The past year brought a number of important developments affecting users of school technology. And, while larger issues–such as the presidential campaign and its impact on ed tech, or the sudden halt of eRate funding earlier this year–dominated the headlines and perhaps carried more overall significance, several other stories captured readers’ attention enough to pass them along to their colleagues. Here are the top 10 most recommended eSchool News stories of 2004, according to our readers:

10. Student deserves ‘A’ for homework-ware

For class credit, a Canadian high school student created a web-based homework management system that allows students to hand-in assignments electronically. He now is offering the service to schools across North America at no charge …

9. CoSN profiles ‘must-have’ technologies

Datacasting, radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, student web logs (blogs), and intelligent essay graders are among a dozen technologies likely to emerge as must-have solutions in the nation’s schools, according to a report unveiled Nov. 3 by the Washington, D.C.-based Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) …

8. Tech-savvy schools reclaim millions

San Diego is one of dozens of school systems nationwide reportedly benefiting from the use of new technology designed to track, monitor, record, and report on the delivery of special-education services. Not only do these electronic tools promise to reduce dramatically the amount of paper pushed across administrators’ desks on a daily basis, but some say the technology also is helping foot the bill for special-needs children–giving schools a much more efficient means of applying for and collecting millions of dollars in state-provided Medicaid reimbursements …

7. ED gives preview of new ed-tech plan

Student data management, online assessment, and eLearning will be key objectives in the next national educational technology plan presented to Congress by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), according to Susan Patrick, director of the department’s Office of Educational Technology …

6. Schools, colleges flock to Internet2

Move over internet: Internet2 has arrived. According to a bi-annual survey presented to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Oct. 6, more than 25,000 K-12 schools, libraries, and museums in 34 states have graduated to the super-fast internet backbone, which works at a hundred times the speed of the fastest T1 line …

5. Studies validate laptop programs in U.S., Canada

Two recent studies of schoolwide one-to-one computing initiatives–one in the United States and one in Canada–suggest that using laptops in the classroom can help improve students’ writing skills and bolster overall academic success. The studies come as an increasing number of states and school districts are rolling out laptop programs of their own …

4. Bookshare.org offers 17,000 royalty-free digital texts

For special-education teachers, providing required reading for blind and learning-disabled students is a significant challenge. Now, thanks to the aid of Bookshare.org, a nonprofit digital book service based in Palo Alto, Calif., educators have access to a library of thousands of titles they can download and reproduce for use on screen readers or as MP3 files for as little as $6 per text …

3. ED unveils new educator training site

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) on Oct. 5 unveiled a new professional development web site for teachers and administrators. Its architects hope the free resource–built by teachers for teachers–will encourage the use of proven classroom strategies and provide more effective ways of using data to improve instruction in the nation’s schools …

2. Textbooks dumped in favor of laptops

No textbooks? No problem. A revolutionary new high school outside Tucson, Ariz., plans to do away with the bulky, hardcover tomes altogether in favor of laptop computers, making it one of the first schools in the nation to abandon the use of traditional textbooks for the educational value of the internet …

1. Video on demand boosts students’ math scores

Short video clips that reinforce key concepts are effective in increasing student achievement, according to a second research project. An earlier study found that video can improve learning in science and social studies. Now, brand-new research shows that judiciously selected video clips also can produce statistically significant gains in algebra and geometry scores …