By Nick Sestanovich
As Measure S bond projects continue to move along, attendees of this Thursday’s school board meeting can get a greater understanding of which projects have been completed, which ones are nearing completion and which projects will be taken on next. The discussion will be presented by Bond Director Roxanne Egan.
Measure S was a ballot initiative approved by Benicia voters in 2014 aimed at providing $49.6 million in bond funding for improvements at each of the Benicia Unified School District’s seven schools. As of Dec. 31, 11 projects had been completed, technology infrastructure upgrades at all the schools, playground modernizations at the elementary schools, fixing the roofs at Benicia Middle School and Mary Farmar Elementary School, painting the exteriors at Benicia High School and renovating Benicia High’s stadium.
Egan also identified 10 approved bond projects in progress. These include fire alarm replacements at Liberty High School and the District Office as well as Mary Farmar, Joe Henderson and Robert Semple elementary schools, a fire alarm upgrade at Matthew Turner Elementary School, a modernization of Benicia Middle School’s campus, miscellaneous infrastructure upgrades, alternative education improvements and repairing the gym floor at Benicia High. Another approved project is improvements to Benicia High’s Performing Arts Building, which Egan said is part of the district’s efforts to apply for a Career Technical Education grant for the building. If the grant is awarded, then the district will be required to match up to a maximum of $3 million in local funding. If the grant is not awarded, then a minimum amount of $400,000 will be allocated for PAB improvements.
Source: School board to hear quarterly bond update at Thursday’s meeting
By Daily Republic Staff
High school students are invited to participate in the Solano County 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology program, which offers a chance for teens to engage in community service, learn new skills and experience teaching firsthand.
Program participants will be trained to teach science in teams to elementary-age children in after-school programs.
Training will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday and Monday at the 4-H office, 501 Texas St. Teens must attend both days. The deadline to register is Friday.
Source: Solano 4-H SET program offers teens training workshop
By Richard Bammer
A discussion of 2018-19 budget priorities will be among the more significant items of an otherwise relatively light agenda when Fairfield-Suisun Unified leaders meet tonight in Fairfield.
Michelle Henson, assistant superintendent of business services, will lead the discussion, which will be based on Gov. Jerry Brown’s $190 billion 2018-19 state budget proposal, released in January and due for revision in May.
Her presentation, casting an eye on the impact of the state’s numbers on the district’s, will come two weeks after she led a budget presentation at the trustees’ Jan. 25 meeting.
Specifically, Henson will note that projected average daily attendance (ADA) funding for the coming year will be about $9,450 for each of the district’s estimated 20,550 students, yielding some $194 million in state funding under Brown’s landmark Local Control Funding Formula. Additionally, she will tell the seven-member governing board, one-time discretionary funds from the current year will account for some $6 million in additional funds spent on students.
Source: Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District to discuss 2018-19 budget priorities
By Ariana Figueroa
CJ Marple wanted to teach his young students how quickly information can spread on the Internet.
So earlier this year, the third-grade science teacher wrote up a tweet with the help of his students, asking for other users to retweet the message, or even reply to the message with their location.
The Kansas teacher says he expected 1,000 or so retweets, but within days the tweet went viral and gained more than 227,000 retweets and 75,000 replies from users all over the world. His students, who are probably a little too young for their own social media accounts, learned a lot that week about the power of social media. If used right, Marple says, “The possibilities are endless.”
Source: Teach Students To Use Social Media (The Right Way) And The Possibilities Are Endless : NPR Ed : NPR
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that he has appointed Barbara Murchison as Director of the California Department of Education (CDE) Professional Learning Support Division.
Murchison will oversee the division’s efforts to support educators throughout their professional career, from recruitment to leadership opportunities. This division works in collaboration across the Department and the state, helping educators implement the California Standards and curriculum frameworks.
It administers several professional learning programs for educators at all levels and in all content areas, including science, technology, engineering, math, history-social science, literacy, and arts, with the goal of ensuring equitable learning opportunities for the state’s most vulnerable students, including English learners.
Murchison most recently served as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Lead, where she helped create a plan that meets federal requirements while shifting away from top-down decision-making and toward local control that helps local school districts better meet their own needs. The plan was developed over 18 months with input from thousands of Californians.
Source: New Professional Learning Support Director – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)
By Michael J. Petrilli
For decades, education technophiles have envisioned a future wherein gee-whiz devices and engaging digital applications whisk students away from the doldrums of traditional classroom instruction and into a fun world of beeping computers, self-paced lessons, and cloud-based collaboration.
That may yet come to pass—and at some outlier schools, is already here—but don’t be surprised if the true transformative power of education technology is most evident when it comes to something old-fashioned: basic education research. The declining cost and easy availability of substantial computing power may enable us finally to unlock the black box of the classroom, giving scholars and teachers much more insight into what is and isn’t working. Technology can do more than just keep students engaged; it can equip teachers, school and district leaders, and policymakers with the sort of insights and analytics that can help them make better decisions for students.
Source: Big Data Transforms Education Research: Can machine learning unlock the keys to great teaching? – Education Next : Education Next
By Nick Sestanovich
Raul Vega, a 2005 graduate of Benicia High School, recently published a mystery story using his hometown as an inspiration for the setting. It is not a book or even a video series, but in true 21st-century fashion, the story is presented as a downloadable or streamable podcast published in episodic installments.
Vega, who is also a musician, said the Rose Drive Podcast started as something he could write music to.
“I didn’t have any projects lined up, so one day I decided with my roommate, ‘Why don’t we create our own?” he said. “We decided to go for it and come up with different ideas.”Rose Drive Podcast tells the story of Markus Hill, a man still haunted by a man named Forrest Sutherland who ruined his family before the end of Hill’s senior year and suddenly disappeared. Ten years later, Hill relocates from New York City to his hometown of Southampton where he overhears two classmates talking about the recent 10-year high school reunion and learns that Sutherland was at the reunion. The podcast focuses on Hill as he tries to learn information on Sutherland’s whereabouts.
Source: Benicia High grad launches weekly mystery story podcast
By Rusul Alrubail
If we look at digital literacy and its implementation in the classroom for the past 10 years, we can see the impact on students’ writing and communication skills.
In an online survey by the Pew Research Center on the impact of digital tools on students’ writing, half the teachers who responded said that digital tools made it easier for students to write and that when using digital tools, students were more engaged and motivated to write.In another survey, 40 percent of teachers said that their students already shared their work publicly using wikis, blogs, and websites, and that those students were also adept at micro-writing, a mode that uses different digital platforms to convey, describe, and analyze thoughts and opinions and share them with a particular audience in short forms.
Source: An Academic Use for Social Media | Edutopia
By John Glidden
The Vallejo City Unified School District will continue to buy new and refurbished computers.
Meeting on Aug. 2, the board of education declined to support a resolution directing district staff to purchase only used computers for classroom and office use during fiscal year 2017-18.
Board Vice President Burky Worel brought forth the resolution, admitting he only did so to put his fellow trustees on record regarding their respective beliefs on the issue.
The handful of teachers who addressed the board offered different reasons on why refurbished computers would not be helpful to students. One teacher said the used computers may not be physically capable of withstanding use in a classroom, nor have the ability to run the needed specific programs.
Former Vallejo trustee Hazel Wilson registered her disapproval with the resolution, stating it would not help the district save money.
Source: Vallejo school board declines to support computer resolution
By Richard Bammer
Solano Community College’s biotech manufacturing program has earned a sterling reputation for excellence, turning out graduates ready for 21st-century jobs, and on Monday faculty and students enrolled in the academic discipline will walk into a gleaming, $34.5 million, state-of-the-art structure in Vacaville to continue to enhance that reputation.
The celebratory day, the first of the 2017-18 academic year for SCC, will come a few weeks and a year after school leaders broke ground on the 38,000-square-foot project on North Village Parkway and a just few weeks after the same leaders broke ground on a new $37 million, 44,000-square-foot science building at the main Fairfield campus on Suisun Valley Road.
The projects, clearly a significant boost to the school’s educational mission and perhaps the envy of other colleges, are financed by Measure Q, the $348 million bond measure Solano County voters passed in 2012.
Source: New era for SCC’s bitech, science programs
By Anya Kamenetz
Steven Isaacs — @mr_isaacs on Twitter — is a full-time technology teacher in Baskingridge, N.J. He’s also the co-founder of a new festival that set the Guinness World Record for largest gathering dedicated to a single video game.
The game that cements both halves of his life together? Minecraft.
(In case you haven’t heard, Minecraft, originally developed by Markus Persson of Sweden, offers players the chance to build a 3-D world out of “blocks.” Since its release in 2009, Minecraft has sold more than 121 million copies, making it the best-selling game of all time after another blocky favorite, Tetris.)
Other games allow you to fight monsters, construct giant castles, build power plants, navigate mazes, chop down trees for wood, survive in the wilderness or band together into guilds. Minecraft has all of the above. It is so open-ended, in fact, that some refer to it as a platform instead of a game, or an “infinite Lego set.”
Source: ‘Schoolifying’ Minecraft Without Ruining It : NPR Ed : NPR
By Monica Burns
The start of a new school year is a great time to reflect on what’s really working for you and what isn’t quite cutting it. When it comes to staying organized, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s all about finding a system that works for you and picking apps or tools that you will actually use. There isn’t a tool that will work perfectly for everyone—you may love a particular feature of one tool but use another that colleagues prefer to connect and collaborate with them.
As you sort through the following free tools, don’t try them all at the same time. Pick one or two, use them for a month, and then reflect on how well they’re helping you stay organized. You may choose to add a website or app to your tool belt as you explore another resource, or you may decide to scrap it and try something new.
Source: 10 Free Apps and Tools for Starting Out (and Staying) Organized | Edutopia
By Richard Bammer
County fairs are more than arts and crafts, cooking and art competitions, animal and livestock displays, horse racing and demolition derbies, midway carnivals and heart-stopping foods, main stage entertainment of aging rockers and rappers and small-stage magic acts.
Today, kids passing through fairgrounds turnstiles are versed in Digital Age technology and want a chance to exercise their knowledge and have fun while, perhaps, continuing to prepare for their future education and job prospects.
To that end, the Solano County Office of Education will host a free, hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) event Wednesday through Aug. 6 at the Solano County Fair, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, in Vallejo.
The interactive SCOE event will be at the agency’s STEAM booth in McCormack Hall, open from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday and 1:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5 and 6.
Source: Science fun for kids at the county fair
By Mary Jo Madda
When I was a middle school science teacher, I oftentimes found myself digging into my own pockets to pay for equipment — Bunsen burners, test tubes, dead frogs. And that didn’t change when one-to-one iPad programs in schools became popular; in fact, it added yet another item, software, to my to-buy list. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found free online products, especially those that seemed flashy.
It didn’t even cross my mind back then that using free tools (and more importantly, asking my students to use free tools) could be problematic and even potentially dangerous — more so than the free consumer products I was finding online and using in my own time.
Source: Why Schools Should Be Wary Of Free Tech Products — And Startups Shouldn’t Make Them
By Mary Beth Hertz
As computers become less expensive, many schools are opting to bring low-cost machines such as Chromebooks into the classroom. While this has opened the door to exciting new learning opportunities, with these devices—as well as students’ smartphones—come new challenges, including the distraction factor. How do we teach students to integrate technology into their schoolwork and their learning while also making sure that they’re staying focused on the task at hand?
Focus and Multitasking
In “Age of Distraction: Why It’s Crucial for Students to Learn to Focus,” Katrina Schwartz refers to studies showing that the ability to focus on a task has been linked to future success. She quotes psychologist Daniel Goleman: “This ability [to focus] is more important than IQ or the socioeconomic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success, and health.”
Source: Digital Tools and Distraction in School | Edutopia
By Richard Bammer
Third-party programs that may lead to “back door” intrusions. Differences between Windows and Mac operating systems. Good advice about ways to safeguard personal identifier information online. Social media tips.
Those were among the questions and topics aired Monday during the first day of the first-ever Cybersecurity Summer Camp, a weeklong program for Solano-area high schoolers, at Solano Community College in Fairfield.
Some 20 students signed up for the free weeklong program, but only 16, all of them boys, showed up in the morning in Room 503 inside the campus administration building at the Suisun Valley Road campus.
Source: Cyber safety boot camp at Solano Community College
By Richard Bammer
The Stuxnet worm entered Iran’s nuclear facilities through hacked suppliers in 2010, the first cyber strike distributed by the Internet. Some 40 million people were affected by a hack that stole credit and debit card data from Target stores on or before Dec. 22, 2013.
Elite North Korean cyber warfare agents are believed to be behind the November 2014 Sony Pictures hack. More recently, American intelligence officials are convinced Russian state actors, via a computer hacking, meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
In a new world of cyber warfare and crime, governments, corporations and individuals are increasingly forced to secure their sensitive data, and cybersecurity skills are becoming a valuable self-marketing tool, say organizers of the Cybersecurity Summer Camp at Solano Community College in Fairfield.
Source: SCC to host cybersecurity summer camp
By Nick Sestanovich
Benicia Unified School District trustees heard an update on Measure S projects completed to date and potential projects for the future at Thursday’s school board meeting. The presentation was delivered by Roxanne Egan, the Measure S bond director.
Measure S was a ballot initiative approved by Benicia voters in 2014 to provide $49.6 million in bond funding for projects for the district’s seven schools. The bond funds were initially going to be issued in three series: Series A, B and C. Due to low interest, Series B and C were consolidated into one bond issuance. Series A projects were announced in 2014, and 11 have been completed so far: technology infrastructure upgrades at all the schools, phone system upgrades at all the schools, renovated playgrounds at all the elementary schools, fixing the roofs at Benicia Middle School and Mary Farmar Elementary, fixing the softball field bleachers at Benicia High School, repainting the exterior at Benicia High, installing new camera security systems at all the schools, upgrading the fire alarm system at Benicia Middle, upgrading the IT server and replacing the clocks, bells and PA systems.
Two projects are currently in construction at Benicia High: a renovation of the George Drolette Stadium and fire alarms. The former is expected to be completed over the summer while the latter is estimated to be completed by October, Egan said.
Source: Bond committee will discuss possible future Measure S projects over summer
By Thomas Arnett
Blended-learning proponents can point to a growing number of schools that consistently achieve extraordinary student learning results. But is technology the key to their success?
Recently, I visited five blended-learning schools in Las Vegas and the San Jose area that are earning accolades for serving low-income and minority students and achieving strong student learning outcomes: Dr. Owen C. Roundy Elementary, Vegas Verdes Elementary, and Elaine Wynn Elementary, three franchise schools in Las Vegas’s Clark County School District, and Hollister Prep and Gilroy Prep, two charter elementary schools operated by Navigator Schools in the San Jose area. All five schools use some variation of the Station Rotation or Lab Rotation blended-learning models for core instruction in math and English language arts. But even though blended learning is a deliberate part of their instructional approaches, it didn’t seem to be the differentiating factor driving their success.
When I observed their classrooms and interviewed many of their teachers and administrators, the thing that stood out as the likely key contributor to student learning was high-quality teaching practices, inspired and supported by effective school leadership. This should come as no surprise given that education research consistently shows that the quality of a school’s teachers has a bigger impact on student achievement than any other school-level factor.
Source: Technology Doesn’t Drive Blended Learning Success … or Does It? – Education Next : Education Next
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced the release of the California Department of Education’s (CDE) first mobile application that offers detailed information about California’s 10,000 public schools.
The CA Schools mobile app, developed in-house by the CDE and available for iOS and Android systems, lets users locate nearby schools based on their current location and provides a wealth of details, including contacts and directions, demographics, test scores, and a school’s California School Dashboard profile page.
“Never before have we put so much school information literally in the hands of our students, parents, and community members and made the information so accessible and user-friendly,” Torlakson said. “Home buyers can check out schools in their prospective neighborhoods. Parents heading to a child’s away game can map directions to the host school. There are all kinds of potential uses.”
Source: Torlakson Announces CA Schools Mobile App Release – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)