The premier edition of the eSchool News “School Technology Management Conference and Exposition” drew more than 1,000 people to the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., Oct. 17-20.
The event was co-sponsored by Dell Computers, with additional support from JDL Technologies, Adobe Systems, FamilyEducation Company, Daly Computers, and Symbol Technologies.
School technology directors, superintendents, executive educators of all kinds came to the nation’s capital to hone their understanding of the management issues affecting school technology today, network with their colleagues from across the country and around the world, and catch a glimpse of the latest school technology on display at the “Blue Ribbon School Technology Exhibition.”
Attendees, who represented key decision makers at the building, district, state, and national levelsincluding a U.S. senator or twowere able to browse an exhibit hall featuring more than 50 presentations by a wide array of school technology vendors. Attendees also got a close-up look at a state-of-the-art school technology command center, organized by eSchool News and assembled with the participation of more than a dozen companies under the leadership of JDL Technologies.
Workshops and breakout sessions
The conference began with a series of total-immersion workshops, in which school technology leaders discussed practical solutions to complex issues with attendees.
“Tech-Savvy Teachers,” presented by Sue Collins, senior vice president of professional development and marketing for Jostens Learning Corp., highlighted several possible solutions to the practical issues administrators face when looking to adopt successful professional development strategies for their educators.
Peter Blauvelt, president of the National Alliance for Safe Schools and one of the country’s top authorities of school safety, led a workshop entitled “Safe Learning Environments,” in which he addressed ways to assess and deter student violence.
During the afternoon workshops, attendees learned the importance of “Committed Communities” to support their technology plans from eSchool News’ stakeholder relations columnist Nora Carr, director of marketing and development for the Cooperating School Districts of St. Louis.
Michael Gershowitz, president of Gershowitz Grant and Evaluation Services, and eSchool News’ grants and funding columnist Deborah Ward, president of the Pennsylvania Grant Development Network, together presented an informational workshop on the “Three Keys to Great Grant Writing.”
The breakout sessions for the conference were arranged around five different management tracksLeadership and Vision, Purchasing and Business Practices, Integration and Technical Support, Human Resources and Professional Development, and Accountability and Communications.
More than 30 breakout sessions were presented over a three-day span. Two of the best-attended were “Effective Strategies for Technology Integration,” led by New Jersey Superintendent Raymond Farely and Kansas IT director Bob Moore, and “Emerging School Technologies: The Management Perspective,” in which Heather Boyles of the Internet2 initiative and Mark Cowtan of FVC.com discussed what’s on the horizon for the internet and distance learning.
A large group also attended “Prurience, Piracy, and Privacy: Technology’s Impact on Ethics and School Law.” David Sobel, legal counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and David Splitt, a school law attorney and ethics and law columnist for eSchool News, initiated a lively debate over the ethical issues surrounding the use of filtering software and other legal issues pertinent to school technology management.
“Encouraging Reluctant Teachers: Staff Development Strategies that Work,” also led by Collins, drew a large crowd eager to learn how administrators can initiate and model the use of technology in their districts to encourage professional development among teachers.
Attendee Kim Hayes of the Victorville, Calif., School District commented that the issues she had come to learn more about were addressed at sessions like this one. “There were lots of good sessions on teacher training and staff development,” she said.
Other session highlights included a spirited two-part discussion on “Making the Web an Integral Part of School Communications,” presented by Carr and Elliott Levine, director of communications for Lawrence Public Schools in New York, in which participants received tips on how to create an effective and educational web site for their schools.
Carr and Levine also discussed the benefits of having such a site during times of crisis, as was highlighted by the exceptional Columbine High School web site that provided hourly updates for parents and stakeholders during the school’s shooting incident last April.
Another popular session was led by The Hill School’s chief information officer, Rick Bauer, who instructed his group on “The Art of the School Technology Deal.” During his presentation, Bauer personally donned the many hatsboth literally and figurativelythat technology coordinators must wear to successfully navigate purchasing for K-12 schools.
The School Technology Management Conference drew five of the country’s premier leaders in the field of educational technology as distinguished lecturers.
Christopher Dede, professor of educational technology at George Mason University in Virginia, kicked off the first day of sessions by outlining his vision for the future of school technology. Some major goals Dede says educators must embrace include the un-learning of traditional teaching techniques, ongoing support for educators, mastering technology through next-generation standards, using multiple measures to gauge performance, and creating a level playing field for all students.
Though most school districts cite cost as a major barrier to technology implementation, Dede said this is because they’re not approaching change as systemic in nature.
“When school districts ask the question, ‘How can we afford all this,’ the real question they’re asking is, ‘…without changing anything else?'” he said. In reality, he added, when change is systemic, schools can afford it by cutting costs in other areas such as textbooks, staff for data management, and re-teaching the same content.
Allen Schmieder, vice president of JDL Technologies and the 1998 Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) Presidential Awardee in Technology, agreed with Dede that we must re-think how we assess student learning to gauge technology’s success in education.
“We’re trying to use 19th century measures to assess 21st century achievements, and that’s wrong,” Schmieder said. “Technology isn’t just a tool, yet that’s how we still approach it. [In reality,] it’s a whole new way of looking at fields of knowledge.”
Schmieder also said early intervention isn’t enough of a priority in our educational system, particularly when it comes to educational technology. “Elementary schools are the most critical point for establishing the learning habits of studentsyet these often get the ‘hand-me-down’ technology of a district,” he said.
Douglas Van Houweling, president of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Developmentthe group behind the Internet2 (I2) project to provide high-speed connectivity for advanced research applicationshad some important news for attendees: As of the previous week, the group had voted to allow K-12 schools to partner with member universities to enjoy the same privileges as these leading research institutions. Van Houweling also outlined some of the initiatives currently under way at I2 member universities nationwide.
Linda Roberts, White House advisor on school technology, also addressed the conference. Roberts briefed attendees on the state of the budget debate in Congress, including efforts under way in the U.S. House of Representatives to cut federal technology funding by as much as 20 percent. But she also expressed optimism for the future of the eRate, the federal program that gives telecommunications discounts to schools and libraries.
John Gage, chief science officer for Sun Microsystems and one of the original founders of the Net Day initiative, wrapped up the event by discussing the promise that technology holds for education in the next century.
Down in the exhibit hall, the “Millennium-Ready School Technology Command Center” drew rave reviews from educators. The center contained a working model of a school district network operations center (NOC), complete with the latest hardware and software to monitor and control network traffic, desktop applications, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) systems, fire protection systems, and security systems from a single office location.
Engineers from JDL Technologies, which took a leadership role in designing and building the command center, demonstrated the equipment by monitoring and controlling the flow of network traffic across the entire exhibit floor.
“This gives us the ability to see a failing network card before it actually fails, so we can replace it before it brings down the entire network,” said Thomas Lapping, JDL president. “If school districts aren’t monitoring their networks, they can’t see what’s going on until it’s too late. It’d be like building a city and not monitoring the traffic patterns on the streets.”
Some of the command center’s components are quite easy and inexpensive to install. Dartmouth University’s InterMapper, for example, is priced around $400 for schools. With InterMapper, which runs on Macintosh computers, you can make maps of your network and see the state of your network at a glance. The software will even notify you by eMail or page when a device goes off-line or your network experiences trouble.
School Technology Management 2000 was co-sponsored by Dell Computer Corp., with additional support from Adobe Systems Inc., Symbol Technologies Inc., JDL Technologies, FamilyEducation Network, and Daly Computers.
Based on the reception to the premier edition, the School Technology Management Conference will become an annual fall event, conference organizers said.
Other highlights from the exhibit hall:
AbleSoft Inc. demonstrated its flagship product, Teacher’s Toolbox, an easy-to-use and affordable classroom management software system for teachers. The software is sold at retail in single units and through site licenses to schools and school districts.
ACE Software Inc. announced that it would give away the application to its ADM-2000 package of K-12 school administrative software free for a limited time. School districts will incur costs for the database and client-server software, but ACE Software will provide a 30 percent educational discount on those items. (Optional annual maintenance, conversion, and training costs are not included in the offer.) ADM-2000 is a simple, flexible, and powerful browser-based solution to all aspects of school managementfrom grades and scheduling to medical and discipline information.
Adobe Systems Inc. announced the launch of a new education web site. The site offers special education licensing on Adobe software, volume licensing programs, and other resources for educators. Adobe also showed off its latest creation, InDesign, a sophisticated page layout and graphic design utility that gives users unprecedented creative freedom, according to Adobe.
American School Directory, a database of more than 70,000 school web sites nationwide, demonstrated its free services to K-12 schools, including The Education Connection, a web portal site for educators with links to curriculum and leadership resources; School Product Guide, a listing of K-12 products and services grouped according to 13 categories; and free eMail for students and educators.
AWS Inc. demonstrated its two leading K-12 services: AirWatch, a state-of-the-art, real-time weather monitoring station, and InstaSports, a web hosting service for communicating local scholastic sports information.
Blackboard Inc. demonstrated its platforms for teaching and learning over the internet, which allow schools to host single-course web sites with Blackboard.com, multiple courses with Blackboard CourseInfo, and entire online campuses with Blackboard Campus.
Boxlight Corp. displayed its presentation solutions for the K-12 market, including LCD projectors, DLP projectors, plasma displays, projector accessories, teleconferencing systems, and presentation training.
Brother International Corp. displayed its new line of education products for the coming year, including the latest versions of its GeoBook, a low-cost laptop computer for students priced from $399 to $549. Also shown were the company’s new Cool Laminator and StampCreator devices.
CD International Inc. displayed its Virtual Jukebox line of products that let schools access CD and DVD data over their networks faster and more reliably than with conventional mechanical jukeboxes and at no extra cost, according to the company. CD International offers four solutions that can store from 75 to 500 CDs.
Chancery Software announced that it will be entering the “parent portal” market with a new web site that will leverage information from Chancery’s existing student information system, Open District, bringing parents back to the site for biweekly updates on their children’s progress. The site will be driven directly by Open District, so no additional entry of student data will be required. A beta version of the service will be ready for December, and Chancery hopes to release version 1.0 in March.
Cognizant Systems introduced Scholar’s Edge, a program that allows teachers to create computer-based exercises and assessments that are specific to their curriculum goals. Teachers can set the criteria for how they want a lesson presented and scored; for example, they can choose to provide hints if a student needs help, or they can assign different weights to each question. The system runs on any Windows-based PC with 25 MB of free hard drive space and 32 MB RAM.
Dell Computer Corp. demonstrated its OptiPlex desktops, Latitude portables, and PowerEdge servers. Dell also showed its industry-leading online purchasing programs, including “premier” pages that are custom-built for Dell customers and web-based state education stores that show state-specific education pricing for states that include Dell products in their master contracts.
DK Interactive Learning displayed its award-winning software titles, including The Way Things Work, Pinball Science, My First Amazing World Explorer 2.0, I LOVE MATH, Amazing Animals, Eyewitness Children’s Encyclopedia, and Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Nature 2.0.
EarthWalk Communications Inc. announced a no-cost, no-obligation evaluation of its new eBuddy wireless student notebook computer. The device runs on a Pentium 266 MHz processor with Windows 98 and integrated wireless transmitter-receiver circuitry. EarthWalk also displayed its SmartCart computer lab on wheels and 27-inch Hitachi MMV large-screen color TV/monitor.
EBSCO Publishing unveiled a new online learning community, EBSCO School ResourceNet (ESRN), that combines curriculum assessment and reference resources with management and communication tools. Through ESRN, teachers can construct online assignments and lesson plans, manage class lists, communicate with parents and students by eMail, and track and monitor student progress; parents can communicate with teachers and view their children’s progress and grades; students can retrieve and complete assignments and communicate with teachers from any workstation with access to the web; and administrators can easily manage school information, monitor student progress, view various reports, and more.
Educational Technology LLC presented Chaperon, an internet management tool with filtering and notification capabilities, and eTrack, a web-based software program designed to keep school systems running smoothly with less paperwork.
EduTek Education Solutions featured its line of wireless networking solutions for schools, including “Classroom-In-A-Cart,” a mobile computer lab. The company also offers technology planning and implementation to K-12 schools.
Enterprises Computer Services Inc. (ECS) demonstrated its web-based administration software solutions for school districts, including modules to manage capital outlay, student records, child nutrition, and grants accounting.
FamilyEducation Network unveiled several new services for educators, including School webBoost, a free service that lets schools with existing web sites link into its network of school sites; TeacherVision.com, a one-stop shop for teacher resources; and MySchoolMail.com, a free eMail service for parents, educators, and students.
FutureKids Inc. announced the availability of new “Teacher and Student Technology Competency Exams.” The exams, developed and tested by Idaho’s Boise State University, provide a valid and reliable assessment of technology skills in ten basic areas such as word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and desktop publishing, according to FutureKids. When administered at a school, the exams generate data about the technology literacy of teachers, and their ability to use technology in the classroom; the technology literacy of students, and their ability to use technology in real-world applications; and the technology infrastructure of the school. Schools then receive comparative data with other schools in the country and a consultative review of their existing technology plan, the company said.
H45 Technology showcased its QuickPAD product, a wireless keyboard with built-in word processing capabilities. The unit is Macintosh and PC compatible and is intended to be a cost-effective way to help students improve their writing and keyboarding skills.
I.T. Xchange highlighted its sale of surplus, discontinued, and refurbished computer hardware at discount prices to schools. The company focuses on name-brand products, including IBM, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Toshiba, and NEC.
Iconix International Inc. demonstrated it UserNet software, a Windows-based educational interface for Novell NetWare networks. UserNet consolidates many system functions into an easy-to-use graphical interface, allowing educators to leverage all the tools of a powerful Novell network without any network knowledge or training.
The Image Group showcased its marketing and communications services for K-12 districts, including web site consulting and comprehensive public relations planning.
Inspiration Software Inc. demonstrated its visual learning software that helps students organize their thinking. The software integrates dynamic visual mapping and outlining environments to help students comprehend concepts and create clear, concise writing.
Intelligent Peripheral Devices Inc. (IPD) demonstrated its Alphasmart 2000, a portable keyboard or note-taker that is compatible with any Macintosh or PC. The cost-effective device enables students to practice keyboarding, writing, and electronically stores notes and reports. The product has an optional industry standard interface that allows wireless transfer between the Alphasmart and a computer or printer.
Internet Products Inc. presented its web filtering solution, a plug-and-play web server called InterGate. The device integrates the features of a web server, eMail server, web filter, caching server, proxy server, firewall, and file transfer protocol server in a single, easy-to-use product.
JDL Technologies showcased its networking, training, and systems integration services for K-12 schools. The company also demonstrated its K-12 World line of products, including CyberLibrary, SmartFilter, and Satellite Server.
Kaetron Software Corp. introduced a free web service for schools called “Cram Jam: Homework on the Web.” Using this product, teachers can post assignments and provide information about tests, projects, and meetings with no knowledge of hypertext markup language (HTML) required. Students can use Cram Jam to retrieve weekly assignments from any internet-connected computer with the click of a button. Teachers, students, and parents can create their own secure accounts to provide personalized information.
MC2 Learning Systems Inc. demonstrated its collaborative online educational tools, including Zebu, which provides a secure, web-based environment for creating projects and sharing resources, and FirstClass, which helps create shared spaces where teachers and students can communicate, post documents, and publish on the web.
N2H2 Inc. highlighted its popular Bess filtering system and Searchopolis kid-safe search engine. School districts that agree to use Searchopolis and display K-12 appropriate advertising on web pages can take part in a voluntary discount offer on Bess that will result in the possibility of free filtering after one year. The company also announced that Searchopolis was rated the No. 1 kids’ search engine by Children’s Software Revue, placing ahead of Yahooligans, Ask Jeeves for Kids, and AOL’s NetFind Kids Only.
National Computer Systems Inc. (NCS) demonstrated its financial management, student records management, instructional and curriculum management, electronic document management, and testing software. The company’s ParentCONNECTxp is a web-based program that gives parents access to their children’s grades, attendance, assignments, and discipline records over the internet.
NetVentures introduced PC-HMO.com, a new online support and training center for school districts. With PC-HMO’s fee-based subscription service, districts will receive 24-hour, seven-day-a-week “help desk” support; anytime, anywhere access to an online knowledge base of tech support resources; and online training courses to help reduce overall support costs.
NewDeal Inc. featured its award-winning SchoolSuite software, which promises to give new life to old PCs through a complete set of integrated point-and-click applications that require only 10 MB of free hard disk space and 640K in memory. The software provides word processing, web browsing, spreadsheet, and database applications that run through a graphic user interface on machines as old as a 286 or 386, the company said.
Nextel Communications presented a package of eRate-eligible cellular services for K-12 schools. The company’s wireless phones provide three ways to communicate: Direct Connect, which lets users contact from one to 100 colleagues instantly, with just the push of a button; digital cellular; and text paging.
Nordex International introduced Nordex School, a cross-platform school administration system that includes student record management, attendance tracking, discipline tracking, grade reporting, and a master schedule builder. The software also features a district-wide component.
Palisade Systems highlighted its internet and network management, security, and monitoring systems. The company’s ScreenDoor Internet Management Server provides a mechanism for undetectable enforcement of acceptable use policies, according to Palisade.
PowerQuest introduced its Academic Technician Power Pack, designed to expand the efficiency of school administrative computing.
PowerSchool LLC demonstrated its web-based school management system, PowerSchool. The product promises to handle management functions in the district office, school office, and classroom with just a single server. PowerSchool maintains schedules, grades, and attendance for schools of any size on any platform.
SchoolCity.com, a new virtual community for schools, chose the School Technology Management Conference to officially launch its free service. The service provides teachers, students, and parents with a comprehensive array of online tools, curriculum-focused content, educational links and resources, and eCommerce capabilities. Designed initially for middle and high schools, SchoolCity.com offers services such as template-based web site building, web site hosting, eMail, filtered public and private chat rooms and forums, and distributed web publishing capabilities. An eCommerce element allows schools to create virtual school stores, and they can keep any revenue earned through the site.
SMART Technologies demonstrated its SMART Board interactive whiteboard; SMART Expression, a mobile multimedia cabinet; and SynchronEyes, classroom instruction and computer-control software that uses a school’s existing network to help educators monitor and control computers, deliver software demonstrations, and focus students’ attention.
SmartStuff Software introduced FoolProof Qube, a Linux-based hardware and software internet server appliance that provides the capabilities to safely and efficiently connect a school to the internet at a fraction of the cost of general-purpose servers. SmartStuff also demonstrated the rest of its FoolProof line of internet and network security products, including FoolProof Internet and FoolProof Security.
Spectrum Industries displayed its modular computer lab furniture designed specifically for schools. The furniture includes a system that organizes and controls the maze of computer cables and cords.
Symbol Technologies showcased its Spectrum 24 wireless technology and the school-based applications it can support, including WLAN infrastructure, voice-over-IP communications, and mobile handheld phones and computers.
Tangent Computer displayed its extensive line of personal computers, notebooks, desktops, mid-towers, enterprise file servers, and other networking solutions.
Teacher Created Materials introduced TechWorks, an innovative program that helps teachers integrate technology skills into the curriculum for students in grades K-8. TechWorks is the first comprehensive program to introduce technology skills at appropriate grade levels while linking them with other skills and concepts being taught, the company said.
Teacher Universe highlighted its instructor-led and web-based professional development courses for educators and its instructional technology planning services for K-12 schools.
The Library Corporation (TLC) presented Library Solution, a fully integrated library automation system; Library Request, which promises to ease the administrative burden of inter-library loans; and Library Acquire, an acquisitions management system.
Update Software demonstrated its WebBuilder software, which helps schools create and enhance effective web and intranet sites without any knowledge of HTML.
Word of Mouse introduced a hassle-free, no-charge mousepad replacement program geared specifically for K-12 schools. The company supplies schools with high-quality, hardtop mousepads for free because the company’s sponsors subsidize the cost of the program.
Youthline-USA exhibited its weekly newspaper for kids, which features international and national news, feature articles, and letters to the editor, just like an adult newspaper. The company also is building a unique, safe, and productive internet-based educational service for K-12 teachers, librarians, parents, and children.