$12 billion available from feds for school technology in 1999

A new report finds that about $12 billion will be available in federal funds to help schools make technology purchases and train teachers in incorporating computers into their classroom curriculum. Many of the 27 government funding programs identified in the report are untapped gold mines that you should consider tapping . . . before the competition does.

The preliminary report was commissioned as part of an extensive internal examination of federal funding programs for school technology. The investigation was sparked by lawmakers’ concerns over government spending on schools, particularly through programs like the eRate. The full report is expected to take nearly a year to complete, according to Hill staff members, and when all is said and done, schools may find themselves cut out of some programs, although the application process may be easier.

On Sept. 16, The House Committee on Education and the Work Force and the Commerce Committee began holding joint hearings to review federal and private initiatives that provide technology and training to schools. The Committees have also requested an extensive report by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

The report, which will be completed in July of 1999, is being conducted at the behest of legislators who fear that technology funding programs for education have become bloated and “duplicative,” said Denzel McGuire, a spokesperson for the House Committee on Education and the Work Force.

“For too long Washington has believed that the creation of big, new, federal education programs would fix our nation’s ailing public schools,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa. “If the federal government were the solution to failing schools, the 760 federal education programs now on the books would have fixed them a long time ago.”

Concerns over the amount of money available to schools for their technology programs—and where those moneys come from—has increased in recent months. Not even the GAO, as it acknowledged in a May 7 report, was able to identify what portion of federal funds was actually being spent on technology.

And in September, STFB reported that Congress narrowly defeated a bill that would have prevented schools and libraries from applying for funds from the Telecommunications Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP), arguing that the program was intended to support the same kinds of expenses supported by eRate funds.

$12 billion in 27 programs

A preliminary report commissioned by the joint committees and released on Sept. 15 shows that about $12 billion are available in school technology funds in fiscal year 1998. The report identifies 27 federal programs, including the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Commerce, that award grants to schools and libraries for telecommunications and information technology.

Of the 27 programs, only four—ED’s Technology Innovation Challenge Grants, Technology Literacy Challenge Fund Grants, Star Schools, and the FCC’s eRate—specifically target technology funding to schools and libraries. Combined, these programs will yield about $2.5 billion in funds to schools and libraries in 1998.

The remaining $9.5 billion is given through 23 programs that do not specifically target technology for schools or libraries but can be used for this purpose.Some of these monies are earmarked specifically for schools but not necessarily technology—such as Title I or Twenty-First Century Community Learning Center grants from ED—and others, such as the Department of Agriculture’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants, target technology initiatives but not specifically schools, although schools are eligible to apply.

There are also grants that do not target schools or libraries and do not target technology, but could be (and have been) used as such. For example, the National Endowment for the Humanities offers Promotion of the Humanities Summer Seminars and Institutions grants to teachers at any grade level for training in humanities-related fields.

Only one percent of this program’s $6 million is spent annually on technology-related training for K-12 teachers, according to one program officer. That’s becuase few schools may know about these programs—or are daunted by a lengthy and complicated application process, like the eRate’s notorious three-phase forms.

A reorganization of the way federal grants are administered could result in an easier, more streamlined application process for schools across the board, said McGuire, in all program areas and for all types of technology funding.

The joint committees want to make sure that funding efforts are being coordinated on a national as well as local level, said McGuire. It’s still too soon to say what the committees will conclude from the GAO report. But the possibilities for restructuring include setting up a separate “office of technology” or consolidating all the funding programs in the Department of Education, according to McGuire.


Microsoft’s $1 million gift to nation’s poorest schools

Disadvantaged schools across the country will receive $1 million in state-of-the-art reference software from Microsoft Corp., the company announced on Sept. 2.

The contribution will be distributed to the nation’s 10,000 neediest schools through the Public Education Network (PEN), according to Microsoft President Steve Ballmer. Ballmer announced the donation, intended to celebrate the unveiling of the latest addition of the Encarta family of reference tools, before students from Bay Area schools during an event at San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences.

It’s the biggest in-kind donation PEN has received, according to spokesperson Howie Schaffer. PEN is a national school reform association dedicated to improving student achievement for all children, especially those who attend the nation’s most disadvantaged public schools. It represents the interests of local education funds, or LEFs, organizations that raise and distribute funds for school reform efforts.

“Microsoft has moved to the head of the class with this tremendous act of corporate citizenship,” said Wendy Puriefoy, PEN’s president. “With Microsoft’s partnership, we are improving both the academic achievement and technological literacy of the nearly five million children that PEN serves nationwide.”

Significant Contribution

PEN will distribute 10,000 copies of Microsoft’s new Encarta Reference Suite 99 to its 27 LEFs, who will then get the software to local schools.

“This is the largest in-kind contribution we’ve received to date,” Schaffer told eSchool News. “It’s really an amazing piece of software . . . a powerful package.

“It’s a very significant contribution,” Schaffer added.

“We’ve spent a lot of time working with kids and watching them use the new version, and we’re encouraged with their response to the product,” said Craig Bartholomew, general manager of Microsoft’s learning business unit. “It’s a truly rewarding experience to watch kids’ excitement when they discover the rich variety of information at their fingertips.”

The Encarta Reference Suite 99 combines popular CD-ROM reference titles Encarta Encyclopedia 99 Deluxe Edition, Encarta Virtual Globe 99 and Microsoft Bookshelf 99 CD-ROM reference library.

Technology inequities

PEN is the nation’s largest network of independent, community-based organizations supporting school reform. The network is particularly interested in reform through technology, said Schaffer.

“Some of the greatest inequities in school funding are manifested in technology,” Schaffer said. “Poor children are given out-of-date or obsolete technology, computers that are slow, technology that’s outdated”—widening the gap of achievement between students in rich and poor schools.

Started with a grant from the Ford Foundation, PEN’s mission is to assist local education funds and other organizations in uniting and engaging their communities in building systems of public schools that result in high achievement for every child.

PEN serves nearly five million children in more than 250 school districts. In 1997, LEFs provided nearly $52 million to the nation’s public schools through more than 300 targeted school improvement programs.

The Encarta Reference Suite 99, which includes five CD-ROMs, was scheduled to be available in Sept. 1998. The price will be $69 after a $30 mail-in rebate.


Grants: Deadlines, Opportunities and Awards


Dow Chemical Company

Each year Dow Chemical Company supports school districts in and around communities where the company is located. Grants focus on math and science, teacher training, and parent involvement projects, and Dow gives special consideration to programs that increase participation and achievement of girls and minorities in math and science. Proposals and related questions should be directed to: The Dow Chemical Company, Education Initiatives, 47 Building, Midland, MI 48667.

Deadline: Sept. 30

(517) 636-2815



Education Development and Demonstration (EDD)

These grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) support the development and trial implementation of innovative courses, curricula, and instructional approaches to the teaching of humanities. Special consideration will be given to proposals that develop effective uses of technology. EDD projects are funded for up to three years. The NEH strongly suggests you submit a preliminary draft of your proposal at least six weeks before the grant deadline.

Deadline: Oct. 15

(202) 606-8380


National Foundation for the Improvement of Education (NFIE) Leadership Grants

NFIE, a division of the National Education Association, will award 25 grants of up to $1,000 each to fund professional development projects for teachers. These grants are a great opportunity for teachers to learn how to apply technology in their classrooms, but they don’t support major technology purchases or supplemental salaries that typically are a school’s responsibility.

Deadline: Oct. 15

(202) 822-7840



NEC Foundation Grants

NEC is a global computer and communications corporation. Its foundation promotes the application of technology to advance education and assist people with disabilities. The foundation awards technology grants twice per year. There is no formal application, but NEC encourages you to submit a one-page query pre-proposal.

Deadline: Nov. 1

(516) 753-7021



Technology and Media Services for Individuals With Disabilities Grants

The Department of Education is accepting applications under the Special Education: Technology and Media Services for Individuals With Disabilities program.

Steppingstones of Technology Innovation for Students with Disabilities supports projects for preschool, elementary, and secondary school students with disabilities. Projects should select and describe a technology-based approach to improving literacy, improving access to and participation in the general curriculum, and improving accountability and participation in educational reform.

The maximum award is $200,000 per year. The Department estimates making 15 awards under this priority. Requests for applications and general information should be addressed to the Grants and Contracts Services Team, 600 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 3317, Switzer Building, Washington, DC 20202-2641. The preferred method for requesting information is to FAX your request to: (202) 205-8717. Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the TDD number: (202) 205-8953.

Deadline: Dec. 18

(202) 260-9182



Connections to the Internet grants

The National Science Foundation awards these two-year grants of approximately $15,000 to K-12 schools, libraries, and museums that support innovative technologies for internet access. Only highly innovative approaches that can accelerate network development at similar institutions will be considered for funding. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact an NSF program officer to discuss their proposal.

Deadline: Jan. 31

(703) 306-1949



The AOL Foundation

Open to K-12 teachers, education leaders, parents, and other community leaders, the grants will be awarded to those who develop innovative and creative ways to enhance student learning through the online medium. Special emphasis will be placed on proposals that reach socio-economically disadvantaged children and communities. For more information, contact Jill Stephens, Corporate Outreach Director or eMail: AOLGrants@aol.com

(703) 265-1342

see profile, page 4


Ameritech donated $3.2 million to K-12 schools in 1997. Through its SuperSchool program, the company supports projects that help school leaders learn how to use technology in their schools. It also funds alliances among schools so they may benefit from telecommunications technologies they otherwise couldn’t afford. Ameritech awards are limited to schools in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

(312) 750-5037


Digital Corporate Contributions Program

Digital Equipment Corporation seeks to promote academic excellence through the accessibility of technology in the classroom. Digital provides cash or equipment grants to schools who can demonstrate a special need or an innovative use for the assistance. You are encouraged to call the Corporate Contributions office to discuss your project or contact the office by eMail: contribution@digital.com

(508) 493-6550


Eaton Corporation


The Eaton Corporation Foundation funds projects that prepare minority youth for employment, particularly those which focus on math, science, and technology careers. Grants range from $1,000 to $25,000, with over $1 million awarded last year. Schools and non-profits are eligible, but the foundation restricts its giving to the 30 states with company operations. Call for application guidelines.

(216) 523-5000

Great Asante Grant Program

This is a relatively new program that awards free computer networks to schools. Grants worth up to $14,000 provide all the hardware and software necessary to network 50 school computers. Application guidelines are available at the web site.

JDL Technologies (800) 535-3969

Asante (408) 435-8401


Hewlett-Packard Grants

Hewlett-Packard makes cash or equipment donations for model programs supporting national K-12 math and science initiatives. HP’s Contributions Board makes quarterly funding decisions. Preference is given to projects that are national in scope, can be replicated nationally, or are located in communities where HP has a corporate facility. Applicants must submit a proposal summary form (available on the web site) and 5-page narrative.

(415) 857-5197


Intel Foundation

Intel funds programs that advance math, science, or technology education, promote science careers among women and underrepresented minorities, or increase public understanding of technology and its impact. National grants apply to projects or pilots for nationwide programs. Community grants apply to projects located in a community where Intel has a major facility: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, or Washington. An application is available at the web site.


Mars Foundation

The Mars Foundation offers a variety of grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for K-12 curriculum development, teacher professional development, computer and equipment acquisitions, and capital building projects. For additional information, write to Sue Martin, Mars Foundation, 6885 Elm Street, McLean, VA 22101.

Motorola Foundation

Grants from $1,000 to $10,000 that focus on enhancing math, science, and technology opportunities for minorities and the economically-disadvantaged are available from the Motorola Foundation. Contact: Program Manager, Motorola Foundation, 1303 East Algonquin Road,

Schaumburg, IL 60196.

(708) 576-6200

Pfizer Education Initiative

Although the Pfizer Foundation is primarily concerned with health care, you might be able to slip in through an education program called “Utilizing New Technology.” Grants of up to $10,000 are given for teacher training or the application of technology in K-12 math and science classrooms. Applications may be submitted any time.


Sprint Foundation

Don Forsythe, a Sprint Foundation program officer, said a limited number of grants would be available for projects in areas with a significant employee presence, primarily Kansas City, Atlanta, Dallas, and Sacramento. The Sprint Foundation supports projects that foster school reform through the use of new technologies and communications media and through fresh approaches to the enhancement of teachers’ skills. Schools and other education-related non-profit agencies can apply for grants totaling about $500,000 per year. Call to talk to a program officer first. Or check out Sprint’s web site for application guidelines.

(913) 624-3343


$55 million from New York Department of Education

For the federal Technology Literacy Challenge Fund program, nearly $55 million to 43 consortia of New York public and private schools, community organizations, and regional education centers. The state education department chose to award the money from the 1997 and 1998 fiscal years together at the end of the 1997-98 school year. New York received about $17 million in fiscal year 1997 and roughly $38 million in 1998.

(518) 486-2306


$12 million in new equipment from Smart Valley Inc.

For the SmartSchools PC Day project, 6,000 new Pentium II-based computers to more than 800 California teachers. The project’s goal is to reward innovative teachers with state-of-the-art technology, seeding schools with examples for other teachers and community members to follow. Winning teachers received a computer for themselves and one for each of five students in their class, plus free software and training. Intel Corp. supplied the processors and motherboards for the machines.

(650) 577-8907


$7.2 million from U.S. Department of Education

For the Magnet Schools Assistance program, $7.2 million to St. Louis Public Schools. The program’s goal is to improve racial balance and achieve systemic reform through the creation of magnet schools. St. Louis Public Schools will use the award to create four new technology magnet schools offering a unique program of study based on computer animation technology. The St. Louis grant was a fraction of the $98 million awarded by the program in 1998.

(202) 260-2476


$5 million from Rhode Island Foundation

For the Teachers and Technology Initiative, $5 million to the University of Rhode Island and the state’s Education Department. Nine hundred public school teachers received a laptop computer, software, and two weeks of technology training in August. The program’s goal is to train about 2,500, or up to one-third, of the state’s public school teachers by the year 2000.

(401) 274-4564


$1.2 million from Hitachi Foundation

For the “Role of Information Technology in Education” initiative, $1.2 million to 13 education organizations. Launched in 1997, the program is intended to expand and evaluate the role of technology in teaching and learning. Awards include $79,080 to Northwest Arctic Borough School District in Alaska to train student technology leaders, and $96,640 over two years to Tucson Unified School District in Arizona to implement a community learning project in the district’s elementary schools.

(202) 457-0588

$100,000 in equipment from U.S. Department of Energy

For the Computers for Learning program, 50 computers and 10 printers to Bay Springs High School in Mississippi. The program distributes used machines from federal government departments to schools. Bay Springs received IBM-compatible 486 computers equipped with Windows 95 and internet access software.



Districts look to business for telecommunications funds

If you’ve had enough of waiting for those long-promised eRate funds to support your schools’ internet services, then consider bolstering your fund raising efforts with some self-generated revenues. That’s what officials at the Lawrence (N.Y.) Public Schools decided to do. Rather than getting in line, Lawrence is taking the bull by the horns: the district is running its own internet service business . . . and reaping profits.

Working in cooperation with WinStar for Education (formerly Community School Networks), Lawrence went into the internet business, developing and marketing its own internet service, called Lawrence Online.

According to Elliott Levine, director of communications for Lawrence and founder of Lawrence Online, the small business helped the 4,000 student district side-step the slow-moving line for federal discounts for eRate funds—”which we may never see,” Levine said.

In its three years, he said, the project has saved Lawrence more than $50,000 in internet access charges. The network project won the district an Excellence in Education award and a $15,000 grant from Bell Atlantic.

Levine estimates that the district has the potential to save more than $20,000 per year. In addition, staff members hope to generate revenue for additional technology equipment and services purchases.

Sound business

The reason for its success? Sound business strategies, said Levine, who admits that when the project began he was a technology “novice.”

“On paper the idea for the program seemed wonderful, but the most important step for us was to stop thinking solely as educators and start thinking as business people,” said Levine.

While WinStar for Education manages the business end of the operations, such as the servers, technical support, billing, and customer service, the district had to tackle marketing the internet service and promoting its continued use, Levine said.

In addition to a percentage of the revenues, which offset the costs for internet service, the district received technical support and training from WinStar for Education to begin the process of teaching its new subscribers, nearly all of whom were novices to the web before this project.

That spring, the district began marketing dial-up internet service to community residents, employees and local businesses. By the time service became available, Lawrence had accumulated more than 200 subscribers.

Lawrence Online also began providing internet service to a few neighboring public and private schools. Levine gained support for the program by recruiting students who worked as interns, developing portions of the district web site, and distributing promotional materials to local businesses.

The district’s most successful marketing effort, said Levine, was an “internet bootcamp,” where for six weeks during the summer of 1996, Lawrence offered new subscribers free hands-on training sessions where they learned everything from eMail to advanced web searching.

“We had no idea how this simple service would help us generate and maintain a large number of loyal subscribers,” said Levine.

Recognizing that ongoing advertising would be essential for further growth, the district formed another partnership with a community newspaper chain in 1997. In exchange for advertising that reached over 100 thousand homes, the district helped Richner Communications develop a weekly online newspaper. High school students involved with Lawrence Online were hired as paid interns, helping to publish the weekly editions while expanding their professional portfolios for college.

Lawrence has developed online applications for WinStar and is currently building a model alumni online center for public school systems. “Most importantly, we have had a strong viewership on our district’s web site since its inception,” added Mr. Levine, “enabling us to better communicate with our extended community.”


Foundation Profile: Cisco Systems Foundation

Cisco Systems Foundation

170 West Tasman Drive

San Jose, CA 95134-1706

phone: (408) 526-4226

fax: (408) 526-4722

web: http://www.cisco.com/edu

Established 1997 by Cisco Systems, Inc.


The Cisco Foundation’s major focus is education, especially those programs that focus on integrating technology with teaching and learning. In addition, the Foundation is interested in K-12 arts education and skills training for youth and adults.

Board of Trustees

John Chambers, Chief Executive Officer; John Morgridge, Chairman of the Board; Larry Carter, Chief Financial Officer; Barbara Beck, Senior Vice President of Human Resources; and Keith Fox, Vice President of Marketing.

Program Overview

The Cisco Foundation’s major initiative for K-12 schools is its Networking Academies program, in which high school students can learn the information needed to prepare them for the Cisco Certified Network Associate exam. The Academies program is a partnership between Cisco Foundation, Cisco Systems, Inc., and Communities in Schools. There are currently 949 academies in almost every state. Cisco’s Virtual Schoolhouse Grants, annual, one-time awards of networking products, service, and training to schools, currently is under reconsideration by the Foundation, according to executive director C.J. VanPelt.

There are a total of 949 Networking Academies, including 627 local academies, 197 regional academies, and 125 combined local/regional Academies in 48 States and the District of Columbia, and worldwide in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, and Venezuela. Cisco also gives community project grants to educational organizations. Past recipients include the Challenge Learning Center, Global SchoolNet, and The Tech Museum of Innovation.

Financial Info

Contributions to Networking Academies from both Cisco Systems, Inc. and the Foundation come to approximately $18 million to date. Single contributions can be as high as $18 million (to Wisconsin schools in 1998).

Application for Funding

Application guidelines and a proposal checklist (which you’re strongly encouraged to use) are available on the Foundation’s web site. To apply, submit a proposal statement by the deadline. Use three to five pages, maximum, preferably on the organization’s letterhead. Sign the checklist, and submit it with your proposal.


Proposal deadlines are April 30 for July funding and November 30 for February funding. Proposals received after the deadline dates may be held for the next funding cycle.

Review Process

Proposals are screened for compliance to the guidelines. They are passed on to the Grant Review Committee, which is composed of employees from Cisco. Recommendations are then presented to the Cisco Systems Foundation Board of Trustees for final approval. In some instances, a site visit to your agency may be requested by Cisco Staff.


Funding Toolbox: Hamstrung by the eRate? Develop other funding muscles

Will we see eRate funds before the Thanksgiving turkey? Don’t bet on it. Between Ira Fishman’s recent departure and McCain’s latest machinations—much not to mention the new re-examination (page 1) of federal spending on school technology—those telecommunications discounts may take a few more detours on their way to your door.

In short, it’s inadvisable to rely too heavily on federal funds alone in the effort to launch programs that will make technology an integral part of your schools. Technology fundraising programs that capitalize on opportunities in both the public and private sectors, however, will have the best chance of avoiding problems because of adverse, last-minute political decisions.

A stable, diversified base of financial support depends on a technology fundraising strategy that comprises three essential components:

• building a successful funding team,

• expanding your base of support beyond federal funds to include corporate and private philanthropic channels, and

• working with your local communities to build solid partnerships that can leverage critical dollars.

Funding for School Technology

Because achieving those essential elements is easier said than done and cannot be adequately addressed in a single article, eSchool News, the publisher of STFB, has organized a strategic conference to help educators develop a sophisticated, systematic, technology-oriented approach to financial development. Co-sponsored by Innovative Communications Inc. (ICI) of Freeland, Mich., the developer of the Classroom Resource Management System (CRMS) with financial support from The AOL Foundation, Grants & Funding for School Technology will be held on November 5 and 6 in Alexandria, Va., in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

This symposium will bring together leaders from school districts and state departments of education, grants writers and fundraising experts, and corporate, foundation, and federal/state grant givers. Through peer exchange and expert advice, the conference will offer school leaders the help they need to establish an organized, diversified strategy to raise funds for school technology.

On rapidly shifting programs such as the eRate, conference-goers will get a briefing directly from the top, straight from the man who was first in charge of the federal Schools and Libraries Corp. (SLC), the agency that administers the eRate.

In a rare speaking engagement on Friday, Nov. 6, Ira Fishman, the SLC’s first chief executive officer, will discuss the program’s turbulent history and issues surrounding education technology funding in Congress. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with the SLC’s Director of Technology Planning & Evaluation, Tom Carroll.

For an up-to-the-minute overview of funding opportunities available through the U.S. Department of Education (ED), attendees will hear a keynote address by Linda Roberts, director of ED’s office of educational technology.

From the practitioner’s perspective, a roster of notable school executives includes one of the nation’s most respected and sophisticated school leaders. Robert Kelley will address the conference on the role of the School District Foundation and how to use it to leverage technology funding programs. Now the executive director of the Fairfax (Va.) County Education Foundation, Kelley will explain some of the funding strategies he used to make Fairfax County a lighthouse district for school technology.

School tech grant decision makers

Conference attendees also will learn about technology funding sources and strategies straight from the program officers themselves—the people who make critical decisions and approve grant requests.

Speakers include Barbara Ashbrook of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Cheryl Garnette of the ED’s Star Schools program; Lammot du Pont of the NTIA’s Telecommunications Information Infrastructure Assistance Program; and Mike Haney of the National Science Foundation.

School technology grant decision makers from corporate foundations such as the AT&T Foundation and the Cisco Foundation also are on the program, as are the nation’s leading authorities on successful grant seeking and fund raising.

The conference is divided into two tracks. The hands-on, practitioner-oriented Tools & Techniques track covers topics such as how to make your technology plan a powerful fundraising tool, how to approach a corporation for a grant, and the key elements of successful grants writing.

A Policy & Management track will include insights on how to build public/private strategic alliances, create and manage a successful school foundation, and how to find and hire a winning fundraising specialist.

Innovative Communications Inc. (ICI) of Freeland, Mich., the developer of the Classroom Resource Management System (CRMS).

You can register for the conference by filling out the form on the next page. Or, for additional information on Grants & Funding for School Technology, contact eSchool News at:

– conference hotline: (800) 394-0115 x104

– fax: (301) 913-0119

– eMail: conferences@eschoolnews.org

– write: eSchool News, 7920 Norfolk Ave., #900, Bethesda, MD 20814

– visit http://www.eSchoolNews.org


Five Technology Tools That Make Life Easier For The Busy Educator

Technology & Learning, September 1998, p. 61

Technology can help teachers free up their time and also respond to a growing demand for accountability and assessment reports. Here are five tools that work:

  1. Electronic grade books. These user-friendly software packages are designed to look like traditional grade books and allow teachers to track student performance quickly, generate sophisticated reports, and easily transfer data to district-level computers.

  2. “Open architecture” administration software. Grades, attendance records, schedules, and other student information can flow freely among teachers, school officials, and district personnel.

  3. Curriculum planning tools. Using networks that connect teachers and schools across great distances, these computer programs let teachers share lesson plans and educational resources with each other, such as multimedia software packages, laser discs, and web sites.

  4. Security utilities. These tiny programs keep students and other unauthorized people from viewing personal and confidential material that may reside on an educator’s desktop computer.

  5. Intranets. These link schools and districts together so that large numbers of users can share central resources, such as frequently used forms, paperwork, and even computer software.

Ten Technology Tips That Pay Big Dividends In Your School

Education Week, October 1, 1998, p. 23


As part of Education Week’s annual “Technology Counts” special issue, various authors profiled ten ways technology is being used to help reform schools. Here’s what they found:

  1. Basic skills. While “drill and practice” is the typical approach of most computerized instructional programs, theories are emerging that this is just one component of the important need to teach basic skills. Drill-and-practice methods often fail to convey underlying concepts or help students apply skills to other types of problem solving.

  2. Virtual tutors. Teaching algebra to troubled ninth graders in a mostly blue-collar Pittsburgh high school proved difficult until two innovative instructors introduced the “Pump Algebra Tutor,” a software program developed at Carnegie-Mellon University to mimic the help of a human tutor. Students spend half the week doing textbook drills and the other half on the computer. While some evidence shows the package has been effective, its initial cost of $25,000 per location makes it a tough sell for many schools.

  3. Students teaching students. At an elementary magnet school in Wichita, Kan., teachers don’t explicitly instruct children on how to use computers or technology. Instead, students are immersed in technology and told to seek help from their peers before asking the teacher for help. The result? Most third graders can surf the Web on their own, and most fifth graders can build Web sites — even though teachers spent little time telling them how. While this cooperative approach is not always appropriate, many schools find it’s an effective and efficient way to get students up to speed on the latest technology without over-burdening teachers.

  4. Real-world learning. Technology allows more sophisticated learning to occur in “authentic” real-world environments. For example, students at a Detroit middle school took electronic measurements of river water near their school and used computers to analyze the effects of pollution. Complicated tasks such as charting the relations between pollutants and oxygen levels in the river were quickly mapped out and understood by the students.

  5. Guidance instead of lectures. Computers are at the center of a recent trend to shift teachers away from the lecture podium into the role of guide or coach. The most dramatic advantage of this approach is that computers can be individualized to students’ different needs and skill levels. By guiding student research on CD-ROM and Internet applications, a teacher can give more freedom to advanced students and more assistance to less confident students.

  6. Online staff development. Schools are finding they can effectively train their teachers with much less money by enrolling them in online training seminars. The collaborative nature of online communities combined with their ability to offer training to teachers on their own time makes them a good option — especially since schools don’t have to pay for tuition, transportation, food, and the other high costs that accompany off-site classroom training.

  7. Reaching the home. A host of technologies can put schools in touch with parents. Such communication is often cited as one of the most significant ways to increase student achievement. The “Bridge Project” at a Phoenix elementary school, for example, allows parents to dial into a voicemail system and receive updates from teachers on classroom activities. Other more advanced approaches let parents log into a school’s web site to see lesson plans and the actual work their children are doing.

  8. Increased student motivation. Technology has a direct impact on the motivation levels of many students, especially “at-risk” children. A recent video equipment purchase by an alternative high school in Washington state has reduced absences and boosted morale. Students even arrive early and stay late to work on projects. The technology, especially video equipment, also has the advantage that it begins early career training. In addition, troubled students often get more individualized attention and instruction when they use interactive technology in the classroom.

  9. Assessment breakthroughs. With new technology called IMMEX (interactive multimedia exercises), educators in California can peer into the problem-solving thought processes of students. The software records every step a student takes to solve a problem from start to finish.

  10. Global connections. Single computers with Internet hook-ups allow remote or poor schools to link up quickly and dramatically with places in any region of the globe. For example, a school on a New Mexico Indian reservation was able to communicate with Australian Aborigines, Myanmar refugees, and Argintinean children.

Latest Developments On Internet ‘Portals’ And Computer Chips

Technology & Learning, October 1998, p. 30

Senior editor Jean Shields at Technology & Learning outlines two areas of education technology where leaders will begin to see more change.

The first is the emergence of so-called “portal” Web sites. A portal site offers enhanced services such as online travel agents, stock quotes, chat rooms, auctions, and other specialized and customizable features. Yahoo and Netscape are leading this push to add web-based services to their traditional directory and search functions.

Shields thinks the portals are a good concept, but says consumers and educators must be wary: as commercialization on the Web increases, many companies pay owners of portal sites for special treatment in search results and placement. This blurs the traditional boundary between editorial and advertising decisions.

On the computer chip front, Shields advises you to watch for sinking prices on the processors that drive lower-end sub-$1,000 PCs, in addition to more powerful chips that will let these less expensive machines run faster. Plus, the new line of chips mean bargains on the old ones.


Four Key Trends Emerging In Education Technology

Technology & Learning, September 1998, p. 42

Senior editor Susan McLester of Technology & Learning tells education technology leaders to keep an eye on four specific areas that are receiving increased attention from education technology companies:

  1. Staff development. More money for and awareness of teacher training means that hardware and software vendors are allocating new resources for programs that help teachers integrate technology into curricula.

  2. “Enterprise” software. Teachers, administrators, and principals alike will see “enterprise” software packages take advantage of schools’ large computer networks. Schools and districts can then share information and generate data for assessment and accountability purposes.

  3. Beginners’ training. Schools and vendors are addressing the needs of a growing population of educators who are completely new to technology and the Internet, and who don’t have the time or savvy to grapple with new and ever-changing technologies.

  4. Filtering. More sophisticated filtering and blocking technologies are emerging that can better protect students from inappropriate materials while not barring access to helpful and legitimate information resources.