Curriculum Associates Announces Excellence in Teaching Grant

Curriculum Associates (http://www.curriculum associates. com) has begun accepting applications for its 1999-2000 Excellence in Teaching Cabinet Awards.

In the third year of this grant program, Curriculum Associates is seeking proposals that demonstrate a desire to make classrooms better learning environments through the use of innovative tools, including technology. Projects can be from three months to one year in duration.

Three teachers will be awarded cash grants of $1,000, plus $500 worth of materials from Curriculum Associates. Winning teachers will additionally serve on the Excellence in Teaching Cabinet. The deadline for proposals is March 15, 2000.

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Study: Most Teachers Feel

A new study by Market Data Retrieval finds that a majority of the more than 1,500 teachers surveyed feel they are not well prepared to use technology in their classrooms.

When asked how well they were prepared to use technology in teaching, only 39 percent said they were “well prepared,” while the remainder said they were either “somewhat prepared” or “not at all prepared.” What’s more, just over half of the same respondents said their schools provided “fair” or “poor” training and support services.

Commenting on the study, Keith Kruger of the Consortium for School Networking, which backs the use of technology in schools, said schools too often concentrate on technology purchasing and not enough on training teachers how to use it.

“You wouldn’t buy a bus and not think about training the bus driver or buying adequate fuel to keep it running, and yet that’s exactly what we’re doing too often in the case of school computers,” he said.

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eCommerce Sites Providing Proceeds to Schools for Technology

Two new internet portals are making it easy for schools to earn money for technology and other purchases.

A+America’s Technology4Kids.com and independently run Schoolpop.com have created similar fundraising programs.

Both work roughly the same way: Log onto on of their web sites, register the school you wish to support, and follow links to some of the internet’s most popular eCommerce merchants. Buy what you’d like, and your school of choice automatically gets credit for the purchase, between 5 percent and 12.5 percent through Technology4Kids and as much as 20 percent through Schoolpop.

The Technology4Kids web site is set up like a internet “mall,” with links to over a dozen of popular internet retailers.

At Schoolpop.com, consumers again select the school they want to support and use the site’s home page to access links to eCommerce sites. Schools later get a rebate check for whatever proceeds they have earned. Schoolpop.com also provides promotional materials to schools to help them spread the word about the program.

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Five Real Reasons Why Teachers Don’t Use Technology More

Fewer than two out of every 10 teachers in the United States are considered “serious” computer users, gauged by their use of computers in the classroom several times a week, while three to four out of every 10 teachers use computers about once a month and the remainder never at all.

There are many assumptions as to why teachers don’t use the technology they have available to them more often, not the least of which is that teachers are simply afraid of the technology.

The author disagrees, citing statistics that show seven of those same 10 teachers have computers at home and tend to use them more there than they do at school.

That said, the author points to five areas he says are overlooked when examining the teacher technology puzzle:

1. Ever-changing advice from external sources. First, it was teaching students BASIC in a lab setting, then it was teaching them applications such as word processing and spreadsheets. And then things shifted to the classroom, where teachers were told to show their students how to use the internet and eMail, how to program in HTML, and how to create multimedia presentations.

2. Too much to do, too little time. While technology has streamlined the way the corporate world gets things done, teachers still teach the same number of classes and students as before. Preparation time for the classes is also the same as before.

3. Getting pulled in several directions. Teachers must know their subjects, report on abuse and bad behavior, and help students meet state mandates for standardized tests. They are then held personally accountable for how well their students do.

4. Unreliable technology. Teachers must be extremely patient to deal with equipment that breaks down, especially if their school has no on-site technical support (and most don’t).

5. No respect. Decision makers don’t often consult teachers on what technologies would be best for them, so their voices go mainly unheard.

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Seven New Roles for Today’s Librarians

The author outlines the seven new roles for school librarians in the Information Age:

1. Internet Navigator. Librarians today should know how to effectively navigate the internet.

2. Collaborator. Work with teachers to develop learning activities that draw from internet resources.

3. Evaluator. Create evaluation tools and integrate them into the curriculum.

4. Publisher. Develop resource guides for teachers, students, administrators, and parents.

5. Program Administrator. Work with educators to devise policies for use of the internet.

6. Staff Developer. Be the point person for showing teachers and administrators how to use the internet effectively and how to integrate the web into the curriculum.

7. Family Resource. Show families how to use the internet creatively.

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Y2K Supplements Available for Classrooms

The President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion has made classroom materials on the Y2K computer glitch available on its web site (http://y2k.gov/youth).

Through a partnership with the National Newspaper Association and the Newspaper Association of America, the council has developed a Y2K “tool kit” for students and teachers. The tool kit includes a 16-page supplement for students and a 24-page resource guide for teachers.

In addition to making the materials available on the council’s web site, the Newspapers in Education program will be sending the tool kits to about 5,000 local newspapers for reproduction and distribution.

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Put Your School Newspaper Online

Online student newspapers are giving schools a broader reach and offer the timeliness that is often lacking in these publications. With an online newspaper, events, announcements, and sports scores can be posted instantly, instead of a week later. And a newspaper on the web can reach people that might not normally get to see the publication, such as distant relatives or out-of-town alumni.

If you’re thinking of putting your school’s newspaper on the web, you have basically two options: build from scratch or find a service to host it for you.

If teaching students the technology needed to produce an online publication is important, starting from scratch is the better way to go. It also allows for a customized look. Students not only learn how to produce a newspaper, but they also learn how to use web authoring tools.

The disadvantage of building from scratch is that it could limit the number of students who can or want to participate. If your student newspaper staff isn’t necessarily a tech-savvy bunch, going with a service might be the better option.

Highwired.Net, for example, offers schools free tools to build and maintain an online newspaper. With the service, students don’t need to learn HTML to post stories and images. And the newspaper becomes part of an expansive network of student publications. Students can easily find out what other schools are reporting on.

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Four Ways Video Can Help—and Three Ways It Can’t

The author outlines the strengths and weaknesses of video’s role in education. First, the strenghts:

1. Visual demonstration. One of video’s greatest strengths is its ability to demonstrate how things work and for helping teachers make concepts more clear to their students. With video, students can see things they might never get to see in person.

2. Dramatization. Video can draw viewers in like no other medium and can be used to enhance the learning experience. With computers, integrating animation, charts, and graphics into video can give new life to once-dull materials.

3. Presenting visual evidence. Another of video’s strengths is its ability to document real events that most people would otherwise miss. Video becomes a record of the event, rather than an illustration.

4. Emotional appeals. Nothing can bring emotion to light by letting pictures and sound demonstrate those emotions.

And now, the weaknesses:

1. Too much talking. Video too often is used simply to record people talking, the least interesting type of video presentation.

2. Abstract or non-visual information. Trying to use video to present abstract ideas is a difficult endeavor. Think of the difference between presenting history, which can be dramatized, and mathematics, which cannot.

3. Intellectual argument. Only intellectual arguments that can be backed by some sort of physical evidence will be effective. If prior knowledge is required to understand the argument, video probably won’t work well.

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Eight Web Sites to Help You Choose English/Language Arts Software

With the dozens of software titles available for your English/Language Arts programs, selecting the right application for your needs can be tricky. Here are eight web sites that can help you review software and narrow your search:

1. California Instructional Technology Clearinghouse (http://clearinghouse.k12.ca.us). See evaluations of hundreds of English/Language Arts titles, and for all subjects.

2. The Regional Alliance for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education Reform NetTech, The Northeast Regional Technology in Education Consortium (http://www.ra.terc.edu/softwareeval). See how teachers from several Northeastern states rate a variety of software programs.

3. Ohio School Net (http://www.enc.org/rf/ssrp/ssrpfinder.html). Search evaluations offered by the SchoolNet Software Review Project. You can search by subject, grade, platform, keywords, or national standards.

4. Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville (http://leader.soed.siue.edu/Evaluations/Searc h2.html). The university’s College of Education has gathered reviews on its web site with an easy-to-use format.

5. Teaching & Learning Online (http://www.Techlearning.com/reviews.html). A searchable database of evaluations is available here, as are links to magazine reviews.

6. SuperKids Software Review (http://www.superkids.com). Software is evaluated by teachers, parents, and students.

7. Way Cool Software Reviews (http://ucc. uconn.edu/~wwpcse/wcool.html). Also provides reviews by teachers, parents, and students.

8. Educational Software Institute (ESI) Online (http://www.edsoft.com). “The world’s largest and finest collection of educational software,” according to ESI. Search the site’s Resource Guide to Educational Software.

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Teachers Seeking Better Content With Classroom Technology, Study Says

Teachers are getting more computers in their classrooms, but they have to wade through stacks of CD ROMs and computer diskettes that do not meet their students’ needs, according to “Technology Counts,” Edweek’s annual survey of the nation’s teachers and state education technology policies.

While government officials declare school technology a national mission and pledge to connect every classroom to the internet, they are not investing enough time and money in software, the report concludes.

Teachers reported that the available learning software material does not match state or school district standardized tests, cannot run on underpowered classroom computers, consumes too much instruction time, and can cost too much.

Overall, 71 percent of the nation’s 86,000 schools can reach the internet from at least one classroom. On average, the report said, nearly six students—there are 53.2 million nationwide—match up for every one “instructional computer,” which includes older models without extras such as sound cards and video.

Cost is a problem in effectively using computers, 80 percent of the teachers surveyed said. Also, 47 percent said their computers were too weak for the best software.

Other findings in the report:

• 30 percent of schools have a full-time technology coordinator, while 27 percent add this responsibility to a current employee’s duties.

• 42 states require that teacher preparation programs include technology, but just four require technology in teacher re-certification.

• 23 states have group-purchasing plans for schools to buy classroom software, which can cost $600 to $1,000 per title.

• Four states developed some software lessons to match the standards they have set for learning goals by grades. Eight states put such content on Web sites.

• The teachers’ survey was based on 1,407 responses from a representative sample of 15,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The third annual report tracking state policies and funding of school technology was underwritten by The Milken Family Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif.

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