discusses some of his favorite sources for online lectures and other learning materials. He also offers his thoughts on education reform and a host of other topics.

“There are some great examples of how technology can enable almost anyone to learn from the world’s greatest minds,” he posted to…Read More

Has Google developed the next wave of online education?

Google Wave has a spell checker that uses context to correct misused words.
Google Wave marks the next step in collaboration capabilities for group projects, some in education say.

Combining text, audio, and video chat with features like drag-and-drop documents and interactive polls, Google Wave is a free web program that could add unprecedented depth to student interaction, many educators say.

Programmers who designed Google Wave, a tool still in development and only available through limited invites, started with a question: What would eMail look like if it were invented today?

The answer is a format that merges social networking with multimedia in an online meeting space where students and instructors can see each other type in real time, conduct private conversations, and edit documents simultaneously.…Read More