Page 1

eSN Special Feature ‘Green’ school buildings can save energy—and boost learning. | PAGE 17

Tech-Savvy Supe Awards Meet 10 superintendents who “get it” when it comes to technology. | PAGE 19

Security Checkpoint Preparing for emergencies is critical ... and here’s help. | PAGE 42

Technology News for Today’s K-20 Educator www.eschoolnews.com

Volume 11, No. 2 $10.00

February 2008

Schools need more IT support

Evolution debate heats up Conflict escalates in Texas, Florida

Survey finds ed tech largely understaffed

From eSchool News staff and wire service reports

Meris Stansbury Assistant Editor

In a new report, scientific advisers to the federal government have highlighted the importance of teaching evolution in the public schools. The report, from the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine, comes as advocates of creationist-style instruction have escalated their political opposition to evolution in several key states. Released Jan. 3, the report explicitly takes issue with creationism and other anti-evolution views: “Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes,” it says. The new document follows up on similar past publications, the last of which came out in 1999. The new report includes recently discovered evidence supporting evolution, including an important fossil find. Science education groups say the report is particularly timely, because the debate over how to teach evolution in the nation’s schools has two new battlegrounds—each of which exerts enormous influence over the multibilliondollar textbook industry. In Texas, biology professors have rallied in support of a state official who says she was forced to resign because she sent an eMail message promoting a lecture that was critical of intelligent design, which holds that the universe’s order and complexity is so great that science alone cannot explain it. The controversy comes as science standards in Texas are due for a 10-year review this year. And in Florida, state officials are poised to adopt new science standards that would use the term “evolution” for the first time—although the new draft standards have drawn a flood of public comments, many of which are critical of the proposed changes. How these debates play out in such key battleground states could have huge implications for the nation’s students, at a time when science teaching in the United States is facing somewhat of a crisis. U.S. students were outperformed, on average, by 16 other industrialized countries in science on a recent international See Evolution, page 24

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Peruvian students use a $188 computer from the One Laptop Per Child foundation. OLPC has battled competition from several technology titans, but its efforts are paying off—see page 16.

Final budget for 2008 a mixed bag for schools From eSchool News staff and wire service reports Ending a tense standoff with the White House, the Democratic-led Congress on Dec. 19 agreed to a $555 billion budget bill for 2008 that meets President Bush’s baseline spending cap on domestic programs. Bush signed the bill into law Dec. 26. The budget contains $59.4 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Education (ED), though an across-the-board recision of 1.75 percent (applied equally to all domestic programs) will leave actual spending at $58.4 billion. That’s still $1 billion more than in 2007—and $2.2 billion more than Bush had requested. Under the budget deal, federal funding for educational technology remains the same, at $272 million—though the recision will bring actual spending levels down to $267 million, thus marking the fifth time in the last six years that federal ed-tech funding has been reduced. Still, supporters of school technology say the 2008 federal budget could have been worse. “We are glad to see that Congress continues to recognize the significant impact [educational technology] has on schools and students,” said Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association. The recision was an “across-the-board cut, and all programs suffered,” said Hilary

Goldmann, director of government affairs for the International Society for Technology in Education. “Other programs had significant cuts. In the scheme of things, we’re pleased, and we think our Ed-Tech Action Network [a national grassroots advocacy campaign] really made a difference this year. … It shows See Budget, page 23

Information technology (IT) staffing shortages are keeping many schools from realizing the full benefits of technology inside and outside the classroom, an eSchool News survey reveals. Conducted last fall in partnership with SchoolDude Inc., a provider of operations management solutions for schools and colleges, the survey of nearly 1,000 school and district leaders and IT administrators paints a stark picture of the barriers that tech-support challenges pose to integrating technology effectively in education. Nearly three out of four school leaders say they don’t have enough IT staff to support their needs effectively, according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they can’t maintain their network adequately, 63 percent said they can’t plan for new technologies, and 76 percent said they have trouble implementing new technologies. “The biggest problem is … there’s too much stuff and not enough staff,” said Nick Mirisis, marketing manager for SchoolDude. As schools’ technology use has exploded in recent years, he said, tech-support staffing hasn’t kept pace. But, owing to “an information void,” many school leaders feel “like it’s only their problem,” Mirisis said. Forrester Research, an independent marSee Support, page 28

REFRESHED. RELAUNCHED. REMARKABLE. Have you visited the NEW eSN Online? Visit Today! www.eschoolnews.com

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eSCHOOL NEWS • 3

February 2008

eSN THIS MONTH– FEBRUARY 2008 17 eSN Special Feature

Gregg W. Downey President gdowney@eschoolnews.com

‘Green’ school buildings are making a surge, reducing energy costs—and raising achievement in the process.

Editor & Publisher Gregg W. Downey gdowney@eschoolnews.com

— Meris Stansbury

Managing Editor Dennis Pierce dpierce@eschoolnews.com

19 Tech-Savvy

Senior Editor Robert L. Jacobson rjacobson@eschoolnews.com

Superintendent Awards

Meet 10 superintendents who are exemplary leaders when it comes to school technology.

Associate Editor Laura Devaney ldevaney@eschoolnews.com Assistant Editor Meris Stansbury mstansbury@eschoolnews.com

WHAT’S NEWS

Online Editor Jessica Weiss jweiss@eschoolnews.com

1

Survey reveals schools need more IT support

10

‘Coursecasting’ now a higher-education staple

1

Evolution debate heats up in key states

12

Remote sensing technology transforms research

1

Final 2008 budget a mixed bag for schools

14

ACLU rips district’s student-tracking plan

4

Blackboard, Desire2Learn trial looms

16

Low-cost laptop program faces competition

6

YouTube-like sites bring science to the masses

22

New FAA rules limit batteries on flights

7

Feds to expand use of ‘growth model’testing

8

FCC to probe possible data discrimination

Correction A report about visual learning in the January issue misstated the first name of the education director of Kentucky Educational Television. She is Kathy Quinn.

DEPARTMENTS Default Lines Empowered education. — Gregg W. Downey

6

eSN Online Update New resources cover disaster planning, ed-tech conferences, and more. — Jessica Weiss

44 Tech Buyer’s Marketplace Purchasing intelligence from the K-20 Technology Solutions Center.

45 Product Spotlight New hardware and software of interest to eSchools.

46 eSchool Partners Key organizations that support the eSchool movement.

26 Grants & Funding Seven grant-seeking strategies for private schools. Plus, new grant deadlines. — Deborah Ward

27 Stakeholder & Community

Relations It’s time to crack down on online harassment. — Nora Carr, APR

42 Security Checkpoint Schools must create emergency-response plans before it’s too late—and here’s how.

43 State Tech Perspectives Alabama’s online program opens a world of opportunities for its students. — Melinda Maddox and Martha Donaldson

eSchool News is dedicated to providing news and information to help K-20 decision makers use technology and the internet to transform their schools and achieve educational goals. Corporate Board of Directors Rob Morrow Chief Executive Officer rmorrow@eschoolnews.com

HIGHLIGHTS

4

eSCHOOL NEWS

O N L I N E

Resources for this issue (a partial list) 18 Low-cost laptop program struggles with competition For more information about school laptop programs, see our Educator Resource Center on Mobile Computing: http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/ mobile-computing

26 Grants & Funding For other recent columns by Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) Deborah Ward, go to: http://www.eschoolnews.com/ funding/deb-wards-column

42 Security Checkpoint For additional school safety news and information, see our School Actions for Emergencies (SAFE) Center: http://www.eschoolnews.com/safe-center

Production Director Chris Hopson chopson@eschoolnews.com Advertising Sales Eastern Region Barbara Schrader (800) 394-0115 x 163 bschrader@eschoolnews.com Patty Voltz (813) 991-4099 pvoltz@eschoolnews.com Western Region Paul Turchetta (310) 540-3344 prturchett@aol.com Carol Wilhems (702) 837-5687 carol-eschoolnews@cox.net Sales Administrator Lee Calloway lcalloway@eschoolnews.com Circulation & Online Director Nancy David ndavid@eschoolnews.com Director of Information Systems Vincent Carlson vcarlson@eschoolnews.com Web Communications Specialist Jeffrey Festa jfesta@eschoolnews.com Web Developer Jeffrey Epstein jepstein@eschoolnews.com 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

February 2008

default lines

Default: Values set by the system until changed by you

Trial looms in patent fight between Blackboard, D2L Robert L. Jacobson

Empowered education Gregg W. Downey, Editor gdowney@eschoolnews.com

Having the chance to give talented young people a rich learning experience that expands their horizons with technology while deepening their understanding of how America works is a satisfaction perhaps unique to our profession. When that learning experience can advance the cause of education at the same time, the opportunity becomes sweeter still. You can participate in just such an experience by introducing budding videographers in your schools to the “Empowered Education” awards, a

winners under 18 years of age. A panel of nationally recognized experts will select 12 finalists (three from each education level) and four Top Winners. The works of these finalists will be posted at eSchool News Online, where they may be viewed by the site’s 300,000 unique monthly visitors, including 188,000 registered members. The finalists and their video productions also will be covered in the print, PDF, and online editions of eSchool News, which is read and visited by well over 600,000 education leaders, with bonus distribution at major ed-tech conferences.

Our goal with the “Empowered Education” Awards is to discover and celebrate the accomplishments of some of America’s brightest young creative minds. video program of the eSchool News Network, produced with support from the Pearson Foundation. Here are some of the program’s highlights for the winners: • a trip to the nation’s capital for a gala awards ceremony, • recognition and prizes for winning students and their schools, • an international showcase for students’ work, • a chance to meet senators, representatives, and other key officials, and • news releases to the hometown news media. To qualify, students make a threeto-five minute original video on the theme of “How Technology Helps Me Learn.” Winning entries will be those produced by students in the best journalistic style, illustrating how their schools or colleges are employing technology to advance learning. The dynamic process begins with this call for America’s best student video productions from the levels of • the elementary school, • the middle school/junior high school, • high school, and • college and university. Each nomination must be endorsed by an education sponsor representing the institution the students attend. Permission to travel must be obtained from a parent or guardian for student

E

mpowered

Winners will be notified and honored at a gala awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. The winning students – and, in the case of those under 18, one educator sponsor – will receive an expenses-paid trip to the nation’s capital. eSchool News will invite relevant government leaders – Senators, U.S. Representatives, and key administration officials – to attend the awards ceremony and meet with the winning students and their educator sponsors. The awards ceremony and related activities will be covered in eSchool News print, PDF, and online editions and will be the subject of news releases to the winners’ local news media. As part of its role in the program, the Pearson Foundation – through its Digital Arts Alliance, a consortium of public and private organizations committed to supporting 21st century skills – will help the winning students polish their video communications skills. The foundation also will offer summer camps to the winners’ schools, so more students can learn to express themselves in the model established by this eSN program. The role of video communications has never been more important in education. We invite you to join these remarkable students on what could be the most important journey of their young lives. eSN

Education wards

For entry forms and more information on how to participate in eSN’s “Empowered Education” program, please visit our web page: www.eschoolnews.com/ empowered

Senior Editor

Allegations that Blackboard Inc., the No. 1 course-management software firm, is using costly litigation to injure a smaller rival, Desire2Learn (D2L), are part of the backdrop to a court battle set to begin on Feb. 11. Blackboard has sued for patent infringement, which D2L denies. Based on interviews with lawyers and others familiar with the case, both sides appeared to be digging in, and a pre-trial settlement seemed unlikely. At press time, the next major step was expected to be a fullblown jury trial in federal district court in Lufkin, Texas, where Blackboard brought suit about 18 months ago. The case has been something of a cause célèbre among ed-tech specialists in schools and colleges, because of a strong tradition of using open-source software for eLearning activities. A legal victory by Blackboard, which dominates the commercial course-management market, would be counter to the goals of leading open-source advocates. To many educators, the ability to generate their own products without commercial interference is considered a fundamental right, and something to be vigorously protected. Critics of Blackboard also see D2L’s fight against a much larger competitor as a battle between David and Goliath. At D2L, a lawyer for the privately owned Canadian company has stressed repeatedly that, in resisting Blackboard, it is “fighting for the entire community,” as she recently put it. Meanwhile, according to some observers, Blackboard might not have anticipated how strongly its suit against D2L would be contested. In any case, Matthew H. Small, Blackboard’s chief counsel, said it was “very clear” that D2L was guilty of patent infringement. He said he was “not even thinking about” a settlement. D2L’s lawyer, Diane Lank, also held out little prospect of avoiding a trial. She said she had been involved in many cases where her client, despite being confident, agreed to settle out of court to avoid additional costs. But she stressed that in the Blackboard case, “we have taken the position … that there’s more at stake.” Some aspects of the dispute have led to emotional charges on the internet. In a blog that D2L posted on its web site toward the end of October—but that it quickly removed after hearing from opposing lawyers—the company accused Blackboard of having been disingenuous in asserting that it only wanted a “reasonable royalty” from D2L. On the contrary, D2L’s blog declared, “we’ve learned that months before announcing the patent and filing suit, Blackboard and its external advisors and PR firms discussed the ‘public’ purpose of the patent as [being] to protect intellectual property,” when “the ‘real’ purpose was to ‘contain and control’ Desire2Learn.” The blog claimed that “Blackboard’s litigation strategy appears to be to increase costs of litigation to Desire2Learn through unnecessary discovery and depositions, while deflecting attention from the real, fundamental issues of patent validity, infringement, and equitable conduct.” D2L also accused Blackboard of seek-

ing information about it through inappropriate means, such as by paying someone to attend a D2L user conference and using a Blackboard employee to misrepresent herself through “a spoofed university eMail address.” Speaking for Blackboard, Small said D2L had improperly disclosed information that was protected by rules governing the discovery process in lawsuits, and he characterized the blog as “desperate.” Small declined, however, to comment on the substance of D2L’s allegations. Lank said D2L remained confident of prevailing in a trial. She pointed to a magistrate judge’s ruling last fall, subsequently upheld by a district court judge, that eliminated 35 so-called “system” claims among 44 claims in Blackboard’s lawsuit. The rulings left open nine other claims relating to online methodology. Citing D2L’s strong belief that its learning-management products do not violate Blackboard’s claims, Lank asserted that the patent “should have never been issued” by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because of at least 15 pieces of “prior art” in online learning. The Patent Office agreed last year to review challenges to its original decision to approve Blackboard’s patent application. Although the review potentially could lead to revocation of the patent, a decision might not come for another year. A patent expert who has been following Blackboard’s lawsuit closely said both companies seemed to be so intent on winning that any verdict was likely to be appealed—and the case could drag on for many more months. “This is a case that should never have gone to trial,” said James Farmer, a longtime researcher on intellectual property who has ties to the open-source community. Farmer said neither party in the suit seemed inclined to work things out, even though the litigation had already proved expensive for both of them. In suing D2L, Farmer said, Blackboard was “doing what big companies do” in a competitive world, but it had failed to realize that “that doesn’t work in higher education.” For educators, meanwhile, he contended that the stakes were “actually trivial,” because even if Blackboard were to win its suit, that probably would not increase prices by more than a few percentage points. In a development unrelated to the lawsuit but likely to increase its role in education, Blackboard announced on Jan. 14 that it would buy the NTI Group Inc., a privately held mass communications company, for $182 million. eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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See these related links: Blackboard Inc. http://www.blackboard.com

D2L’s Patent Information Blog http://www.desire2learn.com/patentinfo

For more on “Litigation,” visit our FREE archives of over 3,500 articles. Go to www.eschoolnews.com/news/browse.cfm


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6 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

eSN Onlineupdate YouTube-like sites bring http://www.eschoolnews.com

New resources help with emergency planning, professional development … and more Jessica Weiss, Online Editor jweiss@eschoolnews.com Following the end of a year that saw student safety imperiled on numerous occasions—from the tragic shootings on the Virginia Tech campus to the wildfires that swept across Southern California—a recent webinar hosted by the Consortium for School Networking posed the critical question, “Is your district prepared in case of the next emergency?” (See story, page 42.) According to the webinar, thoughtful planning is necessary to help schools better prepare for emergencies, such as running drills and test scenarios, and forming close relationships with vendors and the community. At eSchool News Online, we’re familiar with the need to safeguard the students, staff, and infrastructure of K-20 institutions as never before, as well as the myriad challenges that school officials face when creating action plans and preparing for emergencies. To help school leaders meet these challenges, last year we created a comprehensive, interactive online clearinghouse that educators can turn to for guidance, called the School Actions for Emergencies (SAFE) Center. In recent months, we’ve added substantially to our SAFE Center content. For instance, we’ve greatly enhanced our catalog of human-generated and natural disasters likely to threaten schools, adding a wealth of emergency-specific research documents and guidelines on how to prepare for and cope with an additional set of of emergencies, including child abduction, contamination, drug activity, fights, hostage situations, ice storms, mudslides, nuclear accidents, school bus accidents, stabbings, and water leaks. We also continue to post safety-related news, videos, and other information as it becomes available, and we’ve added to our clearinghouse of state and local disaster plans that educators can refer to as models when developing or revising their own plans. In addition, we’ve enhanced our comprehensive list of service providers whose aim is to help schools and colleges cope with emergencies and bolster campus safety. You can access all this information here: http://www.eschoolnews.com/safe-center

science to the masses From eSchool News staff and wire service reports Haim Weizman is a chemist by trade and an internet movie maker on the side. In his first video, a telegenic narrator in a lab coat swirls a flask as electronic music plays in the background. Created by four science and film students at the University of California, San Diego, the video shows a typical recrystallization experiment straight out of Chemistry 101. The six-minute epic, complete with bloopers, got 1,205 views on Google Inc.’s YouTube, but the number increased fourfold when the video was posted to SciVee, one of a number of online videosharing startups designed to let scientists broadcast themselves toiling in the laboratory or delivering lectures. Fans of the niche sites say they help the general public—and students—under-

Created in 2006 by a former Harvard postdoctoral student, the site has stringent publication rules. On the recommendation of its editorial panel, it dispatches professional videographers to labs around the world doing interesting work. Their footage is edited and approved by the researchers before being posted. JoVe editor-in-chief Moshe Pritsker said the web site grew out of “personal pain.” For most of his academic career, he was flustered by what he called the “black hole” of science: Despite attempts by well-intentioned scientists to explain their experiments on paper, some procedures are so complex that a person must physically explain them. “We need to show our experiments— and show, in our age, means video,” Pritsker said. The popularity of JoVe inspired Siddharth Singh, a computer science grad-

Ed-tech conference information It’s that time of the year again ... conference season. This month alone features two major education conferences: the Texas Computer Education Association’s 28th Annual Convention & Exposition (Feb. 4-8) and the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education (Feb. 14-17). Each promises to be a dynamic experience, providing attendees with opportunities to network, share best practices, gain insight into emerging technologies, hear and see inspiring ed-tech luminaries, get hands-on training, and more. For those of you who can’t escape to Austin or Tampa for these shows, don’t fret— eSchool News Online will be there, and we’ll be providing live, continuous coverage from these and all of ed-tech’s most noteworthy events, so you won’t miss out on any of the excitement. Our Conference Information Center features daily roundups of keynote speeches, coverage of major sessions and workshops, exclusive interviews with ed-tech notables, session reviews written by attendees (your peers in education), and video coverage of all the action. You can find this wealth of information here: http://www.eschoolnews.com/conference-info

New Educator Resource Centers In other online news, we’ve added a multitude of new Educator Resource Centers to our web site since last month. These ERCs are a collection of news and resources to help you sort out the complex challenges facing educators every day. If you haven’t already, check them out: Mobile Computing (sponsored by Toshiba) http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/mobile-computing Multimedia/Video Tools (sponsored by BenQ) http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/multimedia Tech and Economics of Special Populations (sponsored by Spectrum K12) http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/ tech-economics-of-special-populations Online Communications (sponsored by Relatrix Corp.) http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/online-communications GIS and Geographic Inquiry (sponsored by ESRI) http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/gis-and-geographic-inquiry Response to Intervention: Math Solutions, and Response to Intervention: Reading Acquisition (sponsored by Voyager Learning) http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/math-soutions http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reading-acquisition

SciVee and other video-sharing web sites make science more accessible. stand the scientific process and allow researchers to duplicate one another’s results. And in the wake of disappointing results on a recent international science exam, they might even help kindle an interest by U.S. students in science. “Anyone in an organic chemistry class anywhere can now perform this experiment by watching the video. There are so many details that it’s hard to describe in a lab manual,” said Weizman, a lecturer at UC San Diego who has gone on to produce five more lab-training videos. Funded by the National Science Foundation, SciVee encourages scholars with a paper hot off the press to make a short video, called a “pubcast,” highlighting the key points. It also accepts unsolicited submissions that have no connection to any published work. Phil Bourne, a pharmacologist at UC San Diego, launched SciVee last summer after seeing his students hooked on YouTube. Bourne wanted a reputable online place where researchers could trade techniques without the potpourri of topics found on general video-sharing sites. “It’s quite a quantum leap for scientists to present their research in this way,” Bourne said. The age-old practice of reporting scientific results in peer-reviewed journals isn’t going away soon. But one of the startup sites—JoVE, short for the Journal of Visualized Experiments—is the digital mirror to traditional scientific journals.

uate student in India, to start a site last year called LabAction, which focuses on sharing biological techniques. Another site, called DnaTube, was launched by Nazir Okur, a molecular genetics graduate student at the University of Illinois, who encourages scientists to upload videos of their studies, lectures, and seminars. Translating the experiments to video isn’t without challenges. Researchers who are uploading their experiments online, for example, are discovering that filmmaking is more art than science. “I have a little picture in my mind of what I want to see,” Weizman said. “That makes a huge difference.” eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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See these related links: Journal of Visualized Experiments http://www.jove.com

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LabAction http://www.labaction.com

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For more on “Handheld Technologies,” visit our FREE archives of over 3,500 articles. Go to www.eschoolnews.com/news/browse.cfm


eSCHOOL NEWS • 7

February 2008

Feds to expand use of ‘growth model’ testing States would have flexibility to measure progress of individual students over time From eSchool News staff and wire service reports

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings on Dec. 7 said she is expanding the pilot program, because many states and school systems have improved their efforts to collect and safeguard information about students. “Our work on [NCLB] reauthorization has shown broad bipartisan support for growth models,” she said, “and now, many states have improved data systems so they can track individual student growth over time.” Spellings said ED still will have to review and approve state plans for switch-

There is a broad consensus that the law should be changed so that schools that miss progress goals by a little don’t face the same consequences as schools that miss them by a lot, and that it should be expanded to include greater accountability for high schools. But deep divisions remain over some proposed changes, including merit pay for teachers and whether schools should be judged based on test scores in subjects other than reading and math, or on other measures of success (such as graduation eSN rates).

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Bush administration has given states new flexibility on how they track student progress under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) Dec. 7 announcement was a response to stalled efforts in Congress to rewrite the five-year-old education law, and an acknowledgment that the law in its current form is flawed. How progress is measured is critical to schools, because it determines whether they meet annual goals and avoid penalties. The law currently requires schools to report, for example, how this year’s fifthgraders did compared with last year’s fifth-graders in math and reading. The

ing to a growth model. Also, schools still will be expected to show that their students are on target toward being proficient in reading and math by 2014. They also must have goals for ensuring that gaps in achievement between white and minority students and low-income and wealthier students are closing. Members of Congress support the idea of letting all states move toward the new method of measuring individual student gains over time. Efforts to renew the overall NCLB law, however, have stalled.

Spellings: Growth models have “bipartisan support.” goal is to get all kids working at their proper grade level by 2014. Educators have been complaining, however, that the current method of measuring gains is imprecise, because it tracks the progress of groups of students but does not monitor gains by individuals. Educators also say the current method is unfair, because schools don’t get credit for making big gains if groups of students still fail to hit testing benchmarks. Educators say that can be a problem when looking at gains made by poor and minority students, who often start out well behind other kids. The new way of measuring achievement, known as a “growth model,” requires schools to measure the progress of individual students over time. To do that, states and school districts have to have data systems in place for tracking student scores, while also safeguarding privacy. The administration previously had experimented with the idea by approving eight plans that are being used in North Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Alaska, and Arizona. Ohio’s plan also has been approved but not yet implemented. Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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8 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

FCC to probe possible data discrimination Comcast’s delay of file-sharing traffic an important test case for ‘net neutrality’ From eSchool News staff and wire service reports

nation’s No. 2 internet provider $195,000 for every affected subscriber. “We’re going to investigate and make sure that no consumer is going to be blocked,� Martin told an audience at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In an investigation last year, The Associated Press found that Comcast in some cases hindered file sharing by subscribers who used BitTorrent, a popular filesharing program. The findings, which AP first reported Oct. 19, confirmed claims by users who also noticed interference with other file-sharing applications.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will investigate complaints that Comcast Corp. actively interferes with internet traffic as its subscribers try to share files online, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said on Jan. 8. A coalition of consumer groups and legal scholars asked the agency in November to stop Comcast from discriminating against certain types of data. Two groups also asked the FCC to fine the

“We look forward to responding to any FCC inquiries regarding our broadband network management,� said David L. Cohen, executive vice president at Philadelphiabased Comcast. Comcast denies that it blocks file sharing, but acknowledged after the AP story that it was “delaying� some of the traffic between computers that share files. The company said the intervention was necessary to improve the surfing experience for the majority of its subscribers. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is a common but illegal way to exchange copy-

           

        

    

     

 

righed files, such as movies and music— but schools, companies, and other organizations also use file-sharing services for legal distribution of videos and other large files. For instance, educators, students, and researchers often use BitTorrent and other P2P services to share large data sets compiled during their research. If internet service providers hinder or control that traffic, it makes them important gatekeepers of internet content. And such control might have serious implications for schools and others. The FCC’s response will be an important test of its willingness to enforce “net neutrality,� the principle that internet traffic be treated equally by carriers. The agency has a broadly stated policy supporting the concept, but its position hasn’t been tested in a real-world case. The FCC’s policy statement makes an exception for “reasonable traffic management.� Comcast has said its practices fall under that exception. “The question is going to arise: Are they reasonable network practices?� Martin said on Jan. 8. “When they have reasonable network practices, they should disclose those and make those public.� Comcast subscribers who asked the company about the interference before the AP story ran were met with flat denials. “Comcast plans to work with the commission in its desire to bring more transparency for consumers regarding broadband network management,� Cohen said. “We do disclose in our terms of use our right to manage our network for the benefit of all customers.� Martin’s announcement pleased Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press, one of the consumer groups that had sought FCC intervention. “We hope the chairman’s statements, made two months after we filed our complaint, will lead to immediate and accelerated action,� Ammori said in a prepared release. Martin also said the FCC was looking at complaints that wireless carriers denied text-messaging “short codes� to some applicants. The five-digit numbers are a popular way to sign up for updates on everything from sports to politics to entertainment news. Verizon Wireless in late September denied a request by Naral Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, to use its mobile network for a sign-up text messaging program. The company reversed course just a day later, calling it a mistake and an “isolated eSN incident.� Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

        

            

     

      



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10 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

‘Coursecasting’ now a higher-education staple Laura Devaney Associate Editor

Podcasting lectures no longer is reserved only for universities on the cutting edge of technology: Through the use of programs that make it easy to produce and distribute podcasts, more and more schools are making course lectures available for downloading online. Today’s students are “digital natives” who have been surrounded by technology nearly their entire lives, and who expect their college or university to create a collaborative experience that integrates familiar technologies such as podcasting and on-demand video into the learning envi-

ronment, supporters of the phenomenon say. Their beliefs are supported by data: Three of four young adults download and view internet videos daily, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, while Burst Media reports that college students spend more time online than they do using any other form of media, including TV and radio. At the University of California at Berkeley, a survey of incoming freshman this past fall revealed that students consider podcasting to be just as important as wireless internet access or campus eMail. When asked if they would like to be able to download a greater number of class lec-

tures in the form of podcasts or webcasts, 72.5 percent of students said yes. Students said they could use the podcasts in case they missed class, and they would be able to review their notes more easily while listening to the lecture. “We saw 2 million downloads of our podcasts in the first year alone from our iTunes U channel. We have had 650,000 views in the first two weeks of our YouTube channel launch. Interest in our content has exploded,” said Adam Hochman, project manager for Berkeley’s Education Technology Services department. Like its iTunes Store, Apple Inc.’s iTunes U has become enormously popular

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since its launch two years ago. Now, hundreds of colleges and universities use the free service to distribute their digital content to students and the world at large. Berkeley also has started a movement to develop free podcasting software, and more than 30 other colleges and institutions have joined in the effort. Called OpenCast, the system is slated to debut this fall. Another system for capturing lectures, called CourseCast, was developed at Carnegie Mellon University and is being offered free of charge to qualified academic institutions. The software uses standard PCs to capture video and audio, index and archive it, and stream it over the internet. Students then have on-demand access to these indexed lectures. Panopto, the company that makes CourseCast, created the Socrates Project to distribute and develop the technology to qualified institutions, which include colleges, universities, and even K-12 schools. Members of the Socrates Project participate in ongoing beta testing to enhance the technology, and in exchange they receive free access to the CourseCast platform. “What captured our attention about CourseCast was the technical architecture of the product and its potential for the future, particularly its flexibility and scalability,” said Nicholas Laudato, associate director of instructional technology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Instructional Development and Distance Learning. “An important example of this is its simple, web-based interface that allows lecturers to edit their recorded presentations, making multiple versions that target selected topics without modifying the original content,” Laudato said. For example, he said, instead of providing students with a link to a two-hour recording, which few might actually view, the instructor can create an instructional sequence and embed it in a course management system—such as Blackboard—by providing links to multiple extracted recordings interspersed with learning objectives, readings, and activities. The software “can accomplish this without the cost or cognitive overhead of highend video editing applications, freeing the instructor from dependence on specialized technologists,” Laudato said. “CourseCast has the potential to do for streaming rich media content what Blackboard did for course web pages—that is, make it available to all faculty, regardless of their level of technical sophistication.” eSN

OpenCast project http://confluence.media.berkeley.edu/ confluence/display/WCTREQ/ OpenCast+Community-+Home

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For more on “Podcasts,” visit our FREE archives of over 3,500 articles. Go to www.eschoolnews.com/news/browse.cfm


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12 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

Remote sensing technology transforms research High-tech satellite imagery is revolutionizing fields such as archaeology, public health From eSchool News staff and wire service reports In a computer lab at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), anthropology professor Sarah Parcak scours satellite images for hidden Egyptian archaeological sites half a world away. With the help of new technology that is revolutionizing research in such fields as archaeology, public health, and social science, Parcak and her collaborators are

hoping to map the sites and explore them before urbanization and development destroy them. In the new $150,000 lab, equipped with 10 computer workstations running a series of geographic information system and remote sensing programs, Parcak can travel the world, zooming in close enough to note the outlines of forgotten settlements, some buried beneath modern cities. She has identified more than 100 previously unknown ancient sites, includ-

ing a lost temple buried beneath agricultural fields, a major town in the East Nile Delta dating to the time of the pyramids, a large monastery from 400 A.D. in Middle Egypt, and a massive, largely buried city beneath a field on the East Delta dating to 600 B.C. The far-ranging investigation uses eyes in the sky that can read not only visible light reflected from the earth, but other forms of reflected radiation, such as infrared and microwave imagery.

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That view from the sky is matched up with on-the-ground investigations: traditional earth-digging archaeology in which spotted sites are excavated, dated, and mapped using GPS technology. “This technology is changing the way we do archaeology,� said Parcak, who travels to Egypt two or three times a year working with her husband, Greg Mumford, who also teaches anthropology at UAB. Although the technology Parcak uses is much more advanced, she compares its use of high-resolution satellite images to Google Earth’s. The satellites use infrared technology to “see� beneath modern towns and settlements. “By manipulating the data on a variety of computer screens, you can make things appear that you wouldn’t see with your naked eye,� she said. Parcak—whose work is the subject of a Discovery Channel special that will air later this year—has been working with the technology for about six years. The idea for the lab came out of Parcak’s undergraduate coursework at Yale, where she used similar technology and approaches. It got traction when she hired on at UAB and talked to her former dean, Tennant McWilliams, about the concept. McWilliams and Parcak formed a partnership with Max Michael, the dean of UAB’s School of Public Health, to sponsor the Laboratory for Global Health Observation. Public Health was interested in the power of satellite imagery for applications to modern-day disease, and Parcak is advising researchers there as they put the imagery to work. With the satellite imagery, public health researchers can chart temperature variations to spot breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes in East Africa. Looking for particular chemical signatures in the imagery, they can detect pollutants in the soil and water in Sri Lanka. Cases of West Nile virus can be mapped, and researchers can investigate their proximity to tire dumps, which seem to be a favorite breeding ground for the mosquito that carries the virus. Health disparities and disease outbreaks can be mapped, monitored, and better understood. “It’s such a cool idea,� Michael said. “To me, the fun part of this is when you start making the connection between the technologies, the ideas just start coming. It was the best of the collaborative intereSN active spirit at UAB.� Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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14 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

ACLU rips Rhode Island district’s student-tracking pilot From eSchool News staff and wire service reports A technology company with ties to a Rhode Island school district plans to test a student-tracking system by putting computer chips on grade-schoolers’backpacks, an experiment the ACLU ripped on Jan. 7 as invasive and unnecessary. The pilot program, expected to start last month in the Middletown Public Schools, would have about 80 children put tags containing radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips on their school bags. It also

would equip two buses with global positioning system (GPS) devices. The school system and parents would be able to track students on the bus, and the district hopes the program will improve busing efficiency, Superintendent Rosemarie Kraeger said. The devices are intended to record only when students enter and exit the bus, and the GPS system would show where the bus was on its route. Parents could opt out of the program if they wish, Kraeger said. The pilot program, offered by MAP Information Technology Corp., was to run

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for several months at the Aquidneck School, she said. The Middletown district, which serves about 2,500 students, is the company’s only client, said Deborah Rapp, the company’s director of marketing and communications. Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, sent a letter to Kraeger and members of the school committee calling the plan “a solution in search of a problem” and saying the school district already should have procedures in place to track where its students are.

Brown said the program raises enormous privacy and safety concerns. “There’s absolutely no need to be tagging children,” he said. “We are not questioning the school district’s ability to use GPS to monitor school buses. But it’s a quantitative leap to monitor children themselves.” Rapp described the system as limited in scope.“The program is solely designed to provide accountability when the children are in transit, from the moment they enter the bus to the moment they exit,” she said. “It is limited to when they are on the bus. We in no way take it beyond that.” Brown also raised concerns that unauthorized people, perhaps using RFID readers that are easily bought online, could exploit information contained on the tags. Ed Collins, the district’s facilities manager, said that would not be possible. Collins and Rapp said the RFID tag would contain only an ID number, not a name, address, or other personal information. Only the school administration would be able to match the ID number with the child, Rapp said. Collins is the brother of Chris Collins, who founded MAPInformation Technology last year. The district did not need clearance from the state ethics commission to set up the testing, however, because the program is free during the pilot, Kraeger said. District officials said they didn’t have an estimate on what it would cost to put the tracking system in place district-wide. Kraeger said she was unaware of the controversy ignited three years ago when a Northern California school system planned to put in place an RFID system to track students at school. The proposal died after protests by parents and privacy and civil-liberties advocates, including the ACLU. The Middletown school board approved the pilot program in November. In a recent letter to parents, the company and the district explained the program and invited parents to get in touch with the school system if they had any questions, Rapp said. No one called. The district was interested in trying out the program in the hopes that it would improve communication with parents, who will be able to check a web site to see whether the buses are on time and their children are on them, Kraeger said. Tracking students’ movements would be no different from an existing system that allows parents to see what their child had for lunch or check their attendance record, Kraeger said, adding: “If a bus were delayed, they could look for their own student ID and see where the bus was.” eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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See these related links: Middletown Public Schools http://www.ri.net/middletown * alio software was formerly known as SAGE. ** Contact Weidenhammer for availability.

American Civil Liberties Union http://www.aclu.org

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16 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

Low-cost laptop project struggles with competition From eSchool News staff and wire service reports When Nicholas Negroponte conceived his plan to bridge the technology access gap between rich and developing nations, thereby transforming education for poor students worldwide, he had no idea what kind of trouble he was creating. Three years later, the unique low-cost, low-energy computers designed by Negroponte’s project, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), have finally started appearing in the hands of children in developing nations. But it has taken much longer than the former MIT Media Lab director originally thought it would. The devices— which run on a customized version of the Linux operating system and are powered by solar energy or a pull cord—now cost $188, instead of the $100 target price Negroponte had sought. And he still doesn’t have nearly as many orders as he’d hoped for. OLPC’s efforts have been undermined by stiff competition from technology giants such as Intel and Microsoft, which initially scoffed at Negroponte’s idea but later, fearing they might be left out of an emerging market, scrambled to create their own low-cost solutions. Intel began marketing its own inexpensive laptop, called the Classmate, to governments in developing nations—and a key selling point is that it runs on Microsoft’s Windows. (Microsoft is testing a version of Windows for OLPC’s XO computer, but it won’t be ready until the second half of 2008.) And last April, Microsoft announced a $3 software package to governments that subsidize student computers used at home and at school. The latest blow to OLPC and its efforts came on Jan. 3, when Intel quit OLPC’s board of directors, citing disagreements with the organization. But even as Negroponte and the world’s largest chip maker traded barbs about who was to blame for the fallout, there were signs the project was having a profound effect on the lives of children in a small Peruvian hamlet that was among the first to pilot its XO machines.

A ‘philosophical impasse’ Intel’s latest decision ended a longsimmering feud that had begun even before the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker joined OLPC’s board last July, agreeing to contribute money and technical expertise to the project. Intel’s change of heart also came only a few days before last month’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where a prototype of an OLPC-designed laptop using an Intel chip was slated to debut. Intel decided to quit OLPC’s board of directors because the two organizations had reached a “philosophical impasse,” Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said. Meanwhile, Intel will continue pushing its sub-$300 Classmate PC, which it is selling in the same emerging market that OLPC has targeted. Both sides shared the objective of providing children around the world with ac-

cess to low-cost technology, “but OLPC had asked Intel to end our support for nonOLPC platforms, including the Classmate PC, and to focus on the OLPC platform exclusively,” Mulloy said. “At the end of the day, we decided we couldn’t accommodate that request.” Aday after learning that Intel was abandoning the OLPC project over “philosophical” differences, Negroponte hit back, charging on Jan. 4 that Intel had undermined his group’s effort to sell low-cost computers for schoolchildren in developing nations even after the chip company got a seat on the nonprofit’s board. He said Intel’s sales representatives had been disparaging OLPC and its XO machine as they pushed their own Classmate PCs. Negroponte said Intel even tried to undo a deal that OLPC already had sealed in Peru by citing flaws in the XO and telling government ministers there that “we ought to know, because we are on the board.” Such hostile comments were prohibited, Negroponte claimed, under the July peace treaty that brought Intel into the OLPC camp. “I want to say we tried, but it was never a partnership,” Negroponte said. “There’s not one single thing in their contract or agreement that they lived up to.” Because Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) supplies microprocessors for the XO laptops, Negroponte said he had not expected Intel to advocate actively for the XOs until Intel chips appeared in these machines. In fact, Intel and Negroponte had planned to display an Intelpowered XO at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month. OLPC had intended to sell millions of its innovative laptops in the developing world by now. Instead, as of press time, the group had sold 300,000 units, with many countries that had previously expressed interest changing their minds. One hurdle for the XO has been its higher-than-originally advertised price and the lack of early support for the ubiquitous Windows operating system. But another hindrance clearly has been the work of companies such as Microsoft and Intel to compete in the developing-world education market. Negroponte said on Jan. 4 that no longer having Intel on his team wouldn’t hurt his efforts to find more international buyers. “No, it probably restores some momentum,” he said. “We were being extraordinarily distracted.”

Early success story Despite OLPC’s troubles, project organizers can point to the experience of schoolchildren in Arahuay, Peru, as an example of the project’s enormous potential to transform lives. Doubts about whether poor, rural children can benefit from quirky little computers have evaporated as quickly as the morning dew in this hilltop Andean village, where 50 primary-school students got machines from the OLPC project last summer. These children of peasant families whose monthly earnings rarely exceed the cost of one of the $188 laptops—and who

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But for early recipients of the One Laptop Per Child foundation’s XO computers, life seems to be getting better

A student in Arahuay, Peru, uses his XO laptop as he walks home from school. can ill afford pencil and paper, much less books—apparently can’t get enough of their XO computers. At breakfast, they’re already powering up the combination library/video camera/audio recorder/music maker/drawing kits. At night, they’re dozing off in front of them—if they’ve managed to keep older siblings from waylaying the coveted devices. Peru made the single biggest order for XO computers to date—more than 272,000 machines—in its quest to turn around a primary education system that the World Economic Forum recently ranked last among 131 countries surveyed. Uruguay has been the second largest buyer of the laptops, inking a contract for 100,000. Negroponte said 150,000 more laptops will be shipped early this year to countries that include Rwanda, Mongolia, Haiti, and Afghanistan through “Give One, Get One,” a U.S.-based promotion that ended Dec. 31. Through that promotion, customers bought a pair of laptops for $399 and donated one or both. The children of Arahuay would seem to prove OLPC’s transformative conceit: that you can revolutionize education and democratize the internet by giving a simple, durable, power-stingy but feature-packed laptop to the worlds’ poorest kids. “Some tell me that they don’t want to be like their parents, working in the fields,” first-grade teacher Erica Velasco says of her pupils in Peru. She had just sent them to the internet to seek out photos of invertebrates—animals without backbones. Antony, 12, wants to become an accountant. Alex, 7, aspires to be a lawyer. Kevin, 11, wants to play trumpet. Saida, 10, is already a promising videographer, having recorded the town’s recent Fiesta de la Virgen. “What they work with most is the [builtin] camera—they love to record,” says Maria Antonieta Mendoza, an Education

Ministry psychologist studying the Arahuay pilot to devise strategies for Peru’s big rollout of XO machines when the new school year begins in March. Before the laptops arrived, the only cameras that the kids at Arahuay’s Santiago Apostol school saw were the ones that arrived with tourists who visit this hamlet of 800 citizens for the local festivals, or to see Inca ruins. Arahuay’s lone industry is agriculture. Surrounding fields yield avocados, mangoes, potatoes, corn, alfalfa, and cherimoya. Many adults share only weekends with their children, spending the work week in fields many hours’ walk from town and relying on charities to help keep their families nourished. When they finish school, young people tend to abandon the village. Peru’s head of educational technology, Oscar Becerra, is betting that the OLPC program can reverse this rural exodus to the squalor of Lima’s shantytowns four hours away. It’s the best answer yet to “a global crisis of education” in which curricula have no relevance, Becerra said, adding: “If we make education pertinent, something the student enjoys, then it won’t matter if the classroom’s walls are straw or the students are sitting on fruit boxes.” eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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eSN Special Feature

eSCHOOL NEWS • 17

February 2008

‘Green’ school buildings are making a surge Environmentally friendly schools can reduce energy costs ... and improve learning Meris Stansbury Assistant Editor

School systems nationwide are beginning to realize the benefits of “going green” when building new schools, according to experts who follow school construction trends. Though the initial building costs can run higher, schools are seeing a return on their up-front investment through a reduction in monthly energy costs. Another important (and often unexpected) side benefit has been a boost in student achievement resulting from more healthy, productive, and comfortable learning environments. John Weekes, an architect who is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on Architecture for Education, says “green,” or environmentally friendly, school buildings aren’t just a West Coast concept anymore. “Of course, places like California have been thinking green for a while, but it’s really all over now—the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest, and the Northeast,” he said. “Recently, it’s also been [occurring in] the Southeast. It’s certainly [a] mainstream [concept], but not entirely even across the board. Every region has its own rate.” There are many levels of “green,” and each green building can vary in its degree of energy efficiency. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has its own set of measurements, called the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, which measures design, construction, and operation of green buildings. To date, the LEED certificate—available in bronze, silver, and gold—has been given to 55 schools around the country. However, another 370 reportedly were waiting for certification as of press time. LEED also has a special certification for green schools, which takes into account joint-use agreements that allow other groups to use the facility, and it has stricter requirements for features such as minimum acoustic standards. According to Deane Evans, a research professor and executive director of the Center for Architecture and Building Science Research at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a high-performance green school has “healthy, productive, and comfortable environments for students and teachers that provide high levels of acoustic, thermal, and visual comfort.” Features of green schools include windows and skylights that admit generous amounts of daylight; buildings that are safe, secure, and cost-effective to own and operate, because they use durable products and systems; materials that are chosen using life-cycle cost analysis, rather than the cheapest first cost; and availability to nonstudents during hours when the school is not in operation. (Community participation during design also is encouraged.) Already, many states and school systems are using LEED guidelines to structure future school design. For example, in September the Ohio School Facility Fund passed a requirement that all new schools and major renovations in the state be certified LEED Silver, using $4.1 billion in state money to help cover the costs. The plan will create at least 250 more green schools in Ohio in the next two years. In California, 23 school districts, including San Francisco and San Diego, have

Maryland’s Great Seneca Creek Elementary School features natural lighting. pledged to meet criteria for the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), a system similar to LEED. Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, Washington, and New Hampshire also are using measurement processes based on CHPS building standards. Pennsylvania even provides up to $500,000 in state funding to school districts for each new building that is LEED certified.

Green school examples Dave Burns, design principal for Burns Wald-Hopkins Architects, says geographical differences “are the foundation” to effective green school construction. “Desert climate requires different building design responses than mountain or seacoast environments,” Burns says. He mentions insulation, heating and cooling, sun shading, and storm water management as a few of the geographical variables that come into play when designing a green building. “One of the main principles of green building design is to harmonize with the environment,” Burns explains. A good example of this harmonization is Erie Community Unit School District No. 1 in Erie, Ill., which is known for flat terrain that causes strong winds. This district uses a 1.2-megawatt single wind turbine and tubular wind tower from Johnson Controls Inc. to provide energy to its elementary, middle, and high schools and a high school annex facility. “We like to say we’re casting our future to the wind,” says Superintendent Mike Ryan. “We’re looking forward to this being a staple for providing energy to our district for the next 25 to 30 years.” The turbine, which cost $3.5 million, is expected to decrease the school district’s consumption of purchased electrical energy by 87 percent, resulting in about $5.5 million in total energy savings over 30 years. The district also anticipates another $3 million or more in net revenue over the life cycle of the unit by selling any excess energy to local energy providers for place-

ment on the Commonwealth Edison’s distribution grid. Erie managed to fund the turbine in part by conducting a feasibility study and then receiving a clean energy grant award totaling $720,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. “The Erie wind turbine is one of six community-based wind power projects supported by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation in the last two years—and the largest being pursued by a public school district,” says Ed Miller, program director of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. The Tucson Unified School District’s LEED-certified Davidson Elementary School, designed by Burns, is in arid Arizona and therefore had other design considerations. All the classrooms open to the exterior and have extensive clerestories (high windows) to bring daylight into the rooms. There is minimal glazing on the south and west sides to help keep out the hot sun, and the roof windows all face north to allow light to enter the rooms, providing adequate natural daylight throughout the day and minimizing the need for artificial light. The rooftop air conditioning units are energy-efficient. They have an energy recovery unit that captures warm air circulating in the system during winter to prewarm cold air from the exterior, and they capture cooler air in the summer to pre-cool exterior warm air, lessening the work the units have to do. These features save about 25 percent of the typical annual energy costs for a similarly sized building. Other green characteristics include durable and non-toxic interior materials, many of which are manufactured from recycled materials, and the use of benign disinfectant cleaning products. Great Seneca Creek Elementary School, part of the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, has been certified LEED Gold. Montgomery County has passed legislation requiring all newly constructed public buildings to get LEED certification. “[We] began considering LEED ap-

proval four to five years before construction,” says Gregory S. Edmundson, the school’s principal. Of course, the “board … had to approve it, and we needed some extra funding as well,” says Edmundson. Great Seneca Creek relies on a geothermal heating and cooling system that works with the earth’s natural constant core temperature of about 58 degrees Fahrenheit. The school has 120 different types of piping that go 520 feet below the surface of its athletic fields. In winter, a water solution circulating though the series of looping pipes carries the earth’s warmth to a heat pump inside the building. This heat concentrates the earth’s thermal energy and transfers it to air that circulates through interior ductwork to fill the building. In summer, heat is extracted from air inside the building and transferred to the earth through the same pipe system. The geothermal system also uses some of the heat extracted from the interior of the building in summer to provide free hot water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown that geothermal systems can operate at 75 percent greater efficiency than oil furnaces, 48 percent great efficiency than gas furnaces, and 40 percent more efficiently than air source heat pumps. With the National Energy Assistance Directors Association predicting the average retail price of heating oil will be $3.10 per gallon this winter, the geothermal heating and cooling system could prove to be a wise investment. Other green characteristics of the school include dual-flush toilets that save 43 percent more water than typical toilets, by allowing students to choose a low-water option if they excrete only urine. The bathroom stall dividers are also made from recycled plastic. The building’s planners incorporated no-mow meadows and overlapping fields to minimize the environmental impact. “We also considered lighting. The building has natural lighting, because the classes are faced to the east for daylight, while the evening athletics activities in the gym are on the west,” says Edmundson. AIA’s Weekes says the design considerations for each school are unique, but there are many green design trends that schools across the country are using as well. For example, several schools are incorporating natural day lighting and natural ventilation. In the future, Weekes predicts, schools will invest in storm water systems and the reuse of waste. Another trend is applying green design principles not just indoors, but outdoors as well. The San Francisco School recruited California landscaper Jeff Miller to create a green playground that extends the classroom outdoors. The sustainable schoolyard design includes a 25-foot long “creek” created from discarded paving stones, fencing crafted with recycled wood from old chicken coops, and climbing trees with blue stripes that mean “go no higher.” One part of the playground has a water pump set in dirt, so that students—mainly preschoolers—can play in mud. Of course, they must first wear a pair of rubber boots provided by the school. Such creative play “goes hand-in-hand See Green, page 18


eSN Special Feature

18 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

Green... continued from page 17 with subjects [such as] life and earth sciences, social studies, math, art, ecoliteracy, and nutrition,� Miller says.

Benefits: Expected ‌ and unforeseen While budget constraints and stakeholder skepticism can pose challenges, the benefits of going green are numerous, supporters say. For example, while initial costs might seem expensive, green schools are less expensive to run and generally last longer. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association has forecasted that facilities across the country will pay an average of 10.5

percent more to heat their buildings this winter, because the average retail price of heating oil has risen sharply in the last year. Environmentally, according to Build Green Schools, green design fosters learning through open spaces and natural lighting, decreases student and teacher absenteeism from respiratory and other illnesses, reduces energy and water bills, and provides models for teaching the world’s future leaders about sustainability to benefit communities for generations to come. Because of the decline in absenteeism, “students’test scores increase and learning is improved,� says Weekes. According to a recent AIA report, five separate studies found an average asthma reduction of 38.5 percent in buildings with improved air quality. Improved air, com-

fort, and health in green school buildings also benefits teachers—they experience 1.41 fewer missed working days, which is 12 percent fewer than in traditional schools. On average, green schools use 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than conventional schools. This means going green could help the United States become less dependent on foreign energy sources. “The biggest plus is that [green design] teaches social responsibility,� says Edmundson. “By setting the example, these students become lifelong learners. They have social awareness. When I think about a fiveyear-old making decisions about waste efficiency, I know this is all worth it.� Great Seneca Creek Elementary has a “green team� through which older students teach incoming students about their school’s

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design and how it works to help the environment. “It’s an ongoing process fostering continuous learning,� says Edmundson. “There’s a whole new generation of kids who can appreciate the environment. They’re going to be more compatible with our environment, and green schools are helping to do that,� says Weekes. Adds Ryan: “For us, the most unexpected benefit was the learning that green design provides. With PowerPoint presentations and in-class monitoring of our turbine’s operations, students can see how it is impacting their future. Not only do the teachers embrace this learning, but I take our students on walks to touch and feel the turbine—to give them an understanding of wind energy.� According to recent results from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Program for International Student Assessment, 53 percent of students worldwide are familiar with ecoliteracy and have a knowledge of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, while 54 percent are familiar with issues surrounding pollution and acid rain. Analysis of the test results suggests that an awareness of environmental issues is closely linked with students’ overall science performance. Green building design is important, Burns says, because “the necessary transformation of the building industry from current practices to more environmentally sustainable construction begins with education—the earlier the better. Elementary children, especially, understand and embrace the concept. They not only adopt these environmental conservation values, but take them home to their parents.�

Tips and resources A good resource for school leaders considering going green is Build Green Schools, a new web site created by the U.S. Green Building Council. The site has facts on the benefits and costs of green schools; profiles of schools that have already gone green; examples of policies that governments and school districts have implemented to ensure that future schools go green; and a social-networking site for visitors to share their experiences, best practices, and creative ideas. eSN

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eSCHOOL NEWS • 19

February 2008

Eighth Annual Tech-Savvy

Superintendent Awards T

he move toward an increasingly digital society, and the emergence of a new era of accountability in the nation’s schools, have changed our expectations of the superintendency. As school leaders come to rely on computers and the internet to engage students’interest, track their progress, personalize instruction, and aid in decision making, an understanding of how technology works and how it can be used to transform teaching and learning is an increasingly essential characteristic for the 21st-century school executive. In our eighth annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards, sponsored by Promethean, eSchool News recognizes 10 of the nation’s top K-12 executives for their outstanding ed-tech leadership and vision. Chosen by the editors of eSchool News with help from last year’s winners, these 10 exemplary leaders will be honored in a private ceremony held in conjunction with the American Association of School Administrators’ annual conference in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 15.

Randy Acevedo Monroe County School District, Florida In his three years as superintendent and 12 years as an executive staff member of the Monroe County School District, Acevedo has been a strong public advocate for the mission-driven use of technology. Under his leadership, the district has provided a Tablet PC to every administrator and teacher, and access to wireless laptops for students, with plans to continue its vision of one-to-one computing for all students. Educators can access standards-aligned curriculum and instructional resources online, and they have portal-based access to an instructional management system, gradebooks, student data, and test scores to support instructional planning. Owing to the district’s large geographical expanse, with the district office located as much as 100 miles from some communities, Acevedo uses online communications and high-tech presentations to share his vision with a district-wide audience. The school board telecasts board meetings, provides interactive board agendas, and uses the district’s web site to request in-

put from parents and educators. Acevedo also has spearheaded an effort to provide timely information to district staff and students using an automated communications system, in which messages are sent within minutes. The district uses this system not only for emergencies but also to announce district events to families. This, along with an off-site web site, satellite phone communications, and an out-of-district eMail service for administrators, helps keep the district in constant communication during storm-related evacuations. Never content with the “status quo,” Acevedo seeks out better and more efficient ways to reach his district’s goal of “Student Success…Whatever It Takes.” http://www.monroe.k12.fl.us

Ron Barlow Tintic School District, Utah Viewed throughout the state as a visionary leader, Barlow not only models the effective use of technology within his district; he’s also an avid experimenter. For instance, he recently started bringing an iPhone into meetings to better understand the latest technology trends and how they can be applied to schools. Under Barlow’s leadership, the Tintic School District has achieved a one-to-one ratio of computers to students in all five schools, with interactive whiteboards in more than half of all classrooms. Thanks to his vision, Tintic has adopted the eMINTS Professional Development model, which includes 160 hours of professional development in the use of technology for participating teachers over two years. More than half of the district’s teachers have participated in this program. Barlow has helped integrate technology into all aspects of administration, too, including improved online newsletters, financial procedures, an inventory system, and district communications through its web site and eMail. He has worked closely with the Central Utah Educational Services Center in developing and implementing the Administering with Educational Data (AWED) grant project, which provides technology training for school administrators. Barlow also serves on the Utah Education Network Steering Committee, which is the oversight board appointed by the governor for technology services and K-20 education in the state. http://www.tintic.k12.ut.us

John L. Barry Aurora Public Schools, Colorado Barry’s exemplary ed-tech vision is helping to improve all facets of education in Colorado’s Aurora Public Schools (APS) in just his second year as superintendent. Soon after assuming his current post, Barry formed an Incident Response Team consisting of key staff members who have training and resources to support schools in the event of an emergency. The district has an inci-

dent command center that includes interactive whiteboards, digital phone systems, and multiple tuners to monitor news coverage. APS also has developed a variety of tools for reporting safety concerns, including SafetyNet, an online, anonymous reporting system for students, and Operation Silent Whistle, an online system that staff can use to report not only safety concerns but also fraud or waste. All district buses have GPS devices, and transportation staff have access to mapping and tracking software. This school year, all district sites became wireless to ensure easy access to internet resources for students and staff. Barry understands that staff can be tech-savvy with adequate training, and he meets regularly with instructional technology coaches to update his own skill level. Under the direction of the district’s instructional technology director, all technology-related initiatives include job-embedded professional development. Because a large number of APS students speak Spanish as their first language, Barry also introduced a professional development opportunity for staff members who want to learn Spanish. Through MySpanishTeacher.com, hundreds of staff members are now learning Spanish. The project’s online component allows staff to log on anytime, anywhere to further their development. Spearheaded by Barry, VISTA 2010—the district’s strategic plan—includes several initiatives that integrate technology into the curriculum. Barry also has created a Student VISTA Guidance Council to ensure that APS keeps a laser focus on student achievement and success.

Deborah Delisle Cleveland HeightsUniversity Heights City School District, Ohio Delisle has been a champion for integrating technology into instruction. She is currently leading a one-to-one laptop program in her district’s three middle schools, with plans to extend the project into high school. All middle-school teachers received a laptop computer earlier this year, as well as training to ensure they are well-versed in classroom technology use. Next year, all sixth-graders will receive laptops of their own—again, with extensive training and support. At the end of the eighth grade, students will return their older, leased laptops for a current model to take with them to high school. At the end of his or her high school career, every student will have the option of purchasing his or her laptop for one dollar. The driving force behind this program is the desire to give every student equal access to technology resources. “Seeing the inequity in our district—which is 80-percent minority—between wealthier families with computers at home and economically disadvantaged families, she determined to create a method to change this,” one district leader said of Delisle. And, thanks to her leadership and tenacity, the district was able to pass a tax levy to support the initiative. http://www.chuh.org See Tech-Savvy Awards, page 20


20 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

Tech-Savvy Awards...

Ron Saunders

Sue Walker

continued from page 19

Barrow County Schools, Georgia

Shoreline School District, Washington

William A. Hamilton Walled Lake School District, Michigan Hamilton has been superintendent of Michigan’s Walled Lake Consolidated School District for two years and was the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum for 13 years. Throughout that time, and during his entire 36-year education career, he has been an early adopter of technology. The entire Walled Lake district is connected via a wireless network, and Hamilton provides continuous professional development for all 1,800 employees. In 1999, Walled Lake implemented a one-to-one laptop program, which continues to flourish today. Three years of university research found the laptop classrooms to be more student-centered, more project-based, more engaging, and far more collaborative. In recognition of his leadership on this project, Hamilton was invited to serve on the board of directors for the One-to-One Institute, an international organization for promoting the use of technology in the classroom. Every team of teachers in grades 3-11 has at least one set of 30 wireless laptops. At the beginning of each school year, staff members have the opportunity to participate in two days of technology-specific training sessions delivered mostly by their peers. Seven new schools have been built in the time Hamilton has been with the district, and he has helped ensure that each of these schools—including a new comprehensive high school— has state-of-the-art technology, computer labs, wireless capabilities, and enhanced communication systems. Hamilton recently received the Michigan Schools Public Relations Association’s Outstanding Superintendent Communicator Award for the way he articulates and communicates to all district stakeholders. Under his direction, all curriculum areas strategically align with Michigan state standards for integrating technology to improve teaching and learning. Hamilton encourages and appreciates when his staff takes risks to try innovative strategies; most recently, with Hamilton’s encouragement, district educators have written a grant to employ the use of Second Life as a medium for staff development and academic intervention. http://www.walledlake.k12.mi.us

Abelardo Saavedra Houston Independent School District, Texas Saavedra credits much of his district’s extraordinary academic progress to its early adoption of innovative technology. From satellite tracking systems in school buses to the latest and most robust student information system, technology plays a critical role for the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest school system in Texas. Entrusted with the care and education of 203,000 children at 295 campuses, Saavedra has helped establish HISD as a leader in education reform. HISD’s electronic library is regularly integrated into the curriculum. Student and teacher performance is closely monitored with technology systems. The thousands of cafeteria meals, textbooks, and gallons of gas in school buses are all tracked electronically. The district’s telephone messaging system allows the superintendent to reach tens of thousands of parents within minutes. And technology is helping HISD’s top teachers expand their instruction beyond the classroom walls through closed-circuit television or streaming video on the internet. Saavedra insists on careful communication, training, and documentation of performance both before and after technology systems are implemented, to help ensure successful adoption and to consider future technological needs. His technology plan is designed to spur academic improvement and run the district as efficiently as possible— and his efforts have been rewarded with progress on the SATs and record scores on the state’s standardized exam. http://www.auburnschools.org

A 37-year veteran educator, Saunders has served as superintendent of both Huntsville City Schools in Alabama, where he founded the Huntsville Technology High School, and the Barrow County Schools in Georgia, where he has consistently leveraged technology and innovation to provide a world-class education to every student in the county. Since Saunders became superintendent at Barrow in 1998, the student population has grown in both size and diversity—expanding from 7,400 mostly English-speaking students to just over 12,000 students, with more than 40 languages spoken. In response, Saunders has centralized the student registration process to better support multiple languages and installed Language-Line phone systems at each school to provide all school administrators with expert interpreters at a moment’s notice. Two years ago, Saunders began his “Break the Bandwidth Barrier” campaign to implement an advanced cyber infrastructure, providing unprecedented access to educational resources, mentors, experts, interactive activities, and virtual learning environments for every student. Through a partnership with the Georgia Board of Regents, he established Barrow as the only school district in the state with access to Georgia’s research and education network, thus providing students with a tremendous increase in internet access and a permanent highspeed connection to Internet2. This year, Saunders established his “Direct-toDiscovery” program to dramatically expand learning opportunities for middle and high school science. He established long-term educational partnerships with the state’s three tier-1 research universities, pairing Georgia’s leading professors in nanotechnology and genomics with district science teachers to develop a series of interactive sessions designed to engage students in the excitement of real science discovery. With the help of mobile highdefinition video conferencing units in middle and high schools, science teachers and students are now working directly in the nanotechnology clean room at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Genomics Laboratories at the University of Georgia. http://www.barrow.k12.ga.us

Jerry Vaughn Floydada Independent School District, Texas Under Vaughn’s leadership, this small district of approximately 950 students across the west Texas panhandle is in its fourth year of leading the charge for the Technology Immersion Pilot (TIP) in Texas. The TIP project involves 24-7 immersion of students and faculty from 44 middle schools across the state in a program that uses curriculum and technology tools to increase student achievement. Students in Floydada use their Apple iBook laptops in class as well as at home to complete their work. While initial TIP funding was aimed at middle school students, Vaughn—with the support of the community and the school board—used local funds to expand the program to Floydada High School (FHS). Teachers have undergone extensive professional development with the help of Apple’s education division. As a result, student test scores have risen 36 points in math and 34 points in science in one year. Seniors at FHS are using the available technology to complete dual-credit courses, allowing them to graduate with approximately 12 hours of college credit at a value to their parents in excess of $32,000. Vaughn continues to lead the way in technology by implementing a citywide Wi-Fi network, and talks are underway to provide Floydada students with low-cost internet access at home, as well as throughout the community. With Vaughn as superintendent, students have become “digital natives” and have readily embraced the use of technology for learning. http://www.floydadaisd.esc17.net

Walker has led Shoreline through a one-to-one laptop computing initiative involving more than 6,000 students in grades 512. The vision behind this initiative, now in its second year, focuses on equitable access to powerful learning tools for all students. Having begun her educational career as a high school math teacher, Walker brings a classroom practitioner’s perspective to her job—and she constantly emphasizes the role of creative and dedicated teachers as central to effective ed-tech use. Walker’s commitment to the effective use of technology to enhance instruction extends well beyond the laptop program. Under her leadership, the district has installed projectors, document cameras, and audio systems in every classroom. All elementary classrooms have had voice amplification systems installed, and middle and high schools will receive similar systems in the coming year. Shoreline also has made significant strides in the use of assistive technology for special-needs students, owing in large part to the hiring of a full-time employee to attend solely to this area. Walker is keenly aware that hardware alone is inadequate for a successful technology program. The district currently has 12 full-time technology integration specialists who help teachers integrate technology into the curriculum; this support occurs on site and in the context of the teacher’s regular classroom instruction. Walker also has led an effort to look beyond the projected lifespan of the laptop initiative; the district is analyzing its options for a refresh in several years. http://www.shorelineschools.org

Jerry D. Weast Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland When Weast became superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)—a large, culturally diverse school system of 21,000 professionals and 138,000 students—more than eight years ago, he set new priorities aimed at providing a highquality teacher in every classroom, raising staff expectations of high academic achievement for all students, and giving educators the technology tools and support they needed to improve students’ performance. He has rallied the support of stakeholders to provide funding to refresh the district’s 40,000 computers, educational software, and network infrastructure every four years through a Technology Modernization program. One of Weast’s key technology initiatives to support teaching and learning focuses on data-driven decision making. By urging the creation of an integrated quality management system, he has simplified access to relevant student achievement data. As a result, teachers now have immediate access to student performance data, so they can assess students’ knowledge and abilities and tailor their instruction accordingly. Under Weast’s direction, MCPS has integrated technology into professional development for all staff. Staff members register for professional development opportunities through the Professional Development Online (PDO) web-based program, which has been tailored to meet the specific training needs of each staff member. Professional development is provided in a new, state-ofthe-art Center for Technology Innovation containing four computer labs and a video conferencing room. Weast also has led the effort to develop online formative assessments that provide immediate access to results. Teachers now use handheld computers to streamline the process and improve the accuracy of diagnostic information. The district’s most recent initiative is the installation of 18 Promethean ActivClassroom systems in 14 schools, with more than 22 additional schools to be added over the next two years. eSN http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org


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22 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

New FAA rules limit lithium batteries on flights Laura Devaney Associate Editor

As educators nationwide prepare for a busy ed-tech conference season over the next few months, new airline restrictions on lithium batteries—such as those commonly found in laptop computers—could affect the way many travel. As of Jan. 1, airline passengers are no longer permitted to pack loose lithium batteries in their checked baggage. The new rule aims to reduce the risk of lithium battery fires. Travelers can still pack rechargeable lithium batteries in their checked baggage if the batteries are already installed in electronic devices. Spare lithium batteries are permitted in carry-on luggage only, but they should be stored in plastic zip-lock bags or their original packaging to reduce their chance of short circuiting. The new regulations also place restrictions on how many, and what kinds of, lithium batteries are allowed in carry-on bags. These restrictions are based on how many grams of “equivalent lithium content” appear in each battery. To put this measurement in a context that most technology users are more familiar with, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says eight grams of lithium content is equivalent to a rating of about 100 watt-hours, while 25 grams equates to about 300 watt-hours. Any number of spare batteries are allowed in carry-on baggage if they are properly protected from short circuiting and do not exceed eight grams of equivalent lithium content (100 watt-hours). Most lithium-ion cell phone and standard laptop computer batteries fall below eight grams; Dell’s XPS m1330 laptop computer, for example, uses several different batteries, the largest of which—the 9-cell version—is rated at 85 watt-hours. If you have larger spare batteries that contain more than eight grams of equivalent lithium content, you may only bring two of these in your carry-on bags, and they cannot exceed 25 grams of equivalent lithium content (or 300 watt-hours) altogether. Examples of extended-life rechargeable lithium batteries that fall into this category include 130 watt-hour “universal” lithium ion batteries and 160 watt-hour lithium ion batteries for professional audiovisual equipment. Applying the new rules, you could bring one of each of these types of batteries in your carry-on luggage (for a total of 290 watt-hours), but not two 160 watt-hour AV batteries. Batteries with more than 25 grams of equivalent lithium content are no longer allowed on passenger flights at all. For a lithium metal battery, whether installed in a device or carried as a spare, the limit on lithium content is only two grams per battery. Lithium metal batteries are commonly found in cameras. Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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Almost all consumer-type lithium metal batteries contain less than two grams of lithium metal, according to DOT. But if you are unsure, the agency recommends that you contact the manufacturer. Lithium batteries are considered hazardous because, in certain conditions, they can overhead and ignite. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) found during safety testing that a fire brought on by non-rechargeable lithium batteries would pose a difficult, if not impossible, challenge to an aircraft’s fire system if they ignited during the flight. “Safety testing conducted by the FAA found that current aircraft cargo fire sup-

pression system would not be capable of suppressing a fire if a shipment of nonrechargeable lithium batteries were ignited in flight,” the FAA said in a statement. The National Transportation Safety Board earlier this month said it could not rule out lithium batteries as the source of a cargo plane fire at Philadelphia International Airport last year. Storing a spare battery in its original packaging or in a plastic bag can prevent unintentional short-circuiting and fires, said Krista Edwards, deputy administrator for DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Placing tape across the battery’s contacts also can prevent short-circuits.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suggests that travelers buy batteries from reputable sources and only use batteries approved for their device. The TSA also recommends charging only those batteries that are truly rechargeable, as non-rechargeable batteries become hazardous if placed in a battery charger and can overheat or cause other damage. Battery terminals can be insulated by isolating batteries from contact with other batteries, as well as from contact with metal objects such as coins, keys, or jewelry. Placing each battery in its protective case will isolate the terminals and prevent short-circuiting. eSN

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BEST PRACTICES IN SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY

Raising Student Reading Scores Utilizing a Personal Literacy Plan (PLP) which includes Assessment, Intervention and Progress Monitoring to elevate Reading Scores Warwick Public Schools, located in Rhode Island, is a district with twenty-seven schools serving 11,500 students. As mandated by state law and the Rhode Island Board of Regents, a specific literacy program, a Personal Literacy Plan (PLP) was required to raise the reading level of students and ensure they were proficient readers. There are three major components to a PLP: Assessment, Intervention and Progress Monitoring. A PLP is required for all students K-5 that are not reading at grade level. Sixth graders are included if within an elementary school setting. All students, Grades 6 through 10, reading three or more years below grade level are also included. By the year 2011, all Rhode Island students K-12 unable to read at grade level will have a PLP. English Language Learners not reading at grade level require a PLP in addition to appropriate English language instruction. Warwick educators implemented an electronic system whereby all students are given systematic and explicit literacy instruction. Reading achievement is screened and reviewed for each student every year. Although implemented for Rhode Island, the Personal Literacy Plan software can be utilized in other states. Educators understand that while students may learn to read in various ways and in different time frames, all students can learn to read given appropriate instruction and support. The PLP provides a problem solving approach for improved student reading that is inclusive (teachers, parents, administrators, etc.) and provides documentation of the approaches schools used to support reading instruction with the goal of improving student reading achievement. Progress monitoring is accomplished in the following ways: • District/School level progress monitoring typically occurs three times per year; fall, winter, and spring for all students at the elementary level and less frequently at the secondary level. The purpose of this assessment is to make informed decisions for resource allocations, professional development planning/implementation, program planning and evaluation, etc. • Classroom level progress monitoring may also be referred to as “curriculum embedded” assessments. These are on going and include tasks typically used during the instructional process. They evaluate a student’s learning based on systematic observation and guide the specifics of instruction within the curriculum. • Intervention progress monitoring occurs more frequently (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) for students with a PLP and for students in targeted literacy groups at the secondary level. The results of this type of progress monitoring inform instructional decisions in the individual students intervention plan or for the targeted group plan The PLP also provides a record of the intervention results and informs subsequent school personnel of approaches that worked for individual students. This has been a successful program for Warwick, with many students progressing to the point of exiting their PLP.

Educators in Warwick Public Schools have teamed with Century Consultants and its Star_Base School Suite student information system to successfully implement a Personal Literacy Plan (PLP) to elevate the reading levels of students in their district. Recording monitoring results and intervention plans on paper on a monthly basis would be a difficult, time consuming task. Data would have to be readily available on-line to necessary school personnel such as literacy teachers and certified reading specialists, social workers, school counselors, school psychologists and nurses in addition to parents/guardians in order to remain effective.

“Using the Star_Base Portal feature for student assessment and PLP data has opened the door to putting technology in to each classroom for Warwick Public Schools. The goal of Warwick Public Schools is to fully utilize the functionality of the Star_Base School Suite to accurately track student data and information” — Dianne Silvia, Manager of Information Systems, Warwick Public Schools.

Star_Base School Suite’s portal feature offers an electronic Assessment record, permitting on-line customization of Intervention and Progress Monitoring for individual students. School principals, Reading Specialists, Special Education and Resource teachers have view-only access to students in their schools. Additionally the PLP data for Warwick Public Schools is easily accessed using Discover, an Oracle ad hoc reporting tool used in tandem with Century’s portal feature permitting more in-depth analysis for data driven decision making. Dianne Silvia, Manager Information Systems for Warwick Public Schools has this to say about Star_Base School Suite and the impact the software has had on the PLP process in Warwick: “The main reason for automating the PLP process was for data archive and analysis, keeping a history on each student K-12. Each December 1st every district in Rhode Island must report to the Rhode Island Department of Education the number of students in each grade that are reading below grade level and have a PLP. We also report the number of students with an IEP that have a PLP. Finally, we report the number of students in each grade that exited their PLP as of the end of the last school year. In fact, 23% of K-12 students with PLP’s no longer require them in the current school year! The Star_Base Portal feature has given us the ability to run preliminary reports to follow up with each school for corrections and to run the final report to meet the December 1st deadline.”

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eSCHOOL NEWS • 23

February 2008

Budget... continued from page 1 that Congress heard us and shows the support we’re getting.” Ed-tech advocates had reason to be concerned after the president vetoed lawmakers’first budget attempt in November. That bill, part of a package that included $22 billion in domestic spending increases, would have boosted total ED funding by 5 percent, to $63.6 billion. As Congress sought a budget compromise, the White House—urged on by many hard-line Republicans—threatened to veto any legislation that proposed spending increases to non-military domestic programs. Democrats succeeded in smoothing out the rough edges of Bush’s February 2007

budget plan, which sought below-inflation increases for domestic programs (other than military base construction) and contained numerous cutbacks and program eliminations. Democrats and moderate Republicans were able to fill in most of the cuts by shifting money from the Pentagon and foreign aid budgets, adding “emergency” funding above Bush’s budget cap, and adding futureyear funding for federal education programs. Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, had this to say in response to the final budget bill: “NEA applauds leaders in the House of Representatives for making significant increases in education funding, despite the Scrooge-like constraints outlined by the White House.”

Weaver continued: “Clearly, we had hoped for higher funding levels, but the numbers show that lawmakers worked hard to make children winners in this budget battle. A greater investment in education is needed to provide public schools with the resources to ensure that all children have access to a high-quality public education and a chance to compete in a global economy.” Under the year-end budget bill, Title I funding will increase by about $1 billion after the recision, to $13.9 billion (about the same as Bush proposed). Improving Teacher Quality state grants will receive about $48 million more, to $2.94 billion (about $150 million more than Bush sought). Special-education grants to states will see a $165 million increase, to $10.9 billion ($456 million more than Bush’s re-

School’s Closed…

What’s Tonight’s Assignment?

Star-Base School Suite , a comprehensive ™

student information system, empowers you to control, manage, and support real-time information. 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. This real-time access to student information bridges the parent-teacher gap and opens the lines for better communication. Century’s web-based student information system saves time and money, allowing teachers to focus on the development of each student, while improving interaction between parents, teachers and administrators.

quest). Grants to after-school programs will get $100 million more, to $1.08 billion ($100 million more than the president sought). And career and technical education will receive $1.16 billion—$20 million less than last year, but nearly $600 million more than Bush proposed. The biggest loser in the 2008 education budget was the president’s signature Reading First program, which will receive $506 million—less than half of the $1.15 billion it got in 2007. In slashing the Reading First budget by some $643 million, lawmakers might have been voicing their displeasure with the Bush administration’s handling of the program. ED released a series of audits last year that revealed significant mismanagement of the program, resulting in referrals to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. Still, the cuts are sure to affect reading programs in several states and school systems—many of which rely on proven software programs to help boost reading scores. There were other losers in the final budget, too. The $99 million State Grants for Innovative Programs initiative was zeroed out, as was the $11 million Star Schools program, which funded creative telecommunications and distance-education programs in schools. And the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program took a $64 million hit, to $513 million (an 11-percent cut). Federal funding for science and research also proved disappointing to educators— especially in light of the recent sub-par performance of U.S. students on an international science exam. “The FY08 omnibus appropriations bill is very disappointing to those who support the competitiveness and innovation agendas of the president and Congress,” said Robert Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities. “After accounting for inflation, this legislation essentially flat-funds or cuts funding for key science agencies.” Berdahl continued: “The America COMPETES Act, enacted earlier this year, was a far-reaching response to concerns about the nation’s long-term competitiveness. It proposed new funding and programs that would enhance the nation’s research capabilities, while improving science and math education for students from elementary schools right through postgraduate education. The America COMPETES Act has little meaning if it is not funded, and this bill does not fund it.” eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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See these related links: U.S. Department of Education: 2008 budget overview http://www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/ budget08/08action.pdf

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24 • eSCHOOL NEWS

Evolution... continued from page 1 exam, sparking new calls to improve math and science instruction to keep the nation competitive in the new global economy. It’s widely accepted in the scientific community that evolution is the foundation for all biological studies. And that was the gist of a letter stressing the importance of teaching students about evolution, sent by biology professors from across Texas to Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott on Dec. 10. “It is inappropriate to expect the [Texas Education Agency’s] director of science curriculum to ‘remain neutral’ on this subject, any more than astronomy teachers should ‘remain neutral’ about whether the Earth

February 2008 goes around the sun,” the letter stated. “Far from remaining neutral, it is the clear duty of the science staff at TEA and all other Texas educators to speak out unequivocally: Evolution is a central pillar in any modern science education, while ‘intelligent design’ is a religious idea that deserves no place in the science classroom at all.” More than 100 faculty members from the universities of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas State, North Texas, Houston, Rice, and Baylor signed the letter. “I’m an evolutionary biologist, and I and many others simply feel that good evolution education is key to understanding biology as a whole,” said Daniel Bolnick of the University of Texas (UT). Bolnick started collecting signatures in response to the departure of Chris Comer,

who said evolution politics were behind her forced resignation in November as Texas’s director of science curriculum. Comer said she came under pressure after sending an eMail message that her superiors felt made the TEA appear to be biased against the teaching of intelligent design. UT biology professor David Hillis said Comer’s ouster shows the country is slipping into “scientific illiteracy.” “It is extraordinarily unfortunate and inappropriate that religious views are dictating hiring and firing decisions at the Texas Education Agency,” he said. “This is an enormous black eye in terms of our competitiveness and ability to attract researchers and technologies.” Texas education officials say Comer’s resignation came after repeated acts of mis-

conduct and insubordination. Scott and other officials declined to comment specifically, because they feared being sued. This year, the Texas Board of Education begins a review of the state’s science curriculum, which will set standards for the classroom instruction and textbook selection. The board’s chairman, Don McLeroy, has lectured favorably in the past about intelligent design, according to the New York Times. In Florida, the state’s public school students for years have been studying “biological changes over time,” but proposed revisions in state science standards for the first time would use the term “evolution” for that concept. The new standards also would require more in-depth teaching of evolution and other topics while setting specific benchmarks for students to meet. The pending changes have drawn a flood of public comments, both pro and con, that reflect how sharply divided the nation’s citizens are over how evolution should be taught. A Gallup poll released last June said the country is about evenly split over whether the theory of evolution is even true. Some people say they oppose the teaching of evolution or want schools to teach religious ideas of creationism or intelligent design to explain the origins of life as well. Other objectors, such as St. Augustine, Fla., parent and education activist Kim Kendall, deny a religious motive but say they just want teachers to offer evidence that contradicts as well as supports evolution. Kendall is organizing opposition to Florida’s new science standards, which were developed by two committees of scientists, educators, and other citizens. One panel framed the standards and the other wrote them. “They’re being very dogmatic,” Kendall said. “[Schools] do need to continue to teach evolution, but they need to allow the teachers to teach both the faults and the supports of evolution.” Scientists and many educators say the evidence supporting evolution is overwhelming, and it does not conflict with religious beliefs. “I’m a religious person, and I don’t see a conflict in my life,” said Rick Ellenburg, Florida’s 2008 teacher of the year, who served on the committee that wrote the new standards. The Florida Board of Education was expected to vote on the proposed new standards this month. “We’re not talking about crazy, wacky stuff,” said Sherry Southerland, associate professor of science education at Florida State University. “This is the fundamental science the rest of the world learns.” eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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Open Letter to Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott http://www.texscience.org/reviews/ biology-professor-letter.htm

Florida Department of Education http://www.fldoe.org

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Grants & Funding

by Deborah Ward

26 • eSCHOOL NEWS

Deborah Ward

February 2008

Seven successful grant-seeking strategies for private schools

A reader who works for a private school recently sent me an eMail message asking for some grant-seeking advice. Her query highlighted the challenge that private schools face in finding grants, as many funders (both public and private) will consider only public-school applications. There are grants available for private education, however, and here are some ways to find them. 1. Check the web site of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Non-Public Education (www.ed.gov/ about/office/list/oii/nonpublic/ index.html), where you’ll find information regarding federal education laws and programs that affect private education, as well as federal grants and resources that are available to private schools. There is also information about No Child Left Behind and how non-public schools can benefit from some of the funding the law makes available.

2. If you work at a private school that is faith-based, check the Center for FaithBased and Community Initiatives (www.ed.gov/about/inits/list/fbci/ index.html). There, you’ll find information about funding from the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies. There are also tips on writing and submitting grant proposals. 3. If you work at a private school that is affiliated with a specific religious denomination, check to see if there are any grants available from the denomination itself—either locally or nationally. For example, if you’re a teacher or administrator at a parochial Catholic institution, be sure to look at the Catholic Funding Directory, which is published by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (www.fadica.org). This directory lists foundations, by state, that fund Catholic activities, and some of them include Catholic education as an area of interest.

4. Conduct a search of foundations using “private education” as a descriptor. You can search the Foundation Center database (www.fdncenter.org) at your local Foundation Center library, or you can subscribe to an online database, such as Foundation Search (www.foundationsearch.org), to come up with a list of foundations that will consider requests from private schools. 5. Check with your alumni, members of your school board, and the parents of students enrolled in your school to see if they have a family foundation that supports education, or a corporate foundation if they own their own business. These foundations might not be sources of large amounts of money, and they might not appear in foundation databases. But they still should be on your radar screen if you are identifying possible sources of funding for projects. You might be able to combine requests from several of these types of foundations to fund your project.

6. Check with your alumni, parents, and school board members to see if there are any corporate connections that might lead to in-kind contributions, or reduced costs when purchasing items. 7. Create and maintain collaborative relationships with other entities that can be the lead agency for a grant application. These can include your local school district, a library, a museum, or a community-based agency—the list is endless. (Check the funding guidelines carefully to make sure you are an eligible partner for services and/or funding through the program. If there are any questions about eligibility, contact the program officer to ask.) Regularly communicate the needs of your students and teachers to potential partners, and brainstorm ideas for projects together. eSN Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at Debor21727@aol.com.

GRANT DEADLINES FEBRUARY 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, and to help identify K-12 public schools and two- and 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

More than $675,000 for excellence in math and science instruction Each year, Intel Corp. honors U.S. schools that have demonstrated excellence in math and science education through its Schools of Distinction program. One elementary, middle, and high school in each of two categories—math and science—will receive a $10,000 cash grant and more than $100,000 in products and services from award sponsors. One of the six winning schools is chosen as the Star Innovator and receives an additional $15,000 grant from the Intel Foundation, as well as additional products and services. To be considered as an Intel School of Distinction, schools must develop an environment and curricula that meet or exceed benchmarks, including national math and science content standards. Winning

programs serve as models for schools across the country. Deadline: February 14 http://www.intel.com/education/ schoolsofdistinction/index.htm

$32 million for projects that engage students in STEM activities The National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program responds to current concerns and projections about shortages of science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM) professionals and information technology workers in the United States. The program supports the development, implementation, testing, and scale-up of models designed to help ensure the breadth and depth of the STEM workforce by immersing and engaging K-12 students in STEM-related activities. A letter of intent to apply is required and is due Feb. 15; full proposals are due April 11. Deadline: Feb. 15 (for letters of intent to apply) http://www.nsf.gov/funding/ pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5467

MARCH $1,500 for innovative approaches to teaching environmental science Sponsored by Vernier Software and Technology, the National Association of Biology Teachers’ Ecology/ Environmental Science Teaching Award will be given to a secondary school teacher who has successfully developed and demonstrated an innovative approach to teaching ecology or environmental science and who has carried his or her commitment to the environment into the community. Vernier’s sponsorship of this award in-

cludes $1,000 toward travel to NABT’s Professional Development Conference and $500 worth of Vernier equipment. The recipient also receives a complimentary oneyear NABT membership. Deadline: March 15 http://www.nabt.org/sites/S1/ index.php?p=290

$40 million for partnerships to raise K-12 science and math achievement The National Science Foundation’s Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program is a major research and development effort that supports innovative partnerships to improve K-12 student achievement in mathematics and science. MSP projects are expected to raise the achievement levels of all students and significantly reduce achievement gaps in the math and science performance of diverse student populations. There are several different types of competitions under this program, and most have a deadline of March 25. A letter of intent to apply, due Feb. 18, is optional but strongly encouraged. An estimated $40 million is available for some 25 to 36 total projects. Deadline: March 25 http://www.nsf.gov/funding/ pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5756

MAY Five “21st-century classrooms” valued at more than $50,000 each Each year, CDW-G and Discovery Education give educators the chance to win technology for their schools through the companies’ Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes. This year, in honor of the program’s sixth anniversary, CDW-G and Discovery Education will provide five winning K-12 schools with a 21st-

century classroom solution valued at more than $50,000. Each solution includes 20 laptop or tablet computers, a mobile cart and three wireless access points, a video projector and printer, a document camera, an interactive whiteboard, a personal response system, educational software, and training. In addition to the five grand-prize winners, the companies will award five first prizes, consisting of either an interactive whiteboard or a video projector; 10 second prizes of a notebook computer; and five third prizes of a digital camcorder. Deadline: May 1 http://cdwg.discoveryeducation.com

JUNE Up to $250,000 per award to spark an interest in STEMrelated fields The Motorola Foundation’s Innovation Generation Grants support breakthrough programs that use innovative approaches to develop students’interest in science and technology-related fields, while strengthening their leadership and problemsolving skills. In 2007, the Motorola Foundation provided $3.5 million in grants through the program, which targets girls and minorities in particular. Projects range from after-school and summer science enrichment programs to activities that promote innovative technology use and teacher-training initiatives. Awards range from $5,000 to $250,000. Deadline: June 15 http://www.motorola.com/content.jsp? globalObjectId=8153

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


Stakeholder & Community Relations eSCHOOL NEWS • 27

February 2008

It’s time to crack down on online harassment By Nora Carr, APR A new law passed by a Missouri town might now help protect the suburban mom whose online harassment many feel contributed to a local teen’s suicide. The law was created when prosecutors found they couldn’t charge the woman with any crimes—even though she posed as a teenage boy online, lured the victim into a relationship, and then abruptly broke it off. The victim, 13-year-old Megan Meier, was being treated for depression. She hung herself shortly after “Josh” ended their online friendship. Her parents later learned that “Josh” was created by a neighbor and her 18-year-old employee. Apparently the neighbor’s daughter had been fighting with Megan. Outraged bloggers have posted the woman’s name, photo, home address, and phone number online and created web sites devoted to the case. Thousands of vitriolic entries have been posted. Now, the county prosecutor who helped make cyber bullying a crime is investigating whether these sites qualify as online harassment of the middle-aged mom. While electronic bombardment might be difficult for adults, cyber bullying can devastate fragile teens, who are connected 24-7 by cell phones, text messaging, social networking sites, and other new media. Research shows that as many as onethird of all teens say they’ve been victimized online. Nearly 19 percent admit to saying something hurtful online about someone else. Girls are especially at risk. The problem has captured the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which considers cyber bullying a growing public health concern. Lawmakers in several states are considering new legislation making cyber bullying or stalking, especially when directed toward a child, a crime. More than just a new twist on an ageold schoolyard problem, cyber bullying is particularly insidious. Teens will post comments online they’d never say face-to-face. eMail messages meant for one person are easily copied and shared, magnifying the potential audience for bullying behavior. And unlike an embarrassing moment at school, fake web sites, blog rumors, and nasty photos or videos are difficult to remove from the web. Even if internet service providers cooperate—never a sure thing—the viral nature of electronic communications makes replication easy. As a result, “funny” video clips, sexy profiles, and outrageous stories can be posted on thousands of web sites or relayed to millions quickly and easily. Because online activities can take place 24-7, harassed teens no longer have a bully-free zone. The emotional distress caused by online or electronic ridicule—combined with an alarming and rising teen suicide rate—is prompting more school officials to adopt tougher policies regarding cyber bullying. The best policies cover acts regardless of who owns the equipment or where the activity takes place, citing the negative impact cyber bullying has on school climate. Districts also are starting to include lessons on cyber bullying in school-wide character education and media literacy programs. Parents need more information about

how to prevent and respond to cyber bullying, and how to recognize signs their children might be involved—as victims or perpetrators. Children need to know that cyber bullying hurts others and won’t be tolerated; they also should be encouraged to report cyber bullying when it occurs and get help if they’re victimized. Such education can be life-saving, because research shows many teens won’t tell their parents they’re being bullied online.

The Health Resources and Services Administration offers free public-service announcements about cyber bullying that can be used as scripts during daily announcements or broadcast on district cable television channels. School leaders also can advocate for new state and federal laws making cyber bullying and online harassment a crime. Parents, students, and teachers should immediately contact the police if they suspect a cyber bully has threatened violence,

is extorting victims, or is making obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages. Online activities involving child pornography or hate crimes also should be reported, along with cyber stalking. And police and school officials should be notified about web impersonations or sexually explicit profiles on social-networking web sites. With 15 percent of teens saying they’ve received unwanted sexual communications electronically, it’s time we crack down on online harassment altogether. eSN


28 • eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

Support... continued from page 1 ket research firm, published a recent report titled “Staffing for Technology Support: The Need May Be Far Greater Than You Think,” which concluded that large corporations typically employ one support person for every 50 PCs, at a cost of $142 per computer, per year. According to this model, a school district with 1,000 PCs would need a staff of 20 and an annual tech-support budget of $1.4 million. Yet, some larger school districts are approaching a ratio of one IT person for every 1,500 computers or more, says Laurie Keating, vice president of technology, learning, and planning for the Center for Educational Leadership and Technology.

Little time for planning The typical school system’s IT department is spread too thin, leaving little or no time for long-range planning. In fact, 54 percent of respondents said at least half their work load is reactive rather than proactive. “[Our] staff can only dedicate … time for quick fixes and rushed projects to achieve basic operation,” said an IT systems administrator from Long Beach, Calif. “The behemoth of technology continues to grow in K-12 education, but support models are static and staffing levels frozen. Many days, all we can do is keep the ship

afloat—and there is no time left to check our course.” A technology director from Portland, Mich., said the main challenge is that “we are in a unique position of having to meet many of the same needs of a large public or private-sector organization, such as security, storage, uptime, and federal and state mandates—but we have significantly less staff and funding.” A technology manager from Irving, Texas, said he has two full-time “Tier 1” technicians serving 2,900 students, 300 teachers and administrators, and more than 1,200 computers in a six-school district with campuses spread across suburban Dallas. “Managing IT in our district is like constantly putting my finger in the dike to keep it from leaking or putting out fires,” he said. “Longer-term planning is a joke.” Survey respondents identified curriculum integration as their No. 1 area of need, with nearly two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) saying they need more IT staff in this area. Forty-two percent of those surveyed said they have no school-based tech facilitators to help teachers use technology in their classrooms, and 35 percent said they lack a district-level media specialist. It’s not surprising, then, that integrating technology into instruction is one of the key IT challenges that school leaders are most struggling to meet, according to the survey—trailing only testing and implementing new technologies as an IT sore spot.

Overall, do you feel that you have enough IT staff to … YES

NO

Effectively support the needs of your school or district? 27% 73% Meet your department’s yearly objectives? 31% 69% Maintain network systems adequately? 45% 55% Install IT applications? 55% 45% Maintain IT applications? 47% 53% Plan for new technology? 37% 63% Implement new technology? 24%

10%

20%

30%

Funding a key issue The problems appear to stem from a disconnect between thought and action: When asked how well school board or district leaders understand the importance of IT as it relates to the overall goals of their district, nearly half of respondents answered, “They understand the importance but are not as supportive financially.” Similarly, 81 percent said IT security is viewed as a district priority—but only 38 percent said it’s funded accordingly. Clearly, lack of funding is a key stumbling block to effective school IT support. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said their IT budget isn’t enough to support technology assets they’ve already purchased, and nearly 70 percent said it’s not enough to meet their district’s IT expectations. Also, the biggest obstacle respondents said they face in recruiting and retaining IT staff members is that the salaries they offer are not competitive enough when measured against similar positions in other industries. Owing to a lack of “vision and funding from district leaders … technology has become the poor stepchild—the elephant in the room that no one wants to address,” said a computer lab coordinator in a California school. Though this person is working on many new and promising technology initiatives for her school, she confesses that she “cannot afford to keep the job, as the pay is so low and the demands so large.” She is returning to her “six-figure income as a software marketing professional after this year,” and she says few people stay on the job for more than a year. Atechnology coordinator from Wallowa County, Ore., says school and district IT staff are reactive, “because funding is reactive.” He explains that district leaders often ask: “What will it take to keep things running? That’s how much money they budget, or less.” When asked which IT issue most needs to be resolved to achieve success in their school or district, 46 percent of respondents answered “funding.” When asked which IT issue is most likely to become more significant in the coming year, 28 percent also said “funding.”

Some good news 76%

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But those aren’t the only tech-related challenges that schools face. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they don’t have a software-based help desk in their district— and although 10 percent said they were pursuing such a solution, 29 percent said they have more pressing concerns. Also, despite the requirements mandated by No Child Left Behind, 59 percent of those surveyed said they don’t yet have a database in place to track student performance. While 15 percent said they were in the process of implementing such a database, another 20 percent haven’t even planned for such a system. In addition, three out of five respondents said they weren’t able to complete all necessary software installations in a timely fashion during the past year. Of these respondents, about a third said they hired outside help, and two-thirds did not.

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

(Source: SchoolDude/eSchool News survey)

Even with budgets that often are too small to ensure adequate and proactive IT management, schools and districts are still managing to accomplish some impressive goals. For instance, only 13 percent of respondents said they don’t have wireless

connectivity in any of their schools—and 38 percent said they have it in all their schools. Also, respondents make sure to keep state and local education leaders informed about their IT assets. Eighty percent said they conduct an inventory of IT assets and report these results yearly. Some of their success can be attributed to the use of “software as a service” (SaaS) applications. SaaS is a software delivery model in which a software vendor develops a web-native software application and hosts the application for use by its customers over the internet. Customers do not pay for owning the software itself, but rather for using it. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they currently use one or more SaaS applications. Of these, nearly three out of four said they are using SaaS applications for their ease of deployment, which helps free up IT staff time for other tasks. However, many respondents (39 percent) are still worried about security and reliability issues with SaaS, the survey suggests. School IT departments also use creative ways to solve their technology challenges. An IT coordinator from Costa Rica, for example, said his school is using teachers for classroom technology support. One core group of teachers, “who are adept in their current fields and who are also capable of guiding, assisting, and supporting their colleagues,” help others integrate technology into their instruction, he said. This group focuses on the curriculum as a starting point, instead of “starting with hardware or software and trying to fit it into the curriculum.” Another piece of advice respondents gave is to make sure educators and IT staff members communicate as effectively as possible. A music teacher and instructional technology specialist from St. Charles, Mo., said that a lack of communication among IT staff, administrators, and educators in his school has caused several problems. As a result, educators were given training for technology that was never implemented and have had trouble accessing many files. On a larger scale, a technology director from De Soto, Mo., said, “Perhaps it is time that states create regional support and design centers to help smaller districts get and maintain the technology they need, without every school district trying to find and pay their own personnel.” Yet, despite many challenges, “I love my job,” said a district technology director from Michigan. “I have pushed myself to find innovative ways to meet needs by relying on my fellow staff to accomplish goals, not only to maintain the staeSN tus quo, but to innovate!” Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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See these related links: SchoolDude Inc. http://www.schooldude.com

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Center for Educational Leadership and Technology http://www.celtcorp.com

For more on “Technology Leadership,” visit our FREE archives of over 3,500 articles. Go to www.eschoolnews.com/news/browse.cfm


In cooperation with TCEA, the eSchool News Network presents . . .

The eSN

“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

1:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Reliability and Readability of BenQ DLP Projection BenQ and Texas Instruments explain why your students will enjoy a more thorough educational experience with BenQ DLP technology, and why projector mechanics are important to long-term performance. Speakers: Bob Wudek, Professional Products Manager, Texas Instruments Mitch Rauch, Associate Vice President, BENQ US

4:00 PM – 4:30 PM

1:30 PM – 2:00 PM

The All-New eSN Online: The educator’s Indispensable Internet Resource

Holt, Rinehart & Winston: The Rise of Learning Management Systems in the K-12 Space

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

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

8:45 AM – 9:00 AM

eSchool News Welcome & Introduction 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM

Atomic Learning: Meeting Individual Needs with Project-Based Online Staff Development 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

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. Speakers: Miguel Guhlin, Director of Instructional Technology, San Antonio ISD Greg Rodriguez, Technology Integration Specialist, San Antonio ISD

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.

2:30 PM – 3:00 PM

LenSec: Keeping School Safety a Top Priority 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 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


Register today

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

http://www.amered.com

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

www.lensec.com

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


Register today

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.

877-447-6244 http://www.lightspeedsystems.com

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.

800-578-8858 http://www.trox.com

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).

888-471-3461

TCEA • Feb 4-8, 2008 • Austin, Texas


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FOCUS ON Reading Intervention that Works...

F

ocus on reading intervention that generates eye-catching results. The new edition of Voyager

Passport ™ is a nationally recognized K–5

reading intervention system that focuses on accelerating all students to reading proficiency using dynamic, engaging content aimed to motivate and excite young minds. And to ensure success, Voyager’s new student-centered technology component Ticket to Read ™ offers more time on task and independent practice. Ticket to Read helps students build important reading skills at school, home, or the library with 24/7 access.

Call 888.399.1995 for more information or visit www.voyagerlearning.com

GET FOCUSED. CALL VOYAGER.


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.

School Lockdowns

Evacuation Alerts

Weather and Natural Disasters

Fire Warnings

Biohazard Alerts

Medical Emergencies

Hitachi CP-X205

• 2200 lumens of brightness, XGA resolution • Easy access, extended life air filter • Easy lamp access when mounted • Networked theft detection sensor • Reinforced steel security bar for theft deterent

• True 7 watt audio • Closed caption CC1, CC2, CC3, CC4, • Multiple projector control via network • Includes network control software • 3 year projector warranty

EDUCATIONAL AND QUANTITY PRICING AVAILABLE! CONTACT YOUR TROXELL ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE FOR MORE DETAILS 800-578-8858 • www.trox.com


We believe in teachers... We believe in their passion and commitment to a calling more important than any other. We believe that time and distance no longer have to be barriers between teachers and students. We believe that education can be accessible and affordable for every student. We believe that the open source movement is essential to online learning’s transformative power. We believe, along with millions of others, that Moodle open source learning management software is the key to unlocking the power of online learning. We believe in the power of open minds.

We are Moodlerooms Moodlerooms is the leading provider of Moodle open source Learning Management Systems. We install, host, maintain and upgrade Moodle for academic institutions of all sizes – for just $1 per user per year. With our flexible, professional development programs, we enable teachers to effectively teach online and blended courses. Call us now at 443.451.7220 or email sales@moodlerooms.com for more information.

443.451.7220 • www.moodlerooms.com


Get Your Class Connected Globally! Benefit from the flexibility and power of ePals’ awardwinning SchoolBlogTM and SchoolM@ilTM multilingual communication solutions, along with the depth of the ePals Global CommunityTM. With these easy to use products and protected community, you can connect globally in a safe and collaborative environment. • More than 200 participating countries and territories • Embedded instant translation • Authentic collaborative learning experiences

Sign up now at www.epals.com or give us a call at (703) 885-3400. ©2007 ePals, Inc. All rights reserved. ePals, other registered logos and trademarks appearing here are trademarks of ePals, Inc.


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/

ELMO’s TT-02S


Some things really are worth knowing. The desire to learn never ends. Neither should the opportunity. Atomic Learning is more robust than ever. Our virtual technology mentor includes tutorials on the software and resources you use everyday. Plus Lesson Accelerators, workshops, curriculum materials – and now alignment with state standards. Visit AtomicLearning.com for a free trial.

Now you can establish your own online learning community, manage your digital resources and track use – all in your own customized environment. Introducing Atomic Training, the publishing and hosting platform that lets you control digital resources that enhance professional development and school-wide training initiatives. Learn more at AtomicTraining.com.

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Security checkpoint 42 â&#x20AC;˘ eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

Experts: Plan for disasters before they occur Laura Devaney Associate Editor

School districts must create and test emergency-response plans before a disaster or other emergency situation occurs: That was the focus of a webcast hosted by the Consortium for School Networking on Jan. 8. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A plan needs to exist before it is neededâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;making one on the fly is too late,â&#x20AC;? said Sheryl Abshire, administrative coordinator of technology for Louisianaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Calcasieu Parish Schools, which were affected two years ago by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

 





   

 

 

roll services also fall under that category. â&#x20AC;&#x153;You must develop a critical incident plan,â&#x20AC;? said Hollis Stambaugh, director of the Center for Public Protection at TriData in Arlington, Va. A critical incident plan (CIP) should identify an emergency operations center from which disaster coordination with internal and outside resources will be directed, Stambaugh said. This CIP should be prepared in conjunction with area first-responder agencies so that educators know exactly how those agencies will respond to a school emergency.

 

       

       

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;Many of us have plans on a shelf, but in preparing for the unexpected you need to have a plan that you live and breathe.â&#x20AC;? Schools should identify their missioncritical operations, play out scenarios to see how their emergency plan fits different situations, think creatively, and pay attention to the tiny details that might end up being important during an emergency, Abshire said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In most situations, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the details that will get you,â&#x20AC;? she added. While many people would classify eMail services as mission-critical, Abshire said pay-

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;You get to know each other and relationships are built, and when that trust is established it becomes critical during an emergency,â&#x20AC;? she said. Schools also should conduct a threat assessment before they begin writing a CIP, and this assessment should cover both natural disasters and acts of violence. Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s another tip: Designate a group to evaluate the degree of danger posed by students, faculty, and employees who exhibit a collection of seriously abnormal behaviors over time. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not talking about people who dress differently, or anything that would infringe on civil rights or free speech; weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re talking about a collection of red flags that could be indicative of serious problems that would be a threat,â&#x20AC;? Stambaugh said. Schools must have clear authority and procedures to issue warnings, alerts, and evacuations, Stambaugh said, citing the April 2007 Virginia Tech shootings as an example. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There needs to be one person who has the authority to make that decision,â&#x20AC;? she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;At Virginia Tech, for example, those decisions were made by a group, and [by the time] that group was convened, the warnings went out too late.â&#x20AC;? Making wise decisions before a crisis occurs can help reduce the number of difficulties your schools might encounter during an actual emergency. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In Louisiana, we made several strategic purchasing decisions. When gasoline was at a premium after the storms, we had no problems, because we used a natural gas-powered generator to maintain essential systems,â&#x20AC;? Abshire said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And we used rack-mounted servers that were able to be moved in case of disaster.â&#x20AC;? Standardizing equipment and services can help districts bring their systems back up quickly, and so can having redundant backup systems. Schools also should strive to have servers that can handle increased capacity during an emergency. â&#x20AC;&#x153;San Diego County servers were crashing, but the community could get information from the school districtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s web site,â&#x20AC;? said Robert Gravina, chief technology officer for the Poway Unified School District, the third largest in San Diego County. Poway was directly affected by last yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wildfires in Southern California. Having â&#x20AC;&#x153;clean,â&#x20AC;? or current, dataâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;including employee contact informationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; also is essential; so is having remote access to this information. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We were in the heart of the fires and had to evacuate the district office, and we moved it over to the city council office. In moving, we had to have access to our applications while being off-site. Being able to get into the network from remote locations was critical to us,â&#x20AC;? Gravina said. eSN Visit the NEW eSchool News Online GO

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State techperspectives eSCHOOL NEWS • 43

February 2008

Distance program transforming Ala. high schools

By Melinda Maddox and Martha Donaldson We often call it a “distance learning” program, but it’s proving to be a lot more than that. In fact, the Alabama ed-tech initiative known as ACCESS—for Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators, and Students Statewide—has become a catalyst for educational progress well beyond the underserved rural schools and students it was primarily designed to help. In a state where many schools and school districts are far apart geographically and cannot afford on their own to match the broader course offerings of more substantial systems, ACCESS has purposefully tapped the internet and interactive videoconferencing, along with hundreds of enthusiastic and creative teachers, to deliver expanded, high-quality instruction to students at rural high schools across the state. As you might expect, a principal goal has been to increase educational equity—regardless of a school’s location or resources. Specifically, ACCESS takes aim at the fact that many remote schools lack sufficient enrollments and budgets to support the more extensive curricula of larger and more affluent schools. That, in turn, can deprive many capable students of the educational opportunities they deserve, as well as impede economic development statewide. Those issues have been complicated, moreover, by Alabama’s two-tiered system of high school instruction. According to state policy, students can earn “regular” diplomas through a basic set of course offerings or, by taking higher-level courses, can qualify for diplomas “with advanced academic endorsements.” Advanced diplomas have become critical for many students, especially those aspiring to higher education and professional careers. Historically, however, many Alabama high schools have not had the resources to offer the requisite courses. The result is that many of our students have not had equal access to educational opportunities needed for the successful completion of a rigorous high school curriculum. Overcoming such inequities in Alabama has been a major focus of ACCESS from the start. But a special benefit of the program that we did not fully anticipate is that the spread of “connectivity” to rural schools through distance learning has transformed the thinking of classroom teachers throughout the state, including those in some of our more affluent high schools. For one thing, kids in rural high schools have been able to take courses through ACCESS that otherwise would not have been available to them. A remote high school with only five students interested in studying German, for example, can hardly afford to hire a full-time German teacher. But distance learning enables one teacher to engage dozens of students in many schools all at once. At the same time, teachers we have brought on board and trained to deliver instruction through ACCESS have become fascinated by the potential of connectivity to improve what they’re doing in their own classrooms. Indeed, the teachers tell us that their experiences with ACCESS have prompted them to change how they deliver material to students in their own schools. One such teacher said she realized that in her firstperiod class, where she was offering an online ACCESS course, students were being exposed to all sorts of ed-tech opportunities that local students in her second-period room were not. Other teachers in the school noticed similar things, and eventually they encouraged district officials to purchase interactive whiteboards for every classroom. What we are seeing, in other words, is that ACCESS is setting the stage for widespread adoption of an educational

model that combines the best of traditional instruction with the great practical value and excitement that can be generated by distance learning in the internet age. Alabama’s governor, Bob Riley, has called for an expansion of ACCESS so that, by 2010, every high school in the state— currently 407—will feature an up-to-date classroom equipped for distance learning. Begun two and a half years ago at the governor’s urging, ACCESS so far has provided grants of $85,000 each to 170 Alabama high schools. The grants have been used to purchase a range of e-learning equipment—including tablet computers, interactive whiteboards, digital cameras and projectors, monitors, wireless routers, and videoconferencing systems. We’ve found that students quickly become enthralled with ACCESS and distance learning. In the past, many students in rural areas have not had sufficient self-confidence to leave their communities after high school or to go on to college. But as word has spread about our program, such students have come to realize that they are just as good and just as smart as kids in affluent communities. So they are opening their eyes and saying things like, “Why can’t I go on to one of the major universities? I know I can compete and do well.” Martha Rizzuto, superintendent of Alabama’s Tarrant City School System, credits ACCESS with helping her district go “from good to great.” Students there have become more motivated and more engaged academically, she says, and their grades have improved. She adds

show that they are supporting the students who take part. That is, the schools are required to have an adult facilitator, such as a teacher or education aide, who has gone through ACCESS training and knows how to work with the students. Some of the teachers provide online or other interactive instruction to students in various locations during the regular school day, while others teach after hours. State appropriations cover compensation for instructors, and the program includes three regional support centers that hire, train, evaluate, and support the teachers and facilitators. The centers employ an average of five full-time staff members, plus some part-timers. When ACCESS got under way, we held regional meetings with school counselors from all over the state. And we talked about the kinds of students who tend to do well in an online environment, as opposed to those for whom a traditional learning environment might be more appropriate. We’re confident that those discussions helped lay important groundwork for our success to date. Although ACCESS has yet to complete its third year, we can already report some encouraging results. Three years before the program began, for example, Alabama administered, on average, only 99 Advanced Placement exams for every 1,000 high-school juniors and seniors, and the state ranked 14th among 16 southern states in AP offerings. Today we are offering 10 AP courses, with enrollments of about 720 students. In all, we’ve served nearly 13,700 students this school year, including 5,000 students who’ve received remedi-

Sociology teacher Allison Taylor works directly with her own students in rural Marion, Ala., and by video with students from West End High School in Walnut Grove, about 150 miles away. that ACCESS has “contributed to our decision to put our technology on a fast track,” and that the district is moving toward a 1-to-1 computing initiative. Meanwhile, our experience throughout the state shows tremendous grassroots support for the program. Once it goes into a school, it just explodes. The state grants help, of course, because they make the schools want to become involved. And as soon as they do, the students quickly get caught up in it. Overseen by the Alabama Department of Education, ACCESS has strong partnerships with the governor’s office, the Alabama Supercomputer Authority, Alabama Public Television, and institutions of higher education. With state appropriations totaling nearly $41 million for its first three years, the program has trained some 500 teachers—at least one in every county in the state. Distance learning courses include the major core-content areas (English, social studies, math, and science), as well as Advanced Placement (AP) classes and remedial instruction. Akey aspect of ACCESS is that participating schools must

al instruction and supplemental resources. We’re delivering 50 courses over the internet and 23 courses through videoconferencing. Initially, we really did not know how the program would unfold—or that it would lead to a transformational model that goes beyond the usual approach to virtual schooling. When we started out in 2003—with 24 pilot schools—we basically said to their people: “Here’s the plan and here’s the money. Go buy what you think you need and let’s see what works.” Now what we have is an exciting blend of some of the best features of distance learning, online programs, videoconferencing, personalized instruction, and traditional education. Thousands of Alabama students, not to mention the state’s future, all stand to benefit. eSN Melinda Maddox is director of technology initiatives for the Alabama Department of Education. Martha Donaldson is program administrator for ACCESS, Alabama’s distance learning program.


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Product Spotlight eSCHOOL NEWS • 45

February 2008

Samsung’s new digital cameras are loaded with useful features Samsung has announced the launch of two new entry-level digital cameras—the 7.2-megapixel s760 and the 8.1-megapixel s860—as a continuation of its S-Series line of cameras. Both models feature a 3x optical zoom and Digital Image Stabilization (DIS) technology to help minimize the effect of camera shake. A helpful (and student-friendly) Function Description feature provides a brief and simple description of each setting when you scroll through the camera’s menu, and users can choose from among 11 Scene modes—Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close-Up, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, Beach & Snow, and Self Portrait—to capture the best image possible in any setting. The cameras also include a “special effects” button that gives users access to a wide range of creative controls, such as options for resizing and rotating images; adjusting brightness, contrast, and saturation levels; fixing red eye; and manipulating color, such as saving captured images in black and white, sepia, red, blue, green, and negative. In addition, a Movie mode captures video in two resolutions— 320-by-240 or 640-by-480—at 30 frames per second in AVI format. The s860 sells for $179, and the s760 sells for $169. http://www.samsung.com/us

Facts on File adds new video content to its online reference databases Facts on File, a publisher of print and online reference materials for schools and libraries, has added new video resources to many of its online databases. Science Online, for example, now contains more than 350 videos that allow users to explore the basic principles of scientific inquiry and even see firsthand what nuclear reactions and black holes look like. American History Online, Modern World History Online, American Women’s History Online, African-American History Online, Ancient and Medieval History Online, and—soon to come—American Indian History Online contain videos that cover key events throughout history, as well clips from old newsreel footage. Each video is accompanied by a detail page that includes a brief description of the material in the clip, its running time, links to related videos, and suggested searches. Videos are searchable by keyword and can be browsed alphabetically or by using the “View by Subject” drop-down box. They also require no downloads. According to Facts on File, more videos are being added every day to give students a real “you-are-there” feel, bringing the topics of each lesson to life. Other Facts on File databases will include videos in the coming months as well. http://factsonfile.infobasepublishing.com/ DatabaseHome.asp

Innovations make applying for financial aid easier than ever Regent, a provider of financial aid management solutions for the education industry, has unveiled an early needs analysis program and a digital version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as fully integrated features of its Regent Student Self-Service Portal. This new functionality, to be offered at no additional charge as part of the Regent Enterprise Solution, will allow prospective and current students to receive an early estimate of financial aid eligibility without a fee or third-party service provider. The results of each estimate are imported automatically into the Regent Financial Aid Management (FAM) Solution, allowing schools to package an early award offer for students immediately based on their early needs analysis form. “The updates we have made to our Student Self-Service Portal will allow financial aid administrators to respond faster to students’ needs and dramatically reduce the stress … associated with applying for aid,” said Leonard Gude, Regent’s

Prime-Time Product Preview (Product News from eSN Advertisers)

NetOp School NetOp School is a comprehensive teaching solution for the networked classroom. With NetOp School, you can instruct students individually, yet simultaneously, whether they are in the same room or across the globe. NetOp School allows you to easily and automatically ... Prepare: • Prepare lesson plans, tests, and homework assignments remotely, without installing additional software on your personal PC. Teach: • Share assignments, audio/visual files, documents, and screens with the classroom. • Follow students as they work and discretely answer questions that arise. • Conduct online audio and video forums for the whole class to participate in a group discussion on the current topic. • Monitor students’ progress and control which screens and applications are viewed. • Prohibit students from accessing web sites or using specific applications. • Take control over a student’s keyboard and mouse. Evaluate: • Develop tests with a simple, three-step process featuring 10 different question types and 13 layout styles. • Distribute tests to all students simultaneously with the touch of a button. • Automatically correct and score tests and provide immediate individual feedback. FREE trial software is available at www.netop.com. 866-907-2971 USSales@netop.com vice president of financial aid solutions. The Student Self-Service Portal also provides eForms and eSignatures, two features that reduce the need for institutions to mail forms to students or for students to travel to financial aid offices to pick up or turn in completed forms. Students can manage their financial aid 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from any internet-connected laptop computer, personal digital assistant, or cell phone. This information is updated in the school’s financial aid files automatically, in real time. http://www.regenteducation.com

BenQ’s latest projector features a short-throw lens BenQ has introduced a new high-brightness XGA projector, the MP771, that features a short-throw lens for easy classroom viewing of images. The MP771 features 3,000 ANSI lumens and a high 2,000-to1 contrast ratio. It is able to project a 74-inch picture from a meter away, making big-screen viewing possible even in smaller spaces. The device’s BrilliantColor technology brings a 50percent increase in brightness of mid-tone colors, resulting in highly saturated images. And its Wall Color Correction technology allows users to use walls—even nonwhite ones—as a projection screen, without having to make tedious manual picture adjustments. Other features include a Presentation Timer that helps users keep track of the time so their presentations end when they should, as well as a detachable key pad, Off-and-Go function, and top-access lamp door for easy lamp replacement and maintenance. http://www.benq.us/products/ Projector/?product=770


46 â&#x20AC;˘ eSCHOOL NEWS

February 2008

partners index PRINT ADVERTISERS 8e6 Technologies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 http:/ /www.8e6.com

Epson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 http:/ /www.epson.com

NetSupport Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 http:/ /www.netsupport-inc.com

American Education Corp . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 http:/ /www.amered.com

Extron Electronics . . . . . . . . . . . . back cover http://www.extron.com

netTrekker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 http:/ /www.nettrekker.com

Atomic Learning Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 http:/ /www.atomiclearning.com

GovConnection. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 http:/ /www.govconnection.com

Promethean Technologies Group . . . . . . 21 http:/ /www.prometheanworld.com/us

BenQ. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 http:/ /www.benq.com

Hitachi Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 http:/ /www.hitachisoftware.com

Samsung . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 http:/ /www.samsung.com

CDW-G . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 http:/ /www.cdwg.com

Holt, Rinehart & Winston . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 http:/ /www.hrw.com

SANYO Electric Co. Ltd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15, 17 http:/ /www.sanyo.com

Century Consultants Ltd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22, 23 http:/ /www.centuryltd.com

LearnKey Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 http:/ /www.learnkey.com

Saywire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 http:/ /www.saywire.com

Consortium for School Networking . . . . 27 http:/ /www.cosn.org

LenSec LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 http:/ /www.lensec.com

Troxell Communications Inc. . . . . . . . . . . 34 http:/ /customer.teamtroxell.com

Dell Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 http:/ /www.dell.com

Lightspeed Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 http:/ /www.lightspeedsystems.com

Voyager Expanded Learning. . . . . . . . . . . 33 http:/ /www.voyagerlearning.com

ELMO USA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 http:/ /www.elmousa.com

Moodlerooms Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 http:/ /www.moodlerooms.com

Weidenhammer Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 http:/ /www.hammer.net

ePals Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 http:/ /www.epals.com

NetOp Tech Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 http:/ /www.netop.com/netop-866.htm

Wireless eSystems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 http:/ /www.wirelessesystems.net

ONLINE ADVERTISERS Absolute Software Corp. http:/ /www.absolute.com

Faronics Corp. http:/ /www.faronics.com

Panasonic Projector Systems http:/ /www.panasonic.com/projectors

American Education Corp. http:/ /www.amered.com

GovConnection http:/ /www.govconnection.com

PBS TeacherLine http:/ /teacherline.pbs.org/teacherline

Atomic Learning Inc. http:/ /www.atomiclearning.com

Holt, Rinehart & Winston http:/ /www.hrw.com

PLATO Learning http:/ /www.platolearning.com

AVST http:/ /www.avst.com

K12 Virtual School Program http:/ /www.k12.com

Relatrix Corp. http:/ /www.relatrix.net

BenQ http:/ /www.benq.com

LeapFrog SchoolHouse http:/ /www.leapfrogschoolhouse.com

Samsung http:/ /www.samsung.com

CDW-G http:/ /www.cdwg.com

LearnKey Inc. http:/ /www.learnkey.com

SchoolDude http:/ /www.schooldude.com

Century Consultants Ltd. http:/ /www.centuryltd.com

LenSec LLC http:/ /www.lensec.com

SMART Technologies Inc. http:/ /smarttech.com

Discovery Education http:/ /www.discoveryeducation.com

Lightspeed Systems http:/ /www.lightspeedsystems.com

Spectrum K12 School Solutions http:/ /www.spectrumk12.com

ELMO USA http:/ /www.elmousa.com

Moodlerooms Inc. http:/ /www.moodlerooms.com

Toshiba America http:/ /www.toshiba.com/tai

ePals Inc. http:/ /www.epals.com

Mozy Inc. http:/ /mozy.com

Troxell Communications Inc. http:/ /customer.teamtroxell.com

Epson http:/ /www.epson.com

NEC Display Solutions http:/ /www.necdisplay.com

Voyager Expanded Learning http:/ /www.voyagerlearning.com

ESRI http:/ /www.esri.com

netTrekker http:/ /www.nettrekker.com

Weidenhammer Systems http:/ /www.hammer.net


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eSchool News February 2008  

Newspaper, Volume 11, Number 2

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