Alabama expands distance-ed program

The Montgomery Advisor reports that by next spring, approximately 10,000 Alabama students will be participating in classes where they will see their teacher on a video screen instead of face-to-face. On Wednesday, Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced that 20 more schools will participate in the named “ACCESS” (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators & Students Statewide). Currently, 24 schools already participate. Student participation in the program will jump from 4,500 to 10,000 with the additional school participation. ACCESS enables students to enroll in courses at other locations that are outfitted with the technology. School employees would serves as facilitators in the remote classrooms…


Teens use tech skills to open doors

The Boston Globe reports that thanks to the ingenuity of some students at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, a student with cerebral palsy will be able to access her locker just as quickly as other students. Normally, lockers at the school require a key. However in less than two months, four students developed a remote control that automatically slides the bolt from the locker door. For good measure, the students also provided the student with an ergonomic key in the event that the remote’s batteries die. The device was highlighted at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell’s Assistive Technology Design Fair–a noncompetitive event that promotes engineering experience by tackling projects with the aim of helping people with disabilities…


$790M in grants target ‘high-need’ subjects

Beginning July 1, the nation’s students will have $790 million in new incentives to keep up their grades and study “high-demand” subjects such as math, science, engineering, technology, and certain foreign languages. To help keep U.S. students on par with students across the world when it comes to their performance and interest in these fields, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is launching two new student grant programs.

ED’s Academic Competitiveness Grants along with its Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent, or SMART, Grants aim to encourage students to take more challenging courses in high school and to pursue college majors in high demand in the new global economy, such as science and technology.

The student grants are part of the government’s push to make Americans more competitive economically. In the coming academic year, $790 million is earmarked for college students who study relevant subjects, show financial need, and maintain good grades. During a conference call with reporters on June 29, Terri Shaw, the chief operating officer for ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid, said $4.5 billion is being made available for the program over the next five years.

“For America to remain a world leader in innovation, our children … must have math, science, and critical language skills,” Shaw said.

Eligible subjects include computer science, engineering, life and physical sciences, technology, mathematics, and languages such as Arabic, Chinese, and Urdu, which is spoken in Pakistan.

The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) issued a recent report detailing the need for computer-science education to play a central role in U.S. competitiveness efforts. Funded with support from the National Science Foundation, the report says only 26 percent of U.S. schools now require students to take computer science courses.

“The United States cannot ignore the fact that there will be a shortage of qualified candidates for the 1.5 million computer and information technology jobs by 2012,” said Chris Stephenson, CSTA president and co-author of the report.

The fields of math and science “are ever more critical, and they are largely the fields that will be in demand,” U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said at a recent news conference with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican. “Unfortunately, we’re not doing well enough today.”

Officials hope the grants will attract students to fields they might not have considered before–and give high school students an additional incentive to study challenging subjects.

“I worry about debt,” said Justin Blahnik, a computer science student at Winona State University in Minnesota. “I already have two years of student loans. This grant would enable me to work less, to borrow less, and to study more.” Blahnik expects to finish his degree in a year and then will begin searching for work related to human genome research.

Students who are in their first or second year of a two-year or four-year degree program are eligible for Academic Competitiveness Grants. Students who are in their third or fourth year of a four-year degree program are eligible for SMART Grants.

Under the Academic Competitiveness grants program, a first-year college student can receive $750 to pay for higher education, and a second-year student may receive $1,300. Students must have completed a rigorous high school program of study to qualify. A rigorous program includes advanced or honors diploma programs or state scholars programs. ED also accepted applications from individual states to prove that their high school curricula met the federal guidelines for a “rigorous” program of study, because not all states have the same programs or opportunities available to students.

ED received 37 applications from states and is reviewing and processing those applications, said Holly Kuzmich, deputy chief of staff for policy to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Kuzmich added that no applications have been rejected; instead, ED is working with certain states to clarify and redefine portions of their applications.

Third- or fourth-year college students in good academic standing can receive SMART Grants of up to $4,000. This money is in addition to whatever Pell Grant funding they receive.

Students must be eligible for Pell Grants to be eligible for the SMART and Academic Competitiveness Grant programs. Pell-eligible students will be notified of their potential eligibility for these grants through regular mail or eMail starting July 1. Funding for Pell Grants has increased from $8.8 billion in 2001 to $13 billion this year.

“Math, science, and foreign-language skills are the new currency in our global economy,” Spellings said. “In developing these grants, we realized just how badly our country needs students to have these skills. As our world grows more competitive, Americans must run faster and break new ground, just as we always have.”


Academic Competitiveness and SMART Grants

Letter from Sec. Spellings outlining the new grants


Microsoft delays launch of Office 2007 reports that the launch of Microsoft Office 2007 has been delayed again. Microsoft had previously announced a release date of January, to coincide with the release of Windows Vista. Now, the company says the new version of Office will be available in “early 2007.” Microsoft has pushed the release back to address performance concerns…


SMART Makes Collaboration Solutions More Affordable for Educators

(Calgary, Alberta–July 5)–SMART Technologies Inc. announces a 20 percent price reduction on the Rear Projection SMART Board" 2000i-DVX interactive whiteboard and a nearly 30 percent price reduction on the AirLiner" WS100 wireless slate. Not-for-profit educational institutions may also qualify for a grant through the SMARTer Kids" Foundation of Canada equivalent to 25 percent of the suggested list price of the 2000i-DVX and 20 percent of the WS100. The WS100 is now also available for purchase in combination with SMART Board 660 and 680 interactive whiteboards at special volume pricing  available only in North America.

The 2000i-DVX combines the SMART Board interactive whiteboard´s easy-to-use features with a height-adjustable 66" (167.6 cm) shadow-free display and high-quality XGA resolution, providing educators more flexibility, the ability to display images with greater detail and reproduce most computer images at native resolution. The AirLiner WS100 wireless slate gives students and teachers the freedom to control their SMART Board interactive whiteboard and computer from anywhere in the classroom using a Bluetooth® connection. Multiple AirLiner slate users can write or draw in digital ink at the same time, improving collaboration between teachers and students. The 2000i-DVX and the WS100 both ship with the latest version of SMART Board software.

"Balancing school and district budgets is always a challenge, and it is SMART´s aim to help educators purchase the technology tools that help make classroom lessons more engaging and effective," says Nancy Knowlton, SMART´s president and co-CEO. "This price reduction makes it that much easier for districts and schools to attain the SMART collaboration solutions they need."

Pricing and availability

The Rear Projection SMART Board 2000i-DVX interactive whiteboard is now shipping at a suggested list price of US$10,699. Not-for-profit educational institutions may qualify for a grant from the SMARTer Kids equivalent to 25 percent of the suggested list price.

The AirLiner wireless slate is now listed at a suggested price of US$499. Not-for-profit educational institutions may qualify for a grant from the SMARTer Kids Foundation equivalent to 20 percent of the suggested list price. Volume discounts are available for AirLiner WS100 wireless slates. The AirLiner slate is also available for purchase in combination with SMART Board 660 and 680 interactive whiteboard models for a combined price of US$2,099 and US$2,499 respectively. Not-for-profit educational institutions may qualify for a grant from the SMARTer Kids Foundation equivalent to 30 percent of the suggested list price. Volume discounts are available for SMART Board 600 series interactive whiteboards and for the SMART Board 660 and 680 interactive whiteboard/AirLiner WS100 wireless slate combinations.

For more information, specifications or authorized resellers, visit or call 1.888.42.SMART. For grant inquiries, visit the SMARTer Kids Foundation at or call 1.403.228.8565.

About SMART Board interactive whiteboards

The SMART Board interactive whiteboard is the world´s leading interactive whiteboard. Simply by touching the large display, users can access and control any computer application or multimedia platform, including the Internet, CD-ROMs and DVDs. With SMART Board software, users can write over applications in digital ink and then edit, save, print or post their notes to a website for future reference. SMART Board interactive whiteboards are used in classrooms, briefing rooms and boardrooms around the world, helping people to collaborate effectively whether they are in the same room or in another location. The Rear Projection SMART Board 2000i interactive whiteboard offers interactive functionality with the shadow-free benefits of a rear-projection display and integrated XGA projector. It rests on four locking casters and can be moved to different rooms quickly and easily. Feature-rich software and intuitive functionality make the SMART Board interactive whiteboard the number one choice of educators, presenters and trainers in upwards of 100 countries worldwide. For more information, visit

About AirLiner wireless slates

Designed for use with SMART Board interactive whiteboards and Sympodium® interactive pen displays, the AirLiner WS100 wireless slate uses a Bluetooth connection to provide students and teachers the freedom to control applications and write or draw in digital ink from anywhere in the classroom while others follow along by watching the SMART Board interactive whiteboard or projected image. Every point on the AirLiner wireless slate´s 6" (15.2 cm) x 8" (20.3 cm) active area has a matching point on the corresponding interactive whiteboard, so when users move the pen over the wireless slate, the movement is mirrored on the interactive whiteboard. The WS100 comes with a battery-free tethered pen, a battery-free wireless mouse, a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery, a power cord for recharging, a USB Bluetooth adapter for Microsoft® Windows® and Mac OS X operating systems, and the latest version of SMART Board software. For more information, visit


Paige: 65-percent rule a ‘dumb’ idea

In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, Rod Paige, the secretary of education from 2001 to 2005, argues that the “so-called 65 percent solution” is a “dumb idea.” The rule would mandate that 65 percent of school dollars have to be spent “in the classroom.” Backers argue that this would cut waste and curb runaway spending. Paige argues that while education funding is indeed a mess, this rule will not make schools any better, and would just have the effect of encouraging creative accounting methods to circumvent it. In addition, the rule would tie leader’s hands at the precise moment they need freedom to innovate, not more ways to handcuff their efforts… (Note: This site requires free registration.)


Region 6 and 7 Blue Skyways, Clean School Bus USA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting proposals from local and state governments, nonprofit organizations, and local and federally recognized Indian Tribal Governments, for retrofit and/or replacement projects that reduce pollution from school buses within the Blue Skyways Collaborative states of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico, through the use of EPA-verified or certified and/or California Air Resources Board-verified pollution reduction technologies.


Angels in Action Program

Children who are making a difference in a community, charity or cause are all eligible to be nominated for this program, which recognizes charitable and dedicated youth.


Angels in Action Program

Children who are making a difference in a community, charity or cause are all eligible to be nominated for this program, which recognizes charitable and dedicated youth.


Targeted Assistance Grants to State Educational Agencies (SEAs)

Under the Reading First program, ED awards Targeted Assistance Grants to State Educational Agencies that demonstrate an increase in student achievement in schools and districts participating in the Reading First program. The data that states must submit to demonstrate an increase in student achievement are the same data that states must submit in their annual performance reports for their Reading First State grants. ED will permit states to apply for Targeted Assistance Grants by submitting their annual Reading First performance reports. No separate application is required.