eSchool News

eSchool News covers the intersection of technology and innovation in education.
Updated: 34 min 18 sec ago

How 4 visionary schools are venturing into a new mixed reality

17 hours 48 min ago

A new collaboration between Pearson and Microsoft is using a self-contained holographic computer to develop “mixed reality” learning experiences for students.

The collaboration will explore how mixed reality can help solve real challenges in areas of learning, ranging from online tutoring and coaching, nursing education, and engineering to construction and surveyor training.

Microsoft says its HoloLens is the world’s first self-contained holographic computer. Pearson is developing and piloting mixed reality content at colleges, universities and secondary schools in the United States and around the world.

Video: Hololens

HoloLens leverages virtual reality and augmented reality to create a new reality – mixed reality. With virtual reality, the user is immersed in a simulated world. Augmented reality overlays digital information on top of the real world. Mixed reality merges the virtual and physical worlds to create a new reality whereby the two can coexist and interact.

By understanding the user’s environment, mixed reality enables holograms to look and sound like they are part of that world. This means learning content can be developed for HoloLens that provides students with real world experiences, allowing them to build proficiency, develop confidence, explore and learn.

(Next page: Four schools using mixed reality)

How we used GIS projects to connect with our community

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 02:00

For history teacher Mariana Ramirez and English teacher Alice Im, education is viewed as engaging young people in the world, helping them speak up, ask questions, and contribute. Rather than racing to cover the content, these two spend a little time, dig a little deeper, and engage the students. GIS is a key part of this.

Every school year begins with these teachers, armed with computers, the internet, and a map waiting to be enriched, guiding 11th graders from the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles as they work on their projects. Understanding their world is the general task, but they must focus on a specific issue; work in teams; be scientific in gathering social data; analyze it mathematically; and then present it so others see and grasp its impact.

Using Challenges as GIS Project Opportunities

Roosevelt is a generations-old school in Boyle Heights—a storied community in East Los Angeles. Students in the Magnet Academy come by foot, skateboard, and bus, some needing over an hour and multiple bus transfers. The Academy is over 90 percent Hispanic, and over 90 percent free or reduced lunch. Many of Roosevelt’s students speak Spanish at home, and many will be the first in their family to go to college. Physical assets in the school beg for upgrade, but Ramirez and Im use the challenges in their world as opportunities to engage the students.

Each year’s research project explores social justice, and they touch on the ideas through fall and winter as they build the mapping, data, and thinking skills needed for their big GIS project.

Over the years, student have tackled serious and vexing issues, such as:

  • Gentrification and community displacement
  • Patterns of pollution, income, and political power
  • Availability of green space
  • Relationships between community and law enforcement
  • Public art as heritage relative to commercial billboards
  • Fast food chains versus family-owned food trucks
  • Food deserts, public gardens, and plantable space
  • Expressions of prejudice against race, religion, sexual identity

To form some context around these serious issues, these teachers have turned to Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  Why is GIS so impactful in understanding communities’ most difficult issues?  And why is this skillset important to teach today’s students?

(Next page: GIS projects as community-building)

How our elementary school got a tech makeover

Fri, 01/13/2017 - 02:00

Kids gravitate to technology in the classroom, so it makes sense for teachers to utilize digital projectors—that is, unless no one can see the lessons they display.

This was our situation a couple of years ago at Northwest Elementary School in Chatsworth, Ga., in the summer of 2014. We were having challenges with the technology in our learning environments: Our digital projectors were eight years old, so the projections weren’t very bright anymore, and it was difficult for our students to see the images on the screen. Worse still, sometimes the projectors wouldn’t boot up at all, or conked out midway through a class, which frustrated teachers who needed them for the day’s lesson.

We wanted to include funding for these upgrades in the budget, but after planning for essentials, there just wasn’t much money left over. We looked at replacing a few digital projectors at a time, but we have 29 classrooms–how would we prioritize which classrooms would get the new projectors first? What do you eliminate from the budget so the kids can have another computer? It was frustrating. We thought there was no way we were going to be able to get everything we needed.

But–as you might have guessed–this story has a happy ending.

Taking the Plunge

Then our curriculum coach, Kristy Campbell, told me about the opportunity that would change everything: NEC Display Solutions was sponsoring a contest that would give the winning school $25,000 toward digital display and projector technologies. Mrs. Campbell suggested we enter–and we decided to go for it.

Our school produced a video, “Oh, it Froze,” based on the song “Let it Go” from the movie “Frozen,” featuring our students and teachers singing about our outdated computers freezing during class. And it wasn’t just a contest entry; it also was a fun way to improve morale. Teachers were dealing with curriculum changes with the implementation of Common Core, as well as the budget shortages that were affecting us all, and this contest really pulled our community together.

We sent the video off – and then, knowing that the manufacturer was choosing the winner based on the number of votes, we got to work: The district office emailed contacts throughout the state, and I handed out voting instructions as parents picked up kids after school. Even a local congressman helped drum up support.

Then we held our breath and waited.

(Next page: A digital projector ending; 3 tips to handle a budget shortage)

New Google Classroom features make it easier to learn, teach, manage, and build

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 12:10

Google Classroom is designed for everyone involved in a student’s education. Over 20 million educators and students actively use it to teach and learn together, as do administrators who oversee how this tool is used across classrooms and developers who are building educational technology for the next generation. As everyone heads back to school to start the new semester, each of these users will find new Classroom updates designed specifically for them.

For students: Individualized work for differentiated learning

We know that one-size fits all teaching doesn’t always meet students’ needs, and we’ve been impressed with the workarounds Classroom teachers have found to differentiate their instruction. But starting today, Classroom makes it a lot easier for teachers to assign work to individual students and groups based on their unique needs. As they’re creating an assignment, post, or question, teachers can choose whether to share it with the entire class or only with a subset of students.

Juli Dalzell, a 7th grade teacher at Thomas A. Blake Middle School in Medfield, Massachusetts, says she likes how the new feature allows her to teach students who may grasp concepts at different paces. “I can assign different levels of questions or quantities of assignments,” says Dalzell. “Also, I can push out documents, such as answer keys, as students complete their assignments.”

With this feature, students can also discreetly receive extra practice if they are struggling with a new subject. Sara Enberg, a library media specialist at River Willow Elementary School in Hudson, Wisconsin, shared that the new update creates “an easy way to assign a reteaching or extension activity for students who are struggling… Just a quick simple video for a couple of students and they were back on track.”

For teachers: New notifications to manage student work

We understand the information overload that teachers feel as they balance a busy class schedule, a sea of papers to grade, and after-school activities. To help them stay on top of it all, teachers will now receive two new types of Classroom notifications – one when students submit work after the due date, and one for when students re-submit work. In addition, busy teachers can continue to use Classroom’s other notifications – like updates on their scheduled posts and comments on student work – to help keep them organized throughout the school year.

For administrators: Metrics to make the most of Classroom

Many administrators rely on the Admin Console to see how Google technology is being used in their schools. Starting today, Classroom data will be included in the Admin Console Reports, allowing administrators to see metrics on overall Classroom usage and how many classes and posts are being created, both in aggregate and by user. With these reports, as well as new ones to be added in the future, we hope administrators will have the insights they need to provide the best support possible to their teachers and students.

For developers: Even more coursework integrations

Lastly, we’ve added new capabilities to the Classroom API to make integrations with Classroom more seamless for developers. Integrated applications can now programmatically add materials to coursework or student submissions and can modify existing coursework they’ve created. Hundreds of educational applications have integrated with Classroom since the launch of the API, including tools like Flat.IO, Classcraft and Little SIS, and we’re eager to see what developers will create with these new capabilities.

With all these exciting new Classroom features, we hope that students, teachers, administrators, and developers will have a happy and productive return to school and work in the new year.