SunWise School Program

The SunWise School Program is an environmental and health education program that aims to teach children and their caregivers how to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun. Through the use of classroom-, school-, and community-based components, SunWise seeks to develop sustained sun-safe behaviors in schoolchildren. SunWise Partner Schools receive materials that facilitate cross-curricular classroom learning.

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Mitel Heats Up The Weather Network with Cool IP Solutions

Ottawa, Ontario, January 31, 2007–When The Weather Network felt the time had come to add to their unparalleled forecasting abilities with reliable and predictable IP communications solutions and applications, they turned to Ottawa-based Mitel® to do the job.

Mitel, the trusted provider of IP communications and solutions, was given the task of unifying The Weather Network´s 225 employees through hot desking and four-digit dialing regardless of whether they were in either the Toronto or Montreal office at the time. To accomplish this task, the Mitel Teleworker Solution, Mitel IP phones, and the Mitel 3300 IP Communications Platform (ICP) were used to allow The Weather Network employees to keep their usual four-digit extensions regardless of which office–or even which desk–they use.

"We´re the leading weather TV station in the country," said facilities manager Jackie Adam, "so we need to be sure we´re using innovative technology in all facets of our business. Also, many of our staff travel between the two offices. It was very difficult to reach them quickly before, but hot desking has made it as easy as if they´re right here. They customize whichever phone they happen to be using and then people can still dial the usual four-digit extension. No matter where they are, they´re good to go."

While Adam says The Weather Network plans to continue adding new solutions to the Mitel infrastructure, every journey begins with that first step. She said "things are working very well," and that an added surprise was how easy it is to manage. "We´re sending someone to training so that we can handle the system ourselves. This saves time and money and gives us control over how we use the system."

Speed and accuracy can be crucial when information on storms and how to report them is needed, said Mitel president chief operating officer Paul Butcher. "The Weather Network knows the value of sending and receiving important communications quickly and accurately. The combination of the Teleworker Solution, IP phones and the 3300 ICP work to allow enterprise of all sizes to communicate in real time, every time." As for simplicity and features, Butcher said it couldn´t be easier or more robust. "It´s the same phone you use every day at work, so when you get to another location or your home office, features like voice mail and programmable keys follow you wherever you go."

Mitel Solution Provider Introtel e.Networks enhanced the deal with unparalleled customer service, one reason why Adam has enjoyed such a seamless transition.

The Teleworker Solution enables businesses of all sizes to easily enjoy the benefits of teleworking through a low-cost, "plug-and-work" solution that extends the corporate network to virtually any location. Businesses can now benefit from reduced overhead and increased employee retention while users can be more flexible and productive in how they work.

About The Weather Network

Pelmorex Media Inc, owner of The Weather Network, provides 24/7 weather-related information that affects everything from industry, recreation, agriculture and the environment, to the day-to-day lives of Canadians. With the most up-to-date weather information across all media including cable, satellite, Internet, wireless, and newspapers, The Weather Network is a highly accessible, reliable and frequently used weather source. The Weather Network is among the most widely distributed and frequently consulted television network in Canada. The website, theweathernetwork.com is ranked with Canada´s leading web services and is positioned as number one for News and Information sites. The Weather Network is the undisputed leader of weather information services in Canada.

About Introtel e.Networks

Introtel e.Networks is a leading business systems integrator. The company designs, installs, maintains and manages flexible, comprehensive communications infrastructures for their customers. Founded in 1981 as a voice company, Introtel has evolved into a full-service systems integrator with a focus on converged applications. Introtel has built a reputation for excellence through a combination of innovative solutions, flexible and easy-to-use technologies, and outstanding customer support. Introtel offers a diverse, vendor-independent portfolio of best-in-class data, voice, IP and multimedia products that can be modified to suit custom requirements. Their leading edge technology when combined with their application expertise and commitment to service excellence ensures that the company´s customers get business solutions that they can depend on.

About Mitel

Mitel is a leading provider of integrated communications solutions and services for business customers. Mitel´s voice-centric IP-based communications solutions consist of a combination of telephony hardware and software that integrate voice, video and data communications with business applications and processes. These solutions enable our customers to realize significant cost benefits and to conduct their business more efficiently and effectively by enabling enhanced communications, information sharing and collaboration within a business and with customers, partners and suppliers. Mitel is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, with offices, partners and resellers worldwide. For more information, visit www.mitel.com.

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New shoes track kids via GPS technology

TheSunHerald.com reports that while a growing number of companies are developing GPS technology to help track friends and family, Miami entrepreneur Sayo Isaac Daniel believes that these systems are flawed.  Because of this, he has developed shoes with embedded GPS tracking that can determine the location of the wearer anywhere in the world.  Daniel’s design allows the wearer to press a button, which will then send out a distress signal detailing the location of the wearer. Daniel has been making shoes since 2000.  However, he didn’t get involved in GPS technology until 2002, when Daniel received a call from a school that his son was missing.  While his son was later found, the idea occurred to Daniel that shoes could be used to help find people. His new shows named Quantum Satellite Technology by his company, Isaac Daniel, will be available in March at a cost of about $325…

http://www.sunherald.com/mld/thesunherald/business/16564218.htm

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Print newspapers losing ground in schools

Boston.com reports that a new study recently found that increasing numbers of teachers are turning to online editions of both national and international newspapers in their classrooms.  In the process, these teachers are leaving behind newspapers that fail to grasp the importance of the web in trying to reach students.  The study found that fifty-seven percent of teachers use web-based news in the classroom with “some frequency.” This compares with 31 percent for national television news, and 28 percent for daily print newspapers. At the bottom of the list was local television news at 13 percent. These findings reflect a trend of falling print circulation and advertising revenue as people increasingly turn to the web for their news and entertainment. In addition, the study found that while teachers prefer the print medium, 75 percent of respondents put them at the bottom of students’ “preferred” list…

http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2007/01/29/newspapers_lose_ground_in_web_savvy_schools_study/

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Citing violence, Milwaukee bans cell phones

TwinCities.com reports that in response to several instances involving students summoning other people–sometimes adults–to fights, Milwaukee will ban cell phones from its 217 schools starting Monday. Mike Heese, safety security assistant at Bradley Tech High School, says that “we consider (cell phones) almost as weapons, because when they call, we’re the ones out in front and we don’t know these people are coming.” The city joins an increasing number of districts nationwide that either outright prohibit, or limit cell phones in schools. Some, like Milwaukee, are cracking down on their use because cell phones were used to escalate violent situations.  Others limit or prohibit their use because they are distractions or help facilitate cheating. In the wake of Columbine and September 11, many parents pressured schools to loosen the rules regarding cell phone use and possession in schools.  However, this trend is beginning to reverse, as cell phones continue to pose problems in the form of cheating, summoning outsiders, and taking inappropriate photos…

http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/16557420.htm

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New web site allows ed-tech discussions

Elpasotimes.com reports that in November, Tim Holt, the director of instructional technology for the El Paso Independent School District launched a new web site that hosts podcasts, blogs, and expert interviews dealing with education technology. Holt was inspired to create the Byte Speed Education Technology Web after noticing the popularity of college professors putting their lectures online in the form of podcasts. As someone who has spent more than 20 years with the EPISD, Holt believes that technology isn’t just a course–rather it is a tool to be used in the classroom.  Eventually, Holt would like to emulate college professors and put lectures from teachers in the EPISD on his site…

http://www.elpasotimes.com/education/ci_5103833?source=email

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Video game tests limits–and limits win

The New York Times reports that three years ago, Peter Baxter expanded his 13-year-old Slamdance Film Festival to include the Guerilla Gamemaking Competition, a forum for independent gamemakers to network and demonstrate their work. Given that independent gamemakers do not have many venues for this sort of thing, the mood surrounding the competition has been euphoric since its inception.  This year however, that sentiment was muted by one entry: Super Columbine Massacre Role Playing Game! This entry made it to the competition finals, attracting many complaints. As a result, acting on the advice of lawyers, Baxter decided to override the judging panel and remove the game from competition…

http://www.nytimes.com/

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Opinion: Is NCLB’s birthday worth celebrating?

The Doyle Report opines that at the idea level, NCLB embodies the education reform playbook from the 1990s. Educators, policy makers, and activists who say they “support NCLB” are essentially saying that they are “part of the education reform team.” However, does this mean these people necessarily agree with the machinery of the law? Michael J. Petrilli, Vice President for National Programs and Policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, argues that gradually and reluctantly, he has come to the conclusion that NCLB is a fundamentally flawed program that is quite possibly beyond repair.  In Petrilli’s opinion, the way forward is to take an in-depth assessment of what the federal government can realistically accomplish in education. Using rewards and punishments to prod states and districts to move in desired directions hasn’t worked. Instead of this muddle, the federal government should adopt the following principle: “Do it yourself, or don’t do it at all.” …

http://www.thedoylereport.com/default_article.aspx?page_id=spotlight&id=1833

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Reading expert: Don’t forget fluency

With global competitiveness playing a central role in the education proposals of both President Bush and several governors this year (see Bush to Congress: Renew NCLB this year and States tackle global competitiveness), strengthening math and science instruction has become a primary focal point of these plans. But at least one nationally recognized reading expert has an important message for policy makers and education leaders: Don’t forget about reading fluency.

In a recent interview with eSchool News, Jon Bower, a Stanford-trained reading specialist with an MBA from Harvard, said he believes reading fluency is critical to ensuring that American students are prepared to succeed in an ever-evolving, global economy. Bower is president and CEO of Soliloquy Learning.

The United States, Bower said, has a 95 percent literacy rate, but only a 34 percent proficiency rate–meaning the vast majority of adults and children can’t read well enough to excel at their jobs or their school work.

This is holding the U.S. back, he continued, preventing the nation from being more competitive internationally and more productive in the workplace.

In the interview, Bower–a former Stanford University instructor who has spoken at numerous education conferences about cognitive development, reading, and technology–discussed proven reading strategies and explained how technology can help the many children not reading at a proficient level. The entire interview is available for viewing in streaming video format here: Bower video interview.

Educators can do specific things to ensure that all of their students, regardless of their skill level or learning pace, grow to become proficient readers, Bower said. He encouraged educators to choose a reading framework they can understand and implement it faithfully, following every step, to guarantee real reading proficiency.

“The science of reading is pretty well understood,” he said. “The five key reading skill sets are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The trick to all of that is not to get lost in one or another; it’s not how well we just do phonics, or how well we only focus on comprehension. [We should] make sure all students out there achieve all five of the skill sets, and then we’ll get 100-percent proficiency.”

Although there are just five basic skill sets, “there are about 400 discrete skills needed to learn English well,” Bower said. These 400 skills range in order from simpler ones, such as learning vowel sounds, to more complex skills, such as understanding how syntax affects meaning.

“As teachers and departments put together their curriculum, they need to take all of [those skills] into account,” he said. “The goal of 100-percent proficiency means we have to achieve 100-percent exposure and mastery of all 400 of those skills.”

Bower said one method shown to be effective through research is “guided oral reading,” which consists of an adult listening to a child read, correcting the child, guiding him or her through the text, and providing the vocabulary necessary to understand the text.

While this is easily accomplished through one-on-one interaction between a student and his or her teacher or a private tutor, teachers often don’t have enough time to spend with each student for an extended period–and private tutors are expensive. And that’s where technology can help, Bower said.

Thanks to improvements in speech-recognition technology, “now we can take a computer, have students wear a headset, and have them read out loud into the computer,” he said. “The computer understands every word they say in whatever their accent is, and it can provide that guided oral reading experience.”

He continued: “[The computer] can help them if they stumble, it can help them if they read incorrectly, it can give them vocabulary information if they don’t know what a word means. They can listen to themselves read and compare that to a modeled read–all methods that have been proven in the research to be effective, and now they’re cost-effective because we can deliver them for $40 to $50 per student, per year, instead of having an adult do that at $40 to $50 per hour.”

Soliloquy Learning offers such a computer-based solution for guided oral reading instruction, as do many other companies–including Renaissance Learning, CompassLearning, and Scholastic. AutoSkill reportedly plans to add a guided oral reading component to its product suite this year.

Bower compared this software-based approach to another popular reading instructional program, Reading Recovery.

“Reading Recovery … is nothing more than adults working with students in this fashion–but the cost is $8,000 to $10,000 per student, and that’s the problem,” he said. “We can do that for our worst-off students, and we do–but we can’t afford to do that for the majority of our students. Remember what I said earlier: Two-thirds of students are not becoming proficient in reading, which means that we need to do this for 3 or 4 million students a year in our schools today. And the only way to do that is through technology.”

Through a long-term, school-wide focus on literacy, and with the help of Soliloquy Reading Assistant, the entire fourth-grade class at Kentucky’s Brodhead Elementary School reportedly has achieved 100-percent reading proficiency.

“They’re one of very few schools in the country,” Bower said. “And they’ve done it simply by paying attention to each and every step and ensuring that every child has mastered every skill. That’s their focus as an elementary school–and the results speak for themselves.”

Another Soliloquy Learning customer is the Hopedale School District in Massachusetts.

“My district is fairly traditional, [and you] really have to prove that technology can make things work better,” said Tom Plati, Hopedale’s director of curriculum, assessment, and technology. Yet the use of guided oral reading software has been “a slam-dunk. We have seen growth and can listen to the growth of the kids in terms of how they speak and how they respond.”
 
Plati concluded: “Our grades two through six responses have been phenomenal.”

Links:

Soliloquy Learning

http://www.soliloquylearning.com

Lexia Learning Systems

http://www.lexialearning.com

Renaissance Learning

http://www.renlearn.com

CompassLearning

http://www.compasslearning.com

Scholastic Inc.

http://www.scholastic.com

AutoSkill International Inc.

http://www.autoskill.com

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‘Cognition … has changed dramatically’

The third and final day of the Florida Educational Technology Conference was full of eye-opening keynotes and technology-centered breakout sessions. Friday’s sessions featured talks on 21st-century learning, how to ensure that technology adds value to classroom learning, and a session from Chris Dede about new possibilities created by handheld devices.

Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, discussed how wireless mobile devices are going to change things in education and open up interesting opportunities.

“We are living in a very interesting time in the history of education,” Dede said. Several important things are happening at once to change education, he noted.

For one thing, “the knowledge and skills that society wants from our graduates are shifting,” he said.  The U.S. now has a global, knowledge-based economy that many people–such as baby boomers–struggle with, because they learned different professional skills growing up.

“Technologies are also changing the kinds of methods we have in teaching and learning,” Dede said, referring to how technology can augment curriculum. 

These same technologies change the characteristics of students, and the technology that students use outside of the classroom affects their personal expression and creativity inside the classroom.

“These three trends are not discrete from one another; they’re quite interrelated,” he said.  “It’s ironic that what kids do in their personal lives looks more like 21st-century work than what we do in our classrooms.”

Dede added: “The first thing to note is that technologies are changing rapidly–the level of devices like cell phones, the applications that run on these devices, the media that are created, and the vendors that glue all the media together. Whatever news source you use, on any given day, you can find a story about a dramatic change in at least one of these four levels.”

Dede acknowledged that the handheld technologies he was referring to–cell phones and PDAs, for example–are not mature in any sense, but he said they are changing rapidly.

He also highlighted a few themes to give educators some context when thinking about mobile wireless devices and how they can be used in education.

First, the definition of “information technology” keeps changing, he said. It has encompassed everything from number crunching to communication. Fifteen years ago, it meant something different than it does today–and “we have every reason to believe, during the lifetimes of our students, that this definition will probably change again,” he said.

Second, “cognition–thinking–has changed dramatically, because now it’s distributed,” Dede said. “Thinking still takes place inside our minds, but now it’s also distributed [among] people and tools. We work with things like graphing programs that do our thinking for us. Work now takes place largely through teams, where each person does part of the work–and not just in one office, but across the world in virtual workplaces.”

This is part of a larger trend that could be termed “distributed learning,” Dede said.

When it comes to using wireless mobile devices in schools, he said, “it’s a matter of asking, ‘What is this, [and] how can we use it?'”

Links:

FETC 2007

http://www.fetc.org/fetc2007/index.cfm

Chris Dede’s web page

http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~dedech

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