Five Ingredients To Make Your School More Like This Leading High-Tech School

Converge, October 1998

Several ingredients combined to make California’s New Technology High School in Napa Valley a success:

  1. The school caters to typical middle-of-the-road students, who are neither failing nor at the top of their class.

  2. The school uses state-of-the-art technology and has a computer-to-student ratio of one-to-one.

  3. The school grew out of a need of local businesses that were looking for tech-savvy high school graduates to join the workforce.

  4. The school received support, training, and funding from more than 45 community partners, including businesses and education groups.

  5. The school was designed to mimic the corporate workplace and was designed by a facilities planner who works for Silicon Graphics, a leading Silicon Valley technology company.

The end result is a school where students work on computer projects with real-world application and are given a greater sense of ownership at the school.


Use these magic words to swing those funding doors wide open: Experts at ‘Grants & Funding East’ reveal what’s hot, what’s not

If you were at our first-ever Grants & Funding for School Technology Conference in Washington, D.C., you heard all about the twin issues that will be drawing funding like a magnet in 1999. According to the assembled experts, two words will be the absolute key to winning big money for school technology from government and private sources. The two power terms? Training and Assessment.

That message came across strong and clear from the dozens of program officers, foundation officials, and others who spoke at ‘Grants & Funding East.’ One after another, the experts sounded a common theme: Before providing funding, grants makers want to see a detailed, innovative plan for how your schools intend to use technology to improve teaching and learning.

Strong technology plans

And that plan, they agreed, must include:

• time and budget allocation for teacher training initiatives;

• an assessment plan that goes beyond anecdotal material into quantifiable, measurable outcomes and addresses student achievement;

• a line item budget that details realistic amounts for all areas of your technology program and other sources of revenue.

The experts also said that the technology plans in the most competitive proposals followed pedagogical objectives. That is, they answered the question, “How does technology improve student learning?”

“Technology needs to follow pedagogy,” declared Donna Rhodes, of the National Partnership for Excellence and Accountability in Teaching and a grantsmaker herself. “Not the other way around. The pedagogy must come first.”

Rhodes told the the general morning address that successful proposals must offer a blueprint for the use of technology–including a commitment to ongoing training and support once the outside experts leave.

National funders also stressed the importance of innovation.

Instead of merely doling out money for hardware and software, the experts said, national funders are interested in finding innovative ways to use technology to make a difference, especially in low-income communities.

This theme was underscored in the keynote address by Linda Roberts, special technology advisor to the president for the U.S. Department of Education.

“We need to target our resources; we need to constantly assess our efforts,” Roberts told attendees.

Proposals that win

The funding experts also agreed that educators must learn to prepare grant application packages that can compete with the applications of more seasoned, professional (fulltime!) fundraisers.

What is a strong grant proposal, and how do you create one? The pros suggested the following.

Five Elements of a Competitive Grant Proposal

1. It has clearly stated, achievable goals and objectives that the project will address.

2. It is easy to read. The proposal doesn’t use jargon, or vague language. It clearly and succinctly explains the proposed project, the people involved, and the expected outcomes.

3. The competitive proposal makes the ask.

It defines the need and asks the funder to fill that need.

4. It fully understands and addresses the funder’s giving priorities. The most competitive proposals state the funder’s priorities and describes how the proposed project meets them.

5. It’s innovative. You don’t have to set the world on fire and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, funders advise. But your project should be built on a well-reasoned set of principles in a new way. Example: TIIAP funded a project last year that helped students in hospitals stay in touch with their classrooms via laptop computers.

Six More Steps You Can Take to Win Grants

1. Talk with the funder. The experts agreed: Make a phone call to the program officer of the agency or the foundation to discuss your project. Most foundation and federal funding agents are happy to discuss your proposal and your work. You shouldn’t call and ask obvious questions, such as, “What do you give money for?” But you are encouraged to discuss the scope and goals of your project and get feedback on how appropriate it might be for the funding agency–or what you can do to improve it.

2. Ask outsiders to review your proposal. One school grant writer said she asked a “smart but ignorant” friend to read over her proposals, to make sure that anyone who didn’t already know about the program could understand it by its description. Another funder suggested that you put together a “mock review panel” to go over your proposal and give you written comments about areas of confusion or improvements.

3. Study the proposals of previous award winners. If it’s a government funder you’re going after, you have a right to read the proposals of previous winners, under the Freedom of Information Act. And oftentimes grantees are happy to share with you the seeds of their success.

4. Become a peer reviewer yourself. Government agencies like the Department of Education and The Department of Commerce need field pros like yourself to read and recommend project proposals to recommend for funding. Sit on the other side for a while, and you’ll become an expert on what proposals actually get read.

5. Do your homework. Resource books, periodicals, guides and directories, conferences, the internet and peer-to-peer mentoring are great ways to find out more about the funders you’re going after.

6. If you missed Grants & Funding East, don’t despair: You’ll have the chance to learn the ins and outs of school technology fundraising at Grants & Funding West, slated for San Diego, Calif., in April of 1999.


Digital Copyright Law Could Increase Costs Of Your School’s Distance Learning Programs

Education Week, November 4, 1998, p. 1

Schools could see the costs of their distance learning programs increase as a result of a new federal law that redefines what constitutes “fair use” of copyrighted materials on the Internet and other digital networks.

How the provisions of the new Digital Millennium Copyright Act—which prohibits unauthorized use of copyrighted materials over digital networks—will affect your school’s distance learning programs is still under review by the U.S. Copyright Office.

Currently, “fair use” exemptions in existing copyright laws allow schools to use copyrighted materials for instruction via non-digital media, such as cable and broadcast television and other similar equipment.

The new law, however, makes no explicit exemptions for the digital transfer of materials over the Internet — a method many distance learning programs are increasingly using.

This means schools could have to pay publishers licensing fees every time copyrighted material is used over the Internet and digital networks, unless the U.S. Copyright Office and Congress clarify the law and grant an exemption for distance learning.


How Technology Communication Can Improve “Real-Life” Interactions At Your School

Education Week, November 11, 1998, p. 38

A director of college guidance at a Maryland boarding school writes that she was initially skeptical of technology and worried that it would replace face-to-face dialogue and interpersonal relationships with anonymous and impersonal computer interactions.

Instead, she writes that she has found technology is actually a catalyst for striking up personal relations with students and colleagues alike.


Five Challenges To Overcome When Implementing Ambitious And Innovative Technology Programs

Technology & Learning, October 1998, p. 54

The cutting-edge New Technology High School in California has installed 250 networked computers for its 220 students. This new capability has presented five challenges to the school as it expands in the technology age:

  1. Increased change. The introduction of so much technology at the school has meant administrators and educators, whether they like it or not, have had to evaluate, acquire, and use technology at a rapid pace.

  2. Staffing. The school has had to find teachers and support staff who can use and maintain the computers, the network, and the software. Most sought-after are computer-literate teachers who are not afraid to be challenged by continuous learning and growth.

  3. Time strains. As most people realize when they deploy new technology such as E-mail or voicemail, more time is needed to use and manage those technologies. E-mail has been especially taxing on the school’s staff, but they realize it’s a critical tool to keep lines of communication open with parents, students, and other stakeholders.

  4. Funding. The ambitious technology installations at the school have meant costs per student run about $2,200 above the state funding formula. To make up the difference, the school has obtained funding from federal, state, and local business sources. In addition, the school strives to keep costs down through such programs as renting their computer facilities to other schools and organizations during the summer.

  5. Discipline. Students had to be prepped on how to use this new technology responsibly. An acceptable use policy (AUP) was circulated among the students during the first weeks of school which defined the boundaries of appropriate and responsible behavior on the computers.

Four “Kids-Only” Sites That Let Students Surf The Web Safely

Technology & Learning, November/December 1998, p. 10

An alternative to using filtering and blocking software to keep students from inappropriate material on the Web is to direct students to safe areas on the Internet designed specifically with kids in mind.

Jean Shields examined four of the most popular Web sites for kids and rated them on content and fun. She found that the sites fell into two categories: fun sites and work sites. The fun sites offer games, sounds, and other multimedia enhancements. The work sites are better organized and have links to material that could supplement curricular activities. Here are the pros and cons of the four sites the author evaluated: A fun play site that offers children ages 8-11 a place to play games, read up on entertaining news, and even color. Unfortunately, the navigation screen is embedded within the browser and results in a small viewing area. Also, the links to educational collateral materials are few and far between, and registration is required for the more fun features. (

KidsCom: Chat areas, quizzes, discussion lists, and multimedia games bring kids together on the site to form an online community that values creativity and communication. There is a lot of pressure, however, to submit personal information to the businesses who support the site. (

Yahooligans!: Produced by Yahoo!, this site for children provides links to hundreds of online resources in categories that mimic traditional educational subject areas. The links on the site are selected by Yahooligans! editors who screen content for educational value and appropriateness for children. Thus, the site is a great place for kids to start surfing the Web. There are lots of links to current news and events. While Yahooligans! may not be as entertaining as some of the other sites, children will probably learn more. (

Kids Web: Another site that can help kids complement their classroom studies is Kids Web, and it has plenty of links to educational resources students will find useful. Produced by Syracuse University, Kids Web has a user-friendly interface, although it has even fewer fun things to do on it than Yahooligans. (


Three Keys To Successful Use Of The Web By Your Students

MultiMedia Schools, September/October 1998, p. 50

An Oregon middle school teacher has found that students face several difficulties when they try to use the Web for serious research and information gathering. Students are pretty good at clicking around through pages, but without guidance they will come away with nothing meaningful. The teacher recommends focusing on three areas of skill-acquisition when students go online:

  1. Navigation skills. Students first need to become effective surfers. Let them know that the slightest typo or misspelling in a Web address won’t work. Also, students need to learn how to recognize links and keep track of Internet resources they find.

  2. Evaluation skills. Students need to learn how to rate the credibility of a Web site. Just because something is in print or online doesn’t mean it’s automatically factual. Teach students to look for a page’s author and any hidden agendas the Web page may have.

  3. Comprehension skills. Once students find and evaluate the value of a site, they must understand and retain the information they find online. Develop worksheets that require students to fully understand a site and read all of the material it contains.

Five Technology Programs That Use Community Involvement To Benefit Parents, Students, and Schools

Technology & Learning, November/December 1998, p. 18

Here are five innovative programs that bring students and their parents together to learn about technology:

  1. A Title I elementary school in El Monte, Calif., has found a way to reach out to the parents of immigrant children, who comprise a large number of the student population. A class called “Family Home Reading” was designed to help parents to encourage reading at home and used technology funds for computer lab equipment and training from a California technology grant. Parents now have a better sense of how technology can assist in the learning process for themselves and their children.

  2. A Greenville, S.C., elementary school has begun a program in which parents volunteer at evening computer learning sessions. The Parents and Children in Education (PACE) classes help parents acquire skills to become classroom volunteers and assist their children with technology in the home.

  3. Five schools in a consortium in Louisiana have used ED challenge grants to increase off-campus community access to technology. Each of the five schools provides an Internet connection at a technology center for student and public use, and encourages members of the community to engage the technology. Parents can see the effectiveness of technology in learning applications and can even work toward completing their GED. In the next year, the project will expand with additional funding from the Louisiana Systemic Initiatives Program.

  4. A California elementary school located in the heart of a technology business corridor is drawing from the resources and expertise of the parents who work at high-tech firms. The “Technology Scouts” program uses the professional experience of parents to enhance the instructional technology initiatives at the school. Parents answer technical questions that schools and teachers may have, review Internet sites slated for classroom instruction, recommend software and hardware, and arrange visits by guest speakers from top technology companies.

  5. A parent center in Buffalo, N.Y., uses Title I funds to incorporate technology into its adult education courses. More than 90 computers have been installed in two computer labs, where parents and their children can work together on different learning projects. The center also offers a program in which qualifying families can “check out” a portable computer for use in their home for up to six weeks.

Seven Critical Steps For Building A Community-Based Technology Assessment Program

Technology & Learning, November/December 1998, p. 66

A community assessment program can provide valuable feedback and guidance for your school technology program. Here are seven key issues to address when forming one:

  1. Identify areas of assessment. Select an area of your technology program that could benefit from community-based assessment. Develop criteria by which projects are selected for judging.

  2. Determine assessment methods. Craft an evaluation and scoring system that is simple and easy to explain to community members. Decide the core levels at which projects should be judged, and incorporate these criteria into the ratings system.

  3. Select judges. Choose key stakeholders who can do the job well. A mix of educators and business people who support education technology initiatives is always a good place to start.

  4. Train judges. Since your community judges probably won’t have a lot of spare time to spend on training and orientation, keep things simple and straightforward. Instead of spreading out training sessions and judging over a couple of days, dedicate one full day for the entire program, starting with a continental breakfast and orientation in the morning.

  5. Map out presentation schedules. Determine how much time the panel will need to spend to evaluate each student group. This will depend on the nature of the presentations and projects.

  6. Channel results. Use scores for internal benchmarking and identification of trends. Give students general evaluations without scores, and include suggestions for areas of improvement on future projects.

  7. Prepare for critics. Have responses ready for people who question whether outside judges can assess student performance and whether such short training sessions can adequately prepare them. Also realize that this method is not overly scientific and is just one of many assessment methods available to you.

Videoconferencing Program Spells Success For Limited-English Students

T.H.E. Journal, November 1998, p. 69

The Restructuring Educational Behaviors to Ultimately Improve Literacy in Dual-Languages (REBUILD) program has implemented videoconferencing as the primary tool to help limited English proficient students overcome obstacles to learning.

Through the use of videoconferencing, collaboration on lesson plans and teaching students at different campuses have improved test scores of students in the Gardena Complex of schools in the L.A. Unified School District.

Private technology companies have also been integral to the success of the program. Premio Computer, Lucent Technologies, and Zydacron all lent assistance, training, and support to the videoconferencing project.