Monday, March 28, 2011

Post Spring Break Testing Season

Before Spring Break, I spent a considerable amount of time getting our computer labs in working order by fixing computers with hard drives problems, replacing broken accessories, and updating software applications.  With as many computers we have on campus, this can be a challenge since problems can develop in any given week.  However, we manage to keep the majority going to meet our basic needs.

The Internet is also a challenge since bandwidth has become a major issue this year -- especially, as our classes integrate more technology in the classroom.  Using streaming video and emerging Web 2.0 tools is the leading cause of slowing Internet speeds.  Personally, I welcome the use if technology in the classroom but regret that we don't have the ideal infrastructure to accommodate the pace at which we gobble up the bandwidth.  While the Technology Department works on this matter, and has managed to bump up the speeds every year, I suspect this issue will not be going away any time soon.  Of course, we are not alone, other districts struggle with this as well.

Suggestion to Tivy Staff:
No one is going to say,"Don't use the Internet during testing season."  Each of us relies on email for daily communication, Skyward for gradebooks, and the Web for instructional content so access is a must.  However, being aware that bandwidth is an issue might motivate some of us to modify our Internet habits to improve it.  For instance, don't stream unnecessary media files during testing days.  Don't download huge files that can be done after school.  Consider showing a media clip to your students via the projector rather than each one watching it in the lab at the same time.  Small things like this can help prevent problems for students taking important timed tests.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Use of Gaming in Education

The use of computer-based gaming to motivate kids to learn is currently a strong focus in education circles these days (just keyword the search engines of educational journals). This is not surprising since gaming is not a new concept in education. I remember buying Reader Rabbit and Pajama Sam games for my kids ten years ago and seeing how motivated they were to play...uh, I mean "learn" because the games were done well and made learning interactive and entertaining.

Now, educators have a better selection of quality learning games and a better delivery mode with the Internet. Unlike earlier years, kids don’t have to take turns because of limited computers and limited copies of game discs (web-based gaming solved those type of problems). The trick is finding decent games that are not too "cheesy" in the kids eyes.

Plano ISD was featured in a recent web article about their use of Tabula Digita's DimensionM Mathematics game. Read the full story here: http://www.schoolcio.com/showarticle/36732

Many schools are finding that quality educational gaming is improving math scores and motivating students to take a stronger interest in learning. Personally, I think that learning games should be celebrated and used as a tool in the teacher's toolbox (meaning, I suggest it's but one tool – not the panacea for raising the math scores of students who simply find mathematics more difficult than other subjects). What are your thoughts?