eSN Special Report How the rise of digital video is transforming education. | PAGE 25
Grants & Funding Watch the NCLB renewal process for new grant opportunities. | PAGE 48
Viewpoint Ed tech eight years later: Much has changed—and much hasn’t. | PAGE 43
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Schools caught in budget battle
U.S. teens lag in math, science Test results prompt calls for change From eSchool News staff and wire service reports National standards, a high regard for teachers and the teaching profession, more equitable distribution of resources, autonomy at the school level to implement reforms, and opportunities to personalize instruction: These are some of the key reasons Finland saw its students earn the highest marks in both science and math on a recent international exam. U.S. students, in contrast, were outperformed on average by 16 other industrialized countries in science—and by 23 in math. The poor showing of U.S. students on the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has renewed calls to improve math and science instruction to keep the nation competitive in the new global economy. And in light of the results, many observers say the U.S. has much to learn from other countries. The test was given to 15-year-olds in 30 industrialized countries last year. It focused on science but also included a math portion. The 30 countries, including the United States, make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which runs the international test. The issue is not that U.S. students did poorly on the exam; it’s that other countries have made significant strides in the last few years. There was no change in U.S. math scores since 2003, the last time the test was given. Yet students in other nations— such as Poland and Estonia—improved enough to leapfrog U.S. students in the results. (The science scores aren’t comparable between 2003 and 2006, because the tests weren’t the same.) Finland’s 15-year-olds did the best on the science test, followed by students in Hong Kong and Canada. Students in Finland, Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong were the top performers in math. The results should serve as a wake-up call to U.S. educators and policy makers, many observers said—especially as the economy becomes more global, and the need to compete with businesses and employees from other nations intensifies. At a Dec. 4 briefing to discuss the PISAresults, representatives from six national organizations—the Alliance for Excellent Education, Asia Society, See Science, page 46
Spending squabble puts ed funds at risk From eSchool News staff and wire service reports
Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos introduces the Kindle at a Nov. 19 news conference in New York. Some analysts have called the $399 device, which will allow downloads of more than 90,000 books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers, the “future of reading”— see page 7.
City seeks low-cost laptops Deal could open door for other U.S. schools From eSchool News staff and wire service reports The low-cost XO laptop computer that aims to revolutionize education worldwide could be coming to Birmingham, Ala., students for about the same low cost that officials in developing nations must pay, if a deal reported to be in negotiations goes through. The Birmingham News reported in November that more than 15,000 children in Birmingham city schools would receive an XO laptop under a tentative agreement new mayor Larry Langford had reached with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation, the organization behind the initiative. The computers would be given to every child in grades 1-8 and would cost about $3 million, or roughly $200 apiece. If finalized, the deal would mark a significant development in OLPC’s campaign to transform instruction through the use of technology, because it would open the door for other North American cities to participate. The effort previously had targeted students in developing nations such as Uruguay, Thailand, and Brazil. Until now, it was believed the only way U.S. residents could get their hands on XO machines was through OLPC’s “Give One, Get One” program. This limited-time offer—in which participants agreed to pay $399 for the laptop, with the extra cost funding a machine for a child in a developing nation—expired Dec. 31. The existence of OLPC’s “Give One, Get One” program might have been the reason
that OLPC and Birmingham officials pulled back from discussing their negotiations, after Langford associate John Katopodis told the Birmingham News in November that a deal appeared to be imminent. “Over 15,000 children will be receiving their own personal laptops,” Katopodis, who was negotiating with OLPC on Langford’s behalf, told the city newspaper for a Nov. 13 story. “We believe providing these children with the tools to catch up will give them a head start in life, because technoloSee Laptops, page 45
As press time loomed, Democrats and many moderate Republicans were still wrangling with hard-line GOP lawmakers— backed by President Bush and the power of his veto pen—over 2008 spending levels in a conflict that put funding for several education-related programs in jeopardy. In the latest development before press time, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate were preparing a massive budget bill that would split the difference between Bush’s own budget proposal and the $22 billion in domestic spending that Congress had added to the president’s figures in an earlier budget attempt. But even the fate of this compromise bill remained uncertain as of press time. Urged on by many hard-line Republicans, the White House threatened to veto any legislation that proposed spending increases to non-military domestic programs. (For the latest news on the budget feud, see our coverage at eSchool News Online: http://www.eschoolnews.com.) The conflict arose in November, when Bush vetoed a spending measure for labor, health, and education programs that would See Battle, page 44
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eSCHOOL NEWS • 3
eSN THIS MONTH– JANUARY 2008 25 eSN Special Report
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Visual learning: How the rise of digital video is transforming education.
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41 SAFE Schools Update
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WHAT’S NEWS 1
Schools caught in budget battle
MIT adapts free online courseware for high schools
U.S. teens lag in math, science
‘eMail overload’ spurs creation of new sorting tools
Birmingham mayor seeks low-cost laptops
Ruling puts state’s virtual schools at risk
School laptop program helps boost writing scores
Next ed-tech frontier: Classes via cell phone
Reports spotlight online learning’s gains, needs
Instructors get help teaching with Second Life
Can Amazon’s Kindle spark interest in reading?
Web offerings spread in battle for desktop
Google’s book-scanning effort faces competition
America left behind. — Gregg W. Downey
eSN Online Update What our online readers think are their biggest ed-tech needs.
52 Viewpoint Educational technology won’t transform instruction unless schools are transformed, too.
54 eSchool Partners Key organizations that support the eSchool movement.
— Jessica Weiss
48 Grants & Funding
O N L I N E
Watch the NCLB renewal process closely for new grant opportunities.
Resources for this issue (a partial list)
— Deborah Ward
1 Schools caught in budget battle
49 Netwatch This month’s top web sites for teaching and leading.
50 Tech Buyer’s Marketplace Purchasing intelligence from the K-20 Technology Solutions Center.
51 Product Spotlight New hardware and software of interest to eSchools.
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41 SAFE Schools Update For more school safety news and information, see the School Actions for Emergencies (SAFE) Center at eSN Online: http://www.eschoolnews.com/safe-center
48 Grants & Funding For other recent columns by Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) Deborah Ward, go to: http://www.eschoolnews.com/cic
Director of Information Systems Vincent Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org Web Communications Specialist Jeffrey Festa email@example.com Web Developer Jeffrey Epstein firstname.lastname@example.org Co-Founder Larry Siegelman 1954–2002 eSchool News ISSN: 1098-0814 is published monthly except bi-monthly November/December by eSchool News Communications Group 7920 Norfolk Ave., Suite 900 Bethesda, MD 20814 Phone: (301) 913-0115 Fax: (301) 913-0119 eMail: gdowney@eSchoolNews.com Home Page: www.eschoolnews.com All rights reserved; reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of eSchool News or IAQ Publications Inc. ©2008 by eSchool News. The cost for a subscription in the U.S. is $120/year, Mexico or Canada $158/year, all other countries $196/year. Please enclose a bank draft or international money order in U.S. dollars. Back issues of eSchool News are available for $15 each.
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4 • eSCHOOL NEWS
Default: Values set by the system until changed by you
America Left Behind Gregg W. Downey, Editor email@example.com
USA, USA! Hooray, hooray! We’re No. . . . er, 24. Well, actually, that’s only in math. In science, we’re way better. We’re No. 17 in that core subject. Isn’t that swell? Just look at our front page this month. I don’t think I can remember a juxtaposition of top stories that bore more eloquent testimony to the gloomy condition of education in the good old US of A. On the right (side of the front page), we have our President Bush. His bold move: Veto federal funds for education. On the left side, we have discouraging word of America’s standing in math and science among the community of industrialized nations. I know. It’s a brand new year, and I probably shouldn’t start out 2008 like a Mr. Frowny Face, but really! Where is the outrage about this national shame? Digression 1—consider this: People are quick to get their knickers in a knot when Britney Spears exits a limousine in an unlady-like manner. Oh, about that, they can fulminate for weeks. (Did you know—just to belabor this for a moment—that the No. 1 search conducted on Yahoo in 2007 was for . . .you guessed it . . . dear Britney? And then you wonder why I pout.)
can’t just throw money at this energy crisis.” All right. I get it. A society has many needs. But, you know, maybe we should try a dollar dump for education sometime. For ten years, say— let’s all just “throw money” at our schools and colleges! But, no—of course, money alone isn’t the answer. What is? Well, consider again the characteristics of education in Finland. That’s the No. 1 country currently spanking Uncle Sam in science education. What does Finland have that we don’t? It’s right there on our front page, folks, in black and white. Read all about it: “National standards, a high regard for teachers and the teaching profession, more equitable distribution of resources, autonomy at the school level to implement reforms, and opportunities to personalize instruction . . .” As Managing Editor Dennis Pierce remarked the other day—for the USA, those characteristics have been turned on their head: We have no national standards, just federal “accountability.” Teachers and teaching are, if not disrespected, certainly not revered. The best resources invariably flow to the wealthiest; the poor are always with us, out in the cold. Individual schools have
“Like the pilgrim in the poem, we have awakened to find ourselves in a ‘dark wood of error.’” But America, except for education associations, is virtually mute when our president recoils at the prospect of kicking in a little extra for education. Mr. Bush can cheerfully authorize $471 billion for the Department of Defense (and that’s just the “non-war” spending), but with a flash of his terrible, swift veto pen, Bush lays low a proposed five percent increase in spending for the U.S. Department of Education. Not that I think more dough for DOE is education’s golden panacea, mind you. But a lot more funding for the education department might mean a few more dollars would actually make their way down to the schools and classrooms where the money could really make a difference. America is being left in the dust on science and math, but money alone isn’t the answer. As some simply love to say, “We can’t just throw money at this problem.” Digression 2: Did you ever notice, as social critic Jonathan Kozol once observed, that nobody ever uses that “throw-money” line in connection with, say, weapons systems or oil exploration? Nobody shouts, “We can’t just throw money at the Pentagon. We
little autonomy to implement reform, and personal instruction is straightjacketed by relentless adherence to what’s on those mandated high-stakes tests. Blaming President Bush for all this is a popular pastime in some circles. And heaven knows, that’s a good place to start. But it’s too cheap a shot. I think the blame belongs to all of us. And if that’s true, perhaps the solution resides in the same place. In Dante’s Inferno, the first ring of hell is reserved for those nameless, faceless souls who never protested, never took a stand, never took action, never believed. Like the pilgrim in the poem, we have awakened to find ourselves in a “dark wood of error.” We’re down. But it’s time to begin the ascent. Today is 2008, and the hour for fresh resolutions is at hand. So let us resolve, one to another, that this is the year we’ll find a way out of our dismal wood. If we don’t do it soon, we’re condemning our children, our country, and ourselves. Let’s tell our would-be leaders (and ourselves) that the Florentine choice hasn’t changed: You take action, damn it. Or you go straight to hell. eSN
School laptop program helps boost writing scores From eSchool News staff and wire service reports Maine’s pioneering program to give every middle school student a laptop computer is leading to better writing, according to a recent study. Despite creating a language all their own using eMail and text messages, students are still learning standard English, and their writing scores have improved on a standardized test since laptop computers were distributed, the study says. Moreover, the students’ writing skills improved even when they were using pen and paper, not just a computer keyboard. “If you concentrate on whether laptops are helping kids achieve 21st-century skills, this demonstrates that it’s happening in writ-
Silvernail said it’s unrealistic to expect big increases on standardized test scores that are tied to laptops, but writing is the exception. Laptops make it easier for students to edit their copy and make changes without getting writer’s cramp, he said. As a result, students are writing and revising their work more frequently, which leads to better results. Virginia Rebar, principal at Piscataquis Community Middle School, said she was not surprised by the results, because language skills are being developed every time the computers are used, in social studies and other subjects beyond language arts. “It’s just a lot easier to edit, to self-critique. Our teachers engage students in a lot of peer editing. Not only are they helping themselves, but they’re helping each other as they get to their final projects,” Rebar said.
8th-grade writing scores have increased since Maine began its laptop program. ing,” said David Silvernail, director of the Maine Education Policy Research Institute at the University of Southern Maine. The study, authored by Silvernail and Aaron Gritter, is the first in a series in which educators aim to evaluate Maine’s first-inthe-nation laptop program. The program, which seeks to eliminate the so-called “digital divide” between wealthy and poor students, kicked off with distribution of about 36,000 computers to each seventh- and eighth-grader in Maine public schools in 2002 and 2003. The study focused on eighth-graders’ scores on the Maine Educational Assessment to see if the standardized test results backed up the perception of both students and teachers alike that laptops have led to better writing skills. State Education Commissioner Sue Gendron said the study represents the first concrete evidence that backs up what most educators already believe: that the laptop program, known as the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, is working. Maine Education Assessment scores indicate 49 percent of eighth-graders were proficient in 2005 in writing, compared with 29 percent in 2000. And it wasn’t just a function of taking the writing portion of the test using a computer and keyboard. Students who used pen and paper, and those who used a computer keyboard, showed similar improvements on the test, Silvernail said. During the same period, math scores were unchanged and science scores improved by 2 points, while reading scores actually dropped 3 points, Silvernail said. Writing showed the biggest improvement—from 530 to 537 points, he said.
Jeff Mao, coordinator of educational technology for the Maine Department of Education, said the state has expanded the program to provide laptops for all teachers, librarians, principals, and technology integration specialists in grades 7-12—and a number of the state’s high schools have used local funding to participate as well. Mao attributes the program’s success to several factors. For instance, education remains the guiding force for the program, and strong leadership at all levels has allowed it to flourish. “As we make technical decisions, they are done in response to educational needs, and never the other way around,” he said. The state’s relationship with its vendor, Apple Inc., is another key reason for its success. “We have a contract with Apple that provides functionality and training,” and not just hardware, Mao said. “If your relationship with a vendor ends at the delivery of the boxes, then I would be prepared for a eSN much harder road to success.” Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
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See these related links: Maine Learning Technology Initiative http://www.mainelearns.org
Maine Education Policy Research Institute http://www.umaine.edu/mepri
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6 • eSCHOOL NEWS
eSN Onlineupdate Reports spotlight online http://www.eschoolnews.com
Getting to know all about you Jessica Weiss, Online Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org One way we strive to serve our readers’ needs and interests is by ensuring that our web site, eSchool News Online, is always the premier source for usable news, information, and resources on education technology. In support of that goal, our recently completed online readership survey—conducted with the help of researchers at George Mason University—presented us with valuable feedback directly from you and your fellow educators who are involved with school technology. The results were very interesting. According to our research, you are using a whole host of technologies effectively in your schools! In what might come as a surprise to some, laptops and interactive whiteboards are the two technologies that are having the “most major positive impact” in your schools, according to the survey results. That finding seems to support what researchers in Maine discovered about that state’s pioneering laptop program and its impact on student achievement: namely, students’ writing scores have increased since the program began. (See the story on page 4 of this issue.) And yet, laptops and interactive whiteboards still have their detractors who say they are little more than expensive add-ons. A recent segment of our ed-tech video news program, TechWatch, explored the question, “Interactive Whiteboards: Boon or Boondoggle?” (To view this six-minute program, see http://www.eschoolnews.com/ video-center/esn-techwatch.) If you’re unsure about interactive whiteboards, laptops, or any other emerging ed-tech solutions, we hope eSchool News Online is always your first stop for information and insight to help you sift through the issues. Our online readership survey revealed that you’re looking for news and information specific to certain school technology challenges, as well as new product information and reviews. As always, eSchool News Online provides this information in a variety of ways. A simple click on the site’s Resources tab will bring you to several Educator Resource Centers—collections of news and resources aimed at helping you navigate today’s most pressing ed-tech challenges, such as “Professional Development” and “Minimizing Classroom Disruptions.” (You can also get there by typing in the following address: http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources.) And at the K-20 Technology Solutions Center at eSN Online (http://www.eschoolnews.com/tsc), you can practice due diligence in ed-tech purchasing by identifying the leading service providers (browse by keyword, company name, or product category), discovering featured products, and reviewing relevant research briefs, case studies, and white papers. Plus, you can get the latest company and product updates at our Product News Update. Our survey also revealed you’re looking for information about ed-tech best practices and new funding opportunities—and with our newly redesigned web site, it’s now easier than ever to find this information, too. Under the “Home” tab at eSN Online, click on “Best Practices” (or go directly to http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/bestpractice/) to find dozens of case studies and exemplary projects that use technology to enhance instruction or streamline school administrative functions. And for insight and information on how to get much-needed funding to support school technology initiatives, visit our Funding section (http://www.eschoolnews.com/funding) for new grant listings, tips and strategies from our funding columnist, Deb Ward, and more! For those of you who took our online survey this past fall, thanks for your feedback. As Online Editor, it helps me to know who you are and what kinds of information you need. Interestingly, our online readers are older than some might think— defying the notion that the internet is primarily a medium for the younger generations. In fact, 43 percent of survey respondents were in their 50s, and 70 percent were at least 40 years of age. Forty-five percent have been in education for 21 years or more, and most have jobs in which they either recommend technology purchases, determine needs, or set goals, directions, and standards. Regardless of your role, eSchool News Online is here to serve you, and thus your schools. As always, please feel free to let me know how we can better do so. Just eMail me at email@example.com. Thanks.
learning’s gains—and needs Laura Devaney Associate Editor
Online learning continues to grow at a rapid pace, with 30 states—six more than last year—now offering state-led programs or initiatives, according to the latest report offered by the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL). But the group warns that more oversight of online learning programs is needed if this growth is to continue, and it urges administrators to make sure their online courses are equally accessible to all students. “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning” is the fourth in an annual series of reports assessing the virtual-schooling landscape. As of September 2007, the report says, 42 states have either supplemental or full-time online learning programs, or both—up from 38 states in 2006. What’s more, of the eight states that offer neither supplemental nor full-time online learning programs, several are in the planning stages for introducing online learning opportunities. Forty percent of the online learning programs surveyed saw their enrollments grow by at least 25 percent last year, the report says—and half of these grew by at least 50 percent. K12 Inc., the largest operator of virtual schools across the country, filed for its initial public offering in late July and claims a 35-percent growth rate in enrollment over the last two years. Yet, as online learning programs have continued to multiply, they’ve also been subjected to increased scrutiny. “There has been increased scrutiny of online programs, particularly full-time programs, in a few states, and programs that do not adhere to [high-]quality standards risk creating a backlash that could impair all online programs,” the report says. A key development in the last year has been the release of audits of full-time online programs by three states: Colorado, Idaho, and Kansas. Colorado’s audit in particular questioned the practices of several full-time online learning programs and the oversight capability of the Colorado Department of Education. In response to these findings, the state board of education created a task force that made recommendations to lawmakers. Colorado legislators then passed a bill that made numerous changes to the state’s online education regulations. Among these are the creation of a division within the state education department to oversee online programs, the creation of standards to define the quality of online programs, and a requirement that all online programs report annually to the state. Although most programs seem to offer high-quality options, a lack of transparency and data in many states—coupled with questionable practices from a few programs—could have a detrimental impact on online learning’s sustainability, the report warns. “While each of the three states that conducted an audit has some statespecific issues, several general lessons for online programs emerge from the findings,” it says. “The primary lesson is the ongoing need for quality assurance of both courses and instruction—not only to ensure quality for students, but also to demonstrate quality to other stakeholders. It is likely that these audits are the begin-
ning of greater scrutiny of online programs by states and policy makers. With greater analysis comes the opportunity to prove that online learning works, and to demonstrate how online programs are increasing educational opportunities for students across the country.” Written by Evergreen Consulting, the report was funded by a collaboration of entities, including the Clark County School District, Connections Academy, Florida Virtual School, Illinois Virtual High School, Odyssey Charter Schools, Texas Education Agency, and Virtual High School.
Access and professional development NACOL also released two separate issue briefs that highlight the need to ensure equal access to online courses and highquality professional development for online educators. In “Access and Equity in Online Classes and Virtual Schools,” the group notes the importance of making online courses accessible to all students in order to meet schools’ legal obligations, and it outlines some of the ways to ensure accessibility. Students taking online courses must have internet access, for example. Yet, some students might have dial-up connections at home—and some might not have access to the internet outside of school or a public library. “Public schools that operate educational programs available only through students’ own computers are not truly accessible,” the issue brief says. “Any virtual education program that operates in a public school has a responsibility to make the program available to students who don’t have their own computers, or who don’t have the bandwidth to make participation in the online programs reasonable.” Online learning programs also need to make sure they accommodate different physical handicaps, such as audio or visual difficulties. That means video resources should be captioned or have a transcript available; text transcripts should be available for audio resources; alternative presentations must be identified for graphic presentations of instructional content; course and web page navigation should be designed to facilitate alternative navigation tools; and the use of graphics as “eye candy” should be minimized. Asecond issue brief, titled “Professional Development for Virtual Schooling and Online Learning,” notes the importance of training teachers to teach in an online environment. It includes several curriculum resources for use in professional development, as well as resources developed for pre-service teacher education. eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
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See this related link: North American Council for Online Learning http://www.nacol.org
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eSCHOOL NEWS • 7
Can new eBook device ‘kindle’ interest in reading? From eSchool News staff and wire service reports Just days after a report from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) warned of a continuing decline in reading among today’s students, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a new electronic book-reading device, the Kindle, that some experts are touting as the future of reading. But whether the device can help spark new interest in reading among a generation of students weaned on technology remains to be seen. Amid the buzz generated by the Kindle’s release, some analysts were calling the device the iPod of reading and were likening Bezos to Apple’s Steve Jobs. Amazon’s new eBook reading device uses a new high-resolution display technology called electronic paper, which aims to give the reader a crisp, black-and-white screen that resembles the appearance and readability of printed paper. The screen works using ink, just as books and newspapers do, but it displays the ink particles electronically. Bezos said the online retailer spent three years developing the Kindle reader. Individual eBooks for the device will cost about $10 each. The Kindle is thinner than most paperbacks, weighs 10.3 ounces, and can hold some 200 books, along with newspapers, magazines, and an entire dictionary. Users can purchase SD memory cards to increase the device’s memory. Readers can buy and download books directly to the Kindle without a PC through Sprint Nextel Corp.’s high-speed EV-DO cellular network without fees or contract commitments. They also can take notes on what they read and store their notes on Amazon’s servers. As of press time, the Kindle was sold out on Amazon. Because Amazon conducted a pilot program with the Kindle, some people had been using the device for about two months, and nearly 900 product reviews were already on Amazon’s Kindle page. The ratings, according to Amazon’s five-star system, are decidedly mixed: 269 reviewers awarded the device one star, 127 gave it two stars, 134 gave it three stars, 120 gave it four stars, and 237 awarded it five stars. In a Nov. 26 note to clients, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Scott Devitt predicted that, over time, the Kindle “could prove to be as important to reading as the iPod has been to listening.” Other eBook readers already exist. Sony’s Reader Portable Reading System, for example, sells for about $300, and many have already compared the two readers. A few schools also have been using eBook reading devices, though the technology has yet to catch on more widely. With all the hype around Amazon’s
Kindle, some experts have wondered whether the device might help increase the frequency with which students read— especially if the Kindle’s price drops. According to the NEA’s report, that would be a good thing. Drawing on a variety of sources, public and private, the report essentially reaches one conclusion: Americans are reading less. The 99-page study, “To Read or Not to Read,” was released in mid-November as a follow-up to a 2004 NEA survey, “Reading at Risk,” that found an increasing number of adult Americans were not reading even one book a year. “To Read or Not to Read” gathers an ar-
ray of government, academic, and foundation data on everything from how many 9year-olds read every day for “fun” (54 percent) to the percentage of high school graduates deemed by employers as “deficient” in writing (72 percent). Among its findings: In 2002, only 52 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24, the college years, read a book voluntarily, down from 59 percent in 1992. Money spent on books, adjusted for inflation, dropped 14 percent from 1985 to 2005 and has fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s. And the number of adults with bachelor’s degrees who are “proficient in reading prose” dropped from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2003.
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See these related links:
Amazon’s Kindle http://www.amazon.com/kindle
NEA report: “To Read or Not to Read” http://www.nea.gov/news/news07/ TRNR.html
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Some news is good, notably among 9year-olds, whose reading comprehension scores have soared since the early 1990s. But at the same time, the number of 17year-olds who “never or hardly ever” read for pleasure has doubled, to 19 percent, and their comprehension scores have fallen. “I think there’s been an enormous investment in teaching kids to read in elementary school,” said Dana Gioia, NEA chairman. “Kids are doing better at 9, and at 11. At 13, they’re doing no worse, but then you see this catastrophic falloff. If kids are put into this electronic culture without any counterbalancing efforts, they will stop eSN reading.”
©2008 CDW Government, Inc. ©2007 CDW Corporation
8 • eSCHOOL NEWS
Google’s book-scanning effort faces competition From eSchool News staff and wire service reports Already facing a legal challenge for alleged copyright infringement, Google Inc.’s crusade to build a massive digital library is encountering stiff competition from an alternative project that promises better online access to the world’s books, art, and historical documents. The conflict revolves around Google’s insistence on chaining the books it scans to its internet-leading search engine. An alternative book-scanning effort called the Open Content Alliance (OCA) favors a less restrictive approach to prevent mankind’s
accumulated knowledge from being controlled by a single commercial entity. In September, the Boston Library Consortium—a group of 19 research and academic libraries in New England that includes the Boston Public Library, University of Massachusetts, University of Connecticut, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Brown University—said it would reject Google’s effort and instead work with the OCA to digitize books among its members’ 34 million volumes whose copyrights have expired. The Boston Library Consortium deal represents a major coup for Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, a strident critic of
the controls that Google has imposed on its book-scanning initiative. “They don’t want the books to appear in anyone else’s search engine but their own, which is a little peculiar for a company that says its mission is to make information universally accessible,” Kahle told the Associated Press last year. His group is one of the leading forces behind the OCA. Google’s restrictions stem in part from its decision to scan copyrighted material without explicit permission. Google wants to ensure that only small excerpts from the copyrighted material appear online—snippets the company believes fall under “fair use” protections of U.S. law.
Agroup of authors and publishers nevertheless has sued Google for copyright infringement in a two-year-old case that is slowly wending its way through federal court. In contrast, the OCAwill not scan copyrighted content unless it receives the permission of the copyright owner. Most of the books the alliance has scanned so far are works whose copyrights have expired. Google has not said how many digital copies it has made since announcing its ambitious project three years ago. The company will only acknowledge that it is scanning more than 3,000 books per day, a rate that translates into more than 1 million annually. Google also is footing a bill expected to exceed $100 million to make the digital copies—a commitment that appeals to many libraries. It costs the OCA, on the other hand, as much as $30 to scan each book—a cost that is borne by the group’s members. The motives behind Google’s own book-scanning initiative are not entirely altruistic. The company wants to stock its search engine with unique material to give people more reasons to visit its web site, the hub of an advertising network that generates billions of dollars each year. The non-copyrighted material in Google’s search engine can be downloaded and printed out, a feature that the company believes mirrors the OCA’s goals. The University of California, which also belongs to the OCA, has no regrets about allowing Google to scan at least 2.5 million of the books in its libraries. “We felt like we could get more from being a partner with Google than by not being a partner,” said university spokeswoman Jennifer Colvin. Although the OCA depends on the Internet Archive to host its digital copies, other search engines are being encouraged to index the material, too. Both Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which run the two largest search engines behind Google, belong to the alliance. The group has more than 60 members altogether, consisting mostly of libraries and universities. Despite its ongoing support for the OCA, Microsoft last year launched a bookscanning project of its own to compete with Google. Like Google, Microsoft won’t allow its digital copies to be indexed by other search engines. In November, Yale University said it had joined forces with Microsoft to digitize thousands of books from its library system. Yale’s move sparked controversy in the academic world, with some critics saying it abandoned its principles in an effort to save money. Yale said it would not otherwise be able to afford to scan so many books; with 13 million volumes, it has one of the world’s largest university libraries. eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
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See these related links: Open Content Alliance http://www.opencontentalliance.org
Boston Library Consortium http://www.blc.org
Google Book Search http://books.google.com
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10 • eSCHOOL NEWS
MIT adapts free online courseware for high schools From eSchool News staff and wire service reports The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has created a new web site with free resources that aim to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction at the high school level. “Highlights for High School,” which builds on MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative, is designed to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists, and to serve as a valuable tool for high school teachers. OCW publishes educational materials under an open license that encour-
ages their reuse, redistribution, and modification for noncommercial purposes. “Strength in K-12 math and science will be increasingly important for America if the nation is to continue to lead the innovation economy,” said Susan Hockfield, MIT president. “We hope [Highlights for High School] will inspire students to reach beyond their required class work to explore more advanced material through OCW and also might encourage them to pursue careers in science and engineering.” The new site features more than 2,600 video and audio clips, animations, lecture notes, and assignments taken from actual MIT courses. It organizes these resources
to match the Advanced Placement physics, biology, and calculus curricula. Demonstrations, simulations, and animations give educators engaging ways to present STEM concepts, while videos illustrate MIT’s hands-on approach to the teaching of these subjects. On the web site, students can access materials that will help them strengthen their writing skills, develop sustainable solutions to challenging world problems, and learn how to build new things, such as robots, electronic devices, and furniture, MIT says. Students also will find introductory MIT courses, including chemistry, computers and electronics, engineering, math,
A world of resources at your fingertips.
Welcome to the SMART Learning Marketplace, a content subscription service powered by the Global Grid for Learning, a Cambridge University Press company. The Marketplace contains over a million images, video clips, manipulatives and audio files that you can quickly search and insert into your lesson activities. Offering only high-quality content from the world’s top education publishers, museums and technology and software educators, the Learning Marketplace ensures you’ll be able to find the resources you need, when you need them. And as a fully integrated feature of Notebook™ collaborative learning software, you can search the Marketplace right in your Notebook file to find copyright-cleared resources for every subject and grade level.
MIT’s Highlights for High School and physics on the site. Introductory math classes, for example, include courses on problem solving, mathematics for computer science, single-variable calculus, and linear algebra. Engineering courses include those on toy product design and how and why machines work. Thomas Magnanti, former dean of the School of Engineering at MIT, chaired the committee that developed the site. “As has been well documented, the U.S. needs to invest more in secondary education, particularly in the STEM fields. MIT, as a leading institution of science and technology, has an obligation to help address the issue,” he said. Highlights for High School represents MIT’s first step in adapting its successful OpenCourseWare model to secondary education, the university said. The web site presents the course materials currently featured on OCW—including syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, and exams—in a format that is more accessible to high school students and teachers. An estimated 10,000 high school instructors and 5,000 high school students in the United States already visit MIT’s OpenCourseWare site each month, and MIT says it expects Highlights for High School to make its course materials even more useful to these audiences. MIT operates more than 40 K-12 outreach programs, including the Edgerton Center, MIT’s Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science program, and its Educational Studies Program. Now that MIT has launched Highlights for High School, the university is considering a broader plan for an open-courseware secondary education program—OCW SE—that could include creating a teacherin-residence program to develop new open curricula with high school educators and organizing an MIT secondary-education mentor corps, officials said. eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
With the SMART Learning Marketplace, you’ll have more than a million ways to engage your students.
Technology News for Today’s K-20 Educator
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See these related links: Highlights for High School http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/hs/home/ home/index.htm
www.education.smarttech.com © 2007 SMART Technologies ULC. All rights reserved. Notebook, the SMART logo and smarttech are trademarks or registered trademarks of SMART Technologies ULC in the U.S. and/or other countries.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology http://www.mit.edu
MIT OpenCourseWare http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/ home/index.htm
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12 • eSCHOOL NEWS
‘eMail overload’ spurs creation of new sorting tools From eSchool News staff and wire service reports Reflecting a trend that could greatly aid overwhelmed educators and administrators, a handful of new technology companies are springing up to deal with the problem of eMail overload, which is now often considered a much bigger workplace problem than traditional eMail spam. eMail in-boxes in a growing number of schools and other institutions are overflowing these days, partly because of what some are calling “colleague spam”—that is, too many people are indiscriminately hitting the “reply to all” button or copying
their co-workers on trivial messages. A good chunk of today’s eMails also are coming from brand-new sources, like social and business networking sites such as Facebook Inc. and LinkedIn Corp., or text messages forwarded from cell phones. To date, school employees have largely dealt with the problem manually. Marc Liebman, superintendent of the Berryessa Union School District in California, has resorted to ignoring his eMail, especially if it “doesn’t have an interesting title or [is] not from someone I know.” Though some important messages might not get the quick attention they need, Liebman says, ignoring eMail “is a survival strategy in a busy world.”
Others, such as Keith Krueger, chief executive of the Consortium for School Networking, find themselves working well outside of normal work hours—even while on vacation—just to get up to speed. In this day and age, “you never are away from the office,” Krueger says. “These people are in pain,” says Matt Brezina, the 26-year-old co-founder of San Francisco’s Xobni Corp., which tries to help people better organize and search the eMail and personal contact load they already have. To do so, Xobni’s product places a set of features on top of a customer’s eMail inbox, such as “profiles” of online contacts (complete with photos) and quick links to
set up appointments. The nine-person company says it has about 1,000 people globally testing the product and expects to release it broadly early next year. Other new companies, such as Silicon Valley start-ups ClearContext of San Francisco and Seriosity Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., are specifically tackling the problem of internal eMail overload. ClearContext, founded in 2003, regularly charges $89.95 for its main software product, which uses algorithms to quickly analyze a user’s eMail to determine which contacts and messages are the most important. A message from someone who is already listed in a user’s Outlook contact list, and to whom a user usually responds very quickly (think spouse or boss), is deemed critical and might be marked in red. But messages from others—such as those who usually include the user in a big group of recipients, and to whom the user doesn’t respond often—might be marked in blue or black. The color-coding helps people quickly see which messages they should respond to first. Users also can have certain eMail messages automatically redirected away from their in-boxes, and they can pick their own colors for incoming messages and customize the software in other ways. Of course, tools like ClearContext’s assume the people using them are already fairly organized and are prone to filing their messages away, instead of just letting them pile up, says Microsoft general manager William Kennedy. Some educators, such as Bob Moore, executive director of information technology at Kansas’ Blue Valley Schools, consider the emerging software solutions unnecessary. He recommends those who use Microsoft Exchange or Outlook simply use the organizational functions built into the software to “create multiple folders, have messages automatically go into certain folders, or flag items for follow-up.” Moore believes “people have created the [eMail] problem for themselves [owing] to bad habits,” and he says some simple steps can help in drastic ways. For instance, work eMail should not be used to sign up for unnecessary e-newsletters, Moore says. He also recommends that educators make sure all messages are as clear and complete as possible before sending, because “sending a poorly written, incomplete message will result in many questions back for clarification.” And when you respond to a message, he says, “wait until you have all the information to send a complete response.” Undisciplined people who are not effective communicators will inevitably be overwhelmed with eMail, Moore says, adding: “Software will not help.” eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
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See these related links: Xobni Corp. http://www.xobni.com/
Seriosity Inc. http://www.seriosity.com/
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14 • eSCHOOL NEWS
Ruling puts state’s virtual schools at risk Appeals court says Wisconsin Virtual Academy violates state law From eSchool News staff and wire service reports Online education programs for thousands of Wisconsin students could be in jeopardy after a court ordered the state on Dec. 5 to stop funding a virtual charter school, an advocacy group has warned. The ruling could result in other districts having to close their own online charter schools and distance learning programs as well, the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families said. The warning came hours after the
District 2 Court of Appeals ruled the Wisconsin Virtual Academy was violating state law by allowing parents to assume the duties of state-licensed teachers. The court said the school also has been violating a law requiring charter schools to be located in the district that operates them. It ordered the state Department of Public Instruction to stop shifting payments to the school from the home districts of open-enrollment students, who make up the majority of its more than 600 students. Attorney Mike Dean, who represents students and families at the school, said the
ruling “effectively shuts down the school” and puts many others at risk. “It’s a huge deal for thousands of parents and students across the state,” he said. “If, in fact, children enrolled from outside the district are enrolled illegally, that will affect most, if not all, of the virtual schools in Wisconsin.” Dean said he was considering an appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Supporters of virtual schools say they are more effective for some students and far less expensive than traditional public schools. Critics dispute that.
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The Northern Ozaukee School District hired K12 Inc., a Virginia-based company that provides curriculum to schools, to create the Wisconsin Virtual Academy in 2003. Students in kindergarten through eighth grade learn from their homes over the internet under the direction of their parents, who must devote at least four hours a day to their child’s education. Certified teachers who work for the district help monitor student progress. The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, filed suit in 2004 claiming the school violates the open-enrollment, charter school, and teacher licensing laws. The Department of Public Instruction, although named as a defendant, switched sides and agreed the school was violating its licensing requirements. A judge threw out the lawsuit last year. Months later, the district announced plans to expand its online offerings by creating a new statewide virtual high school. But the appeals court on Dec. 5 reversed the judge’s decision, siding with the teachers union on all three claims. Writing for the court, Judge Richard Brown said the school may be a “godsend for children who would not succeed in more traditional public schools, as well as a welcome new option for parents who want their children to receive a home-based education. “But it is also a public school operated with state funds, and its operation violates the statutes as they now stand,” he wrote. Brown said parents are teaching without the state license required of all public school teachers. Even though they are not paid or employed by a school district, they are acting as teachers under state law, he wrote. “The problem is not that the unlicensed WIVA parents teach their children, but that they ‘teach in a public school,’” Brown wrote. He also said Northern Ozaukee is violating a law that prohibits school districts from operating charter schools outside of their boundaries. The school’s administrative office is in the district, but the majority of its teachers and students are not, he wrote. Northern Ozaukee also illegally received open-enrollment money for students even though they are not attending school in the district as required, he wrote. The money pays for the operation of the school, and the district keeps an “oversight fee.” Lee Allinger, superintendent of the Appleton Area School District, said he was studying the ruling’s impact on its virtual school, the Wisconsin Connections Academy. The 390-pupil school also takes open-enrollment students from around the state, he said. eSN
Wisconsin Virtual Academy http://www.wivcs.org
K12 Inc. http://www.k12.com
Wisconsin Education Association Council http://www.weac.org
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eSCHOOL NEWS â€˘ 15
Next ed-tech frontier: Classes via cell phone From eSchool News staff and wire service reports In what could be a sign of things to come for colleges worldwide, an online university in Japan has debuted a course that students can take through their cell phones. Cyber University, the nationâ€™s only university to offer all its classes online, began offering a class via mobile phone in November on the mysteries of the pyramids. For classes that students take via personal computers, the lecture downloads play on the monitor as text and images in the middle, and a smaller video of the lecturer shows
in the corner, complete with sound. The cellphone course, which pops up as streaming video on the handsetâ€™s tiny screen, plays just the PowerPoint images. In a Nov. 28 demonstration, an image of the pyramids popped up on the screen and changed to a text image as a professorâ€™s voice played from the handset speakers. Cyber University, which opened in April with government approval to award bachelorâ€™s degrees, has 1,850 students. The virtual campus is 71 percent owned by Softbank Corp., a major Japanese mobile carrier, which also has broadband operations and offers online gaming, shopping, and electronic stock trading services.
The cell-phone lectures may be expanded to other courses in the future but for now will be used only for the pyramids course, according to Cyber University. The university offers about 100 courses, including ancient Chinese culture, online journalism, and English literature. Unlike the universityâ€™s other classes, the one delivered via cell phones will be available to the public free of charge, although viewers must pay cell-phone fees. (The course is delivered in Japanese.) The catch is that the lectures can be seen only on some Softbank phones. However, the service may be expanded to other carriers, officials said. eSN
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See these related links: Cyber University (site is in Japanese) http://www.cyber-u.ac.jp
Softbank Corp. http://www.softbank.co.jp/en/index.html
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How to teach in Second Life From eSchool News staff and wire service reports Itâ€™s tough to teach a college class when your students are constantly flying around the roomâ€”just ask any professor who has opened a classroom in the online world of Second Life. Soon, though, college faculty members who need help with the internet universe of more than 10 million registered users can tap a Second Life â€œislandâ€? that Georgia State University is starting. The island, a plot of land like others available in Second Life, will offer free instruction on setting up a virtual classroom and will offer best practices and tips on other ways to use Second Life for instruction. For example, architecture students can build a virtual house instead of simply designing one on paper. Clothing design students can hold a virtual fashion show. Business students can start a company and see how it does without risking startup capital. And other students can see the impact of a tsunami or hurricane coming ashore. â€œBy teaching in Second Life, youâ€™re able to give your students an experience that might be too expensive or dangerous in the real world,â€? said Paula Christopher, a technology project manager at Georgia State. The universityâ€™s island is in the development stages and should be open by summer, Christopher said. Itâ€™s only one in a long list of ways that universities and companies are using Second Life, which was launched in 2003 by San Francisco-based Linden Labs. Usersâ€™ avatars can tour facilities such as the Louvre museum and Yankee Stadium, for instance, and dozens of colleges have set up islands where they hold virtual classes. eSN
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See these related links:
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Georgia State University http://www.gsu.edu
Second Life http://www.secondlife.com
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16 • eSCHOOL NEWS
Web offerings spread in battle for desktop Huge gains seen for ‘software as a service,’ mainly for businesses —but transition to internet-based products might sway educators, too Robert L. Jacobson Senior Editor
If any doubt still lingers that the basics of popular computing are experiencing yet another realignment, the skepticism is likely to be erased by recent developments in the “battle for the desktop.” In fairly rapid succession, high-profile companies such as Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo have been rolling out products for personal and business computing that aggressively seek to take greater advantage of the internet to transform how applications are delivered. The products vary, from online word processors and communication packages to database management, document sharing, and other forms of over-the-web collaboration. But a common goal is to get a leg up on competitors by offering impressive electronic capabilities in the form of web-based software and services, rather than through individual applications like those that most users have long been accustomed to purchasing, installing, and running from the desktop. While the new focus on internet applications has already has made great inroads in the business world, so far it has received much less attention in education. If history is any guide, however, where businesses go, schools often follow—at least for the potential financial benefits. The basic idea is to provide more and better computer action for less money, and it’s all taking hold nearly 25 years after John Gage, Sun’s chief researcher, coined the prophetic expression, “The network is the computer.” Today, however, advances in technology are proving to be more catalytic than ever before, and the internet in particular is facilitating change at a stunning pace. Often called “software as a service,” or SaaS, the new emphasis on internetbased options is expected to become increasingly popular over the next several years. Already, according to the technology research company Gartner Inc., worldwide revenue for SaaS software will top $5.1 billion this year, for a one-year gain of 21 percent. Robert DeSisto, a Gartner vice president, predicts that SaaS will grow “seven times faster than on-premise software deployments during the next three years.” By 2011, Gartner projects, one-fourth of all new business software will be delivered as a web-based service, with more than half of all software vendors offering it in some form. As is generally the case with the adoption of new technology, businesses are well ahead of educational institutions in switching to SaaS, DeSisto notes, although the approach has been gradually gaining ground in colleges and universities, where some operations tend to parallel those of the business world. How quickly elementary and secondary schools may join the web-services bandwagon is hard to tell. But DeSisto says one of the trend’s key advantages is that money for SaaS software can be taken from operating budgets, rather than
from capital funds—a factor that could become increasingly persuasive in financially strapped school districts. But a deeply embedded attachment to desktop applications in both schools and colleges is likely to impede education’s early transition to software as a service, says Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project. In higher education, “it’s going to be slow because it’s a cultural shift,” Green explains. He maintains that SaaS can work well “if you really control the box,” but that with a high degree of student and faculty mobility, many educational institutions may not be inclined or able to cede such control by switching to a web-based approach— except, perhaps, for eMail services. Green adds that the widespread prac-
which includes free tools for communication, collaboration, and publishing, along with eMail accounts “on your school’s domain.” Google’s online suite for corporate customers got a boost not long ago from an endorsement by Capgemini, a Parisbased technology consulting firm with worldwide influence on companies’ software choices. Capgemini also will continue to support business software made by Microsoft, IBM, and other vendors. Meanwhile, Google also has begun offering Sun’s open-source StarOffice package as part of its Google Pack software bundle. Among other reports from the desktop battlefield: • IBM has launched a direct assault on Microsoft’s venerable Office software
Big companies are vying for users of web-based services. Above are Yahoo’s Jerry Yang, Google’s Eric Schmidt, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. tice of site-license discounting for software in education will work against rapid SaaS adoption. In many schools, moreover, the option of replacing familiar desktop applications that have a long history—in terms of usage and expenditures—may seem impractical. School officials’reluctance to change technologies midstream has been underscored lately by a widespread failure to switch operating systems from Microsoft’s Windows XP to the newer Vista system. All the same, as software producers jockey for strategic advantage in the expanding battle for desktop influence, some of the key developments are occurring at the largest tech companies. Long-time rivals Microsoft and Apple, for example, are widely expected to introduce operating systems in the next couple of years that take much greater account of the internet. Microsoft is already offering a free software suite dubbed “Windows Live,” which the company describes as “a new set of services that brings your online world together.” Components include desktop and web searching, blog creation, voice communication, photo sharing, and computer security. At the search-engine giant Google, meanwhile, developers have extended the reach of the company’s relatively new online office suite to include a business presentation tool that is clearly intended to compete with Microsoft’s long-popular PowerPoint. Google also has been pitching a “Google Apps” education edition,
by offering a free internet package called IBM Lotus Symphony, “a suite of free software tools for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.” • SAP, the world’s largest provider of business software, has introduced “Business by Design,” a web-hosted business-management product aimed at customers with 100 to 500 employees. • Yahoo has purchased Zimbra, a startup company that provides web-based eMail and hosting services for businesses, universities, and internet service providers. Apparent targets of the $350 million deal: Google and Microsoft. The fact that Microsoft, the PC world’s pre-eminent superpower, is ratcheting up its focus on internet services is a telling sign of the times. So was word in late October that the company had outbid both Google and Yahoo by acquiring about a 1.5-percent, $240 million stake in the three-year-old social-networking site Facebook. Google, meanwhile, has been widely reported to be considering the release of a new service for online storage. Informally dubbed “Gdrive,” the service would allow people to store material on Google servers for easy access and sharing with other users over the internet. At Microsoft, which controls more than 90 percent of the PC operating-system market, leaders appear to have decided that the company’s dominance is at risk unless it moves more decisively
into internet plays and the web-services domain. Microsoft’s Chief Executive Steve Ballmer reportedly told financial analysts last summer that its future activities in software development would have to include not only the best features of desktop and office software, but also new web services and electronic devices. “Every piece of software—the basic core value in the way software gets created—will change in the next three, five, or 10 years,” Ballmer was quoted as saying, although he rejected the notion that the software industry would shift entirely to an internet model. Microsoft’s expanding interest in webrelated services comes at a time when its overwhelming influence in the desktop realm has suffered a dramatic blow in Europe. In a major antitrust decision that is expected to affect tech companies throughout the world, the European Court of First Instance upheld a 2004 European Commission ruling that Microsoft improperly used its market dominance to crush software competitors. Legal questions aside, the internet’s growing appeal as a kind of software supermarket has reached a point where the future success of SaaS, if not yet clearly defined, seems assured. Some of the thinking behind the transformation was described by Steve Mills, IBM’s senior vice president and leader of the IBM Software Group, in connection with the company’s announcement of its Symphony suite in the fall. Noting that Symphony supports multiple file formats, including Microsoft Office and Open Document Format, Mills remarked: “The lifeblood of any organization is contained in thousands of documents. With the Open Document Format, businesses can unlock their information, making it universally accessible on any platform and on the web in highly flexible ways.” If ed-tech leaders and other school officials aren’t already paying close attention to analyses like that, they’re likely to be doing so soon. Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
Technology News for Today’s K-20 Educator
Top News | Special Reports | Best Practices | Vanguard Report
See these related links: Google Pack, including Sun’s StarOffice http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/ 2007/08/google-pack-adds-staroffice.html
Google Apps for School https://www.google.com/a/edu
IBM Lotus Symphony http://symphony.lotus.com/software/ lotus/symphony/home.jspa
Microsoft’s Windows Live http://get.live.com
SAP’s Business by Design http://www.sap.com/usa/solutions/sme/ businessbydesign/overview/index.epx
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Ed-Tech’s Hottest Products See Page 24
Keynote Presentations See Page 20
AT T E N D E E G U I D E T O
2008 TCEA Highlights TEXAS COMPUTER EDUCATION ASSOCIATION FEBRUARY 4-8, 2008 AUSTIN CONVENTION CENTER AUSTIN, TEXAS
Don’t miss eSN’s “Conference-within-a-Conference”
eSN “Best Practices” Summit – FREE for TCEA attendees Session Details – See Page 19
Room No. 1 Wednesday & Thursday, February 6-7 Get first-hand, in-depth briefings from the world’s most important ed-tech providers: American Education
Holt Rinehart Winston
IS THIS PART OF YOUR EMERGENCY PLAN? Hitachi’s CP-X205 Networkable Projector with eShot™ technology is the only projector equipped to be part of your Emergency Preparedness Plan. During a school emergency fast and effective communication is vital to the safety and well-being of staff and students. Integrating Hitachi’s CP-X205 projector with eShot™ technology into your school’s Emergency Mass Notification System will empower school administrators to instantly broadcast visual instructions, or eShot™, to every projector on the network, or to only a few select classrooms as needed. Alerts, instructions, information updates, even evacuation routes and maps can be dispatched across the network with just the flip of a switch.
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EDUCATIONAL AND QUANTITY PRICING AVAILABLE! CONTACT YOUR TROXELL ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE FOR MORE DETAILS 800-578-8858 • www.trox.com
In cooperation with TCEA, the eSchool News Network presents . . .
“Ed-Tech Best Practices Summit” During the 2008 Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference in Austin, the eSchool News Network hosts a two-day “Conference Within a Conference” — FREE for TCEA attendees! W E D N E S DAY, F E B R UA RY 6 , 2 0 0 8
T H U R S DAY, F E B R UA RY 7, 2 0 0 8 c o n ’ t . . .
2:15 PM – 2:30 PM
10:00 AM – 10:30 AM
eSchool News Welcome & Introduction
ePals: Providing Online Tools and Training Kits for Project-Based Learning
2:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Lightspeed Systems: What Are Your Students and Staff Doing Online? Lightspeed Systems provides all the tools you need to identify, collect evidence, suspend, terminate or even prosecute the AUP violators within your school district. Speakers: Brian Thomas, Regional Sales Manager, Lightspeed Systems Ernie Stripling, Denton ISD
Learn how teachers and students can safely communicate with classrooms around the world using SchoolM@il and SchoolBlog tools. See samples of training materials for elementary school, foreign language and ELL students. Kits can be downloaded at no cost, and all ePals tools are free. peakers: Rita Oates, PhD, Vice President of Education, ePals Sp Kari Stubbs, PhD, Director of Professional Development, ePals
10:30AM – 11:00 AM 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Saywire: Academic Networking for Today’s Classroom - What You Need To Know FREE platform provides a safe, stimulating online environment for your students and teachers to interact, collaborate and promote growth using the latest Web 2.0 technologies. Speaker: Kim Hart, Program Director
American Education Corp.: Best Practices Using the A+nyWhere Learning System® Courseware Program A look into how Technology Learning Center (TLC) design that includes the A+nyWhere Learning System® courseware’s assessment and instructional components improves student participation and academic success. Speaker: Dr. Lura Davidson, Adjunct Instructor for Higher Education, Concordia University-Austin
3:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Voyager Learning: BOOST Reading and Math Performance on the TAKS! Powerful online instruction and assessments that improve proficiency: how to use online predictive assessment measures and apply recommendations to reading or math intervention programs. Speaker: Shauna Williams, Voyager Expanded Learning™, Corporate Director of Business Development
4:00 PM – 4:30 PM
The All-New eSN Online: The educator’s Indispensable Internet Resource Discover how educators benefit from the deep, rich resources of eSchool News Online. It's all FREE from the world's No. 1 ed-tech publication web site. Speaker: Nancy David, Online Director, eSchool News
T H U R S DAY, F E B R UA RY 7, 2 0 0 8 8:45 AM – 9:00 AM
eSchool News Welcome & Introduction
1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Holt, Rinehart & Winston: The Rise of Learning Management Systems in the K-12 Space We will introduce and discuss the potential of ThinkCentral, a partnership between Harcourt Education, a major K-12 publisher, and ANGEL Learning, provider of a leading learning management system. Speakers: Robert Woodruff, Digital Strategy, Harcourt School Publishers (K-6) Paul Draper, Digital Strategy, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (6-12) Ray Henderson, Head of Marketing & Development, ANGEL Learning Management Suite
2:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Troxell Communications: Interactive Whiteboard Technology in the 21st Century Classroom Come touch and interact with Hitachi Software’s StarBoard FX 77 Duo, the next generation of learning tools that are sweeping education around the globe. Speaker: Ranjit “Jeet” Dhindsa, Marketing Communications Specialist, Interactive Media Solutions Group/Hitachi Software Engineering America, Ltd.
9:00 AM – 9:30 AM
2:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Atomic Learning: Meeting Individual Needs with Project-Based Online Staff Development
LenSec: Keeping School Safety a Top Priority
Participants will leave with a plan for quality online professional development which will meet educators’ varied needs, address lack of training space, provide project-based, just-in-time learning and give them a tool to integrate technology into their lessons. Speaker: Steve Jeske, Professional Development Specialist, Austin ISD
Join us as we present the cutting edge in IP-based security technologies that allow security personnel to be more effective and efficient with fewer resources. Speaker: Alan Morris, Regional Sales Director, LenSec
3:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Moodlerooms: Building Better Moodle Rooms 9:30 AM – 10:00 AM
PBS TeacherLine of Texas: San Antonio ISD Technology Lead Teacher Initiative San Antonio ISD is pleased to share their Technology Lead Teacher Initiative, preparing teachers as leaders of instructional technology with PBS TeacherLine/ISTE Capstone Certificate Program.
By utilizing Moodle’s flexibility along with the best practices of Instructional Design, teachers can build contextualized, coached, and participative courses. Speaker: Bob McDonald, Web Sales and Customer Services, Moodlerooms
Speakers: Miguel Guhlin, Director of Instructional Technology, San Antonio ISD Greg Rodriguez, Technology Integration Specialist, San Antonio ISD
“Kids are already on the cutting edge of technology. As administrators and teachers, we need to keep up with them. TCEA helps me do just that.”
“I’ve come [to TCEA] for the past 13 years because I get new ideas and I like to see what is the newest, greatest, and latest [in technology].”
To Come and Be Inspired by Dynamic Keynote Speakers
Content Reigns Supreme at TCEA One of the main reasons TCEA has grown to be a premier ed-tech convention is the progressive content it produces each year. As one administrator from the West put it: “Kids are already on the cutting edge of technology. As administrators and teachers, we need to keep up with them. TCEA helps me do just that.” More than 8,000 technology education professionals attended the 2007 convention, including: • Teachers • Technology Directors • Campus Technology Specialists • Administrators
• Librarians •Technology Coordinators • Superintendents • Principals
The 2008 TCEA convention and expo offers a cornucopia of outstanding and inspiring speakers led by Dr. Sally Ride, a former NASA Shuttle Astronaut and Mission Specialist, who will open the convention as TCEA’s keynote speaker. Dr. Sally Ride was America’s first woman to orbit Earth when she flew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. A strong supporter of science education, she has written five science books for children. She also initiated and directed education projects designed to fuel middle school students’fascination with science. Dr. Ride, who holds four degrees including a Ph.D. in physics, is currently President and CEO of Sally Ride Science and a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. She is an active advocate for improved science education, and Sally Ride Science is a company that creates entertaining science programs and publications for youth, with a particular emphasis on encouraging girls to become more involved.
Marco Torres, a well-known teacher, media coach, edtech director for San Fernando High School, filmmaker and photographer, is the closing keynote speaker. Torres has been honored locally and internationally for his ability to empower minority students. His students are regularly recruited by some of the nation's finest universities and businesses. As a teacher and professional artist, Torres is involved with many professional organizations where he is an advocate for more collaboration between the media-arts world and education. He teaches his students to celebrate their culture using multimedia tools and, as a board member of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, he promotes digital technology, change, community, and learning everywhere.
“Keynotes throughout the years have always been on the cutting edge. They help connect me to what we need to do as educators. I get refreshed and energized just being in the same room with them.” David Pogue, a personal-technology columnist for the New York Times and an Emmy award-winning tech correspondent for CBS News, rounds out the keynotes at TCEA. His column, “State of the Art,” appears every Thursday on the front page of the Circuits section of the New York Times. With 3 million books in print, he is also one of the world's bestselling how-to authors. He wrote or co-wrote seven books in the “for Dummies” series (including Macs, Magic, Opera, and Classical Music); in 1999, he launched his own series of complete, funny computer books called the Missing Manual series, which includes 30 titles. His “Missing Manual” series includes bestselling books on Mac OS X, Windows XP, Dreamweaver, iMovie, iPhoto, Microsoft Office, AppleWorks 6, and Mac OS 9.
TCEA • Feb 4-8, 2008 • Austin, Texas
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Classroom Inspiration... comes when it’s ready.
Don’t miss the moment. The most magical moments in teaching are rarely pre-planned. Usually, it takes a little spontaneity and improvisation to make a good lesson a great one. Unlike a desktop computer or laptop where you have to scan, digitize, and store entire lessons in advance, ELMO’s revolutionary electronic imaging products make moments like these possible in real-time without pre-planning everything. To learn more about ELMO’s exciting and inspirational new products such as the TT-02S, P100, P10, and others, call 1-800-947-3566 or visit www.elmousa.com/dontmissthemoment/
TCEA Exhibitors you want to see include... About The American Education Corporation The American Education Corporation (AEC) is a leading provider of e-learning instruction for K–12 and adult learners, offering reading, language arts, process writing, mathematics, science, social studies, electives, world languages, and AP® courses. AEC’s learning activities are correlated to national and state learning standards and state tests. They include formative assessment, remediation, and reporting tools. Additionally, AEC provides assessment testing and instructional content for the GED® test. With over 5,200 study hours and over 200,000 pages of content of objective-based, problem-solving courseware, plus assessment, alignment, and curriculum management tools, AEC offers standards-based curriculum content that facilitates learning and school improvement. American Education Corporation software is currently in use in over 14,000 public and private K-12 schools, charter schools, colleges, correctional institutions, centers of adult literacy, military education programs, and after-school learning programs, and is delivered through a local area network (LAN), a wide area network (WAN), or the Internet. The American Education Corporation is headquartered at 7506 N. Broadway Extension, Oklahoma City, OK 73116. The Company has distribution offices throughout the United States, Asia, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. For more information, please visit
LenSec LenSec’s District-Wide Video Surveillance solution enables administrators to effectively manage the safety and security of all their schools from any location. Using a standard internet browser, LenSec’s IP surveillance solution offers the flexibility to develop a custom solution to meet any type of surveillance need that no other company can provide. • Map based user interface - Based on your facility floor plan, mouse-over any camera icon for live popup video and have instant access to your facility. • Ease of use -No client side software to install or learn. Using a standard web browser, quickly and easily view real time or archived streaming video at any facility. • Two-click access - Password protected logon provides access to the live view of any camera at any facility within two mouse clicks. Click on the location you need to view and mouse-over the floor plan for instant popup video images. • Law enforcement collaboration - Seamless communication with emergency response teams provides effective remote management of facilities and enables instant, real-time collaboration with third-party agencies during an incident. • Real-time management with secure access - From a secure IP address, once a user is logged on, move from one facility to another and from one camera to another without the need to log on again. Customize your system to assign different levels of security access on each camera to personnel in multiple departments. • Scalable - Expand your system with an unlimited number of cameras and facilities. LenSec, with over 2,000 installations in 30 states across the country, is the leading provider of District-Wide Video Surveillance solutions that allow more effective remote management of facilities. For more information, visit
Atomic Learning Atomic Learning, award-winning provider of Web-based software training and support, has over 32,000 tutorials for more than 110 applications. Atomic Learning provides a cost effective, time-saving resource to address software and technology training and provide support the moment it is needed. When teachers and students get the instruction they need, when they need it, they learn – and remember. Atomic Learning’s library is an integral part of a staff development program, a curriculum supplement or a help desk resource. Atomic Learning is affordable, comprehensive software training delivered when and where you need it. In addition to tutorials, Atomic Learning also offers Atomic Training, an online system that combines the benefits of Web-based hosting with a fully customizable training platform. By providing your school or organization with a secure, customizable online training tool, Atomic Training allows you to be in complete control of managing and sharing digital resources. Plus, as an Atomic Learning subscriber, you can integrate Atomic Learning resources into Atomic Training. So now, you can build custom Atomic Learning instructional paths around the topics of greatest importance to your unique needs. The result – a powerful, on-demand training and professional development tool. To learn more, visit us at
www.AtomicLearning.com and www.AtomicTraining.com
ePals ePals, the leading K-12 Internet learning community offers students and educators around the world a safe environment for building and exchanging knowledge. ePals offers protected email and blog tools, evidence-based curricula, and authentic, collaborative learning experiences. The ePals Global CommunityTM enables educators and students in more than 130,000 classrooms across 200 countries and territories to safely connect, exchange ideas, and work together. The company's mission is to support lifelong learning through collaborative experiences that empower and inspire. SchoolMail is an integrated email service used in schools worldwide. SchoolMail offers unique teacher-monitored email to ensure secure usage. It features a builtin language translation tool for 72 language pairs, file sharing, spell-checking, virus and spam filters, and easily-accessed manuals and tutorials. SchoolBlog Students, teachers, administrators and parents can all benefit from the flexibility and power of ePals SchoolBlogTM. Designed by the leader in school-safe tools, SchoolBlog can be used for many educational applications, and it is simple and easy to use. ePals SchoolBlogTM provides a strong web presence in classrooms, and enables users to collaborate and stay informed through automatic content email updates. ePals is now making SchoolMail and SchoolBlog available at no cost to schools, districts and learners globally. These are not trial or limited functionality versions of our trusted and award-winning service.
TCEA • Feb 4-8, 2008 • Austin, Texas
eSN Special Report
By Robert L. Jacobson
eSCHOOL NEWS • 25
VISUAL LEAR N I NG How the rise of digital video is transforming education hese are special times for visual learning. Spurred by
new chapter in the professional development of teachers and
dramatic advances in digital technology, the use of video
fostering closer working relationships between state education
as an instructional tool is finally coming into its own as
agencies and public television networks.
a mainstream feature of American education.
Leaders in education and technology can barely contain
Today’s expanding access to top-drawer visual material has
their enthusiasm over such developments. The excitement
the ability to reinvigorate much of what goes on in our schools,
reflects what Niki Davis, director of the Center for Technology
advocates of video in the classroom say—prompting teachers
in Learning & Teaching at Iowa State University, calls a “new
to take a fresh look at what they teach, how they teach, and how
energy” in education these days, as administrators and
their students learn.
teachers increasingly come to recognize that technological
And as high-tech video begins to transform and enrich instruction from coast to coast, it also is opening a promising
breakthroughs have made longstanding goals for visual learning much more attainable than was previously possible. See Visual Learning, page 26
Robert L. Jacobson is the senior editor of eSchool News.
This eSchool News Special Report is made possible with financial support from Discovery Education.
eSN Special Report 26 • eSCHOOL NEWS
Visual Learning... continued from page 25 Davis stresses that educators should look beyond the tech side of things, as fascinating as that can be, because what matters most is what they are able to do because of the technology. Down the road, she says, teachers and administrators might well look back at the current period and conclude: That was when education truly changed. The growing use of video in schools, along with the spread of online learning in general, is not simply prompting teachers to “pick up the technology,” Davis explains; it’s actually beginning to change how teachers teach. “Once you use technology, the pedagogy changes,” she says. “It’s saying to teachers, ‘Think about the technology and, while you’re doing that, think again about what
50 years ago about visual learning still holds: Most of us—students included—tend to learn and remember much more effectively when we can see and hear well-crafted videos on a given topic than when we can’t. In a report about video’s impact on learning a few years back, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting put it this way: “Humans intuitively grasp the power of images to convey meaning. … Viewing is an active process, perhaps best thought of as an interactive experience between viewer and medium. In addition to responding to what they observe from the screen, viewers bring their own experiences and expectations to their viewing.” It has become increasingly difficult to view instructional video as an “isolated” medium, the report noted, “because video elements are so pervasively intertwined and interconnected with other communications media, from the latest computer technologies to print. These days,
“The curriculum is the key—not the media. We’ve fallen into this trap of considering that the use of technology is going to be an automatic silver bullet that’s going to make kids learn more, be more motivated. But we forget that it’s not the technology, not the media. It’s the content, and it’s the way those media are used. In other words, it’s the pedagogy, it’s the message, it’s the design—it’s the approach—that is the critical element.” —Michael Simonson, Professor, Instructional Technology and Distance Education, Nova Southeastern University it is you’re trying to teach—the content—and how you’re trying to teach it.’” Michael Simonson, a professor in instructional technology and distance education at Nova Southeastern University, agrees. The main point to remember about visual learning, Simonson maintains, is that it can affect the substance of education. “The curriculum is the key—not the media,” he says. “We’ve fallen into this trap of considering that the use of technology is going to be an automatic silver bullet that’s going to make kids learn more, be more motivated. But we forget that it’s not the technology, not the media. It’s the content, and it’s the way those media are used. In other words, it’s the pedagogy, it’s the message, it’s the design—it’s the approach—that is the critical element.” To be sure, the conventional wisdom of 10, 20, or even
what was once a somewhat rigid, one-to-many broadcast technology has increasingly become a flexible, usercontrolled, and interactive medium. Such malleability obviously enhances video’s instructional value.” Recently, a national survey by Advertising.com found that watching videos over the internet was “becoming a habit at all levels.” And analysts for the media research company eMarketer have projected that by 2011, while the number of TV viewers will show a five-year gain of about 5.3 percent, the number of online video viewers will rise about 60 percent. In other words: Online video is fast becoming a national phenomenon, and education is a big part of that picture. But while many teachers have long appreciated the capacity of video to enhance learning and have tried valiantly to take advantage of it, in the past they often have
This eSchool News Special Report is made possible with financial support from Discovery Education.
been severely constrained and discouraged by technological limits. Filmstrips and hour-long videos in a darkened classroom might have had their place—but how many teachers had the resources or the time to find, review, select, and effectively incorporate such “teaching aids” in their lessons on a day-to-day basis? Not many. In the last few years, however, that has begun to change—and in ways that signal a profound new direction for teaching and learning: • Huge repositories of high-quality, well-organized video material have become available for teachers to tap into quickly and smartly whenever they think their lessons will benefit from it. • Millions of students—having been weaned on the internet, camera phones, podcasts, and the likes of YouTube—are literally primed for a video diet in the classroom. In fact, they crave it and expect it. • High bandwidth for schools has increasingly become the norm, and super-slow downloads have thus receded as an impediment to accessing and adapting videos for instructional purposes, virtually on demand. • Ed-tech leaders and curriculum specialists are embracing the enormous value of digital video—and its successful application—as an essential “field” to be included in teachers’ pre-service education and professional development during their careers. • Inspired by the power of video, public television networks and state departments of education have developed stronger partnerships, pooling their resources and expertise to create vast digital libraries for local school districts, and enabling teachers to access videos easily and routinely for their classrooms. (See the accompanying story, “Online media: Public television catches a wave.”) All that has been occurring at a time when both consumer and educational technology are evolving and improving at a breathtaking pace. Things are happening so quickly that it’s difficult even for the experts and crystal-ball gazers to know just where we’re headed. But in one sense, it almost doesn’t matter, because the technology is getting better all the time. Even major producers of cutting-edge technologies— for everything from high-speed internet, telephony, and television to digital cameras, recorders, and wireless devices—are being forced to go back to the drawing board and refigure their business plans, often on a continuing basis. Will your computer become your TV set? Will your TV offer the web? Will everything become wireless and fit in your pocket? Yes, yes, and yes. To a great extent, we’re already there, as “convergence” continues to be one of the most enabling realities of our digital world. So with all the remarkable e-stuff that’s out there now, or coming soon to a classroom near you, educators and creators of educational video have come to a new understanding about visual learning: Teachers no longer need to feel constrained by the old technological limits. Those barriers are disappearing. And now the focus can be on building better video libraries, tagging video content to make it readily searchable and “chunkable” (in brief clips, for example), linking videos to formal educational goals and standards, and helping teachers learn how best to work visual material into the curriculum.
Digital video options A prominent leader in this realm is Discovery Education (DE), with its award-winning video-ondemand package, Discovery Education streaming. Still widely referred to by its original name, unitedstreaming, the product is said to reach more than a million users in “more than half of all U.S. schools.” DE, a division of Discovery Communications (the company behind The Discovery Channel, Discovery Health, The Science Channel, Animal Planet, etc.), says the package includes “4,000 full-length videos and 40,000 video clips, images, audio files, lesson plans, a quiz builder, an assignment builder, writing prompts, and onSee Visual Learning, page 30
eSCHOOL NEWS • 27
Online media: Public television catches a wave You’re visiting the home page of an Alabama-based web site, and the drop-down menu includes links to the kinds of items you might expect from a state department of education. The links will take you to information about early childhood education, adult education, literacy, a calendar of events, and online learning resources for people of all ages. In this case, however, the web site belongs not to the state’s education department, but to APTV— Alabama Public Television—and therein lies a story. One of many, actually. Created decades ago, when television was much younger and the internet had yet to be born, public broadcasting entities such as APTV lately have been riding a new digital wave. In close collaboration with curriculum specialists and other officials at state education agencies, they are moving to the forefront of online learning. Although their mission to serve the public interest has always had an educational core, the recent explosion of digital video as an instructional tool is prompting public TV networks to move increasingly onto the internet as a means of distribution, and thus heavily into the online video worlds of teachers and students. After all, the networks have the media with which to do it.
developed by their own teachers. Hill says she especially values DE streaming because it provides “efficient, effective, and convenient” access over the internet, enabling teachers to choose from “a myriad of different types of resources—video, lesson plans, still images, text articles, quiz questions—to put together their own lessons and learning activity plans.” Here’s some of what public TV broadcasters and state education leaders in have been doing in other states: • Working with Arkansas’s state education department, the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) brought a national expert on school mentoring to its studios, recorded his presentation, and made it broadly available to teachers. Kathleen Stafford-Branton, AETN’s education director, says the network’s education portal offers a way to “bring equality [and] equity” to schools around the state. “We do a lot of training on how a teacher can best utilize video streaming,” she says. • In Arizona, an organization called ASSET—the acronym stands for Arizona School Services through Educational Technology—operates as a self-supported department of Eight/KAET public
“Our business is education. So, given the fact that media is our vehicle for delivery, it’s a logical progression for us” to take advantage of the internet to enrich teaching and learning in the schools. — Nancy Hill, Director of Educational Services, Alabama PublicTelevision “Our business is education,” says Nancy Hill, director of educational services for Alabama Public Television. “So, given the fact that media is our vehicle for delivery, it’s a logical progression for us” to take advantage of the internet, in addition to TV broadcasts, to enrich teaching and learning in the schools. APTV’s “big leap,” as Hill describes the change, came about four years ago, when it created a videoon-demand service for educators, parents, and others who work with children. Overnight broadcasting to the schools, so videos could be recorded and shown during school hours, has been phased out, and today 95 percent of the network’s educational resources are provided online, Hill says. Alabama is one of eight states whose public broadcasting stations and state education agencies are participating together in e-Learning for Educators, a federally financed program that provides online professional development courses for teachers. The other states are Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Part of the reason for APTV’s online focus, Hill notes, is that it was having a hard time tracking the use of its broadcast material and began to notice, at the same time, that teachers were turning increasingly to the internet to find new educational resources. Now, like public TV networks in a number of other states, APTV is meeting that demand with a wide selection of high-quality digital videos on thousands of topics. The heart of its service consists of searchable streaming videos, clips, and other online material from Discovery Education (DE). Eventually, individual school districts will be able to upload content
television, which is located at Arizona State University. Noting that ASSET has relied heavily on DE streaming for the past several years to provide instructional tools, Debra Lorenzen, the group’s executive director, says its professionaldevelopment content has been growing faster than its curricular materials—which, she adds, have been linked to state standards. • Schools across Iowa can take advantage of a voluntary purchasing program that provides “volume” discounts on many products—including DE streaming and other audiovisual material, online publications, technology supplies, and a multimedia archive— through the Iowa Educators Consortium (IEC). The independent, nonprofit organization was created by the state’s Area Education Agencies. Even in the video age, says Jerry Cochrane, an IEC coordinator, non-video items continue to be popular among teachers. • Nancy Pearson, director of educational technology at Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB), used to work on professional development activities at the state’s education department. Since transferring to MPB early last year, she’s been overseeing a “technology integration” project to help several schools meet requirements for academic progress. She credits collaboration between the two agencies for other successes, including a dramatic increase in the number of teachers enrolling in online courses. • In central New York, the public broadcasting station WCNY tells people visiting its web site to explore EdVideo Online, its version of DE streaming and related content. Because of a partnership between public broadcasters and the state educa-
tion department, the service is available free to all K-12 and adult-literacy educators and their students throughout the state. WCNY’s president, Robert Daino, who also chairs an association of all nine PBS stations in the state, says PBS stations all over the country are constantly seeking new ways to share and improve their educational offerings. • StreamlineSC, South Carolina’s video-streaming service in education, is the result of cooperative efforts by the state’s educational television entity, known as SCETV, and the state education department. In addition to DE videos, the service includes material from SCETV productions and programs approved by the education department. All 85 school districts in the state use the service, which registered more than two million views in 2006-07. Dean Byrd, director of distance learning at SCETV, says he likes the fact that feedback from Discovery shows which programs are effective. One of the most ambitious efforts to upgrade education through technology and related in-service education for teachers has taken place in Kentucky, where sweeping structural and curricular changes followed a 1989 State Supreme Court decision that invalidated the state’s system for financing its schools. With a resulting new emphasis on educational equity, recalls Bill Wilson, deputy director for education and outreach at Kentucky Educational Television (KET), officials there and in the state education department needed to find effective ways to bring smaller and poorer school districts up to par. That background, Wilson says, has contributed to an environment today in which the power of instructional video plays a critical role. At KET, Discovery Education streaming forms the backbone of what the network has dubbed EncyloMedia, which the state helps finance. Wilson says a guiding principle has been to focus on students as learners and on teachers as facilitators. “In the old days,” he explains, “we used to look at technology to help teachers teach. Today, it’s to help students learn.” Kentucky’s approach to professional development, Wilson adds, has involved asking teachers what they need, rather than telling them. A related aspect has been to illustrate good classroom practices by making “authentic” films, not set up in advance, showing “average teachers who are out there on a day-to-day basis, trying to do the job.” Collaborative work with teachers is important, says Kathy Quinn, herself a long-time teacher and former Kentucky education department administrator who has been KET’s education director for more than seven years. And with digital video and other new technology, today’s teachers have much easier access to resources. Quinn notes that EncycloMedia specialists help with teacher training. Kentucky’s use of DE streaming, previously called unitedstreaming, originated in its Scott County Schools. Jeanne Biddle, the district’s technology director, works primarily on instructional issues. She says that about seven years ago, her predecessor, Leslie Flanders, was among the first to see the video service in action, and that Flanders spread the word. It caught on quickly throughout the state. Eventually, the popularity of streaming video contributed to the state’s investment in providing higher bandwidth for schools, Biddle says. A current goal is to “push EncycloMedia into the hands of the students.” At the state education department, David Couch, associate commissioner for educational technology, is enthusiastic about the agency’s partnership with KET. He says EncyloMedia has connected better with teachers “than most anything else I’ve seen” for daily use in the classroom.—R.L.J.
This eSchool News Special Report is made possible with financial support from Discovery Education.
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eSN Special Report 30 • eSCHOOL NEWS
Visual Learning... continued from page 26 line self-paced professional development.” For annual fees ranging from $1,495 to $2,995 per building, depending on the grade levels served, school districts can subscribe to a service that allows teachers to access and download Discovery’s streaming videos directly from the internet. An alternative product, launched this past fall, provides “plug-and-play” servers holding nearly 8,000 videos from Discovery’s collection that users can obtain locally, without having to worry about internet speed. DE streaming contains videos and clips in major subject areas, including science, math, social studies, and language arts. Because of an elaborate tagging system in which full-length videos have also been divided into segments on specific topics, teachers can search according to terms that correspond with their lesson plans and quick-
make some hypotheses, and then go back and view it again. The way it’s organized is tremendous.” Meanwhile, teachers in search of good videos to show their students have a growing array of other resources to explore—largely through the internet, often free, and dealing with a broad range of topics in many subjects, particularly in the sciences and social studies. One such resource is Teachers’ Domain, a “curriculum-based digital media service” offered over the web by WGBH, the Boston area’s public-broadcasting entity. Its library of videos, images, and other material can be downloaded, shared with others, and remixed without charge. In a partnership with PBS TeacherLine, WGBH also offers online professional development courses for science teachers in elementary and secondary schools. Broad searches of the internet also will yield many potential films, clips, animations, and images—which, with an investment of extra time and creativity, teach-
“You’ve got to get experiences where you actually participate in [teaching with video in a school setting]. Because teachers are human, and when they come to teaching something that is unfamiliar to them, if it reaches a point of anxiety or stress, they will go back to teaching the way they were taught.” —Donna Scribner, Chief Learning Officer, The Virtual High School ly locate short to medium-length clips, along with articles, images, guides, and related items. For example, searching on the phrase “global warming” brings descriptions and links for 37 full-length videos—such as an hour-long 2005 PBS program, “Global Warming: The Signs and the Science,” for highschool students, and a 15-minute 2001 film called “Weather Smart: Climate” that is aimed at grades three to five. The PBS video has been divided into 14 segments, which last for as little as two minutes, 40 seconds, and up to more than 17 minutes. The “Weather Smart” film for the younger set has a dozen segments, nearly all of which are less than two minutes long. “It’s terrific,” says Iowa State’s Davis about DE streaming, underscoring the ease with which teachers can find what they’re looking for. “The teacher can actually say [to students]: ‘I don’t want you to go and look at that whole video over there; I want you to look at this particular clip and think about this’—and maybe get them to
ers might find useful, if only occasionally. A recent search on “global warming” within Google Video, for example, turned up more than 22,000 entries, many of them decidedly not for classroom use. But expanding the search term to include the word “science” reduced the number of hits to fewer than 1,200, and at least some of the entries seemed relevant. Performing similar searches on the web sites of news organizations or on other, specialized sites can be more fruitful. For instance, asking the New York Times’s search engine to find material on “global warming” will take you to “Times Topics: Global Warming,” and from there it’s a quick hop to an interactive graphic on “Sea Ice in Retreat” and an automated photo gallery, with audio narration, titled “Global Warming: A Legacy Issue.” An exploration of National Geographic’s web site, meanwhile, eventually will bring you to some fine photos and a brief video—“courtesy of NASA”—about “the rapid retreat of north polar ice and its repercussions for the planet.”
This eSchool News Special Report is made possible with financial support from Discovery Education.
Huge challenges remain There’s another dimension to this story, however. For all the gains that new technology has brought to instructional video, some experts see big challenges remaining before schools can claim to be taking full advantage of the opportunities. The heart of their concern, which education leaders in a number of states are working hard to address, is that many classroom teachers still are not up to speed—technically, or even pedagogically—on how to make the most of resources for visual learning. Video’s extensive presence on the internet, along with many students’ substantial exposure to digital media, points more than ever to the need for top-flight teacher education and “in-service training,” experts say. To Donna Scribner, chief learning officer for The Virtual High School, a nonprofit organization that provides online courses for credit to high school students in the United States and abroad, the issue is more educational than technological, and it confronts both teachers and school administrators. “We know our students are already connected to [the digital] environment,” says Scribner. “It’s the adults in the world who are not as well connected.” And how can schools make up for that? “How much time do we have?” Scribner asks. While there are a growing number of internet sites with good instructional media, “it takes time to search them out.” A related concern is that, apart from the solid content and organization that teachers are likely to find in a service such as DE streaming, no one has yet to get a handle on structuring, analyzing, and vetting all the visual materials on the web that could well be used in the classroom. Because of such issues, Scribner notes, the importance of visual learning in teachers’ professional development has come to the forefront in education circles. “As teachers, we used to have to get professional development in order to maintain our licenses, and it really didn’t matter at times what we got those credits in, as long as we got them and it fit our yearly plans,” Scribner says. “Now, I’m seeing more and more teachers, educators, and administrators saying, you know, this is like the ‘brave new world’ for the adults, and you all need to know what your students know. You need to be part of the revolution by actually experiencing it through professional development opportunities.” Scribner advises school districts to facilitate professional development by “paying for the substitutes up front” and giving teachers time off from their classroom responsibilities, so they can both attend “immersion” workshops in educational technology and follow up later on. “And you can’t just go to a workshop,” Scribner remarks. “You’ve got to get experiences where you actually participate in [teaching with video in a school setting]. Because teachers are human, and when they come to teaching something that is unfamiliar to them, if it reaches a point of anxiety or stress, they will go back to teaching the way they were taught.” Bandwidth, too, can still be an issue—especially for students who use the internet at home in connection with their schoolwork, says Nova Southeastern’s Simonson. “Even today, there are many who still use dial-up to access the internet, hard as that is to believe. And many of today’s DSL connections are still not really very fast. So if we design a streaming video, for example, if it’s extremely graphical, a lot of people have a difficult time accessing that.” As a result, says Simonson, who is an expert in instructional systems, people may “revert to the least common denominator when it comes to the technologies that we use. We see that happening.” And even when schools have sufficient network capacity to download videos, they might not have “some of the basic technologies” to make proper use of them. See Visual Learning, page 31
eSCHOOL NEWS • 31
Visual Learning... continued from page 30 In many schools that Simonson has visited, people have “pulled the speakers out of the computer labs and the classrooms” because they consider the sound to be disruptive, he says. But if speakers are removed, video streaming ends up being “no good. You can see the visuals, but you can’t hear the sound. So teachers migrate away from the use of video streaming, because they can’t hear what the narrator is saying.” Simonson urges schools to instill a “systematic approach” to using video technology, including both hardware and software. Having a technology plan that administrators and teachers buy into is essential, he says. And schools need a “step-by-step process by which you can incorporate visual teaching to promote visual learning.”
Media specialists are key For school districts to capitalize fully on the promise of visual learning, many experts suggest, they also need more media specialists. At a time when rich visual media are becoming plentiful, they say, many districts lack an adequate staff of librarians and media experts to support their teachers. When enrollments drop and budgets get tight, media specialists often are among the first to go, Simonson observes: “A lot of folks say, ‘We don’t need a librarian.’ We have an athletic director for a school of 600 kids, but we don’t have a media specialist.” Librarians and media specialists should take part in planning for video streaming and other digital services in the schools, says Justin Wadland, chair-elect of the American Library Association’s Video Round Table. If a school is going to host a video server, he says, “then IT people would be needed to support that.” But for teachers “who are actually going to be using it,” it’s also “important to have those librarians.”
Market leader: Discovery Education’s streaming video. Wadland’s point might seem to be self-evident, but he says the reality is that librarians “sometimes get left out.” Some people mistakenly think, “Well, we’ll just make the service available, and teachers will use it,” says Wadland, who oversees video and media resources at the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus. “But the training part is just very important. It’s a lot to ask teachers to change the way they teach without giving them training in how to use the technology.” Wadland adds: “That’s a good role for a librarian or media specialist. I do this quite a bit in my job. I will go to a database and learn the quirks, and then I’ll share that information with my colleagues and students who ask me questions.” Wadland says one of his concerns about reliance on visual resources in education is that students might not always question where various material has come from. Just because they are proficient in using digital media
“doesn’t necessarily mean they can think critically about the media,” he says. Students must learn how to assess the sources of videos, Wadland asserts, and they must ask, “What are the values that are put into this thing?” In Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn, a book published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Lynell Burmark, a consultant on education video, writes: “The primary literacy of the 21st century will be visual: pictures, graphics, images of every kind … it’s no longer enough to be able to read and write. Our students must learn to process both words and pictures. They must be able to move gracefully and fluently between text and images, between literal and figurative worlds.” According to Niki Davis, many students—including college undergraduates, let alone K-12 students— need “a fair amount of scaffolding” beneath them when they go online. Otherwise, she says, “they can get lost on the web and treat as authentic things that are not.” The internet’s wide-open nature is one reason for the appeal of video collections like those distributed through Discovery Education. The company has stressed that notion in its promotional literature, saying it offers “the very best in high-quality educational programming from some of the industry’s most trusted content providers.” Instructional video, both proprietary and open source, will “continue to leverage innovation” in the classroom, says Robert Daino, president of WCNY, a multimedia public broadcasting group in central New York state. But he says the number of educators who currently embrace visual content over the internet is still “fairly low.” Even today, some teachers might not be aware of the opportunities, Daino suggests, while others might simply be reluctant to change their methods. But he argues that, in the final analysis, the resisters will have to change— because their students will demand it. eSN
Visual learning: A potpourri of web resources, products Alabama Public Television (video room) http://www.aptv.org/Videoroom/index.asp Annenberg Media http://www.learner.org Arizona School Services through Educational Technology (ASSET) http://www.asset.asu.edu Arkansas Educational Television Network (video archive) http://www.aetn.org/videolibrary.shtml Atomic Learning Inc. http://movies.atomiclearning.com/k12/home Britannica Online Features Archive: Science & Technology http://www.britannica.com/features/ category?categoryId=31 Cable in the Classroom (online video) http://www.ciconline.org/video Center for Digital Storytelling http://www.storycenter.org/index1.html Center for Technology in Learning & Teaching, Iowa State University http://www.ctlt.iastate.edu Center for Technology and School Change, Teachers College, Columbia University http://www.tc.columbia.edu/academic/ctsc
Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, Columbia University http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu
Mississippi Public Broadcasting (education services) http://www.mpbonline.org/educators/EDUmain.htm
Discovery Education streaming http://www.discoveryeducation.com/products.cfm
National Geographic Channel Videos http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/ channel/video
e-Learning for Educators Initiative (Boston College site) http://www.bc.edu/research/intasc/ researchprojects/eLearning/efe.shtml
netTrekker (educational search engine) http://nettrekker.com/
Elluminate Inc. http://www.elluminate.com
PBS Podcasts http://www.pbs.org/search/ search_results.html?q=podcast &btnG.x=0&btnG.y=0&neighborhood=none
FMG on Demand (educational video) http://www.fmgondemand.com/ PortalPreviewCenter.aspx?cid
PBS TeacherLine http://teacherline.pbs.org/teacherline
Google Video http://video.google.com
SchoolMedia Inc. http://www.schoolvideos.com
Inspiration Software Inc. http://inspiration.com/productinfo/ inspiration/index.cfm
South Carolina Educational Television http://www.myetv.org/education/index.cfm Teachers’ Domain, WGBH http://www.teachersdomain.org
Iowa Educators Consortium http://www.iec-ia.org Kentucky Educational Television http://www.ket.org/education
Times Topics, The New York Times http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/ timestopics/index.html?8qa
Library Video Co. http://www.libraryvideo.com
WCNY (interactive education) http://www.wcny.org/content/section/4/45
This eSchool News Special Report is made possible with financial support from Discovery Education.
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TCEA Exhibitors you want to see include...
Lightspeed Systems Prior investigations and past experience have proven that nearly every school district in the country has at least one staff member or student downloading inappropriate or illegal pornographic images on school issued computers. The Associated Press recently reported on “….more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.” Lightspeed Systems provides all the tools you need to identify, collect evidence, suspend, terminate or even prosecute the violators within your school district. With Total Traffic Control v6.03 you are assured total control over your networks with in-depth management, reporting and monitoring. Obtain peace of mind with a single admin console to see everything running on your network and the control to properly manage any detected issues.
NEW ELMO TT-02S VISUAL PRESENTER EVEN MORE VERSATILE FOR DYNAMIC CLASSROOM PRESENTATIONS Compact and Lightweight, the TT-02 “S” Model Is a Full-Featured TeachingTool! ELMO USA's new TT-02S document camera is now available to help teachers and instructors reach a new generation of students. The TT-02S offers a full range of features, user-friendly operation, lightweight portability, and ultra-clear graphics. The TT-02S sports an LED light and a SD memory card holder. Every feature of the TT-02S is designed to support interactivity and spontaneity in teaching applications. Weighing in under six pounds, this teaching tool allows teachers to share information, documents, even small 3D objects with students in several learning environments. The TT-02S advanced optical system delivers sharp, color-accurate visuals with close-ups of the smallest details. The TT-02S easily rotates to line up precisely with a microscope eyepiece, there's no need for awkward or ill-fitting couplers that are troublesome to attach and get lost. The unit's stability allows for accurate and precise focusing of any object. Unlike gooseneck camera arms, the TT-02's stable camera arm does not transmit vibrations from tables or desks. It also requires only one hand for easy adjustment, unlike some push-pull adjustable cameras, which makes the TT-02S more ADA-compliant than most competitive models.
Hitachi’s CP-X205 Networkable Projector with eShot™ technology is the only projector equipped to be part of your Emergency Preparedness Plan. During a school emergency fast and effective communication is vital to the safety and well-being of staff and students. Integrating Hitachi’s CP-X205 projector with eShot™ technology into your school’s Emergency Mass Notification System will empower school administrators to instantly broadcast visual instructions, or eShot™, to every projector on the network, or to only a few select classrooms as needed. Alerts, instructions, information updates, even evacuation routes and maps can be dispatched across the network with just the flip of a switch.
Product showcase: Voyager Passport™ Reading Intervention System Voyager Passport™ is a reading intervention system that strengthens all core reading programs for K-5 students reading one or more years below grade level. Six instructional levels accelerate the reading performance of at-risk students by providing targeted instruction that emphasizes skills taught in the core. Voyager Passport provides students with 30 to 45 minutes of daily, targeted intervention, with instruction in each of the essential reading components, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Lessons are based on the latest scientific knowledge about effective reading instruction, and include modules focusing on word study, vocabulary and fluency. Students who use Voyager Passport are assessed three times annually using the Vital Indicators of Progress® (VIP®), a set of simple and highly predictive measurement tools completely equivalent to DIBELS®. In addition, the curriculum includes ongoing progress monitoring to ensure students are continually improving fundamental skills.
Saywire Saywire is helping schools across America bring the hottest Internet tools and technologies into the classroom with our secure Online Campus. This social academic networking platform features over 75 patent-pending utilities designed specifically for safe educational use, including Personal Achievement Pages, Blogs, Chat Rooms, eNotes, Multimedia Galleries, and more.
Voyager Passport includes Ticket to Read™, an easy-to-access and easy-to-use website designed to increase reading speed, comprehension and vocabulary through a reward system that promotes reading practice at home and school. Students read high-interest passages at increasing levels of difficulty and take passage quizzes to earn points for customizing their personal clubhouse. Students can independently practice important reading skills at school, home, or the library with 24/7 access. Voyager Passport is the first primary reading intervention program to be endorsed by the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE).
TCEA • Feb 4-8, 2008 • Austin, Texas
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eSCHOOL NEWS • 41
SAFE Schools Update School security trends and resources—culled from the School Actions for Emergencies (SAFE) Center at eSchool News Online An intelligent camera system that matches the faces of campus visitors against a database of persons who shouldn’t be on school grounds … a Global Positioning System tracking service with an automatic security alert that students can activate from their cell phones … a series of studies that assess the impact of cyber bullying on students: These are among the many school security trends and recent developments we’ve reported in the School Actions for Emergencies (SAFE) Center at eSchool News Online. A joint project of eSchool News and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the SAFE Center made its online debut at this time last year—giving educators free, unfettered access to a comprehensive collection of resources intended to help them prepare for physical and IT security threats and emergencies. The site is continually updated and now contains links to resources grouped according to 18 different types of school emergencies—from blizzards and bomb threats to hurricanes, shootings, and pandemics. It also contains links to more than two dozen sample school emergency plans covering a wide range of scenarios, as well as a News section featuring the latest school security news and information. What follows is a sampling of the information and resources that have been added to the SAFE Center in recent weeks. Be sure to check the site regularly for new updates: http://www.eschoolnews.com/safe-center
Studies suggest cyber bullying is on the rise Public health experts share concern over online harassment and its impact on students Cyber bullying is in the national spotlight again, and the news is not encouraging: On the heels of a widely publicized case in Missouri that led to the suicide of a 13-yearold girl, there is new research to suggest that instances of online harassment are on the rise among students. As many as one in three U.S. children have been
Tammy Meier’s daughter, Megan, killed herself last year after receiving cruel internet messages. ridiculed or threatened through computer messages, according to one estimate of the emerging problem. Another new study found the problem is less common, with one in 10 kids reporting online harassment. But health experts say even the lower estimate signals a growing and concerning public health issue. “I wouldn’t consider something that 10 percent of kids report as low,” said Janis Wolak, a University of New Hampshire researcher who co-authored the second study. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) is trying to draw attention to how adolescents are affected by harassment perpetrated through eMail, instant messaging, text messaging, blog postings, and other electronic communications. Last year, CDC officials convened a panel of experts to focus on the topic. They also funded a special issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health to publish more research on the subject. The journal released its articles Nov. 27. It’s difficult to say how severe a public health issue online harassment is, because a posting or eMail message that might upset some children could be shrugged off by others, CDC officials said. And the results of various surveys can differ, depending on how the questions are asked. But the issue has attracted the attention of lawmakers in Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, and other states that have introduced bills or instituted programs designed to reduce cyber bullying. In November, officials in the Missouri town of Dardenne Prairie made internet harassment a misdemeanor, in the wake of public outrage over the suicide of a 13-year-old resident there last year. The parents of Megan Meier claim their daughter, who had been treated for depression, committed suicide after a teenage boy who flirted with her on MySpace abruptly ended their friendship, telling her he heard she was mean. The story gained national prominence when it was revealed the boy never existed—it was a prank allegedly started by a mother in the girl’s neighborhood. Writing in the September 2007 issue of eSchool News, award-winning columnist Nora Carr cited this finding by National Association of School Psychologists: “As with other forms of bullying, victims of chronic [cyber] abuse are more likely to develop depression or low self-esteem, bring weapons to school, or contemplate suicide.” The fear and anxiety caused by cyber bullying “can interfere with learning, damage the school climate, and leave victims psychically scarred,” wrote Carr, who is the associate superintendent for communication at North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Carr recommends several steps that parents and educators can take to combat cyber bullying—including updating acceptable-use policies to address
online bullying, creating an inclusive climate that fosters acceptance and tolerance, and reporting instances of online harassment to the proper authorities … For full story, see: http://www.eschoolnews.com/safe-center
Related resources Title: Cyberbullying.us Location: http://www.cyberbullying.us/index.php Description: This site helps to identify the causes and consequences of online harassment. Source: Cyberbullying.us
Title: Cyberbullying Statistics and Tips Location: http://www.isafe.org/channels/ sub.php?ch=op&sub_id=media_cyber_bullying Description: i-SAFE works to promote awareness and action about internet safety, including cyber bullying. Source: i-SAFE
Title: Stop Bullying Now Location: http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adult/ indexAdult.asp?Area=cyberbullying Description: This page gives parents, students, and teachers statistics and information on cyber bullying, as well as ways to prevent it. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration
Title: Cyberbullying and Internet Safety Location: http://teachdigital.pbwiki.com/ cyberbullying Description: This wiki page gives teachers many links to cyber bullying resources and how educators can help to stop online bullying. Source: Teach Digital: Curriculum by Wes Fryer
Continued on page 42
eSCHOOL NEWS • 42
...continued from page 41
Nashville schools pilot face-recognition cameras Controversial technology intended to boost security inside school buildings Last month, the Nashville, Tenn., public school system became what is believed to be the first school system in the country to implement face-recognition security cameras to spot intruders in its schools. Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) is piloting the cameras in its central administrative office and at three schools. Students, teachers, and school staff will
An alarm will sound if the face is not familiar. have their pictures taken and uploaded into the system, so the cameras will recognize their images. When an unfamiliar person enters the building, and the camera cannot match that person’s face to a photo stored in its database, an alarm will sound.
MNPS has had security cameras in its schools for the past eight years, said Steve Keel, the district’s director of school security. But the face-recognition technology came to Keel’s attention after a district employee attended a conference and saw the system from Floridabased Cross Match Technologies. Last fall, a suspended student entered SuccessTech Academy, an alternative high school in Cleveland, Ohio, and opened fire, wounding four people and killing himself. In the wake of these shootings, Nashville school officials said their system could be set up to detect suspended or expelled students and sound an alarm. “We’re trying to be more proactive” with security, Keel said. Some civil-rights groups say face-recognition cameras intrude on personal privacy. But Keel believes such privacy concerns are unfounded. “We’re not using this technology to track anybody—we’re trying to keep them out of the building before they create a disturbance or problem,” he said. Police departments in Florida and Virginia say they have tried the technology and discontinued its use after it did not help in finding wanted criminals. “It got a lot of bad press [a few] years ago, but the technology has improved a lot since then,” Keel said… For full story, see: hhttp://www.eschoolnews.com/safe-center
Related resources Title: Keep Schools Safe Location: http://www.keepschoolssafe.org Description: This site gives educators general information on how to maintain safe school environments. It includes a special section on school security. Source: KeepSchoolsSafe.org
Title: Video Surveillance Guide Location: http://www.video-surveillance-guide.com/ video-surveillance-cameras-in-schools.htm Description: This web site features a look at school video surveillance, including links to information on different kinds of surveillance, as well as news stories on school security. Source: Video-Surveillance-Guide.com
Title: National Alert Registry Location: http://www.registeredoffenderslist.org Description: The National Alert Registry is a searchable database of registered sex offenders. For a fee, users can get detailed information about offenders, including names, aliases, maps, photos, addresses, and offenses. Source: National Alert Registry
GPS cell phones enhance campus safety Montclair State is one of several universities to provide students with GPS locator service
A Montclair student uses her school-issued phone. It was after 1 a.m. on a Sunday when college freshman Amanda Phillips arrived at the train station. She was nervous about walking alone in the dark to her dorm at Montclair State University in New Jersey. So Phillips activated a GPS tracking device on her school-issued cell phone that would instantly alert campus police to her whereabouts if she didn’t turn it off in 20 minutes. After a five-minute walk, she safely reached her dorm room, locked the door behind her, and turned off the timer. “I think this is a great idea. It makes me feel a lot safer. And it’s not even that expensive,” said Phillips, an 18-year-old from Delaware. Had she not turned the device off, an alarm would have sounded at the campus police station, and a computer screen would have displayed a dot with her location, along with her photo and other personal details. Montclair State is one of the first schools in the United States to offer students a GPS tracking service— which, along with other security technology, is being
adopted on more and more campuses in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre last spring. Students can use the timer or, in an emergency, activate the GPS technology to alert police instantly. “Maybe they’re hiding and are hurt. Maybe they wouldn’t want to talk, because they’re hiding behind a desk and the gunman’s in the room. They’d have a better chance of being located,” said campus police Sgt. Paul Giardino. Two years ago, well before the Virginia Tech shootings, Montclair State made the cell phones mandatory for all first-year students living in dorms at the largely commuter school in suburban New Jersey. Now, all new full-time undergraduates—whether they live on campus or off—are required to buy them. About 6,000 students have them now. Karen Pennington, vice president for campus life, said she and others on campus wanted to use the phones for instruction—letting professors take instant polls in class, for instance—and for safety as well. While students praise the safety features, some grumble that the phones are mandatory and that they must be bought through the school for $210 per semester, on top of tuition and fees totaling more than $7,600 a year. The phones come with free, unlimited text messaging, the capability to read campus eMail, free calls after 7 p.m., and free calls to other Sprint phones—but only 50 minutes per month of anytime talking. Students must pay extra to add minutes. And though students pay by the semester, the phones work year-round. The university contracted with the New York-based company Rave Wireless for the safety technology and Sprint for the cell-phone service. Montclair State said it is not making money on the deal. It said the total cost is around $2 million per year—almost exactly what the school collects from students to fund it. Raju Rishi, co-founder of Rave, said Montclair State was the first to use the safety feature, called Rave Guardian. A half-dozen other schools, including nearby
Fairleigh Dickinson University and the University of North Carolina, now use similar systems, Rishi said… For full story, see: hhttp://www.eschoolnews.com/safe-center
Related resources Title: Welcome to AMBER Alert Location: http://www.amberalert.gov Description: The AMBER Alert System began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. Other states and communities soon set up their own AMBER plans as the idea was adopted across the nation. Source: Regina B. Schofield, National AMBER Alert Coordinator
Title: Association of Missing and Exploited Childrens Organizations Location: http://www.amecoinc.org Description: AMECO is an organization of member agencies in the United States and Canada who provide services to families with missing and exploited children. AMECO members also provide online safety training for parents, educators, law enforcement, and the community. Source: AMECO Inc.
Title: Global Missing Children Resources Location: http://www.globalmissing.com Description: This site includes global resources, information, and news on parental abduction, international child abduction, and missing children. There are multilingual resources for international visitors. Source: Child Abduction Resource Center
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Louisiana School District Provides Integrated Solution for Student Assessment and Remediation netTrekker d.i.® Seamlessly Integrates with Scantron® Achievement Series™ Allowing Teachers to Immediately Connect to Resources for Re-Teaching Based on Assessment Data Post Hurricane Katrina, St. Mary Parish Schools in Centerville, Louisiana, received monies to aid teachers in gathering resources to teach the Louisiana Comprehensive Curriculum. The critical need was to find assessment and remediation resources that aligned with the state’s grade level expectations. Focusing On the Endgame – Achievement St. Mary Parish created six-week, parish-wide assessments in the four core areas for re-teaching. However, the district was setting goals based on the previous year’s standardized tests. This year, the district wanted to be proactive and find resources that utilized new methods to assess and re-teach weak skills long before standardized testing occurred, thus focusing on the endgame – improving student achievement. The district recently invested in Scantron’s Achievement Series, a web-based assessment solution that helps educators develop and administer tests, capture results, and produce standards-based reports. Although the district paid teachers to create tests and program managers to edit them, Achievement Series was needed for grading and reporting. This worked well; however, teachers were expected to “re-teach” on the items from the test that students did not master. According to Lisa Thibodeaux, St. Mary Parish K-12 program manager, English K-12, “Teachers only had access to resources from the original teaching of the skills. If students did
“If students didn’t master a skill the first time, teaching it again the same way won’t yield better results. netTrekker d.i. gave us additional materials for re-teaching!” — Lisa Thibodeaux, St. Mary Parish K-12 program manager, English K-12 not master the skill based on the teacher’s current repertoire, it was unlikely that teaching it again the same way would yield better results. We knew we needed to provide additional materials for re-teaching.” Another challenge was finding standards-based educational content aligned to students’ needs and tied to specific and measurable objectives. In addition, it was important for teachers to be able to find that content easily and quickly. Using regular search engines to find remediation resources often meant sifting through thousands of irrelevant and inappropriate websites. Re-Teaching Based on Assessment Data A Scantron representative told Thibodeaux about netTrekker d.i., a safe K-12 educational search engine that delivers rich digital content and seamlessly integrates with Achievement Series, which allows teachers to immediately connect to resources for re-
teaching based on assessment data. By clicking on the netTrekker d.i. icon in Achievement Series, the teacher goes from the identified area of deficiency to supporting standards-aligned resources in netTrekker d.i., which facilitates differentiated instruction within a class and among various classes based on actual test results. “Districts nationwide provide recommended resources but they find it difficult and time-consuming to align those resources,” said Randy Wilhelm, CEO of Thinkronize, developers of netTrekker d.i. “That’s where netTrekker d.i. helps. With over 180,000 digital resources, aligned to each state’s academic standards, teachers have a wealth of educational content at their fingertips.” “After our Parish-wide Assessment, I needed to reinforce standard 7.14 (author's intended purpose),” said Jada Aloisio, reading teacher at the Parish’s Patterson Junior High School. “Using netTrekker d.i., I found a lesson with three worksheets and another with a quiz to re-teach this standard – it was so easy. For a first year teacher, netTrekker d.i. provides resources that normally take years to acquire.” netTrekker d.i. and Achievement Series fulfilled St. Mary Parish’s crucial need to find an integrated solution for student assessment and remediation. netTrekker d.i. fulfilled another need, too. “Our technology plan encourages the use of instructional technology in class,” said Thibodeaux. “netTrekker d.i. provides digital content, as opposed to text-based content, which is critical. Our digitally-native students respond well to technology because its more engaging and when students are engaged, we know they learn!”
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44 • eSCHOOL NEWS
Battle... continued from page 1 have provided $63.6 billion for the U.S. Department of Education—a 5-percent increase over 2007 spending and 8 percent more than the president had sought. Included in the original budget bill was $271 million in funding for educational technology, as well as $1.2 billion for career and technical education. Bush had proposed $600 million for the latter program and sought to kill the former entirely. The president’s veto set up a nasty showdown over 2008 education spending, with schools caught in the middle. In exercising just the sixth veto of his presidency— all have come since Democrats took con-
January 2008 trol of Congress last January—Bush chided the opposition party. “The majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it’s acting like a teenager with a new credit card,” he told an audience of business and community leaders. “This year alone, the leadership in Congress has proposed to spend $22 billion more than my budget provides. Now, some of them claim that’s not really much of a difference. The scary part is, they seem to mean it.” Bush vetoed the $150.7 billion labor, health, and education spending measure on Nov. 13, the same day he signed a 9percent increase in the Pentagon’s nonwar budget, to $471 billion—although the White House complained that the Pentagon budget, too, contained “some
unnecessary spending.” The defense measure only funded core department operations. It didn’t include Bush’s $196 billion request for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, except for a nearly $12 billion infusion for new troop vehicles that are resistant to roadside bombs. Democrats jumped on Bush’s spending priorities. “With today’s veto, the president has shown once again how out of touch and out of step he is with the values of America’s families,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “Cancer research, investments in our schools, job training, protecting workers, and many other urgent priorities have all fallen victim to a pres-
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ident who squanders billions of dollars in Iraq but is unwilling to invest in America’s future.” The original education spending measure would have added $500 million to last year’s budget for special education grants to states, for a total of $11.3 billion. That’s $800 million more than Bush had proposed. It would have funded the federal Title I program for disadvantaged students at $14.3 billion—$1.5 billion more than last year’s budget, and $400 million more than Bush had requested. Improving Teacher Quality state grants would have gotten $3 billion under the bill, $150 million more than last year and $250 million more than the president’s request. The measure also would have provided a 20-percent increase over Bush’s request for job training programs; $1.4 billion more than Bush’s request for health research at the National Institutes of Health, a 5-percent increase; $2.4 billion for heating subsidies for the poor, $480 million more than Bush requested; and a $225 million increase for community health centers. Education groups also slammed the president’s veto. “This administration wants to nickeland-dime education, and if the president can’t get his way he’s threatening to completely pull the plug,” said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association. “Congress has done the right thing by keeping the interests of students, not the political interests of the president, front and center. Lawmakers must override the veto, so schools get the basic resources they need.” Said Edward J. McElroy, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “It is outrageous that a president who could not bring himself to veto a spending bill for six years can suddenly demand fiscal prudence on the backs of working-class taxpayers. By saying ‘no’ to appropriate funding for these programs, the president yet again has chosen to shortchange students and turn a blind eye to the needs of America’s increasingly beleaguered working families.” The White House said the original health and education spending bill was loaded with 2,000 earmarks—lawmakersponsored projects that critics call porkbarrel spending—which Bush wanted stripped from the bill. “Some of its wasteful projects include a prison museum, a sailing school taught aboard a catamaran, and a Portugueseas-a-second-language program,” the president said. “Congress owes the taxpayers much better than this effort.” Critics of the Bush administration noted that the defense spending bill signed by Bush contained nearly an identical number of earmarks. The House fell three votes shy of overriding the president’s veto in a November vote, sending Congress back to work on passing a budget as the holiday season drew near. The Democratic measure being assembled as of press time would roll together 11 spending bills to fund every Cabinet agency except the Defense Department. The difference between Bush and Democrats amounted only to about 2 percentage points and was dwarfed by Bush’s $196 billion request for operations in Iraq See Battle, page 45
eSCHOOL NEWS â€˘ 45
Laptop... continued from page 1 gy is such an integral part of learning.â€? OLPC spokeswoman Jackie Lustig confirmed for the Birmingham News that talks were underway with city officials. When an eSchool News reporter asked Lustig for more details, however, she had this to say: â€œWe have no comment. It is unfortunate that this information was released before any deal was finalized.â€? The laptop program is one of several projects that Langford reportedly has proposed to revitalize the city of Birmingham. Other proposed projects include a new mass transit system, a domed stadium, a college scholarship program, and new streets and sidewalks.
Langford said the $3 million needed to buy the laptops would come from private-sector donations as well as the city budget. Birmingham schools Superintendent Stan Sims told the cityâ€™s newspaper that the proposed laptop deal â€œis huge â€Ś It gives our students a chance to be competitive.â€? It was unclear as of press time whether premature coverage of the deal would affect the negotiations. According to a report in the Birmingham Weekly, the leaking of Langfordâ€™s economic revitalization plan has caused tension between the new mayor and the city board. During a press conference held Nov. 23, Langford accused the city council of revealing the plan without his approval
and said theyâ€™d â€œlost his trust.â€? Though city council president Carole Smitherman said the relatively cheap cost of the laptops is a minimal amount to pay for computer technology, as of press time she reportedly needed more information before she could reach a decision. Langford and Katopodis have teamed up in the past to provide a computer program for children, the Birmingham News reported. In 2000, with HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy, both Langford and Katopodis formed Computer Help for Kids, a nonprofit organization to refurbish donated computers and give them to needy students. The Internal Revenue Service has subpoenaed Jefferson County and the city of Fairfield, Ala., for checks written to the
group, the News reported. Langford has said he did nothing wrong and has called the investigation politically motivated. eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
Technology News for Todayâ€™s K-20 Educator
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City of Birmingham http://www.informationbirmingham.com
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Battle... continued from page 44 and Afghanistan. But Bush has adopted a hard line on domestic programs outside of defense, spurred on by conservatives seeking to repair the GOPâ€™s bruised reputation on fiscal discipline. â€œCongressional Democrats understand the need to fund critical priorities at home while we also correct the disastrous course the White House has set at home and abroad,â€? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Dec. 8 in a joint statement. â€œThis war already costs taxpayers $12 billion a month. ... The last thing this administration should do is preach about responsible management.â€? Democrats signaled they were willing to give Bush a portion of the war funding he sought on terms the White House could accept, in exchange for $11 billion more in domestic spending. Developments as of press time, however, suggested that conservative Republicans would play hardball to try to scale back the additional domestic spending. Still, many Republicansâ€”especially the pragmatists who populate the appropriations committeesâ€”saw Bushâ€™s budget as too stringent, and it was assumed that Bush ultimately would agree to some additional spending as the price for obtaining war funds. eSN
Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
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Top News | Special Reports | Best Practices | Vanguard Report
White House http://www.whitehouse.gov
U.S. Department of Education http://www.ed.gov
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. http://kennedy.senate.gov
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. http://reid.senate.gov
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
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46 • eSCHOOL NEWS
eSN Curricular Focus January 2008
Software strikes a chord with disabled students University project enables physically challenged kids to create music using technology From eSchool News staff and wire service reports A program developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) allows students with severe physical disabilities to create music just by moving their heads. A digital video camera tracks the students’movements on a computer screen and translates them into piano scales or drum beats. The program’s developers hope it will open a whole new world of creativity for physically challenged individuals. Using slight motions of her head and this newly developed computer program, 16-year-old Annemarie grinned with the realization that she was making music. The teenager, a student at the Rehab School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was demonstrating the program for a newspaper reporter. Severely physically disabled, Annemarie can’t walk or speak and has little control over the movements of her head and arms. Annemarie is one of three students at the facility who are being given a rare opportunity to create something of their own, using new computer technology and music therapy. Music therapy, widely considered a valuable tool for emotional and physical therapy, has not always been accessible for everyone. With the “Adaptive Use Musical Instruments for the Physically Challenged” project at the Rehab School, however, its founders are hoping to bring musical instruments to those whose disabilities prevent them from playing regular instruments. They’re hoping the project not only will give students a chance for creative expression but also will provide a wealth of other valuable experiences. Musician and RPI professor Pauline Oliveros and drummer Leaf Miller had for years discussed the idea of bringing music to those too severely disabled to play any standard instruments. Miller, an occupational therapist at the Rehab School, a facility for the physically disabled, had long looked for a way to bring her love of music to the kids she worked with. She’d started a drumming class with the kids about a year-and-a-half ago, but she wanted to find a way for those unable to beat a drum, such as those with cerebral
Science... continued from page 1 Business Roundtable, Council of Chief State School Officers, ED in ’08, and National Governors Association—called for more emphasis on the teaching of 21st-century skills in U.S. schools. Business Roundtable President John J. Castellani questioned the lack of outrage that accompanied the test results. “It is difficult to understand why mediocre achievement by U.S. teenagers on international math and science assessments produces less concern and outcry than mediocre performance by a football or basketball team,” Castellani said. “There is worldwide competition for people with strong backgrounds in math and science who have the analytic and problem-solving skills needed to create tomorrow’s innovations. We need to take a serious look at what the U.S. can learn from the education systems that routinely pass us by.”
Van Dusen demonstrates his software for creating music by moving your head. palsy, to join in the experience. “Playing music isn’t something that’s typically accessible for severely disabled children,” said Miller. “Opening up this opportunity for them is amazing. This really is helping them to gain a certain amount of control over their bodies, which is just great.” Oliveros is also the founder of a Kingston, N.Y.-based musicians organization, the Deep Listening Institute. Through her connections, she was able to secure a $20,000 grant in February for her proposed project. One of her students, Zane Van Dusen, began working in December to develop a computer program that could help the students “play” music using the little range of movement they have. Van Dusen, who was a double major in computer science and electronic media arts and communication, came up with the idea of using a digital video camera to display the child’s image on the computer screen. Acursor is “placed” on a portion of the student’s head, such as the tip of the nose, and then follows the student’s movements. As it does, it produces music notes—either in piano mode or percussive mode. Moving
your head completely in one direction produces a scale in piano mode, while percussive mode creates a serious of quick drum beats or a drum roll. The system was first tested with the students in May, and remote robotic instruments are now being tested as well. RPI faculty members and former students have been working to construct and program the devices and implement controllers. Oliveros asked Miller to pick three of the most physically limited students to try out their research. Annemarie, 11-yearold Billy—whose parents asked that their last names not be used—and Geoffrey Eisen, 11, use wheelchairs, are unable to speak, and have little or no control over the movement of their arms or hands. Geoffrey, who has been working with the staff at Rehab since he was a little over 2 years old, is also visually impaired. For his mother, Tarez Eisen, seeing her son learning how to “play” an instrument was something she’d never expected to see. “The first time I saw him do this, it just blew me away,” said Eisen. “Anything independent that you can do, especially music, is just wonderful.”
OECD’s Andreas Schleicher discussed some of the characteristics shared by the highest performing nations on the exam, such as Finland. One thing that stands out about the achievement of Finland’s students is the minimal disparity in scores from school to school, Schleicher said—even those reflecting different socio-economic environments. That stands in sharp contrast to the United States, Schleicher said, which has one of the largest gaps between its top-performing students and its lowest-performing students of any industrialized nation. The No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to solve this problem. But, though it has brought much-needed accountability to the nation’s schools, critics of the law say Congress hasn’t provided enough funding for educators to fully realize its goals. Roy Romer—the chairman of ED in ’08, a nonpartisan advocacy group that seeks to make education a key issue in the
2008 presidential election—called the latest PISA findings particularly significant in a campaign season. “We’ve heard candidates talking about health care, the war in Iraq, and taxes. It’s time to focus on the important issue of education and what they’re going to do about raising our country’s performance,” said Romer, a former governor of Colorado who also was superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2001 to 2006. “It does us no good to hear how well we’re doing when we see results like these—and we realize we’re being lied to. Something needs to be done, and something needs to be done now.” Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the PISA results “[speak] to what President Bush has long been advocating for: more rigor in our nation’s high schools, additional resources for advanced courses to prepare students for college-level studies, and stronger math and science education.” In fact, Spellings said in a statement, “students are being assessed in science un-
Several companies in the U.S., England, and Canada already sell adaptive musical aids, such as special instrument holders and modified drumsticks. But for some of the most severely disabled students, most of these aids still required more controlled movement than they could manage. Like the Deep Listening Institute, some other organizations, including Londonbased Drake Music Project and Bronxbased Institute for Music and Neurological Function, are also working with new software programs for students to play music. At the Institute for Music and Neurological Function, a lot of work is being done with Musical Interface Digital Instrument equipment. MIDI, a processing system, is incorporated into electronic instruments for use with computer programs, according to Executive Director Connie Tomaino. Unlike with some music therapy, the goal at the Rehab School is eventually to begin “composing,” providing a rare mode of expression for these students, said Oliveros, who said she believes teaching the creative process is the most important aspect of the project. “From my point of view, making something empowers. That can be very healing, and exciting,” said Oliveros. “In [a lot of] music therapy, there’s no empowerment for patients.” eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
Technology News for Today’s K-20 Educator
Top News | Special Reports | Best Practices | Vanguard Report
See these related links: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute http://www.rpi.edu
“Adaptive Use Musical Instruments for the Physically Challenged” project http://www.deeplistening.org/site/ adaptiveuse
Video demonstration of the adaptive-use music project http://www.deeplistening.org/site/ adaptiveuse/media
For more on “Curriculum & Assessment,” visit our FREE archives of over 3,500 articles. Go to www.eschoolnews.com/news/browse.cfm
der No Child Left Behind this school year. And, the president has proposed making science assessments an element of states’ eSN accountability calculations.” Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO
Technology News for Today’s K-20 Educator
Top News | Special Reports | Best Practices | Vanguard Report
See these related links: Program for International Student Assessment http://www.pisa.oecd.org
Business Roundtable http://www.businessroundtable.org
ED in ’08 http://www.edin08.com
U.S. Department of Education http://www.ed.gov
For more on “Global Competitiveness,” visit our FREE archives of over 3,500 articles. Go to www.eschoolnews.com/news/browse.cfm
TCEA 2008 Your Destination for Texas-Sized Events... Everything’s bigger in Texas! Experience Austin City Limits, with Texas’ Official State Musician, Shelley King, or the Thursday Night Social featuring the band, “Texas Unlimited.” On the educational side, come experience the latest trends to engage your students in learning such as our Podcast Central Station and Geocaching Event. Learn how Geocaching brings technology and adventure together! Using coordinates and a GPS unit you will be able to search for actual caches near the convention center. Stop by Podcast Central Station to experiment with podcasting, visit with educators who successfully podcast, and learn how MP3 players can turn your classroom into a studio.
More Exhibits Over 700 Exhibit Booths showcasing cutting-edge educational technology
One-to-One Workshops All workshops will be one-to-one! Enhancing the opportunity to learn in a hands-on environment. All concurrent sessions are Super Sessions!
Inspiring Speakers Opening Keynote, Sally Ride, Former NASA Shuttle Astronaut and Mission Specialist Thursday Speaker, David Pogue, Personal-technology Columnist for the New York Times Friday Keynote, Marco Torres, Outstanding Educator
Keynote Speakers Dr. Sally Ride and Marco Torres Photo Courtesy CAIB, Rick Stiles 2003
Texas Computer Education Association 28th Annual Convention & Exposition Feb. 4-8, 2008 • Austin Convention Center
Grants & Funding
by Deborah Ward
48 • eSCHOOL NEWS
Watch the NCLB renewal process closely for new grant opportunities
If you’ve read my column before, you might already be familiar with an important bit of advice I’ve mentioned in the past: Savvy school grant seekers always keep their “ears to the ground” to discover potential sources of funding before they are announced. As I’ve stated in many previous columns, the more time you have to plan for the submission of a grant proposal, the greater your chances are of writing a proposal that is both comprehensive and competitive. There also can be advantages to submitting a proposal for the first funding cycle of a brand-new grant program. For example, the number of proposals submitted might be smaller, because the program is no too well known yet, which results in less competition. In addition, the request for proposals (RFP) might be less complicated, because it’s the first one to be released. After the initial competition, the funder might make changes to the RFP to address issues or problems that came up.
That’s why it’s a good idea to monitor the progress of key pieces of legislation that deal with education funding, so you’re ahead of the curve when it comes to applying—and none are more significant than the pending reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Among the potential grant opportunities that could come out of this legislative process are several new programs proposed under the Kennedy-Enzi draft bill introduced into the Senate in October. Authored by Sens. Edward Kennedy, DMass., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the draft contains a new grant program under Title II, called the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation Act (or ATTAIN). This act would “require states to use a portion of their Enhancing Education Through Technology funds to develop challenging academic content and achievement standards to ensure that students are technologically literate by the end of eighth grade.” In addition, it would focus a larger percentage of EETT funds on profession-
al development and would prioritize funding for schools in need of improvement. Under the proposal, states still would distribute EETT funding to local districts both competitively and by formula, though a larger percentage of the funds would be reserved for the formula approach. Formula grants would be made to improve teaching and learning through the use of technology, and competitive grants would support systemic school reform through technology integration. The Kennedy-Enzi draft also contains a rewrite of the Math Now program. This program, which is modeled after the Reading First program, supports professional development, remedial math instruction, and the implementation of comprehensive math initiatives that have been shown to be effective. The program would offer competitive grants for elementary and middle schools. Other new grant programs in the Kennedy-Enzi draft include a Summer Learning Grant program, a High School
Improvement Grant program targeted to schools with significant dropout rates, and a Secondary School Innovation Fund that would support innovative school improvement strategies. The draft also includes several already-existing grant programs, including Teaching American History, Math and Science Partnerships, and the National Writing Project. How can you follow the progress of this legislation and its potential new grant programs? If you aren’t in touch with your local legislator—in this case, your senator—contact this person now and indicate your interest in the NCLB reauthorization process. Ask if there is some type of electronic means of being kept updated. Use this opportunity to discuss the potential impact of the new grant programs, and how your students could benefit from funding in these areas. Read education publications, such as eSchool News—and if these new grant programs come to fruition, you’ll be well prepared to put your proposals together! eSN
GRANT DEADLINES JANUARY $88 million to develop smaller learning communities The U.S. Department of Education’s Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) program awards discretionary grants to local educational agencies to support the implementation of SLCs in large public high schools those with enrollments of 1,000 or more students. SLCs can include structures such as freshman academies; multi-grade academies organized around career interests or other themes (such as technology); “houses” in which small groups of students remain together throughout high school; and autonomous schools-within-a-school. The program also funds personalization strategies, such as student advisories, family advocate systems, and mentoring programs. An estimated 40 awards will be made, ranging in value from $1 million to $14 million. The deadline for submitting full proposals is Feb. 25, but applicants must file a Notice of Intent to Apply by Jan. 10. Deadline: January 10 (for Notice of Intent to Apply) http://www.ed.gov/programs/slcp/ index.html
$45,000 to improve families’ understanding of technology The National Center for Family Literacy is accepting nominations for the 2008 Verizon Tech Savvy Awards, which honor programs that improve parents’ and children’s understanding and use of technology. Four $5,000 regional awards and one $25,000 national award will be presented. The awards aim to support sustainable, replicatable programs that help parents bridge the widening gap between their own and their children’s un-
derstanding of technology. Organizations with 501(c)(3) tax status, such as community-based nonprofits, libraries, and schools, are eligible to apply. Deadline: January 11 http://www.famlit.org/site/c.gtJWJdMQIsE/ b.2180327
rooms. In addition, one outstanding educator will receive a special award for “Best Overall Visual Learning Project.” Deadline: January 25 http://www.inspiration.com
Free data-management licenses for small school districts Through its No School Left Behind Software Grant Program, VIP Tone Inc. is donating free licenses of its School MATRIX 2.0 web-based data-management platform to all K-12 public school districts in the United States with fewer than 1,000 students. Based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 8,700 U.S. districts are eligible to receive this grant. No School Left Behind is a three-year software grant program, for which qualified school districts are encouraged to apply before Jan. 15 each year, starting in 2008. School MATRIX 2.0 will start shipping in January 2008 to qualified districts that apply for the software grant and that intend to deploy it at the onset of the 200809 academic year.
Become a NASA Explorer School Applications are now available for educators interested in joining NASA’s Explorer Schools program during the 2008-09 school year. Schools from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands may apply. The program offers unique opportunities designed to engage and educate the next generation of scientists and explorers. Teams composed of full-time teachers and a school administrator develop and implement a three-year action plan to address local challenges in science, technology, and math education for grades 4-9. Schools that are selected are eligible to receive funding during the three-year partnership to purchase technology tools. The project also provides educators and students with contentspecific activities that can be used to excite students about science, technology, engineering, and math.
Deadline: January 15 http://www.viptone.com/NSLB.htm
Deadline: January 31 http://explorerschools.nasa.gov
$25,000 for creative visual learning in classrooms In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Inspiration Software has launched an expanded version of its Inspired Teacher Scholarships for Visual Learning program. The 2007-08 scholarships will recognize 25 educators who are creatively using visual learning to help their students think and learn, with $1,000 awards to support professional development or new technology for their class-
FEBRUARY More than $1 million for excellence in math and science teaching The National Science Foundation’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is the highest award a K-12 math or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United
States. This award is given to math and science teachers from each of the 50 states and four U.S. jurisdictions (Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Department of Defense Schools; and the U.S. territories as a group: American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In 2008, only teachers of elementary school (grades K-6) may apply. Teachers in grades 7-12 will be eligible to apply for the 2009 awards. Deadline: February 1 http://www.nsf.gov/div/index.jsp?div=DRL
Nearly $7 million in cash and equipment from HP The HP Technology for Teaching Grant Initiative is designed to support the innovative use of mobile technology in K-16 education, as well as to help identify K-12 public schools and twoand four-year colleges and universities that HP might support with future grants. In 2008, HP will award nearly $7 million in cash and equipment to K-12 schools in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and to colleges and universities throughout North America (Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S.). Based on the outcomes of the projects funded through this initiative, HP may offer some grant recipients additional, higher-value grants in the future. Deadline: February 14 http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/grants/us/ programs/tech_teaching/index.html
IT'S FREE! Get the lowdown on the organizations highlighted in this article and throughout eSchool News. Do a company search at http://www.eschoolnews.com/tsc
This month’s very best web sites—exceptional instructional resources, special events, and state-of-the-art research and management tools—for the K-20 decision maker
eSCHOOL NEWS • 49
Best new instructional resources on the internet
Research and management resources for the K-20 decision maker
Watch science in action at the South Pole through these live (and archived) webcasts
Let “Route 21” help steer your efforts to implement 21st-century teaching
In a series of live webcasts held in celebration of the International Polar Year (2007-2008), educators at the Exploratorium in San Francisco will be talking throughout the month with scientists at McMurdo Station near the South Pole about the many research projects they’re conducting. For instance, this season three giant helium balloons will launch near McMurdo Station and circulate in circumpolar air currents above Antarctica, collecting data about cosmic rays—very high-energy particles that zip through the galaxy at nearly the speed of light. If conditions permit, Exploratorium educators will be talking with the balloon scientists from their ice facility at Williams Field, where the giant balloons are inflated and launched and their flights are tracked. The museum is holding live webcasts on this and other topics Jan. 4, 11, 12, 18, and 25, and educators also can explore its archive of previous South Pole webcasts, which feature research on penguins, ice cores taken from miles beneath the earth’s surface, and construction of a new 10-meter telescope at the South Pole.
Make writing a team effort with these new online resources http://www.google.com/educators/weeklyreader.html
Google Inc. and Weekly Reader have teamed up to offer free tools and materials to help educators teach “digital buddy writing,” which is where two or more students work together from different computers to write and revise the same paper at the same time. “Revision writing is a critical piece of the writing process, and more and more, teachers are using the concept of working with a ‘writing buddy’ to help make writing more fun and collaborative, and to teach students the importance of having support throughout the creative process,” explained Cristin Frodella, product manager for Google’s education initiatives, in a recent blog post describing the partnership. The free lesson plan, available on Google for Educators, contains tips and checklists—culled from teachers all over the country—for incorporating digital buddy writing into the classroom, using Google’s free Google Docs online word processor. With this new curriculum, students can work together online to review each others’ work simultaneously and watch as their peers’ comments and edits appear instantly and legibly across multiple computers, Google says—whether they are in the same lab or in completely different locations anywhere around the world.
New podcasts aim to make science more accessible http://feeds.feedburner.com/bytesizescience
Seeking to make science more fun and easily accessible for today’s students, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has launched Bytesize Science, an educational, entertaining new podcast for young listeners. Bytesize Science translates cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS’s 36 peer-reviewed journals into stories for young listeners about science, health, medicine, energy, food, and other topics. New installments are posted every Monday and are available free of charge. The program’s archive includes items on environmental threats to killer whales, a scientific explanation for why some people love chocolate, and some unlikely new uses for compact discs. The podcaster for Bytesize Science is Adam Dylewski, an ACS science writer and recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in genetics and science communication. Dylewski spent his college career immersed in science and journalism, writing down-to-earth explanations of important discoveries as a weekly science columnist for The Daily Cardinal, UW-Madison’s student newspaper. Later, he continued to translate science news as a reporter for UW-Madison’s communications office and for The Why Files, an award-winning science news site with a witty, fun edge.
Numerous polls suggest that stakeholders increasingly believe U.S. schools should do more to prepare students to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving world by teaching so-called “21st-century skills,” such as global literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, innovation, and creativity. To help schools implement such 21st-century teaching and learning practices, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has launched a new online resource called Route 21, a one-stop shop for related tools and information. Route 21 showcases how 21st-century skills can be taught through changes in standards, assessments, professional development, curriculum and instruction, and learning environments. It harnesses Web 2.0 features to allow users to tag, rank, organize, collect, and share Route 21 content based on their personal interests. Users can contribute to the site’s resources by uploading relevant examples, as well as sharing their reactions and insights on implementing 21st-century skills in their state, district, or school. The site represents the first comprehensive online resource for high-quality content, best practices, relevant reports, articles, and research to help educators implement 21st-century teaching practices and learning outcomes, according to the Partnership.
New federal web site aims to link research with practice http://dww.ed.gov
The U.S. Department of Education has launched a new web site aimed at giving educators advice about effective teaching practices and examples of ways to implement these practices to improve student achievement. Called “Doing What Works,” the new site offers a user-friendly interface to help users quickly locate teaching practices that have been found effective by the department’s research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences, and similar organizations. In addition, it provides examples of possible ways this research can be used to help students reach their full potential. Teachers interested in successful strategies for helping English-language learners, for example, can watch a video of eight strategies that teachers at one school use to teach vocabulary. Coming soon, the department says, will be similar resources in such areas as early childhood education, high school reform, literacy, school restructuring, cognitive learning, and math and science. “Educators need to know what works, and this online library of resources will build a bridge from research to action,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in announcing the site. “It translates research-based practices into examples of tools that support and improve classroom instruction.”
CoSN launches technology leadership wiki for small school districts http://www.cosn.org/wiki
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has created a new online resource designed to help technology leaders in small school districts. Called the Small School District Technology Leadership wiki, the site allows users not only to learn from the resources provided by CoSN and other sources, but also to contribute to the site by adding their own best practices, tips, strategies, case studies, and resources. “CoSN recognizes that technology leadership concerns and needs of small districts are typically impacted by a different set of resource, personnel, and even expertise constraints than are experienced in larger or medium-sized districts,” said Keith Krueger, CoSN’s chief executive. “The content found on the CoSN wiki may prove useful for any district but is particularly focused on the specific needs and challenges of small school districts.” The wiki aims to help with systematic technology planning for school districts with student populations of 2,500 or less in particular. Of the more than 14,000 school districts in the United States, nearly 75 percent have student populations of less than 2,500, CoSN says.
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Information empowerment for the school district and its community. The Century Star_Base School Suite™ enables parents to stay involved in their child’s education from the comfort of their home or office, and retrieve the information they need exactly when they need it. Parents can view grades, homework, attendance, textbook content, lunch menus, and more. The web-based real-time access to student information bridges the parent-teacher gap and opens the lines for better communication.
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Product Spotlight eSCHOOL NEWS • 51
Copyright-cleared digital content service helps teachers prepare their lessons SMART Technologies has launched a new teaching solution called the SMART Marketplace—a subscription-based library of copyright-cleared multimedia content designed to help teachers create their lessons. The company has partnered with several content providers in developing the solution, including Cambridge University Press, Encyclopedia Britannica, Reuters, and many more. “Increasingly, educators are turning to digital content as an effective way to offer an engaging and dynamic learning experience,” says Nancy Knowlton, SMART’s CEO.
Aha!Math is aligned with state standards and is built on the National Council for Teacher of Mathematics focal points, Learning.com says. Its web-based design enables users to access it anytime, anywhere—including the classroom, computer lab, library, or an after-school program. Other key elements include customizable options that allow teachers to use the program for different groups or classes; an intuitive management system; and reports that help educators track their students’ progress at the individual, school, and district levels. Aha!Math is available for $12 per student, per year. Volume discounts also are available. http://www.learning.com/ahamath/index.htm
New software makes it easy for educators to create professional-looking documents
With more than a million pieces of content available, students can take virtual field trips to the world’s finest museums and galleries, and teachers can download video files, images, audio files, or manipulatives to enhance lessons, SMART says. All content has been professionally developed to ensure that it is classroom-safe, and the collection is updated regularly. Its content is appropriate for various grade levels. Educators also have the ability to share content over a network or hard drive. The solution can be seamlessly integrated with SMART’s Notebook software and interactive whiteboards, but content also can be downloaded and used with other devices. A base subscription gives educators a set amount of “megaspace,” or memory, to download, though users can choose to increase their allowable megaspace for an additional fee. A one-year individual subscription starts at $239, and a one-year school subscription starts at $1,599. Volume school discounts are available, and a 30-day free trial is also available. All subscribers can choose a username and password.
San Diego-based SmartDraw has released a new version of its self-titled software program, which helps educators and others create polished, professional-looking educational materials in just minutes—including handouts, worksheets, maps, diagrams, timelines, certificates, and more. New features in SmartDraw 2008 include the ability to create “picture charts,” or eye-catching charts that use pictures and images to display data, instead of standard bars, lines, and circles (like in USA Today); a Live Map feature that captures live data from the internet, so users can incorporate roads, regions, countries, and even satellite images from across the globe into their illustrations;
applicants. By moving job postings to the web and streamlining HR workflow, SchoolRecruiter makes it faster, easier, and more cost-efficient to hire highly qualified teachers and school staff, Netchemia says. All applicant information and supporting documentation is stored in a single relational database that is easily accessible to both applicants and authorized school personnel via the web. Highlights of version 2.0 include a job fair management function, which helps recruiters proactively manage job-fair leads and determine their return on investment; customizable interviewer questionnaires, reference questionnaires, and job application pages; and support for specialized application types, such as substitute teachers and volunteers. In addition, the system can import and export candidates’ information to and from the district’s payroll system, eliminating the need to re-enter information. http://www.netchemia.com
New online solution lets parents control their students’ snacking habits Kane’s Distributing Ltd., a company specializing in vending equipment sales and services, has developed a web-based solution called Vend Sentinel, which allows parents to control what their children can and cannot purchase from their school’s vending machines. The solution also helps school leaders better manage the machines in their buildings. By logging onto the Vend Sentinel web site, parents can see a list of vending machine choices and can choose what their child is, or isn’t, allowed to purchase. For example, if parents don’t want their children eating Doritos, they can decide if Doritos should be restricted altogether or if the number of bags purchased per week should be limited. The solution also has a program that enables
Supplemental, game-based math program can help teach basic skills Learning.com has released a new program, Aha!Math, to help students learn basic, fundamental math skills. This game-based program is a supplemental math curriculum resource for students in grades K-5 that aims to improve students’ skills with engaging content that incorporates multisensory experiences. For example, students are asked to solve real-world challenges, such as building geodesic domes, using their knowledge of math concepts and shapes.
and built-in photo software that makes it easy to incorporate photos into graphics. SmartDraw captures images from a camera and lets users crop and scale them, adjust their color and brightness levels, and drop them directly into charts and other illustrations. The new version of SmartDraw also allows users to save their creations to Microsoft Office programs and various graphical formats (such as PDF) with a single mouse click. Educators can download a free, 30-day trial version of the software at SmartDraw’s web site. http://www.smartdraw.com
Web-based system streamlines the school hiring process Netchemia, a provider of internet-based services for K-12 school systems, has released SchoolRecruiter 2.0, the newest version of its hiring management software. SchoolRecruiter aims to help school systems improve their tracking, screening, interviewing, and hiring of job
parents to prepay for milk and other items. Along with credit cards, checks, or cash, PayPal has been added as a prepaid vending option. School administrators can use Vend Sentinel to see how many parents have been using the service, how many of each item has been purchased or restricted, where the vending machines are located in their school, the current inventory of each machine, and sales reports for the last year. http://www.vendsentinel.com
52 • eSCHOOL NEWS
By James A. Mecklenburger
It’s time to make new wine Educational technology won’t meet its full potential to transform instruction unless schools are transformed as well Editor’s note: A longtime ed-tech consultant and director of the National School Boards Association’s Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education (ITTE), which he helped found in 1983, Jim Mecklenburger recently returned to ed tech after an eight-year absence. Here are his thoughts after attending NSBA’s 2007 T+L Conference in Nashville last fall. In reacquainting myself with educational technology, I was curious to see what had happened in public education—if anything—while I had been away. Some things were obvious: There is more “stuff” in schools than there was. Some schools have one-to-one programs where every child has a computer; some schools have banks of computers in every classroom. One-to-one programs were just beginning when I left. And banks of computers in every classroom were then considered “cutting edge.” Many more schools have broadband networks that move data, and sometimes video, with an ease that was almost impossible in the 90s. Most schools have some kind of internet use in place—although there’s a great deal of timidity about this, with educators trying to control access and prohibit some of the most exciting developments. But some of that “stuff” in schools is old, and frequently underpowered for today’s best applications. I met people from some districts that have committed to four-year or five-year or seven-year replacement programs, which is sensible; but others whom I talked to had gotten special funds to acquire whatever technology is in schools today and hadn’t a clue about managing the long-term costs of this infrastructure. The growth of “stuff” has been helped by eRate funds and other federal dollars, and in some states by substantial state investments. Yet heavy concentrations of technology seem, as they did in the 90s, to be most likely to have developed in prosperous school districts or where high-tech industries have located. Where technology has made significant inroads, districts have addressed the staffing issues that bedeviled schools a decade ago. They’ve invested in technicians to keep the machinery humming, and many have invested in high-status (such as assistant superintendent) directors of technology, so that systems and networks work and are kept working; and they’ve invested in staff development—urging, cajoling, teasing, praising, and teaching teachers over the long term to make use of the tools. And yet, from board members, administrators, and technology coordinators, I heard many echoes of things I remember from a decade ago about the difficulty of moving staff into the world of new tools. The fresh expression back in the 90s that must be an old cliche by now, about educators becoming a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage,” has not happened for more than a small minority of teachers. And without that kind of shift in perspective, the tools in schools get less-than-optimal use. At the conference, and in a site visit before the conference, I was able to see and to hear about stellar examples of infrastructure and remarkable examples of instruction. But, frankly, a lot of what was showy was not substantial. Projectors and whiteboards attached to teacher-owned laptops with graphic tablets, for example—enabling teachers to lecture or verbally quiz students from a screen instead of a chalkboard—is, in the scheme of things, merely old wine in a new bottle. There remains a great quantity of that old wine around, even in places that others think are cutting edge. Perhaps “old wine” is a stage that educators have to go through before they “get it,” but moving instructional strategies beyond “old wine” hasn’t proven easy. Partly, I heard at the conference, this is because school districts have been hammered by No Child Left
Behind (NCLB) and its “back to basics” mentality, with its tests and the ostensible accountability they imply. For the most part, educators seem to have chosen to fall back in the face of NCLB to refining tried-and-true methods; they’ve not fallen forward into experimentation and new practices. NCLB has had one interesting impact, however: States, schools, administrators, and teachers have become conversant with standards (or goals, or objectives, or benchmarks). These assertions about what schools must accomplish seem remarkably similar across the states, and so there has developed—while I was away— a much more detailed consensus about what schools must accept responsibility for teaching. From this development have come two incumbencies (which also are opportunities) for the educational software industry: Computers can help enormously in the tracking of oodles of data about objectives, materials, test scores, and so on, which has led to more educators wanting computers to help manage their data. And, having a list of known objectives gives software creators and publishers a means to communicate what their products might be good for, and to develop new products that meet needs
Educators explore the 2007 T+L exhibit hall. associated with reaching objectives. There has been a cottage industry, I learned, of tracking and reporting all this data, and every software company has (out of necessity, if not out of opportunity) pegged its “content” to objectives in each state. This is not to judge the wisdom of the purported standards; I heard much complaining about them. But over time, perhaps, the standardization of expectations for schools is likely to improve if the debate becomes one about “which” standards rather than about “whether.” A decade ago, the “guru” contingent who populate the main stages of conferences such as this were mostly forecasters. The argument was, then, that the world is about to change—and schools need to change, too. The “guru” slots on the T+L agenda this year offered a more compelling variation of the same message: The world has changed (or, if you like, “the future is now”), and schools are remarkably behind the curve. Change is now represented as urgent, even a matter of institutional survival, and not merely wise. A variation on this argument, a decade ago, was that children were growing up in a digital age, and schools were (or would be) boring and seem irrelevant. Today, especially in the able presentation by Ian Jukes, the argument is that children are different—that their brain development is demonstrably different from previous generations’, because children have adapted to the world of presentations from screens. There was a lot of shorthand talk about “digital natives” (that is, the young generations) and “digital immigrants” (meaning everyone else).
The obvious question, it seems to me, is whether schools are elastic enough to change in more than superficial ways. The only phrase I heard more often at the conference than “digital natives”—which suggests, if nothing else, a new view of children—was the phrase “technology in the classroom,” which, if nothing else, bespeaks a supposition that classrooms will forever be the principle of school organization, and bespeaks an old tradition of expectations for children. We seem equally as dedicated to “givens” such as “K-12 education,” “elementary school,” and “high school,” and—if anything— the stress on accountable objectives has raised to greater importance the standing of “curriculum,” which is the “scope and sequence” around which schools are organized. All of these constructs are at least arbitrary, and not necessarily wise (if they ever were) in an age of instantaneous information, new social patterns of organization based (at least in part) on digital connections, and creative tools that can be used by very young people. I heard many educators—in the corridors, at meals, and on the exhibit floor—comparing notes on how they restrict children from all this new “stuff.” There’s an interesting product that emulates the internet, but only within a school or district, with highly restricted access outside. There are many filtering products. There are school injunctions against cell phones, blogs, and social networking (MySpace and Facebook, especially, and Wikipedia, too). Long term, these are losing battles, and they suggest that the very best tools of today are (in the minds of some educators) not appropriate for school. That might be true, because of the nature of school; but it is sad, at a leadership conference, to meet so many people attracted to a “backward, march” approach. Personally, I was excited to hear Will Richardson speak about the educational value of blogs, social networks, and wikis at the conference. There’s a clever educator/author who is leading in a forward direction! I was also hopeful to learn at the conference that the phenomenon of “virtual schools” is doing well; but I came back disappointed to learn that this “outside the box” approach is having a tough time gaining foothold, which is not a sign of schools’ flexibility. Home schooling is not much in favor, either, among educators, though some have figured out how to accommodate it and keep the youngsters nominally under the schools’ wing. I was interested that the phrase “computer literacy” had all but disappeared from use—and that the excitement of a decade ago about “distance learning” has not much affected public schools, although it is having major impact in higher education. As usual at such events, a main focus was the exhibit floor, which was large, well trod by most attendees, and full of interesting developments. At the conference, I heard some injunctions from Ian Jukes and others about avoiding “technolust” and buying just the services that truly suit local educational purposes. David Thornburg was quite a presence at the conference, and he is currently excited about open-source software, which is often free to schools. And many of the products for sale fit that “purposeful” approach—tools to aid instructors, tools for library management, tools for tracking students and objectives, tools for teaching and testing specific objectives, and management systems for specific functions, including some major integrated management systems that can undergird an entire school or district. There was not as much emphasis as there was years ago on computers per se; there was no Apple booth, for example (though Apple was one of the sponsors of the event). So if you wanted to succumb to technolust, you had to drool this year over systems for streaming video, of which the one that made the biggest splash See Viewpoint, page 54
54 • eSCHOOL NEWS
Viewpoint... continued from page 52 for me was Safari/Mirage, from Library Video Company. A few years ago, when the best way to deliver video to classrooms was on videodiscs, someone issued a 40plus disk set called The Video Encyclopedia of the Twentieth Century. Today, that incredible resource has been digitized, its content pegged to state educational objectives, and it is but one resource among dozens that the makers of Safari/Mirage have licensed. The library of video housed in Safari/Mirage is astoundingly large and of high quality. But it’s not a closed system (the way integrated learning systems used to be a decade ago), in that you can add videos to the server—videos your school might purchase, acquire, or create. And it doubles as a videoconferencing system. Very cool concept, very well designed. What I didn’t hear from the Safari/Mirage people was anything about better ways to use video than has been conventionally done with projectors, VCRs, and laserdiscs; but at least they’ve made it easy for teachers to access video, and they’ve had the wisdom to acquire the rights to thousands of media titles. On balance, the “transfer of technology to education” scene is better than it was when I left it, with more happening, more teachers and students engaged, and some interesting experimentation going on. But I wondered in 1983, and 1999, and again now, whether the incredible tools for expanding anyone’s reach into the world, acquiring and remembering information, creating unique expressions, and communicating with students and adults worldwide are getting the attention they deserve. There is surely persuasive lip service— to a new age, new approaches to children, new “21st-century learning”—but underneath it all, the 19th-century invention of the lockstep curriculum, the adults as keepers of the wisdom, the day as balkanized into hours separated by bells, and many more educational “givens” inherited from industrial-age schools still seem to be the dominant ideas driving how funds are spent, edifices are built, and students and teachers spend their time. Technology still seems to be accepted when it fits within old ideas—but it’s not being allowed to challenge these ideas. The future of education is going to be more about “the network” than it is about “the classroom,” I believe. Whether those two institutions (networks and classrooms) can be profitably blended, time will tell. After the 2007 T+LConference in Nashville, I am awed at the prospects for education in our 21st century; and thanks to an excellent conference, I am better informed about these prospects than I have a right to be after eight years away. But I am skeptical that, behind the stimulating rhetoric, there is an institution willing and able to evolve. It seems to me that too many educators and policy makers—while more sophisticated, perhaps, than a decade ago about fitting technology into schools—nevertheless are using technology primarily to put a little frosting on the school cake, and not to bake a tastier, more nutritious educational cake than ever has been feasible before. eSN (For more information about the 2007 T+L Conference in Nashville, see the Conference Information Center at eSchool News Online: http://www.eschoolnews.com/ conference-info.)
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