Eavesdrop on history in the making with “The President Calling”

From American RadioWorks, “The President Calling” is a unique documentary project that unveils taped conversations and meetings held by three of America’s most compelling leaders, giving participants unprecedented access inside the Oval Office. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon were famous for bugging their White House offices and tapping their telephones, thus leaving behind thousands of secretly recorded conversations, from the momentous to the mundane. Now students and teachers can use this documentary project to eavesdrop on presidential telephone calls and hear how each man used one-on-one politics to shape history. Notable features include historical photographs and recordings from Nixon’s Watergate debacle to Johnson’s dilemma in Vietnam and Kennedy’s civil-rights crisis in Mississippi.


ASCD 2006: Closing Thoughts

The final day of the ASCD conference wrapped up with a full schedule of technology sessions and lectures, including one on No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Technology-oriented sessions covered what scientists and mathematicians will need to know for the future, achieving 21st century learning through technology immersion, and an instructional leader’s technology tool kit.

“An Instructional Leader’s Guide to Technology: Today’s Classroom Toolbox,” gave educators insight into what the “millennium” student has access to and is using in school and at home. Presenters Gene and Stan Silverman, a husband-and-wife team, covered different technology resources available to students, including video on demand, blogs, and probeware.

“We are dealing with a new student,” said Stan Silverman of the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). “[Today’s student’s] access to technology is fundamentally different than any other student.” Silverman called this generation the “generation of thumbs,” and referenced the many technology items and application–including iPods, instant messaging, text messaging, tablets, and PDAs–that students are using for personal and education use.

“These kids have grown up with this technology, it is a part of their aging,” he added. When students use technology in the classroom to publish and communicate, they are not only working on assignments for class but are also publishing their technology skills and what they know.

Educators must make sure to use technology to entice, encourage, enable, and empower their students, the Silvermans said.

Making video on demand available to teachers and students, especially searchable video, should be a goal, the presenters said. Video conferencing gives teachers the ability to get resources from all over the world, and distance becomes irrelevant.

Silverman said probeware is especially useful because its connection with computers makes science more real for students. “It’s transformational science instead of recipe science,” he said.

Webinars, seminars held online, are powerful classroom tools that students can use to communicate with other students and in turn use that communication for research and other work, said Gene Silverman, of the Nassau Board of Cooperative Education Services in Nassau County, N.Y.

While these technologies translate well for classroom use and can be very effective, the presenters warned that teachers should be careful about cyberbullying–students using technology such as cell phone text messaging, blogs, and instant messaging to harass their peers. Educators should, when possible, try and prevent this from occurring.

Voice discussion boards also prove useful in the classroom. Instructors record presentations, and students can respond to their instructor and to fellow students asynchronously using inexpensive headphones. This is especially helpful because students can review and replay the sessions at any time, such as for a homework assignment or research project.

All the technology included in the presentation can also help teacher professional development. Technology skills and tools can improve, teachers can expand their communications with students and school staff “outside the walls,” and courseware and content can expand.

Despite the attraction of technology, a school or district’s administration has to consider the professional development costs and schedules associated with a new technology product, the budget for equipment, support services, materials and licenses, and new tools, leadership for the new products, staff and student management, and the time that staff and students have available to use the technology.

Monday’s schedule featured a closing session by Neil Howe, who spoke about the different generations in the country, how they differ in behaviors and attitudes, and how each generation will steer the nation.

ASCD’s 2007 conference will be held March 17-19 in Anaheim, Calif. The theme will be “Valuing the Whole Child: Embracing a Global Vision.”


Eavesdrop on history in the making with “The President Calling”

From American RadioWorks, “The President Calling” is a unique documentary project that unveils taped conversations and meetings held by three of America’s most compelling leaders, giving participants unprecedented access inside the Oval Office. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon were famous for bugging their White House offices and tapping their telephones, thus leaving behind thousands of secretly recorded conversations, from the momentous to the mundane. Now students and teachers can use this documentary project to eavesdrop on presidential telephone calls and hear how each man used one-on-one politics to shape history. Notable features include historical photographs and recordings from Nixon’s Watergate debacle to Johnson’s dilemma in Vietnam and Kennedy’s civil-rights crisis in Mississippi.


Report details rise of hate web sites

Online hate games that attract children to gun down illegal immigrants at the border, hunt Jews, and shoot blacks are among the thousands of extremist web sites described in a report released April 19 by an international human-rights organization.

The report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has been tracking hate web sites for nine years, describes more than 200 of about 4,000 online hate sites it monitors. The report underscores the need for today’s educators to teach their students how to recognize bias and critically evaluate online information.

The group said it has seen a surge this year in the number of sites that promote terrorist recruitment, urging young people to join “holy wars” and become suicide bombers.

The report, called “Digital Terrorism & Hate 2004,” includes sites that deny the Holocaust, theorize Sept. 11 conspiracies, and glorify al-Qaida. The hate sites leave nothing out–and racism, anti-Semitism, and gay bashing are among the more common themes.

“People need to realize how much hatred there is … and the extraordinary technological advance of people who are spreading these lies,” said New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, who attended the news conference where the report was released.

Some of the most troubling, he said, are sites that appear to be educational, like a Martin Luther King, Jr. web site that is actually run by a racist organization. These could easily fool schoolchildren doing research, Miller said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center uses the report to help inform parents, teachers, public officials, and law enforcement. The intent is not to interfere with free speech and shut down the sites, said Mark Weitzman, director of the center’s Task Force Against Hate.

“This is for public awareness,” Weitzman said.

The CD-ROM report includes descriptions of where the sites’ servers are located and who runs them. In some cases, that information cannot be determined.

One site that has been called the official web site of al-Qaida repeatedly changes internet addresses and registers to servers that make it impossible to track.


Simon Wiesenthal Center

Digital Terrorism & Hate 2004


Officials mull selling school’s name on eBay

Turning to the internet site eBay to auction off naming rights for their only school is a desperate fund-raising tactic, admit the board president and superintendent of a 300-student New Jersey school district.

If the state did more for Brooklawn, a small town near Camden, N.J., the district’s unusual fund-raising efforts would not be needed, said Superintendent John Kellmayer.

“A lot of smaller districts are fighting for their survival,” Kellmayer said. “What we’re doing here is going to be the norm in 10 years.”

Students at Alice Costello School already shoot baskets at the ShopRite of Brooklawn Center (the gymnasium) and do research in the Flowers Library and Media Center. But the school could be among the first in the nation to sell its full name to a corporate sponsor, if Kellmayer and his board members follow through with their idea.

In a world where advertisements are everywhere from elevators in parking garages to the sides of big-league sports arenas, Brooklawn’s top school leaders think more school districts will soon consider selling naming rights to buildings they own.

At the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Brooklawn’s school is held up as a model for both its student performance and its creative fund-raising, because getting money elsewhere means relying less on property tax revenue.

“Anything a school can do to be entrepreneurial, so much the better,” said Dana Egreczky, a vice president at the chamber.

Many schools already have some form of corporate sponsorship, from advertisements in yearbooks to company-sponsored sports scoreboards and underwritten band uniforms. Brooklawn’s serious naming-rights effort began in 2001, when the new gym was christened ShopRite of Brooklawn Center.

The owner of the local supermarket agreed to pay $100,000 over 20 years to have his store’s name displayed on the outside of the gym built that year as part of a $3.6 million school expansion and renovation project. About half the funding for that project came from the state government.

As part of a building expansion, the school also got a library for the first time. It’s named for the Flowers, an influential local family willing to pay $100,000 for the name.

The school district got some negative publicity from the ShopRite sponsorship. The deal was ridiculed on sports talk radio and labeled “This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse” in Sports Illustrated magazine.

Bruce Darrow, school board president, said he is not deterred by bad publicity. “The only thing I regret now is [that] ShopRite got off so cheap,” he said.

The Brooklawn native is brimming with other ideas for raising money. He envisions a school where the junior-high sports teams have ads on their jerseys, where companies pay to have their logos not only on the edge of the basketball court, but also in the free-throw lanes.

Darrow doesn’t like the idea of requiring school uniforms, but if ads could be put on them, he’d certainly listen. And if a health-care company offers to pay to renovate the school’s nurses’ office, he’ll consider it.

But it’s his idea of selling naming rights to the entire school that is creating the most discussion in the community. The concept is exceptionally rare for public schools across the country.

But not quite unique.

Cash-strapped Belmont-Redwood Shores School District in Belmont, Calif. reportedly is looking for corporate sponsors. Marilyn Sanchez, assistant to the superintendent, said that companies could not change school names entirely there. Central School, she said, could become known as something like “Central School, sponsored by Intel Corp.”

Darrow has two caveats to his name-selling plan: First, not just anyone could buy the name of the school. Also, he won’t pursue the idea unless residents give him an OK in a referendum.

Lynn Heslin, whose 13-year-old daughter Amber is in seventh grade at Costello, wouldn’t mind.

“I probably wouldn’t be opposed, as long as it benefits the school,” Heslin said.

Kathleen Maass, a former school board president, said she is comfortable selling naming rights to parts of the school. But she’d vote against changing the name of a school already named for a late former teacher and principal.

“Selling the school name? No,” Maass said. “There are some things that shouldn’t be for sale … Alice Costello did a lot for the school, and I don’t think they should sell her name.”


Alice Costello School


Belmont-Redwood Shores School District


State officials debate cyber education costs

South Dakota officials are now grappling with some of the same questions regarding the funding of virtual instruction that have challenged lawmakers in other states.

The demand for high school courses through the eLearning center at Northern State University (NSU) has some South Dakota legislators wondering if the program is growing too quickly. State lawmakers also question how long NSU can offer the courses without charge to high school students on a first-come, first served basis–effectively squeezing out competition from other virtual schooling programs.

The issues came up when the state Legislature earlier this year approved two additional staff positions and another studio for NSU’s Center for Statewide eLearning.

The center provides classes to high school students over the internet and through the state’s Digital Dakota Network. It was created in 2001 at the urging of then-Gov. Bill Janklow. He insisted that the classes be offered free to schools.

Sen. Bill Earley, R-Sioux Falls, said the program is important, but he wonders whether the policy of not charging participating schools can last.

“We say there’s no charge. We all know as government grows, the costs do, too,” Earley said. “The question is, how far can the Board of Regents go in providing these K-12 courses out of [its] own budget? It’s going to be difficult to keep it up without charging at some point.”

NSU has delivered classes to 624 students in 69 school districts this year, center director Erika Tallman has said.

The cost was $536,000, an average of about $850 per student. She said school districts typically pay $400 to $600 a year per student for similar courses from other sources.

In recent years, groups of schools have combined to share, trade, or buy and sell courses through distance learning. One group, the Digital Interactive Academic Link, or DIAL, pays teachers to use distance learning to deliver courses to members.

John Heemstra, an official with DIAL, says NSU’s program can be tough competition.

“We can’t compete with free,” Heemstra said. “The state is in effect creating its own virtual school and is providing courses for some school districts.”

Rep. Rebekah Cradduck, R-Sioux Falls, said she wants to proceed cautiously with a state-funded program that has the potential to compete with private organizations such as DIAL.

“I want what we do to be that safety net, where schools can get courses they are unable to provide themselves,” she said. “I’m not sure I want to create competition for other providers.”

Cradduck voted against the measure to add staff and a studio to the eLearning center.

“My concern is that bigger and more’ is the way it is moving, which is one measure of success. It isn’t my measure. I believe that [the center’s] mission is to teach teachers how to teach with technology so they can be effective in the classroom,” Cradduck said.

Tad Perry, executive director of the state Board of Regents, argued for those additions but says he doesn’t anticipate more expansion in the near future.

“I’m very comfortable where we are right now,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s a whole lot more direction in terms of expanded capacity that we’re going to see in the next several years. I think pretty much we’re where we want to be.”

Distance learning is an issue legislators likely will revisit in their next session, Earley said.

“What I want to know very clearly is exactly how much it costs to run this program,” he said. “Show me where the money is being spent, and I’ll decide who pays for it.”

Florida, Idaho, and Minnesota are among other states where legislators have debated virtual schooling costs in recent months. (See “Funding fights hammer virtual schools,” http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=4708.)


Center for Statewide eLearning at Northern State University

Digital Dakota Network


$3,000 for innovative social studies instruction

This program supports research and classroom application projects which improve social studies education, foster enlightened citizenship, and promote civic competence. In 1986 the Christa McAuliffe Reach for the Stars Award was established to help classroom teachers “reach for the stars” and achieve a dream that under ordinary circumstances would not be fulfilled. Christa McAuliffe was an innovative social studies teacher who reached for the stars in an effort to make her dream of space travel a reality. She was the first classroom teacher to participate in space flight and planned to use the experience in teaching lessons from space. The purpose of this $1,500 grant is to help a social studies educator make his or her dream of innovative social studies a reality. Only members of the National Council for the Social Studies are eligible.


A handheld computer or software for winning contest entries

Achievement Technologies, publisher of the online instruction program SkillsTutor, is celebrating its one millionth user with a software and handheld giveaway. Educators, parents, and school organizations are invited to guess the date when the company’s one millionth user will register, and winners will receive a one-year subscription to SkillsTutor ($4,000 value) or a Palm handheld computer. Participants must submit their name, school, state, eMail address, and telephone number, along with the date of their guess, to the web site below. There is no obligation to purchase. Entries are limited to one per person.


Free early reading software given away monthly through December

Teachers who sign up five students for Headsprout Early Reading, a supplemental reading program with a money-back guarantee, and have these students complete the first five online lessons of the program are entered into a monthly drawing. Winners of the monthly drawings will receive both the online and offline Headsprout Early Reading materials for their classroom. Educators can sign up students for the “5-by-5” promotion free of charge at the web site below. Monthly drawings are schedule through December 31, 2004.


$17.5 million to place science and technology experts in schools

This program places graduate students and advanced undergraduates who specialize in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to serve in K-12 schools as knowledgeable resources for both the content and applications of these disciplines. . Institutions of higher education apply for awards to support fellowship activities. Institutions are responsible for (1) selecting fellows; (2) partnering with school districts for placement of fellows in schools; (3) providing appropriate training for fellows; and (4) designing and implementing an effective mechanism for documenting the outcomes of the project. Expected outcomes include improved communication and teaching skills transferable to a variety of occupations, enriched learning by K-12 students, professional development opportunities for teachers, and strong partnerships between institutions of higher education and local school districts. Applicants must submit a Notice of Intent to Apply by May 5, and final applications are due June 2.