How Iowa’s Unique Distance Learning Program Could Be the Way of the Future

Education Week, February 10, 1999, p. 28

The state of Iowa is on the cutting edge of delivering distance learning opportunities to its many rural schools.

Using an interactive TV and Internet service called the Iowa Communications Network, the state is able to deliver a host of distance learning options to schools via the only network of its kind in the nation—it is wholly owned and operated by a state.

Schools share televised advanced placement and other expensive courses, pooling together course offerings that no single school could ever offer on its own.

While it’s not clear if the future of distance learning rests with interactive television or with video-streaming on the Internet, the Iowa Communications Network is equipped to handle either technology.

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President Clinton requests $1.5 billion in school tech funding for FY 2000

President Clinton’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2000 asks Congress for $1.5 billion in technology funding for schools. If the president’s budget is approved, that figure would mark a 56 percent increase over the $947 million available in 1999 for school technology initiatives.

The president’s request includes gains in almost every program area, plus two newly created funding opportunities. The Middle School Teacher Training initiaive would give $30 million in grants to middle schools in states that agree to establish technology literacy requirements in order to train “teacher technology leaders.”

The Software Development Initiative would give $5 million in competitive grants to encourage the development of high-quality educational software by partnerships of students, university faculty, and technology and content experts.

Issued Feb. 1, the president’s full budget proposal follows his Jan. 7 announcement that he would seek to triple funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The FY 2000 budget requests $600 million for the after-school program, up from $200 million in 1999.

The president also slated significant funding increases for the Commerce Department’s Public Telecommunications Facilities Planning and Construction (PTFP) program over the next few years. While the FY 2000 request is $35 million–up from $21 million in 1999–the budget sets out prospective funding for 2001 at $110 million, 2002 at $100 million, and 2003 at $89 million.

PTFP supports the acquisition of digital transmission capabilities to ensure public broadcasters’ transition to digital broadcasting by 2003. The program also awards grants to consortia of school districts to support innovative distance learning projects.

A chart of the president’s complete school technology budget requests appears on page 7.

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DVD On Computers Will Greatly Influence Education Technology

Syllabus, January 1999, p. 40

DVD has recently received a lot of press, especially with the stand-alone DVD players many people have bought to play movies in their homes. But there’s another aspect of DVD that is much more relevant to educators: the multimedia DVD drives that are included in so many of today’s new PCs.

While DVD disks are the same physical size and shape as normal CDs, DVD disks can store far more information—about 13 times more.

With that much extra storage available on each disk, multimedia software issued on DVD format will be much richer in content, graphics, audio, and video. In addition, vast reference collections and electronic books can be distributed on a single DVD disk.

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Three Proven Programs That Spell School Technology Success

Technology & Learning, February 1999, p. 41

Here are proven, expert tips that have spelled success at three of the nation’s leading schools.

  1. Technology-Based School Community Programs. McNair Elementary School in Georgia has been a pioneer in developing a flagship technology program with the community. To succeed, you must:

    • Settle on a well-defined mission.

    • Forge partnerships local businesses, higher ed institutions, and government agencies in order to secure funding, training, and equipment.

    • Offer support and training for teachers.

    • Develop programs that appeal to all segments of your community, from young children to the elderly.

    • Publicize your program by calling on local news outlets, developing a web site, or holding community events.

  2. High-Tech High Schools. These lessons learned at the award-winning New Technology High School can be applied to any school:

    • Create a flexible environment of trust and respect. Students will live up to the trust offered to them.

    • Partner with high-tech corporations, who can offer everything from equipment donations and training, to job opportunities for graduates.

    • Use group learning methods, which are situations that most students will encounter in the real business world.

    • Objectively assess the effectiveness of your technology, with an emphasis on content and ideas.

  3. Make Over An Existing School Using Technology. In Worcester, Mass., school officials created from scratch the “Accelerated Learning Laboratory.” Here the key ingredients were:

    • The “accelerated learning” approach meant that every student would be considered gifted and talented, and get the due attention and resources. The curriculum is “project-based” and heavily dependent on technology.

    • Collaborate with experts. A.L.L. officials drew on the expertise of professors, psychologists, education specialists, and top schools.

    • Use community resources and build projects that utilize state and local government agencies as well as institutions of higher education.

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Teachers Who Become Technology Coaches Spell Relief For An Overburdened Tech Support Staff

Electronic School, January 1999, p. A18

When a technology coordinator and his staff couldn’t keep up with large number of support calls stemming from increased technology deployment in their district, they decided to get some help—from teachers.

By starting a technology coaching program, they were able to get the help they needed from some expert teachers to keep the computers running smoothly.

Here’s how the program worked:

  1. They selected a tech-savvy teacher in each school, each of whom received a $500 stipend.

  2. Over the summer, they trained each teacher for two days on how to perform routine maintenance and troubleshooting tasks.

  3. Once trained, coaches were ready to fix an actual computer under the supervision of the technology coordinator.

Coaches said the training was extremely helpful and that they would want to receive additional training sessions.

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One School Board Member’s Secret to Successful Communication

Electronic School, January 1999, p. A24

The school board chair of Montgomery County, Va., has found an innovative and creative way to communicate with his constituents: an electronic newsletter.

Nearly three years ago James Klagge assembled by hand a list of about 300 people’s E-mail addresses so he could send updates to them on his school board’s activities.

In doing so, he has found these great benefits that achieve powerful results:

  1. Keep people informed on current school board activity.

  2. Tell people his opinion on key issues.

  3. Get people’s opinions on important issues.

  4. Advocate community involvement in educational and other areas of government.

Klagge also shares some lessons he’s learned along the way:

  1. Use “blind carbon” addressing on such large group E-mails so that there isn’t a long list of E-mail addresses on each message you send out.

  2. Emphasize in your E-mail that the messages are not official documents of the school board, but rather just one member’s way of communicating with constituents.

  3. Honor people’s requests to be removed from the list, and assure them that you are using the list only for your own purposes.

  4. While E-mail is a good source of feedback, remember that not every constituent has E-mail access, so you’re only getting input from and sending information to a certain segment of the community.
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Three Core Challenges That Face Today’s High-Tech Libraries

Converge, February 1999, p. 40

Justine Brown addresses three critical issues on the new roles and problems which today’s libraries must deal with.

  1. Internet access. Libraries across the country have been forced to address the issue of filtering to protect children from inappropriate web sites. While some libraries have been required to use filtering software, many libraries have been reluctant to implement any policy that limits access to materials.

  2. Training and staff retention. Many librarians have increasingly found themselves acting as technology teachers for their patrons. As a result, libraries must invest heavily in technology training for their staff. A consequence, however, is that once these librarians are trained, they become valuable commodities on the job market and it is often difficult for libraries to retain them.

  3. New projects. Libraries are now the place where many people go to learn about and access new technology. As a result, libraries have to become familiar with new and complicated technologies such as videoconferencing, digitized materials, and technology training for patrons.

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Seven Reasons Why Technology Integration Is Important, And Seven Easy Ways You Can Make It Happen

T.H.E. Journal, January 1999, p. 73

Here are seven reasons why integrating technology into your school’s curriculum is critical to your school’s success:

  1. Students gain more knowledge in a subject.

  2. Technology is required to stay competitive in today’s job market.

  3. Technology motivates students to learn.

  4. Students can apply more quickly and easily what they’ve learned and improve their analytical skills.

  5. Students learn vital online research skills.

  6. Students learn the importance of teamwork.

  7. Students gain computer literacy.

To successfully integrate technology into the curriculum, you must:

  1. Begin in a single subject area.

  2. Decide on specific technology skills you want your students to learn.

  3. Take an existing lesson and find a simple way to involve the computer.

  4. Use software programs that you’re familiar with.

  5. Consistently use those programs to reinforce skills in your students.

  6. Evaluate the good and bad parts of using technology in a particular lesson.

  7. Adjust the lesson as needed, and then start the process over in a new area.
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Virtual Reality Is The Next Cutting-Edge Technology To Transform Learning

T.H.E. Journal, February 1999, p. 61

Virtual reality applications are becoming one of the most powerful technology tools available to enhance the learning experience.

Virtual reality, also know as “VR,” was used for the first time as a hands-on classroom tool in summer programs last year at two schools in Chicago. Teachers and students alike immediately saw the benefits.

Students were able to completely immerse themselves in 3D simulations on topics varying from American history and the legislative process to grammar and the solar system. Students could explore topics on their own without having to rely on lectures or note taking. And by experiencing a lesson topic instead of just hearing about it, students were much better able to retain what they had learned.

This VR technology used to be extremely expensive, but with advances in software and more powerful PCs, you can now run virtual reality simulations from a desktop computer.

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Five Quick And Easy Tips To Show Students How Best To Search On The Web

Electronic School, January 1999, p. A20

Here are five winning tips on how your students can get the most out of searching for information and resources on the world wide web:

  1. Consider the search question before you start. Students need to think about different ways to ask their questions, anticipate where they may have trouble, and determine the sources that will provide the best results.

  2. Become familiar with the technology. Before starting, students should be familiar with the basic workings of a web browser, including bookmarks and how to use search engines.

  3. Select the right search engine. Some search engines will be better suited than others at returning relevant results. Your students should realize that just because a search engine finds a lot of information, it doesn’t mean that such information will necessarily be the best.

  4. Evaluate a site’s credibility. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between commercial and informational sites. Students should also be aware of the many sources of subjective material on the web, such as personal home pages, lobbyists and advocacy groups, and marketing sites.

  5. Integrate the information. After finding relevant and credible online sources, students need to know how to incorporate their Internet research into the lesson or project at hand.
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