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Opinion


Second Life: Do You Need One? (Part 1)

Second Life appears to be the biggest online community to hit the Internet in recent times. It's a 3D digital world, imagined, created, and owned by its residents, which number more than 7 million from more than 100 countries at the time of this writing. It's not a site that most K-12 educators would consider using, as Second Life requires residents in its main grid to be at least 18. A number of businesses, universities, libraries, museums, and a few educational organizations that cater to K-12 have joined Second Life, and at least one middle school, Suffern Middle School (NY). As a newbie, I wondered what the excitement is all about and decided to explore. What I found was that reading about Second Life and actually experiencing it are a world apart.

Was I Wrong on Obama?

President Obama released his fiscal year 2011 budget request Feb. 1, and the news for the ed tech world, at least at first glance, was not good.

Podcasts: Improving Quality and Accessibility

Podcasts are increasingly being used in K-12 and in higher education. In part 1 of this two-part series, I discussed their nature, demonstrated their potential for learning, and pointed out that in developing podcasts, students become involved with the project method, which is a real-world experience. I also voiced my concern that many podcasts I've heard suffer from poor quality of the audio, content, and speaker presentation. Accessibility is also a major issue that is being overlooked in their development. Let's now look at what you might do to improve the quality and accessibility of your podcasts, so that all learners can benefit, including those with disabilities.

What's Online Education All About?

Unless you are directly involved with teaching online, have students taking courses online, or have taken an online course yourself, chances are that you find the concept of online education quite nebulous. You might not have any interest in it. Terms like distance education, fully online, blended courses, virtual courses, e-learning, hybrid courses, mixed-mode, asynchronous learning, distributed learning, Web-facilitated, and Web-enhanced learning add to the confusion. However, online learning is on the rise in K-12 education, and you should know some of the basics and issues surrounding it. It is adding flexibility to the traditional school experience, meeting the needs of specific groups of students, and increasing course offerings. If it has not already done so, it probably will affect your teaching scenario before too long. So, what's online education all about? Well ... it's all in who you ask or what resources you consult.

Note to Tablet Companies: Education is an Enterprise

Schools are one of the biggest markets for tablets. So why do districts have to do workarounds to manage the devices?

What's Full-Time for K-12 Online Teaching?—a Dilemma

After reading Keeping pace with K-12 online learning: A review of state level policy and practice (Watson & Ryan, 2006), I became concerned that policy makers need to take a closer look at the K-12 online teaching scenario itself. Based on Lawrence Tomei's (2006) post-secondary finding that "14 percent more hours were required to teach the same number of students online at a distance than in the traditional classroom" (p. 539), there is reason to suspect that per virtual course or virtual classroom, the time commitment for K-12 online teaching is also greater than teaching face to face. Yet states have not fully determined what constitutes full time for that environment, most likely because sufficient research is lacking for comparison. At the present time, most states are employing online teachers on a part-time basis, with Florida Virtual School (FLVS) being the exception. I'd like to elaborate on some of the realities, based on my experiences with traditional and online teaching.

Test Prep and Math Realities

As another school year is getting well under way, educators are faced with starting the process all over again for preparing students for standardized testing. It's not something that can be put off until the last moment. Failure to pass "the test" sometimes prevents high school students from receiving their graduation diplomas. Elementary students might be retained in a grade. There is the usual dilemma of teaching to the test versus incorporating activities that help students develop 21st century skills valued in the real world.

Technology's Impact on Effective Teaching Strategies

While technology has changed what is possible in education, the principles of effective instruction never really change. Technology is not what drives learning but simply what mediates and supports the process. What has significantly changed is the way in which effective teaching strategies can be achieved at a higher level using new technologies.

Planning for the Next Disaster: Pandemic

The experts tell us that a pandemic is inevitable. The only question is when it will happen. Is your organization ready? Can you keep essential IT functions running? What can you do to be prepared?

Are Your Classrooms Color Smart?

We've all in our lives made the mistake of thinking of color as this fixed quantity—some sort of absolute that can be communicated, interpreted and reproduced losslessly. The sky is blue. The tree is green. The car is red. I can write those words, and the colors materialize in your mind. But are the colors you "see" in your mind the same as the ones I intended to communicate to you? In other words, do they match? Surely not.

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