AOL Foundation makes 55 awards

The AOL Foundation, the philanthropic arm of America Online, announced that 55 teams of educators and community leaders throughout the country have been awarded grants of up to $7,500 through its Interactive Education Initiative (IEI), a grants program that seeds creative models of interactive technology in K-12 student learning. Grantees will receive computers, software, free AOL accounts, and computer training. Winning proposals, selected from more than 700 entries, include:

• An interactive conflict resolution web site to provide educators with resources and interactive lesson plans for incorporating conflict resolution/peer mediation into everyday learning;

• Internet programs to teach elementary-level hearing students basic sign language; and

• Supervised peer counseling for teens on the internet concerning substance abuse and suicide prevention support, among other challenges.

In addition to the new grants, the AOL Foundation will later this year offer supplemental funds to some of its 1998 grant winners so that they can expand their programs.

In an unrelated development, AOL last month also provided a computer and internet hookup for every classroom in DeSoto (Mississippi) County, commemorating the birth region of its president and CEO, Bob Pittman. Local banks, Pittman’s own foundation, and the DeSoto Times Today newspaper also contributed funding to provide 106 computers to the county’s school system. “The heart of the community is its school,” said Pittman.

Oracle Corp. to invest tens of millions in Pennsylvania

To jumpstart its advanced technology intiative, Oracle Corp. will invest as much as $49 million in Pennsylvania’s secondary schools, the company announced jointly with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. The technology, known as “Beehive,” is the latest generation of online-learning software that promotes collaboration and idea-sharing. Designed for fourth- to eight-graders, Beehive also permits teachers to monitor online communications. The software can recognize text, images, video and audio, allowing contributions in formats other than text that provide children with greater flexibility, said Oracle in its announcement.

The arrangement with Oracle is one element of Pennsylvania’s “Link-to-Learn” program, a multi-year, $166 million initiative aimed at expanding the use of technology in the classroom. Link-to-Learn will provide new and upgraded computers for schools, technology training for teachers, and a system of community-based networks called the Pennsylvania Education Network.

Pilot schools for testing Beehive in Pennsylvania will be selected this spring. For more information, contact Al Bowman, deputy press secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, (717) 783-9802, or Oracle Corp.

National Academy Foundation awards $120,000

At a ceremony attended by President Bill Clinton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and other dignitaries, the National Academy Foundation (NAF) announced in January the creation of the Academy of Information Technology, a new program to prepare high school students for careers in dynamic information technology fields.

NAF chose 12 public high schools across the United States for its pilot program and provided each with $10,000 grants to develop partnerships with institutions of higher learning, for-profit businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Small Business Administration. The partnerships will operate in some sense as a “school-within-a-school.”

NAF is one of the nation’s foremost school-to-career programs and currently has programs for careers in tourism, banking, and other fields. Approximately 75 percent of NAF students are minorities. For a list of pilot sites, visit the NAF web site.

U.S. West to invest millions in South Dakota schools

South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow and telecommunications giant US West have crafted a multimillion dollar partnership that will link South Dakota students and teachers through a new statewide intranet. U S West says the system will be about 275 times faster than phone-line linkages now in place in the schools, and it will include access to video-conferencing and data transfer technology worth more than $17 million.

The project, which will eventually connect all K-12 public schools as part of a statewide data and video intranet to be called the Digital Dakota Network, is a key element of Gov. Janklow’s plan to enable students in rural schools to have expanded educational opportunities. Among the first uses of the new technology will be “electronic whiteboards” on which a teacher can write with a marker, and the image will be transmitted almost instantly on a screen that students in classrooms across the state.

This summer, the state will offer a new series of courses in training teachers to use the new technology.

Fabyan Foundation provides $223,500

The Fabyan Foundation has given $223,500 to Geneva (Illinois) School District 304 for technology development. Last year, the foundation initiated the Fabyan Scholars Program to provide $5,000 annual scholarships, renewable for three years, for study after high school to 10 Geneva students.

Gifts from the foundation to Geneva-area schools and students over the last eight years have totaled about $2 million. n