E-School News Roundup: May, 2010

I once wrote a blog post castigating eSchool News for a tendency to view technology as the solution to all school problems.  The line between "how can technology help schools achieve their mission" and "students love computers, so the more schools use computers the better they will be" is not always guarded, particularly when corporate press releases are loosely disguised as news.

CTDahle's comment about an article I list below argued this distinction - and eSchool News chose to print the comment in its paper version, which was sporting of them! 

But that understood, I value eSchoolNews as much as EdWeek. And of course, the opposite is also true: just because technology doesn't solve every school problem doesn't take away from its transformative potential.

I want to applaud E-School News today for pulling together a great range of storiesthis month.  They made my mind reel at the pace of change in educational technology.  Here are some stories that stood out for me, with a salient quote, and my comments on each.

  • Feds turn to ‘crowdsourcing’ for educational innovation: "The Open Innovation Portal [snip] aims to address educational challenges ranging from high school dropout rates to low reading, math, and science scores. ... "[Users can] post any innovative ideas relating to education issues. Users also can see others’ ideas and can review and rate those ideas based on need, impact, evidence, innovation, and scalability. ....[W]inners will be selected from among the best ideas...IBM will award up to three $50,000 technical service grants for each challenge."

Comment: I hope the three awards are only a start!

  • Report highlights ed-tech lessons from abroad: "Scotland and the Netherlands both invest significantly more federal money per student in information and communications technologies (ICT) than the United States, and they both view ICT as essential to classroom teaching and learning and in developing 21st-century skills....Scotland’s ICT investment takes shape in Glow, which is often termed “the world’s first national intranet for education.” The safe, free online environment gives students, teachers, and parents space to create and share resources.....Glow Groups allow classes to complete class work and homework online, work with other classes in different schools, and even work with pupils across the world on collaborative online projects."

Comment: Darn, you need a password to enter!  Here's a list of functions the Glow Intranet supports.

  • Augmented reality takes hold in K-12 Classrooms: "A small but growing number of schools across the nation are turning classroom lessons into engaging experiences with augmented reality (AR), a technology that overlays digital information on top of real-world surroundings as viewed through a smart phone or other handheld, GPS-enabled device....As students move around their physical location [snip] a map on their [device displays data] superimposed onto the physical world."

Comment: I think of Jamie McKenzie's idea of students as virtual museum curators - if students could easily create annotations that can be overlayed on a smartphone camera viewscreen, I imagine them trading smartphones and seeing the world through each other's eyes...or taking on roles before they do annotations. What would a fireman notice? an interior designer? a starving man?

  • Oregon schools adopt Google Apps for Education:"Oregon's 540,000 public school students will be able to get teacher feedback on classroom projects in real time and create web sites and online videos, after the state school system announced April 28 that it will be the first to use Google Apps for Education in K-12 schools statewide. ... Oregon’s districts will have use of Google’s services for up to five years....Moving to the free Google Apps for Education ... will save the state $1.5 million in IT costs because the service is hosted entirely on the web, with no hardware, software, or technology upkeep involved."

Comment: Portland adopted K12LTSP way back in 2002, and a statewide bill for open source alternatives was introduced the following year.  LTSP schools have the expertise to build Intranet servers to host open source apps that do most of what GAE does.  Will GAE "taste like" Open Source five years from now, when it is no longer free and the IT people who maintained the old systems are gone?

  • New Site is like Facebook, but for learning: "[Grockit] currently offers test-prep services and is expanding its focus to include math and English for students in grades 8-12, with history and science soon to follow. Grockit has opened enrollment for a free Summer Enrichment Academy, which is designed to keep students from falling behind during summer vacation as they participate in collaborative group study forums online. Grockit’s appeal lies not only in the fact that academic support from peers is free, but also because students are motivated to learn through the company’s social-networking and gaming platform"

Comment: I think "Grok" meant something more to Valentine Michael Smith than test prep, and Facebook means more to its users than "you can create profiles and play games".  But who knows?  Depending on the amount of empowerment students experience through their accounts, this could be something to watch and learn from.



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