“The Frederick Douglass Papers” provides insight into the abolitionist’s life and times

“The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress” presents the papers of the 19th-century African-American abolitionist who escaped from slavery and then risked his own freedom by becoming an outspoken antislavery lecturer, writer, and publisher. The first release of the documents, from the Library of Congress’s Manuscript Division, contains about 2,000 items (with some 16,000 images) relating to Douglass’s life as an escaped slave, abolitionist, editor, orator, and public servant. The papers span the years 1841 to 1864, with the bulk of the material from 1862 to 1895, and undoubtedly will provide American history teachers with a bounty of material for their classes. The printed Speech, Article, and Book Series contains the writings of Douglass and such contemporaries in the abolitionist and early women’s rights movements as Henry Ward Beecher, Ida B. Wells, Gerrit Smith, Horace Greeley, and others. The Subject File Series reveals Douglass’s interest in diverse subjects such as politics, emancipation, racial prejudice, women’s suffrage, and prison reform. There is also a partial handwritten draft of Douglass’s third autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. The Miscellany Series includes newspaper clippings and photographs, and scrapbooks document Douglass’s role as minister to Haiti and the controversy surrounding his interracial second marriage. The online release of the Frederick Douglass Papers was made possible through support from the Citigroup Foundation.



Use this new online curriculum to make sure your students are “CyberSmart!”

CyberSmart!, a new online curriculum co-published by the nonprofit CyberSmart! School Program and Macmillan/ McGraw-Hill, addresses the challenge of empowering children to use the internet safely, responsibly, and effectively. Developed through a collaboration of professional educators, curriculum experts, and internet industry innovators, the CyberSmart! curriculum teaches students what online behaviors are acceptable and appropriate, providing them with the tools they need to navigate the internet securely, sensibly, and effectively. Correlated to the International Society for Technology in Education’s National Educational Technology Standards, the curriculum consists of 65 original lesson plans with activity sheets. It is organized in five units, each teaching an important facet of internet use: Safety (how to enjoy the internet safely), Manners (social, legal, and ethical responsibilities when using the internet), Advertising (how to identify commercial messages and protect privacy), Research (strategies to mine online resources effectively), and Technology (learning about the past, present, and future of the internet).



Grant Awards

$105,000 in equipment from Schering-Plough Corp.

School nurses in Tennessee will get laptop computers, thanks to a donation from a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company. Schering-Plough Corp., headquartered in Kenilworth, N.J., donated 300 refurbished Dell computers as part of its nationwide program to help school nurses treat asthma and allergies. The laptop donation is valued at $105,000, a company spokesperson said. The company, which has Tennessee operations in Memphis and Cleveland, also has created a web site to assist school nurses with respiratory problems. Kirkpatrick Elementary School nurse Andrea Davis received one of the first donated computers from First Lady Martha Sundquist, state Health Commissioner Dr. Fredia Wadley, Rep. Ken Givens, and Tennessee Association of School Nurses official Rebecca Brown. “These computers will give school nurses across Tennessee immediate access to important medical information that will help them better care for our school children,” Sundquist said.


$2 million from the ExxonMobil Foundation

The ExxonMobil Foundation Inc. has awarded $2 million in grants worth $500 apiece to more than 3,700 schools across the country through ExxonMobil’s Educational Alliance program. Each $500 grant was awarded to a school nominated by a local Exxon service station. The use of a $500 Educational Alliance grant is left to the discretion of local school officials. Grants may be used to purchase equipment from a school’s “wish list,” set up a program, or fund a special project, for example. According to the foundation spokeswoman Jeanne Miller, many schools plan to use the funds to buy computer hardware and software, digital cameras, scanners, or to upgrade their technology infrastructure.


$50,000 from the Edward E. Ford Foundation

A Saltsburg, Pa., private school for boys has been awarded $50,000 from the Edward E. Ford Foundation to upgrade its technology infrastructure. At the Kiski School, the nation’s oldest boys’ boarding school, every student and faculty member already has a notebook computer that can be connected to the school’s network in classrooms, offices, study halls, and dormitories. Now, with the grant award and $50,000 in matching funds, the private school plans to make more improvements. The funds will help replace and maintain network hardware, such as servers, switches and hubs. “We have one of the most wired campuses in the country, and the grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation will further enhance the high caliber of the Kiski computer network,” said Patricia Kowatch, a school spokeswoman. The Edward E. Ford Foundation’s main goal is to “encourage and improve secondary education as provided by independent schools in the United States.”



Grant Deadlines


Alan Shephard Technology in Education Awards

Educators who demonstrate the effective use technology in the classroom are eligible to win a laptop computer through this brand-new program from the National Association of Education Technology Specialists (NAETS). The organization will grant its first annual Alan Shephard Technology in Education Award to an educator who has demonstrated innovation, commitment, and excellence in the teaching and development of technology programs in schools. The award is open to all educators and technology personnel at the school or district level who have demonstrated exemplary use of technology either to foster lifelong learners or to make the learning process easier. The winning nominee will be flown to an awards ceremony, where he or she will be presented with a commemorative trophy engraved with his or her name and a laptop computer. The honoree’s name also will go onto a master trophy to be housed at the NAETS home office. A school principal must nominate a candidate from a school, and an associate superintendent or superintendent must nominate all district-level personnel. Nominations for the award are to be submitted to the NAETS office between February 1 and April 30. The selection committee will make a final choice by May 27.

Deadline: April 30


Robert H. Michel Civic Education Grants

The Dirksen Congressional Center is giving $50,000 in new grants to help teachers, curriculum developers, and others improve the quality of civics instruction, with emphasis on the role of Congress in the federal government. Areas of interest include designing lesson plans, creating student activities, and applying instructional technology in the classroom. Examples of some eligible projects include lesson plans or student activities based on civics education web sites, or projects about the history of Congress using technology. Expenses eligible for support include faculty release time, software purchases, project-related incidentals such as photocopying, and professional development activities with specific relevance to the subject area. The intense competition for these grants means that requests for funds to purchase off-the-shelf resources such as textbooks, projects that lack innovation, and projects that benefit small numbers of students are not likely to be funded. Preference will be given to projects that demonstrate matching support.

Deadline: May 1

Transition to Teaching Program

Transition to Teaching, available through the U.S. Department of Education (ED), provides grants to recruit, train, and place talented individuals from other fields—such as business or technology—into teaching positions in K-12 classrooms and support them during their first years in the classroom. In particular, the program targets mid-career professionals from various fields who possess strong academic backgrounds and work experience to become teachers in relevant subject fields, particularly in high-need areas such as bilingual education, foreign languages, mathematics, reading, science, technology, and special education. It also supports recent college graduates with outstanding academic records and a baccalaureate degree in a field other than teaching. By regulation, $3,000,000 is the maximum award for national or regional projects; $1,500,000 is the maximum award for state projects; and $1,125,000 is the maximum award for local projects. The 2002 competition is expected to be announced in early April.

Deadline: May 20 (estimated)

Contact: Frances Yvonne Hicks at frances.hicks@ed.gov

Women’s Educational Equity Act Program

The Women’s Educational Equity Act Program, another ED initiative, provides funds to implement equity programs and policies in schools, including programs that encourage girls to succeed in technology-related programs and careers. The program targets most funds toward local implementation of gender-equity policies and practices. Research, development, and dissemination activities also are funded. Projects may be funded for up to four years. Examples of allowable activities include training for teachers and other school personnel to encourage gender equity in the classroom; innovative strategies and model training programs in gender equity for teachers and other school personnel; school-to-work transition programs; and guidance and counseling activities to increase opportunities for women in technologically demanding workplaces. ED generally awards six to nine grants for about $150,000 each. The 2002 competition was expected to be announced April 1.

Deadline: May 22 (estimated)

Contact: Madeline Baggett at madeline.baggett@ed.gov

Help Us Help Foundation Grants

Oracle Corp.’s Help Us Help Foundation is a nonprofit organization that assists K-12 public schools and youth organizations in economically challenged communities through grants of computer equipment and software. Funding comes from Oracle Corp., as well as from other charitable donations. Grant recipients will receive internet appliances from the New Internet Computer Co. and Kyocera Mita laser printers to outfit 10, six, or five classrooms with five computers and one printer each. Applicants must document that their school is designated low-income and must provide test scores that show their students are struggling to meet achievement standards. In addition, the school already must have in place a technology infrastructure to support the internet appliances.

Deadline: May 31


Public Charter Schools Program

The Public Charter Schools Program, offered through ED, provides financial assistance for the planning, design, initial implementation, and dissemination of information on charter schools created by teachers, parents, and other members of local communities. Grants are available on a competitive basis to state education agencies (SEAs) in states that have charter school laws, and SEAs in turn make subgrants to authorized public chartering agencies in partnership with developers of charter schools. If an eligible SEA elects not to participate or if its application for funding is not approved, grants can be made directly to eligible local partnerships. Grants to SEAs average $3 million and others average $150,000. The 2002 competition was expected to be announced April 1.

Deadline: June 1 (estimated)

Contact: Donna Hoblit at donna.hoblit@ed.gov

Teaching American History Grants

Teaching American History, another ED program, aims to raise student achievement by improving teachers’ knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of U.S. history. These grants are intended to help school districts—in collaboration with universities, museums, or historical societies—develop, document, evaluate, and disseminate innovative, cohesive models of professional development, such as web-based professional development programs for history teachers. Congress has appropriated $100 million for Teaching American History grants for fiscal year 2002. Grant awards will range between $350,000 and $1 million. The 2002 competition was expected to be announced April 1.

Deadline: June 3 (estimated)

Philips TechOver Sweepstakes

Philips Consumer Electronics is giving away two complete multimedia systems valued at $5,000 each as part of its TechOver Sweepstakes. Two classrooms will win Philips’ products, which will include a projector, monitor, VCR and DVD player, PC speaker sound system, portable audio system, soundcard, and CD-RW drive. A school administrator must register on behalf of an accredited school on the Philips web site by June 30, and only one entry per school is permitted. Two winners will be randomly selected from all eligible entries on July 10. No purchase is necessary.

Deadline: June 30


Arts in Education Grants

ED’s Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants Program aims to strengthening arts instruction and improve students’ academic performance, including their skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts. Funds must be used to improve or expand the integration of arts education in elementary or middle school classrooms, and using technology-based methods of teaching arts education is one possible approach. Grant applications must describe an existing set of strategies for integrating the arts into the regular elementary and middle school curriculum that could be implemented, expanded, documented, evaluated, and disseminated successfully. Awards usually range between $350,000 and $1,000,000. The 2002 competition is expected to be announced in mid-May.

Deadline: July 15 (estimated)


ClassLink Grants

Sponsored by cell phone manufacturer Nokia and a consortium of cell phone service providers (organized by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association), this program gives cell phones and free calling time to classroom instructors. The program is designed to create additional in-class learning opportunities by enabling students to call subject matter experts during school time, and also to provide instructors with emergency access to telephones to ensure their safety and the safety of their students. To date, more than 30,000 cell phones and 12 million hours of free phone time have been donated. Among the innovative uses of the system has been a project in a private school in Florida that allows each teacher to place his or her homework assignment on wireless voice mail daily, so that parents can call in and confirm their children’s homework assignments. Grants are made by individual local wireless providers; to find out if your provider is participating in the program, go to the ClassLink web site.


Intel Foundation Grants

Intel offers a wide range of support for many technology- and science-related initiatives. The company’s two main grant programs are the Intel Model School Program, which provides every school in the United States with the opportunity to apply for potential seeding of equipment and matches companies with schools to provide end-to-end solutions; and the Teach to the Future Program, which has pledged $100 million to train 400,000 teachers in the use of technology by 2003. Combined with software and equipment discounts from companies such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Premio, and Toshiba, Teach to the Future represents approximately a half-billion dollars invested by leading U.S. computer firms in bringing technology to the classroom. Applications for each of these programs can be found on the web sites below.



Lightware Education

Spotlight Program

Lightware, a producer of ultraportable, affordable projection technology, and PLUS Corp. of America, a leader in innovative projection solutions, have announced a new program called Education Spotlight. Through the program, Lightware and PLUS will donate three projectors and an electronic copyboard to a selected school each quarter, reflecting a commitment to increase the effective use of multimedia learning in K-12 education. Applicants are asked to give a unique example of how the projectors will be used when applying for the award. Recipients are chosen based on the creativity of their response, and PLUS and Lightware will share innovative applications with other educators on the Lightware web site. Oregon’s Ogden Middle School became the first recipient in November 2001.


MarcoPolo Professional Development Grants

The MCI WorldCom Foundation provides states and school districts with on-site professional development for K-12 teacher trainers on how to incorporate internet content into the classroom. The training sessions use print and online materials developed by the MarcoPolo Partnership, a consortium of leading educational organizations dedicated to creating high-quality internet content for the classroom. The training sessions are led by professionally trained internet education specialists, and all attendees receive copies of the MarcoPolo Teacher Training Kit.


MathSoft Educational Grants

MathSoft, a provider of math, science, and engineering software, has two grant programs available: the StudyWorks Innovative Teaching Grant Program and the Conference Presenter Grant Program. Through the former, educators and schools can receive a lab grant for 25 StudyWorks for Schools licenses, as well as additional licenses for the school’s media center. Interested applicants must submit a detailed proposal explaining how they would incorporate StudyWorks software into their curriculum. MathSoft also awards Conference Grants to provide stipends for educators attending math, science, or technology conferences who will be presenting a session or workshop using StudyWorks, Mathcad, or Axum. Educators interested in the program should submit a proposal of their conference session or workshop. Grant recipients will receive a grant of $100 or $200. Prospective applicants should consult the Mathsoft web site for program information and application details.

Contact: MathSoft Inc., Studyworks Grant Program, 101 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142; fax (617) 577-8829.


Teach America!

Through its Teach America! program, the Gateway Foundation has promised to provide free technology training to 75,000 educators in public and private schools. Successful applicants will receive one year of free access to an online database containing more than 400 technology training courses, which run the gamut from word processing, to web site design, to spreadsheets, to computer-aided drafting. Applicants can be individual teachers or school district media representatives. Applicants must file a short note indicating their reasons for wanting access to the online training program and their plans for using their knowledge in the classroom.

Contact: gateway.foundation@gateway.com



New guide helps schools train teachers to use technology

A new professional development book aimed at helping school and university leaders train K-12 teachers how to integrate technology into their instruction is now available from the International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE).

The group that in June 2000 published the first set of comprehensive standards for what teachers should know about technologycalled the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Teachersnow offers Preparing Teachers to Use Technology, which provides a valuable resource for preservice and in-service teacher professional development across all grade levels and content areas.

According to Peggy Kelly, the book’s editor, cutbacks in education funding have created a huge demand for effective teacher training resources.

“Teachers today often face classrooms of students more technologically literate than they are,” she notes. “Preparing Teachers to Use Technology provides essential teacher training information about integrating technology into a classroom setting using effective teaching practices.”

The nearly 400-page book, which ISTE calls “the first to comprehensively outline models for standards-based integration of technology for teacher education,” was created by consensus.

Writing teams of teachers and teacher educators from around the country collaborated to develop teacher preparation standards, assessments, and conditions that facilitate the use of technology to support student learning. The guide includes:

• Thirty-two demonstration lessons covering math, science, social studies, and language arts in early childhood, elementary, middle school, and secondary programs;

• Eight demonstration lessons for foundations courses; and

• Separate chapters devoted to model strategies, assessment, student teaching and internship programs, first-year teaching, and staff development.

The book is a companion to the ISTE publication NETS for Students: Connecting Curriculum and Technology. But while Connecting Curriculum and Technology is a guide to implementing ISTE’s student technology standards, Preparing Teachers to Use Technology helps schools implement the group’s teacher standards.

You can get more information about Preparing Teachers to Use Technology, including a 17-page excerpt, the table of contents, and ordering information, at http://www.iste.org/. The price for a single copy is $49.95 for non-members and $44.95 for ISTE members. Special bulk pricing is also available.


SLD: Few schools will see Year Five eRate funds for internal connections

The bulk of Year Five eRate applicants hoping to get money to wire their schools won’t receive funding for internal connections, according to program officials. In fact, because of the extraordinarily high demand for discounts this year, there won’t even be enough money to fund all requests at the 90-percent discount level.

The nation’s schools and libraries have asked for a record $5.736 billion in eRate discounts for Year Five, nearly $550 million more than last year’s total and more than double the $2.25 billion available.

The eRate, part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, derives its funding from the universal service charge on telephone bills. The program is intended to help needy and rural schools pay for telephone service, internet access, and internal wiring.

This is the third consecutive year that the demand for eRate funds has surpassed the amount allotted by the Federal Communication Commission. Last year, applicants requested an unprecedented $5.19 billion total, an amount greater than the first two program years combined.

The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Co., the group that administers the eRate, received 36,043 applications by Jan. 17, the close of the Form 471 application filing window.

The eRate funds all requests for telecommunications service and internet access—so-called Priority One services—first. Then, any leftover funds are allocated for internal connections, starting with the neediest schools and libraries.

The estimated demand for telecommunications service and internet access this year is $1.817 billion, leaving only $433 million to pay for internal connections. The demand for internal connections at the neediest level—the 90-percent discount level—is $2.619 billion.

Under current program rules, each 90-percent discount school would get only a small portion of the funds it requested for internal connections this year—in this case, about 17 percent, if current estimates of the demand hold true.


High-speed internet access spreading, though slowly

A study released in February by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggests that more students might have high-speed internet access in their homes this year—but not many more.

Access to high-speed, or “broadband,” internet services is expanding slowly at all levels, according to the study. Analysts who study the telecommunications industry attribute this slow growth not to the availability of broadband services, but to a lack of demand.

The report said 7 percent of U.S. households had high-speed access by the end of last June, up from 4.7 percent at the beginning of 2001 and more than triple the 1.6 percent with access in August 2000.

Overall, the nation had 9.6 million subscribers to extremely fast internet services by the end of last June, up 36 percent in the first six months of 2001. But the FCC noted that broadband subscriptions had jumped 250 percent since the agency’s previous report, issued in August 2000.

FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell said the latest report shows that broadband availability and subscribership “have enjoyed strong growth even in the categories of residential and small business customers, low-income consumers, and people within sparsely populated regions.”

But Commissioner Michael J. Copps issued a separate statement that disagreed with Powell and the report. Copps said the FCC needs more information to assess internet access, and he urged a national debate about broadband services.

“On the basis of the record before us, I am unable to determine whether the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans is, or is not, reasonable and timely,” Copps said.

The report was the third in a series required by Congress to assess whether “advanced telecommunications capability” is being made available to all Americans “in a reasonable and timely fashion.”

Advanced capability, according to the agency, is high-speed, broadband service that allows transmission of “high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video using any technology platform.”

Although broadband access is increasing, critics say there is still a substantial split between rural and urban areas, and between rich and poor households.

“Urban usage is still almost double that for rural areas,” said Tony Wilhelm, a spokesman for the Benton Foundation, which runs the educational Digital Divide Network in Washington, D.C. “There are still huge disparities.”

Customers in about 96 percent of the nation’s most wealthy ZIP codes have high-speed internet access, while the study found high-speed customers in only 59 percent of the poorest ZIP codes.

The contrast between rural and urban areas was even greater. The FCC found that 98 percent of the most densely populated ZIP codes have at least one broadband customer.

In contrast, less than 40 percent of rural ZIP codes have even a single high-speed subscriber.

Telecommunications industry analysts say demand is more of a problem than access, because enough lines and equipment already have been upgraded to give more than half the country broadband service, but only a fraction of households are buying it.

“Infrastructure is increasing much faster than demand,” said John Hodulik of UBS Warburg in New York.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a longtime advocate of improved internet access, said the FCC report suggests access will continue to be uneven without a broad national policy.

“The real challenge is to put in place a broadband deployment policy that doesn’t leave rural America in the ditch,” Wyden said. “I think we have a long ways to go.”

The FCC report was released just two days after the Bush administration released a report saying that internet use is growing among the poor and minorities and in rural areas.

But critics say the administration’s report, released by the Commerce Department Feb. 5, shows the gap between technology haves and have-nots is actually widening, with only about a fourth of Americans making less than $25,000 a year using the internet, compared to nearly three-fourths of those who made more than $75,000.

Related links:
FCC report

Commerce Department report


New OS would run Windows programs at half the cost

Michael Robertson’s last startup, MP3.com, helped ignite the digital music revolution, attracting a big buzz and lawsuits from major record labels. Robertson’s latest gig is no less ambitious: an operating system called Lindows that aims to run programs designed for Microsoft’s Windows.

The gist: No Microsoft purchase necessary. Lindows is being built to run on the open-source Linux platform, meaning it would be an attractive option for cash-strapped schools.

Lindows.com Inc. is attracting considerable attention—and skepticism—just months after it was announced. It is also fighting its first lawsuit, from Microsoft, for alleged trademark infringement.

“Anytime you’re trying to change the world, you’re going to encounter challenges,” said Robertson, who sold MP3.com last year to Vivendi Universal SA but still serves as an adviser.

If delivered as promised, Lindows could do nothing less than crack Microsoft’s monopoly on business and home operating systems—in effect, succeed where antitrust regulators so far have failed.

If Lindows works, it would provide an alternative that is easy to use and runs efficiently but costs about half the full retail price of the home edition of Windows XP and plays well with real Windows-based systems.

And if it wins customers, it could open up a vast library of Linux software and opportunities for programmers in the open-source community. But those are big “ifs.”

Lindows has offered few details about its product. On Jan. 24, it offered a $99 download of a “Sneak Preview” on condition the information not be made public. Public releases are expected later this year.

Even if Lindows works, analysts question whether it will find traction among consumers who have largely rejected attempts to make Linux palatable for the masses.

Linux, after all, has not made headway into desktop PCs despite low costs, user-friendly desktop environments, and programs that claim to be compatible with Windows, including Sun Microsystems’ Star Office. It may simply be too difficult.

“Look at Star Office. Here’s something that’s already interoperable with the world-accepted standard of Microsoft products,” said Matthew Berk of Jupiter Media Metrix. “Why hasn’t it found wider adoption?”

Since 1993, a loose community of Linux and other Unix programmers in the so-called Wine project have been working on free software that allows Windows-based programs to run in Linux.

Despite all that effort, Wine remains difficult to use and is far from 100-percent compatible.

Lindows will use components of Wine but also is improving them, Robertson said. The new operating system promises much greater simplicity than any other Linux distribution and file navigation that is familiar to Windows users.

Lindows also will have a more liberal licensing policy. With one license, users can legally copy Lindows to a home PC, laptop, and work or school computer. Microsoft would charge for each.

Lindows is attempting to accomplish its goals without any help from Microsoft. Analysts wonder whether that may be too big a task for its two-dozen employees and limited funding.

“It’s not just a matter of watching how [Windows] works,” Berk said. “I think you need to have a relationship there.”

Microsoft, for instance, could make changes to its operating system or its programs that render Lindows obsolete.

But Robertson might have an ally in the suggested remedies proposed by state attorneys general who are not adhering to the proposed antitrust settlement between Microsoft and the federal government.

The dissenting states want Microsoft to be forced to share more of the inner workings of Windows and other programs.

So far, Microsoft isn’t saying much about Lindows beyond its trademark infringement lawsuit, which was filed in December.

“If Lindows were to cease using the name Lindows, then we would have no problem at all with the product itself,” said Microsoft spokesman Jon Murchinson.

Related links:

Wine Project

Microsoft Corp.


How to know success when you see it

When educators are asked how technology is being used in instruction, the answer commonly involves a frequency report—how much “stuff,” or equipment, exists in the schools, how often it is used, and perhaps a breakdown of grade levels or content areas of use. More sophisticated queries look at which technology applications are being used, but this line of inquiry still focuses only on the learning materials themselves, not on the outcomes they are intended to produce. So when you observe technology use in action, what should you look for?

The Arlington, Va., Public Schools (APS) touched on this theme in identifying indicators of a rich and rigorous curriculum. Specifically, the APS school board wanted to know whether the percentage of classrooms that were successfully integrating technology into instruction was increasing. Staff members in the office of instructional media and technology (IMT) were charged with responding.

The adverb in the directive was key, shifting the query from quantity to quality. What constitutes successful integration? The school board was interested not only in raising the frequency of practice, but in ensuring that the practices were pedagogically sound and supported effective learning and teaching—hence, were successful.

What does successful integration look like? “I know it when I see it” is a common response. But verification through observation—by seeing instruction in action—demands standards. We asked ourselves, “What structures exist to help gauge the status of and improve technology integration through observation?”

Surveys for self-reporting are widely available and generously shared, as are checklists to identify which technologies are being used for which instructional goals (e.g., for research). But IMT staff unearthed no observation instruments that would help formulate a response to our school board—that is, no tool to aid in determining whether technology was being used successfully. So we decided to create our own observation device.

The tool we created had to lend valuable insight into how well technologies were being used to support the school system’s educational goals. It also had to identify where classroom lessons fell on a continuum of instructional technology implementation practices observed.

We developed our observation tool using an instructional design process, including cycles of field tests with experts and users. Our tool is based on observation devices used to determine the quality of instruction in content areas; research on change (most predominantly, the Concerns-Based Adoption Model and the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow project); and the Levels of Technology Implementation (LoTi) framework developed by Dr. Christopher Moersch of the National Business Education Alliance and Oregon State University. The tool can be downloaded in PDF format from the district’s IMT web site under the description “Instructional Media & Technology Observation Form.”

The first part of the observation form is for collecting information about the setting (grade level, content area, instructional space, etc.) and technologies in use. The data recorded here are analyzed for trends in use—such as which technologies are being used at which grade levels, in which content areas, and in which settings (if at all!).

The second segment focuses on the APS learner goals of:

• Demonstrating a high degree of knowledge in subject areas;

• Communicating subject matter clearly;

• Solving problems using an effective process to reach viable solutions;

• Applying learning to the world beyond the classroom; and

• Self-assessing work and the work process to set goals for next steps.

For each academic goal, there are descriptors of what students might be doing when engaged in learning activities aimed at that goal. Observers check each descriptor for which they see students engaged with technology either actively (e.g., creating products, manipulating data, making decisions to affect outcomes) or passively (e.g., observing material presented through a technology format). Each learner goal then is assigned an overall qualitative rating that reflects how well technology is applied to student learning.

The data from the ratings provide a picture of which general academic goals and activities technology is supporting, which dominate technology integration, and how well. We use this information to identify where we need to improve how instructional goals are being accomplished through technology use. For example, our spring 2001 observations revealed that technology is underutilized in learning activities to exchange information or collaborate with others outside the classroom—a component of our learner goals that the power of technology addresses so well! The results highlight areas of focus for future professional development efforts and curriculum projects.

The third, most comprehensive section looks at levels of technology implementation. It draws heavily on the LoTi framework (for more information on LoTi, see the links on page 36). Our observation form includes six levels of implementation and corresponding descriptors. Additionally, each level of implementation is associated with specific pedagogical approaches that cite general teacher and student roles and responsibilities. Again, observers note all descriptors that are in evidence in the lesson; more often than not, descriptors across various levels are checked. Finally, an overall category rating for the observation is assigned, based on the pedagogy embraced and level of implementation observed.

How are these data applied to improving practices? Teachers and other instructional leaders can use the observation tool’s results to reflect on:

• The match between the teacher’s pedagogical philosophies and actual practices when using technology to support instruction;

• What the lesson required of students in terms of cognitive processing, and how technology contributed to the cognitive demand on the student;

• What the lesson required of the students in terms of problem solving, decision making, and authentic learning, and how technology contributed to the development of these skills;

• What the lesson required of the students in terms of self-direction and collaboration, and how technology contributed to these;

• How to revise the lesson to move the activity to a more sophisticated level, if appropriate to the learning goals;

• Professional development needs; and

• Curriculum support needs and potential projects.

The observation tool, when used thoughtfully, shifts the focus from what equipment we have to how we use it. We return to embracing our philosophies and goals for learners to drive our technology use.

Dr. Sheryl Asen is the instructional technology design and evaluation specialist for the Arlington, Va., Public Schools. She welcomes comments and questions at (703) 228-6088 or sasen@erols.com.

Related links: Instructional Media & Technology Observation Form

Levels of Technology Implementation (LoTi) framework


Bent on Bias

When eSchool News puts a story in the primary position on its Front Page, it is because we believe that story is important. The research report on filtering and alleged religious bias by Nancy Willard of the University of Oregon’s Responsible Netizen Center for Advanced Technology in Education clearly fills that bill.

But reporting on it, and accepting it are not identical.

Willard’s study is significant, to be sure, and I recommend you read the actual document in its entirety. Significance alone, however, isn’t sufficient reason to embrace the findings of this study in their entirety, and I do not.

Here, in my view, is the primary conclusion this report invites readers to reach: Most—and maybe all—internet content filtering products are biased in favor of the values of the religious right.

In spite of that invitation, the truth of the matter is set forth in one, “no-jury-could-convict-me” escape clause inserted by the author early on. “… It is not possible,” she acknowledges, “to prove or disprove the hypothesis that the companies may be blocking access to material based on religious or other inappropriate bias.”

Trouble is, that’s exactly what the balance of this report sets out to do. And it does so by means of a disquieting logic that seems to rely on a kind of blame by association.

Note in the following passage from the report how the author blends the fact that companies sold their products with the subsequent actions taken by the buyers:

“Three filtering companies, that have a major presence in public schools, are also selling their product to conservative religious Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Most of these conservative religious ISPs are directly stating or strongly implying to their users that the filtering system is filtering in accord with conservative religious values.”

The act of selling a product does not automatically endow the seller with all the characteristics, values, and motivations of the buyer. Even when the buyer goes on to describe the product in terms that will encourage the buyer’s constituents to approve of the purchase, the seller isn’t necessarily supportive or even cognizant of the buyer’s claims.

Another passage underscores the technique. In it, the author cites the posting and subsequent removal of a press release as proof of a relationship between the filtering company N2H2 and the Mormons, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). “The link between N2H2 and LDS World was identified due to a press release that was briefly posted on the N2H2 web site and follow-up investigation on LDS web sites.”

This news release, according to the author, is the initial cause of her report: “There was a press release on the N2H2 web site noting a contract with the LDS Church. The press release was present for only a short period of time.” In the footnote provided for this passage, the author elaborates: “The rapid removal of this press release, which coincidentally occurred after the author mentioned its presence on an educator mailing list upon which an N2H2 employee lurks, was the incident that stimulated this investigation.”

As the recipient of numerous company announcements, I can testify that a company trumpeting a major sale is among the most common types of news releases issued. What is not clear is that issuing such an announcement is tantamount to embracing the values of the buyer. Such an announcement usually is meant to signal that the company’s products are popular and that the company is doing well.

From the inception of internet filtering, the idea along with the products implementing it have been opposed in some quarters under the banner of free speech and academic freedom. That is an honorable and legitimate point of view.

But an animus toward filtering doesn’t change the fact that an overwhelming majority of our lawmakers enacted legislation requiring schools to manage internet content if they wish to receive certain federal funds. Nor does it alter the fact that internet filtering has broad and deep support among parents, taxpayers, and even educators.

The Netizen report contains some excellent ideas—especially its call for an independent audit board to monitor filtering techniques without compromising trade secrets.

It would be a shame if publishers of internet filtering products were unable to block their understandably defensive reactions to this report’s broad, often-unsubstantiated allegations. Such companies would be better served to grasp the beneficial proposals contained in this report and use them in one more effort to allay the suspicions and concerns of their education customers.