Bullying migrates to the web and cell phones

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.


Online learning expands options for Maryland’s students

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.


Funding, integration top tech challenges

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


La. district gets $2.5M grant to reopen 21st Century Learning Centers

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.


Number of young adults who invest is rising

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.


All eyes on learning right to end of T+L&#178

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.

Related T+L² stories:
  • Day 1 roundup

  • Day 2 roundup
  • 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.


    eSchool News Conference Information Center

    NSBA T+L2 site


    Forbes Magazine’s tech list snubs Kansas University

    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.


    Researchers tap business school students to sell inventions

    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.


    School board considers establishing a student database

    The Sentinel, of Carlisle, Pa., reports that the Mechanicsburg Area School Board may vote Nov. 9 to spend nearly $80,000 on a system for managing student data. Many school districts across Pennsylvania reportedly have had better control of student data and flexibility to customize their data storage thanks to data management systems.


    Speakers call for creative approaches

    A clear theme began to emerge Thursday at the National School Boards Association’s T+L² conference in Denver–school technology has come a long way, but it is time to take the next step.

    Thursday’s agenda featured two speakers who hammered home this theme in a pair of inspiring lectures that raised key questions about the future of technology in schools.

    Sir Ken Robinson, Senior Adviser to the President of the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles, gave the day’s opening keynote speech. An expert in developing creativity and former education professor at Great Britain’s Warwick University, Robinson was knighted in 2003 for his service to the arts. He showed the T+L² why he deserved this honor, and why he was honored as Europe’s business speaker of the year, with a memorable 40-minute presentation that mixed first-rate stand-up comedy with deep insight.

    Ian Jukes, speaking at the day’s Showcase Luncheon, also combined wit with a clear passion for learning. During his high-energy presentation, which lasted 65 minutes, Jukes directed forceful words at education leaders, all but pleading with them to re-evaluate the role of technology in their schools and ensure that individual student learning remained the focus, regardless of the high-tech equipment used.

    It seemed more than a coincidence that Robinson and Jukes’ lectures built on a thread in Wednesday’s keynote speech by MIT professor Michael Hawley and in another presentation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Susan Patrick, who was in Denver to outline the national education technology plan. Both Hawley and Patrick urged their audiences to recognize that today’s world is fundamentally different from that of previous generations, and that the very nature of education must change with the times–keeping the focus on the learner and emphasizing real-world relevance in curriculum-related choices.

    Robinson wasted no time making this same point. He began by discussing what he called a “hierarchy in schools”–in which languages and math are at the top of the pyramid, towering over science, the humanities and, lastly, the arts. Noting that no country teaches dance on a daily basis, he complained that schools are still only educating people from the neck up.

    Questioning the lack of emphasis on arts and physical education, Robinson pointed out that many societies associate a subject’s relevance with its potential economic benefit. In mainstream Western culture, the arts are scorned, he said, because of the perception that there is no money in them for anyone but truly gifted people. As a result, the notion of creativity becomes separated from, and less valued than, the concept of intelligence–even though creativity is just as important and is often what drives the greatest human achievements.

    Robinson pointed to a British study in which 1,600 children between the ages of 3 and 5 were tested for their level of “genius.” In this age group, 98 percent of the children qualified as geniuses. Three years later, in the same test, only 32 percent of the same group were still classified at the genius level. By high school, only 10 percent retained this status, and when 200,000 25-year-olds took the test, only 2 percent qualified. Robinson blamed this phenomenon on schools.

    “We are inhibiting the capacity for original thinking in schools,” Robinson said. Our present education system was invented in the 19th century and designed for an industrial economy. But this is no longer an economy in which 80 percent of the workers are performing manual labor, and those with a college degree are no longer guaranteed a job.”

    The phenomenon of “academic inflation” has become so great, Robinson said, that he recently talked to an employer who was only interested in hiring “somebody with a good Ph.D.”

    “What’s next on this spiral?” Robinson asked. “Will you need to have a Nobel prize?”

    In the next 100 years, however, Robinson noted that it will be crucial for Americans to educate young people for the post-Industrial Revolution, because the jobs for which students have long been trained–and which form the basis of most curricula–are moving to Asia.

    Robinson concludes that it is therefore time for American educators to recognize that intelligence is diverse, and creativity should be encouraged, rather than stifled under the weight of outdated thinking. As for technology in schools, he sees a bright future. He urged education leaders to find and use high-tech tools that bring creativity out of their students, which inevitably would lead to breaking away from a limiting educational model.

    “We must first do away with the hierarchy of subjects. And we must recognize that technology is not just some add-on to an existing curriculum. It is a means by which the future will be created.”

    Robinson received a standing ovation for his remarks. Jukes was also well-received, although he went a step further in challenging his audience to finally deliver the “long-awaited technology revolution in education.” Jukes insisted that most schools have failed in their efforts to recognize the value of the technology on which they spend so much money.

    “The value and place of technology is still being questioned,” Jukes said. “Why is that? Why is it that schools lag in the use of these tools?”

    Jukes cited considerable research that backs up claims of technology’s power in school buildings, but he faulted school leaders for failing to understand bigger picture.

    “The use of technology is still largely on the periphery. Technology is not transforming learning.”

    Why are schools failing to maximize their technology investments? Jukes argues that our society continues to look for a cause-and-effect relationship between the presence of technology in schools and the improvement in test scores-a relationship that by itself does not exist. At the same time, he faulted educators who scorn technology for threatening traditional learning tools, including books.

    “I respect their opinion, but they are wrong,” Jukes exclaimed. “Our living in a technology-rich society is a reality. … It is an undeniable fact that the world has changed.”

    Jukes pointed to three levels of technology in education. The first level, known as the Literacy Level, focuses on technical skills such as keyboarding and mastering specific software packages. Jukes said most U.S. schools have never gone beyond this level.

    The second level, known as the Integration Level, works technology into a traditional curriculum. At this level, a student might effectively use the internet to research a paper, or use a spreadsheet program to produce a report. While the Integration Level is a step in the right direction, it is not enough for Jukes.

    “The question should be if I take the technology away, will the learning and teaching be the same?”

    Jukes encouraged educators to strive for the highest level of technology in schools, the Transformation Level. In this framework, the focus is on targeting learning outcomes that can’t be achieved without the use of present-day technology. He gave one example of students instructed to recommend a travel destination for an upcoming weekend. These students would go to the internet and research the available options. They would then use the internet and spreadsheets software to predict and compare the weather in each city. Their ultimate achievement of the assigned task would come from a sequence of activities not even possible for previous generations.

    The key would be learning by doing. Technology would be part of the experience of learning.

    “Am I teaching technology in this situation?” Jukes asked. “Yes, I am. … And no, I am not.”

    Jukes also called for professional development models that instruct teachers to learn with technology in similar fashion, because most teachers would only be able to instruct others in the way they were themselves instructed.

    Through two days at the Colorado Convention Center, the speakers’ message was clear: Truly serving young people will require having the courage to acknowledge that because of technology, they live in a brave new world which requires brave new educational models.

    T+L² news from the NSBA:

    The NSBA, host of T+L², has used its annual conference to make a number of important announcements. Among these are the results of the NSBA Technology Survey conducted through the NSBA Technology Leadership Network. Nearly 1,000 superintendents, educational technology and curriculum directors, principals, teachers, and school board members were polled. Among other things, the survey found:

    • 80.4 percent of those surveyed said technology has made students more engaged in their own learning.

    • 47.2 percent listed funding as the biggest technology-related obstacle faced by their districts, while 45.7 percent saw the ability to adequately integrate that technology in the classroom as the biggest hurdle.

    • Only 63.3 percent of those surveyed thought their districts were doing at least a “good” job preparing students for the world they face. Only 13 percent felt their districts were doing an excellent job.

    • 67.4 percent thought the newest generation of teachers is more capable than their predecessors when it comes to integrating technology into curricula.

    • 37.1 percent said eRate funding was “very important” for meeting technology goals, while 27.2 percent said it was “somewhat important.” And 45 percent said they are already being affected by the eRate moratorium, with the majority saying they are unable to budget for the 2005-06 school year.

    On Thursday, the NSBA and theCenter for Digital Education announced the culmination of a joint survey to examine how school boards are applying technology and the school boards that ranked in the top 10. Rankings are available at the following link:


    Board members from the top 10 boards explained why they made the leap to going digital. Among those responding was Nancy Roche of Forsyth County, Ga., whose school board finished sixth overall.

    “When we had kindergartners giving PowerPoint presentations at a School Board meeting, we decided it was time to lead them by example, not the other way around, so we decided to move toward technology,” Roche said.”