Friday, November 30, 2007


Friday, November 30, 2007

High-tech schools pilot program puts kids in charge

Sunday, November 25th 2007, 4:00 AM
Barnuevo For News

Alyssa Deonarian uses a laptop to participate in a class assignment.

A Giant outline of the human body is projected onto a 72-inch screen inside Middle School 202, next to a jumble of organs and bones that belong inside it.

One by one, eighth-graders in the Queens classroom walk to the special screen. The kids - a mix of new English speakers and general and special-ed students - touch a body part and drag it toward the empty outline.

The traditional skeleton propped up in the classroom looks downright antiquated as it stands next to the interactive teaching tool called a "SMARTboard."

"It's awesome," said 15-year-old Joseph Guerra, who correctly placed the esophagus. Nodding toward his teacher, he added, "You can learn a lot more than if they're just talking."

The Ozone Park middle school is one of 22 across the city participating in a pilot program designed to create and test-drive the 21st century classroom.

About $13.4 million in capital funds, along with federal grants, have been invested into the so-called iTeach-iLearn schools over the past two years.

The pilot program outfits classrooms in the 22 schools with devices including SMARTboards, laptops, wireless Internet access and special lockers to keep all the technology safe when the school is closed.

Teachers receive training so they feel comfortable with the new technology, officials said, and each school has a specialist so technical difficulties don't derail lessons for days on end.

"It's teachers giving students the opportunity to take control of their learning," said Troy Fischer, director of the city's Office of Instructional Technology, which will evaluate the program at the end of the school year. "Students begin to bring more to the classes."

The pilot comes as other school districts across the nation debate the effectiveness of using similar technology in the classroom. Some schools that rushed to equip kids with laptops have since backed off, citing mounting costs and questionable results.

A study released by the federal Department of Education this year also showed that educational computer software made no significant difference in student achievement.

But teachers at MS 202 are sold on the new technology.

In her second-floor classroom, sixth-grade teacher Dana Matorella uses the newest gadgets to teach kids about ancient Egypt.

The students use laptops to research hieroglyphics, filling in their answers on work sheets. Then Matorella gives them a pop quiz - but instead of pencils, they pull out remote controls.

A question about hieroglyphics is projected onto the SMARTboard, and the kids enter their answers using the remotes, similar to how audiences are polled on TV game shows.

Instantly, Matorella can see that all but one child answered correctly - and only she knows who got it wrong. "It's anonymous and they feel free," she said. "They love when I say, 'Get out the remotes.'"

Principal William Moore was an early advocate of technology in the classroom, teaching astronomy courses online when he worked as a professor at the New School in Manhattan.

When he came to MS 202 several years ago, he put WiFi Internet access in the school and bought laptops for every floor. But he never imagined the changes he's seeing now. "We're lightyears ahead of what I ever thought I'd have here," Moore said. "It totally transforms the school."

In Joseph Birgeles' seventh-grade social studies class, students played an interactive game about the old Jamestown colony called "17th Century Survivor."

Afterward, they were asked to justify their decisions on a work sheet.
"They have lunch right now," Moore said, "and they don't want to leave."

Students at MS 202 said they preferred their high-tech classrooms to the ones in their former elementary schools - and particularly like the SMARTboards more than blackboards.

"It's easier to see and learn," said Kimara Davis, 12, who also doesn't miss using chalk. "It doesn't mess up your hands."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: On Two Fronts (U of M-Dearborn and the City of Detroit)

U-M might tap Detroit as a living classroom

November 29, 2007



Instead of studying abroad in England, Taiwan or Chile next year, University of Michigan students might spend a semester living, learning and working in downtown Detroit.

The program, expected to begin in fall 2008, would have students hold internships with community organizations, take classes taught by U-M professors at the school's Detroit Center and participate in community service and events.

Organizers of the program, who believe it would be the first of such a scope in Detroit, say it would immerse students in the life and culture of Detroit while fostering relationships between community organizations and the university.

The program would allow students to experience Detroit with city residents and leaders, not simply read about the city while in classrooms.

"It was conceived and is being created with the idea of being mutually beneficial to the city and the university," faculty adviser Stephen Ward said last month.

Local planners are creating the model for this in-depth type of service, but it draws from similar programs elsewhere in the country. Louisiana State University routinely sends students and faculty to rebuild hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, and the University of California, Los Angeles offers students service learning opportunities and internships in Los Angeles.

But the U-M program would be unique because students would forgo the societal comfort of a college campus and go home blocks, not miles, from where they work.

A budget has not been set, and the plan is working its way through channels to formalize it as a sustainable program, but U-M Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Lester Monts said the program is "a sure thing."

Organizers say they hope the program will open channels between the university and the Detroit community to help further the revitalization of downtown.

The program also has been pitched as a way to promote diversity at U-M after the passage of Proposal 2, the statewide affirmative action ban that bars the use of race and gender in admissions and financial aid decisions by public universities.

Ward said the program is a manifestation of a larger movement in the university and the nation to stop looking at inner cities as laboratories for study and to begin to partner with citizens and organizations for social change.

Alumna Rachael Tanner, 21, of Kalamazoo, a former student in Ward's Urban and Community Studies class, proposed the idea of a Semester in Detroit as a final class project. Fellow students formed a planning committee in January. Professors and administrative staff helped put the program into motion.

"We have a semester in Washington, D.C. Why not have a semester in Detroit?" Tanner asked. "The culture is so rich, but students spend so little time there."

The program would support 20 to 30 students and cost about the same as a semester at the Ann Arbor campus. Students would take 15 to 18 liberal arts credit hours studying subjects including the development of urban areas and grassroots responses to urban challenges.

Nick Tobier, a professor in the School of Art and Design who takes university students into Detroit elementary classes, plans to teach in the program.

Tobier said he thinks of Detroit as among the "most productive cultural ecosystems" and wants to bring more students into that atmosphere.

Students would spend the bulk of their time earning class credits at internships with community organizations. Guided by faculty, these students would be expected to secure the internships themselves. In preparation, a student planning committee is working with the university's Ginsberg Center to contact community groups that might be willing to host internships.

Tim Duperron, interim chief executive officer of Focus: HOPE, said the university's relationship with his organization has always been positive, and he would love to have Semester in Detroit's students intern there.

"They certainly have the right mind-set and the right spirit," he said. "I'm encouraged by this, because it will be done well, not superficially."

Classes would take place at and internships would be coordinated through the university's Detroit Center at Woodward Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard. The center serves as a university base in the city to conduct research and meet with community partners.

Organizers expect to buy a home near Wayne State University, where students in the program would live.

Western Michigan University has programs sending students to study internships in major U.S. cities, and Michigan State University sends students to Washington, D.C., in a program with internships and class time. None has programs of this scope in Detroit.

"That's something we're going to strongly consider in the future," said Karen Reiff, director of experiential learning at MSU.

Some see this as a way to bridge two disparate communities.

"Having a program would make a big statement that the university is committed to investing in the city," said senior Megan Hanner, 21, of Whitehall. "I have no doubt that the program would teach students the appropriate way to be invested in a city they're not from."

If he weren't graduating, senior Tom Szczesny, 20, of Bloomfield Township said he would want to spend a semester in Detroit.

"It makes a lot of sense because we're connected geographically, but there's a big disconnect between the university and Detroit," he said. "If you have something like Semester in Detroit, it brings a new awareness of the city."

Monday, November 26, 2007

21st Century Digital Learning Environments


Raising the Bar: What a difference a decade of "digital discourse" makes.

Computers transform classrooms

Gadgets get students excited to learn

November 26, 2007



The kids grab small voting devices on their desks, then punch in their answer to a question posed on the screen above them: "¿Cual es verde? "

In an instant, teacher Nancy Conn pushes a button and up pops a chart showing the correct answer -- the green square -- among six squares of varying colors.

All of this is happening on a large interactive white board -- a cross between a blackboard, computer screen and projector -- that Conn uses in her Spanish classroom at Hickory Grove Elementary School in Bloomfield Township.

The boards -- which will be in every classroom in the Bloomfield Hills Schools district by the beginning of next year -- are among the ways schools in metro Detroit are using technology to teach and capture the minds of a generation growing up in a digital age.

At Lottie Schmidt Elementary School in New Baltimore, students in Jim Alvaro's fifth-grade class create podcasts of their lessons, broadcast for anyone on the Web to hear. Rob McClelland, a teacher at the Oakland Technical Center campus in Wixom, has created computer games that help solidify students' understanding of key lessons.

And at Fisher Elementary School in the South Redford School District, students are learning Chinese and interacting with pen pals in China via a webcam, computer, projector and software.

"You always learn something new by using technology," said Natalie Joniec, 10, a Fisher fifth-grader.

Technology boosts performance

While some schools are pushing forward with plans to fully integrate technology, others struggle to do so in ways that engage kids and help them learn, said Ledong Li, an assistant professor of education at Oakland University.

And that's a problem, he said.

"If we deliver information like we used to do in the traditional way, kids are bored in the classroom," said Li, who organized a workshop in June on using video games in the classroom. "They don't feel they are engaged."

Li said technology can be intimidating to teachers who aren't familiar with how to use it, or how it can benefit their lessons. And so much is focused today on improving test scores that it's easy to see technology as an extra. Yet, Li said research shows technology can improve student performance.

Still, some teachers "look at the requirements for raising test scores as the kind of signal that they have to do things in a traditional way," Li said.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has announced proposed changes to teacher preparation programs, and he's making the integration of technology into teaching practices a priority. Last year, Michigan became the first, and still the only, state in the nation that will require students to take an online class or have online experience to graduate high school.

Ric Wiltse, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning, said budget crunches have impacted how schools integrate technology.

But, Wiltse said, "teachers are getting more and more creative about how they use the technology tools students have these days."

That includes Alvaro, whose classroom has a blog called the Skinny as well as the podcasts. The students worked on a project that had them research and write about when their ancestors arrived in the United States.

Games that teach

Today's kids are steps ahead of their teachers, in many cases. They instant message, text message, play video games, blog and use social Web sites like MySpace and YouTube.

"Everything we do is about technology," said Kala Kottman of Commerce Township, a senior at Walled Lake Western High School and the Oakland Technical Center campus in Wixom. "It's a big deal."

Kala, 17, is enrolled in the culinary arts program at the technical center. She was among a group of students in a computer lab playing a game created by McClelland, who provides support to fellow teachers.

There are about 100 culinary tools students must memorize, and while they still use rote memorization tricks, McClelland's game gives them a fun way to test their knowledge. McClelland has produced a similar game for two other technical center programs.

In the game, which is timed, students must quickly match a picture of a tool with its correct name.

McClelland programmed the game using popular phrases familiar to kids. For instance, if they click on the wrong answer, they're likely to hear the "D'oh!" popularized by Homer Simpson. If they get it right, they might hear a "Woo hoo."

Instant feedback

The Bloomfield Hills district is making a significant investment in the Promethean white boards. About $2.1 million has been committed to put them in all of its classrooms.

Conn was among the first to try them, and she said they make a difference in the classroom. The screen is connected to a computer, and it takes just a few clicks for her to call up lessons. The board also is interactive, allowing students to manipulate it.

The voting system allows Conn to constantly assess students, asking them to record correct answers on the hand-held device.

The instantaneous feedback means that instead of waiting until she grades a quiz to see who is struggling and which concepts students aren't getting, Conn finds out "just like that," she said with a sharp snap of her fingers.

It also means she can do some re-teaching on the fly if she sees many students answering a question wrong.

Mitchell Shults and Destiny Lynch, both 8-year-old third-graders, said the boards make classes more fun.

"You can play games on it and learn a lot of stuff," Mitchell said.

The voting, Destiny said, gets kids excited, especially when the whole class records the correct answer.

Technology makes it possible

At 7:45 on a Tuesday morning at Fisher Elementary, Deborah Reichman and her students were sitting around a table in a small conference room learning to speak the Chinese language. Reichman, the school's intervention specialist, doesn't know how -- she's learning with her students.

They go over a worksheet, practicing saying words and numbers in Chinese. When they get to a word they're unfamiliar with, Reichman has a plan.

"We may have to change or alter how we pronounce it when Mr. Nemo gets online," she said.

Nemo Ma is a teacher at the Nanao School in Guangzhou, China, and he is usually online when the kids meet to provide assistance and give them a chance to interact with a native Chinese speaker. Often, he places his mouth close to the lens of his camera and slowly enunciates the words so the students in Redford Township can see how his mouth moves. His image is projected on a large screen in the conference room.

The two schools are partnered through a program they call A Classroom Without Walls. The idea here isn't to create fluent Chinese speakers, Fisher Principal Brian Galdes said.

"Our goal is for the students ... to be global citizens, to interact with students from another culture one-on-one," Galdes said.

About 30 kids are involved in the program, in which they also use an online program to learn the language. And they have pen pals at the school in China. They chat with their e-pals, exchanging stories about their lives. But they also work on projects together.

Without technology, "we wouldn't be able to communicate," said Bradford Thomas, 10, a fifth-grader. "We'd have to write letters. And it'd probably take too long for them to reply."

Contact LORI HIGGINS at 248-351-3694 or

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Ann Arbor firm plans to put live TV online in U.S.

November 25, 2007



For all the countless hours of video available on the Internet, you can't watch many live events on your computer, and what you can watch -- such as congressional debates -- usually isn't worth the trouble.

But an Ann Arbor start-up may have an answer for what could be a billion-dollar problem.

Zattoo, founded in 2005 by University of Michigan computer science professor Sugih Jamin and Swiss software marketer Beat Knecht, has built a growing video service of live video streams in Europe with 1.2 million users. Its free software lets users watch live events such as soccer matches on their computers with far better quality than what has been available before.

Networks "have so many years of practice at producing live TV. It's a multibillion industry, and we're not going to replace it overnight," Jamin said. "There will always be people interested in live TV."

Launched with $350,000 from friends and family, Jamin said Zattoo just closed a $10-million fund-raising round led by venture capital firms in Switzerland, with another $20 million planned for next year. The company has grown to 25 full-time employees, including 20 in its Ann Arbor tech center. It also has an office in Zurich.

Zattoo's software, developed by Jamin and his students at U-M, uses a technique pioneered by Internet file-swappers known as peer-to-peer networks. Instead of relying on one central computer to broadcast data to thousands of users, peer-to-peer systems make each user's computer handle part of the workload, swapping data among themselves.

While developed mostly for pirating software and music, peer-to-peer has emerged as the best method of sending large files and streaming data over the Web. Internet phone service Skype is a peer-to-peer system, and its founders have launched a video service called Joost using the same technology.

Founded in 2005, Zattoo -- which means "crowd" in Japanese -- focuses on streaming live TV channels, a bigger technical challenge than offering recorded videos such as YouTube or Joost.

Using its software, viewers in Europe can choose from a variety of channels in their countries. Zattoo's technology allows it to respond quickly when a user changes a channel, with a lag time of a few seconds, similar to everyday television. The service is free for viewers, who have to watch a short ad when they change a channel.

Jamin said Zattoo's software offers several benefits to media companies. It's a cheaper way to get on the Internet than other systems. Zattoo blocks its video from being recorded, a key concern for media outlets worried about piracy. And by focusing on live video, Zattoo avoids some problems that competitors face, such as ensuring enough users are online to share data.

Though the company is based in Ann Arbor, Zattoo is available only in Europe today. Jamin said that is due to the ease of reaching deals with TV channels for transmitting their video there vs. the hurdles for doing so in the United States. But the service already has carried big events, such as the 2006 FIFA World Cup soccer championships, and has deals with foreign units of U.S. broadcasters. The service hopes to expand to Asia and the United States in 2008.

"The vision is that everybody will watch live TV on the PC someday," he said.

Contact JUSTIN HYDE at 202-906-8204 or

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Getting DIGITAL!

Bloomfield Hills schools add more classroom tech

Posted on 11/19/2007 2:22:38 PM

The Bloomfield Hills schools Monday announced that its board had approved a $2.1 million technology investment plan.

By Jan. 1, all 350 district classrooms will be outfitted with interactive whiteboards, projectors, document cameras, sound amplification and playback equipment.

One powerful component is Activotes, which are wireless computer mouse-like student response devices that allow teachers to immediately adapt instruction.

High school students and faculty will begin using the new technology when they return from the December holiday break. Elementary and middle school students are already benefiting from the boards, since classrooms were similarly equipped over the summer and fall.

Bloomfield Hills Schools will be the first district in Michigan to so-outfit all classrooms K-12 with the equipment, manufactured by Promethean.

“Teachers tell us that the impact of this technology is as dramatic as the introduction of personal computers into the classroom,” said Steven Gaynor, BHS superintendent. “Students in our elementary and middle schools who are already using this technology are highly engaged mentally, physically and emotionally. Our teachers are as excited as the kids, and are buzzing about the likely boost to student learning.”

About $500,000 of interactive equipment will be installed at Andover, Lahser and Model high schools, as well as Bowers Academy, the Bowers Farm classrooms and the Johnson Nature Center. The equipment at Andover and Lahser will be portable, so that it could be moved and reinstalled in the future if the aging high school buildings are renovated.

Bloomfield Hills Schools has provided professional development to teachers to aid their understanding and use of the systems. As with traditional lesson planning, teachers develop instruction in advance to best incorporate the technology into student learning.

Cindi Hopkins, director of technology, said that the whiteboards will make common classroom items like wall maps and televisions obsolete.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Maximizing the Impact: "The Pivitol Role of Technology in a 21st Century Educational System."

In a new report, Maximizing the Impact: "The Pivotal Role of Technology in a 21st Century Education System", the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills urged renewed emphasis on technology in education.

The report urges federal, state and local policymakers and other stakeholders to take action on three fronts:

1. Use technology comprehensively to develop proficiency in 21st century skills. Knowledge of core content is necessary, but no longer sufficient, for success in a competitive world. Even if all students mastered core academic subjects, they still would be woefully underprepared to succeed in postsecondary institutions and workplaces, which increasingly value people who can use their knowledge to communicate, collaborate, analyze, create, innovate, and solve problems. Used comprehensively, technology helps students develop 21st century skills.
2. Use technology comprehensively to support innovative teaching and learning. To keep pace with a changing world, schools need to offer more rigorous, relevant and engaging opportunities for students to learn—and to apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways. Used comprehensively, technology supports new, research-based approaches and promising practices in teaching and learning.
3. Use technology comprehensively to create robust education support systems. To be effective in schools and classrooms, teachers and administrators need training, tools and proficiency in 21st century skills themselves. Used comprehensively, technology transforms standards and assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development, learning environments, and administration.

The report supports the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ framework for 21st century learning, which calls for mastery of core subjects and 21st century skills. The report also highlights effective practices in states, districts and schools that are using technology to achieve results. And it provides guiding questions and action principles for policymakers and other stakeholders who are committed to maximizing the impact of technology in education.

Together, SETDA, ISTE and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills represent dozens of leading U.S. companies and organizations, six leadership states, education technology directors in all 50 states, 85,000 education technology professionals and 3.2 million educators throughout the country.

Click here to view the full report, Maximizing the Impact.


National Study to Examine Best Ways to Prepare Teachers to Use Technology

The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy in the Indiana University School of Education will partner with a Washington, D.C.-area company for a project examining how current and emerging technologies are being used in classrooms and how to prepare new teachers to best use these tools.

The "Leveraging Education Technology to Keep America Competitive" study has just begun with a $3.1 million contract through the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology.

"To our knowledge the federal government and the U.S. Department of Education have never really funded a comprehensive study of how cutting-edge technologies are being used in pre-service education," said Jonathan Plucker, director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) in the IU School of Education, and deputy project manager of the study.

Plucker said technological advances have made this a vastly different society. "But a common criticism is that that's not really changing the way that we teach," he said. "It's not changing the way we deliver education. It's not changing the way that students learn. This study gives us the resources to go out and do a very comprehensive and careful study to figure out if those things are happening."

Over a technical plan that breaks down into seven "task" areas, the project will produce an overall assessment of technology use in the classroom by April 2009. While that final work will help direct federal policy towards technology in education, a series of white papers issued throughout the length of the project will give immediate insight into the issues the work is tackling.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

TEDTalks: Nicholas Negroponte (2006_

"Urgency of the Digital Emergency"