$80,000 for scientific education

The American Honda Foundation Grants Program is accepting proposals form organizations working in the areas of youth and scientific education. The foundation defines “youth” as pre-natal through 21 years of age. “Scientific education” includes physical and life sciences, mathematics, and the environmental sciences.


Survey maps software expectations

Educators and technology vendors agree on the need to define a clear vision, priorities, and goals when implementing software in schools–but they disagree on the duration of on-site tech support that should be provided to make this happen, according to a recent survey.

The survey by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) found many agreements but also some key differences in what educators and vendors view as the most important elements to a successful software implementation. SIIA says its survey is illuminating for both buyers and sellers of school technology, and the group has created a set of guidelines for how educators can ensure the success of future software projects, based on the survey’s results (see sidebar).

For its survey, SIIA polled some 40 educators and an equal number of software vendors in February and March. Complete results of the survey won’t be available until May, but educators got a preview of the results at the Florida Educational Technology Conference last week.

Karen Billings, vice president of SIIA’s education division, said it was “heartening” to see so many points of agreement between educators and vendors, suggesting that the two sides are largely on the same page when it comes to implementing software.

For instance, both camps agree that successful software planning begins with educators and vendors articulating a clear vision, purpose, and goals for the software’s use, and with schools designating a single point person to oversee the project. Educators and vendors also agree it’s “very important” for the vendor to clearly communicate the requirements needed for a successful software implementation–including any necessary technical specifications–and to provide on-site support for the initial rollout.

But the two sides disagree on the importance of testing the software in the actual setting in which it will be used. They also disagree on how long the vendor should provide ongoing, on-site technical support: Vendors speak in terms of days and months, while educators talk in terms of years.

Nearly 90 percent of educators called testing the product in the environment in which it will be used “very important,” while only half of software vendors agreed–and 14 percent said it was “not very important.”

“Educators want to make sure the product works in their circumstances; they are more skeptical than vendors,” said Billings in explaining the results to conference attendees.

Those in the audience agreed.

“There’s a constant mantra by vendors: ‘Well, it works everywhere else–I don’t know why it doesn’t work for you,'” noted one frustrated educator, who added that each school’s technology needs and environment are different, and vendors should recognize this when selling their products to schools. The message from educators to vendors: Be prepared to test your software on site before it goes “live,” and you’ll cut down on the time it takes to implement the system.

Another disconnect came over ongoing tech support. Both educators and vendors agree that off-site support (by phone or internet) should be provided for the life of the product–but on-site support was a different matter. Forty-five percent of educators, but just 10 percent of vendors, said on-site support should be provided for a period of “years.” The results were essentially reversed when the on-site support period was described in terms of “days,” with 41 percent of vendors, but just 16 percent of educators opting for the briefer period.

“This is a large school district,” one survey respondent reportedly said. “Our educators have varying degrees of knowledge of technology use. Without local support, many technology implementations flounder, even with the best planning.”

There was a similar disconnect over the importance of round-the-clock tech support. Forty-six percent of vendors–but only 3 percent of educators–think 24-7 help-desk support is “not very important” to the maintenance phase of software implementation.

Educators also expect more vendor involvement in software training than vendors expect for themselves. A majority of educators said it is “very important” for vendors to provide in-person training, while fewer than 40 percent of vendors agreed.

“The biggest challenge to implementation is usually a lack of adequate training or time for training,” one respondent said.

For educators, the survey results point to the need to “align expectations where there is disagreement” with vendors, SIIA said in its summary of the results. The group said its “Guidelines for Successful Software Implementation” offer a good starting point for such discussions.

After May 1, educators can get additional information about the survey and guidelines at http://www.siia.net/education.


Software and Information Industry Association


$1,500 to help social studies teachers enrich education

This award aims to help a social studies educator make his or her dream of innovative social studies become reality. The grants will be given to help classroom teachers in developing and implementing imaginative, innovative, and illustrative social studies teaching strategies, and also to help educators support student implementation of innovative social studies, citizenship projects, field experiences, and community connections.


Tool Factory awards $3,700 in prizes to five winners

Tool Factory has chosen the five grant winners from its Fall 2005 Tool Factory/Olympus Classroom Grant program. More than 1900 applications were received. $3,700 in prizes will be awarded to each of the five grant winners, including three FE-130 Olympus Digital Cameras worth $600, $500 in cash, 30 Tool Factory Digital Camera Basics books, and $2,000 in Tool Factory software. Winners are: Karen Schulz from Wildwood Middle School in Wildwood, Mo.; Donna Sacco from Arlington Traditional School in Arlington, Va.; Andrea Swink and Caroline Demarkis from Park Ridge Elementary School in Stafford, Va.; Julie Sparrow from Edmondson Elementary School in Brentwood, Tenn.; and Michael Heu from Crawford Educational Complex  School of Law and Business in San Diego, Calif.


$22,500 from Inspiration for educators who use visual learning

Thirty educators from seven countries were chosen as the winners of Inspiration Software’s 2006 Inspired Teacher Scholarships for Visual Learning program. The program, in its eighth year, supports professional development activities for educators in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities who champion the integration of visual learning and technology into the curriculum. This year’s applicants included technology coordinators, school library media specialists, college and university faculty members, and elementary, middle, and high school teachers from throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand. The winners receive $750 professional development grants.


Welcome to ASCD 2006

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s (ASCD) Annual Conference and Exhibit Show begins Saturday, April 1, at the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill. More than 600 sessions will allow attendees to explore ideas in education, examine new developments in content areas or grade levels, and expand professional development learning.

ASCD said more than 13,000 educators are expected to attend the three-day event, which will feature sessions presented by nationally known consultants and academicians on a wide variety of topics, including No Child Left Behind, teacher leadership, worldwide learning, technology, closing the achievement gap, and What Works in Schools.

The theme for this year’s conference is "Constructing the Future, Challenging the Past: Excellence in Learning, Teaching, and Leadership," and different topic strands include learning and teaching, leadership and organizational development, and policy and advocacy.

The learning and teaching area will focus on how to improve reading and writing in content areas, how to integrate the arts and technology across the curriculum, and fostering a worldwide perspective, and much more.

Leadership and organizational development topics include preparing and sustaining quality educators, learning how to build leadership capacity and efficacy, how to capitalize on the potential of technology, and increasing diversity among educational leaders.

During discussions on policy and advocacy, conference attendees will focus on how to encourage and apply effective advocacy skills, how to build strategic partnerships to influence policy, and how to challenge mediocrity.

The conference’s Saturday opening general session, "Growing a Mind: What We Are Learning About Learning Should Influence What We Are Teaching About Teaching," will be delivered by Mel Levine, co-founder of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit institute that helps struggling students.

During his session, Levine will give an overview of recent discoveries about the "wiring" of children’s minds. In addition, he will update participants on new advances in the understanding of learning, variations in brain performance, and the risks involved in labeling students.

Bonnie St. John, a leadership coach, speaker, and author, will deliver a second general session speech, "Keeping the Winning Spirit," on Sunday. St. John will offer up personal stories to challenge attendees to break through to new levels of performance in all circumstances.

Other speakers include education specialist Sarita Brown will offer strategies to accelerate success for Latino students, lecturer Carl Glickman will provide insight into the deeper problems causing the achievement gap, and education reformer Deborah Meier will focus on schools as a model of democracy and learning.

Various sessions include the annual ASCD Outstanding Young Educator Award, which is given to an educator who has advanced excellence and equity in teaching and learning, "Closing the Achievement Gap Through Postsecondary Education," in which a panel will discuss practical guides and new models to encourage students to stay in school, and during "Ten Trends You Cannot Afford to Ignore," presenters will discuss trends that will shape educational delivery systems of the future and the implications for schools.




U.S. retakes lead in info tech rankings

The Associated Press reports that Singapore has ceded the lead to the United States in exploiting information and communications technology. According to the World Economic Forum’s “networked readiness index,” this is the third time in five years that the United States has topped the rankings. The index weighs factors such as the quality of math and science education, as well as Internet and telephone pricing. The United State’s performance was also helped by extensive cooperation between research bodies and business and the ready availability of venture capital…


Study: Tech responsible for lack of sleep

The Monterey Herald reports that a recent study found that teenagers are getting less sleep than they used to, and that technology is to blame. According to Jodi A. Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, computers, cell phones, televisions, and video games are keeping teenagers awake when they should be sleeping. Because of all the distractions in the bedroom, more than a quarter of high school students fall asleep in class, while 14 percent don’t make it in to school on time. Nearly all of the youths in the survey had one gadget in their bedroom, while 39 percent of 12th graders studied had more than four electronic gadgets in their bedroom. Aside from lowered test scores and attendance, lack of sleep can cause health problems in addition to dangerous driving habits…


Students laud state laptop initiative

The Associated Press reports that students and educators alike are lauding New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s initiative to provide laptop computers to the state’s seventh graders. However, an audit has discovered flaws in the plan’s implementation. Over three years, over 5,000 laptop computers have been purchased at a cost of $6.7 million. The Legislative Finance Committee estimated that if every seventh grader was provided with a laptop, it would cost about $35 million a year, but the committee questioned the cost of the computers and whether they are being integrated properly into the classroom…


New site offers research, guidance to promote high school improvement


The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has announced the creation of a new web site for its National High School Center, a U.S. Department of Education-funded entity that serves as a central source of in-depth knowledge, expertise, and analysis on high school improvement. The High School Center works to identify research-supported programs and tools that can improve high school teaching and administration to better help all students learn. It also aims to develop user-friendly products and technical assistance services to help states implement these programs and tools, drawing on AIR’s extensive experience operating national technical assistance centers, as well as the knowledge gained by the organization through conducting large-scale evaluations of prominent high school reform efforts. The center’s tools and findings now are available on its web site, AIR said.