More than 500 ed-tech companies exhibited at this year’s National Educational Computing Conference in Philadelphia. Here’s a sampling of news from the exhibitors promoting grants, contests, and information derived from studies:

CDW-G and Discovery Education announced the three winners of the companies’ “Win a Wireless Lab” sweepstakes. Ellsworth High School in Ellsworth, Kan., Ruth Moyer Elementary School in Fort Thomas, Ky., and Sheyenne Valley Career and Technology Center in Valley City, N.D. were picked as grand-prize winners from more than 78,000 entrants. The winning schools will receive wireless labs that include 20 IBM notebooks with three Cisco access points, 20 Toshiba tablet PCs with three Netgear access points, or 20 Sony notebooks with three Proxim access points. Each grand-prize package also includes a Bretford mobile notebook cart that will allow the notebooks to be transported from one classroom to another, a Hewlett-Packard laser printer, an InFocus projector, and an APC back-up unit. The total value for each grand prize is more than $40,000, the companies said.

Dell Inc., in partnership with Microsoft Corp., has launched a search to find the top K-12 education visionaries in the country. Selected by a panel of distinguished judges, the winners each will receive $250,000 in technology and services for their schools to help them achieve their educational vision. The program calls for educators to submit essays detailing how technology could transform education and help their students prepare for the future. Winners will be announced at Dell’s Global Education Day in early 2006, where they will be given the opportunity to share their vision of education and technology with education stakeholders from around the world.

The Visionary Award is part of a larger program the companies also launched during NECC, called FutureReady. This Dell-Microsoft collaboration is designed to help students reach their full potential through technology in the classroom. The companies are providing several ways for schools and communities to participate in FutureReady, from the Visionary Award to a Mobile Computer Lab Contest to a Dell Intelligent Classroom Sweepstakes. For a complete description of FutureReady criteria, rules, and regulations, and to submit an entry, educators should visit Submissions will be accepted online beginning this fall, and applicants will have until mid-November to apply. No purchase or entry fee is required.

Hewlett-Packard Co. announced awards of $2.1 million in Technology for Teaching Leadership grants. As part of the program, 25 schools in the U.S. and Canada received wireless technology, cash, and professional development for successfully integrating HP technology in their classroom curriculum and demonstrating measurable positive impact on student achievement. The winners9who were honored during a special ceremony at the conference9will receive a mobile cart equipped with 15 HP Tablet PCs, a wireless HP digital projector, and an HP digital camera, which can be moved throughout the school for use in any classroom. Additional equipment also is being donated for the use of three new teachers and administrators joining each school’s HP Technology for Teaching team. Teams will participate in a customized, mentored professional development program led by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The “ISTE Institute: Leading with NETS” program, of which HP was a founding sponsor in 2003, will give school teams the opportunity to develop their leadership for effective use of technology at a systemic level in their school or district, expanding the impact of the HP grants to even more students.

Also at the conference, HP introduced a new consumer desktop PC lineup complete with expanded features, lower prices, and one full year of technical support. In addition, select models of the desktops available through HP’s configure-to-order program offer the option of AMD Athlon 64 X2 or Intel Pentium D dual-core processors. According to the company, dual-core processors enable true multitasking: Busy students or other users can simultaneously burn a CD, check eMail, edit a digital photo, and run virus protection.

Other highlights of the company’s new PCs include models with the Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system available at a lower price, a Google toolbar integrated into Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, security features in HP Organize and Compaq Organize, and PC Tune up, which consists of free online classes, demos, and step-by-step instructions to help customers keep their computers running smoothly, the company said. In addition, bundled HP ImageZone software offers a complete digital photography solution, while LightScribe direct disc-labeling technology enables consumers to burn CD and DVD labels using the computer’s recordable drive. The desktops also include one full year of HP support. In June, the company’s support received an “excellent” rating in a survey of the high-tech industry by the Customer Respect Group (CRG), an international research and consulting firm.

“Students and families are demanding more bang for their PC buck, whether it’s a tricked-out Media Center PC in the dorm or a value-priced second PC for the home,” said Mark Sanchez, vice president of North America Consumer Computing for HP. HP’s new consumer desktop PC lineup includes a wide range of HP Pavilion, Media Center, and Presario machines. More information about available features, configurations, pricing, and specifications is available at

Macromedia disclosed data from a national study suggesting that adapting to changes in technology requires not only knowing how to use technological tools, but the ability to use those tools to express oneself creatively. The company also announced the availability of Macromedia Breeze 5, an online conferencing and collaborative web communications tool. In addition, Macromedia announced the winners of its 2005 Macromedia Innovation Award Program for K-12 Education. Winning entries all showcase excellence in digital communication for teaching and learning. Each first-place winner received $2,000 in cash and a copy of Macromedia Studio MX 2004 with Flash Professional software.

Polycom announced its newly enhanced Grant Assistance Program (GAP), designed to guide grant writers and coordinators with the grant application process. The program will track more than 24 primary grant and funding sources and will perform searches on thousands of lesser-known grant resources. GAP also offers complimentary consulting assistance, one-on-one advice, and an online funding guide and resource newsletter.

The Reading Pen Group announced grants for innovative and effective uses of Readingpen devices in K-12 and higher-education institutions. The K-12 Grant will help pioneering educators who want to use the company’s Readingpen in creative ways to improve students’ reading skills. The Higher Education Grant is designed to support innovative uses of Readingpen at the college or university level for teacher professional development or research. With the Readingpen, a portable, pocket-sized technology tool, students are encouraged to discover the meaning of words rather than skipping over them. As students scan the device over an unfamiliar word, they hear the word’s pronunciation and definition. Each grant is worth $1,000 in Readingpen devices, the company said.

Serious Magic introduced the “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” contest for educators. Participating educators will get a free, 90-day trial version of Visual Communicator 2 Pro software to create a video of how they spent their summer vacation. In mid-October, winners reportedly will receive thousands of dollars in prizes and equipment for their schools, and the grand-prize winner reportedly will be awarded a complete “News Studio” to enable students and educators to create video presentations or an entire newscast. Among the many prizes are a camcorder and a Serious Magic Software Suite, the company said.

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