Grant Opportunites

Education is Crucial Crucial Technology, a division of Micron, has announced that it will donate up to $100,000 worth of server memory upgrades to Idaho public schools through the Education is Crucial program. The program is intended to help Idaho schools increase the performance level in their existing computer systems. Idaho schools received $87,000 in memory upgrades last year through the Education is Crucial program, now in its second year. Applications are being handled by the Idaho Department of Education. Schools need only complete an online survey to apply, with memory upgrading to be administered on a needs-first basis. (800) 239-0337 http://www.sde.state.id.us/bots/techgrants/ edcrucial.htm

First for Education Grants Carolina First Corp. has established the Carolina First for Education Foundation with a $12.6 million endowment. The foundation will provide education and community-based grants to teachers and public schools in South Carolina for projects that will help bring the state to the educational forefront, including grants for technology initiatives such as purchasing computers. All grants will be awarded based on evaluation of a written application. For an application form, write to the Carolina First For Education Foundation, PO Box 1029, Greenville, SC 29602. (864) 255-4780 http://www.carolinafirst.com

EchoStar Satellite Systems In partnership with the National Education Association (NEA), Future View, and the Learning First Alliance, EchoStar will donate 1,000 satellite TV systems and free air time to schools. The high-tech school safety program comes in response to the Littleton, Colo., school shooting and aims to provide schools with pertinent school safety programming. NEA and the Learning First Alliance will develop the programming, with Future View providing production facilities and staff assistance. The competitive donation program will favor schools that have the most need and that demonstrate a commitment to using the satellite systems to the fullest extent. Application procedures and a deadline were to be announced at NEA’s annual conference July 2. Contact the NEA for more information following the announcement. (202) 833-4000 http://www.nea.org

Learning to Win Cloudscape, a leader in database management solutions, is offering its Cloudscape 100% Pure Java database to schools at no charge through the new Learning to Win program. Learning to Win is designed to encourage students to learn the Java programming language and experiment with building applications in Java. Cloudscape says it is the first company to offer free Java SQL databases for schools to use as educational resources. (888) 595-2821 http://www.cloudscape.com

Schools Online Internet Access Schools without classroom internet access are eligible to apply for Schools Online equipment grants. The Schools Online grant program offers schools simple, cost-effective internet access, together with local support and training. Participating schools are asked to designate a committed person to manage the equipment and participate in training. Schools are also asked to provide a telephone line with an internet service provider (ISP) account for dial-up access or a network connection to the world wide web. Schools Online has helped more than 5,000 classrooms get internet access in a little more than two years. Schools Online is supported by corporate, educational, and individual partners. (408) 501-0770 http://www.schoolsonline.org

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Newslines–North Carolina teachers receive free technology training via the web

The North Carolina Community College System will be providing some 67,000 of the state’s public school teachers with free, internet-based technology training.

The teachers will receive the training through LEARN N.C., a distance learning system developed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Each teacher will get six hours of training on how to integrate technology into his or her classroom.

LEARN N.C., or the Learners’ and Educators’ Assistance and Resource Network of North Carolina, is a statewide network of educators using the internet to deliver professional development opportunities and learning resources that increase student achievement, enhance teacher proficiencies, and foster community participation in the educational process.

In addition to professional development courses, the LEARN N.C. network offers teacher support forums, online libraries, links to educational web sites, and model lesson plans.

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Newslines–Colleges to recognize new teachers’ use of computer skills

Ten Michigan colleges have formed a consortium to award certificates to graduating teachers who have demonstrated an advanced ability to use computer technology in their classroom instruction.

The Consortium for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching with Technology “will establish the highest standards in the nation for training new teachers to use technology in the classroom,” said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

A 1997 survey indicated that more than a third of Michigan teachers have no computer skills or are just beginners, while only 15 percent have advanced skills.

“It’s going to help (student teachers) who can attain the certificates to get good jobs,” said Barry Fishman, an assistant professor of educational technology at the University of Michigan, one of the participating schools. “Principals are searching for people who know how to use technology.”

The consortium also will spur its colleges to provide more opportunities for tomorrow’s teachers to learn how to integrate computer expertise and classroom teaching, Fishman said.

Colleges and universities in the consortium include the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Dearborn, Michigan State University in East Lansing, Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, and Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

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Newslines–Idaho school employees to get free network training

Idaho’s public school districts will get the chance to bring their information technology specialists up to speed when they enroll at least one employee in a week-long training session for Microsoft NT or Novell NetWare network operating systems this summer.

The Idaho Division of Vocational Education received a $1.8 million grant in April from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation to fund its state-sponsored Technical Network for Training program. The program’s first phase gives school districts the chance to increase their knowledge of commonly used systems.

With the growing demand for qualified network specialist training, Idaho school districts are finding it difficult to recruit system administrators and network engineers, state officials said. The systems training is the first of four phases intended to meet the goals established by the Idaho Council for Technology in Learning, which include integration, compatibility, evaluation, and student training.

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Newslines–Video games banned from Miami school computers

Prodded by an attorney, Miami-Dade County Schools has banned the use of video games on school computers.

“Use of school board computers to play games of any sort, especially such games as Doom and Quake, is specifically prohibited,” Superintendent Roger Cuevas wrote in a June 2 memo to the district’s 330 schools.

The policy change was made in the nation’s fourth-largest school district after attorney Jack Thompson claimed the games were being played during school hours at one and possibly three Miami high schools.

Thompson represents the families of three girls killed in a West Paducah, Kentucky, high school in December 1997. A psychologist reported that the gunman, Michael Carneal, was profoundly influenced by the violent games Doom and Quake.

Miami-Dade school district spokesman Henry Fraind said he could neither confirm nor deny that the games were installed on some school system computers. But, he said, anyone who violates the order will face disciplinary action.

Meanwhile, the Interactive Digital Software Association, a Washington, D.C.-based game publishers lobbying group, is working with retailers across the country to develop a voluntary ratings system for games. As games are scanned at the cash register, a digital beep will sound for games rated “mature,” prompting a clerk to ask for identification. Those under 17 would not be allowed to purchase the games without parental consent.

The system is expected to go into effect in Washington state this summer and later expand into other states.

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Newslines–School board may post floor plans for public safety officials

The Shelby County, Tennessee, school board is considering whether to post school floor plans to the district’s web site to give police, fire, and rescue officials quick access to building layouts in an emergency.

The proposal comes in reaction to the April 20 shooting spree in Littleton, Colo., where several students and teachers were trapped in the rooms of Columbine High School for hours. Police officials in Littleton complained that their efforts were hampered in part because the school’s floor plan was difficult to read.

The Shelby County plan would place—in a secured environment—up-to-date versions of every school’s floor plan on its internet site.

The county already keeps floor plans for some schools on disk, but any changes to the layouts of those buildings, including additions, are not updated in electronic form. Web-based floor plans could be updated instantly.

School officials have not projected the cost of the project, but they said funding could come from a $5.6 million school safety program being offered by the state.

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Newslines–School group suggests putting legal notices on internet

A coalition of South Dakota school boards is suggesting that districts post their legal notices on the internet, rather than publish them in local newspapers.

The Associated School Board of South Dakota, which represents 176 school boards statewide, supports legislation that would authorize schools and other governments to use a web site instead of conventional publishing.

“It would save some money,” said Henry Kosters, assistant executive director of the organization. He estimates the school boards spend several million dollars each year on legal advertising.

Under South Dakota law, governments such as schools, counties, cities, and townships must publish their legal notices in newspapers they designate. The law also sets a maximum rate that a newspaper may charge.

In Sioux Falls, for example, the school board spends $34,000 to publish its notices in the Argus Leader, part of the district’s $122 million budget.

But Dave Bordewyk, general manager of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, fears the proposal would do more harm than good. If legal notices are on the internet, fewer people would learn what school boards are doing, Bordewyk argued.

More people read newspapers than surf the internet, he said.

“Obviously, it is a source of revenue, but it’s also newspapers believing in the public’s right to know,” he said. “If you believe in our government and the way things work . . . there should be an account to the public.”

School boards wouldn’t abandon newspapers right away, Kosters said. “(But) technology is evolving so fast, it just seems like the next step.”

Local school boards are scheduled to vote on the plan in August at their annual meeting in Sioux Falls.

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Sen. Feinstein proposes $2.5 billion for technology training

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has proposed legislation to provide $2.5 billion over the next five years to train teachers how to use technology in their classrooms.

“It’s extremely important that teachers learn to use technology effectively as a teaching tool,” Feinstein said. “Technology will strengthen instruction and learning and better prepare students for the increasing technological workplace.”

The Teacher Technology Training Act, proposed by Feinstein on June 9, would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Education to provide $500 million annually to states, which would distribute the money to local school districts based on need. The funding would go above and beyond the money already proposed for technology training by the Department of Education (ED).

The bill also would require that teacher training programs be evaluated by ED within three years and that results be made public.

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Funding Toolbox: Turn your technology plan into a powerful grantseeking tool

At the last two eSchool News “Grants and Funding for School Technology” conferences, there were sessions on how to make your technology plan a powerful fundraising tool. Though I couldn’t attend these sessions, I think it’s an important topic. I’d like to share my own thoughts about the relationship between having an effective technology plan and crafting winning proposals for technology initiatives.

Some grant programs request a copy of your technology plan along with your proposal. For others, such as the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, a copy of your approved technology plan must be on file with your state Department of Education. Still others ask specific questions about your district’s technology plan that must be addressed in your proposal.

The first issue we need to examine is, when did you write your technology plan and when did you last update it? I can remember about four years ago in Pennsylvania when the rush was on to design districtwide technology plans, because it appeared that federal and state funding would require a technology plan as an addendum for some proposals.

Unfortunately, many of those plans were driven solely by the districts’ technology needs. Many technology coordinators took inventory of what equipment was missing from their districts and put together a “wish list” of the technology they wanted to acquire within the next five years or so.

If this sounds all too familiar, take out your technology plan and examine it very closely, especially if it’s been gathering dust on a shelf for the last couple of years. Are your technology needs tied directly to student achievement? Do you…

• Go beyond hardware to address topics such as staff development and the integration of technology into the curriculum?

• Include an evaluation plan to determine how effectively you’re integrating technology–and how you plan to make changes to your staff development in order to improve?

• Mention your state’s standards and/or the competencies to be addressed in your district, and the role that technology will play in the process?

• Designate a technology committee with teacher, parent, student, and community representatives, so your technology plan stays current and meets a variety of stakeholders’ needs?

Why should your technology plan contain these components, and what do they have to do with getting grants? The answer is simple: Funders want to fund projects, not equipment purchases.

A technology plan that is driven by student and teacher needs will help guide you in your grantseeking activities. You’ll be able to match your needs to those of funders and identify the most appropriate grants to pursue.

The information that you’ve gathered to identify student and teacher needs can also be used in the needs assessment sections of your grant proposals. Likewise, you can include the evaluation plan that you’ve designed to measure how effectively you’re using technology in the classroom in your grant proposals as well; most proposals ask for an evaluation section, and if they don’t, your plan for gauging the success of your project is sure to impress nonetheless.

In many cases, a well-thought-out, well-designed, and clearly written technology plan will help you write well-thought-out, well-designed, and clearly written grant proposals for technology initiatives. Funders will be impressed with the project you’re proposing and the clear connection between your project, your plan to meet both students’ and teachers’ needs, and your technology plan.

The message to grant readers will be clear, too: We know what our needs are, here’s how we plan to meet those needs, here’s how we plan to evaluate how good we are at meeting those needs, and here’s what we expect the final outcome to be when we implement this project.

I once spoke to a Technology Innovation Challenge Grant reader who told me what impressed her the most about a proposal. The projects that she scored highest were those where it was evident there had been sufficient planning involving all stakeholders, and significant attention was paid to how the projects would be carried out on a day-to-day basis. It was clear that these projects fit perfectly within the goals of their districts. I’d be willing to bet these same districts had stellar technology plans.

If you’re going to apply for technology funding, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of your technology plan as a grantseeking tool. It’s worth the extra time it takes to examine your technology plan to determine if its sole focus is the equipment you want–or if it’s focused on meeting students’ and teachers’ needs instead. Make any necessary revisions to strengthen your plan. Then devise a system to do this on a regular basis. The grantseeker in you will be glad you did!

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Looking ahead to Year Three of the eRate

Though the second year of the eRate has just gotten underway, it’s not too early to begin thinking of Year Three. New to the application process for next year will be an “evergreen” Form 470 that is unbundled from the application window–which means you’ll be able to file a slightly revised version of Form 470 as early as next month.

One of the chief complaints from eRate applicants has been that waiting to file a Form 470 within the filing window doesn’t give large school districts with complex bidding requirements enough time to solicit bids and enter into contracts before they have to file a Form 471. Filing a Form 470 within the proscribed window also has interfered with the natural bidding cycles of some states and municipalities.

Tops among the list of changes suggested by the Year Three Task Force, then, was the removal of Form 470 from the filing window. Eventually, you’ll be able to file a Form 470 any time after July 1 to begin the eRate bidding and procurement process for the following year; but for now, the SLD still is awaiting FCC approval of the revised form. According to the SLD, this form should be available in “early fall.”

The revised Form 470 must be filed each year for new and tariffed services, but only once for multi-year contracts. This also is a new rule; up to now, you had to file a Form 470 for each new program year, regardless of whether you were requesting new or existing services.

But, since the purpose of Form 470 is to initiate the bidding process–and since services covered under multi-year contracts don’t require bidding–once you file the revised Form 470 in Year Three, you won’t have to file another one the following year for services already under contract.

The filing window will remain in place for Form 471, and next year’s window will open later this fall. The SLD is considering either a 60-day window that runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 15, closing in time for Christmas vacation; or a 90-day window that runs from Oct. 15 to Jan. 15.

Either way, the agency’s goal is to have all of next year’s funding commitments mailed out by May 1, 2000. And either way, provided that Year Two funding commitments are finished by October, you can expect to be asked to apply for Year Three funding in just a few short months.

Things you can do to get ready

  • Make a list of all new and existing services that you plan to apply for discounts on. Use last year’s forms to help you take stock of existing services, and conduct a needs assessment with your technology team as soon as you learn the status of your Year Two funding.

  • Read the SLD’s updated list of eligible and ineligible services. To clarify some of the gray areas in its list of eligible and ineligible services, the SLD plans to issue an updated list before the start of Year Three. This updated list will be based on the decisions the SLD made on first- and second-year applications. Assuming it becomes available before the next application cycle, the list should give you a clearer idea of what services you can apply for and what you can’t.

  • Talk to your vendors and other eRate applicants to get new ideas. Many telecommunications companies are offering special eRate-eligible packages or add-ons, such as toll-free “homework hotlines” that students can use to contact the school for help on their homework. Ask your vendors what kinds of special eRate-eligible services they might offer, and consult with other school districts, your local BOCES, or your state Department of Education to see what ideas they might have to offer as well.

Lessons learned from Years One and Two

The following advice comes from the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology and may be useful when you apply for Year Three discounts:

  • Attend workshops. Most state departments of education hold free workshops for interested parties prior to the close of the application window. If your state doesn’t hold a workshop, call the SLD to ask if they will attend a workshop you plan, either in person or via conference call.

  • Don’t assume that vendors are informed, particularly if they’re new to the eRate. Make sure your vendors have applied for a Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) in order to participate in the program. Encourage them to sign up for listservs and attend workshops with you, and find out how they plan to integrate discounts into your bills, reimburse you for services paid in full, etc.

  • Make sure you also comply with state and local competitive bidding requirements. Posting a Form 470 to the SLD’s web site is not a replacement for existing competitive bidding requirements. You’d hate to be near the end of the application window and realize that you didn’t post a request for proposals in your local newspaper, etc., and therefore are in violation of state law.

  • Draft your contracts with service providers to include language specifying eRate billing compliance and “out clauses” in case funding is denied. If a service provider is unwilling to include such language in your contract, it probably isn’t “eRate friendly” and should be reconsidered as your service provider.

  • Always submit your questions to the SLD via eMail or fax. In the past, some answers from the SLD’s Client Service Bureau have been entirely inaccurate. At least with eMail or fax, you have a paper trail to back you up. If you don’t believe the SLD has provided you with an accurate answer, double-check its response with a third party, or resubmit your question and ask that a supervisor respond.

  • Send everything to the SLD via return receipt. Keep copies of everything you send, as well as copies of return receipts and fax confirmation sheets if you fax something to the SLD and eMail or fax replies to questions you have posed to the Client Service Bureau. You may need the copies later if you have a dispute involving your application.

  • Stay in the window. Stay in the window. Stay in the window. It’s that simple. Don’t allow yourself to submit your Form 471 on the last day and take the chance of it getting lost or being rejected, leaving you no time to resubmit it.
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