Reinforcing President Clinton’s four-pillar approach to improving education, the CEO Forum on Education Technology released a report that urges schools to increase their investments in digital content. The announcement came at this year’s National Educational Computing Conference (NECC), held in Atlanta June 26-28.

A reported 12,000 school administrators, technology coordinators, and teachers descended on Atlanta to learn technology best practices and view the latest in educational hardware and software. At a meeting of the congressional Web-Based Education Commission held during the conference, the CEO Forum argued that schools’ investments in technology infrastructure are worthless if those investments aren’t backed up by high-quality educational content.

The forum consists of the top executives from companies such as America Online, Apple Computer, Discovery Communications, and IBM. In previous years, the group’s reports have addressed the other three pillars of educational technology: hardware, connectivity, and teacher training. This year’s report, called “The Power of Digital Learning: Integrating Digital Content,” focuses on digital content, or the lack thereof.

The report recommends that schools perform a digital content inventory to find out what digital resources they already have—including video on demand, software, CD-ROMs, web sites, eMail, databases, audio, and online learning systems—and who knows how to use them.

It also advises schools to up their investment in new educational software and web-based resources. According to the report, of the approximately $6.8 billion spent each year in the United States on instructional materials, only 10 percent is spent on digital content.

“The important thing is that people start thinking about digital content,” said Anne L. Bryant, CEO Forum co-chair and executive director of the National School Boards Association, in an interview. But “if it’s not geared toward helping students meet standards, then it’s not helping.”

The forum’s report also acts as a blueprint for using digital content to improve instruction, Bryant said. Schools need to invest in digital content that actually can improve student achievement. The report offers a vision for digital learning, guidelines for integrating digital content into instruction, and tools for assessing a school district’s progress.

New tech standards for teachers

Also at NECC, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) released a set of technology standards for teacher preparation. The latest ISTE standards provide colleges and universities with a guideline of what new teachers should know upon entering the classroom.

The standards describe “what teachers should be able to do in their every day lives to teach children how to use technology,” said John Vaille, ISTE’s chief executive offficer.

The “National Education Technology Standards for Teachers,” the third set of standards in ISTE’s National Education Technology Standards (NETS) series, provide goals for making sure teachers are well-prepared to teach in today’s technology-rich classrooms through four stages of professional development:

• The General Preparation stage prepares pre-service teachers in the core subjects of math, science, and social studies and the technology tools that support those subjects.

• Stage two, Professional Preparation, includes teaching methodology, learning theory, initial field experiences, classroom management, curriculum, and technology to support teaching and learning.

• The third stage is Student Teaching, where candidates combine the pedagogy and content from the first two stages in a real classroom under the supervision of a master teacher. It is during this third phase that practice in managing and facilitating students’ use of technology for learning occurs, ISTE said.

• The final stage addresses expectations for the first year of teaching, focusing on communication with parents; helping students use digital learning resources; ethical use of technology; management of the learning environment; and clear planning for, and assessment of, the use of technology to support the learning needs of a generation of students born into the information age.

“What America has asked education to do is to improve,” Vaille said. “You can’t improve if you don’t set goals.”

Other conference news

Acer America Corp. demonstrated its new TravelMate 730 series notebook computer. This slim, ergonomic laptop features an Intel Pentium III processor with SpeedStep technology. It has an industrial-strength magnesium alloy chassis, making it incredibly durable, and carries a single lithium ion battery giving it up to five hours of battery life, Acer said. Prices start at $2,399.

http://www.acer.com

Adobe Systems Inc. announced a new education program consisting of a web site for educators, new instructional resources, and reduced prices for administrators, teachers, and students. The site, scheduled to go live August 1, will provide a single location for educators to share ideas. In addition, lessons from the Adobe GoLive “Classroom in a Book” will be available for teachers to incorporate into their own curricula.

To support its education initiative, Adobe is offering special product promotions for its PageMaker, GoLive, and LiveMotion software. The first is a free CD-ROM with educational content to all customers who purchase PageMaker 6.5 Plus at a special education price. The CD-ROM contains clip art, stock photographs, templates, and tutorials to help teachers and students use PageMaker to its fullest potential. Additionally, GoLive 5.0 and LiveMotion 1.0 will be available as an educational bundle for $129. The bundle offers web authoring and animation tools to help students and teachers create engaging online experiences. Both offers are available from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31 in the United States and Canada only.

http://www.adobe.com

Advantage Learning Systems is entering into the school administrative software market with a web-based product called eSchoolOffice.The software will be piloted this fall by two Canadian school districts in Ontario, the Rainbow District and the Otawa/Carleton District. The initial version of the software will offer functions most needed to streamline school operations and reduce paperwork, the company said, including student enrollment data, personal and demographic data, grades, scheduling, transportation information, staff records, and electronic communications with students, staff, and parents. Additional features will be added based on users’ experience. Advantage Learning also demonstrated the first SIF-enabled version of Accelerated Reader, the company’s flagship product.

http://www.advlearn.com

Apple Computer unveiled its Technology Planning Guide, a free online roadmap for effective technology integration. The guide takes educators through a sample planning process and offers templates and other resources designed to help teachers maintain focus on teaching and learning.

http://www.apple.com/education

Bigchalk.com announced new partnerships with National Public Radio (NPR), Blackboard Inc., and the Princeton Review. The company plans to launch an educational web resource featuring NPR content and audio, combined with lesson plans, student activities, and opportunities for classroom collaboration. Bigchalk also will become the exclusive distributor of Homeroom.com, a web-based subscription service from the Princeton Review that assists schools in aligning their teaching with state testing and curriculum standards and is designed to help students raise their scores on those tests.

In addition, bigchalk will use Blackboard Inc.’s Blackboard 5 eLearning software platform to power its professional development services for the K-12 community. As a result of this partnership, bigchalk users will be able to use Blackboard’s technologies to develop online curriculum materials for their students and for their own professional development.

http://www.bigchalk.com

Boxer Learning announced that its BoxerMath.com, an online curriculum featuring algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, is now available to Macintosh users with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0. Boxer Learning tutorials incorporate brilliant graphics and images to motivate and engage the learner.

http://www.boxermath.com

Centrinity Inc., formerly known as MC2 Learning Systems, demonstrated its FirstClass Unified Messaging software, which lets users access voice mail, eMail, and faxes all from a single in-box on one computer desktop, regardless of the network device or communications protocol used.

http://www.centrinity.com

Chancery Software, a leading publisher of information management systems for K-12 schools, announced that the first hosted Zone Integration Server (ZIS) for Windows 2000 would be available for schools in September. This hosted ZIS will help educators adopt the newly released Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) specification that was announced at NECC. SIF is a groundbreaking, industry-wide initiative that provides the blueprint for allowing different education software programs to share data. This means student records won’t have to be retyped into every program used by a school or district.

NCS and Follett Software Company also are working together to build a multi-platform Zone Integration Server to operate with SIF.

In addition, Chancery announced that it is offering an online store where parents can buy back-to-school supplies based on teachers’ recommendations on K12Planet.com, Chancery’s school and home portal site.

http://www.k12planet.com

Classroom Connect announced the Quest Channel, a subscription-based product that lets classrooms around the world access Quest Interactive Expeditions. During these live expeditions, students gather clues and participate with the Quest team via the internet, helping to solve ethical dilemmas and investigating mysteries along the way. Classroom Connect also appointed the first five members of its high-powered board of advisors: John Vaille, John Gage, Elliot Soloway, David Thornburg, and Cheryl Vitali. These board members will assist Classroom Connect in providing high-quality tools for incorporating the internet into classroom instruction.

http://www.classroom.com

Compaq Computer Corp. unveiled a new line of customizable, back-to-school Presario Internet PCs. The new Compaq Presario 5000 and 7000 Series PCs have been designed for easy upgradability and internet access. The machines come in six different colors; feature an easy-access “pop-off” panel that gives instant access to memory, PCI slots, and the hard drive; and include a Logitech QuickCam Express Internet Video Camera on select models, which can be used to create digital movies and photos. The 5000 series starts at $649 with an Intel Celeron processor, and the 7000 series—which includes an Athlon processor, a Sound Blaster PCI audio card, and a 16 MB Nvidia TNT2 graphics card—starts at $960.

Compaq also announced the winners of its third annual Competition for Innovation in Classroom Computing. The competition, part of the company’s Teaching with Technology Grant Program, recognizes K-12 educators for their original uses of technology to create challenging and inspiring learning opportunities for students. Four “national models” each received a Compaq iPAQ and a ProLiant 1600 server, as well as an all-expense-paid trip to demonstrate their projects at NECC. More information about the grant program can be found at Compaq’s web site.

http://www.compaq.com

Dell Computer Corp. demonstrated its TrueMobile Wireless solution, an affordable and flexible way for schools to provide network access. Dell’s wireless solution requires a TrueMobile Wirless Access Point to send and receive signals and TrueMobile Wireless PC Cards that slide into desktop or notebook computers. By attaching the access point to a cart and using laptops, schools can easily create mobile computer labs, Dell said.

Dell also demonstrated new models of its Inspiron and Latitude notebook computers featuring Intel Mobile Celeron 600 MHz or Pentium III 750 MHz processors, with prices starting under $1,500.

http://www.dell.com

Edmark Corp. announced a partnership with Tech4Learning, a young company that provides professional development solutions for teachers, schools, and districts. Tech4Learning will offer training workshops and materials for Edmark products.

Edmark also unveiled edConnect Membership, its new online teacher destination, which is set to launch in September. edConnect is comprised of three components: the Software Collection will feature Edmark’s award-winning products, the Software Manager will deliver Edmark software to schools over the internet, and the Planning and Resource Center will assist teachers with lesson planning and identify good web resources.

http://www.edmark.com

Epylon Corp. announced that its free electronic purchasing solution, designed specifically for education and government, is now available across the nation. Epylon’s procurement tool lets buyers search an online catalog of products, request quotes from suppliers, create personalized lists, and perform paperless requisitions. With about 1,400 suppliers, the site features more than 750,000 products ranging from crayons to lab equipment to jack hammers.

http://www.epylon.com

eschoolmall.com announced that its online procurement solution will be compliant with the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) specifications this fall, which will allow its solution to interact and share data with other software, such as fund accounting programs. According to eschoolmall.com, this interface will let schools recognize encumbrances, liquidations, and account balances during the procurement process, ensuring that they maintain budget control and comply with regulations.

http://www.eschoolmall.com

Gateway introduced Gateway Teacher Ware, a package of tools and training that helps teachers use their PCs to create dynamic and exciting multimedia lessons. Teachers get Leonardo’s Multimedia Toolbox software, a digital camera, and a one-year subscription to Gateway’s online training, with unlimited access to more than 250 computing courses.

http://www.gateway.com/teacherware

IBM introduced Insight at School, a business intelligence solution for the K-12 market that files years of historical data—such as student grades and demographics—into one program. Insight at School helps administrators spot trends and analyze class, grade, and school district performance, as well as curriculum calendars and geographic data. The software can help identify areas where students are failing and indicate what teachers should do differently to address the challenges of student achievement and accountability, the company said.

IBM also announced that its Learning Village, a web-based tool that facilitates communication between teachers, parents, and students, is now available as a hosted solution, eliminating the need for school-based technical support and maintenance.

http://www.ibm.com

JDL Technologies announced that it is an active participant in the SIF initiative. JDL is the only K-12 focused, vendor-neutral systems integrator among more than 80 other SIF-participating organizations, the company said. JDL also announced that it would head up the School Technology Command Center project at the second annual eSchool Technology Conference and Exposition, Oct. 2-4 in Orlando. During the conference, sponsored by eSchool News, attendees will visit the Command Center for live demonstrations of how SIF-enabled technology will enhance education.

http://www.jdltech.com

N2H2 Inc., which specializes in internet management and filtering solutions, unveiled the Searchopolis Education Resource Center, an enhanced version of its Searchopolis search engine. The enhanced site lets users conduct searches based on their reading comprehension level using Lexile.com’s Lexile Framework. N2H2 also announced that it has upgraded the ResourceBar in its industry-leading filtering software, Bess, which provides single-click access to several levels of searching—from information in Microsoft’s Encarta Online Deluxe encyclopedia, to a catalog of education web sites, to the entire filtered internet.

http://www.n2h2.com

NetSchools Corp. announced a partnership with Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) to give every student and teacher at participating schools a laptop computer, allowing them to access the internet at home and school. Under the NetSchools Constellation system, every student will receive a NetSchools StudyPro laptop and every teacher will get an HP OmniBook notebook PC, as well as extensive teacher training, support, and assessment from HP. The solution also includes HP network servers, monitors, printers, networking products, and peripherals.

NetSchools also unveiled NetSchools. com, a web service built around its comprehensive, research-based teaching model. Aligned with curriculum goals and standards, the site includes lesson plans, teaching aids, assessment tools, and more than 30,000 pre-screened web sites for classroom use.

http://www.netschools.com

PowerSchool Inc. announced PowerSchool Enterprise, the newest version of the company’s web-based student information system. The program lets large school districts cost-effectively manage student records, while allowing parents to track their children’s progress in real time. Teachers can enter grades and attendance information, post homework assignments, map learning activities to standards, and monitor individual students or an entire class online.

http://www.powerschool.com

Premio Computer demonstrated its PC Quick Fix, which features automated support capabilities that enable Premio desktops and servers to undergo a self-healing process. The software, now shipped on all Premio PCs, allows the computer to reconstruct itself by recovering deleted or damaged files and repairing corrupted drivers and registry entries, according to the company.

http://www.premiopc.com

Riverdeep Group, an online developer of educational material, said it will provide its products on AOL@School, America Online’s free educational web site. In addition to math, science, and language arts curriculum samples, the Riverdeep content will include lesson plans, professional development materials, and student activities targeted to middle and high school students. Riverdeep also hosted a live webcast with Chris Askew, the assistant host of CNN’s TalkBack Live. Educators around the world were able to watch the event and ask questions via eMail.

http://www.riverdeep.com

Scholastic.com, the web site of Scholastic Inc., announced three new teacher internet tools available this fall. Teacher Toolkit, designed for K-8 teachers, provides a personal workspace where teachers can manage classroom materials, post assignments and class announcements, and make a class home page. Teaching with Books is a database of more than 3,000 high-quality books that lets teachers create personalized book lists. Classroom Exchange is a tool for creating international penpals featuring eMail, language translation, and collaborative curriculum projects.

http://www.scholastic.com

Security Software Systems Inc. introduced PolicyCentral, new software designed to help administrators and educators enforce their acceptable use policies. PolicyCentral is a LAN-based application that displays “acceptable use policy” when a user attempts to enter a specific application. The user has to accept the terms of the policy before he or she is allowed to enter. The software’s log-in technique notifies administrators of potential access violations. PolicyCentral is available for $1,495 for the server software and five user licenses. Site licensing also is available. The company also announced a network version of its internet filter Cyber Sentinel. The new product is called Cyber Sentinel Pro2 Network.

http://www.securitysoft.com

Simplexis launched Simplexis 2.0, a second generation of its free web-based school purchasing application. Simplexis 2.0 now provides school professionals and their vendors with function-driven modules for every stage of purchasing. It covers requests for quotations, order input management, electronic purchase order generation, and delivery tracking with easy-to-use modules such as SimpleBid, SimpleQuote, and Simple Contracts.

http://www.simplexis.com

SmartStuff Software previewed XcursionCentral.com, a new web site to help educators teach with the internet. This site lets teachers access a variety of curriculum-rich, teacher-developed internet field trips, called Xcursions. It also has a set of tools to help teachers edit existing Xcursions or create and save new Xcursions for use in the classroom.

http://www.smartstuff.com

National Educational Computing Conference

http://neccsite.org

CEO Forum on Education Technology

http://www.ceoforum.org

Web-Based Education Commission

http://www.webcommission.org

Internation Society for Technology in Education

http://www.iste.org