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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Wisconsin Offers Its Schools Alternative Funds To E-Rate

Converge, January 1999, p. 34

After many schools in Wisconsin discovered they weren’t eligible for E-Rate funding, the state began its own funding program to help connect the state’s schools to the Internet.

The Wisconsin Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) program earmarked half a billion dollars of state funds to help bring computers and connections to Wisconsin’s schools and libraries.

The program subsidizes half of schools’ spending on wiring and network connections, and also offers cheap data and video connections to BadgerNet, a statewide video, voice, and data network that connects colleges, schools, and state government agencies.

As a result of the program, growing numbers of schools have been able to establish distance learning programs to bring advanced placement and foreign language instruction to schools that otherwise would be unable to offer such courses. Native American students have achieved a greater sense of belonging by connecting with other schools in the state through BadgerNet.

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Top Five Fundraising Ideas That Are Proven To Work

Technology & Learning, February 1999, p. 54

Here are five innovative ways school districts are successfully funding their technology initiatives:

  1. Form a non-profit foundation. The Fair Haven School District in New Jersey created a foundation that awards teachers “mini-grants” valued up to $1,000. But forming a foundation isn’t always quick and easy—even with support from volunteers and members of the community, the foundation still took more than six months to launch. And you have to be careful to avoid fundraising conflicts with the PTA and other groups at your school.

  2. Think of creative ways to raise dollars. Officials in Clark Country, Nev., have looked beyond mere corporate donations to fund their technology initiatives. Their tactics included partnering with a semi-pro hockey team, hosting fundraising dinners, conducting membership drives, and even selling greeting cards

  3. Aggressively pursue corporate sponsors. An intermediate school in Brooklyn, N.Y., transformed its aging and obsolete computer lab into a cutting-edge center by partnering with Sun Microsystems to create a demonstration lab in their school. The school has also forged partnerships for teacher training and support.

  4. Join a consortium. The combined purchasing and fundraising power of a consortium allowed the rural Keystone Central district in Pennsylvania to acquire nearly 2,000 computers and provide Internet access at deeply discounted rates to its community.

  5. Apply for grants. This has been the winning recipe at the Governor Mifflin school district in Pennsylvania, which also created its own foundation arm. Grant writing is still a great way to obtain funding. As soon as teachers get an idea for equipment and projects, you should start applying for grants. The more aggressive you are, the more likely you will get funding. And be sure to share winning ideas and proposals so you can learn from what works.

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Superintendent’s Plan To Cut Tech Funding Draws Fire

Education Week, January 27, 1999, p. 7

The superintendent for Fairfax County, Va., came under fire when the budget he submitted to the school board cut $8 million in new technology funding from the amount officials had initially planned.

Parents, members of the business community, and other stakeholders criticized the move in this suburban Washington district, which is laden with technology and telecommunications companies.

The superintendent’s plan would reduce from 8,000 to 5,500 the number of new computers purchased, and would cut back on staff training as well.

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Lack Of Long-Term Funding Proves Greatest Barrier To Sustained Financing Of Technology

Electronic School, January 1999, p. A10

Most schools and districts have made large strides in initial fundraising efforts, but many neglect to think about how to sustain funding in the long-term.

Here are five core barriers to fundraising that you must contend with:

  1. Resistance to new taxes to pay for education technology

  2. High levels of competition among districts for the same scarce funds

  3. Too few people on your fundraising staff

  4. Restrictions on funds targeted for specific programs or student income levels

  5. Lack of funds that can pay for tech support and maintenance staff

Even when technology dollars are built into budgets, you’ll still have a lot of ongoing costs associated with technology.

Experts advise aggressively applying for grants and forging business partnerships with high-tech corporations and service providers. Another good funding source is “certificates of participation,” which offer low-discount loans to districts based on real estate collateral. Local districts can also expect to see increased funding from state legislatures trying to create equity and uniform technology standards across their state.

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Schools Save Big Dollars By Becoming an Internet Service Provider

Electronic School, January 1999, p. A14

Some schools have solved the technology funding problem by starting up for-profit ISP companies whose revenues support their schools.

By selling Internet access to their communities, schools are able to pay for the costs of providing Internet access to their students and teachers. Some schools launch ISPs that make enough profit to fund additional technology equipment, while others are designed to break even with their Internet access costs.<

But before you rush out and start up an ISP at your school, consider these expert tips from those who have been there:

  1. Make sure there’s community demand. You don’t want to become an ISP if your community is already well-served by a number of different Internet service providers. Rural and small-town locations are most ideally suited, provided you have enough of a subscriber base. And if your community is too large, demand could outstrip your ability to meet it.

  2. Get tech experts. You won’t be able to start your own ISP without in-house computer and networking experts who can help manage the ISP’s operations. People with a technology and business background would be best.

  3. Watch for legal pitfalls. You must consult with a lawyer before forming any kind of for-profit enterprise on school property to ensure that you’re not breaking any laws. This area of the law is gray, but with advice from a lawyer, you should be able to navigate around any pitfalls.

  4. Get help from students. To help support the customer demands on an ISP, you’ll need to enlist the help of your students. This provides an invaluable experience for them in technology and an actual business that will better prepare them for a high-tech job market.
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