Eighth graders Cristian Munoz (left) and Clifton Steward work on their Chromebooks during a language arts class at French Middle School in Topeka, Kan. Both students were eligible to bring the devices home this summer. Eighth graders Cristian Munoz (left) and Clifton Steward work on their Chromebooks during a language arts class at French Middle School in Topeka, Kan. Both students were eligible to bring the devices home this summer. When principal Kelli Hoffman ran into her students at a McDonald's during summer break, she knew they weren't there for the McNuggets.
I may have mentioned it before, but schools are big business. In the U.S. alone, some 50 million school-aged boys and girls are not only gracing our schools with wide-eyed wonder, they are also helping to drive our economy in an industry that spends a cool $700 billion on everything from piping hot breakfasts to busses to software. In fact, once you get past all the basics like salaries and utilities that eat about 80 percent of the pie, and you'll find that software represents a huge slice of what's left. Little Johnny and little Suzy are forking over between $100 and $250 per kiddo on software and technology purchases. The ability for districts to efficiently buy and manage Suzy and Johnny's massive appetite for software can drastically effect the school district's capacity to properly educate each child.
Soon, the glow of hundreds of screens illuminates each face in every classroom. Inside Skye Templeton's seventh-grade Social Studies class, students are enthralled by online documents and videos about the casualties of World War II. Nearby, in Sara Sharpe's sixth-grade math class, a small group of students works through computer drills covering ratios and percents. And, across the hallway, English and Language Arts teacher Lori Meyer expresses amazement at how much her eighth graders enjoyed doing their final project: a research paper and iMovie on the 1960s. With their MacBooks, students researched topics, wrote their papers, and submitted to their teacher via email. "This is the first time in my 12 years of teaching that students said writing the research paper was their favorite assignment," Meyer said, "and I know it was due to the laptops."
This story about education software was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Coronavirus school closures in all 50 states sent educators and parents scrambling to find online learning resources to keep kids busy and productive at home. Website traffic to the homepage for IXL, a popular tool that lets students practice skills across five subjects through online quizzes, spiked in March. Same for Matific, which gives students math practice tailored to their skill level, and Edgenuity, which develops online courses. All three of these companies try to hook prospective users with claims on their websites about their products' effectiveness.
After a school shooting in Parkland, Florida left 17 people dead, RealNetworks decided to make its facial recognition technology available for free to schools across the US and Canada. If school officials could detect strangers on their campuses, they might be able to stop shooters before they got to a classroom. Anxious to keep children safe from gun violence, thousands of schools reached out with interest in the technology. Dozens started using SAFR, RealNetworks' facial recognition technology. From working with schools, RealNetworks, the streaming media company, says it's learned an important lesson: Facial recognition isn't likely an effective tool for preventing shootings.