NECC 2004: Communications and audio

More than 450 companies were at this year’s NECC displaying their technology solutions for educators. Here are some of the highlights of companies’ products related to communications solutions and audio systems:

ConnectED highlighted its online portal and Content Management System (CMS) designed exclusively for educational institutions. The company’s objective is to provide a central communications center for school administrators, teachers, students, and parents. ConnectED said it can make a school’s campus digital, offering robust functionality balanced with a simple, user-friendly interface.
http://www.connectedcms.com

Edline demonstrated its complete web-hosting solution that can serve as a school’s entire web site or merely a companion site. Edline is easy to implement, saves teachers time, and enhances parent-teacher communication, the company said. In conjunction with a school’s own software, student information system, gradebook, and office applications, Edline can transform school web sites into an digital extension of the school, where each visitor sees the exact targeted information educators want available to that individual.
http://www.edline.com

Nextel Communications came to NECC to display its line of fully integrated, wireless communications services. Nextel, which has built one of the largest guaranteed, all-digital wireless networks in the United States, provides K-12 and higher-education fields with services and support to meet their education-specific wireless needs. Among other applications, Nextel products enable educators to track students, personnel, and school assets in real time via a Nextel phone with a bar-code scanner attachment. The company also offers GPS service to locate and track school buses and maintenance vehicles.
http://www.Nextel.com

News from the exhibit hall

  • NECC roundup: CEOs get behind ed-tech
  • Assessment and instructional management
  • Curriculum and software
  • Digital imaging and creativity
  • Hardware and peripherals
  • Library systems and technologies
  • Online learning and research
  • Presentation solutions
  • Professional development
  • School administrative solutions
  • Security and network management
  • Sprint Corp. made six announcements in conjunction with the show, two of which involved the company’s Empowered Education Desktop for Schools program (see NECC roundup). Other announcements included new working relationships with Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five in South Carolina, Hickman Mills C-1 District in Kansas City, Mo., and Wilkes County Schools in North Carolina.
    http://www.sprint.com/education

    Audio systems

    Califone Inc., a long-time provider of classroom audio presentation solutions, showcased two wireless headset solutions ideal for language-arts centers in elementary classrooms. One set of headphones uses infrared technology to receive audio in a 15-foot range, while another uses UHF (ultra-high frequency) wireless technology to receive sound up to 150 feet. The latter set has four frequencies available, which allows teachers to operate up to four systems at the same time without interference. Califone also sells a headset with a microphone and USB connector educators can use for computer-based reading programs that record students’ voices, the company said.
    http://www.califone.com

    Telex Communications was represented at NECC by its Education Market Group. The company offers a full line of educational headphones, headsets, and listening centers for the K-20 field. Telex, which has been selling audio performance products for more than 75 years, has made a point of providing sound solutions for education, including amplification products such as ClassMate and Sound-Buddy. Telex also provides solutions for special education, including an extensive accessible-text program developed for the Library of Congress.
    http://www.telex.com

    This eSchool News Online report on the 2004 NECC is made possible with financial support of Dell.

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    NECC 2004: Security and network management

    More than 450 companies were at this year’s NECC displaying their technology solutions for educators. Here are some of the highlights of companies’ products related to computer security and network management:

    Apple Computer unveiled its Remote Desktop 2 software, offering 50 new features over its predecessor. These features include remote software installation; built-in, real-time screen sharing for online assistance; remote control to perform common OS X functions simultaneously across multiple systems; and user access mode, allowing a subset of users to be granted administrator privileges. The product will be available in July.
    http://www.apple.com

    NetSupport products have a special appeal for the K-12 field because strained school budgets require software, rather than hardware, solutions for networking issues. There is no need for hardware with NetSupport School, which can provide interactive classroom instruction, testing, and monitoring. Version 7.5 of the product, released in April, combines instructional capabilities with all new testing/polling modules and application/internet monitoring functionality. Teachers can demonstrate applications in real time, display their computer screen on students’ screens, create customized tests, manage application and web usage, monitor student progress, nominate group leaders, digitally send out and collect coursework, annotate the screen, perform online chat, and much more. The product is currently available only for Windows. NetSupport School is aimed at classrooms, but another product, NetSupport DNA, lets administrators keep track of the entire network’s activity, as well as a school or district’s hardware and software inventory.
    http://www.netsupport-inc.com

    News from the exhibit hall

  • NECC roundup: CEOs get behind ed-tech
  • Assessment and instructional management
  • Communications and audio
  • Curriculum and software
  • Digital imaging and creativity
  • Hardware and peripherals
  • Library systems and technologies
  • Online learning and research
  • Presentation solutions
  • Professional development
  • School administrative solutions
  • St. Bernard Software, a global provider of web-content filtering appliances to schools and businesses, came to NECC with the results of a new national survey, which showed that 59 percent of school technology decision-makers say at least some of their students have accessed inappropriate web content at school in the past year. The scientifically based survey, commissioned by St. Bernard Software, was conducted in June by JAS Market Research. It found that school decision makers cite games as the biggest problem, followed by pornography, violence, and hate sites. St. Bernard Software recommended its iPrism product as a content-filtering solution. iPrism, an internet-access management appliance can monitor, filter, and report on inappropriate internet usage, the company said. Each day, a St. Bernard Software team updates iPrism’s database to ensure that inappropriate content is being blocked from students’ view. St. Bernard also cited a case study in Greenwood, Ind., which showed that its content-filtering products had led to dramatic savings for the school district.
    http://www.stbernard.com

    SonicWALL Inc., a leading provider of integrated network security, mobility, and productivity solutions, aims to secure wireless networks in schools. The company displayed its SOHO TZW Education Edition, a fully integrated distributed wireless solution featuring an 802.11b wireless access point, firewall, and IPSec virtual private network (VPN) technology. SonicWALL says the product is ideal for schools seeking a highly secure, affordable wireless network. The company, which has won the eSchool News Readers’ Choice Award among other honors in its 13-year existence, strives to offer “rock-solid” security while making its own technology transparent. Schools can even customize their networks so that students and administrators each can have their own levels of security.
    http://www.sonicwall.com

    Vericept Corp., a provider of risk-management solutions, announced that it has been working with expert Nancy Willard, executive director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, to create a grant template that helps schools gain federal funding through the Safe and Drug Free Schools program for use of Vericept’s technology. Vericept enables “virtual adult supervision” of student internet, eMail, and network use through its Vericept Intelligence Platform. Monitoring thousands of schools across the country, Vericept’s solution identifies instances of network misuse by students, visits to web sites that provide potentially dangerous information, online drug dealing, and eMail dialogs threatening violent acts–providing administrators with the tools and information needed to deter potentially harmful behavior.
    http://www.vericept.com

    Version3 Inc., developer of the Version3 Simple Sign-On solution, said its access management application operates in a healthy Microsoft Active Directory environment to allow any educational institution to simplify its identity management initiative, streamline its business process, and reduce administration costs. In addition, the application gives students single-point authentication and access to school resources, information, and applications. Version3 also announced its School Access Management Initiative (SAMI). The program enables educators to purchase Simple Sign-On for a reduced price, with the objective of establishing a coordinated, system-wide effort–from kindergarten through the graduate level–to develop a secure student-identity management infrastructure.
    http://www.ver3.com

    This eSchool News Online report on the 2004 NECC is made possible with financial support of Dell.

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    NECC 2004: Hardware and peripherals

    More than 450 companies were at this year’s NECC displaying their technology solutions for educators. Here are some of the highlights of companies displaying computer hardware and peripherals:

    Neo, the newest addition to AlphaSmart Inc.’s family of computer companions, is an easy-to-use, lightweight, affordable learning device with a built-in LCD screen and full-sized keyboard. Compared with its predecessor, the AlphaSmart 3000, Neo delivers longer battery life, has a 50-percent larger screen, and offers new font technology and twice the memory. Neo is priced at $229 for education customers. It joins AlphaSmart’s existing platforms, the AlphaSmart 3000 ($199) and Palm OS-based Dana ($379). AlphaSmart also released AlphaSmart Manager 2.0, a second-generation application that lets AlphaSmart 3000 and Neo customers streamline the configuration and exchange of files for a classroom full of devices.
    http://www.alphasmart.com

    News from the exhibit hall

  • NECC roundup: CEOs get behind ed-tech
  • Assessment and instructional management
  • Communications and audio
  • Curriculum software
  • Digital imaging and creativity
  • Library systems and technologies
  • Online learning and research
  • Presentation solutions
  • Professional development
  • School administrative solutions
  • Security and network management
  • Brother International Corp., a K-12 provider of computer peripherals, demonstrated its new line of educational tools that offer flexible solutions to seamlessly enhance and complement current programs with low acquisition and operating costs. The company’s products include network-compatible monochrome and color laser printers, laser and inkjet fax and multi-function machines, classroom lamination systems, and the P-touch label maker line. Brother is currently running a back-to-school special in which schools buying 10 units from a selection of printers, multifunction machines, or digital copiers will receive the 11th unit free.
    http://education.brother.com

    With so much of NECC’s emphasis on the purchase of new equipment, Saar Pikar, the national sales manager for CDI, was hard at work touting the used and refurbished equipment solution his company providesparticularly in the area of laptops. Pikar said CDI’s new computers-on-wheels cart, known as the COWs program, could help schools double or even triple the value of their technology budgets. He noted a case study in Moscow, Idaho, where the local school district purchased a mobile COWs cart containing 16 refurbished Dell laptops and a wireless hub. Pikar said new Dell units would have been triple the cost of the CDI-refurbished ones and would have been tied to a single classroom. The district also was pleased with the quality of the refurbished machines, which all must pass extensive testing prior to sale. CDI also offers leasing options and will ensure safe disposal of a school’s old equipment. Although its solutions have been a big hit with customers, Pikar noted the inherent challenge CDI faces. “Nobody ever got fired for buying something new,” Pikar said. “But what [school decision-makers] don’t realize is that new computers are usually not necessary. This equipment has a longer life than many people think. We still have machines with 2 gigabyte hard drives that are running as well as they did when they were new.” http://cdihomeroom.com

    The most talked-about company at NECC 2004 might have been Dell Inc. The hardware giant made a big splash with founder and CEO Michael Dell on hand to announce Dell’s Intelligent Classroom, a combination of computers and related technology, such as projectors and cameras, that seeks to transform traditional K-12 and higher education classrooms into high-tech, interactive learning centers. In addition to Dell desktop and notebook computers, Dell’s Intelligent Classroom features Dell-branded and third-party products, including projectors, presentation screens, televisions, DVD players, interactive whiteboards, and pen-based tablets. NECC came within two weeks of the company’s announcement that Texas’ Irving Independent School District had reached its goal of equipping every student and teacher with a Dell notebook computermore than 10,000 units in all.
    http://www.dell.com

    One of the largest and most impressive displays on the NECC floor belonged to Gateway Inc. The company showcased both its computers and big-screen presentation systems, and it drew big crowds with a special “Classroom Idol” singing game show, modeled after the TV hit “American Idol.” The popular event was part of Gateway’s effort to promote its Alpha Classroom, in which the company offers schools a seamless integration of technology. Alpha Classroom merges traditional teaching methods with Gateway’s computing and presentation products to create an innovative, advanced learning environment. The program emphasizes access, analysis, and application. Gateway also announced during the conference that it has appointed Bruce W. Smith, an executive with nearly 25 years experience in sales and marketing roles, to serve as senior vice president of Gateway Professional, where he will lead the company’s expansion into the mid-enterprise, education, and government sectors.
    http://www.gateway.com

    IBM executives Rae Ann Alton and Jim Schnitz, from the company’s Global Education division, were at NECC discussing a number of topics involved in IBM’s overall education efforts. The company focused on its line of eLearning technologies, its efforts at lifelong learning, how IBM treats the education space as an emerging business opportunity, eLearning on demand, and its solutions for data-driven decision making in education. IBM also promoted its ThinkVantage Technologies, which help schools reduce ownership costs by providing the most secure, industry-standard PCs, one-button recovery and restore solutions, and simple system deployment and support.
    http://www.ibm.com

    Kidzmouse CEO and founder Susan Giles was in New Orleans to introduce her company’s newest products. Known for its child-friendly computer mouse, KidzMouse has added a keyboard, headset, and scroll mouse to its line of peripherals for young children. The scroll mouse is the company’s first release for pre-teen learners. KidzMouse is the only company to offer computer mice designed for the way children’s hands work, with a smaller size and patented squeezable buttons. The colorful mice come decorated with cartoon characters. Giles founded KidzMouse after watching her four-year-old grandchild struggle with a traditional mouse, but the products have also become popular with some adults. Terri Houser, the K-6 technology coordinator for Garland Independent School District in Texas, said she prefers the feel of the KidzMouse over any mouse she has used in the past.
    http://www.kidzmouse.com

    Motion Computing showcased its new M1400 Tablet PC, among the first tablet computers in the United States to incorporate biometric authentication technology into its design, allowing only the assigned user to access the machine. The device’s fingerprint sensor reduces the chance of inappropriately exposing student data or allowing student hackers to break into electronic gradebooks. It also eliminates the need for multiple passwords and personal identification numbers. The M14000 Tablet PC is based on Intel Centrino mobile technology.
    http://www.motioncomputing.com

    This eSchool News Online report on the 2004 NECC is made possible with financial support of Dell.

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    NECC 2004: School administrative solutions

    More than 450 companies were at this year’s NECC displaying their technology solutions for educators. Here are some of the highlights of companies’ products related to school administrative solutions:

    FileMaker Inc. announced FileMaker Work Requests, a FileMaker database application that tracks and manages the complete process of fulfilling a school or district’s work requests. The tool, which includes a way for staff to submit requests, estimate the cost, and delegate the request, costs $119 per license, though education-specific pricing is available. To accommodate AlphaSmart’s Dana, FileMaker also added wide-screen PDA support to its FileMaker Mobile, a $69.99 tool that lets teachers and administrators synchronize multiple mobile devices to a single desktop database.
    http://www.filemaker.com

    News from the exhibit hall

  • NECC roundup: CEOs get behind ed-tech
  • Assessment and instructional management
  • Communications and audio
  • Curriculum and software
  • Digital imaging and creativity
  • Hardware and peripherals
  • Library systems and technologies
  • Online learning and research
  • Presentation solutions
  • Professional development
  • Security and network management
  • The new, web-based Destiny Textbook Manager from Follett Software Co. allows school staff to check textbooks in and out of inventory with a bar-code scanner located on any computer on a school’s network. Staff also can record the book’s condition. Destiny Textbook Manager can be used on a district-wide basis to create a single, centralized textbook database. It also helps schools hold students and parents accountable for lost or damaged textbooks and can be customized to include an individual school or district’s fine and replacement policies. The program automatically sends an eMail message to a student’s home, informing parents of textbook fines.
    http://www.fsc.follett.com

    Funds For Learning is offering an enhanced version of its free eRate management tool, E-Rate Manager, for $99 per year. The paid version, called E-Rate Enhancement Plus, will include all the features available in the basic service, plus an asset management tool and a multi-year archive of your school’s eRate correspondence and documents. The asset management tool helps school staff keep track of the serial number and location of equipment purchased and installed with eRate funds, as well as the three-year transferability rule that prohibits the relocation of equipment purchased with eRate funds. The archive lets eRate applicants build a data repository of their district’s pertinent eRate records, which is ideal in the case of audits or staff turnover. Funds For Learning said more than 300 applicants use its free tool to manage the eRate application process.
    http://www.fundsforlearning.com

    iAssessment has released two new web-based school management programs. The Grants Management Program helps educators manage the various steps required by foundation or government grants, including reports and evaluations. The Systems Unification Suite is a front-end presentation solution that allows educators to access all of their school data–such as student information, human resources, or financial databases–from a single web portal.
    http://www.iassessment.com

    Focusing on affordable student information management systems for K-12 schools across North America, Software Technology Inc. (STI) produces a suite of products and services that encompass all facets of student and faculty records. The company’s STIClassroom product lets teachers automate many of the administrative functions of their work day by combining attendance records, gradebooks, textbook tracking, and a curriculum-based lesson planner into one software package.
    http://www.sti-k12.com

    This eSchool News Online report on the 2004 NECC is made possible with financial support of Dell.

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    NECC 2004: Assessment and instructional management

    More than 450 companies were at this year’s NECC displaying their technology solutions for educators. Here are some of the highlights of companies’ products related to assessment and instructional management:

    Idaho-based CRI Advantage, a provider of K-12 analysis and reporting solutions, announced that it has teamed up with The Administrative Assistants Ltd. (AAL), of Toronto, to jointly market a comprehensive student information management solution. This new solution combines guided analysis with reporting capabilities to provide educators and administrators with new understanding and insight into the management and improvement of student achievement. As part of the venture, CRI provides Academic Accelerator, its powerful yet easy-to-use guided and advanced analytics software to increase understanding and insight into student performance. AAL provides its eSIS product, which offers the specific student-related information administrators need to plan and manage overall operations, including student demographics and test scores. The software lets district and school administrators monitor student enrollment, manage inter-district transfers, and make better strategic, budgetary, and operational decisions.

    News from the exhibit hall

  • NECC roundup: CEOs get behind ed-tech
  • Communications and audio
  • Curriculum and software
  • Digital imaging and creativity
  • Hardware and peripherals
  • Library systems and technologies
  • Online learning and research
  • Presentation solutions
  • Professional development
  • School administrative solutions
  • Security and network management
  • With assessment and NCLB hot topics as always, CTB/McGraw-Hill, a leading provider of assessment solutions, came to NECC with the announcement that it has expanded its alliance with TurnLeaf Solutions, which specializes in customized online reporting and data anlalysis. The companies are teaming up to help schools meet NCLB requirements by making TurnLeaf’s Achievement Management System (AMS) available nationwide. AMS enables educators to store local, state, and national assessment data in a central warehousing system. The data then can be manipulated for use in customized reports showing progress over time–a valuable tool for administrators charged with providing Adequate Yearly Progress reports. CTB-McGraw Hill also introduced its I-know and I-know Progress products, which work in tandem with AMS to give educators a comprehensive online solution for instruction and assessment. I-know is a formative online classroom assessment system, while I-know Progress provides web-based data management tools tailored to educators’ needs.
    http://www.ctb.com

    Curriculum Advantage was at NECC to talk about its new Classworks Import Edition for New York. The program imports state-mandated assessment data into Classworks, enabling New York State educators to tie the state’s learning standards to classroom instruction. Classworks, a network-based system of K-12 language arts and mathematics curriculum and learning tools created from 180 different software products, uses assessment data to prescribe individualized learning paths for students. For the past year, Curriculum Advantage has been revamping the 11-year-old Classworks program into a relevant teaching resource for schools where NCLB standards for accountability and informed instruction have become a major concern. To date, the company has developed state import editions for Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New York, and Illinois, as well as a Scantron Performance Series import edition.
    http://www.curriculumadvantage.com

    GTCO CalComp announced the integration of the Personal Response System (PRS) with its InterWrite Software. InterWrite PRS combines interaction and assessment to enhance classroom activity. Each student has an infrared wireless remote to answer questions given by the teacher. Teachers can create their own questions for the InterWrite PRS or use questions provided in textbooks. The instant charting and displaying of results gives teachers the ability to measure student comprehension, provide real-time student feedback, and refine lessons. Students are able to change their answers throughout the allotted answer time, as well as indicate how confident they are in their answer–all by using their remote control. An integrated gradebook program allows teachers to grade and record test and quiz results in seconds, saving them precious time. With InterWrite PRS, teachers can spend less time taking attendance and administering and scoring quizzes and tests, while spending more time teaching, the company said.
    http://www.gtcocalcomp.com

    Holt, Rinehart and Winston, a publisher of textbooks and educational materials for students in grades six through 12, released a new edition of Holt Science & Technology that has been redesigned with new activities, updated text, and new visual resources. The revised middle-school science program includes new supplementary resources such as the Holt One-Stop Planner, a CD-ROM with ExamView Test Generator, Holt Online Assessment, and the popular online edition of the textbook. Holt also announced the release of its Holt Online Assessment for Literature, a new resource that enables teachers to diagnose students’ understanding of literature, assign intervention, and track improvement with benchmark practice tests.
    http://www.hrw.com

    Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland have entered into an agreement worth nearly $1 million with LeapFrog SchoolHouse, the school division of LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., to give one-to-one LeapPad access to the district’s kindergarten students. Throughout the county, 216 kindergarten classrooms in 70 Title 1 schools will use the LeapTrack Assessment & Instruction System to improve reading, language arts, and math instruction. LeapFrog SchoolHouse says it wants educators to recognize a new category for educational technology–the Personal Learning Tool (PLT). This category is for special-purpose, portable devices that merge curriculum and technology and cost $100 or less, the company said. The company has provided more than 30,000 classrooms with its LeapPad and Quantum Pad products to date.
    http://www.LeapFrogSchoolHouse.com

    Interactive educational software company LearnStar Inc. focuses on products for whole-class activities that motivate students and channel their attention, resulting in documented test score improvements. The software’s built-in academic competitions, challenging quizzes, real-time polling, testing, and performance assessment tools increase teacher effectiveness, LearnStar says. The company’s interactive curriculum includes core subjects for elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as standardized and SAT test preparation, GED, ESL, life skills, and financial literacy. This learning method encourages students to evaluate solutions by synthesizing new material with existing knowledge. A captivating game format makes them eager to learn.
    http://www.learnstar.com

    It was a big week for Microsoft Corp., which highlighted two major announcements in New Orleans. The first involved the software giant’s role in developing an online assessment tool to measure technology literacy in grade-school students. The new tool, a collaboration between Microsoft and ISTE, is the first major initiative in Microsoft’s new U.S. Partners in Learning program. (See Microsoft launches $35M tech training program for U.S. schools.) Microsoft also made news at the conference by announcing that Scantron Testing and Assessment will adopt the Microsoft Class Server learning management platform, enabling student achievement results from Scantron software products to be used by teachers to deliver NCLB-standards aligned instruction. Class Server enables teachers to create, deliver, and grade assessments and lessons over the web.
    http://www.microsoft.com/education

    The K-12 field’s need for internal assessment practices that synch up with state standards is addressed in the new Prosper Assessment System from Pearson NCS. The company has achieved a breakthrough in combining item banking, test generation, scoring, and reporting in a single, affordable, easy-to-use software package. The system allows teachers to develop tests aligned with both state and local standards. It also allows for immediate feedback on student performance. “This tool is targeted at the classroom,” said Catherine Ronayne, director of education marketing for Pearson NCS. “…We also were able to include a separate database for each category or group of students described in the No Child Left Behind Act.” In addition to customizable data reports, the system generates tests customizable by subject area, and it works with Pearson NCS’s ExamView product to generate its test questions. Data can be disaggregated at the building or district level. The Prosper Assessment System starts at $1,500 with special introductory pricing. Building site licenses also are available.
    http://www.PearsonNCS.com/prosper/

    PLATO Learning is rolling all of its content onto a single platform, called the Plato Learning and Teaching Enterprise. From one interface, students, teachers, parents, and administrators will have access to a complete suite of PLATO tools for K-20 content, teaching tools, professional development, administration, and assessment. “Everything is available today, this just brings it together on one platform,” said the company’s Terri Redden. The professional development and assessment components won’t be integrated until 2005, PLATO said. The company also recently released two new instructional products to help improve students’ literacy skills. PLATO Advanced Writing Process and Practice is designed to teach writing strategies, grammar, and mechanics to high school students, and PLATO Achieve Now K-3 Reading is a supplemental early reading program that works on PCs and Sony PlayStation game consoles.
    http://www.plato.com

    LEAPS (Life Excelerator/Assessment of Personal Skills), an assessment and curriculum program for behavior prevention, intervention, and remediation, is now being used in about 100 school districts in 21 states. This fall, its maker–Provenio Group Inc.–plans to add a post-assessment component so students can be tested before and after they complete the program. Next spring, the company plans to add administrator tools and will release a version suitable for elementary school students. http://www.proveniogroup.com

    Scantron, a leader in educational testing and assessment tools, and SchoolNet announced plans to integrate their respective test management and instructional management systems into a single technology platform, giving schools a single, content-neutral platform for managing accountability, assessment, curriculum, and instruction. SchoolNet will integrate Scantron’s Achievement Series, a web-based test management engine, into its SchoolNet Instructional Management System–a web-based tool that helps educators organize curriculum and track instruction. With Scantron’s test engine integrated into its platform, SchoolNet now will offer school districts a comprehensive technology platform to create and deploy their own exams and quizzes as well as easily integrate those offered by third-party publishers, while providing real-time results to guide instruction in the classroom.
    http://www.scantron.com

    Sunburst Technology presented a newly designed version of the QuickMind.net online learning environment for K-12 schools. The company acquired QuickMind.net last February and has been working to enhance the product’s usability. The revised program includes a fully integrated browse-and-search function. With one-click access to the software’s resources, teachers can select student activities through state-specific standards identified in advance. The new release also has more security and usability for the program’s Reporting Tool, enabling schools to better track student performance.
    http://www.sunburst.com

    This eSchool News Online report on the 2004 NECC is made possible with financial support of Dell.

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    NECC 2004: Library systems and technologies

    More than 450 companies were at this year’s NECC displaying their technology solutions for educators. Here are some of the highlights of companies’ products related to library systems and technologies:

    Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that it will introduce an improved version of Britannica Online School Edition for K-12 schools in the fall. The new release will sport a more user-focused look and organization that will make it easier and more efficient to use, the company said. It also will offer greater alignment with the school curriculum. “It’ll be very useful, particularly for younger readers,” said Britannica senior vice president Patti Ginnis. “Kids of every age will find that their section really is designed for them.” Teachers will welcome the correlation of encyclopedia articles to state and national curriculum standards, the company said, adding that the fall release will have a database of standards organized by subject and state and featuring direct links to encyclopedia articles relevant to the standards.
    http://school.eb.com

    News from the exhibit hall

  • NECC roundup: CEOs get behind ed-tech
  • Assessment and instructional management
  • Communications and audio
  • Curriculum and software
  • Digital imaging and creativity
  • Hardware and peripherals
  • Online learning and research
  • Presentation solutions
  • Professional development
  • School administrative solutions
  • Security and network management
  • ProQuest Information and Learning announced the launch of an updated version of the award-winning ProQuest online information service, set for release in mid-July. ProQuest Information and Learning, a unit of ProQuest Company, creates and publishes databases for libraries and educational institutions worldwide. Many new features will be part of the release. ProQuest Smart Search will tap into ProQuest’s powerful indexing to analyze a user’s search and then offer suggestions for related topics and publications at the top of the results screen. The same technology will enable users to browse topics in most ProQuest databases. Users also will be able to use eMail to send and receive multiple articles in a single eMail message from ProQuest; eMail My Research Summary, a highly refined version of the marked list feature; and eMail formatted bibliographies.
    http://www.proquestcompany.com

    To enable a district’s schools to share the same library catalog and facilitate inter-library loans, Sagebrush Corp. launched an update of its centralized library automation system, Sagebrush Accent. The latest version features a simplified, more intuitive interface suitable for K-12 students, as well as experienced and novice librarians alike. It also has updated reports that can be printed on demand or saved to a spreadsheet or PDF file, an easy-to-use cataloging editor, a smoother workflow when checking items in and out, and new inventory functionality that guides librarians through a step-by-step process.
    http://www.sagebrushcorp.com

    This eSchool News Online report on the 2004 NECC is made possible with financial support of Dell.

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    Redesigned “MapMachine” gives students a new set of geographic tools

    The National Geographic Society’s newly redesigned “MapMachine” web site is a powerful resource for students and teachers that enables users to find and view nearly every place on Earth, with supplementary charts for population and climate. Users can browse antique maps or find country facts by browsing through the organization’s vast repository; tap the site’s database to locate places of interest in the news; examine areas of conflict in the Middle East and other global hot spots; and learn how to read many different kinds of maps, from topographical climate references to intimate, street-level guides marking major landmarks, environmentally protected areas, and other historically significant places around the world. For homework and research purposes, students and teachers can zoom in or out of particular areas of interest, measure the distance from one point to another based on scale, and save certain views for use in class projects and future consultation. A short glossary explains the different types of maps available on the site.

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    NECC 2004: Presentation solutions

    More than 450 companies were at this year’s NECC displaying their technology solutions for educators. Here are some of the highlights of companies’ products related to presentation solutions:

    Having sold projectors for nearly 20 years, Boxlight Corp. calls itself a “one-stop shop” offering projectors, visual presenters, and accessories. In addition, Boxlight offers an in-house service center, 24-7 toll-free telephone technical support, and warranty and leasing programs. Educators looking for unique ways to use projectors in their classrooms or who need data to corroborate the importance of projectors for grant applications can download the company’s free white paper, “Incorporating and Purchasing a Projector in an Education Setting,” from the Boxlight web site.
    http://www.boxlight.com

    News from the exhibit hall

  • NECC roundup: CEOs get behind ed-tech
  • Assessment and instructional management
  • Communications and audio
  • Curriculum and software
  • Digital imaging and creativity
  • Hardware and peripherals
  • Library systems and technologies
  • Online learning and research
  • Professional development
  • School administrative solutions
  • Security and network management
  • InFocus Corp., a provider of digital projection solutions, demonstrated its commitment to education with products it designed to enhance learning and collaboration in the classroom. The company produces a range of education projectors, projector management tools, and wireless technology. Its products are capable of projecting images from multiple sources, including computers, DVD players, and personal digital assistants. InFocus partners with TechSmith to offer projectors designed to complement TechSmith’s popular SnagIt and Camtasia Studio products. The companies partnered in the belief that their efforts would help instructors create more innovative presentations to ensure that the entire class participates in the learning experience.
    http://www.infocus.com/education

    The Visual Systems Division of NEC Solutions sells and supports unlimited visual display solutions. Technologies include DLP- and LCD-based mobile, installed, and large-venue projection systems, as well as PlasmaSync plasma displays designed specifically for the unique needs of public display and multimedia presentation environments. The company showed off its new line of projectors, the VT470, VT570, and VT670, all of which it considers ideal for the education field.
    http://www.necvisualsystems.com

    Promethean, the maker of the ACTIVboard Collaborative Classroom System, announced the release of its new ACTIVboard Pro. This interactive whiteboard provides built-in Bluetooth wireless connectivity to personal computers, as well as the ACTIVboard system’s interactive radio communication devices, ACTIVotes and ACTIVslate XR. ACTIVboard Pro completes what the company calls the world’s first fully integrated, interactive whiteboard system. ACTIVboard Pro also provides a massive 78-inch diagonal working space and enables an entire class to take tests from their desks, with their cumulative results displayed on the board in real time. On the back end, the board tracks each student’s response for use in assessment. Promethean also announced the launch of Promethean Planet, a free online resource center that gives educators from around the globe the ability to share new and innovative lessons and access an abundance of learning resources for immediate use with the ACTIVboard technology.
    http://www.activboard.com

    It was a busy week for SMART Technologies Inc. at NECC. The Canadian-based maker of interactive whiteboards and software for schools announced a contribution of more than $300,000 worth of products to the winners of Intel’s 21st Century Schools of Distinction Awards. At a gala awards ceremony, 20 U.S. schools received a SMART Board 580 interactive whiteboard, as well as a school license for SMART Ideas concept-mapping software and SynchronEyes computer-lab instruction software. In association with its charitable arm, the SMARTer Kids Foundation, SMART also announced a price reduction on its Rear Projection SMART Board 2000i-DVX interactive whiteboard with XGA resolution. Thanks to a foundation grant, qualifying institutions can purchase the 2000i-DVX with high-quality XGA resolution for $9,499, the company said. That’s more than $3,000 off the suggested retail price. Also at the show, the Wichita Public Schools in Wichita, Kan., announced it was recommending SMART interactive whiteboards for use in every classroom across the 50,000-student district. An installation of 56 SMART Board interactive whiteboards will be complete by the start of the new school year, the company said. Other announcements included the creation of the SMART Exemplary Educator program to honor innovative teachers who use SMART products effectively in the classroom, and $80 million in grant awards intended to make SMART’s technology more affordable for school customers.
    http://www.smarttech.com

    Tandberg USA, a branch of the Norwegian visual-communications company Tandberg, showcased its new Mediaplace mobile video system. The small cart set-up enables schools to have student-instructor interaction from virtually anywhere in a building or district. Already used at several universities in Oklahoma, the system is ideal for distance learning at the K-12 level, too, the company said. It also may be used for professional development in large districts, where instructors might not be able to visit each building in person. The Tandberg system delivers rich audio, allowing for music instruction that brings students and teachers together at any distance. Tandberg also works with schools to enhance their experience of the technology, helping arrange virtual field trips to museums, zoos, and science institutes. In one application of the technology, students were able to control the movement of an underwater vehicle at a marine lab, watching the whole experience unfold right in their classroom.
    http://www.tandbergusa.com

    This eSchool News Online report on the 2004 NECC is made possible with financial support of Dell.

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    NECC 2004: Curriculum software

    More than 450 companies were at this year’s NECC displaying their technology solutions for educators. Here are some of the highlights of companies displaying curriculum software and solutions:

    AIMS Multimedia has updated the look and feel of DigitalCurriculum, the company’s curriculum-on-demand teaching and learning system. In addition to a more streamlined look for its concept video clips, photo archive, teacher guides, lesson plans, and encyclopedia articles from Encyclopaedia Britannica, the site now offers a Calendar of Events section that provides information about what happened on that day in history for six different subject areas: science, social studies, language arts, mathematics, health and guidance, and arts and humanities. Each Daily Event is linked to videos and other supportive curricular elements. The new version will be officially released in July, but educators can try a 30-day free trial version at a development site, www.eduvid.com.
    http://www.digitalcurriculum.com

    News from the exhibit hall

  • NECC roundup: CEOs get behind ed-tech
  • Assessment and instructional management
  • Communications and audio
  • Digital imaging and creativity
  • Hardware and peripherals
  • Library systems and technologies
  • Online learning and research
  • Presentation solutions
  • Professional development
  • School administrative solutions
  • Security and network management
  • The world’s largest internet provider, America Online, continued beefing up its no-cost online AOL@SCHOOL service by announcing an alliance with Hotmath Inc., one of the nation’s leading math homework-help web sites. The alliance will give students and teachers unlimited access to more than 200 math practice problems per math subject, along with tutorial solutions. Targeting middle and high schools, the Hotmath problems and tutorials currently encompass pre-algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2, with future plans to offer geometry, pre-calculus, and calculus. AOL@SCHOOL now boasts unique content offerings from more than 30 partners, 200,000 pages of online content, and more than 10,000 tested lesson plans from educators.
    http://www.aolatschool.com

    Inspired by popular crime investigation dramas on television, the new Science CSI Kit from Bodelin Technologies, in collaboration with Vernier Software and Technologies, aims to engage middle and high school students in the study of science. At a suggested education price of $1,099, the Science CSI Kit includes a Bodelin ProScope handheld digital microscope, lenses, and accessories; Vernier Logger Lite software and a complete set of pH, conductivity, and temperature probes; a durable, easy-to-carry case; and curriculum that integrates with Apple iLife and is written by Apple distinguished educators.
    http://www.sciencecsi.com

    Compass Learning followed up on the recent announcement of its newest product, CompassLearning Odyssey for English Language Learners (ELL), due in classrooms this fall. The software helps American educators address the growing number of students who have yet to master English language basics. Under NCLB standards, ELL children are tested on their progress in learning English. CompassLearning’s product development team worked with the Q Group, which specializes in language learning products, to create Odyssey ELL. The software presents real-world situations to involve the user and is designed to meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds. The browser-based Odyssey ELL is offered in two versions, Levels K-6 (Elementary) and Levels 7-12 (Secondary). The Elementary Level is designed for children ages 5-12 with little or no previous knowledge of English. CompassLearning vice president Sloane O’Neal described the release of an English-Language learner product as a “big departure” from the company’s previous offerings but noted the emerging need and important role for such a product in the era of NCLB.
    http://www.compasslearning.com

    Educational Insights introduced Jeopardy! Link, a tool that makes it easier and more time-efficient for teachers to create, organize, customize, and share quiz content for the company’s popular, award-winning Classroom Jeopardy! product. Before Jeopardy! Link, most teachers wrote their games on a computer, then retyped the entire games into a game storage cartridge with a special keyboard that attached to the Classroom Jeopardy! scoreboard. With Jeopardy! Link, teachers simply type the game on their PC or Mac, the same as before, then download the game directly and instantaneously onto the cartridge with a simple key command. Jeopardy! Link will be available in October for $79.95, but orders received by Aug. 31 will cost only $49.95. At NECC, Educational Insights also introduced its Loud & Clear line of audio devices designed for use in educational settings, including listening center equipment and a waistband voice amplifier.
    http://www.educationalinsights.com

    Evan-Moor Educational Publishers released a software program for first- to fifth-graders, called Take it to the Computer: Writing Sentences and Paragraphs. Using the software, students learn basic computer skills while engaging in motivating activities that guide them through the multiple stages of the writing process. Each grade-specific edition of Take it to the Computer, which retails for $399 for the classroom edition or $599 for the lab edition, includes 48 Computer Activity Cards with step-by-step instructions for students on the front and lesson and extension ideas for teachers on the back. Evan-Moor also released Daily Paragraph Editing, a new daily practice series designed to improve writing among students in grades 2-6. Each grade-specific edition of Daily Paragraph Editing is 176 pages and retails for $19.95.
    http://www.evan-moor.com

    Failure Free Reading made a major announcement just prior to the start of NECC when the company, in partnership with Teaching Gear, laid out plans for the new Intelligent Tutor system. The program, which works with Failure Free Reading’s research-based reading comprehension program for non-readers and the very lowest-literacy students, is designed to document every move a student makes. The Intelligent Tutor allows the teacher, tutor, or administrator to better track the progress and milestones in a student’s work and will be featured as part of the company’s online solution as well as its LAN-based software.
    http://www.failurefreeonline.com

    New to NECC, Nortel Networks Kidz Online (NNKOL) exhibited many free resources available to educators through its internet portal. NNKOL’s integrated lesson plans use a peer-based learning approach, in which students create learning materials targeted to other kids. In addition to its repository of learning resources, NNKOL provides professional development support to help educators teach technology-infused lessons that engage and motivate students to learn.
    http://www.nnkol.org

    Pearson Digital Learning demonstrated the new Level Two and Level Three components of its Waterford Early Math & Science program, adaptive computer-based instruction developed by the nonprofit Waterford Institute in Utah. It encourages hands-on exploration and inquiry-based learning, giving K-2 students a solid foundation in math and science skills. Waterford researchers have found that children should have at least 3,000 hours of pre-literacy activity by the time they reach kindergarten. The researchers also discovered dramatic advantages in the reading and learning skills of children who were read to by their parents on a daily basis. In the case of students who do not receive such attention, the Waterford Early Reading and Early Math & Science programs aim to bridge the gap through technology–enabling young students to have a valuable, personalized learning experience. The latest releases continue the use of engaging songs and first-rate, entertaining computer graphics to introduce topics such as elementary counting, numbers, and even astronomy.
    http://www.PearsonDigital.com

    Riverdeep introduced new versions of some of its popular curriculum software programs. Kid Pix Deluxe 4 for Schools, a digital art application, helps students express creativity, build organization and presentation skills, and document learning across the curriculum. The new version includes a powerful set of Teacher Tools that help educators use Kid Pix to teach standards-based curriculum content. Riverdeep also released new versions of two titles in its Carmen Sandiego geography series designed specifically for the classroom: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? for Schools and Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?
    http://www.riverdeep.net

    SAS inSchool, the education division of North Carolina-based SAS Institute Inc., showcased two new educational software programs at NECC. Curriculum Pathways 2005, for students in grades 8-12, includes new, online educational materials in algebra, earth science, English language, Spanish grammar, and contemporary world history. JMP Intro is a new statistical visualization tool designed specifically for use by students and teachers. SAS inSchool also held a drawing at the conference for State Educational Technology Directors Association members for five 5,000-seat Curriculum Pathways licenses, valued at $25,000 each.
    http://www.SASinSchool.com

    Synergistic Systems, a division of Pitsco, produces hands-on, minds-on math, science, and technology learning solutions for grades 7-12. Its tools come complete with assessment features and multimedia-delivered, integrated curriculum. The company’s computer-based, interactive, and self-directed curriculum reportedly has been particularly effective with at-risk students. The New Orleans Public Schools District has implemented Synergistic Systems Science to help ninth-graders meet local and national standards, the company announced. Synergistic Systems Science features science labs that address 97 percent of the National Science Teachers Association’s Physical Science standards for grades 9-12 and 100 percent of the New Orleans Physical Science standards.
    http://www.synergistic-systems.com

    Texas Instruments (TI) joined with USA Today to announce a new publication called Science TODAY. Written by experienced science educators, Science TODAY is a resource of free classroom activities based on USA Today‘s articles and signature graphics, for use with TI’s educational handhelds. Science TODAY activities are available for use with these TI graphing calculators: TI-73 Explorer, TI-83 Plus family, TI-84 Plus family, and the TI-Navigator Classroom Learning System. Activity resources include a teacher guide, student handout, graphic transparency, technology guide, and LearningCheck assessment files.
    http://www.education.ti.com

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    NECC 2004: Heavy corporate hitters put their weight behind ed tech

    Anyone seeking evidence of a healthier U.S. economy and renewed tech-sector growth should have been in New Orleans from June 20-23 for the 25th annual National Educational Computing Conference (NECC).

    The largest educational technology exhibit in the world drew a record crowd of more than 17,500 people, according to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), which staged the conference. The massive crowd included 13,302 registered attendees from roughly 50 countries. They made the trek across an expansive convention floor that featured 1,189 booths and 450 companies displaying their hardware, software, and other solutions for educators.

    The host city’s festive reputation helped shape an upbeat atmosphere surrounding the four-day show, but the real engine of enthusiasm was a tangible sense that the future is bright for ed tech. NECC 2004 seemed proof that the entire technology industry has reawakened after several difficult years, and the education field is one of its top priorities.

    How else to explain the presence of so many high-profile attendees at this year’s show? Two of the world’s largest technology companies, Dell and Intel, both sent their CEOs to New Orleans, a clear indication of the field’s promise and NECC’s importance.

    News from the exhibit hall

  • Assessment and instructional management
  • Communications and audio
  • Curriculum and software
  • Digital imaging and creativity
  • Hardware and peripherals
  • Library systems and technologies
  • Online learning and research
  • Presentation solutions
  • Professional development
  • School administrative solutions
  • Security and network management
  • Michael Dell, the founder and chairman of Dell Inc., who will relinquish his CEO post next month, was at NECC to launch his company’s Intelligent Classroom initiative. The program will provide schools with a low-cost bundle of computers, projectors, cameras, presentation screens, and other high-tech devices, giving classrooms an entire technology upgrade in one fell swoop. (See Dell expands push into classrooms.)

    Dell, whose company’s success has translated into a personal net worth of more than $13 billion, spoke of Dell’s central role in education. Nearly half of all U.S. school computers and computer equipment are Dell products, and the new Intelligent Classroom initiative could make Dell’s educational presence even greater.

    This rapid growth, dubbed the “Dell Effect” by Business Week, resulted from the company’s commitment to lowering prices in all sectors in which it competes. From 1998 to 2003, Dell’s sales to the education field increased by 224 percent, the company reported, compared with the average rate of 36 percent.

    “By passing savings along to our customers, we have grown education and made technology more available to students,” Dell said. “This helps the country develop a future workforce that can stay competitive with the rest of the world.”

    For Craig Barrett, the CEO of Intel Corp., NECC offered the perfect setting for a black-tie gala awards ceremony at which 20 schools were named winners of the Intel-Scholastic 21st Century Schools of Distinction Award. The awards recognized these schools’ “comprehensive programs exhibiting excellence in the use of technology, involvement of parents and community, professional development, teamwork, and high academic standards.”

    Several major ed-tech companies teamed up to present more than $2.3 million in technology grants to the 20 winners, with each school receiving curriculum materials, professional development resources, software, and hardware worth more than $120,000. The big winners at the Academy Awards-style event were Houston County High School in Warner Robins, Ga., and MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, which were named “Best of the Best” among the 20 honorees. The Intel Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant to each school, while distributing $10,000 to each of the 18 other schools.

    “By sponsoring these awards, we hope to share the outstanding programs and efforts these schools have put in place with other schools around the country,” Barrett said. “We have to learn from each other in order to transform our classrooms and our schools.”

    Dell and Barrett weren’t the only corporate heavyweights in New Orleans. Also on hand, having just engineered a $77 million initial public offering–the largest IPO of 2004–was Blackboard Inc. chairman and co-founder Matthew Pittinsky. He gave a speech on how online learning has affected relationships among education stakeholders.

    Pittinsky’s recent Wall Street success was yet another indication that educational technology’s key players feel the economic climate is ripe for expansion. Mona Westhaver, the president and co-founder of Inspiration Software, who was ahead of her time 16 years ago in developing one of the most popular educational programs in U.S. schools, also sees big opportunities in 2004. Westhaver came to New Orleans to showcase Inspiration for the Palm OS–making it one of the first major educational software applications to take the leap to handhelds.

    “We moved to the Palm OS because our customers were asking for it,” Westhaver said. “Educators felt there weren’t good products available for the handheld.”

    Handhelds were a major focus at the show, and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) turned up the spotlight by releasing “A Guide to Handheld Computing in K-12 Education.” The 56-page report, compiled by CoSN’s Emerging Technologies committee, features 12 case studies that describe how different schools are using handhelds and graphing calculators. CoSN examines the benefits of this technology, while also considering challenges that include management issues, the breakage and loss of handhelds, inappropriate use of the devices, and the relatively limited availability of software.

    “As more schools use handheld computers or are considering their use, it is critical to address the potential impact these devices can have on the education community,” said CoSN CEO Keith Krueger. “We needed a resource to answer questions about how handhelds can function to facilitate student learning and development.” The handheld-computing guide is available for purchase at CoSN’s Online Store.

    Assessment and professional development

    Another key theme of the show was professional development solutions for teachers who are struggling to keep up with the available technology. Robin Surland and Deanna Somers, both members of the Instructional Technology Department for the Wichita Public Schools, gave a presentation on the history of their district’s innovative Standards for Teachers through Educational Projects (STEPs) program, which helps Wichita teachers learn new technology skills, create project-based lesson plans, and meet ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS*S). The intensive-but-optional program has enabled many Wichita teachers to become more comfortable with technology, while inspiring them to make it part of their curricula.

    Assessment and professional development have taken on added significance because of an approaching deadline. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation mandates that by 2006 every eighth-grade student in the United States must be proficient in technology literacy skills. To help teachers monitor student progress toward meeting those requirements, several initiatives were announced at NECC. For starters, a new free, web-based assessment tool made its debut. The tool was developed as a collaboration between ISTE and Microsoft Corp. and is a component of Microsoft’s U.S. Partners in Learning program. Based on NETS*S, the tool will contain 12 assessments along with classroom curriculum and teacher support materials. Seven assessments have been available since June 19 at the ISTE web site, and the remaining five will be available in mid-August. Each assessment meets at least two NETS*S standards and includes a mapping tool to specify the standards met. ISTE also is working directly with two educational testing companies to develop a technology literacy assessment for middle-school children. The assessment, which also draws on ISTE’s NETS*S, is designed to help school administrators meet the technology literacy requirements of NCLB. The International Computer Driving License U.S. company (ICDL-US) and online testing company Vantage Learning are the partners with ISTE in this venture. The web-based assessment will consist of several specific test units, each lasting up to an hour, with knowledge-based, performance-based, and open-ended questions that require students to apply what they’ve learned. A pilot project for the new assessment will launch in five to 10 states or large districts during the 2004-05 school year.

    In addition, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills–a public-private organization whose members include the AOL Time Warner Foundation, Apple Computer, Cable in the Classroom, Cisco Systems, Dell, Microsoft, the National Education Association, and SAP–issued a series of free tools to help teachers, administrators, and lawmakers incorporate specific “21st-century skills” into the core curriculum. (See New guides help teach 21st century skills.)

    Few companies were as busy on the NECC news-making front as Sprint Corp. The global communications provider made several announcements in conjunction with the show. Two of Sprint’s announcements involved the company’s Empowered Education Desktop for Schools program, which combines Sprint’s network with online delivery of many learning tools from a wide range of K-12 content producers.

    At NECC, Sprint announced that the Empowered Education Desktop for Schools has added Atomic Learning’s online software tutorials and an application service provider (ASP) version of ParentLink, a web-based program that lets parents and teachers securely access essential school-related data through the web. Sprint also announced that it was teaming with Cisco Systems to offer a network video solution to enable teachers and administrators to provide rich, dynamic video content to classrooms using the school’s existing bandwidth.

    Digital video in the classroom

    When they weren’t talking about professional development or assessment, convention visitors focused on digital imaging and the integration of video into the curriculum. As teachers strive to make technology work for students, high-end video editing applications have been among the first to find a home in classrooms. A spokesman for Atomic Learning, which offers online tutorials to familiarize teachers and students with numerous software products, said the company’s most popular tutorials of late have been the iMovie program for the Macintosh and Windows Movie Maker for the PC.

    Video on demand also is heating up as an educational tool. In an independent study commissioned by Discovery Education, the use of short video clips during instruction was found to increase students’ math scores in four Los Angeles middle schools. Results of the study, which were released at NECC, supported earlier research that showed the company’s “unitedstreaming” video solution also was effective in teaching science and social-studies concepts. (See Video on demand boosts students’ math scores.)

    To help more schools experience the same kinds of gains, Discovery Education has announced it will offer its unitedstreaming service at no cost to one school in every non-subscribing public school district in the United States during the 2004-2005 school year. According to the company, the service provides access to more than 2,200 full-length videos and 22,000 video clips correlated to individual state education standards.

    Interactive videoconferencing, another popular use of video in the classroom, has gained momentum from the push for more professional development and the fact that the infrastructure necessary for its use is largely covered by eRate funding. At NECC, Canon USA and Tandberg showcased high-end systems that enable districts to bridge physical distances between educators looking for more technology instruction and IT personnel who might not otherwise be able to visit the school on short notice. Tandberg’s newest product, a videoconferencing unit on wheels, allows schools to easily move the equipment from one classroom to another, enabling multiple teachers to employ distance learning.

    ISTE also weighed in on the topic of videoconferencing, releasing “Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms: A Program Development Guide.” The book, written by three educators with extensive videoconferencing experience, offers numerous best practices for the technology. It is available for purchase through ISTE’s online bookstore.

    Feeding off the popularity of video, interactive whiteboards were out in full force. SMART Technologies, Promethean, GTCO CalComp, Numonics Corp., Mimio, and Polyvision all demonstrated their latest incarnations of hardware that transforms the traditional classroom blackboard into a multimedia learning environment, complete with interactivity and other elements designed to engage a generation of children who have grown up with video games and other visually stimulating technology in their homes.

    Students as technology ‘mavens’

    Technology’s role in helping increase students’ enthusiasm for learning was particularly evident during a CoSN forum to announce the release of the Youth Technology Support Collaborative’s new “School Decision-Maker’s Guide to Student Technology Programs.” In this 20-page report, YTSC examines the emerging trend of students providing technology support and leadership in schools. The entire guide is available online at http://www.studenttechsupport.org.

    “When it comes to technology, students sometimes can know more than their teachers,” said Tim Magner, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology. “In many schools the technology ‘mavens’ are the kids themselves, and they are eager for opportunities to participate in the life of the school.”

    In a news conference detailing the report, YTSC presented five students, all from grades 5-8, who had spent the past school year in such programs.

    “I didn’t expect the program to be as rewarding as it turned out to be,” said Falan McKnight, an eighth-grader from Weir, Miss. “And I didn’t expect to learn everything that I learned.”

    “I was just surprised I could learn how to replace a power supply. I had never even seen the guts of a computer before,” said Kelly Lott, a sixth-grader from Purvis (Miss.) Middle School.

    McKnight, who took the course for a letter grade, recalled having to explain software to a science teacher multiple times because the teacher kept forgetting how to use it. She also said the experience brought her closer to the teachers, helping her realize her own value to the school. She noted that younger teachers were more comfortable with technology in their classrooms than their more experienced counterparts.

    Building a top-notch IT team

    Another major CoSN forum in New Orleans brought chief technology officers from several K-12 schools together to discuss their experiences with building their own IT teams and encouraging teachers to embrace technology.

    Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for technology at the Plano (Texas) Independent School District, urged his colleagues to focus on personnel issues and recognize that the effective use of technology in schools would largely depend on those charged with overseeing it.

    “Mediocre people are going to give you mediocre results,” said Hirsch. “Good is not an option here. You have to look for great people and find staff who take responsibility and want to help others.”

    Dave Richards, technology and information systems director for the Rochester, Mich., Community Schools, spoke on the importance of a CTO’s role in creating professional development programs and ensuring that adequate funding is available.

    “The real challenge for most of us is getting people to fund professional development,” Richards said. “Bond money pays for hardware, but not for training of teachers. It’s our job to do a needs assessment and make sure training opportunities are appropriate.”

    Although his IT staff was limited, Richards found that by enlisting several of Rochester’s most respected teachers as “technology coaches,” he was able to break down many barriers. Teachers who were previously reluctant to integrate technology into their curricula became more receptive to the idea when presented with esteemed colleagues who had made the leap themselves.

    Bringing about change

    Keynote speaker Malcolm Gladwell urged educators in New Orleans to use their social power. (Cara Branigan for eSchool News)

    Two of the convention’s keynote speakers also emphasized the valuable role technology plays in the learning process and the importance of having teachers who are comfortable with it.

    Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of The Tipping Point, was the opening keynote speaker. He described how a single event–a live broadcast of a $1 million prize fight in Jersey City in 1921 between Jack Dempsey and George Cartier–helped personal home radios take hold in U.S. society.

    “Change happens far more quickly than you can imagine,” Gladwell said, whether it’s getting radios into the mainstream or computers into classrooms. The fall of the Berlin Wall is another example.

    It’s not economic or political power that brings change, Gladwell said. It’s social power, and it’s social power alone that can “bring about change to education.”

    Most people have a social circle of about 35 people, but a few people, whom Gladwell calls “connectors,” have social circles in the hundreds. Connectors, he says, have social power because they connect one person to the next and spread ideas.

    “Unless you have social power, unless you have the ability to reach many, many people in many, many different worlds, then you don’t have the ability to make a difference, to make a social change,” Gladwell said.

    Gladwell tied his concept of social power to the unique relationship teachers have with their own colleagues as well as students. He told the audience that they need to help those who are overwhelmed and frustrated by technology.

    “You may not be the most powerfully connected people, you may not be the most wealthy, but you have social power,” Gladwell said. “If you use it wisely, you can bring about social change.”

    Peter Reynolds, the author-illustrator who is also founder and CEO of Fablevision, gave a rousing speech to end the convention, urging educators to get technology into the hands of children because it will stimulate their natural creativity. Reynolds told the story of how his own high school teacher in Toronto sparked his interest in math by encouraging him to apply his artistic talents to an animated film about a mathematical concept. Reynolds credited this teacher with changing his entire life, putting him on a path to educational story-telling that ultimately led to the 1996 founding of Fablevision.

    A strong advocate of school laptop programs, Reynolds demonstrated the wonders of a graphics tablet by drawing one of his popular animated characters for the several hundred members of the audience. He then showed a short film based on his children’s book The Dot, which tells the story of a young girl named Vashti who feels her artistic talent is limited to her ability to draw dots. Vashti’s teacher encourages her to hone her dot-drawing skills, and by the end of the story, the formerly disenchanted girl has become a respected artist who inspires other students at her school.

    Reynolds urged educators to think of his story as a model for student-teacher relationships. By encouraging young people to use technology in creative ways, they can raise their self-esteem and make them more excited about learning, he said.

    “Let’s put tests in perspective and bring back creativity,” he said. “Right now, computers are often used in unspectacular ways, like test prep and testing. They aren’t used to get kids to be creative. Let’s put the technology right in the kids’ hands and let them make their mark with it.”

    Links:

    National Educational Computing Conference

    International Society for Technology in Education

    Consortium for School Networking

    Awards

    ISTE handed out a number of awards during the course of the show. Major awards included:

    • The Sylvia Charp District Award, won by the Irving (Texas) Independent School District
    • The Kay L. Bitter Vision Award for Excellence in Technology-Based Pre-kindergarten Education, won by Linda Sprague of Whit Davis Elementary School in Davis, Ga.
    • The Affiliate Award for Outstanding Leader, won by Bill Simpson of San Diego (Calif.) County of Education
    • The Affiliate Award for Outstanding Teacher, won by Deborah Singer of Miami-Dade (Fla.) County Public Schools
    • The Multimedia Mania Award, won by Tolenas School in Fairfield, Calif., Percy Juan Middle School in Oak Park, Ill., and Jasper Place High School in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    • The SIGTE Research Paper Award, won by Melissa Pierson and Alysa McLachlan of the University of Houston
    • The SIGTel Online Learning Award, won by Karen Kliegman of Searingtown School in Albertson, N.Y.

    This eSchool News Online report on the 2004 NECC is made possible with financial support of Dell.

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