Tablets As Multi-Purpose Instructional Devices

Schools in Brunswick, Georgia will soon begin testing a set of 60 brand new iPads to see if the devices can be successfully utilized by students and teachers to further their educational goals.  Though studies in the last decade have shown little or no benefit to having laptops in the classroom, schools are looking to tablet PCs to increase the learning potential of their students.

The most recent tests on laptops in the classroom were done 5 or more years ago.  Brunswick schools are counting on massive increases in instructional technology since then, as well as the more controllable nature of tablet PCs.  Students can use the school’s new iPads to replace graphing calculators, perform research without leaving the classroom, etc.  Schools are looking at iPads to augment traditional forms of learning, not replace them.

The main goal now is to get tablet PCs into the hands of teachers now, so that they will be better prepared to innovate with the iPads in the future.

Read the full article here from The Brunswick News.

TechDirt: Judge Rules Demanding Students’ Facebook Password Violation of First Amendment Rights

After increasing reports of schools violating their students’ privacy by searching through their phones, facebook messages and other personal areas of the digital world, a judge has recently re-affirmed 20 years of decisions by ruling that requiring a student to give up their Facebook or email passwords is a violation of first amendment rights.

A student from the Minnewaska Area School District sued after being coerced by three school officials and a taser-armed cop into giving up passwords to her facebook, email and other accounts.  School officials did so after hearing rumors that the student had been talking about inappropriate subjects on the internet.

The Minnesota student won both on first and fourth amendment claims.  Head over to TechDirt for the full article.

“Safety” does not trump rights, just as surely as “policy” does not trump (or at least, shouldn’t) trump common sense and proportionate responses.

SparkEd: Lowering the Drop-Out Rate in San Antonio

The city of San Antonio is building itself up as the “City of Innovation.”  To get started, the city is focusing on building up their youth.  New efforts spawning from the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce economic outlook conference are aimed at lowering San Antonio’s 27% high school drop-out rate (which is almost 20% higher than the national average).

Part of these efforts include SparkEd, a program built to help middle schoolers in the city’s 30 lowest-performing schools.  During SparkEd (run by the organization Geekdom), students will “join a team, build a robot and create a website and sell it.”

Read the full article here on Silicon Hills News.

TED: Aaron Reedy Teaches Us How We Know About Evolution

Previously, we discussed Aaron Reedy’s innovative introduction of meaningful academic research into high school science classes.  I thought it would be interesting to touch on another area of his expertise.  Earlier this year, Reedy gave a TED talk about teaching high school students about evolution.  More specifically, Reedy discussed his approach to teaching how we know what we know about evolution.

Hopefully we’ll see Reedy’s talk on TED soon, but for now, you can read about it here on the TED Blog.

BONUS: Check out Aaron Reedy’s 2009 presentation on a 1000-mile kayak adventure he undertook to inspire his students.

Case Study: Innovative Education in Fall River, MA

We’ve mentioned in the past the importance of giving teachers flexibility to develop innovative coursework for their students.  Today, we’ve got two examples of exactly that happening in Fall River, Massachusetts.

The first is The Edmond Talbot Innovation School, which will present students in Fall River with career-based education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the arts.  The school will focus on giving teachers greater flexibility to create unique lesson plans and foster community partnerships.

The second is Swansea School’s Cardinal Prep program.  Cardinal Prep is a new pilot program designed to catch eight- and ninth-grade students who may be at risk of dropping out of school because they have fallen behind.

Both programs empower teachers and school leadership to innovate and build dynamic programs to give students quality, personalized education – a key factor in fostering good study habits and an interest in learning.

Read the full article here on The Herald News.

Hallway: How High School Students Are Innovating High School Business

Check out this awesome and empowering story via VentureBeat about Hallway, a homework helper site for high school students by high school students.

Hallway was started by a 17-year-old student after his homework help groups on Facebook garnered hundreds of members.  Sean McElrath, Hallway’s founder, realized a need in a market he understood intimately, and he filled that need with a unique product using technology already familiar to students.

Read the full article here on VentureBeat.

Scientific American: Large Scale Research at High Schools

Aaron Reedy – along with a select few high schools across the nation – has done something previously thought impossible.  His high school students have completed important, significant scientific research.  In this article, Reedy talks about how he rebuilt his biology class from the ground up in order to do meaningful research, ultimately publishing a real academic work with high school students as co-author.

While this scale of research is not common, there are some great lessons to learn from it, and hopefully this will be the start of a shift to more meaningful research in high school education.  Reedy closes the article with five good reasons scientists and teachers should work together:

  1. Science outreach works best when it is ongoing.
  2. Teachers are experts in communicating science to kids in a way that researchers are not.
  3. Researchers are in a great position to work with teachers to foster intellectual growth and develop original experiments.
  4. The best science learning experiences in schools are big enough to be shared.
  5. Outreach doesn’t have to take away time from research.

Check out the full article here on Scientific American.  What is your school doing to innovate its science education?

Case Study: Innovative Education in Maine

This article showcases how innovative education in Maine will help fill the gap between the skills employers need and the skills those entering the workforce have.  I think it’s interesting to note that even though this opinion piece discusses the unique situation facing Maine’s high schools and their students, you can draw parallels to the nation as a whole.  Schools in Maine are on track to create more and more students ready to fill high-paying positions that come up as the economy bounces back.

Read the entire article here on The Portland Press Herald.  Let me know what you think – is Maine on the right track?  What about the country as a whole?

WSJ: How Schools Can Teach Innovation

I stumbled upon this great article from the Wall Street Journal on how schools can teach innovation in order to educate the next Steve Jobs.  Many high schools have it backwards – failure is often a source of punishment, not  a source of feedback.

The top take-home points:

  1. Allow students to learn from their mistakes.
  2. Give students a hands-on opportunity to learn.
  3. Favor diverse education over narrow specialization.

Check out the whole article here on the Wall Street Journal, and leave your feedback in the comments below.  What are schools doing right?  What could be improved?