Movie mogul Steven Spielberg made a star turn at the American Association of School Administrators’ (AASA) 132nd Annual Conference, held in San Francisco March 3-6. The conference gave about 5,000 attendees from across the nation a chance to network with their peers, attend breakout sessions and lectures by leaders in the school administration field, and browse an exhibit floor with more than 300 education vendors.

Making news at the AASA conference was America Online. The nation’s largest content portal and internet service provider previewed its brand-new educational component, AOL@school. Representatives from America Online described AOL@school as a free internet solution addressing the varied needs of K-12 students, teachers, and administrators.

AOL@school consists of six different portals tailored to specific levels of online learning. Users can select portals geared toward students in grades K-2, 3-5, middle school, high school, teachers, or administrators. Each portal provides users with links to what AOL considers the best available online content appropriate for its audience.

The company’s information portal was developed with educators guiding its set-up and design, AOL representatives said. AOL also emphasized the safety measures inherent in the portal, with “parental controls” to help ensure a safe, secure, age-appropriate site.

Selected schools nationwide are field-testing AOL@school, and the company plans to have the portal up and running by next fall.

Another announcement made to AASA conference attendees was the introduction of CompassLearning—formerly Jostens Learning—to the K-12 education arena. CompassLearning, a subsidiary of WRC Media, is one of the largest publishers of supplementary educational material in the world. The company says it provides software containing more than 7,000 hours of instruction. With its new name, CompassLearning announced a new direction, new resources, and new partners.

The company displayed a variety of products at the show, including a range of curriculum software, from reading to science aids; classroom management software, such as the Compass Virtual Classroom package; and several types of assessment software.

The American School Directory (ASD) presented passers-by with computer-led group demonstrations of its web-based school information, communication, and payment tools, which are available free to K-12 schools with a web presence.

ASD also announced that it has joined forces with MSN (Microsoft Network), the creator of Encarta Learning Zone. Together, they will provide schools with personalized home pages displaying school information, calendars, menus, and other information.

Conference-goers were introduced to the Web Zinger online research engine by Imaginon. Designed to be useful to students and teachers in particular, the WebZinger engine locates web sites, downloads graphics and text, then formats it all into a browsable, printable format.

Teacher Universe offered attendees a sneak preview of three new online services: “Train without Pain,” an online teacher training program; “Show What You Know,” an online teacher assessment program; and “School Money Tool,” an online grant locator.

NetSchools had several of its new 2000 series StudyPro student laptops set up for demonstration. NetSchools calls its StudyPro series “the first notebook computer engineered from the ground up for student use.” The display units featured high-speed infrared LAN capability, a 200 MHz processor, stereo audio playback, a full-sized, water-resistant keyboard, and a rugged magnesium case with a handle for easy portability.

AlphaSmart also presented educators with examples of its portable computer solution for K-12 students. AlphaSmart 3000 units can download any text from a Mac or PC and can store approximately 100 pages of single-spaced text in eight files, allowing students a portable and economical way to learn with computers, company representatives said.

At the towering NCS booth, exhibit hall visitors could attend presentations on NCS’s REALskills! program, which lets high schools offer classes in IT curriculum to their students. In partnership with Manpower Professional and SmartForce, the NCS REALskills! Training program allows students to become certified in Microsoft or CompTIA requirements through online courseware.

But the exhibit hall wasn’t the only draw for those attending the 2000 AASA show. Veteran Colorado superintendent Don Saul received the national Superintendent of the Year award in an emotional ceremony at the Moscone Center on March 3.

“I love all of you and appreciate this honor as much as I can say and beyond that,” Saul said, as he accepted the award before a filled-to-capacity hall of attendees.

Patrons also attended speeches by several high-profile distinguished lecturers, including director Steven Spielberg. Spielberg spoke about his own struggles with education and his current involvement with the Shoah Visual History Foundation, a nonprofit organization he founded after his experience directing the Academy-award winning Holocaust epic, Schindler’s List.

In addition to the general sessions, attendees were able to choose from more than 200 breakout sessions.

Among some of the more popular technology sessions were “Using Technology for School Improvement,” which highlighted the need for collaboration and teacher empowerment to encourage technology integration, and “Technology in Education: Catalyzing Its Effective Use,” in which Intel’s Carlene Ellis spoke passionately about a national crisis arising from the lack of tech-savvy students graduating from American high schools.

Next year’s AASA conference will be held in Orlando, Fla., February16-18.

American Association of School Administrators
http://www.aasa.org

AOL@school
http://www.school.aol.com

CompassLearning
http://www.compasslearning.com

American School Directory
http://www.asd.com

Imaginon Inc.
http://www.imaginon.com

Teacher Universe
http://www.teacheruniverse.com

NetSchools
http://www.netschools.com

AlphaSmart
http://www.alphasmart.com

NCS REALskills!
http://www.realskills.com

Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation
http://www.vhf.org

Intel Corp.
http://www.intel.com