Earlier today, I asked technology directors in Texas this question:

A high-level administrator asked me about technology solutions for high schools. This doesn’t necessarily mean 100% technology or one to one, but how technology can be used to impact dropout rate among high school students–not drop-out recovery–as well as help facilitate instruction in English, Algebra I and Biology. Again, I’m not looking for tutorial or integrated learning systems.

Although I have some ideas, I’m always open to new ideas or ones that haven’t been tried! Any suggestions based on what you have found effective in your situation?

Response #1:
Create hybrid learning environments where students are required to use personal laptops/netbooks as an integrated tool to deliver, engage, enhance, assess and evaluate every major component of the actual lessons & activities in a course. In a real hybrid environment the lesson is not successful without the combination of the laptop, online access and a certified teacher. Lessons extend beyond the classroom. Activities include collaborative projects, peer-to-peer review, multi-media authoring tools and a shift to student-centric learning, very difficult if not impossible without ‘technology’. Because of the expanded scope, depth and interactivity of the lesson it becomes much more relevant to the student, resulting in higher retention. Because the lesson & classroom extends past the walls of the physical school, students who have life-issues (work, family support, pregnancy, illness, life-interruption, school-inconvenience, etc), a growing percentage of our population, and students who wish to accelerated their school careers through more rigorous course selection, can use the flexibility of a hybrid learning environment to remain successful and not be force to drop-out or become bored and unmotivated. Too often people talk about ‘all or nothing’ alternatives (virtual school diplomas or the old-school, traditional classroom), but it is by combining & facilitating the best of both, through proven technology, that ultimately leads to a revolution in the way students learn.

Response #2

I have always felt that the key for success was to find one or two tools in each content area that the teachers would band together and use religiously. No two departments would necessary use the same tools. Algebra may be the TI calculator and all the accoutrements. Biology might be document projectors and simulations. Chemistry could be probes and simulations. US History might be streaming media services and digital projectors. The key is not so much the technology but what tools would that grade level use day-in-day out to increase student participation and interest. Something that the WHOLE team would rebuild their daily lessons around so ALL that the classroom became more dynamic (not just the one or two innovators). Since each subject is radically different, the tools should be different.

Unfortunately to make this work you need administrator buy in and content area team ownership. Have yet to get that level of commitment. So the thoughts remain academic.

Response #3:
TI has some excellent aids for the math classroom: the TI Inspire and Navigator systems come to mind. The probeware is great, and Vernier has started a less expensive line for elementary/middle school. The probeware offers and excellent opportunity to teach math and science in an integrated way. Getting kids doing stuff. . .

Response #4:
I suggest using “tools” such as digital microscopes, document cameras, labquest software and vernier probes, interactive whiteboards, graphing calculators that need to be integrated with the English, math and biology classes.

Response #5:
At my previous school, we implemented a Moodle server which my Spanish teacher received with open arms. We made a computer lab in his room because he wrote his own spanish software which was java based. That way all kids had and online classroom and then online spanish software. We could basically have taken it one step further and been completely hosted for home-bound students or for distance education. Don’t know if that’s what you were looking for or not.

I would also say that once that was in effect all the students were looking very forward to that class everyday. Cause it was a kind of learn at your own pace.
We also had one home bound student that we used a web cam for classroom instruction and interactivity with her classmates. She was 2nd grade I believe. Hooked up webcam at both ends and used Skype. Again with the drop out rate and also homebound teacher frees up her time per day.

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