What are your big-picture tech goals for your district?
To provide students with a rigorous, relevant, personalized, learning environment in which they are afforded the opportunity to learn and to
demonstrate learning by producing, by performing, by creating, and by communicating to a global audience. In order for that to occur technology
must be ubiquitous in the school system. We are well on our way to accomplishing that goal. To be more specific, my goals are:
- To create a very robust technology infrastructure that provides teachers and students with the online resources and the local instructional
resources they need to have a digitally enriched learning environment
- To create a 1:1 environment through a variety of methods
- To provide a technology support system to respond quickly to problems, and to provide an instructional support system that leverages technology
to deliver meaningful and purposeful lessons
- To protect all the data that we currently store in an environmentally protected area, and to provide a disaster recovery and business continuity
- To allow some cloud services to take the pressure off current resources
- To provide teachers with the daily opportunity to video/audio record their classes in order to facilitate: better student engagement, quality self assessment,
and instructionally advanced pedagogies such as flipping the classroom, and to provide for a safe classroom environment that is conducive to learning.
Since the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., school safety has been receiving more attention. Many states are even providing additional funds for schools to increase security. Unfortunately, typical security measures like metal detectors, police presence and surveillance cameras can often have the unintentional effect of making school feel like a prison. So, some schools now use advanced technology to improve safety without threatening students.
…Much of the technology used in schools today is multi-faceted…Audio Enhancement, a media technology company, created the system in Newton County that has three components – audio, video and security. Three years ago, the district installed the audio portion, which amplified sound in the classroom. Each teacher wears a microphone and can be heard from anywhere in the room. Surveys and other data have shown that students were more focused and teachers didn’t need to strain to be heard. Last spring, the district started a pilot program for the video component of the system, allowing teachers to record their classes.
New research suggests that teacher absenteeism is becoming problematic in U.S. public schools, as about one in three teachers miss more than 10 days of school each year. The nation’s improving economic picture may also worsen absenteeism as teachers’ fears ease that they’ll lose their job over taking too many sick days, researchers say.
First-ever figures from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, compiled in 2012, also show that in a few states, nearly half of teachers miss more than 10 days in a typical 180-day school year.
Rhode Island: 50.2%
New Mexico: 47.5%
Schools serving larger proportions of African-American and Latino students are “disproportionately exposed to teacher absence,” notes researcher Raegen Miller, who studied the federal survey data for the Washington-based Center for American Progress, progressive think tank.
Miller noted that providing substitutes for all of those absent teachers costs schools at least $4 billion a year — about 1% of schools’ budgets. Absenteeism also lowers student achievement: A 2007 study by Duke University researchers estimated that for every 10 teacher absences, math achievement dropped by the same degree as if a school had replaced an experienced teacher with a novice one.
Actors do it. Professional athletes do it. Now Bill Gates wants the country to spend $5 billion to overhaul the evaluation system for every teacher in every classroom in every district, including filming them in action.
The new system would include videotaped lessons, classroom observations by trained observers, student satisfaction surveys, and value-added calculations based on test scores.
Among all his foundation’s educational initiatives for things like smaller schools and new technology, Gates has increasingly zeroed in on effective teaching as the key lever to improving education, as he discusses in an exclusive interview in Fast Company this month.
But how do you know effective teaching when you see it? Judging teachers by their students’ test scores alone is crude and incomplete. In a talk he gave for a TED special on PBS to be aired May 7 (filmed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 4), Gates discussed the plan to measure teachers, its estimated $5 billion price tag, and the pilot program he funded–the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET)–conducted with 3,000 teachers in seven districts. They reported three years of findings in January on a teaching evaluation system that combines test scores, student evaluations, and classroom assessments, where teachers are graded by impartial observers.
Pop quiz: Is Bill Gates a) the savior of American public education or b) a cloistered billionaire who should stick to something simple like eradicating polio? Both views have proponents. There’s Malcolm Gladwell’s hero’s tale in his book Outliers about the young Gates spending “10,000 hours” in computer labs honing the skills that would spawn one of the world’s most important technology companies. And there’s the counterpart: the standardized-test obsessive, the avatar of school privatization, the sworn enemy of teachers’ unions. “We’ve gone far down the track of Bill Gates deciding how our children are going to be treated and educated,” says Leonie Haimson, a parent-activist with the group Class Size Matters. “Parental rights are going to be meaningless because the richest and most powerful man in America is going to decide what is best for us.”
Both notions are caricatures. When Fast Company sat down with Gates recently for an exclusive conversation, a more nuanced, portrait emerges. Gates is endearingly wonky–during a keynote speech at the South by Southwest conference, in March, he expressed his big goal for education in graph form–but his passion softens his technocratic impulses. Reserved at the start of our interview, he quickly warms up, bouncing one foot crossed over his knee and cracking a slight smile when he gets in a zinger.
Read all about it! Students at Don Estridge High Tech Middle School in Boca Raton, FL have an unusual opportunity to participate in the political process—by staying away from class—but not from their classroom lessons. Just across the street from their Palm Beach County school, the third and final debate between President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential Nominee, Governor Mitt Romney, will be held at Lynn University campus. Learn how they are using Audio Enhancement’s VIEWPath Classroom System to set the stage for a virtual day of learning. To read the full press release click on Don Estridge High tech Middle School.
Newton County Schools released their research findings on Audio Enhancement in the classroom. Here is an excerpt of the study:
“In April of 2011, 24 teachers and 2,762 students responded to a district survey—completed anonymously—regarding their exposure to an audio-enhanced classroom.
Of our students, 90% responded that “it is easier to hear my teacher when he/she uses the audio sound system.” 85% responded yes when asked if “my teacher’s voice is loud and clear with the sound system.” 76% responded yes when asked if the sound system helped them listen better. 88% responded yes to the question, “When my teacher is writing on the board [with back turned], I can hear him/her with the sound system?” Finally, when asked if they “liked having my teacher use the sound system in our classroom,” 78% responded yes.
Of our teachers, 90% responded yes to the question, “Do students focus on instruction well?” Prior to audio enhancement, only 21% said yes. 95% said that students “understand instruction better” using audio enhancement compared to only 22% who thought
so prior to audio enhancement. 88% responded yes when asked, “Do students follow directions well?” Only 21% thought so prior to audio enhancement. When asked “Do students stay on task more often with few reminders using audio enhancement,” 96% responded yes. Prior to audio enhancement, only 23% of teachers felt students stayed on task with few reminders.”
Read the whole study
Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland may soon join a growing number of schools to amplify general education classrooms with sound field systems. Sound field systems amplify a teacher’s voice evenly throughout the classroom so every student can hear every word all of the time.
If the school board approves the proposed budget, a large-scale $400,000 pilot study may put the systems in up to 25 classrooms in eight elementary schools.But schools in the district didn’t wait for the pilot project to begin. In at least three new schools in the county, forward-thinking principals added sound field systems during construction.
After BCPS audiologist Eloise Brown encouraged her to consider sound field, Principal Maralee Clark spent $13,000 of the equipment budget to install sound field systems in 10 classrooms and the media center when the school opened its doors last fall. “I read research articles and talked to experts and I knew it was a good opportunity. It helps students to stay focused and to better hear letter sounds,” Clark said. “Any child can benefit from sound field systems.”
For administrators across the country, hearing is believing when it comes to understanding the benefits of sound field systems. The amplification systems are now moving out of special education classrooms and into the mainstream as administrators realize the benefits for all students. Approximately 160,000 classrooms in the United States have sound field systems-a number that grows by 20% annually, according to manufacturer estimates.
“I think there are going to be more sound field systems being used because of the link between listening and literacy, and the awareness that literacy is at its core an auditory experience,” said Carol Flexer, professor of audiology at the University of Akron, OH.
By the end of her first day of school this month, Theresa Simon’s voice was already starting to go. “You can hear a little bit of rasp,” said the 48-year-old teacher at
Cecelia Snyder Middle School in Bensalem, Pa. But the frog in her throat now is nothing compared to what Simon used to suffer every fall when she was among scores of teachers who find themselves going hoarse after heading back to the classroom. “Probably by the middle of the week, by the end of the week, I would lose my voice, just from usage,” said Simon, a 23-year veteran who teaches seventh- and eighth-graders. “The acoustics in the classrooms are not that good and when you’ve got a class of 30 kids, you’ve got to reach the ones in the back.”
Simon’s story is nothing new to voice and speech experts, who say they see an influx of scratchy-voiced teachers seeking help every autumn. Teachers make up about 16 percent of the 37 million people in the United States who are dubbed “occupational voice users,” which includes air traffic controllers, emergency dispatchers and telephone customer service representatives, said Eric J. Hunter, deputy executive director of the National Center for Voice and Speech.
On average, teachers are more than twice as likely as non-teachers to have voice problems and about three times more likely to see a doctor about the issue, he added.