$500,000 for projects that foster school reform through the use of new

The Sprint Foundation supports educational projects that foster school reform through the use of new technologies and through fresh approaches to the enhancement of teachers’ skills. Although Sprint does not have an application form, the foundation recommends that applicants identify how their projects support Sprint’s objectives: innovation and the use of technology in the classroom; enhanced education for minorities and/or the disadvantaged; and increased employee and public support of education. Because these grants are supported by employee contributions matched by foundation funds, grants are available primarily for projects in areas with a significant employee presence, such as Kansas City, Atlanta, Dallas, and Sacramento. Schools and other education-related nonprofit agencies can apply for grants totaling about $500,000 per year. The Sprint Foundation reviews unsolicited proposals on a continuous basis. Applicants typically will receive a response within four to six weeks.

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Grants to meet the educational needs and interests of underserved yout

In 2000, Merrill Lynch adopted children and youth as its global cause for 2000 to 2005. The foundation supports programs that meet the educational needs and interests of underserved children and youth, and it gives priority to specific programs and projects that are innovative, sustainable, easily expanded from a local to a global perspective, and have a measurable impact. Technology skills in particular were cited by the foundation as one of several elements a project can address. The Merrill Lynch Foundation gives priority to grant requests from New York City and national organizations that reflect its focus, but the foundation does consider a small number of unsolicited requests from nonprofit organizations, including school districts. All requests outside of New York City should be submitted to the branch managers of local offices. When making a grant decision, the foundation considers other type of support an organization already might be receiving (e.g., matching gifts, United Way funds, etc.).

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Experts: School tech wins in Senate switch

School technology programs and categorical education grants are likely to be primary beneficiaries of the historic mid-term reorganization of the U.S. Senate that took place June 6, according to education advocates and legislative experts in the nation’s capital.

In the aftermath of Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords’ departure from the Republican Party, education technology experts say the shift in power among leaders of the U.S. Senate from Republican to Democrat could help ensure that federal leadership on ed-tech issues remains strong. The impact won’t be ubiquitous, however, they said.

Most of the education experts and lobbyists who spoke with eSchool News agree, for example, that the switch probably will have little effect on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

“I think that the changes will be modest at this point,” said Leslie Harris, president of Leslie Harris & Associates, a legislative analyst for the Consortium for School Networking and other ed-tech advocacy groups. “This is still a Senate that has to compromise with a Republican House and a Republican president.”

That means block grants for school technology, which are strongly supported by the Bush administration, remain likely. Overall, however, education experts and ed-tech lobbyists are confident their priorities for technology and training will remain well-supported under the new Democratic leadership in the Senate.

“Generally, Democrats have always been more favorable to the federal role in education,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association’s Washington office.

One example is the support of Senate Democrats for keeping the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology program as a separate grant program in the Senate version of the ESEA reauthorization bill. The Bush administration’s plan to reauthorize ESEA favors a more hands-off approach by the government toward telling school districts how they must spend federal education dollars, but critics say this approach fails to provide the necessary leadership on issues such as teacher training.

New committee chairs

In a public statement made May 24, Jeffords cited differences with the Bush administration as one of the primary reasons for his decision to leave the GOP, and he reiterated his determination to make education a top priority as an independent.

“Looking ahead, I can see more and more instances where I will disagree with the president on very fundamental issues,” he said. “The largest for me is education.”

In fact, Jeffords—a dedicated advocate of education reform—cited federal funding for education priorities as one of his main reasons for deciding to quit the Republican Party.

The evenly divided Senate formerly favored Republican agendas. That was because Vice President Dick Cheney, as president of the Senate, could cast the tie-breaking vote in key policy debates. The newly restructured Senate now claims 49 Republicans, 50 Democrats, and Jeffords as the sole independent. Jeffords’ move gave Democrats the power to restructure the leadership of all committees in the Senate.

Among the most significant changes spurred by Jeffords’ switch, the ranking Democrat, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, will now chair the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, formerly chaired by Jeffords himself.

According to Kennedy spokesman Jim Manley, the senator is dedicated to education technology issues and has worked with Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and others in the past to encourage the development of distance-learning initiatives. For example, Kennedy was one of the authors of the legislation that established the Star Schools program, which this year will make nearly $60 million in grants to support telecommunications-based instructional programs.

Another potential benefit of Kennedy’s chairmanship is that he has an experienced staff that has been working on education topics for a long time, Sheketoff said.

Jeffords’ decision also ousted Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., as Senate majority leader. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has assumed that position.

“I know that having Daschle as majority leader gives us an opportunity to stress education funding,” said Kim Anderson, a lobbyist for the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teacher’s union. “Democrats are traditionally more sympathetic to the argument that you cannot have reform without resources.”

Anderson added, “From a funding aspect, this [change] is going to help. It gives us more leverage with the folks [who] hold the purse strings.”

In addition, the change means Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, will chair the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Education Department’s budget—one of the key groups that control those “purse strings.”

The ALA supports Harkin’s chairmanship, said Sheketoff. “He has a fundamental understanding of how technology will be integrated into education,” she said.

According to Sheketoff, one of Harkin’s pet causes is helping the people with disabilities.

“Assistive technologies have allowed more and more children with disabilities to be mainstreamed into our schools,” she said. “[Harkin] has seen how technology has had an amazing impact on helping the disabled.”

In his new position, Harkin will take the lead in writing the Senate’s next education spending bill.

But the education subcommittee is not the only place where education technology might benefit in the coming months, Sheketoff said.

“Senator [Robert] Byrd will be the head of the overall Senate Appropriations committee, and he’s from West Virginia. That state has benefited greatly from the eRate program, and he has seen the positive impact the eRate has had in schools there,” she said.

With the decisions of the federal judiciary increasingly important to education and school technology, the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee also could be of vital concern to educators.

Here, an arch-conservative is being succeeded by a staunch liberal. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D.-Vt., will take over from Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah.

Leahy is expected to make it more difficult for President Bush to get Senate approval for strongly conservative judicial appointments, and this could have a significant impact on legal decisions affecting education and technology for years to come.

eRate likely to remain intact

Perhaps the most important shift, according to eRate advocates, will take place in the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation-the group that sets policy for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency that oversees the eRate. Formerly chaired by Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., leadership of that committee will now pass to Sen. Fritz Hollings, D.-S.C.

“If I had to identify one possible area where the shift might make a difference, it is in the long-term health of the eRate,” said Harris.

The eRate, currently in its fourth year, has supplied more than $6 billion in telecommunications discounts and internet connections to needy schools.

Recently, said Harris, there has been talk about the eRate becoming more like a block-grant program in which money is allotted to states for distribution, rather than given directly to district applicants. Harris also cited increased debate about the possibility of changing the program so that it covers professional development.

“There are a lot of ideas being kicked around,” she said. “There is also language in the president’s budget that urges the FCC to look at some of those changes.” Leadership of the FCC recently passed to the Republicans.

Most schools and libraries fiercely oppose changes to the program, which had helped connect well over one million classrooms to the internet as of last year.

“I think that, for the most part, constituents have successfully communicated to their members of Congress that this [changing the eRate] is not an issue they support,” said Sheketoff.

Harris said she believes the Senate changes will help put the brakes on some of the debate about changing the eRate.

But a “safer” eRate is not a direct result of the switch in Senate chairmanships, according to Harris, who called former chairman McCain “a great supporter of the eRate.” Rather, protection for the eRate in its current form could come because the Senate’s new leadership can decide which issues to take up. Harris said it is unlikely that eRate changes will make the grade on a Senate agenda controlled by Democrats.

“Democratic eRate advocates now will have more control over what appears on the Senate agenda—and keeping [those proposed changes] off of the Senate agenda is more likely now,” she said.

Another item that may inspire debate under Hollings’ new chairmanship is the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001, a bill proposed by Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., and Rep. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.

According to the NEA’s Anderson, the Tauzin-Dingell bill seeks to provide the regional Bell operating companies with the first shot at rolling out wireless broadband, but it does not require local competition.

“Broadband access is something many schools—particularly rural and underserved schools—really need. The issue is not one of access, but quality of access. You can’t run cable through corn fields,” she said.

But Hollings might “stop that bill in its tracks,” because Tauzin-Dingell would go against the deregulation that took place under the terms of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Anderson said.

“It’s not likely to pass now, because Senator Hollings takes a dim view of it,” said Jason Mahler, vice president and general counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Computer and Communication Industry Association. “Now that he’s chairman of the Commerce Committee, it does not bode well for that piece of legislation.”

Hollings is interested in broadband deployment, just not the Tauzin-Dingell bill, Anderson said, citing an alternative bill sponsored by Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

That bill would give a 10-percent tax credit to companies that provide broadband services to low-income (rural and underserved) communities, and a 20-percent tax credit to companies that provide “next generation,” or high-speed, wireless services.

Links:

United States Senate
http://www.senate.gov

Consortium for School Networking
http://www.cosn.org

National Education Association
http://www.nea.org

American Library Association
http://www.ala.org

Federal Communications Commission
http://www.fcc.gov

Leslie Harris & Associates
http://www.lharris.com

Computer and Communication Industry Association
http://www.ccianet.org

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Funding and partnerships for pioneering schools from AOL Time Warner

The AOL Time Warner Foundation supports technology-related projects in four major areas of priority: Equipping Kids for the 21st Century, Extending Internet Benefits to All, Engaging Communities in the Arts, and Empowering Citizens and Civic Participation. Rather than simply providing grant monies, the foundation prefers to enter into sustainable, strategic partnerships with organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to pioneering innovative ways of meeting these priorities. As a general rule, the foundation does not fund unsolicited proposals except in very special circumstances. Proposals are reviewed throughout the year, and the foundation responds to requests within 8 to 12 weeks.

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Wall Street’s S&P launches online ratings of school districts

Michigan is paying Wall Street’s Standard & Poor’s (S&P) $10 million to run an online service that rates the state’s school districts. Pennsylvania and other states are expected to follow Michigan’s lead. Critics say it would be better to spend those millions directly on education.

S&P has been providing investors with information about the credit-worthiness of businesses and governments for more than 85 years. On May 25, S&P debuted an online school evaluation system that provides up to 1,500 items of information for each Michigan school district, as well as 12- to 15-page summaries of each district’s strengths and weaknesses.

The idea is to use the internet to make school systems more accountable to their stakeholders by showing the “return on investment” for tax dollars spent on education, measured in terms of test scores and other raw data.

The S&P web site isn’t the first of its kind. But the participation of a well-respected financial analysis firm lends a high profile to the endeavor, and the site also marks the first attempt by a major corporation to cash in on the drive for school accountability.

William Cox, director of school evaluation services for S&P, said that response to the system had been “overwhelmingly positive.” He wouldn’t say how many hits the company’s web site had received, but he described it as “a substantial amount of traffic.”

“The largest number of comments have come from districts who found that they have perhaps sent in some information incorrectly to the state,” Cox said. “So already the service is helping people improve their data quality.”

Michigan plans to pay S&P $10 million over the next five years to maintain the site. State officials say it’s worth the money, because the company can provide objective analysis and has the capacity to run the site.

But Choices for Children, a group that advocates charter schools and vouchers, questioned the cost of the program, especially since the state already had the data being presented.

“Particularly during a down economy, this is money that could have been spent developing new standardized tests or raising teachers’ salaries, things that would have an immediate benefit for children,” spokesman Greg McNeilly said.

McNeilly also criticized the site because it posts explanations of the data from superintendents, but it doesn’t post comments from parents.

“We spend $14 billion a year on education in Michigan, and parents and taxpayers are the primary stakeholders,” he said.

State Superintendent Tom Watkins praised the system, saying it will help districts make the most of their resources by allowing them to compare themselves to peer districts.

This information “helps public education do right by our children,” he said.

An evaluation of Pennsylvania school districts reportedly will go online later this summer, and S&P says it is negotiating with other states as well.

In Lansing, Mich., administrators spent the day of the site’s debut checking it for accuracy. Spokesman Mark Mayes said the district already is questioning the site’s data about its participation rate on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. The site says the rate was 79.1 percent, lower than the statewide average of 84.5 percent.

“No one expected that number, because we pretty much have a policy of testing every kid on the MEAP test,” Mayes said.

Mayes said once the district is comfortable the data are correct, the system can be a valuable tool.

“It’s becoming more and more important for educators to put on that business hat and run the district more like a business,” he said. “The more data we have, the more areas we can pinpoint, the more areas we can improve on.”

New Hampshire and Illinois are among the states that already provide web-based school evaluation services. The Illinois School Improvement site, for example, built with $140,000 from the federally funded North Central Regional Educational Laboratory in Oak Brook, Ill., includes charts comparing the state’s schools with each other.

The San Francisco-based nonprofit site GreatSchools.net has been supplying educators and parents with information about California and Arizona schools since September 1999, providing school profiles that include information on enrollment, facilities, teacher qualifications, student demographics, and test scores.

Making information about schools public is part of the Bush administration’s strategy for improving accountability, said Lindsey Kozberg, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education. The president’s proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes a requirement that parents receive reports on their children’s progress, Kozberg said.

Links:

Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services
http://www.ses.standardandpoors.com

Illinois School Improvement web site
http://ilsi.isbe.net

GreatSchools.net
http://www.greatschools.net

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eSN Exclusive: Filtering and the eRate: What you need to know right now

[By the end of this month (because July 1 falls on a Sunday), public and private schools receiving eRate funding must begin taking specific steps to comply with the newly enacted Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The effective date by which schools must certify compliance with CIPA is Saturday, Oct. 27. More than $2 billion is at stake. What follows is a careful examination of the new requirements by a noted Washington policy analyst working with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a national nonprofit organization representing schools’ interests. The author reviews exactly what your schools must do to safeguard your funding under the new rules—the editors.]

CIPA has numerous implications for schools and libraries that receive eRate funding from the federal government. The requirements this legislation imposes on administrators are broad and somewhat complex. This article is intended to bring some clarity to these requirements so that schools and libraries can comply with CIPA, maintain their eRate funding, and bring technology to more schools and communities.

Who must comply with CIPA’s eRate provisions?

Any school that receives discounted rates for “internet access, internet service, or internal connections” under the eRate program must comply with CIPA. If a school receives only “telecommunications services” through the eRate, it need not comply with CIPA, but in that case, it must certify that CIPA does not apply to it. If a school receives no eRate funding, it need not comply with these rules.

Time frame for compliance: Part 1

CIPA applies to funds received during eRate Program Year Four, which begins July 1, 2001. Schools do not have to complete the certification requirements until October 27, 2001, but their eRate funds will not be released until certification is complete. Funds will be paid retroactively as far back as July 1 if certification is made by October 27, as long as the entity began “undertaking action” toward compliance by the time it began receiving the service.

There is an important distinction between actually complying with CIPA and simply “undertaking actions” to comply before July 1, 2001, or the service start date. Here are a few examples of how a school might “undertake action”:

  • Hold a school or library board meeting with CIPA compliance listed as a topic on the agenda;
  • Request and receive a price quote about a filtering or blocking product or service;
  • Hold a school or library board meeting with procurement issues relating to the acquisition of internet filtering or blocking products or service listed as a topic on the agenda; or
  • Write and circulate a memo to an administrative authority of a school describing the differences between CIPA’s “internet safety policy” requirements and the school’s current acceptable-use policy.

CIPA also requires school authorities—even in private schools—to hold a public meeting or hearing to discuss the school’s internet safety policy. If a school’s current internet safety policy (also known as an “acceptable-use policy”) includes all of the CIPA-required elements (as will be described in a moment) and was developed with at least one public meeting, no further action is necessary in order to comply.

Time frame for compliance: Part 2

The Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company—the group that administers the eRate—currently is considering how to manage the certification process for recipients of eRate Program Year Four discounts. Schools likely will be eligible to make a certification shortly after “funding commitment decision letters” go out, and they should be able to do so by July 1, 2001.

Although schools must be “undertaking action” from the beginning of the time in which they receive eRate support for Year Four, they have until October 27, 2001 to certify compliance. During eRate Program Year Five, some one-year waivers will be available for schools that are legally restrained by state or local bidding requirements, and thus cannot become CIPA-compliant by the end of Program Year Four. By Program Year 6 (July 1, 2003), all applicants receiving discounts on internal connections and internet access will need to comply with CIPA.

School entity certification requirements

To ensure the flow of Program Year Four funds, schools must choose one of three possible CIPA-compliance certification options on a revised FCC Form 486:

  • Currently compliant with CIPA;
  • Undertaking action to become compliant with CIPA; or
  • Not required to comply with CIPA.

If a school receives eRate funding as part of a consortium application, individual consortium members complete the new Form 479, which is filed with the Billed Entity (the consortium). The Billed Entity only certifies that it has received signed Forms 479 from all of its members; it is not liable for determining the actual compliance of those members. State network applicants most likely will be treated as consortia for the purposes of certification. At press time, CoSN was seeking further guidance on the application of CIPA to state networks. CoSN will post that clarification on its web site as soon as possible.

What is an “internet safety policy”?

The CIPA statute requires schools to use filtering and blocking technology and to implement a set of substantive policy decisions related to internet access, calling both requirements an “internet safety policy.”

With regard to the policy elements of the internet safety policy, CIPA requires that schools address all of the following specific elements:

  • Access by minors to inappropriate material on the internet and world wide web;
  • The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications (e.g., Instant Message services);
  • Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
  • Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal identification information regarding minors;
  • Measures designed to restrict minors’ access to materials deemed “harmful to minors”; and
  • A plan to monitor minors’ use of the internet in school.

In addition, the internet safety policy must require the use of filtering software or services on all computers with access to the internet. When minors are using the internet, access to visual depictions must be blocked or filtered if they are: (1) obscene, (2) child pornography, or (3) “harmful to minors.”

When adults are using the internet, only material that is obscene or child pornography must be filtered or blocked.

Selecting and disabling the “technology protection measures”

Under CIPA, a “technology protection measure” is narrowly defined as follows:

“The term ‘technology protection measure’ means a specific technology that blocks or filters internet access to visual depictions that are: (a) obscene, as that term is defined in section 1460 of title 18, United States Code; (b) child pornography, as that term is defined in 2256 of title 18, United States Code; or (c) harmful to minors.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not identify which filtering products, if any, complied with CIPA and instead ruled that local communities are the correct authorities to make this decision.

Schools receiving covered eRate support cannot disable the filters when minors are using them, even with parental or teacher permission and supervision.

Appropriate school staff may disable filters only for adults who are using school computers for “bona fide research purposes.” The FCC also declined to further define bona fide research, noting: “We leave such determinations to the local communities, whom we believe to be most knowledgeable about the varying circumstances of schools and libraries in those communities.”

The process for monitoring students’ internet use also was left to local decision-making. The rule makes clear that schools are not required to use electronic monitoring and data collection to satisfy the monitoring requirement.

Penalties for noncompliance and failure to certify

Schools that knowingly fail to comply and certify compliance with CIPA lose eligibility for federal support and are responsible for paying the full price of applicable eRate-eligible services. Billed Entities that knowingly fail to certify also will render the entire consortium ineligible. Most importantly, the eRate recipients must return any funds spent during a period of noncompliance. Entities reestablishing compliance will become eligible for discounts only when they certify compliance.

Challenging CIPA

At press time, no challenges were pending against the school-based requirements of CIPA. However, both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Library Association (ALA) have filed lawsuits challenging CIPA’s constitutionality with regard to public libraries. Consequently, it isn’t likely that a court decision will effect the implementation of CIPA in schools.

CIPA also applies to schools and libraries that receive funding for computers and internet access under the Library Services Technology Act or Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but this article focuses on the requirements related to eRate recipients, because eRate schools are the ones that must be “undertaking action” to comply with CIPA by July 1, 2001 or risk part or all of their expected eRate support for Funding Year Four (July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002).

Both the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) have indicated that CIPA does not impose any requirements on current grantees. ED has suggested that it expects to require grantees in the next fiscal year (beginning October 1, 2001) to comply with CIPA, while IMLS has indicated that compliance will not be required until October 2002.

Technically, the statutory deadline for certification of compliance under the eRate is October 28, 2001. But that is a Sunday, and the FCC has indicated that effective deadline will be Saturday, October 27, 2001.
___________________________________

Liza Kessler is a senior policy counsel for Leslie Harris & Associates, on behalf of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). An expanded version of this article and other related materials are available through CoSN at http://www.cosn.org.

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Web-accessibility deadline looms for feds—schools next?

A federal law set to take effect this month could mean that school districts might one day be required to employ special software designed to make their web sites and technology practices accessible to visually impaired stakeholders.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 mandates that federal government agencies have until June 21 of this year to make sure that members of the public with disabilities, such as hearing or vision impairment, have access to information, computers, and networks comparable to the access enjoyed by people without disabilities.

All federal agency web sites must have a text equivalent—a description that can be vocalized—representing every picture, graphic, or icon. Multimedia presentations also must be synchronized with audio presentations. In other words, if you can’t see it, you must be able to hear it.

“There is nothing more frustrating than when the government says, ‘Well, it’s on the web. It’s a matter of public information. Just go and read it,'” said Ross Doerr, technology consultant for the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. Doerr is a lawyer specializing in access for the disabled and is visually impaired himself.

Making government more accessible to the disabled involves more than adding wheelchair ramps to buildings, experts say. A New Hampshire software company is creating on-ramps to the information superhighway and helping government agencies bring themselves into compliance with the new regulations.

Hiawatha Island Software Co., or HiSoftware, produces AccVerify, a program that is helping several government agencies update their web sites so that visually impaired people can retrieve information. Users who log on to the edited sites can either zoom in on magnified images or hear descriptions of what appears on the screen.

“It’s very easy to think of buildings being accessible—bathrooms, wheelchair ramps—but when you talk to people about web site accessibility, they look at you and say, ‘What are you talking about?'” said Dana Simberkoff, the company’s vice president.

Even a blind person with state-of-the-art technology can only access between 20 percent and 40 percent of what’s on the internet, said Doerr.

“A computer that talks is not a machine for a blind person. It is their eyes,” he said. “It is doing something for that person that the medical community could not do yet. It gives them independence.”

HiSoftware counts among its clients the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the Department of Agriculture.

Using the software, agencies can “comply overnight and understand [the law],” said company President Robert Yonaitis.

The software tells the agencies the exact page, row, and column that must be made accessible and how to fix it. Yonaitis said he used the software on his own web site, making the material 98 percent accessible within four hours.

Though states aren’t required to make the same changes, HiSoftware is working with many state agencies to improve their web sites.

According to HiSoftware’s Simberkoff, Section 508 may be only a federal mandate right now, but a number of people believe the law will apply to state and local agencies and even corporate entities in the near future.

“Usually when the federal government sets a mandate like this, it is the bottom floor,” she said. “Other agencies will adopt the same policies after that.”

This “trickle-down” form of policy adoption is common when federal agencies implement broad-based regulations like Section 508, agreed Doerr.

“If you’re dealing with a school system, this [law] will probably apply there in the near future,” he said.

Doerr explained that any regulations on making school web site’s accessible to the blind will be state-specific, and he urged educators to contact their state education department and ask if there are regulations in place regarding web accessibility for the disabled.

He also said the issue of universal accessibility is a topic that should be addressed in any class that teaches students how to build useful, responsible web sites.

“If your schools are going to be teaching students how to create web sites, it’s best to look at this type of program so that you can build accessibility into your teaching,” said Doerr.

Links:

Hiawatha Island Software Co.
http://www.HiSoftware.com

New Hampshire Association for the Blind
http://www.peekaboo.net/nhab

Requirements of Section 508, Part 1194 Electronic And Information Technology Accessibility Standards:

1. A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided.

2. Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.

3. Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.

4. Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.

5. Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.

6. Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps, except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.

7. Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.

8. Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.

9. Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.

10. Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.

11. A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a web site comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.

12. When pages utilize scripting languages to display content, or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.

13. When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in, or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with the above regulations.

14. When electronic forms are designed to be completed online, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.

15. A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.

16. When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.

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Converged wireless

Two technology trends that have been taking place separately in K-12 and higher-education institutions across the country are now beginning to come together: (1) the proliferation of wireless networks, and (2) the convergence of voice, video, and data on a single network infrastructure.

When considered on its own, each trend makes sense in terms of cost and convenience; now, as new technologies continue to improve, some schools are combining the two efforts.

Driving the trend toward wireless is the desire for always-on access. As students make technology an integral part of their lives, they want access to a network wherever they are on a campus–whether they’re in class, in a cafeteria, in an auditorium, or outside on the green.

“There’s the whole notion of wireless on campus, with people saying, ‘Gee, I’ve got it at home, why not on the third floor at the library?'” says Casey Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project. “Schools are hearing it from both teachers and students”

Economically, too, converging disparate infrastructures into a single wireless network makes sense for some schools. “A typical three-story campus building would cost between $80,000 and $150,000 just to string and terminate wires. We could deploy wireless for about 30 percent to 50 percent of that cost,” says Brad Noblet, former CIO of Dartmouth College. Under Noblet’s guidance, Dartmouth developed one of the industry’s first totally converged wireless IP networks.

Converged wireless at Dartmouth

Before Noblet came to Dartmouth, he had been involved in a number of start-up technology ventures. He had confidence that not only was convergence possible; it was essential. Interestingly, convincing decision-makers at Dartmouth that convergence was necessary was a walk in the park.

“It was simple to prove that [the cost of providing] voice over IP and video over IP was a fraction of what it would cost to build out separate infrastructures,” he says. “It was the wireless piece that was viewed as still new.”

At the same time Noblet was hoping to convince Dartmouth administrators that wireless would benefit the school, some interesting developments occurred. The college had over-extended its admissions and was scrambling to build temporary housing. Because the school was in a bind, there was no time to have contractors install and terminate wires. Instead, the college deployed wireless networks in those buildings.

“Not only did we save money, but we were able to do it in just a couple of weeks,” Noblet says. The wireless networks delivered data, IP telephony, and cable television. “We were able to show that if we were to deliver these converged services, plus normal applications, in a converged format, [the students’] quality of life would be enhanced greatly,” he says.

That’s when Noblet got the green light to deploy converged wireless ubiquitously across campus.

Dartmouth had a legacy Wi-Fi network in place, with more than 550 Cisco 350 802.11b access points. But each access point had to be configured individually with user names, passwords, firmware updates, and so on, and it just wasn’t an easy interface to use.

Noblet helped Dartmouth construct a wireless network densely populated with access points from Aruba Networks. These access points are controlled with Aruba 5000 wireless LAN (WLAN) switches–each of which supports hundreds of access points, thousands of users, and gigabits of encrypted throughput.

Two elements were of utmost importance to Noblet and Dartmouth. The first was security. Noblet wanted to ensure that everyone who needed network access while on campus–students, faculty, other staff, and even visitors to the school–would be able to have access, but there were various levels of security that needed to be considered. For example, staff members who needed access to student records or payroll information would need to have one level of security, while guests who just wanted to get online would need another. Noblet wanted Dartmouth’s network to allow the appropriate level of access based on the identity of the user.

Working with Aruba, he developed a system that allowed for individual, certificate-based tokens that carry a user’s credentials. Aruba employs the 802.1X security protocol, which allows for the support of these tokens. Dartmouth’s network now can virtualize the 802.1X protocol for the entire network and deliver universal authentication on any port, without having to touch each network switch or disrupt current network operations.

“People with a user name and password can get [access], and it [also] allows people who just want to get to the internet to get on,” says Noblet of the school’s network.

The other important element–and one of the biggest challenges of implementation–was mobility. Dartmouth needed more wireless bandwidth to support video, voice, and data, as well as access for students and staff in any area on campus they wanted to connect.

“But in order to have more bandwidth, the only way to do that is to put in more access points,” says Noblet. “The problem or challenge with putting more access points in a given area is keeping them from interfering with one another and then being able to effectively load-balance, or spread your users across the access points that you just deployed.”

Dartmouth’s solution: “switched” wireless connectivity.

The Aruba 5000 WLAN switches allow Dartmouth to maximize capacity by directing users to access points that have more free capacity than others. Previously, the network required each user or device connecting to the network to decide which access point it was going to connect to, while knowing nothing about the total capacity available.

“The wireless switch can now interject itself to say, ‘No, you don’t want to go there, you want to go here,'” Noblet says.

The switches also mean Dartmouth administrators don’t have to go to each access point to reprogram it individually when needs arise. “You can do that from the central controller, and it sends information to the access point. When you’re putting in many access points, you can’t really do it by hand anymore,” Noblet explains.

All told, Dartmouth deployed 12 Aruba 5000 WLAN switches and more than 1,000 single-band 802.11a/b/g access points and 70 dual-band access points. And the college is using its wireless network for voice and video applications as well as data.

For voice service, Dartmouth has deployed 75 Cisco 7920 VoIP phones for faculty and staff, 800 Cisco IP Communicator soft phones, and 125 Vocera badges. More than 4,000 telephone lines have been converted to VoIP service. Faculty and staff use the Vocera badges to locate colleagues on campus quickly, as well as to help others outside the school locate them. When someone calls a Vocera phone number, the system uses voice recognition to pinpoint the target badge in order to route the call wirelessly to the right IP address.

For video distribution, Dartmouth uses servers from Video Furnace to convert cable TV channels into MPEG video streams that can be multicast to laptops using client software agents. When a student signs up for access to a channel, he or she is added to an IGMP multicast group for that channel. Because each computer needs 400 kilobits per second to 2 megabits per second to screen video content, efficient use of bandwidth is essential. Any given Aruba access point reportedly supports four or more simultaneous MPEG data streams.

“Dense deployment of Aruba access points gives us the performance, coverage, and scale that make this project even possible,” says David Bourque, a network engineer at Dartmouth College.

North Carolina district chooses microwave wireless

Dartmouth College created a converged, campus-wide network using switched Wi-Fi (802.11) radio-frequency technology. North Carolina’s Iredell-Statesville Schools, a public K-12 school system serving some 18,500 students, took a different approach to designing a network that could deliver voice, video, and data wirelessly to its 35 schools and four central offices, deploying a microwave network from Conterra Ultra Broadband.

Microwaves, a subdivision of the radio spectrum, easily can supply the considerable bandwidth it takes to support voice, video, and data over a single network infrastructure. But they only work on a “visual” basis–that is, there needs to be a clear line of sight for the radio waves to traverse, because microwaves cannot penetrate barriers. For this reason, microwave technology is useful as a conduit for wide-area networks, providing connectivity from building to building, but not for ubiquitous connectivity inside and outside a school.

Microwave technology “could give us dedicated 100 megabits-per-second [connectivity] between sites, and the best we could get out of our wired provider was 75 to 100 burstable [megabits per second], and we didn’t want that. We wanted the full 100,” says Pam Schiffman, chief accountability and technology officer for the district. Schiffman knew the district eventually wanted to support video streaming, video conferencing, and VoIP service, among other things, so district officials chose to implement the wireless plan.

The installation began in March 2005 and progressed in phases. By July 2005, seven sites were connected wirelessly. The second phase was completed in November of that year, and by May 2006 all the sites were connected.

Until the district built out its wireless WAN, it had been relying on T-1 lines to connect most of its schools. With its microwave network in place, data-transfer rates between buildings are about 65 times faster than T-1 speeds.

Planning how to engineer and design an optimal wireless network that meets current and future needs and maintains a high quality of service was important. For the Iredell-Statesville Schools project, Conterra conducted a Line of Site (LOS) Path Analysis, using 20 different attributes to determine the best microwave paths between schools and office facilities. Then, antennas were erected with licensed microwave radios to transmit and receive signals at each location.

In the case of Iredell-Statesville Schools, Conterra designed a ring network topology that incorporated three rings into the network for redundancy. To connect the schools and central-office facilities together, the company erected concrete utility poles ranging in height from 100 to 140 feet. These poles resemble the light poles often found in school parking areas. The three-ring network then connects back to the main aggregation site at the district office.

To ensure a high quality of service, all Iredell-Statesville facilities have service-level agreements that guarantee speed and reliability levels equal to or, in some cases, better than fiber-optic connections.

The transition to the new network has occurred seamlessly, Schiffman says, with teachers, faculty, and staff being unaware of the switch. Though they realize a change has been made because of the ease and speed with which they can access the internet, as far as the technology behind it goes, “they don’t know the difference,” she says.

Although all sites have the capability now to deploy VoIP service, they have not made that switch yet. “That’s in the future,” Schiffman explains. “Our issue with that is the price of the phones. They’re very expensive.”

The district has taken sort of an “if you build it, they will come” approach to its network: Now that the capability is there, the teachers are using it, Schiffman says.

“What we’re finding is, [our teachers] are increasing their visits to internet sites for instructional purposes,” she says. “We have more video streaming going on. We have distance learning, with students who are [attending] virtual high school. It’s opened a whole new world for some of our students and some of our teachers.”

One district reaches for convergence

Deploying converged wireless networks in a single swoop across entire campuses or districts has proven useful and cost-effective for some institutions, but others–such as Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools–have chosen to move more slowly.

Some of Montgomery County’s schools have wireless 802.11a/b/g networks, and the district’s central office for technology innovation has been equipped with wireless technology as well. But Montgomery County has chosen not to implement a wireless system throughout the district, for now. “There are expenses that we have to look at–the issue of bandwidth, speed of access, security,” says John Q. Porter, deputy superintendent of information and organizational systems.

Porter has, however, put in place a strategic plan for moving forward with converged wireless service in the future. He says he’s researching a growth strategy to migrate to 802.11n technology and increase wireless bandwidth. The district’s wireless plan ultimately will include converged solutions such as voice over wireless, unified communications, and streaming video.

Porter also is being ultra-careful about security. “We’ve been conservative about this. Some are bolder than we are. Our administrative systems are not run through wireless. For that we’re using fiber. We’re using encryption for some of our wireless labs to see how it works,” he says.

All of the district’s new schools, renovated schools, and “test sites” (sites for training and testing of new technology) have wireless capability. Some schools, for example, have IP cameras whose images can be downloaded wirelessly to handheld computers, providing real-time video streams to school security personnel as well as local law-enforcement officials. Some schools also have VoIP service, and Porter has allocated close to $1 million to get VoIP service in the central office.

“It’s expensive,” he says of VoIP service. “You lose, in some cases, in terms of eRate money. There’s more efficiency, but it’s hard to determine how much money you’re saving.”

Part of the difficulty in getting funding approved for these projects is that the district’s current telephone system and wired network still work. “If we say, ‘We’re going to trade [to a new system] and it’s going to cost us to trade,’ it’s hard to get the budget people to agree,” Porter says. “Our phones already work, so why do I need another phone [system]? Unless you have an enlightened board…”

One way to convince school board members is to talk about the benefits of a new system. “I’m not doing it for the savings. I’m going into it because I’m going to have greater efficiency,” Porter explains. “It’s really about converging those technologies and having access to everything at your desk or at your laptop. That, to me, is the value of it. The phone becomes that much more powerful to you, as well as any other device that you’re using.”

One of Porter’s ultimate goals is to provide a means of receiving all communications wirelessly on a single, mobile device–particularly for administrators and other staff members on the go. “We’re talking about being able to get video on any device you might have, using a telephone to get eMails, have eMails read to you, send or receive images from IP cameras on phones or on a [personal digital assistant]–all delivered to you and converged on one device,” he says.

Porter cautions school leaders not to underestimate the cost of the infrastructure and the training necessary to guide the process internally. “As with any implementation, change management is key,” he says. “We start change management the same day we start designing the implementation. You can never over-communicate, never over-train. You have to overcome [users’] fears, tell them the benefits, how it’s going to be used, how you can be successful in the use of the technology.”

That, he says, is where many school systems fail: “They don’t spend as much time on change as they do on the implementations themselves.”

Porter’s cautious approach underscores the need for schools to have sound strategic plans for implementing wireless technology. And there’s evidence to suggest that more school leaders are realizing this: More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of campuses participating in the Campus Computing Project’s annual Campus Computing Survey last year said they now have a strategic plan for wireless in place. That number is up from 64 percent in 2005 and just 53.3 percent in 2004.

Regardless of how quickly schools move toward wireless solutions, one thing seems clear: As next-generation applications and devices continue to emerge, such as cell phones and handheld devices that integrate audio, video, eMail, and more, converged wireless is likely to play an increasingly important role in schools’ strategic plans.

Jennifer Nastu is a freelance writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. She writes frequently on technology in education.

Links:

Aruba Networks

http://www.arubanetworks.com

Brandeis University

http://www.brandeis.edu

Campus Computing Project

http://www.campuscomputing.net

Cisco Systems Inc.

http://www.cisco.com

Conterra Ultra Broadband

http://www.conterra.com

Dartmouth College

http://www.dartmouth.edu

Iredell-Statesville Schools

http://www.iss.k12.nc.us

Montgomery County Public Schools

http://www.mcps.k12.md.us

Video Furnace

http://www.videofurnace.com

Vocera Communications

http://www.vocera.com

Jennifer Nastu is a freelance writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. She writes frequently on technology in education.

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Online learning makes summer studies more rewarding

Except in the occasional suburban tomato patch, Except in the occasional suburban tomato patch, nobody will be harvesting the crops in Fairfax County, Va., this summer. Even so, some 50 students in the highly regarded suburban Washington, D.C., school division will use education’s time-honored, farming-inspired hiatus to reap the benefits of a web-based Algebra 1 class.

Beginning July 9, Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)—the twelfth largest district in the country—will enroll two classes of up to 25 high school students each in a web-based summer school Algebra 1 class. Instructional material for the online class will be provided by class.com.

“We have a variety of students who can’t go to summer school for certain reasons; they need to watch their siblings or do other activities,” said Mike Kowalski, coordinator of eLearning for the school system.

The kids who will participate in this program are all looking to get ahead, explained Kowalski, rather than trying to re-take a class they failed.

A ‘gatekeeper’ subject

Algebra is a “gatekeeper subject,” said Lincoln, Nebraska-based class.com’s president, Katherine Endacott. “That’s why [FCPS is] focusing on Algebra 1; they want to make sure that kids have the skills they need to be successful in higher mathematics.”

“We have a large number of kids who transfer into the district every year, and Algebra 1 is an eighth grade course. In high school, we usually move them into geometry,” said Kowalski.

The online course will allow transfer students who need Algebra 1 to take the prerequisite over the summer rather than starting the new school year with a deficit.

Students will learn from home, but they’ll have periodic face-to-face meetings—an initial orientation, one mid-course meeting, and an on-site state Standards of Learning test at the end of the course.

Class.com’s curriculum—made accessible through a web site powered by Blackboard.com of Washington, D.C.—allows kids to cut and paste their notes, chat with peers and teachers, and communicate via eMail.

Students are able to complete and submit quizzes and homework online and receive immediate feedback.

The obvious benefits for transfer students notwithstanding, school and company officials have reservations about offering web-based summer school classes to kids who have not been successful in their traditional classes.

“Offering [online classes] as a remediation option is an interesting challenge—primarily because [summer school] is only a five- to six-week time frame,” said Kowalski. “We are definitely concerned about offering a fundamental class in such a short amount of time.”

Endacott agreed, explaining that while some students learn best in a group setting, others work well when they are challenged individually. “We’ve found that class.com works best with the kids who need individual challenges,” she said.

Kowalski acknowledged that kids re-taking a class in summer school might lack motivation to begin with. On the other hand, he said, sometimes the fear of not graduating on time can provide the necessary motivation for kids.

Although students would have to be screened to ensure suitability, Kowalski said FCPS someday might consider offering online classes to kids who failed the first time around.

A boon for teachers?

Web-enabled summer school might also be a boon for teachers, many of whom would rather not spend their summers in the same classrooms they occupy during the school year.

Instructors will have the option of teaching from their homes or from a lab set up at a district building. The benefit of teaching from a school building is the ability to access the internet on the district’s zippy T1 connection, explained Kowalski.

“Right now this gives teachers a little more flexibility in their time frame,” he said. “They can arrange their schedules so they can work the hours they want.”

Online curricula can also make it easier to offer more sections of summer classes, or classes that are longer in duration, Kowalski said. Currently FCPS summer school classes are offered from July 9 to August 9.

One challenge schools face with traditional summer school is the cost of keeping a building open with a skeletal staff, said Endacott. Web-based eLearning might be the solution, she said.

“We usually start summer school in July due to building formalities, but this would reduce those complications,” said Kowalski. “Basically, you don’t have to kick out the original school to do online summer school.”

Teachers also benefit from the ability to correlate time on task with performance by looking at online records and seeing where a student spends the most time, said company officials.

For lower income students, the costs of online learning might be prohibitive. At FCPS, for instance, the online Algebra class is considered a pilot. As a result, students must provide their own computers and internet access.

FCPS does not currently have a way to provide discounted or free hardware and internet access to disadvantaged students, but Kowalski said school officials are actively looking for ways to provide this access. During the school year, for instance, public libraries have already opened their doors to student computing.

Class.com posts its online classes using a web site developed and operated by Blackboard.com. According to the district, Blackboard’s minimum requirements are a Pentium processor with Windows 95 or higher or a Macintosh PowerPC, Netscape 5.0 or higher, a CD-ROM, 64 megabytes of RAM, a modem, a sound card, and speakers.

FCPS also charges a $580 fee for in-county high school students that take summer school courses. That fee is doubled for out-of-county residents. Students from low-income families must pay anywhere from half to 10 percent of the total fee, depending on the level of need.

“The parents understand this, and it’s the same for all our summer classes” said Kowalski. “If they are interested they know they must meet the requirements.”

Teachers are currently undergoing a week of training on how to deliver the online course.

“We train the teachers in the software, and we have an implementation workshop where we show them best practices and successful ideas,” said Endacott.

But successful adoption involves tailoring the solution to fit individual needs, she said. The courses are designed to meet local standards, but there are always schools that want to customize. Fairfax County teachers will be able to build and direct kids to custom content modules associated with the class.com courses.

FCPS’ contract provides for up to five hundred students to take class.com courses over the next twelve months.

Class.com was launched two years ago as a for-profit spin-off of the University of Nebraska’s Independent Study High School. A $17.5 million federal research and development grant funded the design of class.com’s initial courses.

So far, more than 150 individual schools, districts, statewide initiatives, and families in states including Michigan, Kansas, Virginia, Illinois, Washington, and Texas have more than 6,000 students currently enrolled in class.com offerings.

Links:

Fairfax County Public Schools
http://www.fcps.edu

class.com
http://www.class.com

Blackboard.com
http://www.blackboard.com

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Patricia Tillotson molds Red Clay’s technology program into a success

During the past two years, the Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, Del., has developed a computer network the size of that in many Fortune 500 companies.

With more than 6,000 computers, 45 servers, 250 laptops, 2,000 printers, and 1,000 large-screen monitors distributed across 27 school buildings and approximately 16,000 students, the task initially was overwhelming.

But by managing the process in “smart” ways, explained Technology Director Patricia Tillotson, Red Clay completed the implementation early and $1.5 million under budget, without compromising quality. District technology employees say much of that success is attributable to some innovative and enthusiastic leadership by Tillotson.

Tillotson earned her Ph.D. in environmental physics and worked for Dow Chemical Co., among other employers, until she decided she “wanted to do something satisfying with [her] life.”

“I had a middle-aged crisis,” laughed Tillotson.

With years of technology experience in the business sector, Tillotson brought “a fresh viewpoint” to Red Clay’s technology services, said Judi Coffield, the district’s instructional technologist.

“There’s a sense of excitement now. She’s a cheerleader for technology, and she always puts the students and learning first,” said Coffield.

Tillotson’s first order of business involved working with KPMG consultants to develop a three-year district technology plan.

According to Coffield, “Some of the goals and objectives were to enhance instructional tools, use technology to improve student learning, provide flexibility in creative teaching methods, enhance achievement, enhance media centers and computer labs, ensure that all classrooms have four computers (one being a teacher media center), increase administrative efficiency, improve communications with parents, and provide technical skills required in today’s business world.”

Every one of those goals has been addressed since Tillotson took over in 1998, district officials say.

According to Tillotson, when she first arrived at Red Clay there was a “rudimentary” technology plan, but the district had just passed a $10.7 million bond issue for technology.

“The first thing I did was get together more than 100 people to do focus groups–coordinated through KPMG–and put together a really comprehensive plan,” she said. Tillotson asked teachers, students, and administrators to participate in the focus groups, and they discussed what they wanted to do with technology.

“That plan basically became my to-do list,” said Tillotson. Red Clay actually completed the three-year technology plan in two years, furnishing schools with brand-new computer labs and classrooms with four computers and a large-screen TV monitor.

The district also purchased a cache of laptop computers for each school, so teachers could check them out and engage in staff training at home.

“We put in the hardware, but we were doing the training in parallel,” said Tillotson. Under the new plan, teachers get instruction on using the software, as well as integrating technology into the curriculum.

Tillotson believes strongly in the “train the trainer”model, incorporating instructional technology teams at each building. These teams put together instructional plans for their buildings, based on past assessment scores.

The same teams also are charged with identifying software to help meet the specific needs of the kids in their schools.

“I really believe, rather than the district telling the schools what they need, the schools ought to have input,” said Tillotson. “So Judi Coffield, the instructional technologist, pulled together a ‘district-recommended’ software list.”

Building-level officials now can choose directly from that list, or they can show district officials why a new program should be added to the list.

“We also put into place a whole software evaluation procedure–we wanted to guarantee an alignment between the software and the outcome,” said Tillotson. “We really wanted to structure the process to ensure curricular alignment.”

Many districts don’t think about creating hardware standards, she said. But standardized hardware can be critical to maintaining total cost of ownership. Red Clay mass-purchased all its new hardware from Dell, selecting only three different models district-wide.

Tillotson is eager to spread the word about Red Clay’s successes and encourage other district to take similar measures to bring their technology programs up to snuff, focusing on student-centered planning, implementation, and evaluation.

She put together a list of recommendations for others who would like to see a similar metamorphosis unfold in their own districts. Her “Five Critical Success Factors for School Technology” are:

  1. Involve everyone in the planning process. Have all stakeholders– students, teachers, administrators, board members, and parents–help develop a clear, multi-year technology plan. Stakeholder vision from the trenches is better than your vision as an administrator or technology director.

  2. Standardize hardware. Select a single vendor for computer purchases, and use the fewest number of vendors possible for purchasing peripherals, to reduce your total support and maintenance costs over the long-term. Do research to select the best and most reliable products.

  3. Develop a customer service attitude. Treat all users with respect, as they deserve excellent service and support. It’s your responsibility to ensure their happiness, and service should be a No. 1 priority. Predict user needs and satisfy them before users know what their needs are. Use remote access technology to fix computer problems as soon as possible.

  4. Teach technology within the context of best instructional practices. Show teachers not only how to point and click through educational software, but also how to manage their classrooms so that technology instruction can occur within the context of existing lesson plans.

  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Communicate 10 times more than you think you need to, and be seen in the school buildings as often as possible. This helps everyone understand that technology is important at all levels of the organization.

Bonus success factor: Stay focused. You will be inundated with technology requests by all personnel in your district. Maintain a direct alignment between your activities and your technology plan. Don’t allow others to sway you from the documented path outlined in No. 1 above.

These strategies have certainly proven themselves at Red Clay, according to technology personnel.

“Patty is great,” said Ted Ammann, network services administrator. “She has a great ability to look at the return on investment that we get from our technology. And the new initiatives all support instruction, rather than technology just for technology’s sake.”

Links:
Red Clay Consolidated School District
http://www.dataservice.org/redclay/district.htm

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