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Telepresence Can Build Bridges Between Young Learners

February 3, 2012 at 10:04 am PST

Two classes of New Jersey middle school students recently enjoyed a unique opportunity for exchange with their peers. From neighboring towns, the eighth graders live worlds away from each other demographically—one town is largely affluent and white, while the other is mostly low income with a predominately black and Hispanic population. Each class studied John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and they visited each other’s schools to discuss perceptions of the novel.

As reported in The New York Times, the students at both middle schools found the interaction with their counterparts eye-opening and rewarding, both in terms of literary analysis and cultural understanding. The ability to see the text—and life—from a different perspective fostered a rich educational experience.

With telepresence and other collaborative technologies, students are able to mimic the exchange in which the New Jersey youth participated, except they could share ideas with and experience the cultures of peers not only across town boundaries, but also across state lines and country borders. Telepresence enables a real-time, high-definition connection that allows for a quality of conversation comparable to in-person interaction, creating a unified classroom across geographies. The telepresence set-up establishes an environment that feels inclusive and intimate—the students would feel as though they had traveled to each other’s schools. They could see the detail in each other’s settings, in clothes, hairstyles, facial expressions, and other aesthetics that make up parts of a culture. Read More »

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What Really Matters in K-12 Teaching and Learning? “Getting Beyond Folklore”

Over the past 40 years in the U.S., our student to teacher ratio has dropped from 22:1 to 17:1. Our teachers are better educated than ever – fully 62% today own a Masters degree, compared with only 23% in 1971. And we continue to spend – our nation’s investment in K-12 places us 4th in the world at $11,000 per student, trailing only Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Norway.

So, what’s happened to our reading and math test scores over these past four decades? Virtually flat.

Why is this?

Roland Fryer, the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard, would argue it’s due in part to the fact we really do not know what the problems are. His view: “it’s time to apply some science to the problem of student achievement in our schools.”

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Could Grade-Schoolers Develop Cutting Edge Mobile Video Technology?

January 30, 2012 at 10:48 am PST

A while back, we asked what features you think would make up a good video collaboration app for smartphones and mobile devices.

Do you have your list?

If so, you should submit it to this team of primary school students in Sutton Coldfield, England. The youngsters take part in an after school computer club, during which they design apps for smartphones and tablets. They’ve already come up with sound effects and “painting” programs; could video be next? Read More »

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e-Learning Technology: Promoting Creativity and Collaboration… On a Budget

January 27, 2012 at 10:49 am PST

When speaking with our customers and prospects in the K-12 community, we hear time and again that budget restrictions are a daily reality.

At the same time, these educators fully understand that in order to prepare the next generation for success in the 21st century economy, a “mixed” learning environment (where new, innovative technologies are incorporated into more traditional curriculum) helps to better engage students and improve academic performance.

From the boardroom to the barroom, American citizens, including President Obama, instinctively know that our K-12 public education system needs to be invigorated. From the President’s State of the Union address this week:

Give [schools] the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. And in return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test.

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BYOD or 1:1 Computing in K-12? The CTO’s Weigh In…

Significant technology developments continue to hit the USA K-12 market.

With Apple’s digital textbook announcement last week, we are now likely to see more acceleration of the spread of new student devices. Is this major announcement by the company that rapidly transformed computing, music and mobility the boost schools need to drive toward the promise of digital technology for all students? And what’s the resulting impact on device and computing trends in K-12?

On the topic of devices, we asked two of our leading K-12 Chief Technology Officer (CTO) customers to give us their opinions. BYOD? 1:1? What’s the better course to pursue? The answer would make Nike proud. While both noted device and equity issues one way or another, all said simply” “Just do it!”. What’s even more interesting – it wasn’t actually all about the device.

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