October 8, 2008

Governor Rendell, First Lady Teach Online Class to High School Students Statewide


Contact: Chuck Ardo of Pennsylvania Office of the Governor, +1- 717-783-1116, or Leah Harris of Pennsylvania Department of Education, +1-717-783-9802

Discussion Showcases Power Of Technology in PA Classrooms

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --High school students across Pennsylvania discussed current events with Governor Edward Rendell and First Lady Judge Marjorie O. Rendell today as the first couple led a virtual class using two-way interactive video and Classrooms for the Future technology.

The Governor and First Lady, along with Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak, led a discussion on topics that included Pennsylvania's transportation infrastructure, the cost of higher education and ways to address the nation's energy use and resources. It marked an unprecedented use of the technology the Rendell administration has provided to commonwealth classrooms in recent years.

"Today's class was a terrific demonstration of how technology is transforming our classrooms and broadening horizons for our kids," Governor Rendell said. "Judge Rendell and I thoroughly enjoyed our lively, invigorating discussion with students from Erie to Philadelphia."

The class showed how Classrooms for the Future and other targeted educational investments are changing the way Pennsylvania students learn, making it possible for them to interact, collaborate and participate in ways never before possible.

Judge Rendell said the class also provided an opportunity to engage students in a worthy civics discussion.

"With the election approaching, it's the perfect time to discuss with our future leaders issues crucial to our commonwealth and nation," Judge Rendell said. "It is essential that we provide resources to our students so they understand their civic responsibility."

The Rendells interacted with high school classrooms in 11 school districts, and scores of others districts were able to watch the lesson via streaming video. Some districts allowed multiple classes to take part in the event by holding assemblies to watch the discussion. The class also was recorded so it can be available to schools on demand to incorporate into future lesson plans.

Though technology made the online lesson possible, Zahorchak said civics education was the main attraction.

"Understanding the rights and responsibilities of a citizen is key to being an active member of the community," the secretary said. "Discussions like the one these students took part in today help them learn how to play a vibrant, healthy role in civic life here in Pennsylvania, both inside and outside the classroom."

The statewide lesson was possible through classroom technology efforts the Governor has advocated during his tenure, including Classrooms for the Future and the Educational Technology Fund, or E- Fund.

Classrooms for the Future is transforming the learning experience for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania students by providing laptop computers, high-speed internet access and state-of-the-art software to high school math, science, English and social studies classrooms. The initiative also provides professional development to help teachers and students derive the greatest benefit from the technology.

Now in its third year, Classrooms for the Future will benefit students in 543 high schools in 453 districts during the 2008-09 school year, providing about 140,000 laptops that are used by about 500,000 students.

Classrooms for the Future has shown its value during its first two years. Educators who have used this innovative program in their classrooms report it has led to increased attendance and participation. An independent evaluation of the first year of the program found:

-- Teachers spent significantly less time lecturing and more time working with small groups of students, and interacting with

individual students.

-- Teachers increasingly engaged students in activities requiring

higher-order thinking, and there were significant increases in

the use of project- or problem-based learning.

-- A significant shift in the nature of assignments given to

students, moving away from worksheets and towards "real-world,"

hands-on products.

-- Teachers' attitudes changed, reflecting increased value for

technologies in the learning process, increases in effort and

hours, and increased levels of preparation to teach their

subjects well. Many noted a renewed enthusiasm for teaching.

The E-Fund provides grants to help school districts obtain quality broadband access and service. Both Classrooms for the Future and the E-Fund strengthen the Governor's commitment to improving educational opportunities in schools by expanding schools' access to technology.

The lesson plan used was aligned to the goals of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Representative Democracy, or PennCORD, a unique union of educational, advocacy and governmental organizations committed to improving civic learning for students in grades K-12. PennCORD's goal is for every Pennsylvania school to prepare its students to understand and participate in their communities, society and government.

MAGPI Power Networking, a division of Information Systems and Computing at the University of Pennsylvania, provided the video conferencing technology that enabled schools across the state to interact simultaneously with the Governor and First Lady. MAGPI delivers regional infrastructure and promotes applications for the region's research and education communities through high performance network technology.

"Our ongoing effort to help Pennsylvania students compete and succeed in a global economy includes giving them access to the necessary tools to develop their academic and job skills," Governor Rendell said. "Our investments in technology are transforming our classrooms into the learning environments of the future, and helping our young people ensure the competitive future of the commonwealth."

For more information on the Department of Education's initiatives, visit www.pde.state.pa.us.

The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses.To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visitwww.governor.state.pa.us.

EDITOR'S NOTE:A list of the high schools that took part in today's event are listed below.


Peabody High School, Pittsburgh SD


John Harris High School, Harrisburg City SD


Iroquois Jr./Sr. High School, Iroquois SD


Riverside Jr./Sr. High School, Riverside SD


Manheim Township High School, Manheim Township SD


Northwestern Lehigh High School, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Parkland Senior High School, Parkland SD


Pocono Mountain East & West High Schools, Pocono Mountain School District


Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School, Colonial SD

Hatboro-Horsham High School, Hatboro-Horsham SD


Julia R. Masterman Secondary School, Philadelphia City SD


Chuck Ardo


Leah Harris (PDE)


SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

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