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July 14, 2011

The technology department is particularly busy during the summer prepping systems and installing updates in advance of the school year. We continue to push forward with the re-imaging project, a process through which we are also collecting an inventory of existing systems. As a result, we are quantifying a large number of older machines that require, at the very least, memory upgrades to bring them up to modern standards, and reporting these deficiencies to the site administrators. For those that are viable, we are asking that site admins purchase appropriate memory upgrades. As many of the site administrators are on vacation, obtaining responses from a number of them is proving to be difficult. As such, we are prepping the machines to be imaged, so that we can initiate the process at any time after the memory upgrades, even if that proves to be after the new school year has begun.

Additionally, each summer we clean up and update all of the netbook carts, which include roughly 2500 machines. As these devices are used extensively throughout the school year by students, they tend to require a good deal of "refreshing" to get back into shape for the new school year, including fresh software updates, antibacterial wipedown, and often a thorough rewiring of the carts whose wiring has worked itself loose through regular use. This too is a rather time consuming and labor intensive process, but is vital to the continued effectiveness of the SWATTEC program.

As part of the SWATTEC program, we continue to work with U.C. Irvine to plan and prepare for using the new LiveInk system in some of our SWATTEC classrooms. As part of this process, the instruction department has been coordinating the volunteer teacher pool, and we have been providing materials and prepping the software for deployment in the research classrooms. We are looking forward to getting these new tools in student/teacher hands next year, and expect impressive results as part of this exciting program.

Finally, we are updating our server and imaging infrastructure in preparation for the new school year. First, we are adding support for Windows 7, as Windows XP reached end-of-life during last school year and is no longer available or supported. We are also applying a number of system software updates, updating Zimbra to the latest release, and reconfiguring our web server infrastructure in preparation for bringing the school websites under the district's system umbrella. As part of this process, we are working with Westcreek to pilot the system design and operation.

Obviously, this represents significant work for every member of our department, and we are pleased to have welcomed our newest member, Antonio Arana to the team. We look forward to bringing new innovation and greater support to the learning environment in the coming year.

Keywords: Summer, Technology, Update

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April 09, 2011

nookMuch has been made of the value of the iPad as an education device. Some believe it to be the salvation of education, while others are taking a more balanced perspective. While I have already made my opinion well known, I do believe that tablet devices in general hold particular promise for special needs students. Expensive, highly specialized, single purpose devices have long been in use in this space, in an effort to overcome issues with fine motor skills and other cognitive challenges for which traditional computing interfaces are simply ineffective. When compared to those devices, I believe the low cost and high flexibility of a tablet device brings with it the potential to bring significant benefits to special needs students.

Until recently, the only choice for such an application has been the iPad. While the iPad is an excellent tool, it is still big, expensive, and brings with it a raft of associated costs, restrictions, and management headaches that can be challenging for an already over-burdened special education teacher. Size and costs lead to fewer devices being deployed and less than continuous access for students. 

But the iPad is no longer the only game in town. A number of Android devices are on the horizon, many of which bring with them greater portability and lower costs than their larger cousins. Here at Saugus, we decided to give one such option a try - Barnes & Noble's Nook Color.

The Nook Color is, for all intents and purposes, an Android tablet disguised as an e-reader. Its 7 inch screen size makes it significantly smaller, lighter, and generally more portable than larger tablets, which, coupled with its lack of edge-to-edge glass, makes it less prone to breakage in the event of an accidental drop. In addition, it has a fast processor, plenty of memory, and expandable storage through a built-in, microSD slot. On the software side you'll find an easy to use, multi-touch interface with a web browser, a powerful e-reader with access to Barnes & Noble's huge library, and (with a little massaging) access to over 200,000 apps in the Android Market. And it costs less than half the cost of the least expensive iPad. (For further details on Nook Color vs. iPad, see Could the Nook Color be the Tablet Surprise of 2011?)

We recently added 6 units to our moderate-to-severe autism program. Six teachers in the program were already making use of two shared iPads, so they were familiar with the capabilities of tablets and their application in the special needs classroom. This naturally gave us a great foundation for working with the Nooks and figuring out which applications were necessary to meet their needs. At present, the following applications are in active use:

  • Kid Shape Puzzle HD - Puzzle/game where kids slide puzzle pieces into place to reveal one of 90 different shapes. Works on cognitive and fine-motor skills.
  • Monkey Preschool Lunchbox - 6 games that teach kids ages about colors, letters, counting, shapes, differences, and matching
  • Play with Sammy - Playing with Sammy the penguin, kids guess colors of common objects, identify animal sounds, and recognize shapes of objects.
  • Smart Turtle - Smart Turtle develops motor skills & hand eye coordination as well fundamentally develops mental aptitude.
  • Sign Language Dictionary - Teaches the 300 ASL signs needed for clear communication.
  • AAC Speech Buddy - Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) application featuring an image repository you have access to over 2000+ images from the Mulberry Symbols collection by Paxtoncrafts Charitable Trust and sharable (online) speech sets.
  • First Words ABC: Fill the Gap - Excellent elementary spelling program that goes beyond taking away a letter at a time from the words.
  • Preschool Basics - A colorful set of flash cards with sound for the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, and vocabulary.
  • Bird Book - Bird illustrations, sounds and bird name pronunciation, with a quiz to recognize the birds from their sounds
  • Xylophone - Music app
  • Kids Piano Lite - Eight tone piano/xylophone/games that help kids develop latent art cell by playing music
  • Learn Letters - Classical matching cards memory game, training memory and learning letters simultaneously.
  • Bubbles - Blow bubbles by dragging your finger and then tap to pop.
  • Learn Cards (Animals) - Explore the world of animals, learn their names and memorize the sounds they make. Includes learning mode, animal recognition test and a fun animal puzzle.
  • Alexicom AAC - Augmentative communication system
  • Days/Months - Calendar flash cards combine audio and visual cues to teach children the calendar.
  • Numbers 50 - Teaches numbers and pre-math skills
  • Shapes - Teaches shapes and colors. Customizable with edit mode enables users to create their own cards and add their own voice
  • Sight Words - Teaches sight words with editable decks, favorites, audio, random letters, multiple colors.
  • TapToTalk - Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tool. Tap a picture - TapToTalk speaks.
  • Kids Connect the Dots - Teaches kids to recognize and pronounce numbers and letters of the alphabet in a kid-friendly way

Installing these apps is actually quite simple. Teachers use the Android Market web site to select the apps they want to try, and they automagically download and install on all six devices with one click. No plugging in, syncing, gifting, etc., etc. as is required on iPads. In fact, the Nooks NEVER have to be plugged in to a computer - they work as completely independent devices.

So far, the results have been quite positive. Comments from the teachers often include the words, "that's it?" in reference to how easy the device is to manage. Other comments have included:

"We are simply ecstatic over the NOOKS! After just a few minutes with it I can see many possibilities!"

"Everyone can do it, even the 3 year olds in the program are making use of them."

"The kids are not interested in doing the traditional wooden puzzles and card matching, but the activities on these devices they would do for hours if we let them."

"The kids are amazing problem solvers with these."

"The Nooks bring all the traits/responses we often talk about in special ed: attention, motivation, reward, etc."

Needless to say, after a month with the Nooks we are quite pleased with them. We are impressed with the pace at which they have been adopted and the amount of use they are getting. And there's nothing quite like seeing an autistic student with one of them in their hands.

More ...

Keywords: Autism, Education, Nook, Nook Color, Special Education, Special Needs, Technology

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May 28, 2010

We are pleased to present Where on Earth is SWATTEC? Inspired by Where is Matt ( this video presents the greatest teachers in the world and the students who's lives have been touched by the SWATTEC program. While pictures may paint words, videos inspire dreams. Enjoy!

More ...

Posted by Jim Klein | 13 comment(s) | Share This

We are pleased to present Where on Earth is SWATTEC? Inspired by Where is Matt ( this video presents the greatest teachers in the world and the students who's lives have been touched by the SWATTEC program. While pictures may paint word, videos inspire dreams. Enjoy!


Posted by Jim Klein @ SWATTEC | 20 comment(s) | Share This

March 26, 2010

     Last night, our students participated in Technology Night.  This evening is designed for the students to showcase their work in a public forum.  Students demonstrated how to use their laptops and the programs available.  The kids presented their projects and taught their siblings and parents different aspects on the computers.  It was a great night!  Mrs. Umeck from the School Board was able to attend as well as Ms. Arlene Anderson.   They were so impressed with how much the students are able to do.  This is our 2nd year holding this event and we look forward to many more years!







Keywords: night, technology, tesoro, white

Posted by Michelle White 4th Grade Teacher Tesoro del Valle | 0 comment(s) | Share This

January 06, 2010

As I stressed in my prior post, if we are going to build effective learning environments, the thing we need to focus on is kids - not teachers, administrators, or even parents, but kids. And one of the most important things we must consider when building such environments is motivation, or more specifically, what motivates kids to learn.

Any study in human motivation will undoubtedly lead to Maslow's “Theory of Human Motivation”, which logically concludes that humans are essentially motivated by their needs. Knowing this, as well as how much the world has changed in the last decade, it might be tempting to assume that our students' needs have changed along with the world around them. But have they?

MaslowFor review, let's have another look at Maslow's theory and see what we can glean from it. According to Maslow, all human motivation is driven by a hierarchy of needs, which are typically represented in the form of a pyramid as in the figure to the right. The pyramid is functionally divided into two halves, with bottom half representing deficiency needs and the top half representing growth needs. While the growth needs are what we care most about as educators, it's important for us to understand the deficiency needs before we even talk about growth. 

The deficiency needs are what one might consider to be the obvious needs, with the bottom being the physiological - I need to eat, I need to sleep, etc. Once those physiological needs are met, then we are concerned about physical safety, followed by thoughts of love and belonging, and finally an interest in our self-esteem or sense of self worth. The important thing to remember is that these needs build on each other in such a way that the means to meet higher needs will not be sought until the lower needs are first met. A person will sacrifice their need for love/belonging, for example, if they feel physically threatened, and so on. The notion here is that the deficiency needs all have to be met before we can even start thinking about our growth needs. While schools are doing a pretty good job in these areas (although I have a particular beef with our obsessive over-emphasis on esteem, ie "everyone's a winner, noone's a loser"), we would be remiss if we didn't ask ourselves the tough questions: "Do my kids feel safe at school?", "Are they getting enough to eat?", "Do I create an environment where kids feel as though they belong?"

Once the deficiency needs are met, then an individual moves on to growth needs. In Maslow's original theory he only has one item above "esteem", and that is "self-actualization" or the desire for self-fulfillment and the ultimate reaching of one's potential. A deeper read into the matter, however, reveals that there are some important considerations that must be met on the road to self-actualization, and that there is an ultimate transcendent destination beyond it, which I have broken out in the chart above. He speaks of the cognitive needs - the need to learn, the need to know, the need to understand, and the need to explore. He uses the word "explore" or "exploration", which is something that I think we've lost much of today in education. Once one moves beyond the cognitive, they move towards aesthetics, such as recognizing beauty and the need for order and patterns. And only after that can one understand the nature of their abilities and endeavor to reach their true potential (self-actualization). But the ultimate goal, the one we should all be striving for, is that point where ego steps out of the way and we transcend to a level where we want to help others reach their potential.

Above all, the important detail to remember is that higher needs only gain focus when the lower needs are met, which means that a student's focus can be ever changing, depending on other influences in their life. It's hard to focus on math when you are worried about survival, but you are immensely interested in learning about survival. Likewise, the ultimate realization of a student's potential and consequential wisdom and transcendence will never be reached if we don't create environments where students fulfill their needs to know, understand, explore, and create.

But the interesting thing about all of this is that despite all the technology in their lives and all the changes in the world around them, kids' needs really haven't changed. They still need the same basic things. What has changed is the tools and influences around them that alter the mechanisms by which those needs are met...

More to follow in subsequent posts...

More ...

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November 22, 2009

toolsI'm a tech guy, as you have probably noticed, and as a tech guy I often find myself spending a lot of time talking about all sorts of great technologies, like social media and Web 2.0 tools, the latest hardware and gadgets, and how to use them to build online communities and develop collaborative practices in the education space. I attend and participate in a number of conferences and webinars on a regular basis, both as a presenter and attendee, and serve on a number of panels and implementation teams, all of which I believe to be valuable. But lately I have been struck by the fact that, even though everyone is gathering together to talk about education, we really aren't talking much about education. We're talking mostly about tools. Think about the last conference or webinar you attended - how much of the conversation revolved around tools and how to use them? I would bet the vast majority. While the geek in me really enjoys learning about what the hot new tool is and how I might make it work, I think as a whole we've jumped the shark on ed tech. Because when we think about ourselves as educators, what we do is not really about tools, is it? It's about kids. It's about helping kids to learn and grow, and to prepare them for the world they are about to enter.

kidsYet many of us seem to believe that if we can just get the right set of tools into the classroom we can solve all of education's problems. So we take out our whiteboards and replace them with super-whiteboards, and we swap out our overhead projectors for document cameras, and we sprinkle in some classroom responders, just for good measure. We do all this because we genuinely believe that it will make all the difference in the world, mostly because somebody told us that the reason kids aren't learning in the 21st century is because we aren't interesting enough. And I think that's wrong. I don't think that's right at all.

I think the problem that we're having is not that we haven't figured out the right set of tools, I think it's that we're not focusing on the right things. We're not taking a look at technology and it's role in the future of education and asking the right questions.

I was following along with a discussion panel this year at NECC (now ISTE) on social networking in education (which is a topic I often speak about) and panelist David Jakes posited what I believe is the right question. And it didn't have anything to do with social networking or web 2.0 or tools or technology. It was simply this: “What does it mean to be well educated in the 21st century?” I think that is the question we really need to start asking.

To answer that question, I believe we need to take a step back and look at how the world has changed all around us – step back and look at the world our kids are entering and consider what they will face when they get there. We need to look again at their needs, their motivations, and their influences and discover what drives them to learn and grow. Only when we do that, can we rightly challenge the assumptions we have used to build our education systems and consider what school in the 21st century should look like.

More to follow in subsequent posts...

More ...

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November 13, 2009

On November 12, students in Ms. Gardner's 4th grade class at Rio Vista school had the wonderful opportunity to speak with a soldier in Iraq about being in the military and his experiences there. It was an excellent example of what happens when technology meets learning and enables new experiences in the classroom. Below is a brief (rough) clip from the day. You can also review some of the students' blog posts (with more on the way) reflecting on the event at: .

Students Skype with US Soldier in Iraq from Jim Klein on Vimeo.


Lots of great conversation followed about a whole host of topics, including discussions about the meaning of veterans day, what it's like to be a soldier, why there are delays between their questions and the soldier's responses, etc.

Posted by News | 0 comment(s) | Share This

On November 12, students in Ms. Gardner's 4th grade class at Rio Vista school had the wonderful opportunity to speak with a soldier in Iraq about being in the military and his experiences there. It was an excellent example of what happens when technology meets learning and enables new experiences in the classroom. Below is a brief (rough) clip from the day. You can also review some of the students' blog posts reflecting on the event at:  . More student posts are sure to follow!

Students Skype with US Soldier in Iraq from Jim Klein on Vimeo.



More ...

Posted by Jim Klein | 1 comment(s) | Share This

November 27, 2008

I recently attended a conference for technology directors in the state of California, and I must say I was heartened by some changes in the program and, in some cases, the attendance of the sessions. What was different, you ask? The focus of these sessions on students and education. To be sure, these sessions were in the minority. But they were there, and they indicate the beginnings of what I believe will be an important shift in education technology. My only question is, are we too late?

To understand why I ask this, one simply needs to look at the vast majority of technology departments in school districts across the country, and their relationships with the instructional staff. More ...

Keywords: Budget Cuts, Education Technology, Leadership, Technology

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October 10, 2008

This episode is super-sized at the same low, low price. I give information about how to go about acquiring media on the web. Found a picture and you're not sure if you have the right to use it? This episode is for you. We'll also go to Flickr, a photo sharing site, and use their tools to specifically find photos that suit your needs. Lastly, we'll examine the world map at Flickr. You can use it to find pictures that were taken all around the world!

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October 02, 2008

When using a scan converter with the TV, rather than using not so good computer speakers that are a pain and never reach to where you want them to be, you can use a cable with red and white female connectors on one end (RCA), and a jack (1/8” stereo) at the other end that goes into the green port on the back of the CPU. This allows the sound to come through the TV speakers rather than the computer for better quality and more volume. I got the cable at Rogers Systems Spelialists for $1.50.

Rogers description:
6 in. 2 3.5mm Stereo Female Jacks to 3.5mm Stereo Male Plug"

Their web page:

Keywords: bixler, technology

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September 02, 2008

Use feeds and Google Reader to make information on the web come to you. And don't forget to subscribe to Techbytes while you're at it!

Having trouble seeing what's in the movie? Click here to take a bigger bite of Tech Bytes!

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Create great-looking logos, visual text, and buttons with this free-to-use web-based tool.

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This tool allows you create dynamic concept maps from an outline that you can enter and edit online.

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August 27, 2008

Visuwords is a great visual dictionary/thesaurus, accessible online, and with no downloads necessary.


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August 20, 2008

I found this interview where James Gee shares his opinions about possibilities in education. I found many of his ideas to be interesting.

Keywords: collaboration, education, james gee, social network, technology, video games

Posted by David Lindsay | 4 comment(s) | Share This

August 11, 2008

Here's a tool that is useful for outlining and creating mind maps. 


Keywords: education, mindmaps, outlining, technology, web2.0, webtool

Posted by David Lindsay | 2 comment(s) | Share This

May 02, 2008

OK, so it's been a year since I dared to float the controversial idea that interactive whiteboards are little more than a big, expensive white mouse, whose functionality can easily be replaced by far less expensive solutions (see my prior post, "Is the debate over the value of interactive whiteboards really about the boards?") I received tons of feedback from a variety of sources, which did little to sway my view of them. Most from proponents were testimonies of increased student engagement, etc., etc., very similar to those I mentioned in the prior post, all subjective and lacking in any real data. Even Smart's favorite "evidence" of student achievement from the EU is vague at best, listing their boards as one of a number of technologies (emphasis on the words "one of") that were implemented. Then there are the health risks, which are only just starting to surface.   More ...

Keywords: Integration, Smartboards, Technology, Whiteboards

Posted by Jim Klein | 166 comment(s) | Share This

March 28, 2008

Each year, the Consortium of School Networking Professionals (CoSN) holds the premier national technology leadership conference dedicated to policy and effective implementation from school district, state and national perspectives. The conference attracts more than 1000 key technology decision-makers seeking to learn from other leaders as we define the future of information and communication technologies in our nation's schools.

As a part of this excellent conference, I was offered the opportunity to lead a session entitled "Virtualization and Consolidation: The 21st Century Network Infrastructure," in which I covered a variety of topics related to server and storage virtualization.

Enjoy! (approx 1 hr.)

[ Download - audio/mp3 ]

More ...

Keywords: CoSN, CoSN 2008, Data Center, podcast, Technology, Virtualization, VMWare, Xen

Posted by Jim Klein | 1 comment(s) | Share This

July 06, 2007

It was my great pleasure on Jun 26 to be a part of the Network World IT Roadmap event in Santa Clara! For this event, I was interviewed in front of a live audience of about 60 CIOs for the Voice over IP (VoIP,) Convergence, and Collaboration track by Johna Till Johnson, president and chief research officer at Nemertes Research. For those who are interested, some highlights of our conversation are below:

You did a network overhaul that included a VOIP implementation a number of years ago, correct - 2003?
Yes, we were fairly early adopters of the technology. In fact, 802.3af (PoE) had just been finalized a few months prior to our first (pilot) implementation. We had the switches on order, but because of obvious delays in finalizing the switch hardware to meet the spec,More ...

Keywords: 3Com, IT Roadmap, Network World, Technology, Voice over IP, VoIP

Posted by Jim Klein | 1 comment(s) | Share This

May 01, 2007

At the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) conference last month, I did an interview with Managing Editor Dennis Pierce regarding open technologies in K-12 and CoSN's K-12 Open Technologies initiative. The interview was titled, Who's afraid of Open Tech? and you can view it online at ...

Posted by Jim Klein | 0 comment(s) | Share This

April 27, 2007

There seems to be a bit of confusion about the benefits of server virtualization, with many tending to focus on cost savings. As a district that has been running a virtual infrastructure for some time, I can honestly say that virtualization is not so much about saving money (although you certainly will) as it is about better resource utilization, more reliability, and greater flexibility. More ...

Keywords: infrastructure, technology, virtualization

Posted by Jim Klein | 15 comment(s) | Share This

January 26, 2007

The following question was posted on a mailing list recently, and I thought it was quite relevant to anyone looking into Open Source Software (OSS.)

"I have been asked to investigate the use of open source software to replace existing proprietary packages. I would be interested in why you have or have not used open source software and, if you are using it, what you are using and how is it working. I am specifically looking at office suites, e-mail clients, and desktop OS. We currently use Microsoft Office, Exchange, and Windows 2000 and XP for our desktop OS. "

This sort of question is becoming more and more common in K-12 today. While the "whys" and "why nots" are important, approach is at least equally, if not more important than the "whys." My response:

We use open source extensively in our district, on both the server and the desktop. There are plenty of resources on the web discussing the effectiveness of open source in K-12 environments, but for backup regarding your specific interest, I would start with CoSN's open technologies web site at This site is aimed at K12 CTOs interested in open technologies, and has a particularly interesting case study on Indiana, which is well on their way through a significant desktop initiative.

That said, I would consider approaching this a little differently. People have a tendency to rebel when you use words like "replace" and "Microsoft Office" in the same sentence. Once an attitude of "we don't want that" has been established, it can be quite difficult to overcome down the road, when you are ready to make a big push.

We have found that a more organic, viral approach to implementation is far more effective (and better received) than pursuing a cut and switch. Get some open source software into your people's hands by passing out Open CD's ( at every tech related meeting you attend. Be sure to hand everyone a PRINTED copy of what's on the CD, and what it does (you can find a pdf on our web site, if you would like,) otherwise, the CD will get lost in a pile of miscellaneous other stuff and never looked at. Offer to put Linux desktop software on older machines and use them to build mini-labs wherever you can. Remove specific applications, such as Microsoft Office, from your tech standards and documents, focusing rather on skills instead of specific software packages. Deploy all your machines with OSS software pre-installed on them, and remove proprietary packages from your system standard, instead requiring that proprietary packages be specifically requested when ordering machines through your department. Offer training on OSS on staff development days, even mini-conferences or tech days. Unobtrusive, gradual exposure is the key.More ...

Posted by Jim Klein | 1 comment(s) | Share This

January 17, 2007

So far, the responses to the question, "If you had the choice between 5-6 new computers or an interactive whiteboard and projector for your classroom, which would you choose and why?" have been very interesting! I must admit, I have been a little surprised - I expected a bit more diversity. Barring the, "I don't have the space" issue, most of the focus, up to now has been on the teaching side, rather than an argument for learning. I think the big question is, "which would affect learning in a greater way?"

Based on the responses, it would seem that the projector is a slam dunk - everyone thinks that would be a huge benefit. But the argument for the boards is a little less clear cut. I'm curious about the lasting impact. Once the "wow" factor has worn off, do they truly offer enough benefit over a projector alone to outweigh the cost? What if the question choices were 6 computers vs. 3-4 and a projector vs. projector and board?

Getting back to my prior assertion about learning, I think it's safe to say everyone agrees that explorative, project based learning is the most effective. In fact, there are schools whose curricular focus is almost entirely project based popping up all over the country, with parents scrambling to get their kids enrolled in them. Learning resources are becoming more individualized and interactive, and more and more products becoming web based (think Renaissance Learning and Scholastic, for example.) Textbooks are getting thinner, leaning more heavily on media and individualized tracks. In short, the focus is growing on the learner more than the learners.

I understand that this represents somewhat of a philosophical shift from traditional test focused, lesson based instruction, but I believe it is an inevitable evolution of the modern classroom. Considering all this, wouldn't more computers offer a better environment for learning projects, and the development of 21st century skills?

Comments? Opinions?More ...

Posted by Jim Klein | 10 comment(s) | Share This

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