Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Executive Director's Message

Dear Educator:

Over the last couple of months, you may have read news reports or seen and heard announcements on GPTV and Georgia Public Radio about the loss of the satellite that delivered our television, radio and education services. Since its owner, LORAL, declared their satellite a total loss in September, we have been working hard to restore service to all of our audiences.

Using a land-based back-up delivery system, GPTV and Georgia Public Radio have remained on the air with varying levels of service in most areas of the state. Most affected has been GPB's PeachStar Educational Services, which transmits instructional programming directly to schools. Since the satellite was PeachStar's primary delivery system, service to all Georgia's 2,400+ educational satellite sites has been interrupted. However, to continue to serve Georgia's schoolchildren, Georgia Public Broadcasting has expanded the PeachStar over-the-air service, overnight on GPTV. Seven days a week from midnight until 7 AM, PeachStar's instructional programs air on GPTV's nine stations, which are universally accessible.

We have taken steps with another satellite to restore our signal delivery, and as you read this, both television and radio should be back up and running. However, since the new satellite is in a completely different position than the previous one, all of the 2400+ satellite receiver dishes at the educational sites will require repositioning and reprogramming, a process that will take a number of weeks. During this time, GPTV will continue to broadcast PeachStar's instructional programming overnight, providing this invaluable service to Georgia's schools.

We've appreciated your patience as we've worked toward solutions. If you have any questions, please give us a call 1/800/222-4788, for questions about GPTV and Georgia Public Radio programming; 1/888/501/8960 for questions about PeachStar programming.

James M. Lyle

November is the Time for Fun Learning at Scitrek

By now you've become familiar with SciTrek, your favorite hands-on science and technology museum dedicated to inspiring and educating young people to become the innovators of the future. In the past we've told you about exciting exhibits like "Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats," "ZOOMZone," and "Microbes: Invisible Invader-Amazing Allies." This November SciTrek is offering you several opportunities to learn about science in challenging and exciting ways!

Challenger Space Mission
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be an astronaut? Well, now is your chance to find out! Come explore SciTrek's new Challenger Learning Center and participate in a 2-hour space mission simulation program. You will have an opportunity to experience both Mission Control and the Space Station! Missions are geared for children and adults ages 9 and older. You can fly into action on November 8 from 10 AM-12 PM or 1-3 PM. Call 404-522-5500 ext. 253 for more details.

Family Day

Sometimes families just need to spend a little quality time together. And what better way to spend that time than learning together through fun adventures at SciTrek- November 15 will be family day at SciTrek. Admission will be free all day long and participants will have access to all permanent SciTrek exhibits, including:

* Life of the Brain
* Science of Ice Hockey
* RoboMars
* The SciTrek Express
* ZOOMZone
* Electric-Magnetic Junction
* The Color Factory
* Light Reflections
* Perception and Illusions
* Simple Machines: How Things Work
* KidSpace
* Communications Gallery
* STARS - SciTrek Amateur Radio Society
* Georgia Technology Hall of Fame

FIRST Lego League Competition
FIRST Lego League is an international program for children ages 9-14 that combines a hands-on, interactive robotics program with a sports-like atmosphere. Teams consist of up to 10 players that focus on such things as team building, problem solving, creativity, and analytical thinking. With the help of LEGO® MINDSTORMS- Robotics Invention System technology, young participants can build a robot and compete in a friendly, FIRST-style robotics event specially designed for their age group. Using LEGO bricks and other elements such as sensors, motors, and gears, teams gain hands-on experience in engineering and computer programming principles as they construct and program their unique robot inventions. Come watch this exciting competition at SciTrek from 10 AM-5 PM on November 22! If you are interested in registering for the event, please visit www.usfirst.org/robotics/.

Monday, November 3, 2003

Professional development Credit Opportunities On PeachStar

Even while increasing budget cuts make it difficult for schools and systems to fund professional development opportunities for educators, requirements for staff development unit credits remain the same.

One of the requests PeachStar most consistently receives is for cost-free educator professional development. In response to these requests, PeachStar has taken great measures to enhance our repository of professional development programming both by creating new programming in-house and by seeking out the highest quality programming on the market - and offering them free to Georgia educators in need of professional development to meet recertification requirements.

Annenberg/CPB courses represent one of the many sources of professional development programming PeachStar makes available to Georgia educators at no cost. These courses consist of at least eight sessions that include video and discussion/problem solving components as well as print materials (available directly through Annenberg) and websites. Annenberg courses offered through PeachStar cover a variety of education topics, including:

* Elementary Arts Education
* School Reform
* Literature Instruction
* Classroom Theory
* Geometry Instruction
* Algebra Instruction
* Civics
* Primary Sources
* Reading Instruction

We encourage schools to offer PeachStar programming for staff development unit (SDU) credit. Keep in mind that the same basic rules and regulations that apply to traditional modes of professional development also apply to video and web-based training.

Local school systems are ultimately responsible for deciding whether training activities are appropriate for earning SDU credit. In addition to whatever guidelines are set at the school and district level, basic state requirements must be met. The Georgia Department of Education requires that

* 10 clock hours of instruction must be attended to receive one staff development unit;
* Attendance must be documented for each workshop offering; and
* Mastery verification of on-the-job performance verification must be documented for each workshop offering.

Schools and systems that are considering the use of PeachStar programming for staff development purposes should understand that while PeachStar serves as the instructional delivery system for the programming, it is the responsibility of each school or school district to provide the following:

* An onsite facilitator to verify participant attendance at each session (required by state guidelines);
* Onsite personnel to document that participants have completed workshop activities successfully or that new learnings have been incorporated successfully into the job as verified by the on-the-job performance assessment (required by state guidelines); and
* An onsite facilitator to ensure that school or school district requirements for earning staff development units are met.

If you are interested in making PeachStar programming part of your staff development plan, contact your school or system staff development coordinator. There is an existing form called the Staff Development Unit Course Completion form, approved by the Georgia Department of Education that your system might want to use to document successful completion of SDU work through PeachStar.

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Physics and Chemistry Through PeachStar Classroom

PeachStar Classroom is Georgia Public Broadcasting's initiative to deliver credit-bearing courses to Georgia students in subject areas where many systems lack staff with specialized certification. High school chemistry and physics courses are currently available, providing video content lessons and classroom materials to help teachers provide their students with high-quality science instruction.

The primary method of course delivery is through 30-minute video streaming broadcasts featuring teachers presenting the material to students, demonstrations of principles and techniques, students asking questions and interacting with the teacher, and short assessments of the material. A certified teacher serving as an onsite facilitator for the class interacts with the students, sets up labs, and administers assignments and assessments for the course.

Available classroom activities range from interactive worksheets and videos to online labs and quizzes. The discussion boards enable students and facilitators to post questions and receive answers from PeachStar Classroom's certified content specialists.

It's still not too late to register for physics and chemistry for the 2003-2004 school year. Many schools have found that their chemistry or physics teachers would like some assistance in the face of a challenging teaching schedule. Other schools have expressed interest in using the materials in the event of a long-term substitute, or a teacher absence. Some are interested in using the courses during second semester to provide remedial materials for first-semester chemistry or physics.

New to our program this year are schools in Banks, Cherokee, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties as well as the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, who join Dodge, Ben Hill Taliferro and Calhoun counties who participated last year. McIntosh County will be joining us with physics when spring semester begins.