The Lawrence (Ky.) Journal-World reports that Kansas University (KU) is “making strides with technology” despite being left off Forbes Magazine’s list of the 25 most connected campuses. KU officials say they offer seven computers per 100 students, whereas KSU–which ranked 15th on the list–offers three per 100 students.
The Slidell (La.) Sentry-News reports that the St. Tammany Parish School Board, in Covington La., will reopen its 21st Century Learning Center Program thanks to a $2.5 million grant to continue the program for three more years. The program, which provides after-school technology programs, was stopped last summer when funds ran out.
The Baltimore Sun reports that online courses are enabling Maryland schools to offer students a broader range of courses. Students at South River High School in Edgewater, Md., for example, are studying macroeconomics from a teacher in Arizona. More than half of Maryland’s schools offer eLearning and nearly 200 students enrolled.
USA Today reports that more and more young people are investing and saving money at at an earlier age than their parents. One example cited is Chris Stallman, 21-year-old student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is running a web site called www.TeenAnalyst.com that teaches kids how to invest and manage their money.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that school bullies are increasingly using technologies like the web, cell phones, camera phones, blogs, eMails, and instant messaging to berate their peers. This kind of cyber bullying often goes undetected by teachers, parents and administrators, and in one example, a student hung himself because for two years his peers made fun of his weight and sexual orientation on a web site.
Educators who traveled to Denver for the 2004 National School Boards Association’s 2004 T+L² conference were treated to three days of tremendous optimism about technology’s future in learning.
From the bustling exhibit hall, where vendors touted many new solutions for challenges faced by schools, to a parade of featured speakers urging administrators to embrace the role of technology in a new learning paradigm, all signs indicated that the future will belong to school leaders willing to meet 21st century needs with 21st century approaches.
The mood at the Colorado Convention Center reflected the boost this event gave to both the NSBA and the T+L² organizers, who a few months ago had questioned the conference’s future. Not only will T+L2 be back in 2005, it will return to the same location where it enjoyed such success in 2004.
In the Oct. 29 closing session, NSBA president-elect Joan E. Schmidt announced that this year’s conference had drawn 2,300 paid registrants–a 77 percent increase from the lackluster 2003 event. T+L² also brought 1,300 exhibit personnel to Denver for a total attendance of 3,600 people.
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The three-day focus on educational technology almost made it easy to forget about the presidential campaign raging outside the hall in the battleground state of Colorado. Even though the Nov. 2 election’s outcome could have a profound effect on the future of education, talk in Denver did not center on politics but on a brighter future for students regardless of who wins the White House.
While the overall tone was positive, messages aimed at educators, particularly those in decision-making positions, were sober. Simply bringing technology into schools could never be enough, the lecturers agreed. Making a student’s education relevant to his or her world was the bottom line, and for the most tech-savvy generation in history, this would only be possible by stressing learning outcomes that require the use of technology.
The message was delivered one last time in a conference-ending speech by former Littleton (Colo.) Public Schools superintendent Cile Chavez. She reminded school leaders that they are the gatekeepers of children’s trust, and that they can’t afford to fail their students by delivering an outdated learning experience
|Apple Computer, one of four Platinum Sponsors, had a major presence at the T+L² conference.
(eSchool News photo by Dan David)
Chavez said educators must keep asking themselves key questions, and must work together to figure out what is best for those they instruct.
“Even with the advanced technology we have, we must remember to engage,” Chavez said.
Chavez noted that responsibility placed on educators is even greater today, because the wider society often seems to forget the value of education. She lamented that a recent issue of Time magazine examining “Visions of Tomorrow” left out education altogether while including subjects such as fashion and celebrities. Since educators are often “left out” of a wider cultural emphasis, the burden falls on them to remain focused on the importance of their task.
“The key question is what do we do now with what we know?” Chavez said. “School leaders must make manifest a compelling sense of purpose. Of all we could do, we have to ask ourselves ‘what must we do?'”
Calling on her audience to rethink the meaning of learning, Chavez reminded them that most people seek only two things–to be deemed good and to do something significant with their lives. Only educators can simultaneously transform a young human being in both areas, and to do that, they must maximize the potential of technology. Viewed only as a tool, technology could not possibly play a role in true learning.
“We can foster the goodness of children and inspire their genius,” Chavez said. “This is more than teaching automation. This has everything to do with transformation.”
Echoing several other T+L2 speakers, Chavez said it was time to really listen to students because, in many cases, they had as much knowledge about technology as their teachers. Stifling students’ voices would be counterproductive at best.
“Let’s stop doing the very things that impede learning,” she urged. “Let’s stop doing the things that we did 50 years ago.”
Prior to Chavez’s speech, a group of K-12 students showed just how much they knew about technology as they presented winning entries in the NSBA/Apple Computer MovieFest competition. As part of the competition, students across the U.S. were challenged to produce 60-second public service announcements that demonstrated the need for more technology in schools.
Student-produced films demonstrated how the world has changed. In one film, a youngster struggled with Wite-Out and erasers as he wrote a paper, while a classmate breezed through the same exercise using word-processing software. In another film, a high school student’s back was crushed by the weight of books in his backpack, while another was able to transport massive amounts of learning materials on his small, handheld computer.
The week’s final Technology Leadership Network Salute was presented by Ann Flynn, director of NSBA’s Education Technology program, to Colorado Springs District 11. Terry Bishop, the district’s deputy superintendent in charge of technology, noted how his team helped increase graduation rates by 3.8 percent. Successful programs in Colorado Springs included a digital school at a local shopping mall and a student-produced cable television channel. He also noted the long-term success of an early decision to turn each school’s librarian into a resident technology expert.
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Integrating technology into the curriculum and ensuring there is sufficient money to achieve that goal are the top two ed-tech challenges facing the nation’s school districts, according to a survey by the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
Forty-six percent of survey respondents say integrating technology into classroom instruction is the biggest challenge, while 47 percent say it is technology funding. Six percent say closing the digital divide is their biggest technology challenge.
NSBA released the survey findings at its annual T+L2 Conference in Denver Oct. 27. The group conducted an eMail survey of about 2,000 conference registrants, who include technology specialists, teachers, administrators, and school board members. More than 900 registrants replied to the survey. (For complete T+L2 coverage, see the eSN Conference Information Center online at http://www.eschoolnews.com/cic.)
“The people who answered our survey and attend our conference are among the most resourceful technology leaders in the country. They are telling us they need money for infrastructure improvements, to hire technology coordinators, and provide professional development to better incorporate technology in the classroom,” said Anne Bryant, NSBA’s executive director.
“They are doing an excellent job today, but they are also telling us they could do an even better job if they had additional resources.”
More than 65 percent of the survey respondents said the federal eRate program has been either very important or somewhat important in helping their school set and meet technology goals. Twenty-two percent say they do not participate in the program.
“This clearly is a ringing endorsement for eRate,” said Bryant. “If you use the program, you love it.”
But according to her association’s survey, the love affair is rocky. Respondents expressed concern over the Federal Communications Commission’s action to suspend new grants from the eRate program: 45 percent say the action has affected their district. In response to how the FCC action has affected their district, 61 percent of those say they are unable to budget for next year, and 32 percent say they are unable to use their district’s eRate discounts to cover other critical education costs.
“The people on the front line of technology in our schools tell us how important the eRate is to our students and how much the delay in distributing commitment letters hurts,” said Bryant, who is also on the board of directors for the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the eRate. “We need to make sure this program gets back on track as quickly as possible.”
Nearly 63 percent of respondents report their school district’s K-12 curriculum is good or excellent in preparing students for the 21st-century workplace. Almost 68 percent say that new teachers entering the classroom are better prepared now than in the past to effectively integrate technology into the classroom.
But access to the internet during after-school hours continues to be a serious problem for low-income students, the survey found, and most school districts face difficulties in closing that gap.
About 70 percent of those who responded to the survey say that home access to the internet is a problem for low-income students in their districts. Donating computers and supporting community-center access for students are the two most often cited ways to address the issue, according to the survey. But nearly 40 percent of technology leaders say their districts have not yet taken any steps to close the gap at home.
“We have seen a gradual closing of the digital divide between low-income and wealthier students in the classroom, to a level where only six percent of our survey respondents call it the biggest challenge they face,” said Bryant. “But we have to work together to find ways for all students to have web access after school, on weekends, and during school vacation. Schools, libraries, and community centers must collaborate to make this happen.”
Some of the technology leaders who were surveyed say they are exploring wireless access as a way to close the gap. Other steps being taken include providing internet access before and after school for students, keeping the media center open in the evening, and working with business and government officials to provide low-cost access to students.
National School Boards Association
The New York Times reports that, thanks to the technology-transfer law of 1980, more and more universities cashing in on “research breakthroughs” by turning them into commercial ventures. Students from the University of Arizona, for example, successfully developed and sold a business plan to Optica Technologies Inc. for a medical device developed at the university that detects shaken-baby syndrome by scanning a child’s eye.
The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports that technology-infused curriculum must keep pace with children’s reality. Schools, such as Putnam Elementary School of Science, assume today’s students have used computers since they were toddlers and are not teaching basic computer skills. “It’s not like when we were kids and learning on a typewriter,” one teacher said.
The LSU Reveille, Louisiana State University’s student newspaper, reports that many of its professors are struggling to use the new technologies being installed in classrooms. Students report the teachers waste class time calling in technicians for help. Technological workshops are available to faculty, but workshop organizers say, not many professors are aware of them.