Key organizations and leading companies that support the eSchool movement.

AbleSoft Inc., of Lancaster, Pa., is a leading developer and publisher of teacher productivity software and a provider of educational content for school and home use. Visit the AbleSoft web site:

http://www.microsports.com/ablesoft.htm

(800) 334-2722

See the ad for AbleSoft on page 27

Acer America Corp., headquartered in San Jose, Calif., is part of the Acer Group, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of microcomputers. Visit Acer’s web site:

http://www.acer.com

(800) 733-2237

See Acer’s ad on pages 62 and 63

AlphaSmart Inc., headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., develops and markets affordable and effective technology solutions for the education market. Visit AlphaSmart’s web site:

http://www.alphasmart.com

(888) 274-0680

See AlphaSmart’s ad on page 23

Bigchalk.com is a brand-new education destination delivering all the components required to support the learning community. Visit Bigchalk.com’s web site:

http://www.bigchalk.com

See the Bigchalk.com ad on page 15

Boxlight Corp., located in Poulsbo, Wash. is a leading source among educators for presentation equipment. Visit the Boxlight web site:

http://www.boxlight.com

(800) 689-6676

See Boxlight’s ad on page 55

Chancery Software Ltd., of British Columbia, provides student information systems that are accurate, timely, and easy to use. Visit the Chancery web site:

http://www.chancery.com

(800) 999-9931

See Chancery’s ad on page 24

Compaq Computer Corp., headquartered in Houston, is a world leader of the PC industry. Visit Compaq’s web site:

http://www.compaq.com

(800) 888-3224

See Compaq’s ad on pages 2 and 3

CompassLearning, of San Diego, is a leader in curriculum software and professional development. Visit the CompassLearning web site:

http://www.compasslearning.com

(800) 244-0575

See the CompassLearning ad on page 18

DDC Publishing, of New York City, provides internet research projects and applications. Visit the DDC web site:

http://www.ddcpub.com

(800) 528-3897

See the ad for DDC on page 21

Dell Computer Corp., of Round Rock, Texas, is the world’s leading direct-sales computer company. Visit Dell’s web site:

http://www.dell.com

(800) 822-6078

See Dell’s ad on pages 32 and 33

FamilyEducation Network, of Boston, is a leader in web site editing tools and templates. Visit the FamilyEducation Network web site:

http://www.familyeducation.com/tech

(800) 558-3382

See the FamilyEducation Network’s ad on the back cover

Fortres Grand Corp., of Plymouth, Ind., supplies an innovative security agent that resides invisibly between the user and the computer. Visit the Fortres Grand web site:

http://www.fortres.com

(800) 331-0372

See the ad for Fortres Grand on page 30

Homework Central, headquartered in New York City, is an educational web site tailored to fit both teachers’ and students’ needs by providing 75,000 links on 10,000 subjects. Visit Homework Central’s web site:

http://www.homeworkcentral.com

(212) 244-2870

See the ad for Homework Central on page 47

Knowledge Adventure, of Torrence, Calif., is a leader in developing, publishing, and distributing multimedia educational software. Visit the Knowledge Adventure web site:

http://education.com

(800) 545-7677

See the ad for Knowledge Adventure on

page 29

The Learning Company, of Cambridge, Mass., is a leading producer of affordable programs that give teachers the ability to integrate the internet into their classrooms. Visit The Learning Company’s web site:

http://www.learningcompanyschool.com

(617) 494-1200

See The Learning Company’s ad on page 19

The Lightspan Partnership, of San Diego, is a leading provider of curriculum-based educational software and internet products. Visit the Lightspan Partnership web site:

http://www.lightspan.com

(888) 425-5543

See Lightspan’s ad on page 10

Lucent Technologies, headquartered in Murray Hill, N.J., provides communications systems, products, technologies, and customer support. Visit the Lucent web site:

http://www.lucent.com

(888) 4-LUCENT

See Lucent’s ad on page 43

Magnetic Shield Corp., of Bensenville, Ill., provides an effective cure for magnetic interference on computer monitors. Visit the Magnetic Shield web site:

http://wwwmagnetic-sheild.com

(877) 290-5558

See the ad for Magnetic Shield on page 20

, of Seattle, delivers a suite of products that makes the internet a safer and more productive place for schools. Visit N2H2’s web site:

http://www.n2h2.com

(877) 336-2999

See N2H2’s ad on page 11

NCS Inc., of Minneapolis, is one of the nation’s largest single providers of student, curriculum, instructional, and financial management software and services to K-12 schools. Visit NCS’s web site:

http://www.ncs.com

(800) 736-4357

See the ad for NCS on page 38

NetSupport Inc., of Cumming, Ga., is a member of the PCI Group of companies, developers of the NetSupport range of award-winning remote control and IT training products. Visit NetSupport’s web site:

http://www.netsupport-inc.com

(770) 205-4456

See NetSupport’s ad on page 5

nSchool.com, of Norcross, Ga., is a free web-based education system providing a new level of communication between schools, students, teachers, administration, and families. Visit the nSchool.com web site:

http://www.nschool.com

(800) 370-2730

See the nSchool.com ad on page 14

, of Jacksonville, Fla., designs, develops, and markets automated video camera control systems and emerging wireless technologies. Visit ParkerVision’s web site:

http://parkervision.com

(800) 532-8034

See ParkerVision’s ad on page 37

Penn State World Campus, of University Park, Pa., helps busy educators integrate technology into learning environments through the internet. Visit the World Campus web site:

http://worldcampus.psu.edu

(800) 252-3592

See the Penn State World Campus ad on page 22

Power On Software, of Minneapolis, offers three award-winning Macintosh network tools: On Guard desktop security, LAN Commander software distribution, and Screen-To-Screen screen sharing and remote control. Visit Power On’s web site:

http://www.poweronsoftware.com

(800) 344-9160

See the ad for Power On Software on page 12

PowerSchool Inc., of Folsom, Calif., is a leading provider of web-based student information systems to K-12 schools. Visit the PowerSchool web site:

http://www/powerschool.com

(888) 470-0808

See the PowerSchool ad on page 16

Premio Computer Inc., headquartered in City of Industry, Calif., provides K-12 and university campuses with desktops and servers for all computing needs. Visit the Premio web site:

http://www.premiopc.com/edu

(800) 677-6477

See Premio’s ad on page 13

Procom Technology, of Santa Ana, Calif., is a leader in network attached storage devices. Visit the Procom Technology web site:

http://www.procom.com

(800) 800-8600

See Procom’s ad on page 31

Riverdeep Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., designs, develops, publishes, markets, and supports interactive learning solutions for K-12 education. Visit the Riverdeep web site:

http://www.riverdeep.net

(800) 564-2587

See Riverdeep’s ad on pages 8 and 9

Sagebrush Technologies, of Austin, Texas, is a leading provider of educational materials, information solutions, and bibliographic information to schools and libraries. Visit the Sagebrush Technologies web site:

http://www.sagebrush-tech.com

(800) 642-4648

See the ad for Sagebrush Technologies on page 35

Schoolpop.com, of Menlo Park, Calif., is an online shopping mall designed to raise money for the school of your choice. Visit the Schoolpop.com web site:

http://www.schoolpop.com

(877) 724-5767

See the ad for Schoolpop.com on page 39

Symbol Technologies, of Holtsville, New York, is a leader in wireless networking solutions for education. Visit the Symbol Technologies web site:

http://www.symbol.com

(800) 722-6234

See the Symbol Technologies ad on page 17

Synsor Corp., of Cincinnati, Ohio, is a provider of the ShuttleSystem line of changeable, ergonomic, interlocking furniture that reconfigures to meet changes in technology and teaching methods. Visit the ShuttleSystem web site:

http://www.shuttlesystem.com

(800) 411-1979

See the ad for ShuttleSystem on page 26

Tangent Computer, headquartered in Burlingame, Calif., designs computer systems tailored specifically for education and government applications. Visit Tangent’s web site:

http://www.tangent.com

(888) TANGENT

See the ad for Tangent on page 7

TIAA-CREF, of New York City, provides renowned investment expertise for education, research, and related fields. Visit the TIAA-CREF web site:

http://www.tiaa-cref.org

(800) 842-2776

See the ad for TIAA-CREF on page 25

YourSchoolShop.com, of Seattle, provides free online shopping that benefits K-12 schools nationwide. Visit the YourSchoolShop web site:

http://www.yourschoolshop.com

(206) 268-5499

See the ad for YourSchoolShop on page 28

Youthline USA is a unique, safe, and secure internet-based educational

service for K-12 schools. Visit the Youthline USA web site:

http://www.youthline-usa.com

(888) 299-6884

See the ad for Youthline USA on page 53

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Clinton calls for more tech funding

President Clinton has announced plans to double funding for after-school programs and training new teachers on how to integrate technology into the classroom. The president also wants to expand tax incentives for private-sector computer donations and sponsorships for schools.

The initiatives mark the highlights of the president’s fiscal year 2001 budget, released in February. All told, the largest education budget in the nation’s history requests some $16.2 billion for programs that could impact school technology, including $903 million for technology-specific programs.

As might be expected, reaction from Republicans in Congress to the president’s budget proposals was mixed.

“Technology is something we’ll be dealing with in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act later this year,” said Dan Lara, press secretary for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is chaired by Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa.

“For some members, it will be a question of funding, and for others it will be a question of whether [decisions about] these programs are best left to local school districts,” Lara said.

Among other initiatives, the proposed budget would provide $150 million to ensure that new teachers entering the workforce are technology-literate and know how to use technology as an effective teaching resource.

“Connecting classrooms and libraries to the internet is crucial, but it’s just a start,” Clinton said. “My budget ensures that all new teachers are trained to teach 21st century skills.”

The $150 million would double the existing budget for the U.S. Department of Education’s Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology program, which was funded at $75 million in fiscal years 1999 and 2000.

Last year, 225 grants were awarded to consortia of universities, teachers’ colleges, and K-12 schools or districts under the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers program, each at more than $200,000 per year. The Department of Education (ED) is accepting applications for this year’s program through March 7.

“If we don’t improve the preparation of teachers now, it’s such a waste,” said Linda Roberts, director of ED’s Office of Educational Technology, in an interview with eSchool News. “It easily undermines the investments we are making.

“These teachers will be working with students who expect to use technology,” Roberts added. “It is imperative that these teachers remain ahead of the curve instead of behind it.”

She said it is especially important to begin training teachers to use technology now, because over the next ten years K-12 schools will need to hire two million new teachers to fill vacancies left by retiring teachers and to accommodate increasing student populations.

Rob Schleck, principal on special assignment from the A. E. Burdick School in Milwaukee, said he noticed new teachers and student teachers working in his school “lacked a real sense of how to use the internet in the classroom.”

His school struggled for two or three years and spent a lot of money to develop effective technology training for its teachers, he said: “It’s a great idea to put ten computers in a classroom, but it’s of no use if they are not being used.”

The president also requested a $547 million increase for ED’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which would double its funding to a whopping $1 billion. With this new support, the program will be able to reach nearly 2.5 million children, ED said.

Now in its third year, the program will award $454 million to schools and communities in 2000, with an average award of $125,000 to support each center. The program distributed $200 million last year and $40 million in 1998. Applications for the latest round of grants are due March 20.

The program is open to rural and inner-city public schools and consortia to help them plan, implement, or expand after-hours, in-school projects that benefit the educational, social, cultural, and recreational needs of the community. Funds can be used to purchase technology, because technology-based learning is among the list of supported after-school activities.

Tax incentives

In addition to increasing funding for teacher training and after-school programs, Clinton has proposed $2 billion in tax incentives over the next ten years for private sector computer donations or sponsorships to schools, public libraries, and community technology centers.

The tax breaks are designed to encourage companies to make charitable contributions to schools, libraries, and technology centers for the purpose of narrowing the “digital divide.”

The current law, which expires in 2000, applies only to computer donations made to schools. The president’s proposal would extend this tax incentive to June 30, 2004 and expand it to include donations made to public libraries and community technology centers in Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, and high-poverty areas.

Up to $20 million a year in tax credits would be set aside for companies that agree to sponsor schools, libraries, and community technology centers located in Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities.

The $2 billion in tax incentives also includes money for businesses that offer basic technology training to their employees to help them succeed in the modern workplace.

Schleck said he has had both positive and negative experiences with receiving donated computers.

“It is really nice having machines donated to us, but frequently they were slow machines with old software,” he said. “Often, the machines were obsolete.”

Other highlights

Other highlights of the Clinton administration’s proposed FY 2001 budget include:

• $12.3 billion in School Modernization funds: $11 billion would be set aside in 2001 (and another $11 billion in 2002) for tax credits to eliminate the interest costs on school construction bonds, and $1.3 billion would fund a new School Renovation program. Of that $1.3 billion, $50 million would be given as grants to Native American reservation schools, $125 million would fund grants to other “high-need” districts, and $1.125 billion would subsidize zero-interest federal loans for school construction. This marks the third year that President Clinton has proposed a school modernization package; the initiative has failed to gain passage in the last two years.

• $450 million for the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund program, a $25 million increase over this year’s funding. The program provides block grants for states to administer to local school districts to fund hardware, software, connectivity, and training. The administration sought $450 million last year but had to settle for $425 million.

• $170 million for the Next Generation Technology Innovation program, a new initiative that combines the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and Star Schools programs. Three competitions for new awards under this program are proposed for 2001: Advanced Technology Applications, the Mississippi Delta Initiative, and Challenging Coursework Online. Advanced Technology Applications will support research and development initiatives that advance state-of-the-art educational technology applications. The Mississippi Delta Initiative will provide training to middle school teachers in the Mississippi Delta region. The Challenging Coursework Online initiative will support the development of high-quality, web-based Advanced Placement, foreign language, and other challenging courses to help ensure that high school students in poor rural and inner-city schools have access to challenging coursework that their own schools can’t always afford to provide. The proposed $170 million in funding is less than the $200 million provided by the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and Star Schools programs in FY 2000.

• $100 million for the Community Technology Centers program, which funds computer learning centers for students and adults in low-income neighborhoods. For its FY 2000 budget, the administration proposed $65 million but had to settle for half of that total.

• $16 million for the Ready to Learn Digital Television program, which supports the development of educational programming and outreach activities designed to promote literacy and school readiness. The program is funded at $16 million in FY 2000 as well.

• $10 million for the Regional Technology in Education Consortia program, which supports the six regional consortia that help states and districts integrate technology with teaching and learning. The program is also funded at $10 million in FY 2000.

• $5 million for the Telecommunications Program for Professional Development, which would expand the currently funded Telecommunications Demonstration Project for Mathematics program to promote excellent teaching in all core subject areas. The program would fund the use of telecommunications to support sustained professional development and teacher networks that train teachers to help all students achieve state content standards. This year’s Telecommunications Demonstration Project for Mathematics program is funded at $8.5 million.

• $2 million for the Technology Leadership Activities program, which seeks to strengthen evaluation of the effectiveness of technology programs and to bring together public and private entities to help schools effectively use all available technology resources. The $2 million request would fund the program at its current level.

Links:
U.S. Department of Education’s FY 2001 Budget site
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/Budget01


House Committee on Education and the Workforce
http://www.house.gov/ed_workforce


Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology
http://www.ed.gov/teachtech


21st Century Community Learning Centers
http://www.ed.gov/21stcclc

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Are Older Donated Computers Worth the Trouble?

Corporations have become great patrons of technology to America’s public and private schools. However, some advocates of improving school technology have pointed out that used computers bring with them a host of problems, and they argue that diverting attention to those problems may actually leave tech-ed in worse shape than if the computers had not been received.

Regardless of some educators’ reservations, Congress seems poised to pass the New Millennium Classrooms Act, which would increase the tax break for companies donating computers to schools over and above the tax break they would get for other charitable donations. Under the proposal, donated machines cannot be older than three years.

Jerry Grayson of the Detwiler Foundation supports the proposed tax break plan as an inexpensive way to help eliminate the seven- and eight-year-old computers that are found in many classrooms today. As he points out, those older computers do not have multimedia capabilities, and in many cases, they may not even be able to access the internet.

Other commenters supported Grayson’s remarks by noting that for many inner-city school systems in the U.S., any computer is a blessing. The ratio of student to computer is so high that non-access is a more severe problem than outdated machines, they said. Another commenter, a teacher, said that she uses aged computers to provide learning experiences for students who wish to troubleshoot them.

But Adeena Colbert of the Consortium for School Networking and the International Society for Technology in Education calls the tax act a poor solution that may have unanticipated repercussions. She says that the incompatibility of old computers with newer software will cause headaches for teachers who are not well-versed in using computers and for already-stressed network administrators. Because computer hardware is only a small part of the cost of creating, using, and maintaining a telecommunications system in a school, she suggests that having the computers as the weak link in the chain will actually raise the costs of the rest of the operation—perhaps significantly.

Several classroom teachers supported Colbert’s analysis of the potential pitfalls of donated computers, and they also pointed out the inequity of continuing to send the inferior equipment to schools that do not have the resources to purchase new machines.

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Cutting Through the Chaff for Network Administrators

The Northeast Regional Technology in Education Consortium (NetTech: http://www.nettech.org/tc/) has created the Educational Technology Coordinator web site to try to assist schools in making sense of the profusion of technology resources available today. The site is a valuable resource for a wide variety of professionals in the K-12 field—teachers, library/media specialists, school administrators, networking personnel, software evaluators, countywide technology coordinators, curriculum designers, and county superintendents.

Planning for this site began in May 1998, and it took more than a year for the 15 people involved in its development to work through the many issues that network administrators face. Now operational, though still evolving, the site addresses matters related to hardware, software, and technology integration for both the classroom and administrative offices. The site may support state standards guidelines by offering online lesson plans in the future.

With only about 30 percent of the schools in the Northeast Consortium having full-time technology coordinators, the author says that one of the most important audiences for the web site will be the people who have been assigned the network administrator task without full training or time to learn its intricacies. For this reason, the web site is focused on the day-to-day responsibilities that these people face: professional development, curriculum integration, technical issues, and technology in context.

Making the site especially valuable are assessments on the strengths and weaknesses of various technologies. Even the links on the site are annotated with comments by actual users and network administrators, so that users can quickly discern if a particular technology may be valuable for them. “The world doesn’t need yet another clearinghouse,” says the author. “Most people have a very limited amount of time to search for relevant information. NetTech seeks to reduce the time between problem and solution tremendously.”

And while great care has gone into the initial creation of the site, the developers are committed to revising it as technology advances and needs change. A discussion group format on the site will create a community of users who are encouraged to offer comments and suggestions that reflect their experiences with technology.

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Improve School Board Communication by Going Online

School boards can improve their interaction with concerned parents and teachers by posting the minutes of each meeting online. Not only will this bring school board meetings to busy parents who may not be able to attend the meetings, but it will serve to defuse tensions that may arise during meetings—as school board members can promise to provide answers to complex issues online, and then take a few days to reflect before answering.

Tom Schafer, president of the Monroe County (Indiana) Community School Board, says that having an easily-accessed formal record of what was said at each meeting has been very valuable. Archiving the information and providing a search capability helps parents, teachers, and administrators quickly find information on a topic of particular interest, he adds.

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Library Automation Giants Join Forces

Challenging Beliefs About How to Bring Technology to Schools

abstracted from “Integrating Technology into Education” by Jim Surratt and Eliot Levinson

Converge Magazine online edition, January 2000

http://www.convergemag.com/Publications/CN VGJan00/ TechFromTheTop/TechTop.shtm

The authors challenge two common beliefs about how technology can be successfully integrated into the K-12 environment.

The first belief they cite is, “Integration of technology should be done on a school-by-school basis because site-based management is a necessary condition for school-based change.” They suggest that thinking about technology in this type of a site-based manner may not be efficient if technology is better suited for the district level. For example, district-wide curriculum matters should not be addressed on the school level, and neither should network infrastructure.

The authors suggest two approaches, which they label “best-teacher” and “early-adopter,” as alternatives. Asking the “best” teachers to create a district-wide curriculum that will work for reaching students of a particular subject will often work better than have an individual teacher or school create the curriculum. The “early-adopter” approach encourages teachers to take the training to become proficient technology users and educators. This method reaches the most motivated teachers and turns them into leaders, rather that forcing material on teachers who are not prepared or motivated to learn.

The second common belief that the authors challenge is “The principal is the key to technology integration in a school.” The problem with relying on the principal as the technology leader is that if he/she is not interested in or capable of being that leader, then programs will flounder. School districts must ensure that technology support comes from headquarters, and that it is offered both to schools as a whole and also to individual teachers, if they want to see its successful integration.

School System Improves Efficiency of Network with Cache Technology

abstracted from “CacheFlow Internet Caching Appliances Help San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Office Control WAN Costs and Improve Internet Response Time”

CacheFlow Inc. web site, February 2000

http://www.cacheflow.com

The San Bernardino County (Calif.) School District says that “caching” technology installed on its wide area network (WAN) computer system has substantially improved the speed of both its internal communications and connections to the internet, by helping the district more efficiently use the bandwidth of its network.

The WAN is used for administering both payroll and finances for K-12 schools and five community college districts in San Bernardino County and also serves as the hub for the county’s schools to access the internet. Requests for internet content from every school funnel into the network. Before the new technology was installed, about 95 percent of the WAN link was occupied with internet requests, often delaying the downloading of educational web content for students and teachers.

CacheFlow Inc., a provider of network efficiency solutions, created a caching system that stores within the WAN the internet content most often requested by the network’s 20,000 users, and it monitors the source of those pages for content changes. This uses the existing bandwidth more efficiently because most of the requests for content never leave the county’s network.

“The CacheFlow appliances are satisfying almost 60 percent of our requests for internet content. As a result, web traffic now accounts for only about half of our total WAN bandwidth,” said Jeremy Powell, telecommunications infrastructure specialist for the school system. “The CacheFlow solution has enabled us to accomplish our immediate goals—flattening the peaks in WAN costs and improving performance for students and faculty.” Sagebrush Corp. and Winnebago Software Co. merged on Jan. 14 to become what the companies call the largest firm dedicated to the market for K-12 information solutions—a category that includes library automation systems, quality-bound books, cataloging services, internet solutions, and other educational resources.

“By pooling Sagebrush and Winnebago talent, we will accelerate the pace of innovation in our industry, including new ideas for exploiting the internet,” promised Jay Stead, president and CEO of the combined firm. “Stepped-up innovation will allow our customers to deliver educational services more broadly, effectively, and conveniently than ever before.

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Creating Multimedia Assignments that Help Students

The author begins his article with an anecdote that should serve to remind teachers about the challenges of using today’s electronics in the classroom. “How often have you sat down at the computer with a spare 20 minutes to search the web for a lesson plan or supplemental material, only to find yourself still sitting there an hour later?” the author asks. “We all know how technology, which is supposed to be a time saver, can be a time eater. Our students face the same problem.”

Multimedia projects may take students into unfamiliar territory, and it is a teacher’s role to provide guidance to make that experience as positive as possible. This begins by making sure that students understand the objectives of technology-based assignments. Having students think about those objectives before starting the project—even having them help determine the objectives—is a lesson in and of itself.

A second important step at the outset of a multimedia project is for the student (or, more likely, team members) to break down the project into specific tasks. This will help ensure full participation by all team members and minimize missteps.

A third key is for students to consider the way(s) in which they will present their findings to their peers. The type of presentation will have a large impact on the ways in which information must be obtained, analyzed, and saved. In addition, deciding about presentation early in the process ensures fewer false steps. Students should be reminded that because the project is multimedia, they should consider ways of presenting information besides lectures.

Finally, the author says that teachers should encourage students to adjust their plans as details emerge. While planning ahead is important, it should not act as a straitjacket on collaborative projects that are, by their very nature, likely to evolve.

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Distance Learning Can Open New Doors at Urban Schools

Urban schools can use computer technology to create successful distance learning programs that serve the needs of teachers, students, and collaborative partners, according to these two Columbia University Teachers College professors.

Creating successful programs starts by identifying the educational goals of the institution and the needs of its students. At urban schools, which often have limited resources, the importance of coordinating policy, procedure, and programming before starting the distance learning program cannot be overstated. This front-end effort will help to identify the program’s need (whether perceived or real), and this need will spur many of the stakeholders to participate. Having a leader, a driving force behind the program, usually is critical to surmounting the many initial hurdles towards inception.

Administrators or teachers who want to create a distance learning program should ask themselves some hard questions at the start, say experts. Among the questions are: What is the budget? How will students and educators be evaluated? Can partners (academic, business, or government) be involved? What type of telecommunications media will be used (internet is the slowest, but the least costly)? Who will solve the technical problems that inevitably occur? Can we create compelling, quality content or tailor existing programs to our students’ needs?

Once underway, the program cannot be undermined by pulling back on promised resources for equipment or staffing. Nor can students be told that they will receive different degrees or credits for completing the same coursework. Designating a person to work on marketing the program to the participating institution(s) and partners, as well as to the outside world, is important in maintaining momentum and enthusiasm.

When these programs are well-designed and well-implemented, research indicates that students participate more actively in their education and they learn better. But while improved education may be the most obvious target goal, the authors point out that a New York State Distance Learning Consortium study (http://www.nysdlc.org/whiteppr.shtml) found many other benefits, too:

• Reduced prejudice on the part of students from diverse backgrounds who are suddenly working together;

• At-risk, special education and English language learners can participate in class to a degree not usually achievable in a traditional classroom;

• The Hawthorne Effect—i.e., performance and conduct exceed expectations.

For information about distance learning projects that are considered successful, the authors recommend contacting the TEAMS Project in Los Angeles, designed for K-8 students (http://TEAMS.lacoe.edu), and the Learning Cafe, which provides at-risk youth in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a chance to take high school and college-level courses over the internet.

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Multilingual Computer Programs Help Build Multicultural Learning Experiences

Multilingual web- and computer-based services are easing the job of educators who work with children (and parents) with limited English speaking skills. With approximately half of the U.S. population expected to be Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks, Asians, and Native Americans by 2050, schools must continue to improve their ability to work with linguistically diverse communities.

Translation services are the most common resource used today. Transparent Language has a program, called Free Translation, that provides text and web page translation from English to Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. It also translates from Spanish, French, and German to English.

Alta Vista’s Babelfish program can translate entire web pages or inputted text. Both of these services are free.

However, in some sense, you get what you pay for. Neither Babelfish nor Free Translation will translate more than about six paragraphs of text per translation, making longer projects time-consuming and cumbersome. And, as would be expected, the translations do not capture subtle linguistic matters, but really serve as general translations.

For students working to translate on their own, Babylon.com has created a very good instantaneous dictionary that translates English to Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Hebrew, Portuguese, or Dutch. This program, downloadable free, offers the attractive ability to work on the web, eMail, and also offline with word processing programs, spreadsheets, etc.

In addition to translation services, multilingual programs also offer some less-obvious benefits. For example, several programs can translate important parental forms—such as school registration or free-lunch program information—into other languages. Or web-based search engines can search in more than a dozen languages, aiding in student research about other cultures.

Multilingual programs also can help students in one country “meet” online students from other countries—such as European Schoolnet has been doing for European teachers for several years. A fledgling program that does involve U.S. teachers directly is called the International Education and Resource Network (I*EARN). This program, which operates in 29 languages, tries to engage students in cultural exchange through projects, stories, and games.

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Maximizing the Benefits of Online Writing Laboratories

Online writing laboratories (OWLs) cannot replace the individualized attention of traditional writing labs, but they can supplement teachers’ efforts and open new avenues of communication between teacher and student.

Because so much of work on computers is writing-based, computers can be an ideal medium for providing students with some of the basics of effective writing: grammar rules, writing tips, and research guidelines. Students who work in OWLs become more comfortable using computers in ways that will be required of them in college.

From a teacher’s point of view, computer programs that can correct misspellings and poor grammar can give the teacher more time to discuss issues of content and style. Suggestions and compliments can easily be typed directly into the text of a student’s essay and returned electronically so that the student can implement changes. However, the writing tutor should make sure to also include some one-on-one time with the student, as written comments can be interpreted quite differently than comments and responses made in person.

Innovative teachers are using OWLs to create interdisciplinary courses, too, in which essays are created after online research. Posting those projects online—especially if they were created using software that allows for attractive graphics—gives students an additional boost.

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