The creative, tinkering brain atrophied, and quite logically, people began to think they couldn’t solve the problems they see in the world, says Leigh Mansberg, assistant head at St. Mary’s Episcopal School.
That mentality is caving in at the private East Memphis school, where two computer labs (obsolete now that every student has her own laptop) have been turned into “makerspaces”–Spartan, industrialized work areas designed so they can be swept clean and ready for the next burst of creativity.
(Next page: How St. Mary’s enables the Maker Movement)
Teachers are essential to a successful digital transition, and when it comes to the relationship between teachers’ unions and school district leaders, open communication is the most important contributor to that success.
School leaders gathered at Discovery Education to discuss strategies to involve all stakeholders in a district’s digital transition during an all-day summit and roundtable discussion held in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Area Superintendents.
As superintendents and district leaders talked about a variety of stakeholder involvement, a handful of clear strategies and approaches emerged as discussions turned to cultivating positive and productive relationships between district leaders and teachers’ unions.
(Next page: Five strategies for a beneficial relationship with union leaders)
An “eco-friendly” battery that converts carbon dioxide into electricity, solving two global challenges at once. An alarm system that saves children and pets from being left inside a sweltering car. Computer modeling that could result in new drugs for controlling flu outbreaks.
These projects might sound like the work of the nation’s top scientists and inventors, yet they were designed by K-12 students. They’re part of a growing wave of competitions aimed at encouraging the next generation of young innovators—while filling the pipeline for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) employees.
Sponsored by companies such as 3M, Discovery Education, Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, and Toshiba, these competitions challenge students to use technology to solve a key problem in their community or the world at large.
In the process, students learn how the STEM disciplines connect to their everyday lives—and they learn how to think like scientists and inventors.
They also learn the value of perseverance.
“The most challenging part of my experiment has probably been failing a lot of times, because I failed numerous times and it was hard to bounce back,” said Sahil Doshi, a ninth grader from Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., in a video clip. “But when I did bounce back, it felt great, because I knew I accomplished something.”
Doshi was the winner of the 2014 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a national science competition for students in grades five through eight.
Inspired by the 1.2 billion people worldwide who lack access to electricity and the rising levels of greenhouse gases, Doshi wanted to create an energy storage device that could help reduce greenhouse gases while generating electricity for those in need. His prototype, the PolluCell, converts carbon dioxide into electricity—helping reduce the world’s carbon footprint while offering a power source for developing nations.
For his efforts, Doshi won $25,000 and a trip to Costa Rica. Altogether, 10 finalists received cash prizes and other awards from 3M and Discovery Education, the two companies announced this month.
To enter the contest, students must record and submit a video about their idea for solving a problem and making a difference in people’s lives. Other finalists have proposed projects ranging from helmets that detect concussions to using solar energy for water purification. Entries are accepted from January through April, and the program has awarded more than $500,000 in prizes since its inception.
The prizes are nice, but Doshi said the ability to work with an actual scientist in making his vision a reality was the true reward. Program finalists have the chance to work with a 3M scientist as they create their innovations as part of a summer mentorship program.
“Access to a 3M scientist has … opened [me] to a whole new world of opportunities, where my thinking has now completely changed,” Doshi said, describing the experience as “incredible.”
(Next page: Learn about four other STEM competitions that foster student innovation)
Providing personalized learning environments and ensuring developmentally-appropriate teaching are just two of six competencies principals need to support teaching and learning during the transition from birth and preschool to grades K-3.
The competencies come from Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities, a report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and are an attempt to show principals and policymakers how much children benefit from education and learning from age 3 through the third grade. In order to take full advantage of this rich learning window, principals must focus on closing academic and opportunity gaps.
Child development in the Pre-K years must also be highlighted moving forward. “By bringing Pre-K expectations in line with those in kindergarten and the early school years, principals provide a coherent, related set of developmentally-appropriate experiences during the first critical years of schooling,” according to the report.
(Next page: Six competencies for Pre-K-3 principals)
A few students have iPods plugged into their ears as they try to bounce the ball between two digital paddles.
They’re not goofing off. They’re in a college-prep computer science class, part of the school’s Game Design Academy and one that counts toward admission requirements for the UC and Cal State systems.
The course puts San Francisco at the forefront of a national trend to incorporate computer science into public schools–and not just as an after-school program or elective. It’s a shift in thinking: Computers aren’t just learning tools, they’re a bona fide course of study–and one with hot job prospects.(Next page: Computer science expands throughout the nation’s schools)
With a few taps on a computer keyboard, a student’s entire school history from kindergarten to high school graduation was supposed to show up on the screen. That perfect score on a third-grade spelling test, that trip to the principal’s office for talking too much in class, that day of ditching math as a senior.
The computer software was supposed to help school officials schedule the classes a student needed to earn a diploma or attend college and to allow parents to track their children’s grades and attendance.
Instead, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s student information system, which has cost more than $130 million, has become a technological disaster. The system made its debut this semester and promptly overloaded the district’s database servers, requiring an emergency re-engineering. In the days and weeks that followed, many teachers were unable to enter grades or attendance or even figure out which students were enrolled in class.
Because of scheduling blunders partly stemming from the new system, students at Jefferson High School sat in the auditorium for weeks waiting to be assigned classes. A judge became so alarmed he ordered state education officials to intervene.
But a quick fix to the problems plaguing the system is unlikely. More than 600 fixes or enhancements are needed in the software, and there are “data quality and integrity issues” that include grades, assignments, and even students disappearing from the system, Supt. John Deasy acknowledged last week in a letter. It could take a year to work out kinks in the system just to enter grades, he said.
The district agreed to implement the student information system as a result of a federal class-action lawsuit two decades ago. The suit alleged that LAUSD violated special education students’ rights, in part, by keeping such disorganized records that it sometimes lost track of those students’ needs.
As part of a consent decree still overseen by a court-appointed monitor, the district promised to create a computer database that would track comprehensive information on every student in the district.
“The whole system needs to work,” said Robert M. Myers, an attorney for the lawsuit’s plaintiffs. “Having an integrated system allows someone to see the big picture.”
Among the immediate concerns with the system is that seniors are not being scheduled for the classes they need to prepare for college and might not obtain accurate transcripts in time to apply.
On Oct. 20, the court-appointed monitor is expected to release a report assessing the district’s progress in implementing the system.
The project has had a long and tortured history.
(Next page: What went wrong—and what other districts can learn from these mistakes)
As of December 2008, 11% of online American adults said they used a service like Twitter or another service that allowed them to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others
Over half of the adult internet population is between 18 and 44 years old. But larger percentages of older generations are online now than in the past, and they are doing more activities online, according to surveys taken from 2006-2008.
Investment in broadband has become part of the broader discussion about President Obama's economic stimulus package. How easy will it be to increase the pool of broadband subscribers or to encourage existing ones to upgrade their connection speeds?
The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years -- from 8% in 2005 to 35% now, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project's December 2008 tracking survey.
Voters expect that the level of public engagement they experienced with Barack Obama during the campaign, much of it occurring online, will continue into the early period of his new administration. A majority of Obama voters expect to carry on efforts to support his policies and try to persuade others to back his initiatives in the coming year; a substantial number expect to hear directly from Obama and his team; and a notable cohort say they have followed the transition online.
A survey of experts shows they expect major tech advances as the phone becomes a primary device for online access, voice-recognition improves, and the structure of the Internet itself improves. They disagree about whether this will lead to more social tolerance, more forgiving human relations, or better home lives.
Over half of American adults play video games, and four out of five young adults play games. Among adults, computers are the most popular gaming device, but among young adults gaming consoles are the preferred device for game play. And virtual worlds only draw a small crowd.
There is no shortage of suggestions to the incoming Obama administration about what to do about communications policy in the United States. The body of research from the Pew Internet Project, dating to 2000, indicates that online Americans might have one more suggestion: Make sure the internet remains a place where users define what it means to be digitally connected.