Monday, July 25, 2011

"The Media Generation"

“Without question, this generation truly is the media generation, devoting more than a quarter of each day to media. As media devices become increasingly portable, and as they spread even further through young people's environments—from their schools to their cars—media messages will become an even more ubiquitous presence in an already media-saturated world. Anything that takes up this much space in young people's lives deserves our full attention.”

— Kaiser Family Foundation

For school age children, television and video are the medium of choice, and harnessing the power of the medium for learning is of interest to educators. With the reach of digital technology, the possibilities for adaptability and delivery are at their highest point.

Though people may ask, isn’t watching a video strictly a passive activity that turns children’s brain to mush? Simply put, no. According to Dr. James Marshall, a faculty member in the Department of Educational Technology at San Diego State University, evidence shows that “active television viewing by a child is not a simple response but a complex, cognitive activity that develops and matures with the child’s development to promote learning” (Marshall “Learning with technology: Evidence that technology can, and does, support learning.” 2002 p.7).

But, just watching a TV show isn’t the answer, content and context are key. A video presentation is multi-modal by nature, not only linguistic, like a textbook, but also aesthetic, logical and narrational which appeals to a wide range of learners. Great, though how do you use video most effectively in the classroom? The answer is integration. Research has indicated that positive outcomes occur when the video is integrated into the rest of the lesson (Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (2004). Television goes to school: The impact of video on student learning in formal education.) This addresses one of the main criticisms of video in the class, that it’s just filler, passively taking the place of the teacher. When it’s integrated into classroom learning, being an active participant in the lesson, then positive outcomes can occur. One of the most obvious ways this can be done is to show relevant video presentations to the lesson. For instance if you are teaching Shakespeare, after the students read Romeo and Juliet, watch a well-preformed stage presentation that is authentic to the play. Upon reading the play, the students will have their image, then watching the actors’ presentation it will broaden their understanding of it. You can also show experiments that can’t be done in the classroom, not only hear but watch important moments in time, go around the world, and take impossible field trips, like inside the human body with a 3D animation.

That all seems pretty obvious, but there are other ways video can be utilized in the classroom. How about recording classes? Teachers can put together their own course material with the footage, giving the students a self-paced resource that can be especially useful if they need to review a topic. This material, or other video lectures, can also be assigned as homework, so what was traditional homework is now done in the class. For instance, have the children watch a video on how to do quadratic equations at home, and then in the class do math problems. This encourages interaction, gives the teacher more one on one time with the students (a higher student to teacher time ratio) and moves away from the “one size fits all” approach to lectures.

Assignments that are fun for the students can also be created. For example, if the assignment is a research paper, give the students an option to do a video. For instance, if the assignment is on WWII, they could create a news report by playing a reporter and using media from public domain sources like If it’s an assignment on creating instructions, give them an option to do a cooking show, and they can make their favorite snack while showing the steps.

Long gone are the days of carting in a 16mm film projector from the school’s AV department for a filmstrip presentation. Today, video can be used in many facets of everyday education. Click here to see how video is integrated into Galileo Online’s Instructional Dialogs. Hint, it’s near the end.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Advantages of Cloud-Based Computing for Educational Systems

“Cloud computing” is a common but often misunderstood phrase, both in its meaning and the benefits thereof. In simple terms, cloud computing refers to the performance of computer work using Internet-based (“hosted”) services. For the curious, this use of the word “cloud” originated in technical flowcharting where the cloud symbol was first used to represent the telephone network and later, the Internet.

There are three general categories of cloud computing: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). PaaS and IaaS both present Internet-based “environments” enabling users to combine related functions into a single integrated, Internet-hosted service.” SaaS is a simpler (and the most popular) form of cloud computing. With SaaS, a service provider such as ATI (typically) offers subscription-based access to software built and deployed by the provider. In using ATI’s Galileo Online, much data is entered primarily by school teachers, administrators and students; however, the “service” component of SaaS is clearly evident at ATI with staff members updating item banks, importing Student Information System (SIS) data, importing and exporting statewide test and Galileo data, and generating and scheduling Instructional Dialogs, and several different types of assessments – all on a daily basis.

The benefits of cloud computing are increasingly apparent as the number of cloud services increases, and Galileo Online has been providing a cloud-based Instructional Improvement System (IIS) since 1999. When deciding whether to invest in a cloud-based service of any sort for your district, school or Head Start program, consider the following benefits:

  1. COST SAVINGS: Educational systems are able to deliver applications without a heavy investment in hardware, software, or increasing the burden on an already-taxed (and possibly shrinking) IT staff. Where a locally-hosted application may require purchase of one (or more) servers, software licenses, and related hardware, cloud-based solutions require only the Internet connection and desktop computers for individual users. SaaS can also enable educational systems to more effectively deal with growth or increasing student populations without requiring additional hardware (or staff to support new hardware).

    Another contributor to the cloud computing return on investment (ROI) is the possible extension of the desktop life cycle. As the number of software packages running directly on the desktop decreases, the ability to extend the life of a desktop system by one or more years increases.

    One final cost benefit is in the area of greener computing: power consumption. To deploy locally-hosted roles (such as SIS or IIS) requires possible addition of application servers, data servers, disk arrays and associated hardware for each new role. It’s realistic to expect three or more additional power-hungry devices per locally-hosted role. When using SaaS, the client-side hardware requirement is reduced to just networking equipment.

  2. IMPROVED APPLICATION TIME-TO-DEPLOYMENT: With any new service implementation, planning and training precede deployment. With locally-hosted solutions of any centralized information system such as an SIS or IIS, additional time must be factored to include hardware budget cycling, scoping, purchasing and configuration. This can extend deployment by six months or more, depending on challenges faced during hardware configuration. If the student population grows or implementation is expanded for other reasons, IT departments may discover that a mid-cycle hardware upgrade is necessary, increasing costs and lowering ROI.

  3. REMOTE ACCESSIBILITY: The demands on educators are trending similarly to the rest of the workforce – they are ever-increasing, requiring greater efficiency and availability of both teachers and administrators. Lesson planning, grading, exam construction, and data mining- tasks such as these are frequently performed on personal time and from home or other locations outside the school. Remote access capabilities are not unique to SaaS, but SaaS allows educational systems to fulfill this need without exposing networks to the associated security vulnerabilities. Data security is a natural concern with any cloud-based service, but this is effectively dealt with by SaaS vendors like ATI employing user authentication, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) data transfer encryption, and hardware firewalls to filter network traffic.

  4. HANDS-FREE UPGRADES: Software is upgraded for several reasons. Security and stability improvements are two of the main reasons, but feature-addition and refinement are also important reasons to upgrade software. In a locally-hosted client-server model, IT staff must coordinate and install upgrades provided by the vendor - and occasionally respond to the fallout, should the upgrade cause confusion or introduce bugs. The desktop-based model, where user data is stored on individual computers, poses an even greater commitment from staff because the upgrade must be staged and somehow deployed to every client computer running the software. Cloud-based service subscribers enjoy the benefit of every upgrade provided without any client-side installation. Galileo Online subscribers enjoy an added benefit - not only do software upgrades become available immediately, but content upgrades are immediately available to users immediately upon publication as well (there’s that “service” again). Teachers not only enjoy the benefit of scheduling resources shared by other users within the school/district, but they also have access to ATI’s expanding library of 900+ Instructional Dialogs and 80,000+ test items immediately upon publication by the Assessment and Instructional Design staff at ATI.

These are just a few of the benefits offered by cloud-based computing. Of course, it is not without certain challenges I will discuss in a future post. Are you already a Galileo Online user or working with another vendor, and enjoying the benefits of SaaS, PaaS or IaaS? If not, what concerns do you have about jumping “into the cloud?”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ASK Technology: Supports Schools in Managing All Assessment Content in One System

How are you planning to access and maintain all of your assessment content? School systems are investing heavily in assessment and instructional content in order to meet educational challenges of the information age. It is critically important not to fall behind and for schools to be able to integrate all of their assessment resources to promote student learning. ASK Technology by Assessment Technology Incorporated makes a significant contribution to this goal by making it possible to access and maintain all of a school’s assessment and instructional content in one system.

ASK Technology enables users to utilize Galileo with previously created assessment content and makes it possible to align the items in the test to standards, schedule online or offline test administration, and automatically score results. By making external assessment content available in Galileo K-12 Online, ASK assessments are ideally suited for end-of-chapter quizzes, mid-term and final exams.

Online administration occurs in a computer lab or with response pads. Test booklets and automatically generated answer sheets can be printed to support offline administration. The full range of Galileo reports are available for ASK assessments. Moreover, ASK items can be viewed in Galileo reports along with items created in Galileo.

There are a number of ways to learn first-hand about Galileo K-12 Online. You can:
  • visit the Assessment Technology Incorporated website (
  • participate in an online overview by registering either through the website or by calling 1.877.442.5453 to speak with a Field Services Coordinator
  • visit us at the
    o the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents’ 17th Annual Executive Institute July 13 through 14 at Mashpee High School in Mashpee, Massachusetts;
    o the Arizona Association of School Business Officials’ 58th Annual Conference and Exposition July 20 through 23 at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona; and
    o the Colorado Association of School Executives 42nd Annual Conference July 26 through 29 at the Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado.
We look forward to chatting with you online and at events.