More than 450 companies were at this year’s NECC displaying their technology solutions for educators. Here are some of the highlights related to online learning products and research studies released at the show:
Connections Academy, which partners with states and districts to provide virtual learning programs, has added two completely online courses for math and music to its curriculum. Connections Academy’s program differs from other virtual school programs in that, although the education happens away from a traditional school building, the entire curriculum and educational experience is not tied to a computer.
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NECC roundup: CEOs get behind ed-tech
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The North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL), which represents more than 180 K-12 schools and companies that offer online learning, said it is currently establishing a quality review committee that will develop and give a seal of approval to commercial content providers. The group also is working with a number of partners–including the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, ISTE, Apple, and Microsoft–to create a guide for how to be an online teacher. The new guide will provide “a baseline competency that we want to promote in the online classroom,” said Tim Stroud, NACOL’s executive director.
Ed-tech provider CDW-G released the results of its “Teachers Talk Tech” study. The scientifically based survey, which had a 95-percent confidence level, found that a large percentage of U.S. teachers still struggle to integrate computers into their classrooms despite their own belief in the value of educational technology. While 96 percent of teachers own a computer at home, and 93 percent feel computers are useful in classrooms, only 22 percent said they have had adequate training in the use of computers as a teaching tool. In addition, 51 percent reported outdated hardware was a problem in their schools, and 48 percent indicated they did not have enough time in their day to become skilled with the equipment and software. In addition, CDW-G announced that Colman-Eagan School in Colman, S.D., had won the grand prize in its “Win a Wireless Lab” sweepstakes program, conducted in partnership with Discovery Education. The contest drew more than 59,000 entries, and the winning submission came from Colman-Egan library assistant Gail Scriver. Thanks to Scriver’s efforts, the South Dakota K-12 school now boasts a $40,000 IBM wireless computer lab for use by its 300 students.
Educational Testing Service (ETS), the world’s largest private educational testing and measurement organization, was in New Orleans talking about the recently-issued “Digital Leadership Divide” report commissioned by CoSN. ETS, which helped fund the study, said it conclusively found that strong leadership is the single biggest key to the effective use of technology in schools. (See “Study: Leadership is key to ed-tech success,”.) ETS also pointed to a more ominous warning: that students might be left unprepared for technology in higher education and the workplace. ETS says its own research has shown that if educators truly want to use technology to improve teaching and learning, technology must be integrated into the daily life of the classroom. The company called for sustained, high-quality professional development for teachers, something ETS contended is currently not receiving much attention. ETS also was at NECC to showcase its dynamic classroom tools, including the online writing evaluation program Criterion and the classroom assessment program Discourse.
This eSchool News Online report on the 2004 NECC is made possible with financial support of Dell.