“Magnetic Storm” explores a jolting theory about the Earth’s atmosphere

This latest online feature from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) poses the question, “Is the magnetic field protecting Earth from deadly radiation about to reverse direction–or even disappear?” Based upon the PBS documentary that shares its name, “Magnetic Storm” explores the wonders of the G5 geomagnetic storm, a weather event strong enough to disrupt power grids from Canada to New York last year. In fact, researchers suggest the most serious power grid failure in American history was caused by a magnetic storm in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, itself triggered by the eruption of a huge flare from the surface of the sun. Unusual as this event might have been, many scientists today are beginning to worry that it could be a harbinger of things to come–and that changes to the planet’s magnetic field could make us ever more vulnerable to deadly radiation from space. The program first aired Nov 18. On its companion web site, students and teachers will find related articles and interactive activities designed to illustrate the significance of this major meteorological event.


“Best WebQuests” ends the search for high-quality online learning activities

The term “WebQuest” has become something of a buzzword in recent years, as educators continue looking for ways to incorporate the internet into daily instruction. Although the word often is used to describe any internet-based research project, true WebQuests–as first defined by Tom March and Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University in 1995–are interactive, problem-solving activities designed to have students answer open-ended questions based on information they find online. With this new web site from Tom March, teachers and students now have access to a matrix of critically reviewed WebQuests designed around a number of core and supplementary disciplines–from basic English, math, and science quests to business, economics, and even art. Every WebQuest is categorized by subject and grade level and is evaluated on a five-star scale that includes such criteria as use of the web, use of roles and expertise, engaging writing, and overall clarity. You’ll also be able to read tips on what makes a great WebQuest and submit your own creation for review.


Take prinicpals back to school with these strategies from “e-Lead”

The Institute for Educational Leadership and the Laboratory for Student Success have created a web site called e-Lead, a free online resource intended to provide states and school districts with information about how to provide better professional development for school principals. The web site suggests that professional development works best when it is focused on sound learning strategies, driven by a clear definition of leadership, conducted within the context of an overall plan, anchored by leadership standards, designed and implemented according to proven practices, and evaluated through processes that seek meaningful results. To help stakeholders select effective program options, e-Lead contains a searchable database of professional development courses complete with a comprehensive summary about each initiative’s design, implementation, and desired impact or effectiveness. Also, a unique Leadership Library feature offers annotated information about a number of leadership development issues and links to the latest information and resources.


Take a virtual tour of four model middle schools with “Schools to Watch”

In celebration of the Month of the Young Adolescent in November, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform welcomed visitors to take a series of online tours highlighting teaching and learning excellence in the middle grades. “For those interested in seeing innovative successful schools in action but who do not have the time or travel budget for a national tour, this cyber tour is the way to go,” said Deborah Kasak, executive director of the forum. The virtual tours–a feature of the Schools to Watch program, launched in 1999 as a national initiative to identify middle schools that are not only academically excellent, developmentally responsive, and socially equitable, but also have the organizational supports to sustain their success–invite education stakeholders to peek into the classrooms and hallways of four successful middle schools, located across the nation, to observe the practices and procedures that make them stand out from the pack. Members of the National Forum selected the schools based on the extent to which they met a number of criteria, including the promotion of academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, and social equity. The National Forum co-sponsors the Schools to Watch program with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Middle School Association, and National Staff Development Council.


Tap into this toolkit for plugging digital content into your classroom

Created by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), a nonprofit outfit that looks to technology to expand educational opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, the “Digital Content Toolkit” provides teachers with a resource for working digital content into the classroom. Users can learn how to find digital text, images, sound, and video appropriate to their curricular needs, or create their own digital learning materials using downloadable content and commercially available software. The web site itself is based upon the Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a new approach to the development of curriculum and assessment that draws on current brain research and new media technologies to respond to differences among individual learners. According to CAST, UDL curricula, teaching practices, and policies are inherently flexible and therefore may reduce the demand on educators to develop and implement modifications and accommodations to meet individual differences within general education learning environments. The project is sponsored by the Verizon Foundation.


Grant Deadlines


$350,000 to enhance mathematics education
Toyota’s Investment In Mathematics Excellence (TIME) program towards teachers up to $10,000 for innovative projects that enhance math education within a school. It is sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. through its partnership with the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics. Any K-12 classroom teacher with three years of experience teaching math within the United States or its territories may apply. The focus is on individual students and classrooms rather than on districtwide projects. Up to 35 two-year grants, totaling up to $350,000, will be awarded. Grants will be awarded at three levels: elementary, middle, and high school.
Deadline: January 7
Contact: (888) 573-TIME, toyotatime@nctm.org

Up to $35,000 in software to improve school-to-home communications
Believing that two-way communication between schools and homes results in greater student success, the No Parent Left Behind Parent-Communication grant program from Reliance Communications Inc. aims to foster parent involvement, increase attendance, and raise student achievement. Two public schools will be selected to receive the SchoolMessenger Desktop Calling System and two years of support from Reliance Communications, worth $5,000 per award. In addition to the fully funded grants, 10 partial-assistance matching grants, worth $2,500 per award, also will be made. Special consideration will be given to schools with attendance and performance levels that are historically below district, county, and/or state averages.
Deadline: January 9
Contact: Jonathan Crow, (831) 477-0293 ext. 103, nplb-grants@schoolmessenger.com

Up to $10,000 per award to foster girls’ math, science, and technology achievement
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation’s Community Action Grants provide seed money to individual women, AAUW branches, and community-based nonprofit organizations for innovative programs focused on girls’ achievement in math, science, and/or technology. Applicants must be women who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Grant projects must have direct public impact, be nonpartisan, and take place within the United States or its territories.
Deadline: January 15
Contact: AAUW Educational Foundation, (319) 337-1716, ext. 60

$1,500 per award to buy technology products, training, and services
The EDS Technology Grant Program, from Electronic Data Systems Corp., helps teachers purchase technology products and services that will improve their students’ ability to learn. Each year, EDS offices worldwide sponsor $1,500 grants to teachers through a competitive application process. The grants are awarded to teachers through their schools, and schools applying for a grant must be located within 50 miles of where EDS does business. Grants must be used to pay for technology products, training, or services. EDS encourages teachers to propose innovative classroom projects or student exercises. Teachers are asked to explain the innovative nature of their project, how they or their students will use the requested technology, and how the technology will improve their students’ ability to achieve curriculum goals.
Deadline: January 23
Contact: Charlene Edwards, (972) 605-6557, charlene.edwards@eds.com

$22,500 in scholarships for integrating visual learning technologies
For the sixth year, Inspiration Software’s Inspired Teacher Scholarship program will support professional development activities for K-12 and higher-education instructors who champion the integration of visual learning and technology into the curriculum. Inspiration Software will award 30 scholarships worth $750 each to support K-12 educators as they use graphic organizers and other visual learning tools to help students develop strong thinking and organizational skills and improve their academic performance. Educators from K-12 schools, colleges, and universities are eligible to apply. A minimum of one year of service is required, and applicants must demonstrate that they have direct contact with students.
Deadline: January 28

$540,000 in SMART boards, projectors, and more for teacher-recognition programs
The Teaching Excellence Awards, from SMART Technologies’ SMARTer Kids Foundation, sponsor existing teacher-recognition programs through the donation of educational technologies. Developed to ensure that top educational technologies are made available to outstanding teachers, the program will donate more than $540,000 worth of educational technology to teachers this year. The technology includes SMART boards, AlphaSmart’s Dana Palm OS laptop alternative, NEC projectors, and more. Programs that are likely to be supported include Teacher of the Year and Technology Teaching Excellence Awards at state, national, and international levels.
Deadline: January 31
Contact: info@smarterkids.org,
(403) 228-8565


$27,000 to create the ‘perfect’ middle school science classroom
The NEC Perfect Classroom Competition, from the NEC Foundation of America, is a national competition that will give three middle-school science teachers in the United States up to $9,000 each to improve their classrooms and to enhance the learning experience for their students. Teachers are encouraged to submit video essays describing their vision for the perfect classroom. Winners will be selected and announced in conjunction with National Teacher Appreciation Week in May.
Deadline: February 9

$400 plus software for innovative, tech-based literacy instruction
The Technology in Literacy Education Grant Competition 2004 aims to inspire and foster the creative use of computer technologies in classrooms to “connect” students with literacy learning in a variety of ways. Eligible projects should use the unique capabilities of computer hardware and software applications to enhance the literacy curriculum, extend the communication capabilities of students, provide interventions, or offer students opportunities to assemble and express knowledge in authentic contexts. The grant recipient will receive up to $400 from the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE SIG), plus literacy software from Don Johnston Inc. Applicants must be members of the International Reading Association and TILE SIG.
Deadline: February 9

Student scholarships to NASA space camp
PLATO Learning is offering a new scholarship program for middle and high school students to celebrate the launch of its newest science courseware, PLATO Life Science, and to help spur interest in science education. The PLATO Science Academy will provide a one-week, all-expenses-paid scholarship for 40 students to participate in a special customized science program at the NASA Space Center in Houston that will include working with astronauts and other NASA scientists. Schools that purchase more than $50,000 in PLATO science software automatically will qualify for one student scholarship; however, no purchase is necessary to nominate your school to receive a scholarship.
Deadline: February 28
Contact: (800) 44-PLATO


$12.5 million to improve literacy through school libraries
Schools and districts in which 20 percent of the families have incomes below the poverty line can apply for their share of an estimated $12.5 million offered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Improving Literacy through School Libraries program. Schools can use these funds to purchase technology that increases information literacy, information retrieval, and critical thinking skills.
Deadline: March 29 (estimated)
Contact: Margaret McNeely, (202) 260-1335, Margaret.Mcneely@ed.gov


Grant Awards

$216.3 million from the National Science Foundation to improve math and science education
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $216.3 million in the second year of its innovative Math and Science Partnerships program to improve K-12 mathematics and science education in the United States and Puerto Rico. The program supports partnerships that unite K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders in activities that “reinvigorate mathematics and science instruction and strengthen curriculum across the United States,” the agency said. The awards will directly impact nearly 3 million students.

As an example of one of these awards, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will receive $34.6 million to strengthen math and science programs in 13 Georgia school districts. The five-year grant will fund a statewide, collaborative educational reform initiative called Partnership for Reform in Science and Mathematics (PRISM). Its goal is to improve educational achievement levels and close the performance gaps among Georgia’s students in science and mathematics. Once underway, PRISM will reach more than 170,000 students and more than 10,000 teachers in the participating schools. It also will impact future science and mathematics teachers who are being prepared at Georgia universities by showing them the best ways to teach these subjects.

$74 million in Early Reading First grants from the U.S. Department of Education
Thirty local education agencies and organizations will share more than $74 million in grants to improve the language and pre-reading skills of young children, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced Oct. 14.

The grants are part of the Early Reading First program, President Bush’s initiative to transform existing early-education programs into preschool centers of educational excellence that provide high-quality, early education to young children, especially those from low-income families. Early reading software and other technology-based measures are eligible for support.

$32.4 million for online education and medical service in rural communities
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced 84 winners of Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants totaling more than $32 million. Fifty-seven distance education grants worth $23.5 million and 27 telemedicine grants worth $8.9 million were selected for funding. The education projects will help 556 rural schools provide their students with tools to better equip them for the global digital economy, department officials said.

$30 million to establish new virtual K-12 Centers for Learning and Teaching
The University of Missouri, Rutgers University, and the University of California- Berkeley each will receive $2 million per year for the next five years to establish three new virtual K-12 Centers for Learning and Teaching, the National Science Foundation announced. The grants are intended to build current and future leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education through the schools’ graduate programs; improve elementary and secondary education practice; and provide opportunities for research. These awards increase the total number of NSF-funded centers focused on elementary and secondary issues to 13.

$14 million to extend the benefits of advanced tele-communications technologies to underserved communities
Twenty-eight nonprofit organizations–including local school systems and state, local, and tribal governments–in 22 states were awarded a total of $14 million in Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) grants from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. These grants, matched by $14.8 million in contributions from the private sector and state and local organizations, extend the benefits of advanced telecommunications technologies to underserved communities and neighborhoods. The awards will fund projects such as streaming video to ill children, creating new tools for vision screening in schools, and online oversight of charitable organizations.

$15 million to help states study technology’s impact on student achievement
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige on Nov. 10 announced that nine states–Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin–will share $15 million in grants to conduct rigorous, scientific evaluations of how technology impacts student achievement in elementary and secondary education, which in turn will assist other states and school districts with evaluating their own educational technology programs.

The competitive, three-year grants are part of the No Child Left Behind Act’s Enhancing Education Through Technology program and are intended to increase states’ ability to design, conduct, and acquire high-quality evaluations of educational technology, department officials said.

$2.1 million to support minority colleges and universities
Hewlett-Packard Co. has given the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund more than $2.1 million in ProLiant servers, notebook PCs, and other technology equipment and services. The donation will be used to improve educational opportunities for minority students by providing a world-class information systems infrastructure for the fund’s 45 public historically black colleges and universities, company officials said.

HP technology will support member schools’ eMail services for student and faculty communications, a prioritized area of need identified by a majority of the 45 Thurgood Marshall academic institutions.

“HP’s technology gift will help our 45 member schools to cross the digital divide and allows our member schools to more effectively compete with better-endowed institutions in preparing their students to succeed in the 21st-century workforce,” said Dwayne Ashley, president of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund.

Besides hardware products and installation services, HP also is providing Microsoft Windows technical support services, the company said. http://www.hp.com