New ISTE hopes to expand impact through merger with NECA

Educators who attended this year’s NECC most likely didn’t notice many changes, although the leadership behind the conference was different.

But the merger of the National Education Computing Association (NECA), which has planned and organized NECC for the past 23 years, with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) ultimately will be a boon for schools, according to ISTE officials, because it will broaden ISTE’s reach and expand the group’s impact.

“It’s just a natural pairing. We’ve been very strong, intertwined allies for such a long time,” said Marlene Nesary, marketing analyst for ISTE. “They are an event, and we are a professional society. Now their event is our event, and it’s the premier event of this profession.”

The transition is not yet complete, although it has been under way for quite some time. Currently, the new ISTE has two co-presidents: Cathleen Norris from NECA and Cheryl Williams from ISTE. The new ISTE is governed by a joint board of directors.

Jan Van Dam, director of new media at Oakland Schools in Michigan, was elected president of ISTE for next year.

Oakland Schools is a regional educational service center in Oakland County, Mich., serving 28 local school districts, 20,000 educators, and 200,000 students.

Don Knezek, ISTE’s new chief executive officer, said the merger provides ISTE with a broader audience and the opportunity to reach members at a national annual event, which will expand the group’s influence on ed-tech issues. Knezek formerly served as executive director of ISTE’s Center for Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology.

ISTE has approximately 75,000 members nationally and internationally who are classroom teachers, technology coordinators, and school administrators. By playing a larger role in NECC, the society can reach conference attendees and develop partnerships with the corporate sector, Knezek said.

“We see the new ISTE making a difference in education through new corporate alliances,” he said.

As CEO, Knezek will work on building ISTE’s educational partnerships, programs, and international reach. Other priorities include growing and diversifying membership; strengthening alliances with government entities and corporate partners; and developing standards-based solutions that expand opportunities for all learners.

A transition team of 10 ISTE and NECA representatives developed new bylaws and outlined the merger process. Membership of both organizations voted for the new bylaws, approving the merger as of June 1.

ISTE’s activities to date have focused on knowledge generation, professional development, and ed-tech advocacy.

The society publishes a monthly magazine called Learning and Leading with Technology, as well as guidebooks to implementing the standards it has developed—including the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for both teachers and administrators.

Last year, ISTE developed the Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET), an online database of ed-tech research that school administrators can use to search for the latest research by category. CARET, which is a three-year project funded by a $1.05 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, translates research into user-friendly language that can be applied to school planning decisions.

ISTE’s professional development activities have included creating special-interest groups for certain demographics, such as multimedia specialists, education professors, and high school computer science teachers. These groups offer their members an active listserve devoted to their area of interest, as well as newsletters or magazines, meetings, and awards programs.

ISTE also creates custom professional development solutions for states and school districts designed to meet their specific needs. The society currently is working with China to develop a program for training that country’s teachers to use technology. ISTE already has completed similar projects with Jamaica and Bermuda, Nesary said.

Lastly, ISTE acts as a conduit of education policy information. The society issues a newsletter about ed-tech policy, called Washington Notes, written by its legal counsel, Leslie Harris and Associates. It also hosts roundtable discussions at which experts discuss prominent policy issues. ISTE plans to strengthen its policy role by moving its headquarters from Oregon to Washington, D.C., this summer.

NECA was composed not of individual members but of 13 professional societies, one of which was ISTE. To accommodate these members, ISTE has created a new class of membership, called Cooperating Professional Societies. These will be offered renewable one-year memberships to ISTE.

In the future, the new ISTE plans to continue to expand CARET, become more involved with state ed-tech directors, and increase its professional development offerings, Nesary said.

Related links:
International Society for Technology in Education

National Education Computing Conference


Corporate leaders ponder ways to serve schools better

Several corporate leaders have banded together to serve school customers better through the SchoolTone Alliance, a group of ed-tech companies focused on promoting the use of internet technologies in schools. At the group’s annual meeting, held June 17 at NECC, members discussed opportunities for companies that provide web services, tools, and applications for education to work together.

For example, the alliance is seeking to identify large, statewide requests for proposals, where several of its members can work together to provide schools with the necessary technology products and services. The group now also produces a monthly electronic newsletter about policy issues that are relevant to K-12 schools, so its members can better understand the needs of their school customers, and members can share case studies and best practices with each other through the SchoolTone Alliance web site.

At the meeting, John Bailey, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, encouraged vendors to target underperforming school districts as showcase sites for how their technology solutions can turn a school district around.

Bailey also suggested that members lose the tech jargon and speak to educators in plain English so they can be understood more easily. He added that vendors should start reaching out to educators who are not actively engaged with technology—such as grant writers for school reading programs—but who could use technology as a solution.

Melinda George, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), reportedly recommended that vendors read state technology plans before they contact state officials. In addition to its other listservs, SETDA also is creating a corporate listserv for education vendors, George said.

SchoolTone Alliance member companies include AOL@School, bigchalk, Blackboard Inc., Citrix Systems Inc., Lucent Technologies, National Semiconductor, ACTV HyperTV Networks, Sun Microsystems, and Verizon.

Related links:
SchoolTone Alliance

State Educational Technology Directors Association


Best Practice: Ergonomics program teaches kids to use computers safely

As children start spending more time on computers, experts say they might be putting themselves at risk of repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, which could show up as early as their teenage years.

But an innovative ergonomics program at Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary School in Sammamish, Wash., is trying to prevent that by teaching students to take breaks during long computer sessions, use correct posture to reduce strain on the upper body, and exercise fatigued muscles.

“Get TechFit!” was designed by Diane Tien, the school’s instructional technology assistant, with help from some of the country’s leading children ergonomists. School officials say it’s one of the only such programs in the nation aimed at children.

Ergonomics programs are important in the workplace because repetitive stress injuries cost companies money and time. But experts say that without increased education for children, the wave of computer-related injuries that hit adults in the mid-1990s may occur next in children.

“I think all the problems that you’ve seen in adults, you can see mirrored in children,” said Dan Eisman, co-founder of, an ergonomics resource web site. “Now they’re starting to work on computers at 5, and by the time they are 9 and 10, they start having problems.”

These problems might include back, neck, and arm pain; wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome; and vision problems that lead to blurriness, headaches, and possibly an earlier onset of nearsightedness, said Eisman.

“We know kids are experiencing problems,” said Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University and one of the first children ergonomists.

Although there is little ergonomics research on children, current research on adults gives some insight into why children might be at risk.

Peter Johnson, a professor at the University of Washington, has studied why women are injured at the workplace more often than men. Johnson found that computers are better designed for men, who have broader shoulders and thicker wrists. Women must extend their wrists and arms unnaturally to type and move the mouse.

“If you’re a small-wristed child, you will be in greater extension,” Johnson said, increasing the risk of injury.

Children often have to use equipment designed for adults or machines that must accommodate many different-sized children.

“The problem is [schools] buy everything in bulk,” Eisman said. “That doesn’t really allow for a good variety.”

And because parents and schools often cannot afford the smaller desks, miniature keyboards, and adjustable chairs that increase ergonomic safety, they tend to ignore the problem altogether.

But being sensitive to ergonomics “doesn’t have to be expensive,” Hedge said.

Small, inexpensive changes, such as using a pillow as support for the lower back or a crate as a footrest, can make a big difference in a child’s health, Hedge said.

The goal of “Get TechFit!,” which is taught for one week out of the school year, is to teach children how to change their environments to fit them, regardless of where they are or what is around them, Tien said.

“It isn’t so much that [the students] have to learn what the definition of ergonomics is,” Tien said while describing the program’s philosophy. “They have to understand their own physical needs first.”

In gym class, students learn exercises to ease tension and relieve weary muscles. To learn correct posture, the students use sand-filled balls placed on their heads to simulate the pressure their heads put on their backs.

“When you sit like this,” said second-grader Victoria Roadifer as she slouched down in her seat, “it’s hard to hold your head and it kind of hurts your back. It’s easier to hold it on your head when you sit up straight.”

Fifth-graders use math skills to find the correct angles for arms, wrists, and legs when using computers. They use these angles to create ergonomically safe workstations for second-graders.

The program also increases parental awareness, which often leads to safer computer use at home.

Fifth-grader Alysha Greig even taught her mother a lesson when she saw her mom using a laptop on her bed with “one leg on the bed and one leg off,” she said. She reminded her mother to sit with both feet on the floor and use correct posture.

“I’m telling her all this stuff about ergonomics,” she said proudly.

Related links:
Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary School Inc.

Cornell University Ergonomics Web Site


Best Practice: ‘CIO Time Share’ connects small schools with high-tech help

For school systems that can’t afford to hire their own top-level technology staffs, an innovative new consulting service promises to provide the expertise of some of the best school chief information officers (CIOs) in the country.

The service, called CIO Time Share, connects small school districts with 25 experienced school CIOs.

“Small school systems–if they can’t manage technology well–are going to be second class,” said Eliot Levinson, chief executive officer of the BLE Group, an educational technology consulting firm founded in 1994 that specializes in all facets of technology planning, training, and implementation in schools.

Levinson started the CIO Time Share service as a way to close a rift he says is every bit as real as the digital divide, but doesn’t get enough attention: the gap in technological expertise between large and small school districts.

Small districts rarely can match the high wages offered by the corporate world and therefore have trouble finding technology personnel who can manage a school district’s day-to-day technology and can plan for the future, Levinson said.

Generally, a small school’s technology staff consists of former teachers whose background is in education, not the information technology field. “They don’t really understand enterprise-wide computing systems,” Levinson said.

Instead of hiring their own CIO, these school districts can borrow a CIO working in another district when they need to perform large tasks, such as auditing their hardware and software systems, drafting a technology plan, finding sources of funding, writing requests for proposals, or tackling other management problems they might have.

“The kind of help they need is strategic, not operational,” Levinson said. “We’ll answer any question they have within 24 hours.”

Bruce Bovard, superintendent of the Canon-McMillan School District in Pennsylvania, which has approximately 4,100 students, has been using CIO Time Share on a pilot basis since April 2000, because he says it’s hard to recruit and retain someone both skilled and affordable.

“You don’t really get someone who understands the big picture,” Bovard said. He relies on CIO Time Share to provide high-level strategic planning. “They are the experts we turn to when we can’t handle the question ourselves,” he said.

Through CIO Time Share, districts can get help writing budgets and presenting them to the school board, conduct quarterly reviews to see how well the school district followed its technology plan, or even negotiate deals with vendors.

According to Levinson, sharing services also can produce economies of scale and volume purchasing. “If we are bringing groups of schools together under a vendor, we expect to get better prices than an individual district could get,” he said.

CIO Time Share staff will spend a few days doing a systematic, on-site evaluation to assess how well a district is using its current technology, then create a plan for what the district could do to improve in the future. The service also provides a monthly technology newsletter to keep client districts apprised of recent trends.

Bovard said the time-share service is helping his district identify its needs, obtain grants for staff development, write technology standards for teachers (and a plan for how to achieve them), purchase a student curriculum management system, and develop guidelines for staff members who will be assigned laptops. One thing he appreciates about the service is that it’s vendor-neutral.

Bovard added that CIO Time Share is giving his district a “gentle nudge into the future.” The service is “pushing us,” he said. “It’s not just about helping us get where we want to go. [The consultants] let us know where the rest of the world is going.”

Related links:
BLE Group Inc.

Canon-McMillan School District


Back to school means back to web basics

With more and more parents, realtors, reporters, and other key audiences turning to the web first for information, eMarketing basics are becoming increasingly important. Use the checklist that follows to refresh your web site as students head back to school.

• School and district statistics, headlines, and photos are new. Updated information has been posted about the board of education, school administration, key departments, faculty, staff, and students.

• All district and school addresses, phone numbers, eMail addresses, and fax numbers are current and easy to find and include the area code numbers and zip codes. (Remember, this is the World Wide Web, not a local network.)

• Key “Welcome Back” and “New to the District” information may be accessed from the home page. When school starts, registration, student placement, the bell schedule, transportation, school supplies (by grade level), “meet the teacher” events, open houses, lunch menus, athletics, discipline policies, before and after-school care, and co-curricular activities are just some of the items parents will be looking for.

• “How to” tips for parents are gathered in a special web section that may be accessed using a hotlink from the front page. Potential topics include smoothing the end-of-summer transition, preparing a young child for full-day kindergarten, assisting children with homework, creating lifelong readers, recognizing warning signs, and other parent-friendly items.

• Information about academics, teaching methods, grade-level expectations, goals, testing requirements, special programs, and graduation standards is posted in jargon-free language and photos that walk parents through their child’s school day, generating a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for learning.

• Parents may use a keyword search to find what they’re looking for on your web site, and they don’t have to rely on your site structure or flow chart for guidance. A glossary of educational terms has been developed, along with answers to the most commonly asked questions, and these are linked to the district’s front page.

• “Under construction” has been banned from the web site, and outdated information has been removed. All documents and pages posted last school year have been reviewed for relevancy, edited, and spell-checked.

• The latest test scores and other student achievement data are posted and explained in non-educational terms for parents and other site visitors. Disaggregated data are available on a district-wide and school-by-school basis.

• School and district success stories are highlighted with photos and crisp, compelling copy. Parents want to know how the Class of 2002 fared, including SAT scores, academic and athletic scholarships, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test data, showcased graduation and attendance rates, anticipated college attendance, etc.

• New teachers, administrators, and support staff are welcomed and highlighted appropriately, with photos and brief biographies. Teacher and principal eMail addresses and phone numbers are posted with the commitment to respond to all queries within 48 hours.

Now that you’ve updated your site, add even more value to your eMarketing efforts by following these guidelines:

• Post something new on your school or district home page every day. News headlines and news releases should be archived after one week, unless there is a compelling reason to leave them up longer.

• Get help. Enlist students, support staff, and your colleagues in serving as web news hounds, digital photographers, proofreaders, and content developers. Kick off the new school year with a web success party that mixes staff development, web protocol, and guidelines with camaraderie and fun.

• Check out the 2002 web site award winners from the National School Public Relations Association and other groups and steal (I mean borrow, adapt, and modify) all the ideas you can. Contact the winners for advice and tips.

• Adopt a new policy that allows the webmaster to remove outdated or inaccurate information without waiting for the blessing or approval of the content developer. Agree to repost the information once the content developer has corrected the error and eMailed it to the webmaster. Of course, common courtesy indicates that the webmaster will provide some advanced warning.

• Establish a good working relationship with your district technology folks and enlist their support and guidance in developing and fine-tuning your web site.

• Add a pop-up survey to keep track of parental concerns and to gauge your web site’s effectiveness. Make sure that all webmaster queries are answered within 48 hours. If you must forward the query on to another staff member, let the person who eMailed you know who the appropriate contact is and how to get in touch with him or her.

• Use Gifwizard or other free or low-cost webware to manage memory hogs such as photographs and graphics so it doesn’t take long to load your pages—even when using a less-than-optimal internet connection. Keep the use of Flash and other gimmicks to a minimum. As my colleague Elliott Levine always says, “This is the information—not the animation—highway.”

• Find the worst computer in your school or department (or use your home machine) and log onto your web site. Do the graphics fit the screen? Are the load times satisfactory? (Anything more than 10 seconds and your site visitor is probably going to give up.) Have the colors morphed into something horrendous? Adjust your web site so it looks good, even if the machine is a relic.

• Type the name of your school or district into Google, Yahoo, Excite, and other common search engines. Does yours pop up right away? If not, you’re probably not using enough metatags—keywords embedded into your HTML code that make it easy for search engines to find you. You might want to register your site with these and other search engines as well.

• Before you get hit with an anti-site, buy up all the possible web site variations that could apply to your school or district. The cost is minimal and is well worth sparing you, the superintendent, and the Board of Education the embarrassment of a “” equivalent.

• When it comes to parent-friendly content, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The National PTA, Great-, and other parent-oriented, nonprofit organizations have developed powerful content that you can help your site visitors access simply by providing hotlinks to these sites.

Building better web sites doesn’t have to become a black hole that mysteriously drains all your time away. By following these tips and enlisting students and other volunteers in your efforts, you can develop an effective and award-winning site that keeps parents and other key people coming back for more.

Related links:
National School Public Relations Association


National PTA


Schools turn to slumping tech sector to recruit teachers

America’s schools are falling behind on efforts to assign a high-quality teacher to every classroom by the 2005-06 school year, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) told Congress June 11. But California state officials claim they are making progress in this area by employing a creative solution to the problem: recruiting teacher candidates with solid content knowledge from a slumping technology sector.

California’s Technology-to-Teacher program is a recruitment effort that turns currently unemployed technology professionals into fully credentialed, working teachers. The program is designed to place former private-sector employees displaced by the dot-com bust into classrooms, where their knowledge, education, and real-world experiences could make up for a lack of well-prepared, properly educated math and science teachers in schools throughout the state.

That premise became especially important in light of ED’s latest report, “Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge.” The first in a series of annual reports to Congress on this topic stressed an increased need for highly qualified teachers who demonstrate solid content knowledge—especially in such currently understaffed subjects as math and science—in schools across the country.

“We now have concrete evidence that smart teachers with solid content knowledge have the greatest effect on student achievement,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige in a statement. “If we are to meet the challenge of having a highly qualified teacher in every classroom by the 2005-06 school year, states and universities must take heed and act now to bring more of these people into our nation’s classrooms.”

California’s Technology-to-Teacher program was conceived by Gov. Gray Davis as a way to help combat the concentration of technology-related layoffs occurring in places such as the once-booming Silicon Valley, said Larry Rios, the program’s project director for the Ventura County Business and Employment Services Department.

According to Rios, the program gives state educators $1.6 million to train and qualify former private-sector professionals for more than 200 currently unfilled teaching positions. The money was allocated throughout the state based on those areas having the highest concentration of laid-off technology workers and is being used to help pay for the cost of securing candidates’ state-approved teaching credentials, Rios said.

“What we are trying to do is take a talent pool that has dried up and redirect it,” said Rios. He claims the program already has attracted a number of potential applicants, many of whom had been accustomed to earning at least six-figure annual incomes.

According to Rios, the obvious reduction in salary has done little to curb enthusiasm for the project.

Participants “want to be able to have a positive impact on future generations,” said Rios. “They are not in it for the money.”

Jesse Gonzalez, a 42-year-old electrical engineer and former product manager for a voice-mail services company, said he had long considered teaching as an option—but after losing his job in the tech sector, the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.

“I had a calling that I’ve done a good job of suppressing most of my life,” said Gonzalez, a Sunday school teacher and avid youth leader.

Gonzalez, who hopes to become a math instructor, believes his real-world technology experience will prove to be an added benefit to students, because it enables him to explain how math and science are applied in everyday situations.

“Why do we need to know, that’s the question [students ask],” Gonzalez said. “What I feel I could bring is practical application. You need to get people excited that what they are studying is something they can use.”

Despite the potential that exists in this new pool of teaching applicants, Rios cautions that the path to achieving certification can be difficult.

“The program doesn’t guarantee anyone will become a teacher,” Rios said. “We simply are facilitating the process for potential teachers to get their credentials.”

Related links:
U.S. Department of Education

“Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge”

State of California


Report alleges sexual discrimination in tech-ed programs

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) on June 6 said it would investigate allegations of sexual discrimination in the high school vocational and technology-education programs of 12 states. The statement came immediately after a nationwide report found female students often are discouraged from pursuing higher-paying technology careers.

The report, “Title IX and Equal Opportunity in Vocational and Technical Education: A Promise Still Owed to the Nation’s Young Women,” written by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), states that female students have fewer chances than their male counterparts to participate in “high-technology” programs, such as Cisco Networking Academies.

In light of the 30th anniversary of Title IX—the legislation that prohibits sexual discrimination in all aspects of federally funded education—NWLC has asked ED’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate these and other charges of sexual discrimination in each state where the department has a regional office: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Washington.

“High school vocational and technical education programs can provide a path to economic independence for many young women and girls. Thirty years after Title IX, it is unconscionable that their dreams and futures are still being shortchanged,” said Marcia Greenberger, NWLC co-president, in a statement.

According to the report, 13 of the 18 career and technical education schools in New York City are segregated by sex. “The schools that are 70 percent or more male offer, on average, 3.89 advanced placement (AP) courses per school, while the vocational schools that are 70 percent or more female average only 1.75 courses per school,” the report said.

Further, of the city’s four predominantly female vocational schools, not one offers any AP classes in computer science, calculus, statistics, biology, chemistry, or physics. These types of programs operate in at least two of the predominantly male vocational schools, the report said.

Five New York City vocational high schools have adopted Cisco Networking Academies. The corporate-sponsored programs are designed to lead to industry certification in computer networking. Of the five schools that participate in the program, according to the report, three are more than 70 percent male and all of them are more than 55 percent male.

Chris Peacock, a spokesman for Cisco Systems Inc., said he was unfamiliar with the study but that the company does not intentionally favor one sex over the other.

“We offer a number of programs encouraging women to enter into the [information technology] job market,” he said.

According to NWLC, however, high-tech education has been and continues to be predominantly a young man’s game.

“The whole technology world has been traditionally dominated by men and [by] stereotypes discouraging women from pursuing these types of careers,” said NWLC spokeswoman Emily Goldberg.

The study said the inequalities it reported about New York City are not unlike those found in a number of states across the nation. Adding importance to these findings is evidence that future earning potential is directly correlated to the amount of high-tech, science, and computer training students receive in vocational programs.

“This sex segregation in the nation’s vocational classrooms—and the relegation of girls to traditionally female programs—has deep impact on the earning power and job prospects of the young women who graduate from the these programs,” the study reported.

Students who take part in Cisco’s program, for example, have the potential to earn from $42,000 to more than $100,000 a year, the report found. Compare this to a median salary of $8.49 an hour for the average cosmetologist, the report said.

The report also alleges instances of discriminatory guidance counseling and sex-based favoritism in the classroom.

Related links:
U.S. Department of Education

National Women’s Law Center

New York City Board of Education


Grant Awards

$1 million from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation

A $1 million grant from the Boise-based J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation will allow the start of online high school classes for Idaho students this fall through the state’s Digital Learning Academy.

“At a time of limited resources, this grant will allow us to move forward with an innovative program for students and school districts,” State School Superintendent Marilyn Howard said June 5.

The academy, authorized by lawmakers last winter, is similar to online educational programs offered by 17 other states, she said. Half the grant will finance start-up costs, and the rest will pay for a year’s operation.

The academy offers a way to help students catch up on coursework, take classes not offered in their districts, or provide instruction to gifted students. “Technology is expanding our opportunity to deliver instruction in lots of new ways,” Howard said.

State officials estimate there will be 100 ninth through 12th graders participating this fall when the program begins with limited course offerings. The academy is expected to be in full operation by January.

$548,700 from Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Habitat restoration, flood control, and the “science” of science fiction—these are just a few of the topics explored by this year’s winners of the 2002 Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Teachers program.

Sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the TAPESTRY program encourages innovative science projects and is open to all K-12 science teachers in the United States. With a record 78 teachers receiving $10,000 large grants or $2,500 mini-grants this year, the program continues to be the largest grant program aimed at K-12 science teachers in the nation.

Proposals must describe a project and its potential impact on students, as well as outline a budget. Grants are awarded in three categories: Environmental Science Education, Physical Science Applications, or Literacy and Science Education. Many projects integrate the use of technology to help students collect and analyze scientific data.

Teachers who received large grants were honored at a special awards ceremony at the NSTA National Convention in San Diego in April.

$100,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities

A Rhode Island elementary school will receive $100,000 over the next two years from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop a historical walking tour of the school’s neighborhood as part of the school’s ongoing historical project.

After researching brochures, maps, and audio CDs, students at the Charles N. Fortes Elementary School in Providence will develop a walking tour of the city’s West Elmwood neighborhood. The tour also will include computerized kiosks where visitors can access and watch video images of the neighborhood through touch screens.

The children at Fortes will gain skills in writing, making maps, and using technology to record oral histories, school officials said.

$4,500 from Curriculum Associates

Three educators each will receive a $1,000 grant and a $500 gift certificate from educational software company Curriculum Associates through the company’s Excellence in Teaching Cabinet program.

The program was created to reward teachers who exhibit best teaching practices in grades K-8. Winners can use their grants to purchase new equipment to fulfill their project, go on trips, or buy classroom resources.

This year’s winners are Rowena Gerber of Miami Country Day School in Miami, for a project on solar cooking with students ages four to twelve; Mary-Claire O’Neill of Byrd Community Academy in Chicago, for a collaboration of the school’s art, science, and computer instructors in teaching students different aspects of plant study; and Liesa Schroeder of Santa Fe Trail Elementary School in Independence, Mo., for a project that will have fifth-graders team up with graphic designers to create a 12-month landmark calendar.

The Excellence in Teaching Cabinet program is open to K-8 teachers in the United States and Canada who have a unique project idea. An independent panel of educators selects the winning projects based on soundness of educational goals, creativity, diversity of teaching media, ability to incorporate technology, and ease of implementation.


Take students on a virtual field trip to “Colonial Williamsburg”

Colonial Williamsburg brings past to present with an online resource that sends students on electronic field trips through history. Student participants can research past atrocities of the slave trade, follow British spies through the American revolution, or choose from any number of colonial-style themes that pique their interest. Each field trip consists of teacher development materials, a corresponding television broadcast sponsored by PBS, and internet-based activities designed to answer questions and engage students. Participants are even given the option to interact with historians and staff members by way of phone and electronic message boards. There are seven different trips scheduled for the 2002-03 school year. Schools can purchase the trips for $100 a piece or pay $500 for all seven, with a different theme scheduled each month. But if it’s free resources you’re after, the site offers a variety of interactive research materials and tools designed to give an overview of colonial life. Students can take a look at old-style dresses, suits, and three-point hats, read about the significance of historical landmarks and figures, or view pictures of the precious gardens that contribute to Williamsburg’s timeless beauty. A number of teacher resources provide free suggestions and activities to help educate kids about America during the period of its revolution.


Experience history through multimedia at “American Memory”

The Library of Congress has added again to its impressive collection of online learning resources, called American Memory. Anyone who wants to hear Buffalo Bill’s own voice or John Philip Sousa’s original band now can tune in by computer. With the addition of its 111th and 112th collections of materials, American Memory now includes more than 7.5 million items, which the library says is the world’s largest collection of online educational material. “Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry” includes more than 400 items from the library’s collection of Berliner’s papers and 108 of his sound recordings beginning in 1894. Berliner was an immigrant from Germany who patented the flat-disc gramophone records that superseded the original cylindrical recordings. Buffalo Bill—William F. Cody—rode for the Pony Express and fought in the Civil War. On the site, he can be heard expressing his views on the situation in Cuba that led to the Spanish-American War. Sousa played in the U.S. Marine Band when he was only 13 and in later life became its leader before forming his own group. The Sousa band toured the United States and abroad for decades, playing some of his famous marches, including “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” The other new collection, “The First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820,” contains more than 15,000 pages of original material about areas west of the Appalachian mountains, including comments from several of the nation’s founding fathers about westward immigration and the role of the American Indian.