I've been asked to help facilitate an event at the end of March with educational and government representatives on the topic of using the new technologies of the Web specifically to help low-income and minority students--and in particular to open greater opportunities for higher education to them. If all goes as we're planning right now, I'll be broadcasting the event live as a part of the interview series here and for anyone with an interest in this topic.
My job for that day will be to lay out the vision and possibilities for this angle on Web 2.0, as I've told them that I don't have any particular expertise directly here, but want to be a part of helping to bring the dialog forth.
I'm interested in what ideas you, dear network members, have on this topic, and if there is anyone you think I should particularly look to for thought leadership here. I'm also interested in involving some students in the discussion.
I can't help but keep thinking that if we had the political will, we could give a older computer loaded with Ubuntu Linux (Xubuntu most likely) to every family with a child in school. Then we'd have the issue of connectivity, but let's get real: internet access in the US really should become like a utility, provided to every home. Build a Linux distro that just runs Firefox, put it on some cheap hardware, and you've got an almost zero-maintenance (no spyware or viruses) device with web access that requires no training because it's just the Web browser. The technology would not be rocket science--the implementation and politics would.
Would it be possible to partner with other agencies for change? It is difficult to focus on education, work, etc. if there is a problem with shelter, transportation, food, medical assistance, heat, electricity, etc. Perhaps including the use of Web 2.0 tools to give direction on how to connect to agencies for assistance to make sure basics are in place could be included and increased over time.
Ding Ding Ding! OK, my brain is working overtime here. Make Internet a universal utility, and provide a "Web" appliance that let's the local community set up the portal page with all the information that's needed and links to essential services. Could also be used for diabetics and others where having direct contact regularly would make a huge difference. I think you're right--this is not an isolated problem, it's a larger societal one and I really am liking the idea of universal internet access as a national priority (granted, I'm being very US-centric right now).
Our "Virtual Learning Magnet for Space Science and Mathematics" is now up and running with approximately 50 students from the US and 2 from France. They are taking a precollege physics course. This is a breakthrough concept which will allow ANY student ANY where at ANY time to get a specialized, focused, interest-centered learning experience. It is performance-based, so learners advance at the rate that is right for them; has an expanding content repository so that students can choose the concept that they want to use to learn an idea, has modular curricular design so it can be scaled to any interest level, has cross-disciplinary learning options because of the modularization and the focus on learning not on a credit or a grade (though they get those so we can conform to the current system as long as necessary). Gets way past the issue of national standards and renders moot the issue of having to choose between a curriculum that is deep or one that is wide. So many other unique Learning 2.0 elements involved that I haven't mentioned. In addition, students are using a ning to communicate with each other and the rest of their learning team.
We can never get beyond the old reality that opportunity is dependent on geography that plagues the current system. The solution for the future is NOT SCHOOL REFORM. When are we going to stop beating on that very dead horse? This allows students to stay in their sending school (public, private, home) and yet learn at the highest levels. The promise of School Reform is like the promise of an IBM Selectric in the digital age. Not a bad thing, but just isn't appropriate for the possibilities of today.
Initial funding for this proof-of-concept from NASA, but now the Smithsonian has come on board and we expect many more partners in the coming months, from private industry, government and education.
Check out their ning. I think I sent you the link; if not, I will. It's a private ning so we can be responsible for their safety but I'd be happy to let you in to take a look, or call me or email me for more info. You can look at the brief descriptions on the NASA site http://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/programs/descriptions/Virtual... or on the CCSSO website: http://www.ccsso.org/projects/Virtual_Learning_Magnet/
Best of luck with your participation in the "event"
(A) enabling: is to increase the learning capacity ....i.e. learning how to learn... may need to teach their parents how to enable this part of learning, even at home...
(B) equip: is what the students do in school to achieve...first, need to find out the reasons for them not learning well...
(C) excel: they need to taste success at very early stages of learning...suitable motivators will be great for them...
Lastly, i would like to say that despite all efforts, there will be some who would not respond in ways that we want them to...When I encounter such students, I will try to find things that make them feel good about their learning and themselves...and i realised that using ICT to aid their learning does the trick! It is a great leap in their learning...
The vision and possibilities for using new technologies of the Web for low income and minority students can be summed up in two words; open source.
I taught 34 years in a Long Island , New York middle school, retiring in 2005. I integrated technology into my everyday practice because I had an interest in it and it improved the performance of my sixth graders. My student demographic was African American and Latino. Whenever I learned something new I passed it on to my students. They inspired me to want to learn more about technology, so much so that I put up a website, to display their work.
K12LTSP is based on RedHat Fedora Linux and the LTSP terminal server packages. It's easy to install and configure. It's distributed under the GNU General Public License . That means it's free and it's based on Open Source software.
Once installed K12LTSP lets you boot diskless workstations from an applications server. You can use old PC's as diskless clients or buy new ones for under $200 each.
I installed nine computers in my classroom all on one server. I retrieved the computers from the dumpster of the school district where I lived and used them in the district where I worked. .They worked wonderfully. I used Open Office,(free), that has all the capabilities of Microsoft. We used Mozilla Firefox,( free) we worked on projects all year using these free tools and creating great work.
In 2004 I discovered Moodle. Moodle is a collaborative, open source LMS, and it changed my life in the classroom. Using Moodle I was able to extend the learning of my face to face classroom on a 24 hour basis. Whatever we were working on in our classroom throughout the year I put up in our online classroom where it was available on an asynchronous basis. Research Projects, homework, worksheets,, assignments,quizzes, glossary,forum discussions, websites, audio files, music, and journal activities were ALL available in our online Moodle classroom.
I learned about my students in a way I had not before. Through our forum discussions on our curriculum I learned whether my students grasped the information on Ancient Egypt or any other part of our curriculum.
Through the discussions I saw how their writing skills improved over the course of the school year. Through the one to one journal assignments we completed, I learned how their reflective abilities on a subject or concern progressed.
My students became comfortable expressing themselves to me and to each other through our frequent online discussions. They became accustomed to collaborating together and creating new learning from that collaboration.
Moodle is a Web 2.0 tool. Twenty seven million users of the software can't be wrong. Did I mention that Moodle comes in 75 languages? Moodle is an open source tool that enables teachers or ANYONE who wants to instruct others to have an online classroom.
Part of the No Child Left Behind legislation focuses on online access for teachers and students. This access is explained in the National Educational Technology Plan. At some point soon, teachers in the US will be required to offer their students this additional component to their education before they exit K-12.
When I retired in 2005, I joined with three others and founded the company, Moodlerooms. Moodlerooms makes online learning easier.
Moodle, coupled with the K-12 Linux Terminal Project are affordable solutions for cash strapped school districts. Moodlerooms also is an affordable solution and I train others , in my retirement, how to use Moodle.
So how have you and I not connected before. Of course, I know Martin, but this is a great story and I want to talk about it. Let's do a show for Future of Education on Open Source. We'll get you, Jeff Elkner, Tom Hoffman--there is a host of others we could draw in... Mike Huffman and Laura Taylor have said they'd do it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's make it happen.
Sheila, you've done what many of us pine to do! How did you ever get around all the bureaucracy? School districts all over the nation should be looking to this as a model of efficiency, effectiveness and fiscal responsibility. What advice would you give to teachers trying to follow in your footsteps?