Study: Emerging Technology Has Positive Impact in Classroom
Stacey Roshan, an Advanced Placement calculus teacher at Bullis School—a private school for students grades three through 12 in Potomac, Md.—faced the problem of trying to keep her students engaged as she walked them through the difficult mathematics curriculum. During her previous three years at the school, Roshan notes, students were routinely stupefied by the traditional classroom lecture and often left class with more questions than answers.
"They wanted so much more time in the classroom to work on problems," Roshan says.
To meet the needs of her students, Roshan made radical changes to her lesson plans. Using Camtasia Studio, a screen recording and video editing program, Roshan uploaded her lectures to iTunes and assigned them as homework. "We've kind of reversed the whole dynamic of the class," she says. "Instead of lecturing in class, I lecture to them when they're at home, and we work problems together [in the classroom]. I liken it to an English classroom where the kids go home and do the reading and then they come into class and have this lively, engaging discussion."
Taught with the video lectures, Roshan's students in the 2010-11 school year scored an average of 4.11 on the AP calculus test, compared to the 3.59 average among her students who took the test and were taught in the traditional classroom setting the year before. And a third of the class—a 10 percent increase from the previous year—scored a 5, the highest score a student can achieve on an AP test.
Other teachers have successfully implemented technology in the classroom, according to a recent study by CompTIA—which surveyed 500 K-12 and college instructors across the country. The report, IT Opportunities in the Education Market, revealed that 78 percent of K-12 teachers and administrators believe technology has positively impacted the classroom and the productivity of students. Roughly 65 percent of educators surveyed also believe that students are more productive today than they were three years ago due to the increased reliance on technology in the classroom.
Jim Tracy, headmaster at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., sees the "process of technology coming into the classroom as inevitable." Under Tracy's watch, Cushing has provided an interactive whiteboard in every class and wifi access across the high school's campus for students to use laptops and tablets. Perhaps most noteworthy, however, is Cushing's implementation of an all-digital library.
"We were able to offer our students a library that was anywhere on campus where they were," Tracy notes. "For the same amount of money you would pay for a few thousand books on a shelf, you could have access to digital databases that give students access to literally millions of sources."
Working with a larger budget gives a school system more freedom and flexibility to purchase new tools and technology to use in the classroom. According to the study by CompTIA, 27 percent of K-12 educators believe obstacles, such as budgetary restraints, will make the adoption of new technology more difficult during the next 12 months. Respondents to the survey were instituted at schools with operating budgets ranging from less than $5 million to more than $100 million.
Tracy notes that, while having the luxury of a larger budget, Cushing's goal is to provide a technological guide for public schools. "Everything we try to do is designed to be an experiment," he says. "If it's successful, it's designed to be replicable in the public schools."
For a public school district, such as the Chicago Public Schools, budget concerns "are always an issue," says Talha Basit, the client computer service manager at CPS. Though there are more than 400,000 students among 675 schools, only about 100,000 computers and 5,000 iPads are available for student use.
CPS made iPads available through a grant process in which teachers had to apply for the technology and articulate how the tool would be used in their lesson plans. Using a management program called Absolute Manage MDM, Basit was able to track and oversee the usage of the tablets during the school year. "You can't just hand out iPads just for professional development or training for the teachers," Basit notes. "If you have the teachers who are motivated and know how to use a tool, we've seen some good results."
Basit says the jury is still out on test score improvements, but that the schools have seen improved attendance and a lot more enthusiasm from students. "The kids are eating this stuff up," he says.
While many educators have expressed goodwill toward the use of technology in the classroom, others are resistant to change. According to the study, 17 percent of respondents stated that purchasing new technology provides little benefit for students or instructors.
Kristen House, a former instructor at Belmont University and founder of A Novel Idea, a novel-writing workshop for middle school and high school students, believes that any school with a limited budget should be spending the money on training teachers. "As educators, we're expected to do so much with so very little," House says. "And instead of sitting down and getting to the root of the issue, which is the [student], we throw gadgets at the problem."
While acknowledging that the use of smart phones and tablets has helped students do research and communicate, House says that the technology is only as good as the teachers that are using it. "A great teacher can do more for a student than any amount of money or technology you can throw at it," she notes. "Gadgets go out of date and humans do not. We only get better with age and with teaching and our gadgets all break down."
Cushing Academy's Tracy believes that educators who are against the implementation of technology in the classroom are fighting a losing battle. "Students inhabit a 21st century world for 18 hours a day," Tracy says. "And, all too often, educators put them in a 19th century classroom for six hours of that day, and the students feel a tremendous disconnect. We have a responsibility to teach them the skills to optimize these tools."
With the implementation of technology being such a popular topic in high school, Bullis School's Roshan—who plans to introduce iPads into her AP calculus class next school year—suggests teachers stick with what makes them the most comfortable. "I don't think that your material ever gets old if you're delivering it effectively," she says.
Source: U.S. News & World Report
Innovation schools catch on
A growing number of school districts from Boston to Western Massachusetts are embracing a new kind of school to pursue educational innovations and compete more aggressively with charter schools.
About a dozen “innovation schools’’ are expected to open this fall, while another dozen should arrive a year later. The movement follows the launch of the state’s first three innovation schools this past school year.
“It’s really catching fire,’’ said Paul Reville, the state’s education secretary. “I would predict innovation schools in a relatively short period of time could surpass the number of charter schools in the state if the growth continues at the rate we’ve seen recently.’’
Innovation schools - a cornerstone of Governor Deval Patrick’s overhaul of public education - are part of the state’s efforts to create schools that operate with more autonomy than traditional public schools.
Innovation schools and the state’s 56 independently run charter schools are similar in that decisions about curriculum, staffing, and budgeting are made by a school-based governing board with the goal of crafting programs that meet the specific needs of their students.
But unlike charter schools, which report directly to the state, innovation schools must negotiate the extent of the freedom to make their own decisions with the superintendent and School Committee, and are bound by most provisions of the district’s teachers union contract.
The schools offer parents another educational option for their children, and the opportunity to help build a new school from the ground up.
The three school districts that tested the concept this past school year were able to create innovation schools with unique focuses.
Taking advantage of a new school building, Revere launched the state’s first innovation school, the Paul Revere Innovation School, where programs cater to the emotional and social well-being of students, most of whom live in poverty.
The Mahar Regional School District used the model to create a college-preparatory high school at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, while Greenfield launched a K-8 school that operates almost entirely in cyberspace.
The flurry of activity has pleased the Patrick administration and some key legislators, who wondered whether districts would allow schools much autonomy after an earlier attempt in the late-1990s fizzled.
Reville and other state education leaders hope the innovation schools will attain similar success as many of the charter schools, which have some of the highest MCAS scores and lengthy waiting lists for students to gain admittance.
School districts also have a big financial stake in making innovation schools work. Should these prove popular among parents, fewer students - and the education aid that supports them - might ultimately leave the districts for a charter school.
Students who leave their hometown district for a charter school take with them thousands of dollars in state aid.
The state, in an effort to close achievement gaps among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds, enacted the January 2010 law that allowed the creation of innovation schools. That law also calls for doubling the number of charter school seats in districts with the lowest state standardized test scores.
The timing of the law worked perfectly in Revere, as it prepared to open a new building for its Paul Revere Elementary School. Superintendent Paul Dakin said he approached the school’s principal and staff about converting the Paul Revere into an innovation school and they agreed.
“I see renewed energy in this school,’’ Dakin said as he strolled through the lobby, where the tile floor depicts Paul Revere’s famous ride, one morning last month. “They have a challenging student population.’’
The school has extended its day to allow for more tutoring and arts programs.
“I couldn’t be happier with what they have learned,’’ said Pauline Perno, who has three children at the school. “The school has a stronger sense of community.’’
The state has been offering planning grants up to $15,000, covered by federal Race to the Top money, to prod districts into exploring innovation schools.
Districts are either creating innovation schools from scratch or converting existing schools.
As part of its transformation into an innovation school for 2012, Carlton Elementary School in Salem is creating multiage classrooms that will allow students to advance at their own rate.
Students also will be eligible to enter school as soon as they turn 5.
“We are valuing the individual child,’’ said Jean-Marie Kahn, the school’s principal. “There are a lot of reasons why it might take a child a longer or shorter period of time to achieve the standards. . It erases the stigma of being held back.’’
The level of activity is what many state education leaders envisioned in 1997 when they made their first push for school districts to run autonomous schools.
At that time, the Legislature amended the charter school statute so school districts could open their own charter schools with approval from the state Board of Education.
During the first approval cycle, districts filed 13 proposals for in-district charter schools, but the state education board approved just five, upsetting school district leaders.
Just seven in-district charter schools are in operation now, although three will open this fall, including two in Boston.
By contrast, school committees have ultimate authority in approving innovation schools, but converting an existing school into one requires a faculty vote.
So far Worcester appears to be the most enamored with innovation schools; it is preparing to open five in the fall.
In Boston, the Roger Clap Elementary School will become the city’s first innovation school, which will intertwine its curriculum with the history of its Dorchester neighborhood and will offer an extended learning day.
The city also is developing seven other proposals, including a bilingual high school and an arts-focused K-8 school.
“The innovation model allows us to look at some existing schools and really make changes that will help kids in those buildings,’’ said Ann Waterman Roy, the School Department’s director of strategic planning.
The innovation schools are similar to the city’s pilot schools, which Boston started with the support of the teachers union in the mid-1990s to compete against charter schools.
Richard Stutman, the union president, said the union supports the concept of innovation schools but questions to what extent the quality of education differs at innovation, pilot, charter, and traditional schools.
“Part of this is designed to fool people and to offer them a menu of schools that look different but are actually similar,’’ Stutman said. “The quality of teaching is essentially the same among all the schools.’’
Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said charter schools welcome the increased competition.
“We hope the innovation schools are successful and we think the competition that they provide will make all of our schools, innovation and charter, better,’’ Kenen said. “When parents have choice, they force schools to continuously look for ways to improve and to keep students at their schools.’’
Source: Boston Globe
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