Archive for May, 2011

California Charter School Sees Online Learning as Answer to Budget Crisis

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Cuts in education budgets seem to be the new normal for most school districts in the United States. Government funding for education has been dwindling over the past several years and many state and local governments fear that budgets will continue to be slashed for several years to come.  Many school districts across the United States are having to scramble to afford basic necessities while some districts are even being forced to borrow money just to pay teacher salaries and basic operating expenses.  We recently posted an article about how the New York City Department of Education is increasing its technology budget even in the face of massive cuts to education funding.  Likewise, a charter school on the opposite coast of the United States is also investing in eLearning.

Julian Charter School, a Kindergarten through twelfth grade charter school in San Diego County, California, believes online learning is a key to success in these tough economic times.  Wendy Parcel, assistant director for grades seven through twelve, at Julian Chart School sees her school as using technology as an advantage in the two largest expense areas for most schools: teacher salaries and instructional materials.  Ms. Parcel feels that, “Online learning is the driving force in revolutionizing education. It can overcome demographic and geographic barriers that limit our student learning, as well as improve the quality of instruction while decreasing the cost to provide that instruction.”

Julian Charter School serves students in multiple locations by making use of eLearning technology.  According to Ms. Parcel, “This allows us to place the best instructor possible in the teaching position and allows our students access to a class they might otherwise find unavailable.”  Ms. Parcel also states that a lot of the students served by Julian Charter School live in rural areas that make accessing a variety of classroom settings difficult.  Offering classes online is a cost effective solution to this issue.  By offering classes through eLearning, Julian Charter School is able to give students access to career and technical education classes that the school would not otherwise be able to provide for their students.

Ms. Parcel also feels like the student teacher relationships that occur through eLearning are enriching as well.  She states, “the relationships that students are able to develop with an online teacher are just as real as those developed in a traditional classroom setting. A mentoring relationship can occur in many ways.”

Julian Charter School is using technology in more ways than just online classes.  Just this school year, Julian Charter School began using online textbooks for earth science and life science classes.  Students in these classes downloaded a pdf file from a website rather than using a traditional textbook.  Not only are these virtual textbooks great for portability, but they can also have useful features not available in traditional paper books such as searchable text and hyperlinked supplemental information.

If you work in the field of education and have successfully used technology to bolster your curriculum, feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

Home Internet Access May Benefit Your Child Academically

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Many adults can remember a time before home computers were commonplace and when cellular phones were thought of as a luxury item.  It is hard to imagine that children today will never experience a life without these and many other technological advancements.  While some naysayers may speak critically of the changes technology has brought to our lives, you cannot deny the many benefits adults and children alike enjoy thanks to multitude of technological gadgets available today.  Technology has improved our ability to communicate, increased our access to information, and broadened our entertainment options among other things.  Now researchers are suggesting that home Internet access may improve your child’s academic outcomes.

Research completed by Professor Linda Jackson of Michigan State University in 2002 suggests that home Internet access plays a role in students earning higher grade point averages.  Dr. Jackson and her team studied the home Internet activity of a group of 140 children.  The sixteen month research project was conducted by automatically recording the Internet activity of the children involved in the study, tabulating the total time they spent online each day, the number of online sessions, the number of URLs visited and the number of emails sent. At the same time, Dr. Jackson and her team were monitoring the students’ grade point averages and standardized test scores in reading and math.

Initially, there appeared to be no change in grade point average with the students that had home Internet access.  But after about one year, the students with home Internet access did experience higher grades.  There was also a connection between home Internet access and higher standardized test scores in areas of reading comprehension and total reading.  The researchers hypothesized that text based nature of the Internet (and even the incidental, non-academic reading that the Internet encouraged), facilitated an improvement in the students’ reading skills.  This added reading practice and improvement in reading skills might have translated into higher grades and higher standardized test scores.

Another study out of the United Kingdom suggests home Internet access may be responsible for British students achieving higher scores on the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams.  Researchers studied 100 students who utilized GCSE study materials through home Internet access.  These students were found to have higher grades than students who did not access online study materials at home.  Researchers estimate that 1.2 million teenagers use the Internet to access these online resources every week and those teenagers using these online study guides were likely to score a grade higher on the GCSE exams.  This study also took other variables into consideration, such as teacher influence, but found no significant change in student scoring when considering these factors.

Both studies suggest further research on this topic would be beneficial to find out more details about how and why home Internet access may be a factor in increasing grade point averages and higher test scores.  Judging from these preliminary findings, it is safe to assume that home Internet access is beneficial to children academically.

Sustainability News: Clean Edge Releases Clean Energy Report

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

If you follow news and noteworthy stories in the realm of sustainability, you will be interested to hear that Clean Edge has released it’s second annual United States Clean Energy Leadership Index less than a week ago.  Clean Edge, Inc., is a consulting firm that focuses on sustainability.  According to their website (www.cleanedge.com), Clean Edge “was founded in 2000, and is the world’s first research and advisory firm devoted to the clean-tech sector. The company, via its publications, events, and online services, helps companies, investors, and governments understand and profit from clean technologies.”

The US Clean Energy Leadership Index ranked how individuals, businesses, and organizations operate in the 50 states on more than 70 various indicators in technology, policy, and capital to assess and compare the states across the clean energy spectrum.  Items that were tracked include total electricity produced by clean-energy sources; hybrid and electric vehicles on the road, clean-energy venture and patent activity, and policy regulations and incentives.  According to the ranking system in this year’s study, the top 10 states in the United States are California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Colorado, Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Vermont while the bottom 10 states are Oklahoma, Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, Louisiana, Nebraska, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

Some interesting highlights (taken from the company press release which may be found at http://www.cleanedge.com/about/pr/2011.05.18_CELI_Press.pdf ) from this year’s Clean Energy Leadership Index include:

1.  Three states now generate more than 10 percent of their utility-scale electricity from wind, solar, and/or geothermal. Iowa leads the nation with 15.4 percent of its electricity now generated from wind power, followed by North Dakota (11.99 percent from wind) and California (10.06 percent from wind, solar, and geothermal).

2.  Top-ranked California’s longtime commitment to clean energy has put the state far ahead of the pack in terms of technology deployment and capital creation. The state’s burgeoning clean-energy industry brings in more venture capital than all other states combined.

3.  Idaho leads the U.S. in clean electricity as a percentage of its total generation – at an astounding 84 percent – when you include hydro and biomass. Other states that get more than 60 percent of their electricity from renewable sources including hydro and biomass are Washington (71.59 percent), South Dakota (65 percent), and Oregon (63.84 percent).

4.  Oklahoma had more new EVs (electronic vehichles) registered last year than any other state, but the number is somewhat misleading. Two of the nation’s largest rental car agencies register their vehicles in Oklahoma, accounting for the state’s high ranking for EV registrations in 2010. Without that statistical anomaly, California is the nation’s EV leader.

5.  Michigan held the top spot in clean-energy patents for 2010 with 192 patents. Leading the charge is General Motors, which is reinventing itself as a sustainable transportation leader. GM received more clean- energy patents last year than any other company in the U.S., with 135 patents registered in 2010.

6.  Mississippi, which ranks in the bottom 10 of the overall Leadership Index, is aggressively pursuing clean-tech manufacturing as it aims to garner its share of the clean-tech market. In the past year, the state has attracted a host of clean-tech companies to build manufacturing facilities and plants there, including California-based solar company Stion Solar Panels and Texas-based biofuel company KiOR. This shows that even low-ranking states are beginning to aggressively target clean-tech companies and services for their job creation and capital attraction, and are likely to rise in the ranks.

    If you would like to read more about this interesting report, a summary may be found at the following address:  www.cleanedge.com/leadership/.