Grant Awards

$56 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The latest education gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports programs that are developing innovative curricula for small K-12 schools, particularly schools that will use technology to a significant degree. The grants, which total $56 million, include the first Gates Foundation grants outside the state of Washington as part of the foundation’s plan to support model programs across the country.

The Gates Foundation seeks programs that emphasize small classes and the use of technology, because the foundation’s leaders believe that a small, personalized learning environment is the key to helping every student succeed. To qualify for consideration, the proposed and existing programs had to enroll fewer than 400 students, include the use of technology, create learning opportunities such as internships for every student, and connect each student with an adult mentor.

Several of the grants were directed at programs in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, one of which is being created by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Another Massachusetts organization, the Center for Collaborative Education, was awarded $4.9 million to create the New England Center for Small Schools, which will open as many as 20 new small schools in the next five years. It also will provide evaluation and assessment support to help small schools strengthen student achievement and accountability.

The Gates Foundation continued to direct funds to the state of Washington, too. The University of Washington will receive $6.5 million, most of which ($5.8 million) will be used to fund the initial work of the Institute for K-12 Leadership, which was created earlier this year. The Institute will spend the next four years working to create model school programs in San Francisco; Compton, Calif., near Los Angeles; Kansas City, Mo.; East St. Louis, Ill.; Detroit; Cincinnati; Cleveland; and Boston. The remainder of the University of Washington funds will establish the Small Schools Program at the university’s Center on Reinventing Public Education.

(206) 709-3100

$3.6 million from the Lucent Technologies Foundation

The Lucent Technologies Foundation awarded $3.6 million to 11 partnerships between universities and public schools focused on improving K-12 education. The Lucent Technologies Foundation—the charitable arm of Lucent Technologies—will contribute about $50 million around the world this year toward youth development projects, including education.

The academic partnerships will receive either one- or three-year grants ranging from $90,000 to $450,000. Several have strong technology focuses, including:

• Connecticut College and New London Public Schools, for “Teach and Learn Partnership for Math and Science Excellence.” This project received $91,000 to support a program that is designed to “blur the boundaries between K-12 and higher education in math and science,” according to its developers. It builds on a current collaboration to expand a series of seminars for middle school teachers conducted by Connecticut College faculty in math, technology, and science. The program also enables middle school students to come to the college monthly to work with faculty on experiments in state-of-the-art laboratory space.

• Princeton University, Columbia University, Seton Hall University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Rutgers University at Camden, and New York University, for “The New York-New Jersey Partners in Science Program.” This program has been funded with $106,000 this year and $395,000 cumulatively during the next three years to enable high school chemistry teachers to bring inquiry-based methodologies into their classrooms using cutting-edge technology. The program will help teachers develop new teaching strategies, foster long-term scholarly collaborations, and guide students toward careers in science. This funding expands a program established in 1988 in Arizona and later expanded in 1997 by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

In choosing grant recipients (66 proposals were submitted this year), the Lucent Foundation considers how programs address the following objectives: reform of urban schools; reform of professional development programs for teachers and teacher recognition programs; enhancement of curriculum in the areas of science and math to improve K-12 teaching and to increase excitement among students; and preparation of young people for an increasingly diverse world.

For information about future Lucent Technologies Foundation grants, contact the Philanthropic Initiative Inc. at (617) 338-2590.


Security issues with thin clients

Michael Schmidt has been working as a programmer and project manager in the field of workstation and network security for several years. He’s working on his Ph.D. thesis on thin-client security at the University of Siegen in Germany. Because of its concept of server-oriented computing, thin-client architecture offers improvements and drawbacks when it come to security, Schmidt says.

In general, thin clients offer the following security advantages:

• A client device that is good only for interfacing with users typically does not offer as much exposure to an attacker as a programmable device, such as a personal computer, since all interfaces that allow the introduction of malicious code—like floppy drives—are removed.

• Since all applications run centrally on the server side, a consistent, security-oriented administration is easier to manage.

• Common thin-client architectures (such as Windows Terminal Server) are shipped with a basic security functionality that includes sufficient authentication and encryption for environments with standard security requirements.

However, Schmidt says, there are some disadvantages as well:

• Since all applications run on the server side, a successful break-in discloses much more, possibly confidential, data than a PC attack.

• The server operator carries a higher responsibility and must be entrusted with more than a PC server operator, since all potentially confidential data are available to him or her on the server.

From the client side, there are these potential problems:

• With many products, the thin client cannot figure out whether the server it connects to is authentic or malicious (faked). Anyone who is able to impersonate the server’s identity has access to data the authentic server would process instead.

• A thin client cannot keep its data confidential from the server or its operator, since the data have to be processed in clear text on the server. This is a problem with application service providers as well, if the customer does not have unequivocal trust in its ASP. Even if the thin-client system encrypts data transmission to and from the server, the encryption key is still under control of the ASP.

• “Small” thin-client devices (such as Palm Pilots) usually have a very low system protection. Their security relies on the fact that they’re always kept under physical control of their owners. Palm Pilots that are “borrowed” by an attacker for manipulation or intensively used for internet access can be corrupted easily by viruses, Trojan horses, etc.

In schools, Schmidt sees the following advantages and problems:

• Hacking into the network is made very difficult for students if the thin-client device has no disk drive or any other interface that would allow the infiltration of malicious code. In this respect, thin clients are clearly more secure than regular PCs.

• In case a hacker does manage to gain access to the server, he or she may access confidential data and/or create more damage.

• Students have no real opportunity to store their data in a location kept confidential from the school administration.


eSN Career Center


Science Teacher, FL

Certified science teacher for grades 5 through 8 in small Catholic school. Job includes teaching science to four different levels, organizing science fairs throughout the year. Good place for motivated individual. Great working environment.

Please send resume to: Julie Harris, Teacher, Divine Mercy, 1940 N. Courtenay Pkwy , Merritt Island, FL, 32953 or

Programmer, AK

Develops programs, revises existing programs and implements vendor software packages. Tests, debugs and documents programs. Maintains computer codes for applications supported by the data center. Prior programming experience is desired or at least two years of formal education in Computer Science which includes programming course work. Experience with UNIX Operating Systems and Informix database desirable. Demonstrated proficiency with C, C++ is preferred. Must possess high level technical, logic and analytical skills. Send resume to Bill McCormack, Director of Information Technology, Anchorage School District, 1602 Hillcrest Drive, Anchorage, AK 99517 fax (907) 742-4644 or eMail:



Flight Director,VA

Lead groups (primarily 5-8 grade) through exciting, interactive, multimedia activities by simulating space missions. Requirements include: 110% enthusiasm aching students and adults, demonstrated presentation skills, 4-year degree, familiarity with a variety of technical teaching aids (computer proficiency required). Certification in classroom education is highly desirable. Occasional overtime and weekend hours.

Contact: Sarah B. Jastrzab,Human Resource Administrator,The Challenger Center,1250 N. Pitt Street ,Alexandria,VA ,22314

or eMail:

Freelance Contributor,IL

Help make the leading knowledge and learning destination for the consumer and educational markets. Work from home to build an exciting, dynamic, global resource. Help us create one of the Internet’s top knowledge sites. To succeed, we need outstanding freelance website reviewers. We’re especially looking for top-shelf writers with backgrounds in Education. Candidates must have a minimum of 2 years teaching experience, solid knowledge of current trends in education, good writing skills, and a strong familiarity with the Internet.,

Please contact; Isabel Fiore,Freelance Contributor,,, 310 S. Michigan Ave.,7th Floor, Chicago,IL,60604

or eMail: ,

Instructional Strategies Specialist,NJ

IDE’s Instructional Strategies Specialists consult in client districts in order to bring about substantive change in the teaching and learning process. Using technology infusion as a catalyst for change, they aid teachers and administrators in shifting the traditional paradigm of teaching in order to create enriched learning experiences for students. At least five years teaching experience and a masters or doctoral degree is required for the current opening. As the position is that of a change agent, excellent interpersonal skills are a must. Contact: Katie Kashmanian,Director of K-12 Operations,IDE Corp. – Innovative Designs for Education, 120 North Central Avenue, Suite 4 Ramsey, NJ, 07446,

or eMail:

Instructional Technology Coordinator, CO

Curriculum Implementation Facilitator and Instructional Technology Coordinator Mosaica Education seeks highly qualified and experienced educators for Curriculum Implementation Facilitator (CIF) in Wilmington, Delaware, Harrisburg, PA and Denver, Colorado and Instructional Technology Coordinator (ITC) in Jersey City, New Jersey, Wilmington, Delaware, Harrisburg, PA, and Denver, Colorado,. Qualifications: ITC position requires significant independent analysis and problem solving skills, as well as an in-depth working knowledge of diverse teaching strategies, technologies, and media. B.S. in Math, Science or Instructional Technology. Qualifications: CIF position requires Degree in Social Sciences, Arts or Humanities. Minimum of five years classroom experience (elementary preferred). Media Resource Specialist. Demonstrated mastery in a leadership position. Please submit letter of intent and resume via fax to 415-491-1309 or apply by e-mail at

Instructional Technology Manager, MI

National Heritage Academies, a K-8 charter school management company currently managing 22 schools, is seeking an individual to support the technological needs of the teacher community. The successful candidate will manage multiple facets of the educational technology program. Persons must be self-motivated, organized, possess strong communication skills and must work well in a team-oriented environment. 2 -5 years of prior teaching experience or degree in educational technology or related field preferred. This is a year-round position with opportunity for growth. Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. This position is based in Grand Rapids, but some travel will be required.



Curriculum Consultant, MN

We are looking for a Curriculum Consultant to work in our Shoreview office. This position is in the education industry with an initial focus at the elementary school level.

The job will involve working with K-6 grade teachers, curriculum and technology coordinators, administrators, and other school staff to integrate technology into their curriculum. As a consultant, you will be responsible for understanding the needs of the school, making recommendations and advising methods for integration. Responsibilities will include:

* Researching methods, tools, and strategies for integrating technology into the curriculum across multiple disciplines.

* Analyzing and evaluating a school’s curriculum in terms of technology.

* Presenting workshops and sessions on using technology to enhance curriculum.

* Making recommendations to school and district level curriculum councils.

* Monitoring national and state curriculum standards.

The consultant will also work alongside Vivid Education’s web developers to enhance the curriculum integration section of our interface designed to help schools with every aspect of technology integration.

Required Skills:

* Experience in the education market with an understanding of school systems and functions.

* Familiarity and high comfort level with technology.

* Understanding of national and state curriculum standards.

* Ability to dynamically facilitate and present to groups.

* Curriculum building experience.

Candidates must be willing to work in a fast-

paced startup environment. They must have strong communication skills and the ability to work in teams. Interested individuals, please email:



Ability to maintain, manage, and continue to develop the district Network Intranet System; experience with Novell and NT servers (MS Proxy Server, Novonyx Email Server, Access and SQL Server, and Web Server), and web filtering and web design; ability to provide desktop support and trouble shooting; capability of training students and staff with a positive team attitude; ability to adjust to a flexible schedule.

Contact: Priscilla Schmidt, Personnel Assistant, Silver Falls School District, 210 East C St., Silverton, OR, 97381 or eMail:

Professional Developer K-12, NY

An Education Technology Company in Rockland county, seeks a full/time, self-motivated experienced educator with strong technical and organizational skills to develop, deliver, and assist in coordination of K-12 teacher workshops. Some Tri-state travel. Send resume to:

Judy Brendel, Director of Staff Development, The Learning Edge, 111 Route 303, Tappan, NY 10983 or fax: 914-365-3703

Network Administrator – Tech Spt Sp 3, WA

Salary: $16.72 – $19.38/hr BASIC FUNCTIONS: Responsible for maintaining the infrastructure of the North Thurston School District Wide Area and Local Area Networks. Incumbent is responsible for daily operation of routers, premises wiring, fiber connections, TCP/IP configurations and T1 provisioning. PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES: Must have or be currently pursuing Cisco Certification. Training/experience in networked


systems and server-based or client/server applications. Ability to work independently. Ability to develop positive working relationships with staff and management.


Senior Network Analyst,WA

Assist Network & Telecommunications Services Director in development & implementation of a suite of network services for local school districts within ESD 113’s service region. Wide Area Network management support, Institutional Technical Unit support. Provide services to districts using NT server, Novell Netware, AppleShare, Unix/Linux, Windows 95/98 and Macintosh Operating Systems. $47,835 – $52,778 plus benefits. Contact: Judy Gregorius, Senior Network Analyst, Educational Service District 113, 601 McPhee Rd SW, Olympia, WA, 98502, or eMail:


Information Services Consultant, NC

Information Services Consultant Scope Person will assist and guide the Academy’s staff and students in using the technologies within the school’s environment to the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness. Uses established practices and procedures to accomplish tasks requiring expertise in specific areas. Acts as a resource for the school’s other consultants and educational constituents. Qualifications: -Thorough technical knowledge of Windows NT and networking systems; knowledge of Windows 95 and Macintosh OS a plus. Strong interpersonal, organizational, communication, and planning skills. -Knowledge of multimedia technology, multimedia authoring tools, and use of the Internet and Intranet to deliver information. -A record of successful experience in more than one of the following areas: academic technology, technology training, information systems, programming, consulting, problem solving, networking, and World Wide Web. -Related experience in an academic institution a plus. -Bachelor’s degree or higher in a technical area with emphasis on information systems, computer science, education, or instructional technology. -Four years of experience in information systems consulting, training or programming, including experience dealing directly with the user community. -Directly related experience or a combination of directly related education and experience may be considered in place of the above requirements. Position in Organization: The Information Services Consultant will function as part of the instructional support staff and will report to the Director of Information Services. How to Apply Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, and the names of three references to: Information Services Consultant Cary Academy 1500 N. Harrison Avenue Cary, NC 27513 Fax: 919-677-4002 Cary Academy is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. EOE

Librarian/media specialist, FL

Oversee library/media center for small Catholic school, enrollment 300. School is located in Merritt Island, FL. about 45 miles east of Orlando.

Contact: Sister Anne O’Sullivan,principal,Divine Mercy School,1940 N. Courtenay Pkwy,,Merritt Island,FL , or eMail:

Library Support Assistant, IL

The Library Support Assistant (LSA) is responsible for performing computer-related troubleshooting, catalog data management services, and other software-related management to both the Schools’ libraries and their approximately 40 Macintosh computers. The LSA coordinates activities with the Information Systems group assists the library faculty and staff in establishing and maintaining effective computing operations. This is a 12-month position. Education: Bachelor’s Degree required; computing coursework required, library coursework preferred.

Experience: Minimum one year troubleshooting/maintaining computers, academic setting/Mac platform preferred. Contact Dave Stafford, Associate Director, The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, 1362 East 59th Street, Chicago IL 60637or


Info. Technology Support Specialist, AL

Franklin Road Academy’s Technology Department seeks an Information Technology Support Specialist to Assist Director of Technology in all areas of technology for a 900 plus student K-12 campus located in Nashville, TN. Provide daily first line support for 450 computers, 12 servers running Mac, Windows, Linux & Novell operating systems. The ideal candidate will have familiarity with or demonstrate the ability to master the following areas. 1) Respond to and track all daily technical support calls 2) Check equipment and software problems 3) Reconnect lost network printer connections 4) Reconfigure lost network settings (IP addresses / Bindings) 5) Replace dead clock batteries 6) Reload bios settings 7) Move equipment being replaced (monitors, printers, CPUs) 8) Troubleshoot cabling problems 9) Upgrade, install, and track (for licensing) software 10) Help users find lost data 11) Transport broken equipment for local repair 12) Receive and distribute new equipment 13) Organize and perform equipment setup and configuration 14) Troubleshoot multimedia connectivity problems (projectors) 15) Track product pricing and availability 16) Schedule and perform regular maintenance for all network equipment 17) Maintain technology software and equipment inventory For consideration, please contact: Mike McCabe Director of Technology Franklin Road Academy 4700 Franklin Road Nashville, TN 37220 Phone: (615) 331-6808 x357 FRA Home Page: e-mail:

Hardware & Network Technician, CA

Private elementary school seeks hardware & network technician. Applicant must have understanding of MAC networks running OS 7.1 through 9.0, Appleshare IP 6.3 and Retrospect Backup system. Routine system maintenance and troubleshooting for 70 systems. Knowledge of DSL, focus boxes, hubs, switches, apple talk, USB, and ethernet is important. Position is 15-20 hours per week. Experience is a necessity. Please fax resume to 510-656-3608.

Technology Support Technician, MO

Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS) seeks candidates for the position of Technology Support Technician. MICDS is one of the nation’s leading college preparatory schools, located in the St. Louis area since 1859. We have 1,200 students ranging from grades JK through 12 and about 240 faculty and staff. The person in this position with work with the rest of the Technology Services Department to support

and enhance the technology on campus. The successful candidate will help both students and faculty to use technology effectively. The candidate should be experienced with troubleshooting hardware/software issues on both Windows and Macintosh platforms. He/she will also have demonstrated communication and organizational skills. Experience in help desk management is a plus. Salary is commensurate with experience and qualifications.

Qualified candidates should send a resume and include names, phone numbers and addresses of three references as well as a statement describing their interest in the position and position you are applying for to: Matt Skipton Director of Technology Services, MI MICDS, 101 North Warson Road Saint Louis, MO 63124 No phone calls, please. MICDS is an equal opportunity employer.


Director of Technology, GA

The Bryan County School System is located in Coastal Georgia near Savannah. The school district is comprised of Pembroke and Richmond Hill and serves apx. 5200 students at 8 schools. The Director of Technology is responsible for coordinating the administrative and instructional technology for the school system. Applicants will be screened for the following training and/or experience: Bachelor’s degree in technology, computer information systems, or related field. Three years of experience in the field of technology which included a leadership role in project development and/or implementation. Demonstrated personal characteristics and professional competencies to work successfully with students, teachers, administrators and the public, including communication skills, human relation skills and time management skills., Please contact: Dr. Gary L. Russell, Superintendent, Bryan County Board of Education, 66 South Industrial Blvd., Pembroke,GA ,31324 or Fax: 912-653-4386,


Ability to maintain, manage, and continue to develop the district Network Intranet System; experience with Novell and NT servers (MS Proxy Server, Novonyx Email Server, Access and SQL Server, and Web Server), and web filtering and web design; ability to provide desktop support and trouble shooting; capability of training students and staff with a positive team attitude; ability to adjust to a flexible schedule. Interested individuals, please contact: Priscilla Schmidt, Silver Falls School District, 210 East C St., Silverton, OR 97381 or email:

web / internet teachers

Industrial Technology Teacher,OR

Valid Oregon teaching license. Industrial technology – woods, CAD, design. Temporary position for school year 2000-2001. contact: Carolyn Thorpe,Industrial Technology Teacher, Jefferson County School District 509-J,445 SE Buff Street, Madras, Oregon, 97741, or eMail:

Multi-Media Technology Instructor, IL

Instruct junior and senior high school students in multi-media authoring, computer graphics, animation, web design, and digital video production. Applicant must be eligible for Illinois Provisional Vocational Instructor Certification or hold up to 8000 hours of related work experience. Degree preferred., apply immediately, Jeff Brierton, Assistant Director for Instruction, Lake County High Schools Technology Campus, 19525 W. Washington St., Grayslake, IL, 60030, 847-223-6681, ext. 7, Fax: 847-223-7363


Elementary Teacher, AZ

Arizona Certification to teach in the elementary grades K-8. It is preferred that the teacher have previous success and experience in teaching Jr. High students or Special Education, or other unique experiences that would be of interest to a school of multi-grade classrooms. Contact: Ronald K. White,Superintendent,Tolani Lake Elementary School Academy, HC61-Box 300, Flagstaff, AZ,86047 or eMail:


ethics and law — Acceptable-use policies are useless unless strictly enforced

In the headlong rush to get connected to the internet, few school districts take enough time to examine all of the many ramifications of opening Pandora’s Web.

Enough attention has been given to filtering pornography and documents called “acceptable-use” agreements that most public school managers have cobbled together something resembling internet policies and procedures. But even where state law requires schools to adopt policies on proper usage of computers, networks, and internet access, there is often a significant gap between the mandate and the practice.

One rather nasty confrontation arose recently in New Hampshire, where the Exeter Regional Cooperative School District forgot that enforcement of an acceptable use policy is just as important as having one in the first place (see story, page 16).

Like all school systems, Exeter was concerned about how it was going to control adolescent meanderings throughout the darker nooks and crannies of the web. The district had a pretty good policy—much better than many policies I have reviewed from around the country. It put students and faculty on notice that direct adult supervision would be required for all internet journeys by elementary pupils and that older students would be supervised.

In addition, the watchful eyes of Net Monitors were aided by modern technology. According to Exeter’s policy, “All access to the internet is monitored using a ‘firewall.’ This firewall will immediately contact us if any students or staff access undesired sites.”

If the image of a bright red light flashing in the principal’s office—perhaps accompanied by a robot-like voice intoning “Danger! Danger!”—has you doubled over with mirth, the folks up in Exeter have even more delights in store. In reality, the ominous warning about instant exposure of students or staff who wander, intentionally or accidentally, onto the dark side of the web was highly exaggerated.

In fact, like most firewall monitors, the software just kept a log of each data transfer to and from the net—no content, but size and origin of data packets were logged. Nevertheless, even though no sirens, bells, or whistles would announce transgressions of the acceptable-use policy, the school district could look at the logs and tell whether violations had occurred.

A crucial question (and the source of the lesson du jour for us all) is, If you have all of this good policy and software monitoring capability, what will really get you into major hot water? Answer: Not bothering to look at the logs to check compliance with the policy.

Apparently, that is what happened, because when a local citizen (and parent of a student) decided to ask for a peek at the logs, the school district turned him down flat and called its lawyers. The reason for the district’s reticence may have been revealed several months later at a board meeting, when the administration reported that a review of the internet history log files revealed that some unidentified users had been accessing “objectionable” web sites.

The school district has thrown up a barrage of legalistic defenses, ranging from the thin-but-arguable (internet logs are not “public documents” under the New Hampshire public access law) to the truly sublime (revealing the logs would violate the federal wiretap statute). The school district’s “invasion of privacy” defense is especially laughable—but therein lies the irony of this case.

One of the cornerstones of any acceptable-use policy is that users have no expectation of privacy when they use the internet. Like student lockers and teachers’ desk drawers, the schools’ computer system is public property, and users are told that data transmissions—from eMail messages to MP3 downloads—will be monitored.

Because of these and similar policies, the courts already have turned down legal arguments claiming invasion of privacy when employers monitor internet use. In United States v. Simons, for example, the Supreme Court tied its denial of “invasion of privacy” under the Fourth Amendment directly to the announced government “open inspection and monitoring” policy.

In short, if your school system announces that the web is “public” space for users, your claims that it is private for other purposes—including freedom of information laws—are likely to fall on deaf ears in a courtroom.


stakeholder and community relations — Lessons in web design from an award-winning Ohio school

Combine a handful of teens, no budget, and a math teacher who is a complete web novice, and what do you get? If you’re Ohio’s Kenston High School, you get an award-winning web site, great “hands-on, minds-on” student learning, a $10,000 corporate gift—and a public relations bonanza.

“I took over the dormant KHS site during late fall of 1998,” says Ronnie Continenza, a KHS math and computer teacher. “I had no experience with web design, and a group of six seniors taught me.”

Using students’ home computers and Netscape Composer because “it was free,” Continenza and her hardy band of student volunteers built a content-rich web site that was named “Best in the USA” for 1999 by internet portal Education World.

Intrigued by KHS’s “Cool School Web Site” designation and its unique student photo galleries that let parents and far-flung relatives order eMailed copies, I asked Continenza to share some of her tips and strategies with eSchool News readers. Here’s what she had to say:

How did you get students involved in building a school web site?

You only need a few kids who can crank out pages. Find a couple of kids who have their own web sites and get them involved as student web masters. Ninety-nine percent of our pages were created on home computers and eMailed to me for posting. We didn’t have any classes or an organized club—just a dedicated group of students who did it on their own time.

The hardest part of building a site is getting timely information. The solution is to get kids involved from all aspects of school life. For example, find an athlete or two from every sport who is willing to eMail results as soon as they get home from competitions. Do the same thing with academic areas, clubs, extracurricular activities, etc. This way, you can beat the morning papers with results, and in most cases you can beat the 11 p.m. news on television. The goal is to give viewers timely content.

You seem to have many faculty members involved and engaged as well. How did you do that so successfully? Did you meet with some initial resistance?

Once the site got going, it was well received by the faculty. Posting homework assignments is a great way to let parents know what is going on in class. It’s a communication tool that helps keep parents and teachers on the same page. If a student is having trouble getting homework done, parents can be contacted and asked to monitor their child’s homework, which can be found on the site. When we started this, parents loved it!

How do you balance security concerns with having lots of students and staff involved?

First and foremost, the law is on our side. Our site is copyright-protected. If someone redistributes any photos from our site, they are breaking the law and the courts will rule in our favor. Furthermore, if they are posting our photos somewhere else on the internet, they are breaking federal laws involving minors. The law is on our side, and we won’t hesitate to use it if the need arises.

Secondly, we will not post anything a student does not want posted, and we will remove any photo of a student upon request. In the last year and a half, we have posted well over 10,000 photos of our students and have had only a handful of requests to remove something—all for “vanity” reasons (closed eyes, for example). Our students love to see themselves on the site. It’s a form of recognition. If you walk down our hallways in between classes, you will see photos from the site printed and hanging in lockers throughout the school.

We also receive daily eMails from out-of-town relatives thanking us for our timely updates. Imagine being able to call up our web site on a Saturday morning and find the Winter Formal pictures from the previous night already posted. To be able to follow a student’s progress in academics, athletics, etc., from hundreds of miles away is a dream come true for many family members.

What do you think are the keys to a great school web site?

Content, fast load times, and easy navigation. We want our viewers to think, “Call up the web site” when they want to know about anything that is happening at Kenston High School. Instead of watching the 11 o’clock news for sports results, or calling the coach for directions to an event, or calling a teacher for homework assignments, we want our viewers to know they will find the information on our site.

We also strive for fast load times for all our pages. We don’t have fancy graphics and animated GIFs on our site. We want to feed our views useful information and do it quickly. Why wait two and half minutes for a fancy graphic to load if you can get the answer you want in 12 seconds?

In terms of navigation, we want our viewers to find anything on our site within three “clicks,” or pages. We make our pages uniform so people quickly will understand how to navigate the site, and our navigation bar appears on every page. We make our categories easy to understand, and we have a search engine so parents can type in their child’s name and find every page they are on quickly.

What software and other tools do you use to create your site?

Ninety-five percent of the HTML pages were created with Netscape Composer simply because it is free. If we need to write HTML code that Netscape does not support, we hand-code using a simple editor like Word Pad. We are discussing using Microsoft Front Page this year. All interactive scripts are written in PERL [Practical Extraction and Report Language], and we use ThumbsPlus by Cerious Software to generate our thumbnail photos. We use Adobe Photoshop to re-size, crop, and edit our original photos. We use the Nikon Coolpix 900 series digital camera for taking our photos, and we use WebTrends Log Analyzer to determine our traffic and help us find errors on the site—a very useful tool! We use WS_FTP Pro [from Ipswitch Inc. of Lexington, Mass.] to upload the site.

Any other tips you’d like to share with your colleagues?

Lay out the structure of the site before you start building pages. Use sub-directories for everything. For example, if you’re posting Spirit Week photos, put them in a Spirit Week folder. This makes it much easier to find something as the site grows.

I also recommend creating a navigation system as virtual menu. That way, you only have to make changes to one page (menu.html) in order to change the navigation bar on every single page on the site.

I also think we need to be considerate of our viewers. Set any color in your navigation bar as a background image. Since background colors won’t print, you will not deplete your viewers’ ink cartridge when they print a page from your site.

How has your web site benefited your students and your school community?

Our web site has had a great impact on our school spirit and pride in the community. Being named “Best in the USA” was like winning a Super Bowl or World Series in our community. It generated an unbelievable amount of enthusiasm and support. We were overwhelmed with literally hundreds of eMails, letters, and proclamations, not to mention the television, radio, and newspaper coverage.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Coming up with new ideas for the site is an ongoing process. Education World has made this easy. I check their site every Friday night to see who the new weekly winner is. I also revisit past winners. These sites change constantly, and we’ve gotten a number of great ideas from them.

What’s next for the KHS “Web Builders”?

We’re using the $10,000 we received from Cisco to upgrade our network. Information was traveling across our school at a rate of 10 megabits per second (Mbps). Thanks to Cisco, it is now traveling at a rate of 100 Mbps. We will be offering a hands-on web design class this year. We have 20 computers in our lab, and more than 80 students have signed up for the course.

Kenston High School

Education World’s “Cool School of the Week” Awards

Netscape Composer

Cerious Software’s ThumbsPlus

Adobe Photoshop


WebTrends Analyzer


Electronic textbooks are coming soon to schools

“This is so cool,” I thought to myself, as I clicked through to Amazon’s eCommerce site to pay Stephen King his $1 for the first installment of his new electronic novel, The Plant. One to two dollars per installment for the five-installment novel which King decided to distribute from his web site in Portable Document Format (PDF) is more than a fair price, considering that brand-new work from any author usually is available in hardcover only and retails for $20 to $30.

By cutting out the “middle men” of publishing and production, King has been able to earn a substantial profit while making his writing available to his readers at a drastically reduced price in a new and exciting format. More importantly, however, he has proven that electronic books are a viable medium to present long texts—and that people are willing to read them and pay for them.

It wasn’t long after I read The Plant that I had downloaded the Microsoft Reader software and purchased several electronic texts from the Barnes and Noble web site. I was able to find a number of titles by well-known contemporary authors, but mainly I stuck to the public domain texts they were selling for about $3.50.

By page 200 of Crime and Punishment, I was hooked. I loved the idea that I could carry all of my reading material on my Pocket PC. I also loved the idea that I could download and store nearly all the books that I teach in my American Literature course.

I’m excited about some of the possibilities of giving textbooks to students in electronic format. In addition to financial savings, time can be saved by eliminating tedious tasks such as the distribution, collection, and storage of books. Teachers no longer will have to chase down students who lose or don’t return their books. Students not only will be allowed, but also encouraged, to annotate and highlight all important and relevant passages in their electronic texts. These issues—along with the speed at which new information can be updated and redistributed—make eBooks a very attractive tool for schools.

In addition to making it easier to access and manage textbooks, eBooks have the potential to impact the way students read and analyze their school texts. The Microsoft Reader software not only allows students to highlight, bookmark, and annotate their eBooks; it also compiles all of these annotations into an index that is accessible from a special area of the book. Students can see a list of all the annotations they have made in a single book instantly and can reorganize this list as they desire. The ability to perform full-text searches of eBooks inevitably will help students who are searching for examples or quotes to support their essays.

Finally, users can download a special edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for MS Reader, which is integrated very well into the software. Readers need only click on a word and select “lookup” from the sub-menu that appears. Readers can even look up words that appear in the dictionary definitions themselves. I’m convinced this feature will make students much more likely to look up words than they’d be if they had to use a paper dictionary.

One of the most exiting parts of MS Reader is the ReaderWorks application from OverDrive Software. This free download allows users to create their own eBooks for MS Reader out of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) files. The author of a document simply creates his work in HTML or in text format and adds it to a new ReaderWorks project, which will compile it into eBook format for MS Reader. In the commercial version of the Reader-Works software, authors can add cover graphics as well as sophisticated encryption to control copyright and distribution.

The benefits of a tool like this to the classroom teacher can be significant. Coupled with resources like Project Guttenberg and the web itself, teachers have the ability to compile their own textbooks and post them on school web sites. Unit introductions in literature books can be tailored to the information an individual teacher thinks is important, and selections can be chosen to best fit a given teacher’s taste. (Better yet, a given student’s taste.)

Of course, like any new technology, eBooks have some growing up to do. The first and biggest hurdle they need to overcome relates to the change in medium. My wife cringes at the thought of curling up on the couch and basking in the glow of a laptop computer to read her favorite book. In fact, lots of people I talked to are very resistant to the idea of reading for pleasure off of a computer. It just doesn’t feel right. We want to feel the paper. We want to bend the pages and flip ahead to see how many pages there are until the end of the chapter.

Other hurdles relate to the technology itself. In a school, for example, eBooks make the most sense when they are stored on a handheld device like the Pocket PC. The difference in physical dimensions between a handheld’s screen and that of a laptop computer, however, would make it difficult to render a textbook page with little more than text on a handheld. Microsoft needs to develop better multimedia capabilities to facilitate pop-up graphics with zoom capabilities. It’s also a mystery to me why MS Reader doesn’t support video, audio, or web links. That just seems like common sense.

Finally, eBook software makers need to establish standards for encryption and distribution. Currently, MS Reader has an encryption technology that works in conjunction with online bookstores so that when books are purchased and downloaded, they can only be viewed by the copy of MS Reader that has been registered to the person who purchased the book. Unfortunately, the version of MS Reader for the Pocket PC is one step behind the version for desktop computers, and handheld versions can’t take advantage of this encryption technology.

Furthermore, this is a proprietary technology that only applies to MS Reader eBooks. Most major textbook publishers are concerned about how they can prevent people from stealing their intellectual property, and the lack of available content is one of the things that has prevented a warmer embrace of eBooks by schools. If this technology is to be successful, developers of eBook software must standardize and simplify the process for protecting and distributing the hard work of authors and editors.

Despite my fondness for print media, I think eBooks are inevitable in schools. Perhaps they won’t replace all print books, but I think we will see them in growing numbers over the next few years. They just make too much financial, logistical, and academic sense. MS Reader seems to offer a good deal of features at a reasonable price (free). If Microsoft would like its MS Reader to be the first choice among schools, however, I think it will have to address some significant shortcomings in multimedia support and copyright protection.

Barnes and Noble’s eBook Store

eBook Library for MS Reader

MS Reader eBooks Directory gi

MS Reader Software

OverDrive ReaderWorks

Stephen King’s The Plant




“NotationStation” sounds like music to our ears, by the Philadelphia-based music portal company GVOX, was developed with a simple goal in mind—to provide music teachers with a free and easy way to publish their music lessons online, and to offer kids an exciting new way to learn and experience music. Divided into teacher, student, and parent sections, is an easy-to-use interactive learning center that revolutionizes the way music is taught. Teachers can use this site to create customized music lessons for kids, and students can use it to create online compositions, free of charge through the MusicTime Online service. To get the full benefit of the service, however, educators must sign up for their own class space on the site. Benefits of signing up include a personalized class site that provides the teacher with unlimited space for posting lessons and notation files. Students can access those lessons 24 hours a day using a private class code. Another benefit is the Lesson Library, which allows users to search—and add to—the vast archive of lessons posted by other educators at The site also allows students to post their compositions and homework instantly to their class site for review. The Class Roster automatically keeps track of all students logging into a class and all of their submissions. In addition, free MusicTime Deluxe software—normally a $69 value—allows teachers to view and create files offline.

“”: A web site of the people, by the people, for the people

In an internet webcast in September, President Clinton announced the launch of a new one-stop government web site for all citizens.

“Computers and the internet are revolutionizing the way we work, live, relate to each other and the rest of the world. They also have the potential to fundamentally transform and improve the way government serves the American people,” he said. The purpose of this web site, according to Clinton, is to allow users—overwhelmed with the 27 million web pages of government information now—to link to the Federal Information Service or any government service quickly and easily. Users can log on without having to know the name of the agency or the program that offers the specific service they are looking for. “So, go to, and you’re just a few mouse clicks away from web sites where you can apply for student loans or reserve a camp ground in a national park,” Clinton said. The site, created by Dr. Eric Brewer of Inktomi, uses one of the private sector’s most successful search engine technologies. “Out of gratitude and patriotism, [Brewer] developed and donated the search engine for,” Clinton said. It’s a great site for civics and government teachers, as well as teachers of all subjects.

“Never Again”: Fifth-graders explore the subject of slavery

When Eric Ensey discovered that his history textbook contained only three pages on slavery, the Seattle elementary school teacher got his fifth-grade class to create an online project that explored the subject in greater depth. This well-put-together site features all original content written by Ensey’s students. Their work has been picked up by one of the nation’s leading web sites on African American culture,, and has received attention from other schools and researchers from Tennessee to South Africa. The work of the 27 students and their teacher includes essays and drawings about African Americans and the heroic deeds of people such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Abraham Lincoln. The site also addresses topics such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the daily life of slaves. The students’ work caught the attention of a teacher in South Africa, and Ensey’s class is starting a pen pal project with the school overseas.

“A Biography of America” personifies

the country’s experience

Created by Annenberg/CPB—a partnership between the Annenberg Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) dedicated to using telecommunications media to advance excellent teaching in American schools—this web site is based on the PBS series A Biography of America and its 26 chronological video programs but can be used independently as a rich resource for students and teachers at all levels. The site shares its primary goal with the Biography of America series: to help promote critical thinking skills among teachers and students. Each of the chronological sections on the web site lists key events of the time period covered, a map relevant to the era, a transcript of the video program from the original series, an extensive bibliography, and an annotated set of links. In addition, four interactive features tell the American story in a clear and authoritative way. “Image as History” activities help viewers interpret historical paintings, drawings, photographs, or maps. “You Decide” scenarios allow visitors to participate in debates in which authentic arguments from historical sources help guide the final outcome. “Interactive Maps” illustrate the geographic, infrastructure, and demographic changes that have occurred in America. “Interactive Timelines” allow visitors to compare and contrast thematically-based timelines.

“Life on the Rocky Shore” pools together valuable resources

“Life on the Rocky Shore” contains so much information—and is so easy to use—that it almost seems impossible that kids created it. But, according to Alex, one of the site’s designers and creators, “My name is Alex and I am in the fifth grade. I am ten years old and I like to play PokËmon on my Gameboy. I live about 20 miles away from the beach and that is why I wanted to do [this] ThinkQuest [entry] on tide pools.” This web site, created for the international ThinkQuest Junior web site design contest, helps students explore tide pools and learn more about oceans and the creatures within. Activities range from interactive quizzes to ideas for a paper mache tide pool. Several tide tables and links to major aquariums are included. Categories such as Animals, Tides, Tide Pool Safety, and Activities allow young users to explore all areas on this fascinating ecosystem in their own terms. It’s a great site for teaching elementary and middle school earth science.


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision maker

“Teacher Radio” airs news and advice for educators sp

Global children’s publishing and media company Scholastic Inc. recently announced the launch of Teacher Radio, a half-hour, magazine style program that airs Monday through Thursday via the internet. Each show focuses on topics of interest to teachers, including interviews with authors and education experts (such as math expert Marilyn Burns), advice and inspiring stories from fellow teachers, humor from the classroom, news about education, and reviews of books and educational software. The program’s hosts are Nina Jaffe, faculty member of the Bank Street College of Education and an internationally-known storyteller, and Lou Giansante, a Peabody award-winning radio producer and former educator. The show can be heard each day at the listener’s convenience using streaming audio technology, or you can listen to past shows from the site’s archive.

Encourage technology use among girls with “”

Girlstart, formerly SmartGrrls, is an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting math, science, and technology-related skills for girls from age one on. The group’s redesigned site features homework help, a birthday club, fun and games, smart stuff experiments, and a “For Parents” section. According to the site’s creators, Girlstart provides a supportive and empowering atmosphere in which girls perform hands-on experiments with robots, microscopes, environmental science, math, engineering, and technology. After-school and Saturday technology camps are held on-site at the group’s Girls Technology Center in Austin for girls ages 10 to 14 (unless otherwise noted in specific program descriptions). Girlstart affiliate programs usually are held on middle school campuses and target girls in grades six through eight. Details about the group’s various programs can be found by clicking on the links provided at the site.

“State Test Prep Center” gets high marks for its usefulness

A survey of parents with children ages 7-15 enrolled in public school revealed that while most parents understand the importance of standardized testing, many are confused about the details. For example, more than 30 percent of parents did not know when, or if, their kids were scheduled to take standardized tests this year. Online educational store, which commissioned the study, has responded by providing what it calls “the first free online test prep center on the web,” giving parents and educators essential standardized testing information for all 50 states. The State Test Prep Center features easy-to-use tools, timely information, and a forum where parents can pose questions about standardized testing to’s assessment experts. Parents also can enter their child’s test scores to get personalized product recommendations for helping their child improve specific skills in preparation for upcoming testing. The site heavily markets software and other teaching aids, but the TestFacts section is a great resource for educators to send to parents who are curious about state tests.

Learn to use the internet in class

with Dell’s “The Web School”

The Web School is Dell’s newest addition to its K-12 site, an online resource for educators who want to go back to school (virtually) to expand their knowledge of the internet and its uses within the classroom. The Web School is designed to help teachers jump-start their creative thinking about ways to bring classroom instruction to life. Educators who enroll are given a resource to help them learn the internet in order to conduct research, develop lesson plans, and facilitate classroom discussions. Dell developed the Web School after a recent Dell-commissioned study determined that students believe the internet will have a significant impact on their professional lives. The company hopes to bring teachers along in the internet learning curve so they, in turn, can help students prepare for careers that undoubtedly will require some use of technology and the internet.

“” is a clearinghouse of educational material

Quia is pronounced key-uh and is short for “Quintessential Instructional Archive.” This research site provides a variety of educational services, including a directory of thousands of online games and quizzes in more than 40 subject areas and templates for creating online games such as flashcards, matching, concentration, word search, and hangman. The site also includes information on tools for creating online quizzes, quiz administration and reporting tools, and free teacher home pages. Quia claims to help teachers teach better by giving them the tools to create, customize, and share learning activities, and it helps students learn more by bringing the resources of hundreds of thousands of educators together in one place. According to Quia Corp. President Paul Mishkin, “Our goal was to create a resource on the internet where teachers can create their own instructional material and share it with other educators.” Activities already available on the site range from lessons in Chinese, to medicine, to music, to geography.


Education foundation honors ‘digital dozen’

A new Hawaii-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping close the “digital gap” in our nation’s schools has selected 12 school districts as recipients of its first Technology in Education Leadership Awards for their exemplary use of technology in K-12 education.

To identify the nation’s most technologically advanced school districts, the Ohana Foundation drew upon research conducted at Center for Information and Communication Sciences at Indiana’s Ball State University over a five-year period. Representatives from state departments of education and K-12 districts were asked to name the school districts they regard as leaders in the application of technology in their state.

According to Alan Pollock, director of marketing for the Ohana Foundation, a panel of judges narrowed the field to 12 finalists. Each received an all-expenses-paid trip to the National School Boards Association’s annual Technology + Learning conference held Oct. 25-28 in Denver.

Criteria for selection were as follows:

• The district made efforts to do more than just install computers. A broader sense of educational technology was necessary, including the integrated use of various video, audio, digital, satellite, and distance learning technologies in a networked environment.

• The district demonstrated special leadership efforts in trying new technologies or unusual experiences for teachers or students.

• The district made efforts to assure that classroom and curriculum integration took place, not just technology for its own sake.

• The district made efforts to provide training for teachers as well as exposure for students.

“Our goal was to recognize a group that is often not recognized. School technology can often be a thankless job,” Pollock said. He added that the Ohana Foundation plans to continue its awards program in future years.

This year’s 12 Technology in Education Leadership Awards finalists are:

Opelika City Schools (Alabama)

Opelika City Schools have implemented an intense technological plan that began in 1990 and has placed 3,000 computers in nine schools with a total district enrollment of 4,500 students. Each school has its own local area network (LAN) connected to a wide area network (WAN), and each school also features a video network system.

There are five computers in each elementary classroom and a computer in every middle and high school class, with 13 labs for student use. The district also circulates 35 laptops among students and teachers. Because computers are so pervasive, many in the district prefer to use eMail communication.

“The effects [of technology in the classroom] are immeasurable,” explained one district official. “It gives unnoticed kids a chance to shine and is a tremendous outreach tool.”

Anchorage School District (Alaska)

Among other improvements, teachers in the district are receiving technology education thanks to a donation by British Petroleum of 250 computers and $20,000 to pay teachers for training. To assist with the training, the district shows a series of teacher-produced programs discussing technology over its cable television network.

Anchorage schools also have created school technology assistance teams (STATs) to work with teachers and help them meet their technology goals. The district has a 5-to-1 ratio of students to computers, and all classrooms have internet access and are connected directly to the library’s card catalog. All 2,500 computers are part of a LAN.

Malvern Special School District (Arkansas)

Malvern has a distance learning program established with local universities and technical schools, as well as three other high schools. The PRISM (People, Resources, and Imagination Studio at Malvern) is a multimedia lab studio with eight full-time teachers. Students in this program are required to support all projects through an electronic medium, and the studio is equipped with video editing capabilities.

The district’s PRISM-EAST (Earth and Space Technology) project allows students to examine the universe and put research projects into electronic format.

Little Falls Community Schools (Minnesota)

Through a bond from the state of Minnesota, the Little Falls School District has hired “integration people” to help with technology development and implementation. The integration people are individuals dedicated to implementing technology, training both teachers and students, and maintaining the district network.

Little Falls boasts 1,500 computers in five buildings, with a LAN in each building and a district-wide network. A network file server in the central building contains software applications, encyclopedias, and magazine databases.

The district also features a brand-new digital phone system, a two-way interactive video system, and every classroom is wired for internet access.

Nixa R-II Schools (Missouri)

All of Nixa’s schools are networked on a fiber optic cable run through a core switch, and each building has a file server so staff can communicate with one another at all times via eMail. Nixa schools have several A+ learning labs funded through their A+ Schools program, as well as computers in most classrooms and mini-labs in the three elementary schools.

Nixa also participates in the eMints teacher training program through which teachers receive additional professional development and training by participating in a technology-immersion classroom, where the same teachers follow one class from third to fourth grade.

Anaconda School District (Montana)

With only one high school, one middle school, and one elementary, this small district has made great strides with technology.

The high school and middle school are fiber-connected with videoconferencing ability. Each and every teacher has a networked computer for grading and administration. The elementary school has a wireless connection with the high school, allowing them to mentor and work together.

The elementary and middle schools both have six to seven computers per class, and the high school features AutoCAD, Hyperstudio, electronic government research tools, and history, atlas, and encyclopedia programs. .htm

Red Hook Central School District (New York)

The Red Hook Technology Project, commonly referred to as Tech 2000, is a public and private partnership providing voice, video, data, and distance learning opportunities to all district classrooms.

Two PBX telephone switches provide voice mail and call accounting. Every classroom in the district is equipped with a large video monitor connected to a control room, making use of videotapes, cable TV, satellite, CD-ROM, and DVD.

The district is networked over a WAN that uses a T1 connection, and educators have access to “virtual computer classrooms” comprised of laptops that are moved around on carts for student use.

Wilson County Schools (North Carolina)

In Wilson County, technology is viewed as a way to engage all the district’s children. All classes have at least two computers and a printer, and each campus boasts a school-wide LAN and a high-tech lab.

But the real innovations in Wilson County are the seven teacher-created volumes of integrated lesson plans, complete with assistance and stipends from the technology department. These technology-based lesson plans are based around the standard course of study and allow teachers to become acquainted with technology as they teach. Training is a major focus point for the district.

Central Columbia School District (Pennsylvania)

In addition to a thoroughly modern and integrated classroom experience, Central Columbia schools encourage participation with technology. As part of the school experience for students, daily announcements featuring school information are produced in both the elementary and middle schools. Classroom teachers are trained in television production, and they provide instructional support to help students wire, direct, and provide talent for these broadcasts.

The district introduces students to computers in first grade and teaches keyboarding in fifth. Ninth-graders are required to complete coursework in computer technology, and eleventh-graders must use technology to complete a project of their choice in one area of study.

Beaufort County School District (South Carolina)

Beaufort County became a pioneer in the “Anytime, Anywhere Learning” project in 1996 by making laptops available to all interested middle school students, regardless of economic status. The district’s Schoolbook Foundation helps subsidize families who want their kids to have laptops, and as a result, more than half of the county’s disadvantaged students have been provided with laptops for instructional use.

With the installation of a $10 million technology initiative, the district has wired every school and allowed every classroom in each school to share resources. An independent study indicated measurable improvements in students’ perception and grades since the program’s inception.

Henry County Public Schools (Virginia)

Henry County won the Laureate Smithsonian Award in 1999 for its “universal laptop access” program. Apple Computer nominated the district for this award.

The schools in Henry County are totally networked via a frame relay backbone to a central office, and proxy servers are in place at all four high schools. The district also offers two learning packages at the high schools, and a laptop initiative is in place to provide portable computers for grades four, five, eight, and nine.

Shoreline Public Schools (Washington)

Shoreline Public Schools, located outside Seattle, has exemplary multimedia and computer programs committed to providing equal access to technology to all students. These programs have developed students’ problem-solving skills with the help of cutting-edge technology. Over the last 10 years, the district has spent more than $20 million on technology for learning.

Shoreline operates a voice, data, and video network to its classrooms and makes teaching technology a priority. Shoreline takes a proactive attitude toward showing students the positive aspect of computers and multimedia technology.

tags is benefiting these Texas school districts

By letting employees enroll for and get information about their benefits on the internet, school districts in Texas have increased the access, privacy, and convenience of their benefits programs while cutting out a tremendous amount of paperwork.

“It’s become impractical to go to every one of our facilities to enroll people in our benefits,” said Sam Russell, director of business operations at Lewisville Independent School District in Texas.

His district has 51 schools, not to mention seven or eight administrative facilities. The process of informing, registering, and updating the employee benefits of every staff member became such an enormous task that his district sought the services of

The company, which provides an internet service that allows school employees to register for, access, and update their employee benefits online, started in July and now works with 15 school districts.

“When an enrollment process is going on, there’s a tremendous amount of paperwork,” said John Pesce, chief marketing officer for “This keeps everything paperless for the school district and it makes things a whole lot easier.”

Usually, school employees have to fill out form after form with the same information. With, employees only have to enter their address, phone number, and social security number once, since the information is stored in a secure database and applied to each form as needed.

The site lets employees file their claim forms online and see the real-time status of the forms. If an employee has a complaint with a vendor, the employee can eMail the vendor through the site. will monitor the eMail to make sure the employee gets a response.

“No matter who the insurance company is, GetBenefits will do the enrollment,” Pesce said. “We work it out with each and every insurance company.”

Steve Austin, human resource manager for the Clear Creek Independent School District, said arranged for all the district’s insurance companies to go along with the service. All he had to do was mail each company a letter explaining that the district wanted to use it.

“The good thing about GetBenefits was that it assigned an individual to take care of this,” he said. “We’re talking about 11 or 12 different vendors that need to come together to make this thing work.”

Austin said each insurance company agreed to the service. Russell said only five of his district’s six vendors have agreed, but he hopes that will change.

With, if an employee decides to change insurance companies or personal information, it’s updated instantly in the employee database.

This feature greatly decreases the time it takes some companies to process paperwork. For example, Austin said, one employee in his district paid insurance fees for seven months but wasn’t really covered because the forms hadn’t been processed.

Since the site uses “smart forms,” it won’t process the application if an employee has skipped any section or entered information incorrectly.

“They can’t go from one screen to the next without completing all the parts of the forms,” Austin said of his district’s employees.

This service saves districts money, too, since they don’t have to print material for every employee because it’s available on the web site. Also, information—such as a list of doctors—is always current and easy to update.

Before, Russell said, meetings with employees about their benefits were inflexible. He used to visit schools at specific times on specific days.

“We are still going to go our campuses on a limited basis, but [our employees] don’t have to do it that way since all the information is available on the internet,” Russell said. “GetBenefits also has a toll-free number that our employees can call. It’s in both English and Spanish. Our employees can enroll by phone using this customer number if they wish.” charges districts an annual licensing fee based on their number of employees. “It’s fairly inexpensive, too,” Austin said.

All in all, this internet service streamlines the process of enrolling and managing employee benefits. “It frees me up to do my normal job,” Russell said. “It allows me to focus on specific problems employees are having.”

Lewisville Independent School District

Clear Creek Independent School District


Start planning now for this highly competitive technology grant

If you’ve been following the news about President Clinton’s proposed budget for 2001 (or you attended the eSchool News Grants & Funding for School Technology conference Sept. 14-15 in Philadelphia), then you already know that one of the most well-known (and most competitive) federal grant programs will be making a comeback if the budget passes as proposed—the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants program.

The grants would fall under the Next Generation Technology Innovation program with proposed funding of $170 million and actually would combine the Star Schools program and the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants. Why bring this up now? To support my constant recommendation to grant seekers that you practice “proactive grant-seeking” at every opportunity by planning in advance for this potential competition.

If you already submitted a Technology Innovation Challenge Grant proposal that didn’t get funded, get the proposal and your reviewers’ comments out and get ready to start working as soon as you find out if—and when—the competition will be held next year. I can guarantee you that if you wait until the request for proposals (RFP) is released sometime next year before you begin working on a proposal, you will be hard-pressed to submit a competitive one. Why? For several reasons, based on prior Technology Innovation Challenge Grant competitions and the administration’s current trends in federal technology funding.

The Technology Innovation Challenge Grants were multi-year grants worth millions of dollars. Although no minimum requirement for matching funds was stipulated in past RFPs, conversations with prior grantees give you some idea of the level of matching funds. For example, a grantee that I know from New England told me they secured a matching gift (in the form of cash or in-kind contributions) from every business that was located in their community. It literally took a team of staff members six months to make the visits required to secure these matching funds—but all of their diligence and hard work obviously paid off, as they received a $10 million grant!

Some Technology Innovation Challenge Grant winners have shown as high as a six-to-one ratio of matching funds. Keep in mind that matching funds do not have to be all cash, but it will take some time to secure this level of contribution if you plan to have a competitive proposal.

The Technology Innovation Challenge Grants also required applicants to form a collaborative partnership and stipulated in the RFP what the suggested membership of such a partnership should be—a mix of public and private schools, higher education institutions, libraries, museums, businesses, and software developers. Although we still don’t know whether this will be a requirement once again, you can probably count on it, given the current emphasis on collaboration in the grant-seeking world. It will take both time and effort to form this kind of broad-based partnership, so the earlier you can start, the better.

With the current emphasis on evaluation at the federal level, I would also surmise that this will be an integral part of the next competition. Presently, the administration is looking for proof that the integration of technology into the classroom is having a significant impact on student achievement and learning. In many RFPs, you now see references to “research-based solutions” to problems; the implication is that you will be using this type of model to try to solve the problems you are experiencing.

In July 1999, the United States Department of Education (ED) held a two-day conference entitled “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Educational Technology.” According to an article that appeared last year in eSchool News, Linda Roberts, the special advisor to President Clinton on educational technology, said that much of the evidence of success up to this point has been anecdotal as opposed to empirical.

At the conference, two recent studies were highlighted that emphasize the kind of evaluations ED is looking for—one in Idaho and one in West Virginia (see sidebar, page 17). If you are planning to apply for one of these grants, I would pay very close attention to these two studies and to the outcomes of the conference!

So, if you think you want to apply for this grant, my advice is to stay on top of the passage of the 2001 budget, find out if the program will be funded, and start taking a serious look at its past competitions now.

“Evaluating the Effectiveness of Educational Technology” conference